Shredding on a Lap Steel with Wah-Pedal: Steve Gunn at Casa del Popolo

Steve Gunn. Photo by Kata Mada Steve Gunn. Photo by Kata Mada

Anyone can be a “music critic.” It is really easy to hear something and misunderstand. But in opening your ears to the unexpected, you get to discover musicians like Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler, who absolutely destroyed their opening set for Steve Gunn at Casa Del Popolo on October 14th. Destroyed it.
Yes, it’s really easy to sit back and pull opinions out of your ass about other people’s music. You know what’s not easy, though? Playing the HARP. How many of you can say you’ve caught a show where a harp player runs her instrument through a Line 6?

 

Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler

Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler

It’s always a transcendent experience to be in the presence of talented classical players, but when those players start getting all futuristic-free-jazz on you, it does funny stuff to your brain. (Lattimore was doing everything from knocking on the harp with her knuckles, to squeaking the strings and running it through the loop station, while Zeigler matched her sounds on a Korg and melodica.)
There was definitely some strokes of Amon Tobin and a little Avril 14th by Aphex Twin in there, but the angelic melodies they were coming up with were wholly their own. I can truthfully say I’ve never heard anything quite like that before.

 

Afterward, a boy came up to Lattimore and told her, “That was blowing my mind! So many vibes!” Granted, he did appear to be tripping balls on acid, but hey, that doesn’t invalidate the quality of his experience. In fact, some might say he would be only one qualified to make a statement. Bro, did you see the sacred geometry fractalling through the membranes of space-time? Next level, maaaaaan.

Mary Lattimore was also the kindest, most approachable, non-pretentious musician I’ve met in a while, which was refreshing in comparison to those Survival-of-the-Hippest attitudes I’ve been so used to enduring lately. (Drones Club, anyone?) The rest of you could really benefit from taking your cues from her.

Steve Gunn. Photo by Kata Mada

Steve Gunn. Photo by Kata Mada

Steve Gunn capped off the night. “That was the closest to an Allman Brothers’ jam as we’ve gotten yet,” he said halfway through a set that consisted of these long drawn out riffs that could easily be dismissed as “country” if you weren’t listening close enough.

Steve Gunn. Photo by Kata Mada

Steve Gunn. Photo by Kata Mada

Sure, they had a lap steel, but the guy was using a wah-pedal on that thing. It was on a stand, and he practically tipped it over. I’ve never seen anyone shred that hard on a lap steel. I know the guy has a name, but I just wasn’t paying attention to that part: my face was too melted from all the lap steel madness

Steve Gunn. Photo by Kata Mada

Steve Gunn. Photo by Kata Mada

The overall vibe of their set gave me this weird feeling of riding in a sleigh through the snow or something. There was a lot of movement in their sound. Deep thickets of finger picking.
It’d be lazy to call what they were doing “country” and though I’m sure they’d have a great time in Nashville, Steve Gunn actually kind of reminded me a little of Red Sparowes, for their long, circular instrumental melodies and their heavy jams.

 

 

Gunn was throwing down these lyrics that were almost like spoken word, and in between songs he’d say a few things, stories about one heckling drunken fan and the connection they forged, which led Gunn to say, “Wow, that was the worst stage banter…”

Touches of charm included the way Gunn would stand on his tiptoes when he’d go really deep into a jam, or the way the drummer jumped on banjo for a tune, or the way the lap steel sounded like a woman singing in some parts.

Steve Gunn. Photo by Kata Mada

I also really appreciated how much they actually just wanted to play their music. Steve Gunn wanted to do one more song, and then just one more. His band wound up walking off and buying a pitcher at the bar, but Gunn was still up there, ripping back on an acoustic for us, this intricate beautiful piece of music.

It was one of those shows you just walk away from wholly inspired and satisfied.

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About Ceilidh Michelle

ceilidh michelle is a musician and novelist. She has contributed to CULT Montreal, Vancouver Weekly and Social Coast, among others, and also has a column with Band Mark called True Currency. More Posts