Tonight I caught the truly amazing Howe Gelb, along with perhaps 50 other music fans who managed to actually hear about the last-minute show.
It's a laid back town and I guess our legends are the same. Howe is prepping for a tour with the Canadian singer-songwriter Kate Maki, whose album On High he produced and released on his OW OM record label.
Sure the show was just announced yesterday, and the duo did play another venue on Thursday, but I was surprised at the relative low turnout. For damn sake folks, it was free! And it's not as if Howe plays every weekend in town - it's more like two or three times a year any more. In all likelihood, though, it was just simply a bonus - Howe said they were heading out on tour in the morning and hadn't really gotten to practice... so why not invite all a few dozen friends?
As usual, Howe was a meandering and quirky performer, but undeniably captivating as he drew his own brand of noise out of the classic Gibson you see in the photo. He can turn on a dime from spoken-word folk to Neil Young style rave-up quicker than anybody, including Young, and throw in curveballs that I haven't come close to figuring out after seeing him about a dozen times by now.
One song, perhaps titled "Sawdust and Chandeliers," was either a new song or a 21st century talking blues improvised right on site. Howe himself said sometimes they make up songs in rehearsal, just so they can at least play them once. But regardless, it's an absolute gem, about a dude who's probably somewhere in the neighborhood of Howe's age, staring in the mirror at skin sagging from the cheekbones and all sorts of other places it shouldn't sag from.
Howe kept it short, saying it was a school night and that he had no wisdom to impart as he left the stage. It was officially billed (as it was) as an Arizona Amp and Alternator show, with Giant Sand's Danish bassist Thøger Lund and Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara filling out the band.
Kate Maki, not so much an opener as a singer who started off the night with the band before yielding to Howe, is understated but a talented guitarist with a country-folk vibe. An article from her native Ottawa describes the fortuitous pairing as "one of the most resilient and consistently inventive American artists of the last two decades" lending his talents to a similarly tantalizingly performer who's on the fringes in all the good ways.
Trust me, Maki is an iPod commercial from breaking as big as Feist.
Giant Sand - Shiver (live, Club Congress 2005-09-02) - Find the whole show at Archive.org.
Howe Gelb - Chore of Enchantment (The Rock Opera Years) - From an incredible KXCI compilation also at Archive.org.
Kate Maki - Highway