Loud As Folk Night 3: ‘Til death do us party in Reno

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John Underwood at Loud As Folk: An octopus of a musician meets the Pignic Pub and Patio.
Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage photos

”Eight years is impressive for anything,” John Courage said onstage at Pignic Pub and Patio. “It’s a symbiotic relationship between fans and musicians. I appreciate Spike for bringing the realness.”

Courage was the first performer during the third night of Loud As Folk’s eighth anniversary. He also recorded LAF host and founder Spike McGuire’s upcoming EP, set to be released on July 4.

Courage performed with Ashley Allred (Schlee), both from Santa Rosa, California. They played passionate tunes and their voices danced around the room.

Buffalo Moses is the stage name of Buster Blue frontman Bryan Jones, a precious Reno songwriter whose songs still fill venues with singalongs and memories of past shows. I’ve only seen the dude once before, but the melodies and lyrics were extremely fresh, a testament to the staying power of good music.

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Buster Blue’s Rachael McElhiney and Buffalo Moses are reunited at Loud As Folk.
Tony Contini / Tahoe Onstage

He played “Visions of Laredo,” a Buster Blue song McGuire covered during a set-change the night previous. It was great to hear different adaptations. Former bandmate Rachael McElhiney also hopped up for a song.

Jones always pushes his voice to the limits with varying volume and power. There are two kinds of top-tier showmen. One who tells stories between songs to entice and relate to the audience. The other treats it like a job and powers through songs. No story — no banter. Jones is the latter, and didn’t leave a moment between beautiful songs.

Another signifier of a pro is how they handle a slip-up. No one is perfect; we are judged by how we handle mistakes. When this happens, performers such as Jones crack an endearing smile and the room lights up doing the same.

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Kepi Ghoulie

During one of his last songs, Jones reached down to pet a corgi named Rosie. Doesn’t get much cuter than that, folks.

I don’t have the time to tell you of every belly-laughter moment during Kepi Ghoulie’s set. He was absolutely dynamic, running from mic to mic, telling stories and jokes, and forever pushing the audience to make mid-story donations to the SPCA to get him to shut up and play music.

“I want one of these (donation bins) during my regular shows,” Ghoulie said. “I talk a lot between songs. You can pay me to shut up.”

His humor had the Robin Williams effect. You have no idea how the conversation got here, but it doesn’t matter because you can’t breathe due to excessive laughter.

Immediately after setting up the ground rules — dollars move him past a story to the next song — he started a new tale about running his first marathon, running in Nevada and seeing a fox. In the middle, someone dropped in a bill.

“Oh, I got to play a song!” Ghoulie said.

During another song – “I realized when I banter in the middle of the song you can’t stop me.”

He then strung together stories of Prince painting walls purple and the current horror movies in theaters.

McGuire was in the corner of the room balancing the EQ on an iPad during the participatory set.

”Let’s hear it for Spike McGuire on the iPhone, everyone!” Ghoulie said.

On top of his dynamic humor and songwriting prowess, he is also clearly a kind soul. He vowed to give a cut from any merchandise sold back to the SPCA donation fund.

“For the critters!” Ghoulie said. “Payback for my parents killing all those trout at Boca. It’s OK if you eat it.”

He then proceeded into perfect dark-humor territory.

”If you knock my head in,” Ghoulie started. “I wouldn’t mind if you ate me.”

The crowd erupted with laughter and applause.

“That’s too much clapping, now I’m nervous,” Ghoulie said. “If someone kills me tonight, just know that I love you.”

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John Underwood

The night’s crescendo was John Underwood, truly one of my favorite musicians.

The man’s merchandise features an octopus because he must have eight arms. His hands and pursed lips cycle between a dozen instruments as his feet time out loops.

Ghoulie called John’s setup Pink Floyd at Pompeii.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxksRFZacJI]

Each song starts with a bearded Underwood in all black diddling on a banjo or guitar. Then he meticulously adds bass, washboard, violin, marimba, trumpet, trombone, mandolin, etc. It ends in blaring sound and talent.

“Every time I change instruments, put a dollar in the bucket,” Underwood said.

During his first number before ascending from his throne of musical instruments and peddles, he shotgunned a beer. He began to sing and run around the room with a trail of beer down his massive black beard while Chris Fox and McElhiney waltzed into the venue adding trombone and baritone saxophone.

The amount of forethought, dexterity and musical/technical knowledge needed to create this music is astounding. Underwood arranges live, plays every instrument and sings loud as folk.

— Tony Contini

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John Courage

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About Tony Contini

Photographer and journalist Tony Contini graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in art photography. He loves working with bands and telling stories. Photography portfolio: https://www.TonyContini.com

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