How great is it when the hardest choice I have to make on a Saturday night is which show to attend first? Well, that and who's worth saving a seat for.
My decision about where to start was actually a no-brainer because the CD release party show at the Camel was for Jonathan Vassar and the Speckled Bird. Speckled Bird vocalist/accordion player Antonia is also Jonathan's wife and when Antonia is involved, shows start on time, even in a town notorious for late-starting shows. We love her for this.
Knowing this, I began my night at the Camel, arriving early enough to score a front table (and even save a seat for a late-arriving friend who, when he finally arrived told me that saving him a seat was "the nicest thing anyone's done for me all year." That may be the best thank you I've had all year) and do some mingling before the musical magic happened.
It was then that one of my favorite musicians came over and said, "You know I stalk your blog, but what's the scoop on what's happening with you?" Fair enough; I do omit plenty of details, so I told her what was up lately and she was kindly supportive of my slow-moving pace. It was a nice shot of unexpected girl talk.
Low Branches kicked off the show after singer Christina had deadpanned to a few of us that, "We're doing some Queen and I'll be rapping." If you've ever heard her ethereal singing voice, that statement would be as hysterical to you as it was to me. Matt's drumming and guitar playing combined with her voice set the tone (and standard) for a beautiful night of music.
Zac Hryciak and the Jungle Beat played next and, honestly, I never tire of that beat. They'd added a second violinist, making for a much fuller sound, even as the crowd continued to grow in size. They're also in recording mode, hoping to be out in the spring.
By the time Jonathan Vassar and Speckled Bird played, the room was filled to bursting with friends, families and old high school buddies.
Antonia even acknowledged that, "I think I told a couple people that this is even better than a wedding," a statement which could be misconstrued, except that she explained what she meant about the assembled group (part of it was about alcohol being involved...but just a small part).
It was a true album release show, with the band playing the new one, "Signs and Wonders" in order, as if for consideration of the audience. The crowd clearly gave off an energy of devotion and admiration for the band as well as the excellent new material, with loud and enthusiastic applause after every song.
No question, it was a love fest. Camel owner Rand came up to me afterwards and said, "That was magic, wasn't it?" For devotees of Americana folk, thoughtful songwriting and mesmerizing harmonies, it was indeed that.
But like all good punctual shows, it was over at a reasonable hour, so a friend and I gathered our forces and went to Gallery 5 for the end of the Ghost of Pop 6 show. Since it featured seven bands, we felt sure that we still had time to catch at least two and maybe three. We were right.
I was pleased that we'd made it in time for Fuzzy Baby's set, because I love their unique sound and offbeat song topics. They're playing the next Listening Room ("No booze! No talking! It's going to be great!" Giustin told the audience, suggesting everyone come).
Those who had been there for Roctopussy's set (James Bond movie music covers) raved about what an amazing set we had missed. There was violin shredding! A French horn! Madness! I only hope they play again soon so I, too, can have the "Goldfinger" experience I missed tonight.
After Fuzzy Baby's set we ran into upright bass player extraordinaire, Matt Gold, of Prabir and the Goldrush, who was charmingly loopy but only slightly concerned about his ability to play next. I assured him he'd be fine, noting that his muscle memory would save the day. "Oh, you're a musician then?" he asked, his eyes lighting up at the thought that I understood. As if.
"No," I explained. "But I can talk to one." His concern was for naught because Prabir and the Goldrush played a rollicking set, ending with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and a crowd sing-along. One way or another, it looks like I was destined to hear Queen tonight after all.
Afterwards, a friend came up and asked if I wanted to go get drunk and ride the Bottom and Back bus with him tonight. Tempting as it sounded (and we consider ourselves soul mates since we show up at so many of the same places), I declined.
Later Andrew asked me if I would do it on another occasion, assuring me that the people-watching alone makes it well worth it. Not one to rule things out, I guess I'll have to put it on my bucket list.
Problem is that I always seem to be too busy to take the time to come up with the damn list...but I'm not sure that's a problem at all.