Josh Harty (CD release show)/Dietrich Gosser; September 5, 2008: Café Montmartre
On paper it looked like a brilliant idea. Get folks to buy advance tickets to Josh’s CD release show by hosting a pre-show party featuring free Furthermore beer. Everyone loves free beer right? In practice, it may not have made for the best listening environment for a show with two solo performers scheduled. You can’t feed people free beer for an hour and then tell them, “OK now quiet down and listen,” but at maybe they should have tried. Perhaps an introductory announcement would have persuaded the extremely chatty crowd to quiet down a bit for Dietrich’s characteristically gorgeous set. But then again, seeing as how they were just as loud during Josh’s solo songs, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference.
Which is a shame of course. I can’t seem to get enough of Dietrich’s new record, What the Buzzsaw Sings, a meticulously labored over, but effortless sounding, studio masterpiece, well worth every minute spent. Surprisingly, Dietrich picked tonight to talk more than usual, maybe because he knew no one was listening. “If you missed it earlier… which is understandable, I’m Dietrich Gosser,” he slyly admitted halfway through the set, before introducing a song that he wrote while still in Madison. He introduced the light-hearted, nonsense chorus song (I’m pretty sure there was something about “Jackaroo”), as being written when he was still convinced he would be a children’s author. The sheer effort it took to listen over the noise was exhausting but worth it. He’s been playing Madison more frequently as of late, hopefully it won’t be too long before I get to see him again. Hopefully then I’ll be able to hear as well as see him.
Tonight’s show seemed to be more closure for Josh than a celebration. His (self-admitted) appropriately titled A Long List of Lies was recorded six times over the last three years. A combination of his own perfectionism and just plain bad luck, it seemed at one point it was fated to become a singer/songwriter Chinese Democracy. The end product is a slick sounding, fully instrumented affair which bears little resemblance to the solo live shows I’ve become accustomed to. Tonight he recreated the sound of the record with a full band backing him. Not, however, the band that played on the record (add that to the list). With the drummer of record in New York, Chris Sasman filled in on drums. Since Sassy is the drummer for the Classic Tawnies (Josh and Blake Thomas’s cover band) it was easy for him to step into the material, especially Tawny favorites like Ryan Adams’ “A Kiss Before I Go” and the Charlie Daniels Band “Trudy.”
Equally well-suited to his job was Blake Thomas who plays bass in that band as well as being the voice behind some of the Tawnies more inspired covers. Bobby Hart was on hand again tonight to lend backing vocals. The band was rounded out by a surprising pair of musicians. Eric Anderson, who played keyboards on Flatlands, brought his keyboard skills to the show, not to mention his keyboard. Only a few songs into the set, Montmartre’s house Hammond organ bit the dust, or maybe it was its Leslie amp. Either way, Eric had to go home and get another keyboard so they could finish the set. The biggest surprise though was John Beck on guitar. As much a fixture at Blueheels/Josh/Blake/etc shows as I am, I had no idea he even played. Up until this point the only solo I’d seen him take was on the ATM. He acquitted himself nicely, making me wonder why I’d never heard him play before.
While the crowd may have been socializing during Dietrich and Josh’s solo set, they hit full party mode during the full band set. They crowded the floor in front of the stage, dancing and toasting, in short, just having a really good time. “How many people showed up here tonight thinking there was going to be a shootout?” Dietrich queried during his set, referring to the show posters which feature a smoking gun. Nope, no shootout, just a lot of people having a lot fun; I guess at the end of the night that was the most important thing.