Chandler banned Marilyn Manson Allowed to Play

August 26, 2000

You could argue that Chris Chandler's work is edgy and bold, and many do.  But calling it controversial, as some now do, is a stretch. Sure, the spoken-word performer who recently planted himself in South Florida by way of New Orleans isn't your typical folk artist. The fingernails painted sky-blue give that away. But other than the satiric line "God loves us so much he has a hard-on," I've been at a loss to find anything in Chandler's
songs that could cause even the most uptight conservative to flinch.Then again, I'm not Don Campbell, the director of Leisure Services for the
city of Sunrise. According to Sunrise Civic Center theater director Lily Mazurek, Campbell recently welcomed the 36-year-old wordsmith to our area by booting him from a Sept. 15 folk concert at the center. The show was to feature Chandler and his partner in the duo Over the Counter Culture, the effervescent singer-songwriter Magda Hiller, as well as opening act Grant
Livingston. "I was asked to cancel because they thought his style was a little bit strong," Mazurek says. "But you'll have to talk to Campbell since I'm not supposed to talk about this."
Despite repeated messages, Campbell failed to return my calls.
"It's really disappointing," Chandler said at the recent Folk Music of the Americas and Beyond festival at Hialeah Park, where he and Hiller performed an all-too-brief but nonetheless rewarding set. "This was to be our first real show."

Resembling a cross between John Malkovich and Michael Stipe and boasting an authoritative but somewhat quizzical voice, Chandler hooked up with longtime local Hiller when he moved here earlier this year. Until the festival in Hialeah, Over the Counter Culture's appearances were limited to Chandler's sitting in with Hiller at her solo gigs.
Indeed, Chandler's material is "strong." But since when is that a bad thing?
Perhaps Campbell confused The Washington Post's praise of Chandler's work -
"The man is dangerous" - as a warning.
Chandler is clearly influenced by the spoken-word recordings of Beat writers
like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg; the late author of "Howl" also was a
fan of Chandler and once even suggested he try setting his words to a
Calypso beat.
Chandler's delivery registers somewhere between singing and rapping without
favoring one approach over the other. While certainly poetic, his wordplay
avoids easy rhyme schemes and predictable cadences. Although his casualness
deftly creates the appearance of someone thinking out loud, his work is too
structured and complete to be confused for improvisation.
What really distinguishes Chandler from the spoken-word pack - and I
presume, makes him "dangerous" to skittish Sunrise officials - is how he so
seamlessly fits within the context of traditional and contemporary folk
music. On his three CDs - Chris Chandler & the Convenience Store
Troubadours; Hell Toupee; and Collaborations - and in his performances with
Hiller, Chandler weaves his original musings on everything from the origin
of species to "space vinegar" between the verses of folk standards like The
Carter Family's "No Hiding Place Down Here," ZZ Top's "La Grange" and even
Monty Python's "Galaxy Song." Challenging, yes. Controversial, hardly.
"He gets great response," Hiller argues. "But some people are like, 'Um, um,
well maybe if other people like it I'll like it, too.' "
"He's definitely different," she adds, noting that the Sunrise Civic Center
invited her to perform without Chandler. As kindly as could be, she told
them to stuff it. "They're just scared," she says.
Currently in the middle of a three-week tour that will take them as far
north as Ottawa and back down through Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville,
Ky., and elsewhere until Sept. 2, Chandler and Hiller say they'd still like
to perform locally on Sept. 15. Just not at the Sunrise Civic Center.
Chandler, who's performed and recorded with such folk luminaries as Dan
Bern, Trout Fishing in America, Dar Williams and Peter Yarrow, seems
genuinely perplexed by Campbell's act of censorship. If nothing else, the
incident will only cause people to check out Chandler's act who otherwise
might not have. After all, when was the last time anyone kicked up a fuss
over a folk act?

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updated: 15 years ago