I currently have a policy of not booking bands I haven’t seen, which became necessary after a bad experience, and it helps to narrow the list of prospective house concert offers I get. Even being referred by a friend who has played isn’t usually good enough. So it’s a good thing I met the Shotgun Party when I did. Back then I wasn’t approached by many bands I didn’t know, but they had been sent my way by Austin’s Brennen Leigh, who had played a gorgeous show the year before. Shotgun Party went on to become a Madison favorite, playing two Sugar Maple Traditional Music Fests and a couple High Noon shows before disbanding. Lead singer/guitarist Jenny Parrott had already formed Loves It! with boyfriend Vaughn Walters before the Shotgun Party played their last show, and since then have fallen into a comfortable pattern of a show in the winter at my house and a summer show at the High Noon.
Tonight’s show had the advantage of being an early show before the annual fireworks spectacular Rhythm and Booms began at Warner Park, and a fair sized crowd found refuge from the heat inside the cool bar. While their debut CD Yay! doesn’t really do them justice, I have no doubt that their sophomore effort will. Every time I see them they get better. Jenny’s intriguing, unique voice a little more trained, the interaction between them even more fluid, and her fiddle playing more advanced. After playing in a band with Katie Rose, a definite fireworks kind of fiddler, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to pick up the instrument, but Jenny has and done well. The number one charm of Loves It! is the chemistry between Jenny and Vaughn, they are absolutely, adorably in love and it shows. Just the way they look at each other while playing, the smile, the twinkle, makes the show sparkle. From their opening song, the acapella “Katydid,” through their battlefield anthem, to the song about Vaughn’s hometown in West Virginia, the songs are diverse and interesting, not to mention immensely hummable. They saved the most memorable for the encore. “Dinosaur” finds Jenny leaving the stage and running around the room yelling “RAWR!” Though they haven’t spent much time there yet, they officially moved to Nashville earlier this year. Here’s hoping it brings good things for them.
Opening band the Sparrow and the Sky was surprised I remembered them from their set with the Water Liars a year and a half ago. I’m a little surprised too. They were the last of three duo bands that night and I’d likely had a few beers at that point. Another couple band, they were a good match for Loves It! as they balanced the zeal of the headliner with a quiet grace. The pair’s other band is the multi-member Croaker, a rock band that is in sharp contrast to the pretty folk they played tonight. Singer/guitarist Stephanie Birr has a gorgeous voice and I couldn’t believe that three years ago she didn’t think she could sing. I was even more jealous when I found out she just started playing guitar six months ago. Apparently some people have a lot of natural ability, and then there’s me.
The Sparrow and the Sky