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Iris DeMent returns to the Buskirk-Chumley Theater



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Iris Dement sings country songs at Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Jan. 17, 2015. Duo Xu and Duo Xu

The line to get into the Buskirk-Chumley Theater stretched from the lobby to outside on Kirkwood Avenue on Saturday night as people awaited DeMent’s upcoming return concert.

At 7 p.m., Brian Sherman and his wife, Vickie, were two of the first people waiting in the lobby to hear singer-songwriter Iris DeMent perform. The Shermans, from Washington, Ind., took a day trip to ?Bloomington.

“We’ve been to the farmer’s market, and we’ve stayed in town for the show tonight,” Brian Sherman said.

He said they bought their tickets about a month ago in anticipation for DeMent’s performance.

“We’re big music fans and certainly big music fans of Iris,” Sherman said. “This is the type of music that we enjoy, the traditional aspects, her voice and song lyrics.”

DeMent, a gospel and country singer-songwriter, returned to the Buskirk-Chumley Theater for the third time to perform some of the music on her 2012 album, “Sing the Delta,” as well as some of her older music.

There were not only fans who have followed ?DeMent’s music over the years, but also new fans, including Peggy Brown, a Bloomington resident.

“I’m here because my sister introduced me to Iris DeMent six months ago,” Brown said. “She gave me a CD, and when we heard she was going to be here, we had to get tickets.”

After the audience members filed in, Busman’s Holiday, a local band, opened for DeMent.

Danielle McClelland, executive director of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, said this was the first time Busman’s Holiday performed at the theater.

“We have been working with them to find an opportunity to pair them with a national touring artist because we really believe that they’re of that quality, and we’re thrilled to present them,” McClelland said.

In addition to their quality of music, McClelland said Busman’s Holiday and DeMent would be a good ?pairing.

“Iris’ songs are very soulful and explorative and Busman’s Holiday’s overarching sensibility is one of happiness, and that’s always been the quality that struck me about their music,” McClelland said. “They’re ?light-hearted and fun, but that doesn’t compromise their ability to write great lyrics that really see into the truth of the world.”

When DeMent made her entrance, she immediately sat at the grand piano at ?center stage.

“Why did Busman’s Holiday have to stop?” DeMent said.

Instead of introducing each song individually or talking about her music, DeMent shared a lot of personal stories or spoke to the audience directly in between songs.

“I was in the grocery store the other day, and I remember I was asking for something they were out of,” ?DeMent said.

“The guy said why don’t you just come back on Monday for senior Monday? I said well why would I do that? It went straight over my head, and it was this awkward moment of staring at each other for a while. You know I’m the last of 14 kids. There’s something about being the baby of the family that no matter how old you are, you feel like kid in the room. And he just cleared that up for me.”

DeMent also added a few comments between her songs that made the audience laugh.

“If you all have had a good look at me, maybe we can turn the lights down,” DeMent said.

The crowd cackled as the lights on stage dimmed.

“There you go,” DeMent said. “That’s better. Can you all see me well enough? I promise you, nothing’s changed.”

McClelland said she was thrilled to be able to have DeMent back after trying to get her to perform at the theater since the release of her 2012 album.

“She’s a very independent artist,” McClelland said. “She doesn’t have a lot of betrapping of the music industry involved in what she does both either from a recording or a touring perspective. That’s a business model and approach to artistry that we really respect here at the ?theater.”

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