The Other Side Of Jimi Haha
One Wednesday a month, Justin Trawick hosts a singer-songwriter showcase at Solly's U Street Tavern to help spread the word about some talented local artists, and it certainly doesn't hurt to have an established local voice on the bill, but it was somewhat of a coup that Jimi Haha, frontman for Jimmie's Chicken Shack and the Jarflys, headlined the February edition.
Alone with his acoustic, Haha -- who said he played the solo set because he doesn't like to, because he wanted to make himself uncomfortable -- is a natural on stage. He played a bunch of old Chicken Shack songs as well as some other gems, like a Patty Griffin tune. That may seem out of place for Haha, who came to fame playing funk metal, but with just an acoustic guitar in hand, he was back to his pre-Chicken Shack days, when his friends knew him for his acoustic jamming.
Of course, when rock songs are played in an acoustic setting, the listener gets a new perspective and ultimately comes away with more from the song. Hearing the old Jimmie's Chicken Shack songs in a more personal setting, the listener takes away the love, angst, social consciousness and just trying to make it in the biz-ness of Haha's lyrics. The former and the latter are never cleverer than when joined together in the line, "You make babies while I make CDs." And "Sitting with the Dog" -- "I'm dumb and I'm ugly and I am uncreative/Dumb and ugly and uncreative/And these are the right words to say/Are these all the right words to say/Just get up and get out of my way" -- and "Falling Back to Earth" were a couple of the more revelatory songs from the Chicken Shack catalog.
himself took the stage before Haha and showed complete comfort and confidence there. And why not? It's his showcase, right? Actually, it seems to be his prerogative to make a connection with the audience, so he opens wide on stage. Trawick's songs are rootsy and upbeat with an urban feel to them, not unlike a G. Love or a Jason Mraz or a Jack Johnson. And he can sing in a gruff croon or spit a rhythmic street scat. It was a little bit funky and definitely soulful, whether he was playing alone or with his drummer, Will Reinhardt, and cellist, Aurelie Shapiro, in support.
Shapiro and Reinhardt also lent their talents to the first two songwriters at the showcase. Jon Braman travels the same ground that makes Trawick reminiscent of G. Love, but he's much more of a rapper than Trawick, and his weapon of choice is the ukulele. No kidding. You've never heard anything quite like it. It's a refreshing sound, though sloppy at times. Imagine that OutKast had a baby and it was Jimmy Buffet. Braman's songs were full of witty wordplay but always serious -- socially and environmentally conscious.
Laura Brino led things off with her acoustic guitar and delicate but powerful voice. She sings sweetly with a hint of heartache, but her songs seem to contrast that feeling. Many of them are actually -- if not happy -- at least hopeful. Unfortunately, I only caught the end of her slot, and I would have liked to have seen the whole set develop.
And the vibe in the room was terrific. Seemed like a gathering of old friends, like a party in Trawick's living room. In a lot of ways, it probably was. Haha cronies were scattered about, taping and recording and reminiscing. It was what it's supposed to be: a positive platform for area musicians playing in front of a supportive group of friends and fans.