Saturday, June 27, 2009

Folk on State with Peter Mulvey and Blake Thomas (featuring Josh Harty); June 27, 2009; State Street

Peter Mulvey has played Folk on State ever since its inception nine years ago; it’s too bad the weather has seldom cooperated. It’s always too hot, the humidity oppressive, and last year he had barely finished his set and loaded up his bike when the sky let loose with a torrential downpour. Tornadoes were sighted between Madison and Fort Atkinson where he was headed. Luckily he and his biking buddies had wisely taken shelter in town. With a history like that, you can hardly blame him for being positively giddy about today’s moderate temperatures, even though an animated wind kept threatening to blow away the donation guitar and topple the speakers from their stands.

In fact, I’ve never seen Peter quite this silly. He said he’d had some sort of natural beer with things like gingko biloba and ginseng (BluCreek’s herbal ale) across the street at State St Brats before his set, but one beer doesn’t quite explain it. Whatever the reason for his terrific mood, it doesn’t matter, he was endlessly entertaining. For the first time in several years he had forgone the bike to get to this particular gig, instead opting to take in the sights around the House on the Rock (actually going in was too expensive). Lest you think he has gotten lazy, check out “The Long Haul” tour that he has booked for this fall which takes him all over the east coast… on his bike. Despite the fact that he had left the recumbent at home today, the effects of this newfound passion are obvious, he looks terrific. In his Capri pants (usually only acceptable if you are riding that day) and ever-present hat, he was the picture of health, and completely adorable.

Even more important, he sounded great too. His set included several of the songs that will make up his next release. The amusing “Some People” always draws a few chuckles from the audience, you just never know what part is going to make them laugh, whether it’s the part about Senators going into airport bathrooms and getting their reputations besmirched or the simple but somewhat uncharacteristic “nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.” He gladly took requests and played “Shirt” almost immediately after it was requested.

He had been looking forward to seeing Blake ever since he played at the house and took Flatlands home with him. “Sometimes we meet up in the afternoon and I’ll chase if you run,” he mused before claiming he had applauded that song the first time he heard it, even though he was alone in his car. “You only get a couple of those in a lifetime,” he said in praise of the lyrics. Later after picking out the opening line to “You Shook Me All Night Long” in response to a request for AC/DC (obviously this was not Peter’s usual audience), he repeated sarcastically, “You only get a couple of those in a lifetime” to the audience’s amusement. I’ve been a fan of Peter’s for a long time, and these recent shows have been among the best I have seen him do.

In previous years he was the only artist who was allowed to have the entire two hours, this year however Darlene (president of MadFolk) had too many people who wanted to play. Peter of course was happy to share the stage with Blake and I was happy to finally see them sharing a show, something I had been pushing for. Blake and Josh had been playing more shows together recently, both as a duo and as a band (which always contains Chris Sasman and sometimes includes Mary Gaines, Chris Wagoner or Louka Patenaude), so it wasn’t surprising to see Josh on stage with him today. He has a talent for harmony vocals and guitar accompaniment which make him an asset to any band. Their set sold Blake’s songs so well that he actually had to go get more CDs from the van. I always knew a gig with Peter would treat him well. And it certainly made me happy.

Blake Thomas & Josh Harty

Peter Mulvey

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