Rachel Hanson at the 331 Club
A couple of times, back about three years ago, I caught the solo act of a super shy young girl named Rachel Hanson at the Sheeley House bar in Chippewa Falls Wisconsin. Even then I could see the potential through the shyness. I remember wishing at the time that I could see her in a few years. Well it has been a few years and my Facebook told me I had an opportunity. A Tuesday night of music and here I am at the 331 Club in Nord East Minneapolis. I was not disappointed.
It is a Tuesday night so my usual schedule would have me crashing on the couch of the absent minded professor. Mid morning I dropped The Good Doctor an email and suggested he catch a long nap because we were going to be hopping on a bus north about his normal bedtime. It was a great night, with spring really starting to sink in here. A ten minute walk to a number eight bus, a transfer at University Ave to the green line train to Hennepin Ave where after a bit of an extended wait, a number eleven bus that dropped us about two blocks from the 331 Club.
We arrived about half an hour after the start and at a time where after one song, Rachel turned the stage over to one of her friends. After a bit of a break while they reconfigured, Max Graham did a solo show. He had a really nice mix of covers. I think he mentioned one or two originals. Something cool about the show was his instrument changes. Never really seen another artist do this before. Set down one instrument, pick up another. It needed a little more practice and maybe some hardware to smooth it out a bit. The mando cord getting tangled up with the guitar and knocking it over mid song detracted a little from that cool factor. He did some looping. It was all good.
Of the whole show I would have to say what I was the most impressed with was a cover of a British band Ace. _How Long_ (has this been going on?)_. Performed by Max Graham. The beginning of it he did as a beautiful buildup. Where he starts in and the music is just randomly flowing. But then you start to recognize a melody and you say, “I know this, but what is it?” that feeling that turns into “Can this be….?” It was a very cool cover.
After a few songs Rachel and her band were back on the stage. One of her songs, _Bar Room Floor_ in addition to being just a great song, had a really nice electric guitar solo by Ryan Acker. It is an interesting addition to a folk band to have a little driven electric guitar in there. Very nice indeed.
The Good Doctor had an issue with the muddiness of Rachel's lyrics. He pointed me to the vocal clarity of Adele. —Which for one surprised me a little. It didn't occur to me that he was musically that up to date! Mostly it is a steady diet of Bob Dylan (-ish sounding artists) at his couch. I had no idea he listened to modern music. He was all over Max Graham about how great his vocals were.
Muddiness or no, I think Rachel's voice really quite lovely. I am willing to let art flow over me. Totally gone is that shy girl of years past. Vocally she has a strong voice. She sings without pause, knowing she is going to be hitting the right notes. She knew all the words with no cheating. A different story than when I had seen her before. I was very, very happy to see such a vast improvement, something far above and beyond what I had expected.
Something I haven’t seen before that was also cool about this show was the individual member solos. Instead of maintaining position, Rachel walked across the stage and stood in front of the soloing musician. So it was the two of them, together in a duet. A very interesting way of doing things, I thought. I liked it.
Also of note, the second to the last song Rachel did was great. Unfortunately it was a case of, “Wow, that was so amazing! I am going to totally remember this!” My iPod batteries were low so I didn’t want to flip it on to take a note. (And if my batteries went dead, I wouldn’t get credit for the walking distance in my Health App :-) ) Of course I don’t remember the song. I don’t even know why I tell myself that sort of stuff any more. It’s a total lie. It was great anyway. Rachel, well done, whatever it was.
We rolled out of the 331 club thinking we had about ten minutes to make it to the bus stop. Then, by the time we got there only five minutes later, the next bus was in 20 minutes. I have become a great walker these days. The Doctor has peddled himself and his tent on a bicycle across Scotland, which I gather from the stories, is uphill in both directions. I suggested we start walking toward downtown. Turned out it was a brisk two mile walk to the train station. Colder than earlier but still, springtime temperatures were feeling good. The Doctor was a bit under dressed for the temperatures but that is a regular enough occurrence. He showed up at my apartment one January years ago in short pants and flip flops as his only below the waist clothing of the trip.
Just one final mishap for the trip. Two beers and a glass of water. No trip to the bathroom before I left the bar and a long walk. Finding a bathroom at 1:30am in downtown isn’t easy. My first plan was to hit the strip bar right next to the downtown green line station. “Honest honey, I was just there to use the bathroom!” They wanted ten dollars cover, no exceptions. Next door was the pizza joint. There I got the “customers only” message. I asked him, “What’s the cheapest thing you got?” It was soda, two dollars. I tossed the money out. “What flavor he asks me” I just had to tell him, “Dude, if you make me watch you pour that, I am gonna pee on your floor.” He quickly passed me the key. A few minutes later and we were on the train.
Doctor Nine P. M. Bedtime stays out till two…
Rachel is playing every Tuesday night through the month of March at the 331 Club, 331 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis
No video of Rachel due to the battery issue. You can listen to her music via stream at: https://archive.org/details/rh2016-03-08