By Jon Bream
What a lineup, what free-wheeling fun, what a night. The stars — local and national — aligned Wednesday at the Cabooze to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Willie’s American Guitars, the St. Paul must-stop for pickers of persuasions and skill.
The big names, of course, were Joe Ely and Dos Lobos, i.e. David Hidalgo and Louie Perez of Los Lobos. Supported by his longtime lead guitarist Rob Gjersoe (who also plays with the Flatlanders), Ely rocked the house, ending with the always rollicking “The Road Goes on Forever.”
In a rambling 80-minute set, Dos Lobos worked in various combinations and permutations (including with two local drummers and bassist Jim Anton) and with a variety of instruments (including Willie’s specially built electric ukulele and both Louie and David played drums on one song).
Hidalgo and Perez did Los Lobos tunes, Latin Playboys numbers, a Neil Young cover (with Molly Maher harmonizing) and a couple of unreleased tunes due on a winter rareties disc entitled “The Long Goodbye.” (see set list below).
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman read a proclamation declaring it Willie’s Guitars Day in the Capital City, citing various Willie’s customers including the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and himself. Coleman later joined show coordinator extraordinaire Maher, local guitar hero Chris Osgood, singers Andra Suchy and Dana Thompson, drummer Dave Ahl and others for the John Prine/Nanci Griffith number “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness.” In introducing the song, acoustic guitarist Coleman (bagpipes are his main instrument) said: ”This is not for musical posterity.”
Many other locals followed, including Jack Knife & the Sharps (nicely spiced up by 2007 addition Erin McCawley) and Phil Solem of Rembrandts fame.
I tried to leave early but it took me nearly 45 minutes to get out of there because I ran into Osgood, promoter Gene Hollister, State Fair booker/Trailer Trash frontman Nate Dungan, Cities 97 club crawler Greg Burke, Cabooze booker Taco Martin, drummer Stan Kipper and the inevitable Paul Metsa.
Big props to Willie’s owner Nate Westgor (who played a mean guitar with Dos Lobos on “Mas y Mas”) and Willie’s ace employee and superstar in waiting Molly Maher, who, in an opening set, proved that she is Lucinda Williams without the baggage.
Dos Lobos set list:
How Will the Wolf Survive/????/Saint Behind the Glass/The Valley/A Matter of Time/Big August Moon (unrecorded oldie due on “The Long Goodbye” in January)/Chinese Surprise (Latin Playboys)/Tony Y Maria/Take My Hand/Ten Believers (Latin Playboys)/???/Cuca’s Blues (Latin Playboys)/The Long Goodbye (unrecorded)/Mas y Mas (with Nate Westgor sitting in) ENCORE Cinnamon Girl (with Molly Maher sitting in on the Neil Young song)