The Tron Theater is now one of our favorite venues. The theater seating is pitched so that every seat in the house has a great view of the stage, and the sound engineer is very good. This venue will undoubtedly have a little extra glow in our memories, because this is where we got to see an excellent show with some of our favorite musicians.
Unni Boksasp and her intriguing ensemble opened the show. Boksasp is a traditional folk singer from Nordmøre, at the north-west coast of Norway. Her vocals range from eerie highs to gut-grabbing lows. If you’re not familiar with the Nordic vocal styles, then check out her MySpace for a real treat.
Backing Boksasp was a fascinating foursome. Everything looked and sounded wonderful. The double bass player Magne Vestrum provided the heartbeat, while fiddlers Jorun Marie Kvernberg and Olav Luksengård Mjelva kept the melody going, and there, at the far end, was what looked for all the world like two cobbled-together wood boxes with a keyboard taped to one and two sets of pedals hanging beneath. If that didn’t pique our interest enough, the man playing this instrument, Trygve Brøske, had a piece of tubing stuck in his mouth which he would occasionally blow through. Boksasp informed us that this was a harmonium. I’ll have to take her word for it, because the band broke down and disappeared before I had a chance to ask for more information.
KZYX&Z listeners have already heard some of Bruce MacGregor‘s incredible fiddle work. “The Highlander’s Revenge” is one of Tim’s favorites, and he’s played it many times to infect all of you with that musical earworm. Tonight, we got the hysterical story behind the writing of the tune. Tune into the show on the 14th and you might just get to hear the tale. While you’ve mostly heard MacGregor’s solo work, he’s also a part of Blazin’ Fiddles and Cliar, and tonight he teamed up with two other talents in their self-named trio MacGregor, Brechin & Ó hEadhra to provide a set that was equal parts laughter and music.
Stuck in the middle, Brian Ó hEadhra had the possibly unenviable task of playing straight man to MacGregor and accordionist Sandy Brechin. It seemed that whenever the others started to get into too much trouble with their jokes and hysterical shaggy dog tales, Ó hEadhra’s job was to start singing. His warm voice brought the show back to music…for at least the length of the song. A highlight of the evening was a Gaelic song he wrote for his wife, “My Girl from the Island,” which he tried to get the crowd to sing the chorus. The Gaelic was too much for us, so he settled for “La-la”s.
Sandy Brechin is another talent KZYX&Z listeners have heard as a member of Burach. If he wasn’t a full-time musician, he ought to be a comedian. But his accordion playing was surprisingly delicate, as he and MacGregor wove in and out of the melodies, each giving space for the other. This was three top-notch musicians enjoying what they do, and putting on a great show while doing it. A memorable night.
[Local angle: One of the tunes played was “John Cameron’s March,” composed by the late Jerry Holland to honor Mendocino resident Rod Cameron’s father.]