Among the oldest jokes in the book of Seattle neighborhoods is the one about Fremont morphing into Expensivemont, but on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 15 performers (and a handful of backup musicians) gathered on the Triple Door's stage to keep it real for Fremont Public Association Homeless Services. The show, which featured short sets and progressed at a nice pace, celebrated the release of Songs for Shelter, a benefit compilation of traditional and original folk songs.
Opening duo Slim Pickens (Jacob Landry and Annie Ford), playing guitar and fiddle, respectively, chose warm, Dust Bowl ballads, and put me in the mind of the Carter Family. They even dressed the part; Ford's drop-waisted '30s-style dress and matching hat reminded me that sometimes costuming counts. Their version of the traditional "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor" is among the best tracks on Shelter.
Paul Benoit of Hanuman, Carrie Clark (introduced as "alt-country cabaret"), and the Radio Nationals' Jared Clifton were next, but my friend and I were busy being ousted from our table so we caught little of their acts.
"Hey, hey, hey, a little loud over here," said a nervy little man in a fleece vest on his way back from the bathroom. Last time I checked, it was still historically accurate to enjoy performance with drink, conversation, and an attitude of revelry, but I'm guessing that, having paid a rather hefty 20-buck entrance fee, there were some in the audience who were feeling a little anxious. Management offered to seat us elsewhere, which won us a table in the upper reaches of the leper colony. Splendid: The Triple Door's sound is superb and the stage is grand, so we were perfectly happy to watch the rest of the show all by ourselves at that absurd remove.
Jim Page's cover of a song by poet/songwriter Jesse Bernstein (alternately known as Steven Jesse Bernstein) welcomed us back into the evening. "Somebody's looking for their voice/Through an open window/With their supper on the stove," Page sang purposefully, as he played his acoustic guitar.
Grace Hearn, performing with Michael Savage, sang with her fingers laced over her heart, high up where it meets the throat. Danny O'Keefe sang a Billie Holiday song and was followed by Artis the Spoonman, who spooned and then spoke/sang some words that ended with the abrupt and nicely amelodic statement, "I lied to you." Reggie Garrett, backed by Will Dowd and Paul Benoit, covered the Paul McCutcheon song "Christmas in the Trenches." Singing, "That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame/And on each end of the rifle we're the same," Garrett was gorgeous and the song wonderfully resonant.
Laura Veirs' range goes from low whisper to high yelp; her set was filled with picking, plucking, strumming, and whistling and featured songs about saltwater, brine, and chartered courses. Husband-and-wife team Wayne Horvitz and Robin Holcomb followed, he on piano and she singing songs that were lovely, lonely, and blue. Sparse and perfect, their set probably should have ended the show; instead, the one-man Electric Bonsai Band concluded things. I ran into Artis while fetching our check (leprosy is catchy, after all), and looking at the stage he grinned and said to me, "This guy rocks, huh?" I just nodded.