To take a night off from the heavily amplified music grind at the downtown Gainesville clubs and bars can sometimes be a palette-cleansing experience. One such occasion was this past Saturday evening at the First Street Music Hall north of downtown. This one-time church that was adapted into a performance space and childcare facility has begun hosting folk nights on the weekends on at least a monthly basis. This occasion was to raise operating funds for the local nonprofit Civic Media Center reading room and library.
First up was Rob McGregor, who performed with a trio also consisting of Mark and Andrew. McGregor, also a proficient local music producer, has been a musician’s musician for some time. This was evidenced by the many locals in attendance that were also taking a night off from the usual weekend music circuit.
Following McGregor and company was the local duo of Hamhock and Slide, who have many national songwriting accolades to their credit. With Glenn “Hamhock” Moody on electric guitar teamed up with Matt “Slide” DeWein on acoustic guitar and dobro, DeWein lived up to his nickname with the latter instrument by his deft use of steel bottleneck on both vocal and instrumental blues tunes. Both were certainly musicians of the folkways tradition, weaving tales of everything from South African liqueur to their musical travels to Colorado. Additional songs were of epic length, oftentimes consisting of multiple tempo changes and movements, especially with the twin guitars featured late in the set.
Wrapping up the evening was Lars Din with his band SongRiot. The quintet, which included trumpet, bass, mandolin, and accordion, accompanied Din as he took the stage wearing slacks and a wife beater tank top. Lars Din has been a local favorite for years, with his guitar-and-vocal style often coming across as that of a punk rock Woody Guthrie.
Songs such as “Ichetucknee” encouraged the crowd to sing, clap, and stomp their feet through a set that addressed weighty world issues in addition to simple matters encountered in everyday life. The latter included a tale of his dog’s desire to live in his van. Crowd favorites included such selections as “This Ain’t No Bike Friendly Town” and “Floodplain, FL.” Din’s band consisted of crack musicians that coped with his sudden key changes for songs even as he was starting them. The assembled crowd joined in during the refrain of “until they drag us down / we rise…” as well as the amusing “Gossip is the Devil’s Radio.”
The Northeast First Street Music Hall, obviously not a bar, was strictly a BYOB affair. The patrons either toted in their own twelve-packs of Natural Light or brown-bagged a single from a local convenience store. With that said, though, the crowd was well behaved and expectedly low key. If you need an occasional break from the downtown music scene, give the First Street Music Hall a try. As Civic Media Center founding member Joe Courter announced between sets, the hall will be hosting another music event in mid-July. Consider it a horizon-broadening move.