Welcome to Kiki's House of Righteous Music!
House concerts are a fantastic opportunity to see a band you love in an intimate setting. Everyone is there to see the show, not to be seen or to chat with their friends.
After Chris Mills played the second show I ever hosted in September of 2005 (Tim Easton was the first), the bar was set pretty high. I had a very short list of other people I would like to see in my basement, otherwise known as Kiki's House of Righteous Music. Topping that list was Bob Dylan. OK, so that one is pretty unlikely. The other two -- the Mountain Goats and Jon Dee Graham -- seemed slightly more plausible. Since I've only spoken to the Goats' John Darnielle once, I decided to focus my efforts on Jon Dee.
I brought it up every time I saw him: "When are you going to play my basement?" To which he would sigh and invariably reply, "I just go where they send me." As it turned out, it took the Silos to bring him to the House of Righteous Music. Proving that it is who you know, I had the opportunity to host the Madison CD release show of their Bloodshot Records debut -- the label manager is a friend of mine. Jon Dee was on tour with them, so after a year and a half of pestering him, last March I finally got my show.
It was an unqualified success. Not only was it sold out (55 people paid), but both the bands and the fans left deliriously happy after what was truly a kick ass evening. More importantly, Jon Dee admitted I was right, and he should have played my house years ago.
Well, it took him a long time to get here, but only a little over three months to come back for a performance last night (Monday, July 2). He had a night off in between shows at Fitzgerald's in Chicago as part of their annual American Music Festival, and I told his booking agent that I would be delighted to have him and his band.
Even though it was a Monday, I figured that anyone who had seen him with the Silos would certainly come back to see him again. After all, it only took one show (many years ago with the Gourds at O'Cayz Corral) for me to become addicted to his smart, world-weary songs and gruff but lovable demeanor. In the days leading up to the show I started to get a little worried, though. Regulars were canceling due to family obligations and other emergencies. Despite postering like crazy on State St and a very nice recommendation from The Onion A.V. Club, I didn't seem to be reaching any new folks.
A few hours before show time I got a few phone calls that helped calm me. Of course, I didn't really relax until the Blueheels pulled up with their minivan full of equipment. I had found out only days before that I would need a backline (amps and a drum kit) for John Dee Graham's band since they had flown in from Austin and wouldn't be bringing all their equipment. Luckily the hardest working band in town actually had the night off and was willing to help me out.
The last time Jon Dee was here, he absolutely tore it up with the Silos as his backing band. Last night, he brought his own band, lovingly dubbed the Fighting Cocks (after a whiskey drenched night long ago). This group of "new and exciting Cocks" featured guitarist Mike Hardwick (who has played with just about everyone in Austin), the lovely Harmonie Kelly on bass, and Joey Shuffeild from the band Fastball on drums.
The entire band has a great rapport and seemed willing to follow Jon Dee wherever he led, and this time it led to my basement. It was the rest of the band's first house concert experience and I'm willing to bet they will do it again. And even though the crowd was half the size of last time, I think Jon Dee will do it again too.
One of my favorite parts of these basement shows is that it gives me the chance to introduce people to some terrific local artists. Josh Harty, Blake Thomas, Carl Johns and Burr Settles have opened past shows.
Last night, I was very lucky to have the terrific Kelly Pardekooper, and he brought Harty along to play some electric guitar with him. After opening both the Chris Mills and Ian Moore shows, Harty is becoming a regular on the House of Righteous Music stage. And it isn't just because he lends me his PA for these shows, I swear. The boys played a terrific set that I'm sure won them some new fans, and may have convinced a few more people to come out for their regular Tuesday night gig at Mickey's.
These shows would never happen without the help of my friends. I can't thank Harty and the Blueheels enough for lending me their time, equipment and skill. Thank you to everyone who has ever come to a show in my basement. And thanks to Jon Dee for another amazing performance.