Peter Case/Dietrich Gosser; October 22, 2011; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music
Peter Case is a storyteller. Yeah, I know, most songwriters are storytellers, but not like this. From the second he arrived Saturday afternoon until the he left after breakfast on Sunday, continuing on tour to Chicago, he regaled us with tales from the road. His memory for people, places, and years was uncanny, and there was scarcely a musician I mentioned that he hadn’t toured with and had some amusing anecdote to pass on. He grew up in the same home town as Butch Hancock, the last artist to play at the house, and he confirmed Hancock’s stories right down to the part where Case sang Howling Wolf songs to Hancock before his voice changed. A scenario that’s pretty amusing to imagine. Of all the stories, perhaps one of the best was told during the show. The “strangest gig ever” ended with he and his son sharing a room (because they were too freaked out to sleep alone) in a gigantic house in the middle of nowhere where the first floor was occupied by pigs. Not just messy folk, but actual pigs. I had just put a new tape and happened to be watching the timer on the camera during this epic, and his tale clocked in at close to fifteen minutes.
He did play some songs too, don’t worry. Case has had a long career to draw from. He first brushed up with fame with New Wave band the Nerves who had a minor hit with “Hanging on the Telephone.” His next band the Plimsoles scored with “Million Miles Away” and an unlikely cameo in the cult classic Valley Girl. (In this case “cult classic” translates directly to “not very good”) He also has a connection to the next artist to play at the house, Gurf Morlix, whom he toured with along with first wife Victoria Williams as the Incredibly Strung Out Band. His solo career has found him increasingly exploring blues and folk. The second of his solo records, the awkwardly titled The Man with the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar, still contributes to the live set with “Put Down the Gun” showing up early in the night. The catchy tune incorporates a bit of theater wisdom, stating that “the gun in the first act always goes off in the third,” before qualifying that with “there’ll be no third act at all if someone’s killed tonight.” Another classic from that record “Entella Hotel” exemplifies his storytelling knack with fully realized characters sketched out in the span of five minutes. He also drew from his most recent collection of new material, 2010’s Wig, which was written and recorded in just a few sessions with a band that featured the excellent DJ Bonebreak (X and the Knitters) on drums.
Since moving back to Madison, Dietrich Gosser has kept a pretty low profile, playing out infrequently at underpublicized events like a rare Saturday show at the Shitty Barn in Spring Green and a Tuesday night at Mickeys. Which is a shame, Gosser is one of the most talented songwriters I know and I’d see him every week if I could. His “new” record, The Man Who Invented Gold,” was recorded several years ago and finally “released” this year as burned copies. The layered record isn’t as immediate as his earlier recordings, taking a little longer to sink in, but it pays off. His too short set was a mix of new material and songs from that record including the terrific “Abraham.” The oldest song it the set, it missed being included on What the Buzzsaw Sings and shows up on Gold. He was a little rusty and maybe even a little nervous, but that didn’t make it any less terrific. I look forward to having him back in the basement soon. The same holds true of Case who proclaimed the basement “his new favorite venue in Madison.”