Avant Gardener

One eyed chiweenie looking alert among skeins of yarn on a wicker couch

Hi Courtney,

I hope I can call you Courtney. Is that ok? We haven’t actually met but you played a show in Phoenix and it was really special.

Many years ago I had a dog named Melba. A one eyed chiweenie my then-boyfriend, one-day husband and I found booking it across six lanes of morning rush hour traffic, Melba was my baby, my best girl. She was named for another Australian, the soprano Nellie Melba. When I first adopted her and put her in my backseat, her protests were operatic.

She only wanted to be with me. Other dogs were the enemy and other humans were a disappointment. In spite of this, she was a star. My neighbors in my apartment building freely admitted they had no idea what my name was, “but that’s Melba!” I was mistaken for not one, but two of my dogsitters.

Melba was elderly when I adopted her and quickly accumulated a variety of elderly dog illnesses. But she was a trooper and my companion through it all, keeping me company as I knitted or listened to music. Right before her final illness I was finding a lot of music on KEXP’s video channel and came across your set, which included “Avant Gardener.”

The lyrics to this song have nothing to do with dogs, or goodbyes, but something about it struck me right then. I listened to it nonstop her last two days. Itwas my soundtrack as I said goodbye.

Fast forward five years. I’d been trying to see you play in Phoenix pretty much that whole time. When I got tickets I hoped maybe “Avant Gardener” would be in the set list, tucked towards the end or in the encore, but there it was, the first song you played. I hadn’t listened to it much since saying goodbye to Melba, for obvious reasons, and there it was, live and in stereo. It bowled me over and I sobbed along to the words like I was saying goodbye all over again.

The rest of the set was really, really good. You’ve got a great touring band and down on the floor the crowd was really into it (there is nothing worse than when the crowd ruins a show). I thought I was done crying but found some more tears during “Depreston,” although I think most of your fans would agree that’s a sad song.

Afterwards, my friend, who I forgot to prep for tears (she was thankfully unphased), looked you up on Wikipedia. “Look,” she said, zooming the screen in. Your middle name is Melba. It was like the universe had just winked at me.

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