Nov 13, 2012

Rumba Cafe’s staff ALMOST ruin an otherwise stellar show feat Horse Feathers and Frank Fairfield.

This may be the first time that anyone writing for this blog has started an entry with a direct venue complaint. The following is with great consideration and apprehension for that matter, but I know I’m not alone amongst those in attendance last Wednesday:

Dear Rumba Cafe, despite having amazing sound, an intimate setting and outdoor space to explore, your venue has provided my most awful venue experience since I have managed tours with broke, unknown bands. I mean Carbondale or West Memphis bad!

Personally, I always watch a show from as far away as possible. No, I’m not suffering from agoraphobia, but rather because I don’t pay to see shows, I’m not a good photographer AND its the true fans who deserve to be front and center with the best view. As a result you can almost always find me at the furthest corner of the bar, attentively listening to the music, but more watching the crowd than the stage. Therefore, it wasn’t a shock to me when an audience member, during the opening act nonetheless, turned around between songs and berated the bar staff.

Rumba Cafe, you are absolutely doing something wrong. Your staff needs to know they work at a music venue and some shows are going to be subdued. This means your door girl shouldn’t be cackling over the music to tell the bartenders whatever dipshit pseudo-hipster thing she did today on her fixed gear bike en route to CCAD. Now, if the venue wasn’t packed and the audience not engaged you would just be thoughtless assholes, but because the show was an obvious fiscal success, your staff are officially clueless twats.

Have you not explained to them how difficult it is to turn a profit as a music venue? Insulting the patrons by chatting over an act they came to see will disenfranchise the fans, scare away the novice and force artists to pass on playing at Rumba Cafe (Columbus for that matter) on the next tour.

Despite my complaints, I do love the venue itself and greatly appreciate the aggressive booking of lesser known acts. And I apologize if you are offended by the fact that I hold you to higher standards than PromoWest. However, all will be for not unless you train your staff to respect all genres of music and tend bar accordingly. After all, it is about the music right?!

Now that is settled, its time to discuss the accidental star of the evening Frank Fairfield. While he was wrapping up his set with an intense rendition of “Rye Whiskey”  I scribbled the following in my notepad:

Frank Fairfield reminds me of  the instrumental brilliance of Andrew Bird or Townes Van Zandt, while encompassing the enthusiasm-lacking storytelling ability of Johnny Cash with the styling of Mark Twain (visually and verbally).

At the beginning of this video you can hear someone ask him: “Is it fair to say you just weren’t made for these times?”

Frank’s response: “I think everything’s just as it should be.”

I thoroughly agree. While my knowledge of early Americana folk music, steel guitars vs. banjo or Appalachian vs deep south is basically limited to Leadbelly matters not. And I’m not going to write a piece trying to decipher the true origins of a musician being able to seamless flow from acoustic guitar, banjo and fiddle. However, I will say that hearing Frank Fairfield perform is one of the more memorable experiences of my self-serving musical pilgrimage.

Frank Fairfield is not living in another time or some retro throwback. He is a musician making the music that he loves regardless of what is current. He isn’t out to exploit the folk niche by making shirts without graphics, shoes made out of real leather or a big bushy mustache cool. Its simply who he is and honestly there is nothing more rewarding than to see him perform… “just as it should be.”

The transition from Frank Fairfield to Horse Feathers was seamless and it appears the entire audience was right back front and center as soon as they took the stage. Despite a number of bands performing relatively similar music there is a unique, lovely sincerity in Justin Ringle’s voice.

I find the strings help supplement the softness of the vocals and bring a more intense dynamic, preventing the songs from becoming lullabies. And as Ringle’s voice defines Horse Feathers, even the greatest things need to be consumed in small portions as not to overdose. Horse Feathers appears to have the equation down to a science, allowing songs that focus heavily on the vocals to develop instrumentally throughout the song only to end in a large crescendo or blend into the next track with an more upbeat tempo all together. Horse Feathers recordings and live sets are identically beautiful and flawless and if you haven’t seen them on tour check out the dates via Kill Rock Stars.

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