Two Concerts, Two Nights

Sarah Mac Band:

Friday was the 6th annual Sarah Mac Band Christmas show at The Hideaway Cafe. I’ve been trying to force myself into the holiday spirit, so when I saw the advertisement for the show I bought my ticket. After all, I rather love Sarah Mac Band, and I also love The Hideaway. So I donned my festive, green sweater that gets pulled out every winter when the Florida weather cools down, put on a jean skirt and my knee-high boots and went down to St. Pete to enjoy a night of holiday music.

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I went a little early to grab a bite to eat. I ordered the Gibson flatbread. The horseradish sauce coupled with the spices in the steak was quite delicious. Couple that with a glass of pinot noir. Yummy…

The first set was non-Christmas-y music. They played one of my Sarah Mac tunes that they didn’t play the first time I saw them: Freight Train. I love this song. It’s on my running playlist… Sarah said that they get a lot of requests for this song, but they often don’t play it because they don’t always play with a drummer. The song falls flat without a drummer, which I can totally imagine. It didn’t fall flat on Friday. It kicked ass, and Sarah’s mad dance moves accented the awesomeness of the song.

The second set was holiday music. It wasn’t quite what I expected, only because I was expecting to hear a lot of the songs you hear on the radio. A lot of “holly jolly” and “ho, ho, ho.” Instead, Sarah explained that the band was only 50% filled with Christmas cheer, which was evidenced by Charlie and Steve (I think that is his name), the guitarist and drummer, wearing Santa hats. Sarah said she and Claire, the bassist, made a compromise with them: they would play Christmas music, but it had to be downer Christmas music. Not all of it was downer music, but good 80% of it was. (I wish I could remember the set list.) As a single gal around the holidays, I have to say I was Ok with this style of holiday music… Bluesy, and a little sad.

After the show, I talked with Claire for a couple of minutes and recommended Over the Rhine for some bluesy holiday cheer. They’ve put out a couple of holiday albums of mostly original music, and one of my favorite songs on that album is “All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue.” It definitely gets a lot of play time around this time of the year… 

Maybe Sarah Mac Band will cover this one during the 7th annual Christmas show next year!

Side note: Apparently the show was so awe-inspiring that it addled my brain. I left my debit card at The Hideaway. Unfortunately I didn’t realize the error of my ways until I was checking out of Aldi  the next day with a full cart of groceries. They don’t accept credit cards, only debit. I felt terrible as the manager rolled my cart away so that the items could be put back on the shelves. I did offer to do it though… In 36 years, I’ve never left my card at a restaurant or bar. First time for everything, I guess.

Passerine:

Saturday I was invited somewhat last minute to a house concert up in Palm Harbor. I didn’t ask who was playing. I didn’t know the hosts. I received an address from my friend, and I drove 45-minutes to Palm Harbor for a 7:00 show time.

My friend was coming from St. Pete, so he picked up my debit card from The Hideaway. Yay!

Once I got there, the hosts were incredibly welcoming. There was a holiday game going on, where people had different holiday words on stickers on their backs. Rudolph, candy canes, and Christmas lights are some that come to mind. Each person had to guess what they were by asking others questions about their sticker. Somehow I missed out on getting a word, but it was fun seeing everyone try to guess what word they were…

While milling about and introducing myself, I saw the merchandise box of the band: Passerine. Once I saw who was playing, I let out a little “Yay!” I first learned about them when I helped with judging for the 2014 Listening Room Festival. I remember really liking their music, but my schedule didn’t jive with theirs until Saturday.

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Passerine: Carmela, David, Sarah, and Doug

Their show was worth the wait. Carmela and Sarah’s harmonies were breath taking. Plus, it is a rare treat with house concerts, at least in my experience, to have a full band. All of the instruments were played masterfully, and they complemented the others so well. I found myself closing my eyes at different times during the show, just so I could fully appreciate the beautiful sounds melding among the different instruments.

From their website, their style is “traditional acoustic folk and bluegrass music, but from the broad perspective often summed up by the label of “Americana.” Overall, I agree with those themes. At one point they jokingly called their style “Ameri-kinda-grass,” since they lack a banjo in their group.  

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But they do have a mandolin

Passerine also played some holiday songs. These ones weren’t downer ones, per se, but they were songs I wasn’t familiar with. If you are in the area, they are playing a holiday charity event at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron Monday, 12/15/2014

After the show I stayed and talked with the attendees and some of the band members. As with all of the house concerts I’ve attended, and the list is growing at this point, I’m always inspired on both of these fronts. In meeting the other attendees, it is a nice reminder of what a community building experience house concerts are. While at the show, I met another woman who also lived on Okinawa for a few years. Talk about a small world! With other people we talked about dancing, a little about what we do, living in small spaces (I got to brag about my flat Yule tree!), and just generally getting to know each other. Many of the attendees were house concert rookies, and I think most of them were hooked by the end of the night.

With the artists, we talked about the creative process and their “real lives.” I learned that all of the members of Passerine have full time jobs. David told me that when they tour, they are usually happy if they break even on expenses. My heart goes out to them. If only they could make a living on their art alone! If only they had a full day’s worth of time to invest in their art.

David also said that while they are touring, it is house concerts that really make the tour. These smaller shows fill in the gaps between the bigger shows. Which, of course, is why it’s so important to support independent music. Without house concerts, bands like Passerine might not be able to tour. And that would be a sad thing, indeed.

If you are invited to a house concert, go! It might not be your normal style of music, but you are still bound to have a good experience if you are open to meeting new people and trying new things. You will experience music in an intimate way, surrounding by people who are giving the music their full attention. You will experience music in a way you probably haven’t before.

Overall, you’ll be living daringly while meeting others doing the same.

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