Friday, September 04, 2009

Blake Thomas; September 4, 2009; Wild Hog in the Woods Coffeehouse

I see Blake Thomas play nearly every week, but often after his Tuesday night gigs at Mickey’s Tavern I still feel like I haven’t seen him. As much fun as the best dive bar in Madison is, it often is not the best place to see a solo singer-songwriter play songs on an acoustic guitar. Often he and Jeremiah Nelson, who shares the residency, have to strain to be heard above the loud, drinking crowd. Of course, they are usually drinking too which can lead very entertaining performances, not always of the musical variety.

It was a very different scenario that I walked into tonight. The Wil-Mar Center becomes the Wild Hog in the Woods Coffeehouse every Friday and features a different folk performer. Though labeling it “coffeehouse” may be a bit of a stretch since the hot beverages are limited to brewed regular, tea or instant decaf, and the cookies are store bought. The former church was silent, the only sounds the hiss of the coffeemaker and the occasional squeak of a chair as one of the patrons would shift in their seat. For someone used to seeing Madison’s best songwriter making songs up on the spot, the formality was a little unnerving. It seemed to have the same effect on Blake; he was actually sweating, though the wool suit and the still air in the church may have accounted for that. He did look sharp, and his gorgeous, brand new guitar added to the effect.

He had even prepared for tonight, thinking about what songs he was going to play rather than pulling them out of the air. He almost had to, the shows run from 8 till 10 and he was the only performer. I’ve seen him do entire sets of covers at Mickey’s, but tonight he concentrated more on his own material. It was a good decision, the Hank Williams, Reverend Gary Davis and Townes van Zandt complimented his songs nicely. Of those, the heartbreaking “Kaitlyn” and the surprisingly hopeful “World of War” sounded especially pretty.

Blake didn’t seem to think his performance was all that special, but for me it was nice to actually be able to hear him play. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mickey’s, but it was nice to have a reminder of what brings me there every week. It’s Blake’s songs, his guitar playing and his gorgeous voice. Madison has been lucky to have him for as long as we have.

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