The Novel Ideas— Live at the Axe & Fiddle: Cottage Grove, Oregon
I must have heard their latest album 50 to 100 times and was pumped enough to hear them play live that I was there chomping on an excellent club sandwich and quaffing a Blue Point (?) Pilsner about seven, the show supposedly starting at nine. Usually I get the Reuben but a night with a band of real quality upped the cuisine a few notches and anyone who knows me knows that my favorite sandwich is a club. Hard to screw it up, maybe, and they sure didn’t. A perfect dining experience while watching people and absorbing the setting.
Not my first time there. I have seen Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers, Mad Anthony, Matthew Zeltzer, and a few others there, the food hot and inviting, the ale and beer ice cold, the sound exemplary. Good place to see music, though off the beaten path (it is about a 20 mile drive from Eugene, a bit farther for me).
Ah, the sound. The band features three and sometimes four vocalists, so the sound had to be just right, and it was. It took a good fifteen minutes and a handful of half-songs to get it down, but they did. Half-songs. I wondered about that, the band working its way through (at a minimum) one verse and one chorus before stopping to allow the sound man to adjust, then go through it again. At least five and they were satisfied. Time to eat. They sat down at a table in front of the stage and talked while partaking, just a few locals knowing who they were, the new customers accepting them as part of the scenery.
They took the stage a bit early, around 8:30. By the time the first set was over, my face hurt from smiling. Good music does that to me and this was as good as it comes as far as I was concerned. The sound was powerful enough without getting in the way of the voices and what voices there were! Sarah Grella has that perfect voice of a Linda Ronstadt bent but had much more range and when she hit the high notes on the chorus, it sent chills down my spine. Daniel Radin’s voice was a bit higher in range than I was expecting but fit absolutely perfect when they all lined up and was spot on when soloing. I didn’t get the name of the bass player but I assume it was James Parkington, who played on the album. His voice added that note which took the harmonies over the top and he obviously loved playing that bass. Then there was Danny Hoshino, who sang in a softer vein and did it so well that I had visions Pure Prairie League or Cowboy at certain moments.
I have my own favorite songs and had to wait for the second set to hear “I’ll Try”, a slow but powerful ballad which was an excellent showcase for those wonderful voices which created the most beautiful wall-of-sound harmonies I have ever heard. I had to hold back the tears, an involuntary reaction to sounds of that nature, my throat constricting and the beginning of a headache part of it all. I am my father’s son and I remember well, him sitting in his armchair when listening to one of his favorites songs back in the day, his eyes welling with tears and his adam’s apple bobbing. Those were private moments. I had more than a few listening to The Novel Ideas.
I guess some consider The Novel Ideas folk rock. They are as much country rock, to my ears, the songs bringing to mind such bands as Pure Prairie League, Uncle Jim’s Music, Heartsfield, all of which excelled at blending voices, with maybe a touch of Gold Heart to mellow the rock side.
Food, music and brew. A trifecta. In this case, a trifecta of incredible proportions. I hummed the entire 50+ mile drive home. I’m still humming. A night to remember.