The Hunt for (Unbeknownst to me) Kelli Rudick

Kelli Rudick playing array mbira

Kelli Rudick playing the array mbira

This is a story of finding something you have lost and never thought you’d get back, thanks to some luck, perseverance, and paying attention to email.

A few years ago my favorite folk artist, Richard Shindell, played in San Diego at the venerable Lestat’s Coffee House. I’d driven up to LA a couple of times to see him at sold-out McCabe’s shows, so I took off from work early, scarfed down a couple of fish tacos at El Zarape, and headed over to Letstat’s about 90 minutes before the show so I could be first in line. Little did I know I could have shown up 5 minutes beforehand and still been first–I think there were 15 people total at the show. Richard Shindell was awesome as always, and I even got to meet him afterward and thank him for visiting SD (even though few others appreciate him here!) and making such great music.

Anyway, one of the opening acts really stood out. I remember seeing her come on stage, seemingly small and timid, but then she started playing the guitar. She was hitting it like a drum, tapping the strings, using a loop box, sounding like a 20-person band. It reminded me a lot of Steve Tibbetts, perhaps not too much in style but more in the uniqueness and innovation of what I was witnessing and hearing.

The best part was when she pulled out a instrument she said she was just starting to work with–a massive thumb piano, which I later learned was an Array Mbira. Again–it was magic, inventive, charming.

Unfortunately, I am woefully incompetent at remembering people’s names. A couple weeks passed, the month changed, and Lestat’s updated their performance calendar. There’s no history on their site, and my feeble google searches for “guitarist who opened for Richard Shindell at Lestat’s San Diego” went unanswered. She had mentioned something about moving to New York soon, but to no avail in the google search-world. I had to admit defeat: I had no idea of who she was, how to buy a CD, or where to see her again.

Fast forward a couple of years, and here I am getting my San Diego CityBeat emails with “Digable Sounds”–live music I should check out. “Brooklyn-based Kelli Rudick makes beautiful experimental music using electronics, loops and a nail violin. See her live at Lestat’s at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15.” Wait a second (I said to myself), that sounds familiar. Sure enough–it was her!

Kelli Rudick playing the guitar neck

Kelli Rudick playing the guitar neck

So Amanda and I went to go see her, toughing it through another experimental guitarist who was far more strident and cacophonous. But in the end it was everything I remembered–Kelli Rudick is awesome. She’s technically talented at guitar of course, but also incredibly unique and creative in her approach to the instrument and her songs. She uses different chords, repetition, tapping, etc. to create a mural of music that is at once engaging, organic, and harmonious.

Kelli Rudick tapping body of guitar

Kelli Rudick tapping body of guitar

Since the previous time I’d seen her she had released a CD, No One Knows You’re Foreign. I picked that up of course and also chatted with her for a couple minutes after the show. It’s always a treat when the artists mingle with the audience, and I can speak with the talented people who make such awesome music. The good news is that, even though she lives In New York, she’s coming back to San Diego in March! I’ll be there, and until then I’ll be patiently watching her page for the tour dates.

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