“Luiza” Live at Rose Street

Last Friday, July 6, I was lucky enough to play at the Rose Street Artists’ Cooperative and Gallery Coffeehouse. I was actually doubly* lucky in that I was able to record my set on video, so I can start to share some more live songs! This week’s edition: The first song of the set, “Luiza”:

The inspiration for “Luiza” was my penchant at that time for chronic tardiness, a source of understandable friction with Kit, my then-girlfriend (now-wife). As she’s happy to remind me in front of anyone, I showed up late to our first date…and had brought along a couple of copies of Wired magazine to read just in case she had turned out to be the late one. Smoooooooth. Luckily, she saw fit to forgive, and, years later, here we are.

The song came about a few months after that first date. It actually started life as “Priscilla”, but the name wasn’t quite sing-songy enough for the melody I had (no offense to all the Priscillas out there), so I asked Kit to join me for an impromptu brainstorming session of three-syllable women’s names. In short order, she suggested “Louisa”, and it was like Cinderella and her prince’s slipper: A fit so good, it was destiny at work…Except I preferred the name’s Spanish equivalent, “Luiza”, which I thought looked a lot cooler (no offense to all the Louisas out there). I changed the name to “Luiza”, and a hyperbolic list song was born.

A word about Rose Street Artists’ Cooperative and Gallery: Around since the late ’90s, this combination living and studio space has a mission to “combine creative expression with the commitment to community involvement“. My friends Winnie and Ted Looby have run a sporadic open mic for years and are now starting it back up on a monthly basis. The difference between their coffeehouse and others around town is that this is a purely non-commercial affair. Also, the acoustics are wonderful. (In the case of this video, a little too wonderful: The hissing noise you can hear in the background is the multiple fans deployed around the room in an attempt to cool down some of the early July heat. You can probably also hear child noises, too. Kids are always part of the mix at Rose Street!) The architecture firm Duncan Wisniewski has more about this old bakery converted into an apartment complex in Burlington’s Old North End.

Quick word about lyrics: I wrote this song a couple of years before 9/11. If I were writing it now, I’d probably pick some exemplar of evil other than the “smart interrogator”. It’s supposed to be a fun(ny) song, not evoke visions of Guantanamo and Dick Cheney. So don’t go there. In any sense.


Well they threw me in a padded cell,
Fed me poison so I’d never tell,
But you know I never ate so well,
     Unless you count grade school

And I woke up in a burning plane
In a nose dive for the coast of Maine,
And Jesus, is this happening again?
     I’m missing our dinner

Luiza, are you still mine?
Are you still mine?

A smart interrogator leaves no trace
So I couldn’t get a look at his face
Will this evil ever be erased?
     I’ll give it a weekend

I was stranded in a savage land
With a pride of lions close at hand
In a dream it seemed that we’d made plans
     My memory escapes me

Luiza, are you still mine?
Are you still mine?

And through all of the trauma
I heard your name
They foreclosed on my sanity
Just the same
Going once, going twice,
Sold to the high bidder
Here’s a piece of advice:
Pay the nice baby sitter

When I think of my supreme ordeal,
Living hell would have a nicer feel
Can you doubt that what I say is real,
     Not revisionist history?

Give me liberty or give me death
Put this freedom to an even test
Then I see you in that slinky dress
     Let’s not be too hasty

Luiza, are you still mine?
Are you still mine?

© Copyright 1999-2012 Nate Orshan

* “Dubly” jokes, anyone?


“Luiza” Live at Rose Street — 2 Comments

  1. It’s a real cute song with imaginative lyrics that, sans the illuminating account of the circumstances that prompted it, may sound somewhat cryptic, especially on first listening. Next time, i’d take a minute or two to preface the song with the background story.

    The chord progression sounds ingenious and deserves closer appreciation than is afforded by this recording. If possible, next time have a second mic adjusted to the guitar.

    The story about you and Kit’s first date is a gem. At least you didn’t bring the magazines in preparation for the contingency the conversation turns dull…

  2. Thanks Itai! Yeah, the banter around a song is an art unto itself. Too much, and you risk boring people or, worse, overshadowing the music itself. Too little, and you make yourself harder to relate to. That’s where a blog like this can provide value, at least in relation to artistic explication.

    I was originally trying to record the audio tracks directly onto my laptop, but I couldn’t get it together. I think a mic on the guitar, while potentially improving its tonality, wouldn’t improve the volume, as I bop around way too much and would necessarily have to immobilize the guitar in front of the mic. The other thing you’re probably hearing is all this extraneous noise, which is the “fault” of the camera’s omnidirectional mic.

    This is the same dilemma people who have to use hearing aids encounter: Those powerful microphones end up amplifying every sound equally, making speech harder to hear in noisier environments. Turns out we do beau-coups filtering in our brains before “hearing” speech or music, and an omnidirectional mic quickly reveals just how much extra noise we’re really encountering. But, as some songwriter once wrote, “Form emerges from the noise…”

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