Concert Review: Sweet Wednesday Live at the Barnacle, Coconut Grove Florida
It’s a few minutes before they’re supposed to take the stage and Lisa Houseman and Dave Falk are lingering by the merch stand and chatting like a couple of kids at a new school for the first time. Dave is an incessant giggler it seems, but Lisa is all business, giving notice that the two are only moments away from beginning their gig.
It’s an auspicious occasion indeed, Sweet Wednesday’s first concert in South Florida and one that finds them in the relaxed environs of the Barnacle, a historical home that once was the residence belonging to the first settlers of Coconut Grove. It’s a relaxed environment, filled with locals bringing their kids and sharing picnic dinners on the expansive lawns in front of the modest stage. And on a day that saw the horrific events unfold in a Connecticut elementary school, somehow the scene seems reassuring.
The pair warm to their venue right away, chatting with the crowd, sharing anecdotes from their time spent on tour and affably entertaining with songs gleaned from their two albums, Wherever You Go, and their current release, Escaping from the Pale Moonlight. Naturally then, Sweet Wednesday’s mellow mix of first person narratives, humorous sing-alongs and intimate interplay proves utterly seductive on this lovely December evening. The two performers share vocal and instrumental duties, although Lisa seems to do most of the singing while Dave handles the bulk of the playing, switching from guitar to banjo to harmonica as the arrangements dictate. While Sweet Wednesday may be best described as a folk duo, their music also takes a cue from Dylan, Townes Van Zandt and other singer/songwriters with a world-weary bent. In fact, both Dylan and Van Zandt find representation in Sweet Wednesday’s set, and given Dave’s earthy vocals – a bit of a contrast to his giddy off-stage persona – they carry the covers with aplomb.
Still, it’s a credit to the pair’s songwriting prowess that their original songs stand up nicely alongside those of their idols. The plaintive “Ophelia” addresses a fateful encounter between two desperate lovers in revolutionary times. The tongue-in-cheek travelogue “(Lisa, I’m Sorry I Brought You To) New York City” offers a hilarious recollection on an ill-fated trip to the Big Apple. “Grandma” provides a soothing, sentimental tale about times of youth and innocence sadly left behind. Both chipper and charming, these songs and their others are wistful and bittersweet. Indeed, the Boston-based couple exudes an innocence that belies their time spent touring and traveling. Lisa spins about the stage, caught up in her own serendipity like an unabashed hippie child, emulating the spirit of freewheeling frenzy so prominent amongst their ‘60s forebears.
Happily, though they were largely unknown to the crowds sprawled on lawn chairs before them, the pair’s two sets were warmly received, with one group of onlookers even calling out requests. (Unfortunately, the duo had to beg off, but promised to play it the next time around.) Even Santa made an appearance, holding court for the kids and naturally adding to the family-friendly ambiance. It was that kind of concert, one with an emphasis of charm and a decided down home demeanor. Suffice it to say Sweet Wednesday meet this a sweet Friday indeed.