Days of Lore
Alternative: Of or relating to practices that offer a substitute for the conventional ones.
A night in So-O
Ashland is an interesting town—an island of activity and thespians in a sea of quiescence and lumberjacks in southern Oregon’s Jackson County. And seeing how people love their tragic comedy in Ashland, the evening’s performances for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival were sold out. I ended up settling for the bar band instead. Not a stretch for me.
I read the flier outside the Jackson State Pub, a large, nondescript building with a spacious patio filled with tables and smokers: “Tonight. Alt-country band One Horse Shy. $5.”
Ugh. The word “alt” immediately set off my internal cynic alarm, the little chemical reaction in my brain that warns me of potentially dangerous music. Fortunately that little surge of pessimism lasted for all of three seconds, and I was soon seated on the patio with a Jabberwocky Ale in my hand waiting for a plate of fish ‘n’ chips.
Just like California
I kept my post on the patio until the music started, chatting occasionally with the waitress and listening in on other people’s conversations. I overheard a joke that involved Oregonians and Californians. I didn’t hear the punchline, but I gathered from the bearded beer drinkers at the table that it was hilarious. Ha ha! Those silly Californians!
I picked up a copy of the pub’s newsletter of events that included a feature on the night’s band One Horse Shy. There was a quote from the vocalist,
Manda Bryn: “The challenge is to come up with a sound for people in their 50s, but also will still be considered ‘cool’ by people in their 20s. Then we, with the band, come up with imagery that will resonate; it can be quite a challenge, having a specific genre to work within.”
Cynic alert! Cynic alert!
Different song, same country
Come on … of course I was staying. I wasn’t going to let my cynic alarm scare me off.
Singer-songwriter Ian Shaul opened things up with some intense (and fancy) guitar picking, an impressive voice and a cache of folk songs about love lost and all things emo. Ladies, take note—he’s got the Jack Johnson good looks, but Shaul makes Jack Johnson sound like a one-trick pony … wait a second. Oh, and he didn’t wear flip-flops with pants.
One Horse Shy, however, did wear flip-flops with pants. Well, two of the members did. Vocalist Manda Bryn wore an orange knee-length skirt and cowboy boots. And drummer Bryan Helfrich wore a doo-rag. No matter, the music was a warm and soothing mix of traditional folk and country, with originals like “Christmas Lights” and “Honey in My Tea” mixed with a few choice covers including Gillian Welch’s “I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll.”
Bryn’s vocals were the highlight, and they blended well with guitarist/vocalist Cris Kelly’s voice. But I had to wonder if the drummer split time between this band and a metal side project because he really smacked those skins … a little too much doo-rag if you will.
By the end of the night, I was still trying to figure out where the hell the “alt” came from. What the hell is alt anyway? One Horse Shy is very good at what they do—playing fun, high-energy country tunes.
Made me sort of glad As You Like It was sold out.