Mad Toast Live hosted by Mary Gaines & Chris Waggoner with guests Shauncey Ali, Blake Thomas & Adam Davis; October 7, 2008; The Brink Lounge
It’s hard to know exactly what Mad Toast Live really is. It uses a talk show format in a live music setting and hosts Chris Waggoner and Mary Gaines play along on their guests’ songs. It feels like it should be broadcast somewhere, extending beyond the Brink’s subterranean walls, but it isn’t. For now, venturing into the bar’s hotel lobby décor is the only way to hear their variety of guests talk about their music, their influences and what ever else might come up over the course of three hours.
Our hosts knew tonight’s guests better than their average invitee, both of them have played or sang on many of Blake Thomas’s records and Shauncey Ali routinely joins them as a classical-style trio (available for weddings and other special events they were quick to point out). Perhaps the special-est guest was the ridiculously talented Adam Davis who played guitar on Blake’s recent release Flatlands, and who just happened to be in town this week. I missed most of the first segment of the show, arriving just as Waggoner, Gaines and Davis finished a song. For entertainment during the break, Waggoner cued up a record, that’s right, vinyl, on the phonograph.
The second set focused on violinist Shauncey Ali and his recent forays into the world of competitive fiddling. Shauncey has participated in the prestigious Minnesota State Fair contest the last two years, finishing in the top five both times, and this year Blake was his accompanist. The pair also finished first in the Wisconsin State Fair fiddling championship earlier this year. Shauncey discussed the dos and don’ts of the contests, while underplaying the questionable events that seemed to sabotage his chances in this year’s MN contest. He and Blake played many of their contest tunes. Shauncey shows such grace and skill it is hard to believe that anyone could have beaten them.
For the final segment of the evening Waggoner and Gaines talked to Blake about his own music and his methods of songwriting. He confessed that he seldom sits on a song for very long, it is either a keeper right away or it is lost. I’ll admit there are a couple songs I’ve only heard once- I wish I knew where they were now. All five musicians joined in on some of the prettiest versions of his songs I’ve ever heard. The gracefully languid “Seahorses” was heartbreaking, almost bringing tears to my eyes, while “How Long” turned into an extended jam, each artist taking a turn with the familiar melody. It was especially a treat to hear “Head is a House” (the lyrics complete the title with the brilliantly aching “I’d be ashamed to take you home to”) and a couple other songs that don’t get out much and when they do it is amidst the drunken hubbub of a night at Mickey’s.
Mad Toast Live’s interesting format gives you a chance to not just hear an artist, but also to get to know them, I’d be interested to stop in another Tuesday night and see someone I don’t know as well.