Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer and Idyltime @ the VaC (12/15/12)

This show interested me not just because it featured two acts I'd never seen before but because it supported what struck me as a worthy cause.  It had been set up by Wild Lens, a local non-profit organization that "brings biologists and filmmakers together to document interactions between wildlife species and human communities in an effort to find an ecological balance point."  As a guy who's trying more and more to become aware of what's going on in the world, I figured that this was a good enough reason to check this deal out.

I counted about fifty people when I arrived at the VaC.  The crowd looked on the older side--I'd guess late twenties or above (mostly above).  Another fifteen or twenty people would show up as the evening progressed.  I was glad to see such a solid crowd, though I would wind up wishing that the people by the bar had shut the hell up during the music (pretty sure I saw the musicians glare back there a couple of times).

Anyway, at that point, I just sipped a Mutton Buster and scoped out the cool artwork on the walls by such local artists as Storie Grubb, Julia Green, Bruce Maurey, Shasta Nash and my old schoolmate Kelly Knopp.  I refrained from taking pictures just to encourage you folks to go down to the VaC and check 'em out your own selves (they should be up until February 2nd).

Each set was preceded by a three-to-four-minute Wild Lens documentary.  The first was produced for the Idaho Bird Observatory and dealt with a couple of guys in Idaho studying the migration pattern of flammulated owls.  The second discussed how the loon population is dying off from lead poisoning (simple enough fix: fishers, stop using lead fishing lures).  The third and last doc focused on a small non-profit in Tanzania devoted to giraffe conservation.  Very interesting stuff.

Bluegrass group Idyltime kicked off the night's live music.  They sounded a little stiff starting out, but they got a nice swinging groove going soon enough.  Beth Mason's guitar soloing sounded pretty awkward, but her low, breathy vocals more than compensated.  Tate Mason's weathered, slightly nasal voice harmonized nicely with his wife's, and his sprightly banjo solos livened this set up considerably.  In addition to playing some well-crafted originals about WWI and a bar in Oregon ("It's a fantastic establishment--I was almost beat up there a couple times."), they did right by a couple Gillian Welch tunes and the John Prine classic "Paradise."

Washington-based duo Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer played two sets after Idyltime.  That made for a lot of time onstage, but they definitely earned it.  Mandy Fer's sultry, gorgeous vocals served as the ideal vehicle for their sharp folk-pop melodies and smart, compassionate lyrics, and her stunningly assured guitar playing would've made this show worthwhile all by itself.  Dave McGraw backed his partner up with his own pleasant croon, some rapid strumming and some impressively propulsive bongo playing.  Show me a group who damn near steals "Moondance" away from Van Morrison and I'll show you a group I wouldn't mind seeing again.  Hopefully, when/if these two come back, the roads won't be so treacherous (they had to drive for ten hours to make this gig, four or five of which was spent going through some heavy snow).

You can find info on these groups and Wild Lens on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Sam Stimpert and the VaC.

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