S.J. Tucker and
Gaia Consort, The Red and Black
Cafe, Portland OR, USA (July 30th, 2004)
On the Friday night before the Faerieworlds Festival, my husband and I went to The Red and Black Cafe to see Gaia Consort play. The Seattle based pagan folk rock band has been a favorite of ours since we first saw them perform with Heather Alexander a couple of years ago. We don't get up to Seattle often, so we were excited to get another chance to hear them live.
When we realized that they had an opening act, we were prepared to sit through the standard amateurish croaking while we drank our beer and ate our meals and waited for the real entertainment to begin. When a beautiful pixie in a particolored fool's hat took the stage, guitar in hand, we barely gave her a glance.
Then she started to sing.
She is S.J. "Sooj" Tucker, a singer/songwriter from Memphis with a talent for lyrics, a mastery of the guitar, and a big bluesy voice that took all of 3 seconds to take control of the crowd. In a verse she had my full attention, by the end of her first song I was in awe, by the end of her set I was an unashamed fangirl. Tucker has a voice in a million: powerful, hypnotic, untamed and yet utterly controlled. She sings from the gut, but hers is a trained instrument.
We were enchanted by Ms. Tucker's songwriting ability; her entire performance consisted of originals, all found on her new CD Haphazard. "Mummy Medusa" is a tale of the consequences when Medusa and Rapunzel fall for the same person; "In the House of Mama Dragon" celebrates the life of Trudy Herring of the Summerland Grove coven; "Tattoo Grrl" is her "humble salute to the lesbian tendencies in all straight grrls".
As happy as we were to see Gaia Consort, when they took the stage, my first thought was but I want more Sooj! She's an amazing, powerful performer who I hope to see again and again...and I've no doubt that someday I'll have to pay a small fortune for tickets if I don't want to end up in the nosebleed seats.
Gaia Consort have a new album out as well, entitled Evolve. Most of the songs they performed were older favorites from their previous albums, Gaia Circles and Secret Voices, though, and they were without a drummer. Gaia is a fluid group, sometimes adding and subtracting members for different performances. Present on this night were Chris Bingham on guitar and vocals, Sue Tinney on vocals, Betsy Tinney on electric cello, and Larry Golding on fiddle.
Opening with "Gathering" from Gaia Circles, the group was energetic and the crowd's reaction was immediate and positive. If the Consort can do anything, it's getting their audience fired up and ready to dance. Ryan's favorite, "Ravens," was included in the set, as was mine -- "Secret of the Crossroads Devil." Much of the crowd was able to sing along, indicating a good fanbase for the group. I even saw the somewhat sullen counter clerk do a few brief dance moves when the group sang "Solstice Call" from the new album!
In addition to "Solstice Call" the group performed one other offering from Evolve, "Drawing Down the Moon"...a new song, and I loved it! Given the hippie anarchist atmosphere of The Red and Black, I wasn't surprised to see the gleeful reaction to "Three" (Gaia's anthem for polyamory) or "Cry Freedom" (an impassioned political protest tune) and it was fun to see folks up dancing in the back.
Chris Bingham and Sue Tinney have voices that meld together like Earl Grey and rich cream -- truly a pleasure to listen to. Betsy Tinney's electric cello is one of the coolest instruments I've seen yet, and she plays it like someone out of Faerie. Larry Golding is inspired and slightly crazy on the fiddle...and he looked great in his black Utilikilt, which matched the one Ryan wore to the show!
Also included in the set were "Move To the Country," "Blood," "Secret Voices," "Just Because," and a great Christmas song that I'll have to get the (depraved and twisted) lyrics to one of these days.
Gaia Consort is one of my favorite bands, and this show was a wonderful treat to start what turned out to be a magickal weekend. Discovering Sooj Tucker was truly serendipitous, and we look forward to seeing all of these wonderful performers again and again. Any time you get the chance to see either Gaia Consort or S.J. Tucker, go. Wear your dancing shoes.