Now this was a new one. Schuba’s does it, the High Noon Saloon does it, why couldn’t I do two shows in a night? I guess the obvious answer is that it’s never come up before, but when I had twenty five names on the waiting list for a Robbie Fulks show that sold out in a day I knew that very few of those people were going to get in. So I asked Fulks if would be interested in doing a second show. He agreed to it, and not only that, agreed to do it the same night. I automatically put the twenty five from the wait list on the second show list and announced it. The rest of the reservations went in three hours. I believe that made him the hottest ticket in Madison.
For good reason. Fulks is a spectacularly entertaining solo performer, smartly funny, excellent vocalist and a terrific guitar player. All of those are amplified when he play as a duo with Robbie Gjersoe, who matches Fulks in every category except maybe songwriting. The last two basement shows have featured this duo, but tonight we got a bonus with an upright bass in the form of Beau Sample who played the part perfectly, right down to the slicked back hair. The three together are known as the Pussycat Trio , and they frequently play as part of Fulks’ Monday night residency at the Hideout in Chicago. In fact they were playing again in two days. “So basically,” Fulks joked during one show, “we’re rehearsing in front of sixty people for the seventeen who will show up on Monday.”
Fulks had estimated the overlap between the two sets would probably be about 50% but it didn’t seem anywhere near that. When he opened the first set with “That’s What I Like About the South,” I excitedly texted my sister to tell her he was playing one of our favorite childhood songs. She was only coming to the late show so she was disappointed when he didn’t play it then, and she told him that when he stopped to say hi before the encore. So guess what song was the next one he played? Newly minted Wisconsinite Kelly Hogan showed up early to take in a show and ended up joining Fulks for a couple songs. The second of which was one of those classic country songs where they improvise the last verse. However Fulks stumped her by challenging her to find a rhyme for “Tammy Baldwin.” (She’s still working on it.)
Sample also got his turn at the mike. His song during the early show was great, but later he did “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette,” another of our childhood hits. (We weren’t your typical kids, we were more into Spike Jones than Mr. Rogers.) Both shows contained a good mix of covers and Fulks’ originals. In the latter category were the poignant “Georgia Hard” and the barn burning “North Carolina is the Cigarette State.” The latter gave both guitar players a chance to show off, and there was some astonishing picking going on. The song has long been a part of Fulks’ live repertoire, so it was funny to hear people laugh at the line “And Alabama’s grand, the state not the band” like they’d never heard it before.
More than any of the shows I’ve hosted, I knew a good chunk of the audience. These were all the people who have come to several shows. There were also a few folks I’ve known forever but this was their first show, I can guarantee they’ll be back. As I am sure Fulks will. He’d already told me it was his favorite place to play in Madison, apparently it’s Madison’s favorite place to see him too.