Thursday, December 6, 2007

Where have all the hippies gone?

Answer: Uncle Calvin's Coffee House

I spent a very enjoyable evening taking in the big 25th anniversary show at the folk music venue at Northpark Presbyterian last Friday. One thing my group noticed early on: the crowd for folk music skews decidedly older. One older woman enjoyed herself so much she just had to blow bubbles. I guess she brings them along just in case the mood hits.

We suspended our objections to Calvinism, got all caffeinated up, and got ready for some mellow tunes and a few anti-war sing alongs. We were not disappointed. I really appreciated the traditional fiddle/mandolin/guitar style of opener Tracy Grammer and her accompanist Jim Henry. I could have listened to her all night. And that Jim Henry has some chops (guitar/mandolin). She sang a song about a soldier who died in Iraq that she has vowed to sing at every performance until the war ends. She also made the lyrics and chords available to anyone who wanted to join in that effort.

I guess Sara Hickman was the headliner, because she was last. Hickman did not disappoint. I had heard her before on the late great Glenn Mitchell's talk show. Her back-up singer was more in the front than the back. Hickman had some funny anecdotes to share between most of her songs, and you got the sense that she wanted to play for longer than her allotted 45 minutes. She was especially funny discussing the artwork on her current album which features a couple making love and a quote from Pope Benny on the back (she claims she's not a Catholic bad girl). It was fun to see her turn it up and "rock out" with just her guitar and accompanying vocalist near the end of the set.

But the shining star of the evening was sandwiched between these two. Ruthie Foster absolutely stole the show and had the audience eating out of her hands. Music lovers of any stripe would do well to go see her live. Apparently Foster has folk roots, but you wouldn't have known it. Her set was blues/R&B/gospel-tinged country and captivating. Her voice is strong but she does not oversing. Her command of the guitar was readily apparent; it was as if she were playing with her favorite toy. But the most memorable song was the a capella "People Grinnin' In Your Face" complete with audience-provided beat. We have downloaded her latest album The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster to our iPods and ordered two more copies for Christmas gifts.

All the artists came back together at the end for an audience sing-along. Good times, noodle salad.

I'm not sure this would accommodate the crowd for this particular show, but Uncle Calvins would benefit from some old couches and armchairs rather than the straight back chairs we were seated in. As befits our station in life as parents of the very young, we were dog tired by the time we got out of there at 11:30.

Thanks for a good time Uncle Calvin's, and Happy Anniversary!

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