Despite a forecast warning of a possible wintry mix, Kim and I decided the weather prediction was just marginal enough for us to make the two-hour trip to Roanoke, VA, on Saturday to take in an evening performance of the Asheville-based Americana trio Underhill Rose at the quirky Kirk Avenue Music Hall.
This was going to be the seventh time we've seen them in just over a year. In fact, we've seen them five times since June. We have both of their CDs and a couple of their T-shirts. We are clearly out of control. But apparently there is no sanity in unbridled fandom.
|From left, Molly, Kim, the world's luckiest man, Eleanor and Salley.|
Kim had wanted to go to Martin's because her maiden name is Martin. Hey, if there's a Wehrle Bar and Grill somewhere, I'm going. It's not that weird. I think.
Anyway, Kim saw there was chicken pot pie on the menu, so that's what we ordered. I became a chicken pie aficionado from the moment I married my Martin 33 years ago, and learned she could make this comfort cuisine with her eyes closed. People have gotten married for lesser things.
About two thirds of the way through the meal I just happened to look up and saw a handful of customers walk in. One of them looked remarkably like Underhill Rose upright bassist Salley Williamson, but I wasn't sure because she was dressed for the cold weather with knit cap, scarf and jacket. In fact, they all were.
Then I saw the other two women behind her. My brain clicked just long enough to confirm recognition before it froze. Oh my God, I thought. It's them.
"Oh my God," I said, choking on my chicken pie. "Oh my God."
There are two variations of what happened next in this story. In Kim's version (she had her back to the women and couldn't see them), I stood up on our table, took off my shirt and waved it vigorously over my head, all while tap dancing around my pot pie while trying to get their attention. "Stop making a spectacle of yourself," she claims to have told me.
In my version, I simply sat in my booth seat, raised my arms over my head and crossed them once or twice, like I was hailing a taxi or something. "Stop making a spectacle of yourself," I thought I heard her say.
My heart was racing. The hostess was bringing them to the table next to ours.
They recognized us just before they were seated and stopped at our table to say a word or two, each beaming their infectious smiles. I thought I might need a defibrillator.
As they were seated I tried to pay them no attention to let them have their space, but I couldn't resist. While Kim excused herself for a moment, and while the girls were waiting for their order to arrive, I ambled over to their table. Molly, the guitar player, thanked us for making the trip to Roanoke. They're just completing an intense two-week tour of the northeast and I commented that they must be exhausted. Eleanor, the banjo player, more or less agreed, but noted there were a few weeks ahead during the holidays for them to rest up and recharge.
Salley indicated they are working on new songs and there appear to be plans for another Kickstarter campaign for their next CD, just as it was for "Something Real," their second effort.
We talked for a bit more, then I wished them a good show and left, since I knew their order was coming.
Everything after that was a blur.
Oh, yeah. The show.
The Kirk Avenue Music Hall is about as wide as two bowling lanes and about as deep as a bowling alley. In other words, it's a very narrow but intimate venue. It seats maybe 60 people but it provides very good acoustics.
The Grahams, a husband and wife team out of Nashville, warmed up the audience, then Underhill Rose followed with perhaps a 15-song set. By now, Kim and I are familiar with their tunes and the stories behind them, and we thought the girls sounded as good as ever. They still sound new and refreshing to us.
Afterwards, they mingled with their fans, engaging as ever.
I'm not a music critic, but I know what I like when I hear it. I don't know a thing about chord progressions, clawhammer style picking, bridges or harmonies.
I just know that they're good. They're very, very good.
And I would give them the shirt off my back.