“One hundred shows,” Eef Barzelay pondered at the beginning of his set, “I don’t think I’ve done anything one hundred times.” It is a little mind boggling to think about. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I first invited Tim Easton to come play in my basement, but I couldn’t have predicted that nine years later I would hit the triple digit mark and have had some, actually most, of my favorite musicians play. I was trying to work out something really big for the century mark, but with the unpredictable nature of the way I book shows (whenever someone I want to play can play, I’ll do it, except on Wednesdays, that’s my volleyball night) it was hard to know exactly when that would be. So when it turned out that Barzelay would have the honor it seemed perfect.
I’ve been a fan of his band Clem Snide since 1999’s Your Favorite Music. I’ve seen the band dozens of times over the years, mostly in Madison and Chicago, but also once memorably in Barcelona (with Andrew Bird opening). I’ve also seen him several times solo, at Café Montmartre, one of the few great shows I can remember seeing there, and twice at Indie Coffee. The small coffee shop on Regent St was packed both times he played, and it was after the second that I e-mailed him suggesting he play at the House of Righteous Music next time he was in the area. It took just over a year, but it finally happened. I had two requests for him. The first, “Ice Cube,” is over a dozen years old, and he laughed when I said it, “I don’t remember any of the words to that song,” he claimed. I also asked for “Something Beautiful,” a song I had first heard at that show in Barcelona with Andrew Bird on violin. “I’ll play one of those,” he promised after I made my request.
Despite having played so many shows over the years, including many house concerts, he seemed strangely nervous. Or it could have just been his quirky charm. “Don’t worry, I’ll play one that you know soon,” he assured us after starting with a handful of new songs. Eventually he switched to the ukulele for several songs, “I’m glad I picked this up,” he smiled. He did indeed play “Something Beautiful,” its list of irrational behaviors making the audience laugh. “You make me wanna not turn the wipers on when it begins to rain,” he says before adding “you make me wanna break… break… something beautiful.” He also dedicated the title track from Your Favorite Music to me and my one hundred shows. I had promised Journey covers but he turned to a different classic rock mainstay tonight. “I want you to want me,” he implored, “I need you to need me.” The Cheap Trick cover, done his unique Eef way, was definitely a hit.
I was also delighted to have Dietrich Gosser opening. I have been a fan of his since seeing him with the Mountain Goats nearly ten years ago, and have asked him to play at the house many times. He had just released a new record Oh to Begin! a few weeks earlier, and played many of the songs from it tonight. The title track sounded great and early favorite “In the Morning” was stellar. Old favorites like “Ocean” and “Abraham” were certainly welcome too. I was thrilled that he had percussionist Dan Kuemmel along with him tonight, who as always added another dimension to Gosser’s already intriguing songs. They couldn’t have been more on, and it may be the best set I’ve seen from the two of them. After the show was over and all the patrons gone, tonight’s players and sound guy Jeremiah Nelson all hung out for awhile. We talked about what a great show it had been, I couldn’t have wished for a better hundredth.