Local scene queen Tierney Tough of the Pauses has held many special engagements at the Will's Pub complex. And though they don't happen frequently, the intimate ones she does at Lil Indies have been some of the most truly engaging. Thanks to her considerable connections, she's been able to serve up some big indie names in what is essentially living-room proximity.
The latest was the kickoff of the first Florida solo tour ever by Ken Stringfellow of the Posies (July 21, Lil Indies), which garnered enough interest to necessitate the addition of a second show that same night. On his personal work, he's been a bit of a chameleon. And so he was here on both guitar and keyboard with songs that ranged from the open melody of the Posies to rootsy troubadour fare to unsettled balladry.
About the up-close quality of these shows, you'll seldom be in a situation where power-pop royalty like Stringfellow roams the floor and essentially serenades you tableside like he often did here, stepping away from the mic to sing amongst the seated audience. Consider the potluck aspect of the early show, and it was like an indie supper club. More than anything, it was that raw and personal quality that defined this rare performance.
Just as noteworthy locally is the fact that it was also one of Tough's own nearly as rare (read: practically nonexistent) solo performances. That's notable because she's lately – finally – been back focusing on her own material after years of touring all over and playing for other famous people like Matt Pond and War on Women. And lots of the still-developing songs at this show hadn't yet been heard publicly.
The vulnerability of both the new songs and the simple solo setup lay bare the emotional range of Tough's emoting in a way that her band's dynamics tend to keep contained. Allowing more space to float and exhale, it's a format that favors and frees the supple sweetness of her voice. The arrangement and drift of the songs will likely change, possibly profoundly, once they get the full Pauses treatment. Hopefully, though, that evolution will honor the virtues revealed at this performance, ones that perhaps her collaborator Jason Kupfer (who was in attendance) also felt.
Of the types of music usually hosted by the Timucua White House, folk is probably the rare bird of the lot. But when it's featured, it's seldom the trendy young bucks you're likely more familiar with from the current rock circuit. And that's a good thing because it often means obscure but accomplished practitioners from arcane circles. These aren't tourists passing through in the pursuit of glory, but disciples who've devoted decades and sometimes lifetimes to the form. In traditional genres, that's called bona fides.
The latest was Late Fer Dinner (July 17), an Orlando ensemble that specializes in bluegrass, folk, country and gospel. The quintet is a string band that packs banjo, mandolin, upright bass, guitar, fiddle and five-part harmonies. And their performance was a faithful, transporting time capsule that was gentle in step and practiced in execution. They radiate genuine sweetness and charm but no camp or corn (except for maybe some of their jokes). This is the real stuff, an authentic vignette of the deep but quiet grace and artistry that folk music is capable of. They even sing about the massive and modern correctional behemoth of the Orange County Jail like it was some idyllic frontier jailhouse.
Late Fer Dinner is a refreshing and needed bolt of tradition and purity in the city's musical fabric. Put these guys on a Southern Fried Sunday bill and watch a lot of the younger bands get taken back to school.
Further evidence that folk music brings a different wavelength to the Timucua White House was that this act drew a higher proportion of first-timers to the venue than I've perhaps ever seen. Never before have I seen the place stomp like this, and it was beautiful. Anyone who can turn an art house into a revival this way is worth your time.