I bellied up to the bar at the Buckaroo Tavern last Saturday night for a beer or two before the Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs show up the street. On one side of me was a young meth addict. You could tell he was new to his disease. He wasn’t very good at hiding it. On the other side of me was a pair of pretentious musicians swapping war stories about their bands. And all around me the watering hole was quickly filling with thirsty packs of 20-something locals.
Meth guy worked at a nearby restaurant. He kept offering the barkeep a 5er for a 3 dollar beer. But he would have none of it, “Oh you don’t pay for anything in my place.” It’s an old game. You don’t pay in my place and I don’t pay in yours. If you were ever a server – you understand. It’s an obligatory kabuki dance – hardly even a real conversation.
So I spun around to the musicians beside me and their conversation had moved to the re-release of the recently remastered Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street album. As fate would have it, my editor had just picked up a vinyl copy of said masterpiece. Plus, he was also packing a copy of the infamous unreleased Rolling Stones movie, “Cocksucker Blues” so we were playing a lot of Rolling Stone in the edit suite earlier that same day. Now, I’ve met Mick Jagger. I have a great Keith Richards story. If these guys are Stones fans, I had a lot to share.
One of the two seemed polite – even genuinely interest. But the other looked at me like I just kick his dog – certainly annoyed that I had interrupted his diatribe. Their conversation wasn’t a real one either – one person had way too much to contribute and the other was a good listener. So my presence was exactly one person too many. Within a minute they flashed some cash at the bartender and I could hear the annoyed one rattling on as they disappeared out the door and into the night.
About the same time I got a text that whittled our threesome going to the show down to me. So I settled the bill and stumbled up the street to see Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs, solo.
I walked into the Fremont Abby filled with friends and family of the band, plenty of musicians, scenesters, local music aficionados, and – wouldn’t you know it – my two Rolling Stone buddies from the bar. One just rolled his eyes and pretended not to see me – the other made small talk for a minute. I felt a little out of place. It was like one big club. Everyone seemed to know everyone else. Fortunately, the band started before one more person had to pretend they remembered me from somewhere.
I had seen Star Anna a few times before at the Showbox, the Tractor Tavern and the Hootenanny for Haiti. At every show someone would inevitably turn around and say, “Who is she?” Translation, she’s obviously a talent, but was she in another band that I don’t recall? Or is she someone famous and I’m just figuring this out? But last Saturday at the Fremont Abby she was among friends, and people who realize we’re at the beginning of something special.
And she was…the truth.
They played acoustic. They touched a couple of my favorites, a new song and even a Beatles cover, “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” But all-in-all what I always take away from her shows is that it’s an honest moment. It was real.
It’s the way she stares off into space between phrases – like she’s composing the next line in her head. It’s the way she bounces her leg – not always in time with the music – but like something’s welling up inside her, struggling to get out. It’s the way her lyrics smoldering at a low burn, punctuated with wails and moans.
I’m not sure if you’re a country, indie, folk kinda fan. But if you want to hear a talented girl from Ellensburg sing you an honest tune, treat yourself to an evening with Star Anna. She’s the truth and that’s all I can say about that.
And the Laughing Dogs deserve a word or two here as well. Justin Davis is rock solid and a great pairing with Anna. You can hide a lot of mistakes with an electric guitar. But when you’re acoustic, you’re pretty much naked. Great technique. Wonderful attack. Justin delivers likes Fed Ex.
Wanta show off to your cool music friends? Ask them if they’ve ever seen Star Anna.
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