Picking which shows to review on this blog can be hard sometimes. Saturday night was a case in point: not only did Neurolux host its Sun Blood Stories/Iconoplasty/Phantahex bill, the Van Allen Belt/Hey V Kay/Dirty Moogs show at the Red Room seemed equally promising. In the end, though, I opted for this Idaho Songwriters' Association gig, which featured three local acts I'd never encountered before.
The crowd numbered fifteen people when I got down to the Gamekeeper Lounge and stayed at about that number for the rest of the night. Richard O'Hara, one of the two head organizers of the ISA, speculated that the Packers/49ers game sucked up most of the audience for this show. He may have been right, although I imagine that the crappy weather and the plethora of other shows happening this same night were factors as well.
Local musician John Cazan opened the show. My ears perked up when the emcee announced that Cazan had played gigs with the Coasters, the Drifters and Little Anthony and the Imperials. For the most part, this set didn't let me down. While some of his backing tracks tended a little towards the elevator-jazzy side, Cazan's smooth, finely aged croon went down nicely. Even better, his fluid, elegant guitar soloing called to mind Nils Lofgren or maybe Stevie Ray Vaughan at his most lyrical ("Lenny," "Little Wing"). As a nice little bonus, the man sure did love dogs: he played two songs that were inspired by his pet pooches.
Michelle Coleman, Daniel Reed and Dominique Tardif from the local Americana group Shakin' Not Stirred played next. Tardif's terse mandolin solos, Coleman's straight-ahead guitar strumming and Reed's sly basswork fell into such an easy, seemingly effortless groove that they made younger indie-folk groups sound insufferably tight-assed by comparison. The same went for their insouciant between-song banter and lyrics about dancing outside naked in the middle of the night, neighbors be damned. Their gorgeous three-part harmonies were no joke, however. Neither was Coleman's loving, precisely crafted song about her father's passing.
Sam Lay closed out the night. "You may be watching history tonight," the emcee told the crowd during his introduction. I don't know about that, but Lay's breathy tenor, nimble strumming and soloing, well-crafted tunes and funny, self-deprecating banter all showed a maturity well beyond his seventeen years. Show me a teenager who writes lyrics about living in a "gullible theocracy" and I'll show you a songwriter to keep an eye and ear on. His dad played guitar and harmonica on one song, and local singer-songwriter Gayle Chapman chipped in with some keyboard and harmonies on another. Lay's mom sat at the front and filmed part of the set. She must be very proud.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online.