Peter Case has had a legendary thirty year career in music. His bands the Nerves and the Plimsouls had seminal roles in the roadmap of power pop and New Wave, the latter even appeared in the movie Valley Girl. He’s a respected and idolized blues musician who has spent the last decade playing solo shows across the country and Europe. So why hasn’t Madison embraced him? This was his third appearance at the house and it was only half full. If he was disappointed it certainly didn’t show in his performance, which as always was a perfect balance between smart storytelling and clever songs. His CDs that hadn’t shown up in whatever town he had been in the day before failed to show up again today, so he was the unusual performer who had nothing to sell other than a handful of his books. When I emailed him that they had shown up on my front step two days later, he joked that his CDs were on their own tour.
His set list spanned his entire career, eventually coming back to the songs from his second solo record, the timeless but awkwardly titled Man with the Blue Post Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar. The songs from that record have always seemed to me his most indelible, and they are always my favorite part of his show. The about-to be-a-murder ballad “Put Down the Gun” contains this bit of wisdom, “I don’t know but it’s been heard, a gun in the first act always goes off in the third,” and follows it with “there’ll be no third act at all if someone’s killed tonight.” Meanwhile at “The Entella Hotel” he paints a vivid story in just a few verses and you feel the steamy heat of the city and the desperation of its residents. His love of the blues always comes up in his music and in his performance; tonight it was it was a song by Sleepy John Estes. When he wasn’t really living anywhere after moving to California he only had one record that he carried around with him. He didn’t have a record player, so he would try to find people to stay with who did, just so he could listen to his Sleepy John record.
Chris Plowman moved to Madison just over two years ago for a girl he met here while on tour from Austin. What was his lucky day has also became mine, as he’s helped me out on sound many, many times over the last couple years. I’d seen him play bass with the Josh Harty band, but I’d never seen him play his own stuff, a prequalification for opening a show at the House of Righteous Music. Still, when he agreed to do sound for this show last minute, I decided to take a chance. It paid off. Despite the fact that he said he was very nervous, he played a great short set of original tunes, proving he can play guitar as well as he plays bass.