I admit that December is traditionally a slow month for Columbia. The colder weather and longer nights tends to get people leaning more towards a hibernation mode than usual. In addition, the end of fall semester and preparations for finals creates a situation where shows become a bit scarce (for obvious reasons). However, along with the cold and a vibe that’s somehow simultaneously hectic and somewhat sleepy, there are things that surprise you. In my case, I was walking downtown on December 1st when I came across a flyer for this show at Cafe Berlin that I wasn’t aware of.
Strangely enough I end up missing opener Lizzie Wright due to running late at one of the very rare shows that started on time. I did make it about halfway through Graham Miles and Tommy Stallings’ set. With each alternative between acoustic guitar and bass (upright for Stallings, washtub for Miles) depending on the song, the duo played a collection of folk, blues and country songs that involved singalong choruses at times and delivered earnestly and true to their music’s roots. While they did struggle with the lack of a PA, the duo managed to overcome that and put on a straight ahead honest show that fans of roots and mountain music might enjoy.
Local duo Weeping WIldas came up next with a homecoming show to almost wrap up their latest tour. Their songs are old timey mountain music that seems to be almost mined out of a mountaintop. Using just acoustic guitar, banjo and fiddle, their performance evoked a vibe that reminds one of country cabin front porches in these tales of life, love, and problems that come across like it’s 1901 as much as it does today. I’d never seen the duo before (though I had seen both Sam and Laura play in other bands and projects) so this proved to be a very interesting set.
Eventually it was time for Jack Grelle to take the stage and play a solo set. Somewhat more known in Columbia for his duties in local punk bands Task Force (as one of the two lead vocalsits) and Bookmobile (on drums), Grelle offereed up a set of pure unplugged country that told of trains, life, problems with the law, and the like with a honesty too often watered down in country music. Mostly solo, he told stories within the songs, taking the role of a balladeer of sorts along the way. Near the end, the Weeping Wildas joined him for several songs that took the set to a more mountain music/hillbilly feel. It wasn’t slick or commercial sounding, but there’s an honesty to whatever music Jack Grelle undertakes that has made him one of this town’s more interesting musicians along the way.
Thus ends a show that came almost as a surprise. The nice weather of the day had turned to a winter night as people headed out into the cold. The next couple of weeks would be hectic for a lot of people at the show but for a few hours anyway, they had a release from their stress. It was one of those nights that proves again that sometimes the more interesting things in Columbia can happen when people are often too distracted to pay attention.