"Sometimes it's hard to remember
Sometimes it's hard to recall
The reasons why we're here
The reasons why we're here at all."
--Rainer Ptacek, from "Hard to Remember"
THREE YEARS AGO, Tucson's beloved son Rainer Ptacek headed off to the crossroads to meet his destiny, and what he discovered when he got there only he and the Creator truly know. Yet what he left behind is infinitely precious, more so with every passing day. It's more than just a musical legacy that one can stack up next to the stereo--still vital and living are those little parts of him that reside within everyone who knew him or had been touched by his music.
Thus, earlier this year we were treated to Alpaca Lips, the long-awaited posthumous Rainer CD, and tweaked by word of two more sets in the pipeline (Live At The
Performance Center, a concert disc, and The Farm, a collection of some of his final studio recordings), both tentatively slated for release during the first half of 2001. Hats are duly tipped in the direction of Germany's Glitterhouse Records, Rainer's widow Patti Keating and Giant Sand's Howe Gelb for tirelessly working not only to make this unreleased material available but also for ensuring that Rainer's back catalog remains in print.
Fittingly, this Saturday the celebration shifts into high gear at Solar Culture Gallery with Remembering Rainer: The Inner Flame, featuring performances by Giant Sand, Calexico and Kris McKay--and, no doubt, some musical surprises as well. The show is additionally for a good cause: Proceeds from the door will all go to Rainer's family.
The concert is an outgrowth of the family 'n' friends bonfire gatherings that Keating has held at her house for the past two years on the November 12 anniversary of Rainer's death. Says Keating, "Howe thought maybe we could do it differently this year so a lot more people could have a chance to gather, so I thought, why not? I'm thrilled about it! And the neat thing about Solar Culture is that the trains go right by it. Trains and the sounds of trains, those were always a big thing for Rainer and Rudy [their son]. So this will be particularly special, the music, the venue, everything."
Keating adds that she and members of the family will be manning a table well-stocked with Rainer CDs available for purchase. There may even be a special, as yet unspecified, artifact or bit of memorabilia that she'll have available only at the concert.
Of the performers: Kris McKay, a close friend of the Ptacek and Giant Sand clans, was once part of Austin's celebrated, beloved Wild Seeds combo. She eventually struck out on a solo career, most recently signing with Shanachie for one of 1996's finest singer-songwriter efforts, Things That Show. Bottom line: one of America's best female voices.
Calexico's Joey Burns and John Convertino are turning into virtual ambassadors of Sonoran Sound, and it's not unusual these days to hear of them turning up on European stages with a full mariachi band in tow. Their third album, Hot Rail (Quarterstick/Touch & Go Records), has been doing exceedingly well both nationally and internationally.
Giant Sand, of course, frequently included Rainer as a touring and recording partner. The group's latest album, Chore of Enchantment (Thrill Jockey), is easily its most accomplished and nuanced effort to date, and live performances are always a showcase for the unexpected. Check out www.giantsand.com; a number of Sand items not available in stores await you, including a new Gelb solo record appropriately titled Down Home 2000.
KXCI-FM (91.3) will be broadcasting the Solar Culture show live, starting at 9 p.m., hosted by veteran deejay Jim Blackwood. Just a couple of weeks ago Blackwood devoted an entire Sunday afternoon of KXCI air time to Rainer, broadcasting a generous overview of the guitarist's career that featured loads of unreleased material. Clearly the community radio station feels a deep kinship with Rainer's music, and part of KXCI's ongoing gift to the Old Pueblo is its frequent sharing of that music with its listeners.
On a personal note: To this day, when I hear one of Rainer's songs come over the radio, I'm not so much diminished by the inevitable brief twinge of pain as I'm invigorated by the potency of the sense-memory. Funny, isn't it, how time slips away, but somehow thoughts of the man just grow sweeter with time? He was, and remains, a mystic healer.
"Then it hits me, hits me like a big jolt
Comin' straight into my brain
That the only reason why we're here
Is just to love away the pain."
--Rainer Ptacek, from "Hard to Remember"
Remembering Rainer: The Inner Flame burns Saturday, November 11 at 9 p.m. at Solar Culture, 31 E Toole Ave., and features Giant Sand, Calexico and Kris McKay. Tickets, available only at the door, cost $10; call 884-0874.