Despite the fact that I’ve worked with the Undertow guys many, many times, unless it is someone I’ve hosted before they don’t always ask me if I’m interested in hosting some of their other artists. Knowing this, I periodically check their website to see what they have happening. I never would have gotten Tim Kasher otherwise. This time I was excited to see Rocky Votolato was heading to the Midwest, unfortunately Madison wasn’t on his itinerary. He did however have two nights slated for Chicago. So I e-mailed them and said that if he changed his mind about doing two nights there, I would LOVE to have him. They answered quickly, to the effect of “screw Chicago, you got it.” I’d been a fan of Votolato’s since my friend Pete handed me the store copy of his record Makers in 2006 and said “I think you will like this.” He was right, and I brought it back the next day and bought my own copy. It was one of those serendipitously timed events, when I searched for his tour schedule it turned out he was going to be in Madison only a few weeks later (coincidentally with another house concert alumni, Damien Jurado). And that was the last time he’d played Madison before tonight.
He couldn’t have possibly known that Makers was my introduction, and still my favorite record of his, but it figured heavily into the set. The languorous title track which quietly admits to “filling and re-filling up the glass with Makers” was a lovely stop for the encore, though after he finished he claimed that was too dark a song to end on. Bonus, another song. The quaintly catchy “Tinfoil Hats” conjures imagines of Joaquin Phoenix in a shiny chapeau hiding in a closet to avoid alien detection in the movie “Signs.” But even though he played many of those songs he didn’t do my favorite of those tracks, “She Was Only in It for the Rain.” That leaves something for next time. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get what I requested. As he puzzled over what to play for the encore a number of suggestions came from the audience, who just like me had been waiting forever for him to come back. “I’d love to play those songs,” he apologized, “I just don’t know them, honestly.” He’d suggested earlier that he had been at a bit of a crossroads lately, unsure if he was going to continue down the music path. This tour and new songs like the very appealing “I Wish I Was a Tennenbaum” suggest maybe he has chosen, and chosen wisely I might add. And I think tonight may have convinced him he shouldn’t wait eight years to play Madison again.