Luna’s got the tunes, if you like folk music

Sacramento’s never really had much of a coffeehouse club circuit. Sure, if you counted places like Capitol Garage or Bella Bru for their ability to both serve a hot cup of joe and book live music, you might argue otherwise. But unlike San Francisco’s scene, the chances of finding a venue that was content with mostly acoustic music was next to nil.

So leave it to Art Luna—the owner, booker, cook and manager of Luna’s on 16th Street downtown who, over the years, has developed a loyal following of Lunaheads who will support live music from national and local acts—to carry the torch. From such out-of-town acts as Bitch & Animal and Norway’s Poor Rich Ones to locals like Sean Hayashi and Jacob Golden, Luna has maintained a high level of artistry without affecting the cover charge. His door prices range from free to $5.

A recent Wednesday night showcased two bright young local talents, Ruebi Freyja and Sarah Nelson. At one time Freyja was a Luna’s employee/waitress; Nelson is better known—until now—as the longtime girlfriend of Jackpot’s Rusty Miller. Unlike any other Wednesday night, the talent quotient, polished or not, raised the bar for these informal gatherings to new heights.

Freyja couldn’t have looked more at home, nestled as she was comfortably atop a barstool on Luna’s tiny 5x5 stage. Her set was akin to early Mazzy Star or Hope Sandoval’s latest work; it worked well given Luna’s spacey decor and earthy vibe. At times she stared at the ceiling as if to exclude the audience, only to return with a delicate chorus and a somber anecdote. At others, her strumming was augmented by the sweet sound of ceiling fans and the usual café business. It was during these moments of near-silence that Freyja, in all her splendor, shone brightest.

Nelson played a nice set of porch-styled odes that might best be compared to Lori Carson in her Golden Palomino years, or post-Poi Dog Pondering Abra Moore. Although some of Nelson’s endings were rather abrupt or, better yet, had no ending, there was an inherent charm in her onstage demeanor and her ability to work the crowd. Aside from the contributions of one rowdy friend, her set was thoroughly enjoyable. With her legs crossed and her hair slightly disheveled, Nelson’s “couldn’t-give-a-fuck” attitude couldn’t have been more apropos.

For the 30-plus patrons who filled the handful of tables, the show was more than a $4 commitment; it was a chance to realize what a treasure we have right here in Midtown.