Hoot night for hooters
One funny item overheard recently concerned the home of a certain local politician, into which the story’s teller had gained access some years ago. The place was done up entirely in gingham—you know, that red-and-white checked tablecloth pattern you see in old pizzerias—on the furniture, curtains and God knows what else, juxtaposed against shocking lawn-green wall-to-wall carpet. Now, whether that sounds like a picnic-basket nightmare or a delicious Derby Day hallucination is in the eye of the beholder.
Sunday night, I wandered into a show at Old Ironsides featuring two local folkie bands and got a taste of that gingham parallel universe. I’d planned to hit the Blue Lamp to see the Jackpot/Stragglers gig, but had misread the venue’s Web calendar to read the start time as 8 p.m., which was when the 5 p.m. show concluded. Shucks.
The first band up, Hard Clumpin’ Litter, featured several familiar faces. Slide guitarist Noah Nelson and fiddler/mandolinist Damian Sol were members of the dearly departed Las Pesadillas; currently, both of them are in Radio Orangevale, as is bassist Glenn Newport. They were backing singer/acoustic guitarist Fran Mironchik, who’d put the band together to play a bunch of country blues tunes from the 1920s and ’30s, most of them associated with Memphis Minnie or the Memphis Jug Band.
Anyone who’s frequented local open-mics, especially at the Fox & Goose, has seen Mironchik backing other players, usually playing her flute. So it was surprising to see her as the focal point in a band, but after a few seconds of listening, it made perfect sense. Mironchik has a warm, husky voice and an apparent passion for the songs, which she puts across in straightforward fashion, without the usual bag of cheap parlor tricks often associated with blues-mama belters. As for her band, well, Nelson and Sol are superb players, and the instrumental breaks provided an above-decent number of sonic confections. Robert Crumb heaven, it was.
Hard Clumpin’ Litter most likely could have played all night. “We’ve got a few more tunes here,” Mironchik announced at about the set’s 45-minute mark. Sound man Lare Crowley disagreed, and the next number was the band’s last.
Now for the gingham gals: The Juggs started life as something to liven a party, and any performance by them comes surfing on a wave of pure shtick. Now, whether or not you find that shtick charming is a matter of personal preference or current mood. On this night, there were enough of the former to fill the room, a rarity on a Sunday night.
The Juggs are a quintet of jug- band players who aren’t afraid to get goofy, sloppy and a have a lot of fun onstage. Whether singing the praises of hipster-preferred swill (“PBR”); lamenting the sinking of a big ship (“Titanic Song”), replete with a laughably tasteless verse consisting of nothing but gurgling sounds; or covering Woodstock-era folk singer Melanie Safka (“Brand New Key”), Juggs Darleene, Jolene, Polly Propylene, Waylene and the diminutive Maybelline delivered the equivalent of a drunken skit at a government-agency holiday party for the better part of an hour. At one point somebody’s dad or uncle, who looked like a kindlier version of Dick Cheney, clambered onstage to play some bathtub bass (www.myspace.com/thejuggsisters).
The headliner was San Francisco combo the Goat Family, who went on well after 11 p.m. Unfortunately, I had to miss the band’s set.
Mark those calendars: One of the cooler things that promoter Jerry Perry does is his tribute shows, featuring local artists covering one artist or genre. Coming Monday, August 11, is the music of Buck Owens; the following Saturday, August 16, it’s Madonna night. Both shows will be held at Old I.