It’s always good to return to the cozy atmosphere of The Artery on a Friday night. It was especially good last Friday when the little venue on Jasper Ave seemed to be sufficiently clogged with a quiet but very attentive crowd anxious to hear some delightful folk-driven music.
The night began with a four piece band entitled 100 Mile House. The group consisted of a charming Englishman rocking the acoustic and vocals, a lovely lady singing backup vocals and providing percussion, a phenomenal fiddler/mandolin/glockenspiel-ist and a man playing the upright bass to weave it all together. This act, as were the rest of the acts of the evening, was the epitome of all that I love about folk music. They had a varied selection of narrative-based songwriting that would thump-n-bump one moment and inspire melancholic dazes the next. I was particularly impressed with one track in which the fiddler put some reverb and delay on his instrument while the bassist finally to0k a bow to his. The intensity of the composition filled The Artery like so much cottage cheese and though I did not take the chance to look around, I’m sure there was a shortage of dry eyes.
Our second act Del Barber, a folk-country singer-songwriter from Winnipeg put on one of the funniest acts I’ve seen since Bob Log III. He would interweave hilarious anecdote after hilarious anecdote into each of his songs, and I almost feel it would be a shame to listen to his music without the context of each story. He’d be in the middle of a verse and would stop singing to tell a story about the song he was playing over a noodling guitar progression. I’ve seen long drawn out stories being placed arbitrarily before a song in the hopes that the audience will get the depth of their songwriting abilities, and many of those have been forced. This is not one of those occasions. Del Barber is a genius of timing and his songs are a joy. A few of my favorite moments included his exposé of plans to include bikini dancers (to which he generously displayed his planned choreography fairly close to my person) and a ten piece band in his next tour in celebration of being signed to a label, and the tale of a late night study binge that led to a dream on a pizza pillow about dead philosophers at a party.
The headlining act Old Man Luedecke was similarly comical, to a lesser degree. He would sing songs about failed trips to A&W among other things. It’s always nice to see somebody using a banjo as their main instrument, and Luedecke could play that banjo like it was an extension of his personage. His accompaniment consisted of a mandolin-ist comparable in talent and a wooden block that he would stomp on vigorously to propel the rhythms through the floorboards and shivering up each of the audience member’s spines. Old Man Luedecke is a happy little man and his enthusiasm for life resonates in his songwriting.
I think the one thing that this whole night had in spades was charm and if that was all that it had going for it, it would be enough. But it was so much more. It was filled with abounding virtuosity and emotional songwriting and a sense of harmony between the performers and the audience.
-Eric T. Behr