I love the sound of just a man and a guitar. In fact, I’d pick an acoustic show in a small venue over seeing just about any band in a stadium. Some might think this is a sign of aging or mellowing out. Or perhaps it’s fact with the fact that my ears suffered irreparable damage from weekly punk gigs during my youth. But I don’t think that’s it.
I enjoy hearing what a musician can do without any artificial embellishments. There is no hiding behind an acoustic guitar. Skill and experience are right there on the table and songwriting is paramount. A man standing up in front of an audience with just an acoustic guitar is an act of bravery, an honest show-and-tell. And heck, I like it to hear what he can do without any effects. I’m astounded at the unique sounds that can came out of the same instrument in a different set of hands.
Case in point; last night I witnessed a trifecta at an event known as “The Insolvent Songwriters Club”. The show is organized by Mike Martt, formerly of Tex and the Horseheads. The gathering takes place in a small record shop in Huntington Beach, “Vinyl Solution”.
This particular set included Mike Mart, Kern Richards, and John Curry of The Fly Boys. Mike started the night off, and his affable disposition carried straight into his song playing, where he told stories and decided to play certain songs on the fly, seemingly because it went story he wanted to tell. He didn’t us a predetermined song list, he felt comfortable enough to play what he felt like play. It was nice to see such a talent so at ease doing what he loves, surrounded by life-long friends. And if you weren’t a friend of Mike’s at the beginning of the show, you probably were by the time it was over.
Kern Richardson was up next next and although he lacked Mike’s ease, he brought his own intensity, hard picking, and deep bass voice to original songs that could make make you laugh and despair intermittently. There was a slight country-cash feel to his persona that wasn’t just the black western shirt. He gave those strings a beating as he worked up and down the fret board, then had to re-tune between each songs. During tuning sessions he revealed a lyrical and humble guy who is a hell of a song writer. When he resumed playing, he seemed to be working so hard that I felt an urge to throw money at him. I really wish he had a tip jar after he played the fantastic “She’s My Anchor”. He definitely earned it. I’m guessing this was an oversight rather than a commitment to remain insolvent, but I for one would have gladly kicked in my appreciation, especially since it didn’t cost me a penny to see this guys.
Rounding out the trio was John Curry of The Fly Boys. If Mike Mart seemed at ease, and Kern seemed to work hard, John Curry brought a true sense of playfulness. John was refreshing and a joy to listen to. One of his bandmates joined him for a few harmonies and the chemistry was evident. Everything about his performance was light and fun, from the size of his guitar, his light-on-his-feet stature, his movements, and his lyrical catchy tunes. He made it look effortless, but that’s because he has put in the time honing his skills. The results were a joy to watch.
So in spite of all this incredible fun and talent, please stay the hell away from The Insolvent Songwriters shows. Not that I want them to stay insolvent – they deserve to be paid and paid well. But if the word gets out, Vinyl Solution will not be able to accommodate the audience and I’ll lose my front row seating on the concrete floor. Mostly likely I’ll be standing outside unable to get in, sighing about the good ole’ days when only a few ventured out to see this type show. Dammit.