Saturday night’s Danny Pound Review, featuring Danny, Arthur Dodge, Matt Suggs, and Suzannah Johannes, could have used a tad more music…
After the sold out show – my first ever at the Lawrence Arts Center – I couldn’t help but think back to 2004 when I saw Ryan Adams at the Lied Center in Lawrence.
During Adams’ performance, which as always featured rambling, incoherent stories and unprofessionalism at its best, someone in the audience yelled, “Less talk, more rock!” For those not familiar, this is the quickest way to piss off a performer.
Adams scanned the audience, and demanded, “Who said that?” When the guy raised his proud hand, Adams replied with something like, “Shut your fucking face, I’m Ryan Adams and you’re some jerkoff who yells stuff.”
But the culprit Saturday wasn’t a boozed up, prima donna musician. Nope, it was the emcee, Tim, who seemed to sap more stage time than the bands.
The idea was a good one: get four prominent Lawrence singer-songwriters together with one backing band, (Kenny Pingleton on drums, Dave Swenson on keys and guitar, Jeremy Sidener on bass, and Matt Mozier on guitar and lap steel) , and let them showcase their songs.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
The venue was nice, with a big stage and steep stadium seating. The sound was clear and balanced, though if you sat all the way down front, vocals were a little muffled. There was a beer booth in the back where Free State varieties were going for three bucks a pop (though they ran out a bit after intermission). The crowd was a mix of late twenties/early thirties townies and older art patron types. Overall a nice setup and venue.
Unfortunately, the format for the night saw each musician come out and play just two songs. Then the zany emcee guy would run back on stage and ramble about things like beer, how great the performers were, and the Lawrence Arts Center among other things. I must admit, at times he was funny. At times. For example, as he was introducing and professing his love for Suzannah Johannes he quipped, “She’s gonna make that Danny Pound guy look like crap.”
Hey, I laughed.
But after awhile the night started feeling like a telethon and his act wore thin. At one point, Arthur Dodge looked at him and said, "Wrap it up," without a single hint of irony. The audience burst into applause when emcee guy suggested he would shut up and let the musicians do their thing.
Okay, let’s talk about the music now.
Like I said, the format was each performer would do two songs, then they would rotate. There were two sets with an intermission in between, so each act played about four songs give or take. I wasn’t a big fan of the format because it was too disjointed. I would have preferred to just have the musicians play all their songs at once, and then move on, instead of the rotating thing.
But given all that, the musicians were pretty damn solid, delivering heartfelt song after song.
Danny Pound started the night off as the audience was still settling in. The sound guys seemed to be tweaking things as he went, and by the time Pound played a few songs, the sound was mostly balanced.
Arthur Dodge came out as grizzled as ever with a female vocalist who was introduced as Mrs. Dodge. The two were nicely in sync with straight forward harmonies and simple songs about failed love and missed chances. Their second go-around saw Dodge at his best – with just an acoustic guitar and Mrs. Dodge onstage – growling out his lines while his better half delivered solid backing vocals and quietly stole the show.
Suzannah Johannes took the stage in a sparkly jacket that reminded me of a casino waitress. She seemed a little nervous and took a song or so to get settled in. The house band seemed a little confused when they were trying to end the first song, but they rebounded nicely on her others. Suzannah’s unique voice sounded as deep and smoky as ever, and her natural talent provided a nice contrast to some of the other vocalists who are more “craftsmen” than singers.
Matt Suggs started his set with a long, droning, two chord thing that seemed to go on forever. Not sure if the band wasn’t quite up to speed or what, but his was the least polished of the sets.
After Suggs played a couple, the emcee guy charged back onstage energetically and said, “C’mon, clap! That’s what your hands are for, Lame-os.”
See what I mean?
The highlight of the night was provided by none other than Danny Pound, the namesake of this particular endeavor. After telling the crowd that “one of my fondest ambitions is to write a song where a piano falls on someone’s head,” he launched into a solo acoustic version of “Breathing is a Privilege,” that showcased his lyrical and storytelling abilities – his real strengths as a singer-songwriter. Dave Swenson appeared midway through the song and added some nice acoustic guitar finger styling to fill out Mr. Pound’s vision.
Another nice touch was Matt Mozier’s slinky lap steel work on several songs.
I hope the Lawrence Arts Center keeps putting on shows like this. They have a nice venue, the attendance was great, and the early 7:30 start time was nice. With a few tweaks, they can make it even better. I could see them getting some really great bands and filling that baby easily.
But between the emcee’s antics and the constant shuffling of artists, at times the music seemed to take a backseat. I actually found myself wishing this collection of Lawrence gems were at the Replay or in the basement of the Tap Room instead.