Foot-stomping good time: Larry Hosford and his Honky Tonk crew get Aptos' Britannia Arms jumping every Thursday with Country & Western night.
By Darya Gilani
Folk you! : Mason Jennings played Friday, June 8, to an all-ages show. Usually, to the mature concertgoer, this means 16-year-olds cramming up bathroom lines and sneaking shooters into the show. Without fail, there is always an altercation, but this time, drama was spotted in the 21-and-up balcony. A disagreement over the proper etiquette for holding a table for lagging friends almost led to an evening of angry glares and shoving. Fortunately, the resolution came via a round of beers for both parties, just in time for "Be Here Now" from Jennings' new album.
Between inserts from his new album, Boneclouds, which was released by Isaac Brock's label Glacial Palace, the audience had chances to sing along to his more beloved, midtempo hits. During "Bullet," the crowd bobbed, identifying with Mason's story about confronting a girlfriend with suspicions of low-fidelity. Acoustic ballads like Big Sur had the audience cheering when Jennings sang "Forty miles south of Monterey in the San Lucia hills/ The sunshine shone me to sleep, and I dreamt I was alive."
It was at those times when the beer- and pot-laden walls of the Catalyst beamed with a powerful, expressive and content light.
Pardon Me?: Country? Honky tonk? Oh no! Enter nightmares of Wrangler Jeans and the San Benito County Fair, sick from the Gravi-tron, corn dogs and drags of cigarettes your adolescent friends convinced you to smoke.
But wait, don't jump to conclusions. Turn on the radio and see if you can find the line that defines country and pop/rock. Blame the beginning of the blur on rogues like Elvis Presley and Kid Rock, the further intermixing of country into our culture in movies like Walk the Line, and more recently, artists like Carrie Underwood and Daughtry.
This past Thursday found Mūz in Aptos. Hidden from the freeway by a thin row of stubborn trees, and tucked behind the old trestle, The Brit Arms has been a trusted local favorite for almost 12 years now. On these nights, passers-by like myself are lured in by the breezy sounds of a slide guitar and the storytelling rhythms booming from Larry Hosford's Honky Tonk crew.
Flashes of Shawshank Redemption scenes fly past, prompted by the stomping and clapping of Aptosians on a summer night. Red is in his cell, harmonica in hand, and Heywood is listening to Hank Williams in the library. The harmonica of that summer night evokes the same honest and humble yearn for the good ol' days--when love and whiskey flowed freely, and men got right down on their knees to cry with the Lovesick Blues.
For over two years, the six-piece band has taken turns touting each musician's respective instrument. Charlie Wallace's slide guitar punctuates and teases the bassist, while the drummer keeps steady pace with Hosford. The group sang of good times and bad, and reaped smiles from the crowd with their cut of "Love Potion Number 9." You will find no synthesizers, turntables or hype in this pub on Thursday nights. These musicians have been keeping the memory of real musicians alive with finger plucks, tambourine shakes and unassuming song.
So, the next time you recoil in terror at the thought of folk or country music, remember that Billy Ray Cyrus is no longer allowed on the airwaves, and Garth Brooks is now an alternative rocker. If that doesn't help, grab a Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard or Chuck Berry album, and head down to the next honky-tonk show in town. Consider it an exercise in minimalism for your musical soul.
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