Robbie Fulks has been doing a (more or less) weekly residency at the Hideout for over two years now, but tonight was an unusual one. He actually played his own songs. Most weeks he has a theme, invites a guest or guests, they get together before the show and learn an evening’s worth of songs. In the past he’s done shows honoring jazz musicians and country greats, mash-ups of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Leonard Cohen, Thelonius Monk and the Monkees, most reverent, some irreverent, always fun. His frequent partner in crime is Robbie Gjersoe, a pretty amazing guitar player who’s played with an impressive list of musicians over the years, the Flatlanders and Kelly Willis just to name a couple. He was scheduled to play tonight, but he almost didn’t make it due to a car accident and an abusive air bag. It almost looked like the show was about to become even more unusual, it might have been Fulks solo. Fortunately Gjersoe felt good enough to play despite some residual pain.
The two make a great pair, and tonight’s show was similar to what their two previous basement shows have been. There were some classic oldies from Fulks’s catalog, like the barroom weeper “Tears Only Run One Way” and the fiery ode to the south “North Carolina Is the Cigarette State.” The latter in particular allowed the pair to show off their flatpicking skill. The solos were inventive and entertaining, an absolute joy to watch. Toward the end of the set Fulks asked if there were any requests, and several shouted out song titles. After a little more talk and some thought, he changed his mind, “Screw that, I’m not going to play any of the songs you requested.” He did however allow a regular show-goer to choose between Monk and Mingus. “Well, you should do Mingus,” she reasoned, “because you just did a lot of Monk,” referring to volume two of Monk versus the Monkees which had just happened a few weeks before. When called back for an encore they were indecisive about what to play. A friend of mine called out for a new song that I didn’t know. That they played, I guess he was just waiting for the right request.
It was a great time and another very worthwhile two dollar bus trip. Heck, me and the bus even got a shout out from Fulks. It doesn’t get any better than that.