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Two LIVE SHOW reviews for your reading pleasure
this time around... first stop (Friday, 12 June, 2009) was
THE BLUE BOTTLE CAFE, &
the next night over to West Olympia to watch
SOUR OWL at a little pub
One of my favorite little coffee houses/eateries is The Blue Bottle Cafe, out in Yelm... while it's a little off the beaten path, there's a real pleasant atmosphere, with a strong family feeling... ergo, when the owner reminded me that Cara Clarke would be singing (accompanied by guitarist Stefan Abuan), I knew I would dig it... I had watched her sit in with a local group named Eclipse, & thought she projected a lot of power.... so after ordering my 20 oz triple Latte, kicked back in the little play-space to observe during the setup... Cara's doing her hair & chatting a mile a minute, while Stefan does sound checks & tunes his guitar... one thing that's so cool about this little space is that you can talk with whoever's there without fear of "games"... very initimate, & very cool... after a few minutes of the three of us getting to know each other a bit better (Cara used to sing in Japan, as well as Seattle, & Stefan was a bassist on the Seattle scene before moving down this way), they do their first practice run... Cara is in fine form, able to go "way down deep", or infuse a quiet line with real POWER - their rehearsal of "Move Too Soon" & "Imagine" is full of spirit & fun! Sun is bright, & it's just beautiful out as I watch a trickle of folks wander in, all in anticipation of a night of what Cara calls "Blissfull Blues".
Stefan leads in for Cara, doing a couple of his own original blues compositions, self-accompanied, with just the right amount of "nerves" for a player just getting back on the stage... I don't actually remember the titles, as he was a little quiet when he called them off, only getting firmly in the swing of it when he was singing & playing... it was very clear that he digs what he's doing & loves being able to play for an audience. Though it was only about 9 or 10 folks, he had them captured by the end of his first tune - & that's really saying something, because they were about as age-diverse a crowd as I've seen in a while!
After Stefan's solo pieces, he introduces Cara as "Cara Powers" (a former name, before her divorce), & she gently reminds him that she is now Cara Clarke... Cara is a full-tilt performer, though, always aware of what she's doing, and fully able to adjust her rap to the mood she wants to create for the audience... I'm sitting there thinking "How in heck is this near-Aretha soulful gig goin' down in, of all places, Yelm, Washington?"... & the answer flashes back right away... 'coz with talent & energy levels as high as Cara & Stefan have - this could happen ANYWHERE! Her rendition of "Kansas City" is just killer, & has the whole group in stitches... she transitions easily into her powerful renditions of "Fever" and "Ain't No Sunshine When He's Gone".... the last song I listen to (had to get back to watch my kids) is the reason why I dig Cara's performance style so much... she belts out Aretha's "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman" (below) so soulfully that the audience clearly "gets it". Although it's a small & cozy venue, Cara makes "The Blue Bottle" feel like we're at a major venue, & I'm looking forward to her next gig, wherever it may be!
Talk about a "change of venue"... my next stop was at West Olympia's "Two Mile House", on Saturday the 13th of June. I reviewed an advance copy of a soon-to-be-released CD from our friends "Sour Owl", which features some players I know (Steve Munger & Tom Russell, both from way back in the old Gnu Deli days), as well as a few I just met (band leader Lynn Henson, Scott Peoples, Skyler Blake & David Hopper)... decided that I couldn't do the band justice until & unless I checked them out in a live venue... well, let me tell ya', this venue sure ain't Yelm's coffee house scene! Everything about the place says "MoTo-Cycle"... the BIG M shirt that Lynn Henson was wearin' (that says, under a big McDonald's lookin' M - "Marijuana, I'm smokin' it"), all the way to the leathers many of the patrons had on, & th' amount of ink on the arms, ankles, backs (& other extremeties, I'm sure) more'n likely feeds th' coffers of (what must be) a healthy & thriving tatoo industry in Olympia.
Th' Music 6K sound engineer made sure that tracks like "Feel Ya" (from the aforementioned CD release) were playing, & I got a chance to re-introduce myself to Tom Russell (who used to play in a little coffee house called the Gnu Deli (here in Olympia) with a now-famous jazz lady named Myra Melford), as well as a bit of yakkin' with saxophonist Steve Munger, one of the legends of the Olympia music scene. Th' crowd was cool, no hassles, & pretty relaxed atmosphere, albeit pretty full of energy (probably some of which was somehow chemically induced - don't get me wrong, saw no evidence of that, but that "groove" was there for sure).
After about a half-hour of swillin' down my (normal) coke, th' band members began to trickle back in from the "smoking lounge" (right outside the back door), ready to kick off into the first set... I only watched (most of) the first set, & Lynn Henson was JAMMIN' as he led off with "Wrong Headed Woman"... you can kind of tell from th' pic on the left that they were defintely gettin' INTO what they were doing... playing was what I term as "loose", not nearly as tight as they were on the CD, but in my view, that kind of went with the atmosphere in the roadhouse. The picture on the above right was a Dylan tune, & they were smokin' on that one as well. After being interrupted in my viewing & listening by th' "pothead rearranging pictures", & with th' Coca Cola slammin' my kidneys, + which needing to get back & check out my kids, I left just before the first set ended. I've no doubt that the sets got rowdier & rowdier as the night progressed... th' show was cool for a live set, & I'll tell you that if you're lookin' for a rockin' time, you should check these guys out the next time they're playing - as you can see below, they know how to KICK OUT THE JAMZ...
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Till next time...,
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