Dani Mari and Ken Kweder pay tribute to a legend.
A tribute show is an excuse for urban atheists to pray together to the same musical gods—on this night, legendary country singers Johnny Cash and Hank Williams.
Twenty-two singer-songwriters and local bands signed up to play their versions of Cash and Williams for last Wednesday’s show, hosted by Dani Mari and Philly music icon Kenn Kweder, at the Triumph Brewing Company in Old City.
A man with John Lennon glasses and mountain boots leads his band through a rolling cover of Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”
“This nightmare is actually a dream,” singer David Rowan announces cryptically between songs.
It’s sparse reassurance to a packed room that everyone, himself above all, made the right decision to be here.
The Josh Olmstead Band’s tambourine-ist Natalie Butts sings and bangs along to Johnny Cash’s “Pack Up Your Sorrows,” an upbeat duet among his litany of sin-and-tears-soaked ballads. It’s pretty. It’s catchy. It’s sweet.
But leave it to the women to bring the rage. All-female trio September’s drummer/singer bellows a punky rendition of “They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me,” which sounds more dangerous than just a private word of consolation.
Smoking a cigarette outside, Rowan’s harmonica player, “Jerry Thee Ice Man,” relates a legendary story about Hank Williams: A man approached the stage one night, saying, “I don’t like your guitar.” Hank responded, “My guitar don’t like you!” and bashed him over the head with it. Ice Man blames the booze.
At 7.5 percent ABV, Triumph’s Imperial Stout is delivering on its promise to get tonight’s lookers-on loaded. It’s nothing that a quick baptismal dip in the Jordan River, a la Johnny Cash, can’t fix. That’s God’s favorite river.
By the end of the night, the “dream” tapers down to an idyllic end. Hardly a soul is left; the bar’s nearly empty, and the few remaining are absorbed in high-volume chatter. One last band has taken the stage, a hastily assembled group consisting of Kweder, Josh Olmstead and a guy who wandered in off the street. They’re jamming like they’ve known each other for years. A let-yer-hair-down jolt of energy wraps up the evening’s country soul talent show.
Calendar: Sept. 30-Oct. 7