[ATTENDED: December 4, 2016] Strand of Oaks
I had gotten a notification that Strand of Oaks was adding a 3rd show at Boot & Saddle because the other two sold out. I really liked Heal a lot and thought that a chance to see the band in a small setting would be great.
I had no idea that the “band” would be only Tim Showalter (naturally) with opening act Jason Anderson. I thought the show might be really loud, but it wasn’t. They both played electric guitars, but not at ear splitting volume. They played perfectly off of each other–waves and waves of guitars layered wonderfully (with occasional keyboards as atmospheric background). There were no drums or percussion and the whole set was like an electrified folk show.
There’s a new Strand of Oaks album coming out soon, and this was a chance for him to play some new songs. So his setlist was a mix of new songs and a few of the more recognizable songs from Heal.
I initially thought I’d be late for the show and that I’d never get close (150 person capacity seemed like it might be packed tight). But no, I was able to get up nice and close to the stage. Anderson started playing some gentle guitar sounds, then–and this is what I love about Boot & Saddle–I heard someone saying excuse me, and Showalter himself was making his way through the crowd to the stage right next to me. So that was pretty cool.
He climbed up on stage and strapped on his guitar and began with one of the new songs from his album. His songs are surprisingly gentle, given his appearance. And his singing style works perfectly well with his folky rock.
And each song allowed for some great extended “jamming.” When the lyrics were done, Showalter and Anderson would move to the center of the stage, face each other, and play–bouncing ideas and riffs off of each other.
He said that if he was going to introduce every song on the album, they would all have introductions like “this is about the time I took acid and did something stupid.” He talked about riding in a van with Kendrick Lamar’s crew and asking if any of them liked Jane’s Addiction. Who knows if it’s true, but it was a good story.
After playing a couple of new songs, he looked over at the set list and said, “Oh wow, we’re going in that direction?” He told us that he had had a different set for each night (I can’t believe there’s no set lists online for these shows). And then he asked if we felt like singing tonight. We agreed we did and then he invited a woman, Vanessa, up on stage to sing “Goshen 97” with him. She did a great job. At times she was the only person singing while he stood back and let her go.
And I knew it was going to be a great night.
Showalter told us that he was feeling much looser tonight than the other two nights and continually told us how much fun he was having. And that he didn’t want this weekend to end.
During Anderson’s solo set, it was clear that he was an accomplished guitarist, but it was all acoustic strumming. With Showalter, he showed just how much he could do with the guitar–atmospheric sounds, rhythms, accents and some great solos. He was a perfect foil to Showalter’s lead.
About half way through the set, Showalter said that the next song was about sex. He said that more bands should sing songs about sex. All of those bands with beards singing about hiking or whatever. He joked that he hoped to have sex some day, and could anyone tell him what it was like. The song “Hard Love” was really good and he asked us to sing the chorus with him, which we did. A few songs later he said that the next night was his wife Sue’s birthday (“Hard Love” was a about her, he confessed). He didn’t know where she was but he asked if we could sing Happy Birthday to her. She made her way to the front of the stage but before anyone could sing anything, Anderson launched into a perfect rendition of “Looks Like We Made It.” Showalter was stunned and delighted. And Sue climbed on stage and hugged each of them as we cheered.
He played another song from Heal and there was a guy right by the stage singing along. Showalter saw him and called him up on stage. The guy, Joe, seemed nervous, but he climbed up and started singing. It was great seeing him up there, with the other two guys heaping praise on him as we clapped along. My favorite moment was when he moved the microphone over and Showalter sang with him. And then Anderson jumped in too. I only got this blurry photo, but that’s a pretty awesome moment.
It was also very cool being that close and seeing the things that surprised him or got him happy–a big goofy smile when Anderson played something perfect. And he also enjoyed regaling us with stories–drawing it out so the weekend wouldn’t end.
He ended the set with my favorite song from Heal, “JM” He played the song, we sang the chorus and then he did an extended guitar solo at the end. He stretched the song out for about ten minutes And it was great with him soloing in front of us like that.
He asked the club if he could play one more song, but Boot & Saddle has an 11PM curfew, so that was it.
It was a really fun, personal and intimate show. Between his set and Anderson’s I’ve never had a night of music that felt so intimate, like the songs were just for the few of us that were there and we all shared them.
He thanked us, we thanked him and I headed out into the night. I suppose one could have just hung out and chatted with him, but didn’t need to do that.
Strand of Oaks will be playing with a full band at Union Transfer in March. I’m curious to see what that would be like–a very different experience, I’m sure.
This was supposed to be my last show of the year and what a great way to end my year of live shows. I do have one more left this week, though. And I’m sure it won’t be anything like this.