David Olney & Sergio Webb; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music; September 20, 2008
I’ll admit I was a little disappointed to be missing the second night of the Forward Fest. Not only did one of my favorite local artists (Jentri Colello) have a sweet opening slot before Mason Jennings on the Majestic’s big stage, but Madison legends Killdozer were doing a reunion show later that night at the High Noon. Still, after last night’s running around it was admittedly nice to just stay in and have the music come to me.
As the House of Righteous Music continues to get a higher profile, the number of bands that contact me about playing continues to grow. Most of the time if I haven’t heard of them, I’m probably not going to book them. Unless of course you happen to know someone I know and I like what I hear on your MySpace, as in the case of the Successful Failures and upcoming show the Shotgun Party. Seldom though am I contacted by a booking agent for someone as legendary as David Olney. I admit that I hadn’t actually heard of him before, but once I started reading quotes like the one from Townes VanZandt ("Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bob Dylan and Dave Olney. Dave Olney is one of the best songwriters I've ever heard - and that's true. I mean that from my heart.") I was pretty sure I couldn’t pass it up. My instincts proved right when other guests at the house, such as Jon Dee Graham, Gurf Morlix and Robbie Fulks, confirmed that Olney was indeed an amazing live act.
What none of them told me was that Sergio Webb was every bit as amazing. It was especially charming to see Blake Thomas nearly hypnotized by his playing, “no one plays like that,” he whispered to me during the show. And I’d have to agree, not only did he play in a very non-traditional style, he could coax sounds out of his guitar that I didn’t know were possible, for instance making his acoustic guitar hum like a cello. While Olney was indeed pretty fantastic, he wouldn’t have been near as great without Sergio Webb. Webb let his guitar do most of the talking, leaving the show banter to Olney. Playing the lovable curmudgeon, Olney stopped midway through the first set to voice our thoughts, “I know what you are thinking, ‘these guys are pretty good, why haven’t I heard of them before?’” “Well,” he continued, “that’s because we used to be the BeeGees.” The idea was pretty amusing, but he backed up the claim with a gorgeous cover of the brothers Gibb.
He was just as witty in song. “Who’s the Dummy Now?” in particular contained enough one-liners to amuse a comedy club crowd. Told from the point of view of a ventriloquist’s dummy who has “been carrying you for years,” the song’s best lines may have been in regard to an ill-fated date, “she wanted to be kissed, but you couldn’t move your lips.” “Sweet Potato,” an ode to everyone’s favorite tuber was a catchy celebration of the vegetable. Over the course of two sets and two hours, Webb and Olney kept the decent sized crowd under their spell. About half the audience had heard of Olney before, most of them brought by a fan who had mobilized many of his friends. The other half were new to his songwriting charms, but by the end of the night I’d guess everyone in the crowd was a fan.