Proud to Be a Geezer
Nanci Griffith slides into the Cactus Cafe.
By Jim Caligiuri,
11:17AM, Fri. Feb. 16, 2007
Some will be surprised and, perhaps, thrilled that the Chronicle has given "the most hated man in Austin music" (hat tip: Raoul Hernandez) some space on their Web site. The reality is that I'm delighted to be part of this blogging adventure. The concept allows me to get to some music, that would otherwise go unmentioned, with immediacy, and you can now attack me at will, via the accompanying comments. It should make for an interesting read. We went with Geezerville because I'm the elder of the group. You'll almost never find me at Emo's. I rarely get excited about Austinist.com. And I'm a proud member of the crowd that takes Loudon Wainwright's "Watch Me Rock, I'm Over 30" (or is it 40?) to heart. Plus, there's an amazing group of oldsters still making great music, each unwilling or unable to simply fade away.
One of the principal settings for Geezerville is the Cactus Cafe. The premier listening room in town celebrated its 28th anniversary this week with a couple of unusual bookings. Last week, Nashville's Todd Snider took over the place for three sold-out nights, a lengthy run for the club. The last few times through town, the shaggy-haired songwriter with strong ties here played larger venues with a band. So these solo shows were a treat for his audience. They allowed him the intimacy to show how wicked his sense of humor can be and how barbed his political commentary has become. Aside from James McMurtry, no one today composes protest songs with the combination of vitriol and melody the way that Snider does, and, at the Wednesday night show at least, he wasn't coy about it. Not that Snider has ever been shy about anything.
Griff Luneburg's dream booking was the two shows Tuesday by Nanci Griffith. Even at $70 a seat, both performances sold out. Griff explained that he had initially been approached about a show at the Texas Union Ballroom, but when they couldn't make that work, he suggested the Cactus, and Griffith jumped at the idea. She summoned guitarist Brian Wood and backup singer Denise Franke to try to re-create the days in the early 1980s when her appearances at the Cactus were only $2.
Along with current Blue Moon Orchestra guitarist Clive Gregson, a name you might recognize from his work with Richard Thompson, the trio bounded on stage and spun through a more-than-90-minute set of favorites that had everyone in the room enthralled. Griffith kept repeating how much fun she was having, which was more than obvious from the milewide grin on her face. The assembled – it was obviously pre-Valentine's date night – were equally joyous. This was as close as you would likely ever get to a Nanci Griffith house concert. Proudly 53 years old, she combined songs of the heart and urgings of world peace with heavy doses of laughter and nostalgia and a sprinkling of pixie dust. I've been seeing Griffith perform for more than 20 years, and I can still say she's never had a bad night.