The polar vortex lifted on Thursday and by Friday the night air was positively balmy. A whole raft of cabin-fevered sub-zero refugees eschewed the snow and hit From TheVine to see AcoustiHoo. We were amply rewarded.
AcoustiHoo is a 4-piece ensemble and I've written about each of its members at least once. And I will probably write about each of its members again. And again. And again. Full self disclosure: I've got a huge bias toward this band. I'm a fan. I also have a social relationship with some of the band-members. In my defense, the relationships developed because of their music, not vice versa. I don't know if this lends credibility to the blog, but I doubt anyone who hit From The Vine for AcoustiHoo would disagree with my assessment of the band.
The band members include Sue Orfield on tenor sax, Randy Sinz on upright bass, Olaf Lind on violin, and Lucas Fischer on guitar. Superlatives will be added later.
They shook off the residual vortex-chill with “Sweet Georgia Brown,” a lively country-Hee-Haw-like jig that set Olaf's violin-strings a-smokin'. They followed up with “2:15,” a Sue Orfield original which started out with a lovely violin solo. The intertwining of the sax and violin caused my chest to swell with inchoate nostalgia—a longing to return to a place I'd never been. The next song was “Kansas City” featuring Luke, who kicked the number off with a down-low-and-dirty blues intro. You haven't really heard this classic song until you've experienced Luke's version. Olaf's violin enhances it with a Kentucky-Mountain-Justified feel. Next up was “Az Du Furst Avek,” a traditional Klezmer tune in which Luke's solo evoked the feel of old-world gypsy music.
Are you getting it? Klezmer. Classic blues. 1920-era pop-songs. Originals. And that was just the first four songs. Next Sue called for “My Heart Belongs To Daddy.” They have a set list, but Sue once confided that she's not very good at sticking to it. Consequently there was a tiny pause, during which she said, “You'll pick it up.” And they did. She blew Cole Porter's song like the May West-sultry, old-time jazzy tune it was meant to be. If her soul had a mirror, it would be the music coming out of her saxophone. Luke cooled us down with one of his originals, “Close,” a slow, sweet love-ballad and Olaf and Sue harmonized on “Ashoken Farewell” a Jay Ungar tune that left me remembering a childhood I'd never had.
Randy, all dapper behind his bass in a black beret, called the next song: “Fever.” I love, love, love the way Randy sings this song. It's new to their repertoire and there's no question that it's a love song between him and Sue. In the song he sings, “My heart burns for Sue,” and Sue's saxophone lets us know her heart burns for Randy.
Looking around From The Vine over the break I saw that it was standing room only. The establishment is owned and operated by Kathy Nuenke and has been open about 2 and a half years. It's long and open, and the lighting is perfect—low, without being dim. There's a bar running down one side and two- and four- top tables. The musicians are set up the middle of the place, in a living-room-style set- up with couches and deep, comfortable chairs. Behind the musicians is a half-wall and there's a darker, more secluded area in the back. It's a great place for music: avid fans can sit comfortably in a front row seat, music fans who prefer to socialize can sit at the tables in the bar area and lovers can cuddle in a dark corner. The service is fabulous; attentive without being overly friendly. They know you're here to see music or appreciate their wine or catch up with your friends, not to make new best friends with the staff. As soon as you come in you get a glass of water and it's easy to find a waitress when needed. They stock over 80 different wines and Kathy is always changing her stock. She offers wines by flight (I didn't know what this was and had to google it: tastings of multiple wines, which allow tasters to get a feel for breadth or depth of the selection), monthly wine tastings and wine and painting classes. I don't drink so I try to support local music venues by ordering food. I thought this would be a challenge in a wine room and was tickled to see From The Vine offers Legacy Chocolate truffles. They've also added snack mixes and a cheese-and-crackers plate. I spoke to Kathy, briefly, and while I can count the number of times I've been there on both hands, she remembered me. This wine room is a solid music venue and offers great service with great music.
AcoustiHoo's second set offered a couple of pleasant surprises. After Luke's cover of Tom Waits' “Make It Rain,” Sue called Gregg Wheeler with his harmonica to the stage to accompany the band on one of Randy's originals, “Desert Blue.” Randy's voice-as-instrument is wonderful and Gregg's harmonica was about as smooth as it gets. Gregg stayed on stage for another of Sue's originals and there was some fun call-and-response between his harp and Sue's sax. Olaf put down his violin in favor of the mandolin. After Gregg sat down the band launched into another Sue Orfield original, “Can't Shake The Sadness,” all forlorn and noble, with a classic violin-solo and delicate harmonic interplay between Luke and Olaf. Sue stood back, listening, an appreciative smile on her face. Olaf then performed his original “Caravans,” a lively tune with an old-world feel. I understand they're working on a music video for this song. Luke performed another original, “5 AM Blues,” all smooth, romantic and slow rhythm & blues-y.
Then Catya, my very best friend in the whole world, was asked onto the stage where she performed one of her originals, “I Like It.” Though it was unrehearsed, there was an ease and enjoyment on that is only seen when really good musicians play together.
The next number was “Bouf Chonsko” a Macedonian folk song. I spelled it phonetically and know it's wrong. I call it “The Clapping Song.” It starts up slow and every time around they speed it up just a little bit until they're playing faster then we can clap. So fun. Another Sue original, “Cut From Terry's Cloth” was next. The final number was Luke's amazing version of Donovan's “Season Of The Witch.” Luke played his guitar like a mandolin, Olaf played his mandolin like a guitar and Randy tried to play his upright like a violin and did a great job of playing it like a guitar. Sue's saxophone tied the whole song together and as the last note died away the audience leapt up in a spontaneous standing ovation. It was a magical night that left us all wanting more.
If you're reading this blog you must be a music fan. Believe me when I tell you that if you haven't seen AcoustiHoo you're missing out. Big time. Check them out—you can find their self-titled CD on their website, look them up on Facebook or catch them live. You won't be disappointed. Promise.
You can read more about Luke as a solo act here.