It was a dreadful night for a number of reasons.
One would think that 800 individuals who gather in a high school auditorium in Natick to listen to, or perhaps even, celebrate, a story of three orphans whose parents perished in a suspicious fire and who had to live out their days of innocence being pursued by the most devious of men, deserve such punishment. But if you had witnessed the scene of terror in Natick on Monday night, in which fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events book series — children and adults and high school students and college hipsters and hipsters in training and four men with beards and a woman with a broken foot — came to meet Mr. Lemony Snicket and listen to a performance of the Gothic Archies, you would not come to that conclusion.
First, and most obvious, was the blaring absence of Mr. Snicket himself. When the Gothic Archies took the stage, the trio was only duo, with Stephin Merrit (he of the Magnetic Fields) holding his Ukele, an empty chair surrounded by percussion equipment meant to be played by Mr. Snicket, and someone named Daniel Handler on accordion.
When the announcer announced Mr. Snicket’s name, both musicians looked stage right, and saw nothing.
Handler, close-cropped hair and too-small suit, tried to “call” Mr. Snicket (I use “call” in “quotes,” since the “phone” he was “using” looked to be comprised of two carved wooden blocks connected with a string.) After Handler got the run-around with an operator (or at least that’s what he told us), he walked into the audience, took a book out of a child’s hand and began to excoriate about the saga of the Baudelaire orphans.
He went back up on the stage, and the duo played selections from The Tragic Treasury: Music for "A Series of Unfortunate Events", which compiles the theme songs the Gothic Archies wrote for each of the 13 volumes of Snicket's "Series of Unfortunate Events" series.
The lack of percussion made the arrangements sound downright ghastly. Handler attempted to fill the void with some uninspired vocal percussion, but it was not the same. The word “rip-off” kept floating through my mind, but since the event was free, a money-back guarantee was not in the cards. This was rather a different kind of rip-off — a rip-off the soul, as you will never be able to recover from seeing the looks on the children’s faces who walked all night to Natick to see their hero, only to be devastated by his absence. Yes, the crowd laughed heartily at Mr. handler’s sardonic antics. But it was a nervous laughter. A laughter that sensed something dangerous was just around the bend, and you might as well laugh now, because you’ll may never get the opportunity to laugh ever again, for the rest of your life.
After Mr. Handler offended Mr. Merrit’s musical ability, causing Mr. Merrit to walk off the stage in a sad, sad huff, Handler then plucked two horrified children from the audience to provide percussion. They were utterly inept and only added to the pain of the night.
Mr. Handler then apologized again for Mr. Snicket’s absence, and said he would sign everyone’s book with a “stamp” of Snicket’s autograph after the performance. (Though such a gesture seemed utterly ridiculous, hundreds of fans of the books would sit in the auditorium until well after midnight to meet with Mr. Handler and get this “signature.”)
Mr. Handler ended the performance with the sea chantey “Scream and Run Away,” which features the advice that if you ever encounter the devious Count Olaf, you should “run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run or die, die, die die die die die die.” Mr. Handler implored the audience to stomp our feet when he said “run,” and slump down and “play dead,” when he said “die.” The latter task was not too difficult to perform, as many in the audience already felt that a little part of them had died.
-Bill Jensen, Guest Blogging