American in Spain

House Concert with Peggy Ratusz

November 19, 2012

Peggy Ratusz and Jonathan PearlmanSometimes it seems to me like my parents are very often going to concerts and events around my hometown. So when we chose our dates to visit for Thanksgiving this year, I eagerly inquired if there were any events we could attend. Alas, there were none.

Aware of my disappointment, my parents contacted their friend, Clint, who runs Americana Stage, the organization that schedules, manages and hosts such concerts in various local venues. Clint suggested a "house concert", which is still a fairly new genre of event. The basic idea is that you host a party in your house, but you charge all your friends an admission fee, and then you pay a band to perform in your own house. Not all houses are appropriate for such events, but the one my parents bought three years ago has a very adequate living room. The whole thing was a new experience for almost all involved. The artist that Clint lined up to perform was a woman from Asheville, NC, named Peggy Ratusz. She has three guitarists that know her songs and can support her; the one booked for our house concert was Jonathan Pearlman, a jazz guitarist. In my mind, jazz guitar is just about the pinnacle of guitar skill. In other words, a jazz guitarist can play pretty much any genre (rock, blues, bluegrass, etc.), but only jazz guitarists can play jazz. My suspicions were only confirmed.

Guests were told to show up at 18:00 with finger food snacks, and to be seated for the concert by 19:30. There is a big difference, you see, between a "concert party" and a "party with live music". For the latter, you may talk over the music and generally appreciate the band as background noise, but for the former, you must stop eating, be seated and attentive to the band. They played for an hour or so before taking a half hour intermission and playing another half hour. The general opinion of all involved was that it was a huge success. No one felt like their $20 entrance fee was wasted, as it covered the music and all-you-can-drink booze, or barra libre, as we say in Spain.

The other success of the evening was that Nora survived all the people and music without once bursting into tears are needing to seek shelter. Last year when we visited and we had a party, she needed to spend the entire party in a separate room isolated from all the strange adults. She wasn't exactly talkative, but she didn't need to take cover, so we considered it a success.

The most exciting part of the show was the song on which my father took the stage to play harmonica. He had been practicing for several weeks, and the song had been drummed into my head during his practice sessions the previous week. He did splendidly, especially considering that he was given a second improvisational solo when the singer found herself not yet prepared to sing the following verse. Such is the excitement of the stage! He coped admirably.