Tom Freund - This Venice California folkie has a few tricks up his sleeve. Yes, he plays the harmonica and the ukulele in addition to the acoustic guitar--we have seen all that before. But he also plays a couple of songs on stand-up bass which I thought were the outstanding moments of the set. The rest of his original songs were good as he had an easy going style and wry sense of humor. He reminded me of Joe Walsh for some reason (perhaps a friend seeing Walsh recently is to blame), as there was the relaxed California style working. He had a bass player join him for many songs, although the arrangements were kept pretty simple. Personally, his covers did not seem needed. The George Harrison was fine, but the Pete Townshend bored me (but virtually no one else in the audience truth be told). This was a nice set, but I do need to comment on a couple of logistical issues. At 61 minutes (with encore), it does not appear to be an 'opening set' of a three-act billing. Sure enough, not only did people leave before the local de facto headliner, but they also left before and during the middle set. The show did not start particularly late at 8:22, but there may have been some things that could have been done differently to make for a smoother show.
Freedy Johnston - Kansan born folk singer songwriter Freedy Johnston has had a steady and successful career. This is my first time seeing him perform and I was not disappointed. He has an awkward but commanding presence on stage with him stopping songs to go unplugged at the corner of the stage to direct his song to one couple. His chatter was amusingly disjointed like some sort of mad professor from Vanderbilt. But when he dished out his songs, all was composed and assured. The songs varied from heartland folk to deep contemplative songs. I found the latter quite effective as they reminded me some of Mac MacLeod. Johnston thankfully jumped up on stage quickly after the previous set, but seemed to determined to finish every song he planned in spite of a broken string and went for 67 minutes. He even apologized to Drew Gibson as he was cutting into his time. But for the music, it was engaging and effective.
Drew Gibson - Fortunately about 15 people stayed for most of the final set of the evening. Drew Gibson is a fine are songwriter who will play solo or with full band. Tonight, he had a drummer, bass player, and steel guitar player. I have written a few times previously that I believe Drew Gibson's songs to be every bit as good as many of the touring folk acts (tonight included) and nothing changed with the set tonight. I focused more on the band and was quite pleased to see how talented they were. Collectively, they had the ability to lock in and know how to stay in the background to allow a focus on the story of the song when that was required or to bring it up a notch and showcase their abilities in a longer groove. The steel player had the ability to solo like a slide guitarist and even a regular guitarist with a delicate touch. Bass playing was solid and kept the fluidity going all set long. I particularly like the drummer's right hand--a Richie Albright right-hand as my childhood drummer friend would say. He used to work hard to emulate (long time Waylon Jennings drummer) Albright's quick right hand. This drummer had the quickness and a rhythmic pulse working to a high degree here. They all put it together well and Drew Gibson was in fine voice and provided a great set.
Quote of the Night: "that was slightly jazz" from Freedy Johnston as he screwed up a guitar run and used the classic excuse Richard Thompson always uses when he hits a wrong chord.