An Austin Night in Normal Heights
In a quirky little neighborhood of San Diego by the name of Normal Heights sits a beautiful church that has become the epicenter of roots music in this southern tip of California. Only McCabes, two hours north in Santa Monica, can rival the series of concerts put on by the fine folks at Acoustic Music San Diego.
What started as a one time event in 2003 has blossomed into a must-play stop for virtually every folk, Americana and alt-whatever artist you can imagine. The venue is amazing, the crowd is mellow, the folks that run it are as friendly as you’d want and the artists are approachable and easy to interact with. It shames me to tell you that it took me five years to stumble upon this series and after two visits I’m simply in love.
This past Friday night was a blessed event with two of my favorite artists, both based in Austin, sharing the bill for the price of one. Slaid Cleaves and Eliza Gilkyson took the stage together for two sets where they traded off songs, sang backup on each other’s tunes, told stories and exhibited a warmth and friendship for each other that filled the room. Each drawing from a huge body of work, Slaid excelled at offering up salty tales with interesting characters, while Eliza’s sweet voice and guitar work was the perfect yin to to his yang. She is just back to the States from a month of shows in Holland and was in amazing form.
An unexpected treat was the addition of John Inmon who backed both Eliza and Slaid on guitar. A member of Jerry Jeff’s Lost Gonzo Band for over three decades, it seems that he’s played with just about everyone from Texas at one time and another and his playing style is unlike anything that I’ve ever heard. With incredible hand control, a touch of effects and a volume pedal, if you shut your eyes you’d swear you were hearing a pedal steel on one tune and a resonator on another. He has a CD out on Music Road Records called Songs for Heavy Traffic and if for only his version of Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”, you’d be well served to check it out.