The Rhythm Chicks, aka Lynne Taylor and Kristine Malpica, are sitting at a window table at Cafe di Siena, kicking back before putting on happy faces for a photo shoot for the debut album from Liz Frame and the Kickers, scheduled for a late-October release. They're also trying to remember, without much luck, it turns out, the last time RC2 (Taylor, since she came into the Liz Frame fold later, though the designation is by no means official) did a solo show. Malpica is pretty sure it was two years ago, a solo show in Portsmouth. At the Unitarian church, maybe? But, no, Taylor isn't buying it, even though she has nothing to contribute to resolve the question. "It's been a while," says the Port bassist, a fixture on the local music scene for a quarter-century, who fronted a list of bands longer than your arm. And that's ... OK? Yeah, it is, as far as she's concerned. It's actually better than OK, because now she only has to do the fun stuff: get to the show or rehearsal on time and play the bass and sing harmony, not the ugly-but-necessary stuff — booking, budgets and promotion. "I'm happy as a Kicker,” she says. "This is way more fun, less pressure." It's also the reason people stop in their tracks when they see that Taylor will be performing solo in a benefit for Exit Dance Theatre, the modern dance troupe that will be celebrating its 25th anniversary next year. It's not true, not exactly anyhow. The Sept. 23 performance not so much a solo show so much as it is a collaboration. She'll be backed by a band, a kind of impromptu band, one that includes RC1 on percussion — as well as a performance by Exit, which will debut a new piece set to one Taylor tune, and a poetry reading.
The daughter of a folk musician and a poet, Taylor, who has been teaching elementary school at River Valley Charter School for a dozen years, grew up in Ohio during the’60s and ’70s, and absorbed the social consciousness of that time. She began writing her own songs as a teenager, and has been performing professionally ever since. A musical chameleon, she landed in the Port in the mid-'80s and quickly established herself, performing in a variety of styles, from roots and rock to country and folk, with bands like Klaxxon, Mad Savannah and Fishcreek, the Taylor family band, as well as a solo artist. Her last album as a solo artist was “Grace” in 1996. Rantic, her last effort with a rock band, released its eponymous debut in 2001. Fishcreek has released three albums along the way — “Cascade” in 1998, “Up Fishcreek Without a Paddle” in 2002 and “Calling My Children Home” in 2009.
Exit will open the performance with a remounted piece by Tricia Walsh titled, "Embrouille" to music by Madeleine Peyroux. The company will also perform a new dance to Taylor's song "Perfect," a rocky, passionate song that lays out what a woman will promise or sacrifice for love, with its final repeated phrases of, "Practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect." Cambridge poet Alex Aliwill read from his collections of gritty and lyrical poetry. Then Taylor will play a set to round off the evening. In addition to her fellow Rhythm Chick, Taylor will be joined by Amesbury guitarist John Ouellette and Ed Passarella, from Pleasant Valley Social Club. But, aside from "Grace," the title song from Taylor's last album, and "Far Off in the Hills," another cut from that that release, even the biggest Lynn Taylor fan will probably be adrift in the performance. There will be some new tunes as well as old songs never recorded and rarely, if ever, performed live. She’ll probably also cover “Still I Rise,” a Curtis Jerome Haynes song.
The show, she says, will have the feel of performance art, with the songs telling a story of growing up, of surviving relationships, of staying true to yourself and your art. It's a story, she says, that only emerges in the rearview, in retrospect. "I know it's cliche," she says, "but it's true: If I knew then .... It's about acceptance. I have the same concerns, the same ideas about politics and social justice that I’ve always had, but I'm not angry about them the way I used to be. I have faith in life.”
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Exit Dance Theatre will present an evening of dance, music and poetry with singer-songwriter Lynne Taylor at 8 p.m. Sept. 23 at Studio II Black Box, located at The Dance Place, 50 Water St., Newburyport. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 978.465.1485 or by logging into The Dance Place web.