Author: Sargent, Geoff

The Sidemen

House concerts are wonderful things. You and 20-30…well maybe 49 other folks get to listen up close and personal to great music. And up close takes on a new meaning when the musicians point out that the front row is in spittin range….actually they’re in kicking range if it should come to that. And the crowd can be intimate (sitting cheek to jowl with friends, neighbors and assorted strangers in someone’s living room), full of convivial conversation (sparring with the band), and full of energy (waiting for the other 49 people in line for the bathroom to hurry up and get their stuff done).
I went to a house concert, in fact my first, a few weeks ago to hear Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen. It was amazing! The whole “band in a house” thing was really cool and much more intense than most festival and club shows. I got to say hi to my Grass Valley pickin buddies and hosts, Bob and Gail Schwartz, I got to hang with some of my bandmates, and I was pleasantly surprised by other friends and acquaintances unexpectedly showing up. It was a bit like the atmosphere at Father’s day but on a smaller scale and with better quality snacks and desserts. But all that was just icing on the cake compared to the show. I’m not sure that “show” is the best word to describe it… a way sonic workout might be appropriate because I was surely exhausted by the end of the evening. That might have something to do with the setting but more likely from the high energy that Frank and his crew crackled with.

Now, one thing I really enjoy about live shows, especially since I’m in a band, is watching how the stage musicians adapt to the inevitable, ummmmm, unexpected things that happen in a show. And in the closeness of a house setting, it’s even more fun because you can see the sweat and really catch those facial expressions that suggest something happened on stage that wasn’t planned. And for me, since I’m physically that close it’s almost like being up there with them….it just kind of sucks you right in….that doesn’t happen for me as much when there is a stage between the musicians and audience.

It might have been predicable, but all the same it was a surprise when Frank and the Kitchen had Max Schwartz sit in on banjo for a couple of songs. The dude has some serious chops with the confidence and a sense of cool beyond his age…….for that matter I have to admit to a fleeting twinge of envy and jealousy mixed with a smidgeon of pride that Bob and Gail must have been swimming in. The word was that older brother Nate was somewhat torn between the Senior prom and house concert…….let’s see, what would I have done…..hmmm, tough call.

Well…..I had to tell Max that he was just too good for me to jam with, but hell’s bells I’d be one of his sidemen in a shot if the opportunity ever came about.

“I am perhaps the oldest musician in the world. I am an old man, but in many senses a very young man. And this is what I want you to be, young, young all your life, and to say things to the world that are true.” Pablo Casals
Posted:  5/15/2011

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