Casey Driessen/The Tillers; February 18, 2011; Café Carpe
Every year my New Year’s resolution is to visit Ft Atkinson’s charming Café Carpe more often. While it is the one I try hardest to keep, I still don’t get there as often as I would like. So it was nice to make a last minute Friday afternoon decision to go to tonight’s show. I hadn’t heard of Casey Driessen before, but between owner Bill Camplin’s excited monologue in one of his trademark rambling e-mails and the fact that my sister Liz was eager to see him, we decided to go. Coincidentally, her resolution is to see more fiddlers.
Opening band the Tillers was a pleasant surprise. An old-timey trio of upright bass and two guitars, with the occasional fiddle, their honest music was toe-tapping and interesting. I’ll be looking for them at SXSW. They had played with Driessen the night before in Chicago, where, one of them explained as he tightened up his bow, “I showed Casey how to play the fiddle.” He smiled at the ridiculousness of that statement. The extent of that overstatement was obvious from the second Driessen took the stage. Once you got past his jaw-dropping suit, candy apple red with a long double breasted coat paired with red and white saddle shoes, it was obvious he was there for some serious fiddling. Even though it wasn’t necessarily my thing, I was thoroughly entertained by the show. Accompanied by a drummer and bass player, he turned each song into a style demonstration. He excused the band for perhaps the showiest song of the night. After a few notes, Liz turned to me “Is this “Billy Jean”?” It sure sounded like it. It turned out to be version that would have made both Michael Jackson and Robbie Fulks (who covers it frequently) proud.
It wasn’t till after the show that Liz mentioned that she couldn’t stop thinking about the Revenge of the Nerds. I hadn’t thought of that movie since the Eighties, but I knew exactly what she was talking about- the finale of the Greek games where Arthur Poindexter with his thick glasses, crazy hair and electric fiddle takes the stage. Driessen may look like a nerd, but he was quite definitely a kick-ass fiddle player.