I’ve done many “living room shows” with the Champaign based Undertow over the years. David Bazan has played something like four hundred of them back and forth across the country, and Damien Jurado, Tim Kasher and now Richard Buckner have all followed suit. Undertow has turned booking a house concert tour into an art form. They set them up so that it’s easy for people who don’t do it all the time to host a band in their house. For me it’s so easy that I don’t even think about it when they ask if I am interested in hosting. Almost all of them sell out without me doing any work at all. I’ve seen Richard Buckner several times over the years, but he never really connected with me the way that he seemed to with so many of my friends. Still, it was a no-brainer to have him play. For most of these shows I recognize a number somewhere between one and none of names on the list they send me, but tonight I knew a surprising amount, split evenly between names I recognize from my own mailing list and people I know from seeing them at other shows.
I was expecting him to be the strong, silent type in person, but I was surprised how gregarious he was. He knew many of the people I had hosted, and many of those I had coming up. He was especially excited to hear Califone was going to be playing soon (me too!). And then he smiled, and wow. The Silos’ Walter Salas-Humara has the best smile on tour today, but Richard Buckner is a close second. He usually keeps his head down when he plays, and keeps between song banter to a minimum, had I known he had that amazing smile I would have talked to him a long time ago, and I never would have missed a show.
Tonight’s was a good one, as expected I enjoyed his mostly somber songs more in the basement than I had on other occasions, his distinctive voice sounding pure and clear, unamplified. I recognized a few of the songs since he went back to old material. His label had just re-released his first record so he had gone back and learned many of the songs from that record. “It was hard,” he explained, “I usually fall asleep when I listen to myself.” Which may be the funniest thing anyone has said in the basement about their own music. It was impressive to watch the sold out crowd hang on every word. Talking to folks later, many thought it was one of his best shows. I hope he liked playing here, because I’d have him back any time.