A December story of ambitious delights.
Was it 2001? 2002? 2000?
Let’s go with 2001.
Peter Mulvey had an idea of doing a multiple night run of (was it three nights,
two nights, four nights? Let’s go with three) a song swap between himself and a
rotating list of other songwriters (let’s go with three again though it may have
been four if Goody was in from the first). By 2004 we had the now enshrined
“Redbird” quartet, the first or second inclusion of Robin Pluer and John Sieger
and the first of the Willy Porter’s participation which Mr. Porter jokingly
called the Folk-a-Dots (it remains so) for a four night run. Every year Peter
and Bill marveled at the way the audience was able to lend extra energy to the
in-the-round (not really in the round though Bill tried it twice) feel as the
performers set up in the middle of the riverside wall. The synergy of “passing
the guitar” and having a sideman of Goody’s expertise and taste allowed for
serendipity to be the strongest element beyond the excellence inherent in all of
these performers’ music. So delighted were the audiences, regardless of which
of the various shows they had chosen to take in, that Peter and Bill have
been trying to expand this notion of “song swap” each year. With many of the
performers home in Wisconsin to be with family and friends it grew to be a great
way to share the holiday season with family and audiences. These song swaps are
right in the middle of the most diverse monthly assembly of music nights ever
presented as of this December of 2011.
Contained in the 16+ evenings of music (this is where the “ambitious” adjective
comes into play) are a potpourri of styles and stories, enough to steal for a
novel and enough to keep the facts from ever being fully covered. It includes
an 80+ (let’s call it three) gruff on the outside, cuddly on the inside sage of
blue collar sentiments and observations; a soul who found a great part of his
muse in the subways of Boston; a musicologist with a bearing-wall-breaking
record collection; a fashion maven the likes of whom Carmen Miranda gave up the
rights to years ago; an Indiana keyboardist of fine voice who hopes to get here
without detouring; a writer who never leaves home without his ‘Dick Smith” in
the back pocket; one half of one of the most renowned Blues bands in mid-west
and Chicago history; a prolific songwriter who has spent half of his life twanging;
a guitarist who impressed Chet Atkins and had Jethro Burns refuse to take him fishing; another performer who fishes in “The River Why” and seems to hail from Whitewater,Texas; a goo good former up-and-comer with a young performer’s learning curve still clearly pointing upwards; a long-time vocalist with 20 something (way more than three) records and nearly as many mid-western addresses to his name; a songwriter who has written for the stage, contributed one of America’s iconic songs to our permanent history and remains an ofttimes silent observer of our human condition; a hermit who has managed to live in Nashville twice and still not be enticed by its charms or lack of; an aging narcissist (are there any other kind?); a duo who get together once a year to get picked on, a band featuring yet another g*******d painter as a front man; another band that plays here regularly only because we are equidistant from all its members; an angelic-voiced Eastern star who knows how to pick and how to pick’em; two graduates of Berklee College of Music, one a wonderful producer and accompanist, the other being a bit Randy.
by billy c