In the early days of the pandemic (March 2020), it was uncertain how musicians would continue to be able to support themselves without touring. Davy Knowles was one of the first artists to make special offerings available to fans, including Club Quarantine, an online club where he would post daily updates including live acoustic performances, demos of unreleased songs, etc. He also put some very cool things for sale on his website, including hand-written lyrics, online guitar lessons, and house concerts.
We had always dreamed of having some kind of concert at our house. We love music so much, and having an intimate performance in our home, especially by someone we admire as much as Davy, was impossible to pass up. We reserved a house concert, not knowing when we would be able to actually hold it due to the pandemic.
Once vaccinations were rolled out in 2021 and things started to get back to a semblance of normal, Davy booked an autumn tour. He would be making several stops in Massachusetts, and we were able to book our house concert for Sunday, October 17, a day off in between his show in Plymouth, MA and a show in Maryland. He told us that he would also be playing the Bull Run the following weekend, so we made sure to pick up tickets for that as well.
Davy called us a few days before the show to settle the details. He would be on the road with bassist Tod Bowers and drummer Jeremy Cunningham, and they would arrive in their van between 2 and 3 p.m. We would have some food, then a couple hours of acoustic music. He told us to let him know if there was anything special we wanted to hear. We told him that we wanted it to be very casual; we wanted him to play what he felt like playing...it could even be snippets of songs in a stream of consciousness kind of set. We did send him a couple of requests though. I am a big fan of Davy's slide playing, so I requested his slide tune "First Words of a Changing Man." Craig said that he has always heard Davy mention Son House, but had never heard him play anything by him, so if he happens to have something in his repertoire, that would be cool.
We asked Davy if there was anything he needed...if his rider required a bowl of only blue M&M's or anything like that. He laughed and said that they used to write nonsense in their riders just to see if the venues even read them...things like 100 pairs of tube socks or reserved parking for circus dogs.
We told him about our vacant upstairs apartment, and the fact that the guys could just crash up there if they wanted to.
It would be a small gathering...Craig's brother Steve and his wife Lori, and Craig and Steve's mom Lee. Everyone has been vaccinated, so it would be as safe as possible.
I took Friday off from work and spent the day cleaning and grocery shopping. On Saturday, I prepped as much of the menu in advance as possible: Cajun turkey cornbread pie, chicken divan, sweet and sour meatballs, and butternut squash chowder.
We re-arranged the furniture in the den to make a performance space along the western wall, and borrowed folding chairs and a stool from Lee.
Sunday morning we did some last minute preparations. I got the meatballs simmering in the crock pot and started the butternut squash chowder.
At around 2:30 p.m., a van pulled up in the driveway. We went outside to see Davy's smiling face behind the wheel. He greeted us with a hug and introduced us to Tod and Jeremy. They had immediately noticed the sign that I had hung which read "Reserved parking for circus dogs only." Davy took a photo that he would later use in his social media stories. We also happened to have two unopened packages of white tube socks on hand, which we jokingly presented to them.
Courtesy of Davy Knowles
Davy brought his guitars inside and got settled in the den. We brought Tod and Jeremy upstairs, where Tod could watch the Bears game. Jeremy realized that he had left his laptop at last night's hotel in Plymouth, so he decided to drive back to get it.
Davy played around with Son House's "Death Letter Blues" as he tuned up, and we chatted and got to know one another. I put the two casseroles into the oven and cooked noodles to go with the chicken divan.
At 4 o'clock, our guests arrived. The food was set up like a buffet on the kitchen counter, and everybody took what they wanted. We ate and chatted. When Davy was finished eating, he started to play guitar. He started his set on acoustic guitar, playing a song by Jim Croce. Lori said that she loves Jim Croce, so he played another one and then a snippet of "Operator".
What followed was a great, comfortable, casual mixture of covers and original tunes (old favorites as well as brand new ones from the forthcoming new album, releasing in 5 days), requests, and chatting.
Craig had told Davy that Lee had gone with him to the Grateful Dead in the past, so he played two Dead songs that he had done with the Rhythm Devils ("Ship Of Fools" and "So Many Roads").
He played a bit of Anji (by Davy Graham). Steve mentioned recognizing it from Paul Simon, and that led into a medley of Paul Simon tunes.
At one point in the set he switched over to his octave mandolin. One such song was a gorgeous instrumental called "Bridal Veil Falls", a song inspired by Telluride, CO (where said octave mandolin was recently purchased).
Back on the guitar, he played three of our favorite Richard Thompson songs ("1952 Vincent Black Lightning," "Beeswing," and "Galway to Graceland"), which really highlight his mastery of Thompson's hybrid picking style.
We all joked about how many of the songs he had been playing were really tragic stories, yet made fantastic songs. But there were also lighthearted songs, like Croce's "Roller Derby Queen" and John Hiatt's "Ethylene."
Davy broke out his slide to play my request, "First Words of a Changing Man," which was stellar. Craig then asked what Davy's favorite is of his own songs. Davy said that the song that is most meaningful to him is "If I Ever Meet My Maker" (written in the wake of losing his dad), and he played it for us.
The whole experience reminded us of watching his Club Quarantine or Unlocked videos, or his "Revisited" album series of webcasts. He told stories punctuated with song snippets, explained how/why he had come to like certain artists and their songs, etc.
Lee commented that the whole experience made her feel nostalgic for the days when Craig and Steve were teenagers and various friends would play guitar at their house.
At one point, Tod came downstairs to join us, and toward the end of the evening, Jeremy arrived back with his laptop safely in his possession. Both of them had some food, and Davy had a bit more to eat once he was done performing.
Lori had brought homemade gingerbread muffins with cream cheese frosting, and we enjoyed those for dessert.
We took some photos with Davy and said our thanks and goodbyes as they packed up their gear. We would be seeing them all play together in just a few days at the Bull Run in Shirley, so the fun wasn't over yet.
The house concert was all that we had hoped for and more. It was lovely to spend time with Davy and the guys, and the music was phenomenal.
- One Less Set of Footsteps (Jim Croce)
- Roller Derby Queen (Jim Croce)
- Operator [snippet] (Jim Croce)
- Lift Up Every Stone (John Hiatt)
- Dust Down a Country Road (John Hiatt)
- Roll Away
- Streets of London (Ralph McTell)
- Sultans of Swing [snippet] (Dire Straits)
- Oh Well [snippet] (Fleetwood Mac)
- Out on the Western Plain (Rory Gallagher)
- Wish My Baby Was Here (Bert Jansch)
- The Wildest Pig in Captivity (John Renbourn)
- Coming Up for Air
- Amber's Song
- Hell To Pay
- Ship of Fools (Grateful Dead)
- So Many Roads (Grateful Dead)
- Coming Into Los Angeles (Arlo Guthrie)
- Anji (Davy Graham)
- Graceland (Paul Simon)
- Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes [snippet] (Paul Simon)
- American Tune (Paul Simon)
- Slip Sliding Away [snippet] (Paul Simon)
- Oxford, MS
- -Octave Mandolin-
- Bridal Veil Falls
- Sailing Shoes (Little Feat)
- Fisherman's Blues (Waterboys)
- Drinking Dragon
- 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (Richard Thompson)
- Beeswing (Richard Thompson)
- Galway to Graceland (Richard Thompson)
- Mascara Tears [snippet] (Richard Thompson)
- Ethylene (John Hiatt)
- If I Had a Boat (Lyle Lovett)
- Your Dad Did [snippet] (John Hiatt)
- First Words of a Changing Man
- If I Ever Meet My Maker
- Tear Down the Walls
- Dirty Laundry [snippet] (Don Henley)
- Jeremy's Desperado in the style of Tom Waits [snippet] (Eagles)
- Outside Woman Blues (Blind Joe Reynolds)