25 June 2016

HONEYHONEY Summer 2016 Tour

HONEYHONEY Summer 2016
Friday, 24 June 2016
Haymarket Whiskey Bar | Louisville, KY

I'd been waiting years to finally get enough stars to align that I could go see HONEYHONEY when at last that came together two years ago. I'd gotten there early enough to actually observe their three-song soundcheck, with only about seven or eight other people even in the place at that time. Even without any intentional showmanship, they were terrific. It's always hard to guess from studio records how anyone will sound live, and I was thrilled that HONEYHONEY may actually be better live than on record.

Thanks to Crohn's, I haven't gotten to many shows over the last several years, but even with whole years of not seeing one at all, I managed to reach a milestone last night. According to setlist.fm, this was my 100th concert! By happenstance, one of my friends who came along was also there when I attended my first (Garth Brooks, 20 May 1998 at Freedom Hall in Louisville).

The duo of Suzanne Santo and Ben Jaffe (along with drummer Conor Meehan) blended songs from their first three albums, First Rodeo; Billy Jack; and 3, along with a cover of "Lake of Fire" by Meat Puppets, and Jaffe took lead on "A Satisfied Mind". I first heard that song on the album Country Music by Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, and then Johnny Cash's version in the movie Kill Bill Vol. 2. Jaffe's arrangement was distinctive from either of those, a demonstration of the understanding of the difference between interpretation rather than imitation that has been central to the band's musical identity.

As I said, this was my second show of theirs and I'm now 0-2 on getting to hear "Thursday Night". Maybe next time? I was surprised when the 17-song set was over that "Little Toy Gun" wasn't in the mix. Since that last show, of course, they released their third album, 3, which I loved. I meant to bring along my vinyl jacket to have them sign, but forgot. Maybe next time? Two years ago, they played a few of the songs that made it onto 3, but it was nice to hear more of them performed live. There's something wondrous about watching musicians navigate the demands of playing as they intend, coaxing out of their instruments the notes that they've crafted, while also finding and exploring the emotional honesty of the song as well as engaging the audience. When Suzanne Santo tears into her fiddle, as on "Big Man", there's almost a sense of her looking for something, and then she finds it and there's a distinctive shift in the energy of the entire show.

Ben Jaffe (left), Conor Meehan (middle), Suzanne Santo (right), buncha drunks (foreground). Photo by Ronnie Ashley.
Ultimately, it was Santo who made this 100th concert truly memorable for me.

I discovered from the website that the venue, Haymarket Whiskey Bar, featured some arcade games...AND SKEE BALL.

I LOVE SKEE BALL.

I prepared for the show by bringing along $10 in quarters. There are two lanes, in a section of the venue betwixt the bar and the music hall. My friends and I played several rounds, razzing one another mercilessly about our mediocrity. After the show had concluded, I still had some quarters remaining and wanted to play a few more games. Enter: Suzanne Santo, fresh from signing the last of any fan requests.

Photo by Ronnie Ashley.
It turns out that she was just as excited by the chance to play skee ball as we were, and enthusiastically joined us. It was a flurry of a conversation, so I can't say definitively who proposed it, but my perception is that she was the one who suggested we play doubles, one duo on each lane. She partnered with me. I'd like to say that we dominated because we're the best skee ball players in the world, but there's no photographic evidence to affirm such a claim.

Though it was great fun playing skee ball with her, that alone wasn't what made this such a perfect 100th concert experience. There's one little detail that will stand out to me more than anything else from this show, and that was the reaction that Suzanne had when she discovered that I was paying for the games with my own change. Her face reflexively went to that look of "I wish I'd known!" guilt that we make when we find out something that changes the context of what we'd done. She even said she felt bad that I was spending my own money for her to get to play and that she would go get quarters.

I assured her I'd brought the quarters for the very purpose of playing, and more importantly that I had loved the show. (Besides, I think I spent, like, $2.00, for the two games that both lanes played.) She accepted it when I outlined the reasons why it was okay for her to play without putting in her own quarters, but I will forever cherish that little moment of such consideration and sweetness. You can be trained in playing instruments, to cultivate a public persona, and a lot of other things. But thoughtfulness is either genuine or it doesn't exist, and that little moment was heartwarming and became my new #1 reason for being a fan.

honeyhoney Setlist Haymarket Whiskey Bar, Louisville, KY, USA 2016

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