Sugar Maple Festival; August 1, 2009; Lake Farm Park
Madison’s traditional music festival is in its sixth year and going strong. I hadn’t been since the first year but I was happy to see nothing much had changed. The folks who attend the two day outdoor festival aren’t the same crowd I see at most shows- the average age is older and seem to take the music much more seriously. Just greeting my friends who were sitting a pretty good distance from the stage was met with a stern look and a shush from the woman ahead of us. Oops, sorry.
I arrived in time for Joel Patterson’s set. He’s a former Madison resident and a wicked guitar player, but I found myself getting sleepy during his mostly instrumental set. The real reason I had come was for the Shotgun Party who were up next. A relatively new band from Austin Texas, they had played a rocking house concert last year (which is actually how they got this gig). The band on stage didn’t look much like the one that had played the basement. The touring bass player, who himself had been filling in for their original bass player, has been replaced by Andrew Austin-Peterson who will be their permanent bassist. Wicked fiddler Katie Rose Cox had already signed on to tour Europe with her other band when the offers for summer festivals started rolling in. Rather than let the great opportunities go by, journeyman Korey Simeone, who has played with the Austin Lounge Lizards and the Asylum Street Spankers, signed on to the team. He had a different style than Katie, but he was every bit as good.
Even lead singer Jenny Parrot didn’t look exactly like she had last winter. Her dyed black spiky hair has been replaced by her naturally wavy, brown locks. However once she opened her mouth to sing any doubt that it wasn’t her was erased. Her girlish yodel of a voice and the conviction behind it accounts for much of Shotgun Party’s charm. Whether singing about “Canned Peaches” (which I am pretty convinced is a euphemism) or a “Gladiola,” her energy and charm make every song appealing. Seeing as this was a homecoming for their newest member, they put Andrew on the spot and made him sing one. His cover of Willie Nelson’s “I Gotta Get Drunk” delighted the crowd and his relative’s in attendance.
The other attraction on the bill was Robbie Fulks. Used to be I’d see Robbie and his awesome band several times a year, but he’s cut way back on touring, and the band shows are further between than they used to be as he prefers the solo or duo show most of the time. In fact the last time I’d seen him was with Robbie Gjersoe in my basement. Today’s show was as a duo with Nora O’Connor who also doesn’t get out as much as she used to. They are a good pair, Nora’s sweet demeanor paired with Robbie’s salty one. Robbie’s most recent release is the weighty 50 song, download only, 50 VC Doberman. Since I hadn’t had the time or the money, 50 songs don’t come cheap, to download it, I actually didn’t expect to know many of the songs today, but he surprised me quite a few old favorites, including the charming duet “Parallel Bars” with Nora filling Kelly Willis’s shoes surprisingly well.
There was more music to be had but I was tired and felt like I’d already had a pretty good day on the farm, so I called it a day till next year.
Robbie Fulks & Nora O'Connor