Last night in Little Rock: David Starr and Ben Harris

January 14, 2016

I don’t get out enough.

Truth is, I have been to a lot of shows — in my 20s and 30s it wasn’t unusual for me to spend four or five nights at week in clubs or arenas, listening to live music and sometimes playing it. A lot of this was professional — I wrote about music, then, and though I still write about music I have graduated to a point where I only see select live shows, ones that I deem promising, that are held at times and venues that are comfortable for me.

In other words, I’m like a lot of my cohort — pretty spoiled. I go to a few shows a year now, and a lot of them are at South on Main.IMG_2352

I love this venue, you can sit down, have a drink, have a meal and listen to curated music. The cocktails and food are exceptional; the acts — at least the ones I’ve caught — are high quality. This ain’t the Mudd Club, or CBGB’s, and I imagine that there are a lot of people out there who might scoff at the idea of rock ’n’ roll performed in an upscale Americana environment. And I get that, I’ve put in plenty of time in scruffy and even dangerous dives, and I know there something about walking on the edge that makes you feel more alive. There were times in my life where I think I needed that, when I needed to believe in the rapturous possibilities of the faster life.

But I’m happy now. And not so restless. And sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine anything that’s more fun than hanging out at home with my wife and our dogs. We’ve got guitars and wine. So I only go out when I think there’s a chance for something special to happen.

Last night my old friend David Starr came to town and played a couple of sets with his friend, the remarkably talented Fayetteville musician Ben Harris. I’ve known David for more than 20 years, he used to own Starr’s Guitars which was one of the first neat new retail spaces in the River Market when the River Market was still a new — and not entirely sure — thing. About 15 years old he decamped for Colorado, where he sat up his retail operation — click here — and redoubled his efforts at making his own music.

David is a fine songwriter, influenced by Southern California singer songwriters and Delta bluesmen, by Levon Helm and Jackson Browne. It shows through in his writing and in his voice. He’s recorded five CDs, four solo and one with the David Starr Band, the latest one called Love and Sabotage. Like a lot of artists, it’s hard to say why he’s not better known, though it’s obvious he’s got an Arkansas audience.

I think — well, I kind of know — that it’s not easy to play your original music in a club filled with people who don’t know the songs, and it’s probably harder to do that these days when everyone’s got phones in their hands and Twitter accounts. But credit the folks who went to the show last night with giving Starr a chance to get through to them, and credit Starr and Harris for deliviering a tasteful, intelligent show marked by telepathic interplay between Starr’s Gibson acoustic and Harris’ Telecaster. (Mostly. I think his other ax was a down-tuned Collins. I await correction.)

Anyway, it was a great night out. And it was part of South on Main’s free Local Live series. Check out coming events here.


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