I first saw Joe in January 2013. When I heard he was coming back to Tampa, I absolutely wanted to go to see him again. Joe’s music and songs are fantastic. I think he could make a song out of any story. When I talked to him after the show last night, he said that he’s able to find the value in the stories he hears. I agree that he’s able to do that, but what makes him great is that he makes it sound good too! And on stage he sets up his songs with great humor or drama, depending on what the mood calls for. The compilation of these skills results in a special experience and songs that are beautiful and meaningful.
Last night’s show was as great as the house concerts I’ve previously seen (Peter Mulvey and Acoustic Eidolon). Still the show was different from the others, even when compared to Joe’s 2013 show. This isn’t surprising, because each house concert has its own flavor. The attendees and the artist both contribute to that flavor. The three house concerts I’ve attended since the beginning of the year have all been part of the same house concert series (Lunazoot) and in the same location. With that, every show had an almost completely different batch of attendees. There are a few familiar faces every time, but almost everyone else is a new face. With each show having approximately 65 attendees, that’s saying something!
One person who contributed significantly to the flavor of last night’s show was Susan, one of the show hosts. Joe has played in the Lunazoot concert series three times, so the hosts (Susan and Randy) and Joe have developed a relationship over the years. When Susan’s mother, Janice, passed away in January, Susan called Joe and asked if he would mind playing a few special requests in addition to his normal song sets to honor her mother’s memory. Joe was happy to oblige, and though it was sad in its way, these songs were also a great addition to the show. I didn’t know Susan’s mother, but I’m so glad that Susan was willing to share some of Janice’s spirit and poems with us. And I’m glad that Joe was able to play songs that were able to convey that spirit. It was a fantastic way to honor someone who has passed, and I’m glad I was a part of it.
Of course Joe also contributed heavily to the flavor of the show too. Each musician has their different musical styles, different instruments that they play, different story telling styles, etc… Last night Joe played three different instruments: guitar, fiddle, and a slide guitar he bought on the fly the day before because he had to leave behind his mom’s Martin D18 he converted to a slide guitar. Last year he solely stuck to the guitar, which was still fantastic. But for someone who struggles just to play guitar, it’s always inspiring to see someone float seemingly effortlessly among different musical instruments. (If he adds a flugelhorn to his repertoire, I’ll be REALLY impressed. )
The energy of this show was also very different from when I saw him last year. I saw him in a different, smaller, more intimate venue last year (i.e. Susan’s living room), and Joe’s mood seemed more relaxed and mellow. Last night’s venue was Randy’s man cave. “Cave” doesn’t really do this space justice, because the sound is fantastic with or without powered speakers, and it can hold up to 80 people. In this environment Joe rocked out during quite a few songs. “Rooster in the Mash Pile” had people dancing and mimicking drunken roosters… There were a number of other songs throughout the two-set show that had people thumping their feet and clapping.
On the other side of emotion, “Freddy the Falcon” had me crying in my seat. That was one of the songs that was played in honor of Janice, because she volunteered with troubled youth later in her life. For me, the song has a sense of hopelessness to it, and it reminds me of my aunt who died in 1998 at the age of 23 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound (i.e. suicide). Hence the tears…
In addition to his lovely music, Joe also contributed to the flavor of the show, and to the idea of living daringly, by admitting some of his fears. During the show he said that playing the fiddle and slide guitar in front of a crowd scares him, but he was going to do it anyway! It’s nice to know that someone as skilled at his craft as Joe still faces the same fear and intimidation as the rest of us. Yet he confronts it, to the amazement and joy of everyone in attendance!
Long story short: you want to hear Joe Crookston’s music and you want to go to house concerts. Or, perhaps, you want to take it to the next step and host your own shows! The Lunazoot concert series has hosted 77 shows as of March 21. That is amazing. That’s 77 shows that independent artists may not have had available to them. They may not have come to Florida if these sorts of shows weren’t offered. Though you may live somewhere else, the same is true everywhere. Support independent music either by attending or hosting house shows! Concerts In Your Home is a great place to start for either. If you don’t have fun, you are doing something wrong…