November 28th, 2011

Loopster Live: Sideshow Tramps Thanksgiving Show at Fitzgerald’s

Everyone deserves a break from the family and the food of Thanksgiving. Some breaks are just more worthwhile than others. Football might have been on your agenda. Maybe it was dusting off the ol’ VHS copy of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Black Friday’s siren song might have called you out to the stores.

Any of the options seem nice and everything, but how could you have turned down ‘Merica-loving Sideshow Tramps and their free Thanksgiving concert?

Young and talented The Handshake led off the night with a smattering of fans at tables set up. A couple of fanatics jostled around like windsock dancers. Joining in seemed like a lost cause with a leaden belly full of turkey and trimmings.

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As Caddywhompus took the stage, more people started to fill into the second floor of Fitzgerald’s and began to crowd the stage. The duo of Sean Hart and Chris Rehm jammed their kit and equipment up against the front of the stage, practically on top of fans. Their jumble of effects-laden noise coursed through the venue, sometimes indiscernible, but overwhelmingly entertaining due to the energy. The only points which they lost this new listener was as they slowed down the songs to ballad-like speeds.

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“Here Comes the Party” was the fitting first tune when the Sideshow Tramps finally blasted forth after a lengthy sound check. The gypsy rockers necessitate a bit more time to ready the plethora of instruments that they can pick up at any given point of the night. Thoughts of cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes vanished into the night with the first chant of the chorus.

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It didn’t take long for the concert to take a turn toward the bizarre. Craig Kinsey, focused on America the beautiful, somehow got the impetus to put his hand over his heart and coerce Fitzgerald’s into saying the Pledge of Allegiance with him. No, this isn’t the long-awaited review of Independence Day concert. There we were, reciting in unison… “with liberty and justice for all.” It’s amazing the amount of recall you can have when you’re four beers deep into the night and nearly 20 years removed from saying the words.

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From that point on, all bets were off. Nothing about the night could be taken for granted. The Tramps jumped directly into “New Train” with The Reverend Kinsey blasting away on his harmonica and plunging into the crowd. If there was ever a live show that was going to make you forget about whatever fight you got into with your sister over a turkey leg, this was it.  We were at their mercy and the Sideshow Tramps knew full well.

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But the unifying theme was “for America” as the night slipped away. With a shot of whiskey delivered to to the stage, Geoffrey Miller held it up into the air to drink for his country. Nothing seemed more out of place, yet so natural as the constant display of the Spirit of ‘76.

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Of course, the Tramps saved their favorite crowd-pleasers for last. I’m not talking about songs… I’m talking about quips. “Is there a black woman in the house tonight?” was Kinsey’s question that he followed with a light-hearted chuckle. Laughter from the audience only fueled him to ask the question again, which was the lead in for Kam Franklin appearing on stage to wail on “John the Revelator.” This song alone made the entire night worth it. You could have told me that the Tramps were playing live on Thanksgiving night, but they only be performing “Revelator” with Franklin and I would have bid my family adieu immediately.

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All riled up, the Tramps finished up with “Funeral Song” to which Shand Lauder and Scott McNeil were instructed to take the venue on a New Orleans funeral march. Then of course, it was “Lady Vodka” which brought Kinsey out into the crowd once again.

As time was running out on our Thursday night, the shout from the mic was “the show is over we’re just fucking around,” as the Tramps bounced their way through “The Bird’s the Word.” And with a final, “GIVE IT UP AMERICA” they sent us off into the night after the most memorable Thanksgiving any of us could have hoped to have.

— Paul

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