Tap-dancing dogs and hogjams

A while back, a billboard ad along Interstate 80 near Dixon, for a Nevada casino show called Tap Dogs, triggered a discussion in which it was revealed that the “dogs” were in fact metaphorical, and not real canine hoofers. A disappointed, and sometimes dim, man was heard to remark: “Boy, if I could train 20 or 30 dogs to tap-dance in unison, I would own show business.”

That dim bulb, of course, was me. And I still think tap-dancing dogs would be a show-business home run. I also thought Jackie Greene would be an obvious round-tripper, something that CD sales figures for American Myth, released by Universal Music’s Verve Forecast label in March, have yet to corroborate.

It’s an excellent album, and perhaps Greene’s appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on August 2, where he sang and played “So Hard to Find My Way,” might help jump-start this record, which, by conventional major-label timelines, is ancient history. But hoping for a miracle from a timeslot at nearly 1:30 a.m., the TV equivalent of what radio people call “lunar rotation,” might be tantamount to tilting at windmills. So, it is the opinion of this Terpsichorean pooch enthusiast that more quixotic measures are needed—perhaps a mass Sacramentan appeal to the Starbucks mothership that American Myth be featured in the chain’s retail mix. If Starbucks can push suburb-and-western act Rascal Flatts, Nashville’s answer to ’NSync, it surely can help give a local hero a break, right?

This past weekend, a visit to the Fox & Goose, the R Street venue where Greene was discovered at an open-mic by his now-manager Marty DeAnda (actually, singer Sal Valentino and then-open-mic host Billy Harper also should get credit), pointed out a few weaknesses at the storied local pub and breakfast joint. The event was a chaotic 10-band party that local promoter Adam Varona threw for his wife and business partner, Danielle.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Fox & Goose. But as a live-music venue, it has some serious drawbacks—immobile booths, crappy sightlines, often-crummy sound, and bartenders who could use a lesson in customer service (hint: If you’re serving people who lined up at your bar a good 10 minutes after the guy standing there arrived—in your direct line of sight, waving money in your face—you’re in the wrong biz). And for those of us with occasional claustrophobia issues, it can be a foreboding place.

But enough complaining. Bring the music, and the fans will show up, especially if there’s no cover charge. And plenty did.

Reporting on the short sets of all 10 performers (save Be Brave Bold Robot, which extended its slot into an interminable hogjam that knocked the following acts way off schedule) might be asking too much. So, here are two favorites: To call Truck Fight, a duo featuring James Finch Jr. and Noah Nelson, a collision between Tom Waits and Les Claypool at an Ennio Morricone cioppino feed, wouldn’t be fair to Finch and Nelson. Quite cool, quite promising. And Christian Kiefer, who followed, breathed new life into Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” and introduced a new original, also was quite excellent—a very nice surprise, indeed.