I'd planned originally to check out a show at Nampa's Flying M last Saturday night until Speedy Gray sent me a message. He had set up a gig at the High Note Cafe and invited a bunch of fellow musicians to come on down and play a few songs. I decided to change up my plans because I've wanted to write about this new venue for a little while.
The High Note Cafe opened just a month ago and has apparently been a bit slow finding its footing. That's somewhat inevitable, I suppose, given its location on the edge of downtown Boise (it's on 5th St. between the Flying M and Guido's where WilliB's used to be) and this economy. I do hope that more people get hip to this place: it serves good food and beer, it boasts some excellent artwork on its walls and some solid local musicians have already performed there.
The crowd was pretty thin when I arrived around 10 pm. Happily, more and more people wandered in as the night wore on, giving the Cafe some brisk business. A sign of things to come? Fingers crossed.
Folks who performed this night:
Speedy Gray--It's always a pleasure catching one of Speedy's acoustic sets. I enjoy it when he kicks out the jams with Like A Rocket, of course, but playing acoustic gives the spotlight to his thoughtful, well-worn, quietly powerful singing. Also, his lyrics sustain interest without the extra accompaniment. You really oughtta hear his song about the man trapped in jail after Hurricane Katrina destroys the paperwork on his arrest.
Dave Manion--Manion supported Speedy Gray with some of the fluid, inventive guitar work that he brings to the Country Club and New Transit. After that, he took the lead on a couple of songs. His conversational baritone croon hit Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone" right between its tear-filled eyes.
Wayne White--I'd never heard of this gentleman before this night, but I'll keep an eye/ear out for him from now on. His astonishingly nimble guitar playing made his lovely instrumental tunes skip and soar. He seemed to have just a little bit of trouble with the Peanuts theme song but still did far better with it than you'd expect.
Megan Nelson--This lady has what you might call a phone book voice. That is, she could sing the phone book and make it sound great. Nelson didn't sing the phone book, but she did grace her well-crafted original songs and a surprisingly sharp cover of Britney Spears's "Toxic" with her warm, strong, full-bodied vocals. Very, very promising.
Z.V. House and Karen Singletary--Playing without his compatriots in A Seasonal Disguise (except for Singletary), Z.V. House revealed that actually, yeah, he is a good singer. His rhythmic strumming provided further proof of his guitar-playing skills. Singletary's harmonies made me think of clear streams and tall pines. I was grateful for the chance to listen to House's intriguing lyrics, and their spot-on "Human Highway" cover made me feel like less of a presumptuous ass for all the Neil Young comparisons.
Jeff Shaw--Another newcomer to the Boise scene, Shaw's idiosyncratic drawl and guitar playing had an undeniable appeal. He tacked on a humorously absurd spoken-word outro to the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?", and his bluesy original song held up fine next to that alt-rock classic. A unique dude. It'll be interesting to see how he develops from here.
You can find info about these acts (or their bands) and the High Note Cafe on Facebook and elsewhere online.