Songs For Susan

Various Venues, Wednesday, Aug. 24

In addition to raising money for breast cancer research and education, and the outstanding medical bills of our departed friend Susan Sykes, this benefit served a couple of other purposes: gathering with her friends--and ours--as a communal way of dealing with our grief, and celebrating her life through music: an entirely appropriate way to do so, given her passion for it.

Though all of the acts I saw (and admittedly, I only saw a portion of each act I saw) shirked any comment about why we were all really there in the first place, the performances suffered no lack of inspiration. Getting a late start on the night, on the way to grab a burger at Grill, I paused as I strolled past Heart-Five, where Cathy Rivers' voice and Mike Bagesse's guitar were just loud enough to find their way into the gorgeous echo of Congress Street.

The burger took twice as long as it should have, so after paying the check, I sped down to the Rialto to catch the last few songs of Howe Gelb's set, which consisted of Howe, a guitar and his usual two mics--one clean, the other estimating the sound of a dusty 78 rpm. His unpredictable array of songs "written in the future" was charming as hell, same as always.

My girlfriend, Kristine, joined me, and we made our way towards the Surly Wench to catch the end of the Deludes or the beginning of the Solace Brothers; alas, once we got there, we learned we had missed both, victims of a venue that was actually running ahead of schedule. So we hustled up to Club Congress, where we caught the end of Al Perry's set, during which he was mute--one of those all-instrumental shows Al busts out from time to time (or, at least the portion that we witnessed was).

After catching the impressive first couple songs from Seven to Blue at Sharks, we headed back to Congress, where a reunited Fourkiller Flats delivered powerfully in what was the most anticipated set of the night. All those old songs were great to hear again, but it was Susan's boyfriend, Dan Rylander, who provided the night's most memorable moment as he joined the Flats to sing lead vocals on a cover of Son Volt's "Tear Stained Eye" that was pure catharsis.

"Man, that felt good," he told me afterwards. It felt good to us, too, Dan.