So, I'm standing in Steve Ruemmele's expansive living room - the home of the Kessler House Concert Series - with a spread of turkey, cheese and sweets behind me. Ruemmele's wife, Jane, mingles amongst the crowd like she hardly cares that 65 people, half of them complete strangers at that, are trampling all over her house.
When the Cracker Acoustic Duo - comprised of the two founding members of the the band Cracker, Johnny Hickman and David Lowery - took to the stage for a performance in a large sitting room before a crowd of mostly well-heeled patrons, it made me wonder if Beethoven and Mozart performed before similar crowds. Did they travel from castle to castle? Did they thoroughly enrapture an intimate crowd in the way Johnny and David did?
With only Hickman on an electric and Lowery on an acoustic, songs from Cracker's eight albums forced to stand on their own. The way Hickman at times manipulated his guitar to create atmospheric counterpoints to Lowery's melodic singing and strumming was a thing of beauty.
They didn't stray too far from their self-titled first album, mining it for both crowd-pleasers and poignant ballads. The show was bookended by rollicking versions of "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)" and "Happy Birthday to Me."
In between the band pulled out all the bigger "hits" of their career like "Low" and "Been Around The World" and also did a great version of 'Everybody Gets One For Free" from their last album, Greenland. But there was two tunes that really cut to the core of what makes this duo so special. "St. Cajetan" was Lowery's finest moment of the evening. He delivered the lyrics in a painfully emotive voice while Hickman colored the song with some tasty guitar riffage that seemingly offered up the cool water that Lowery was begging for.
The best song of the evening, however, belonged solely to Johnny Hickman. He took over singing duties on "Another Song About The Rain," and his world-weary voice was a revelation. When Lowery joined in on harmony it was goose-bump city.
At first I was a little uncomfortable in the Ruemmele's home, and felt like I was crashing a private party or something, but once the Cracker boys got going, I was just one person in a crowd overwhelmed by the power of the music. Steve and Jane proved to be glorious hosts, and if a picture or two was knocked down or some mud got on the carpet, it seemed a small price to pay to share the gifts of home, hearth and rock and roll.
Ruemmele's next party will be a two night stand by Ari Hest, March 22 and 23. The Sunday Show is sold-out, but there are still a few tickets left for Monday's performance. And yes, you can BYOB. Just wipe your feet when you come in.