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  • Writer's picturekristina jacobsen

The Unfolding and the Ripening: Playing a Show and Its Reverberations at the 2024 Annual Gathering in Hunt, Texas

Updated: Mar 17


Normally, when you play a show, after a few minutes of talking to your listeners directly following the show, you return home to your house directly afterwards. If you’re on tour, you move on to the next day’s town, show, and the folks you’ll be playing for, there. At a typical show, there isn’t a lot of time to linger or much contact that is sustained between a performer and their public.


So it was an extra special treat, last weekend, to not only be the featured musical guest, along with Dair Obenshain, at the yearly Annual Gathering of Pilgrims in Hunt, Texas (we performed as the duo, ‘Heartstrings’), but to also get to attend the three days of the conference that followed directly after. 







Here, the people that attended our show–300 folks or so in this case–are the same ones that we got to eat meals with, attend workshops with, jam with and walk with in beautiful Texas hill country. In particular, there were these precious-to-me moments of reflection, day by day and hour by hour, with different folks that attended the show: what unfolded for them, what ripened about the performance, and what lingered from different parts of our show–called “Life at Three Miles an Hour.”


For example, directly following the show, someone walked up to me and told me I was brave for singing the song “Inez”--a song about the life of my first Diné supervisor when I worked at a National Park on the Navajo Nation–in Texas. And they thanked me for doing so. While I don’t think of “Inez” as a political song, it does reference the existence of Boarding Schools, and settler colonialism, so if that is considered political to acknowledge those facts, then I imagine that Indigenous history, too, could be construed as political in Texas. Another song we performed, “Searching for Sanctuary,” also evoked a similar response in yet another Texas listener.



The day after the show, another listener came up to Dair and I and told us that our songs, and the emphasis on travel and language, reminded them of their linguistic anthropology classes during college, and of a treasured mentor who taught those classes. In this case, it was songs sung in different languages–Italian, Navajo, Sardinian–that prompted the listening to and thinking about language, language politics, and anthropology.


Yet another listener, a Buddhist studies scholar, said he was especially moved by theways the show integrated ethnography and songwriting, saying in hearing the show that he realized “You are one of my people” (he is getting ready to do three years of ethnographic fieldwork in Japan focusing on ideas of pilgrimage on the Kumano Kodo). We were then able to have an extended conversation about the beauties, richnesses and pitfalls of doing extended ethnographic fieldwork in spaces where we are a guest.












Another listener, a chef and cookbook author, was drawn in by the song “Salt, Fat, Acid and Heat,” a song about cooking, community and hearth inspired by Samin Nosrat’s book of the same name, and we spent a beautiful morning hour walking down a hillside with other pilgrims, talking about favorite foods from the Camino de Santiago (mine is ‘gambas al ajillo,’ or prawns sauteed in garlic and olive oil), how to make them, and making ourselves hungry in the process. (You can check out her beautiful cookbook, here).


We also taught some singalongs, including the chorus of the song I wrote on the Camino, “Three Miles an Hour," and had the complete exquisite beauty of an entire room of 300 singing along for the choruses of the Chicks version of “Landslide,” the only ‘cover’ song we did in that show.


Last, we got to work up two numbers with pilgrim songwriter and podcaster, Dan Mullins. One of those, Emmylou Harris’ “Waltz across Texas,” you can listen to a practice session of, here. It features Dan on lead vocals, me and Dair on harmonies, and Dair on fiddle, as well.


Songs can be kickstarters for conversations, and they are precious in this way; you have three minutes to capture a listener’s attention and to catalyze whatever the conversation may be to follow. And so it was especially gratifying to have all these conversations fomented by all the ‘song seeds’ that were planted, during that show.


And so I feel especially blessed that, in our pilgrim audience that night and without our really knowing it, there were foodies, lovers of The Chicks, singers who sang their hearts out on our sing-alongs, walkers, folks interested in Indigenous history, folks interested in languages, and folks interested in–and knowledgeable about–ethnography. For about an hour, we all slowed things down, together, long enough to share some stories, to sing together, and to celebrate the fruits of walking this storied route.





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