A hootenanny is an informal participatory musical gathering of friends and family where everyone either plays an instrument or sings along to their favorite songs. And that's exactly what was delivered Sunday night at Showbox at the Market, when some of Seattle’s finest musicians performed during the "Hootenanny for Haiti," a fundraiser for victims of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January.
The show had a very casual down-home feel to it, with stage décor that included several couches and votive candles. But this was no family jamboree. The musicians on stage were some of the biggest stars Seattle has contributed to rock 'n' roll, including Mike McCready, Duff McKagan, Matt Cameron and Kim Warnick. It was like being invited into the living room of local legends for a three-hour jam session. The unforgettable night featured too many artists to fit on the stage at one time — an awesome mix of the old guard and some of the city's fastest-rising talent.
The first set of the evening kept things mostly on the softer, acoustic side with healthy doses of country twang. Musicians shuffled on and off the stage, creating a dream lineup of Seattle musicians for pretty much every song.
Want a band consisting of a few Fastbacks and a guy who was in Green River? Done. How about a Soundgarden member teaming up with a guy from the Screaming Trees and a former Vendetta Red guy? Or maybe a pairing of Pearl Jam's guitarist with a rising alt-country songstress and a member of Sweetwater? The spontaneous groups covered artists including Prince, Echo and the Bunnymen, Neil Young and the Psychedelic Furs, adding to the show's feel of excitement.
Warnick came out of her self-imposed retirement from music to sing a punked-up version of Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven is a Place on Earth." Kristen Ward's cover of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" was absolutely beautiful and stayed faithful to the original. Mark Pickerel tried his hand at Tom Petty's "Even the Losers," with the band giving the song a lower, deeper tone to match Pickerel's voice. The song was one of three Petty numbers to get covered (there were also three Rolling Stones songs and two by The Beatles).
Later in the set McCready clutched the microphone stand while walking around the stage and slapping hands with people in the crowd as he sang the Stones' "Dead Flowers." It was great to see him get as animated playing the role of frontman as he does when he's shredding with Pearl Jam. Another standout McCready moment came during Mad Season's "River of Deceit." It was the first time McCready had played the song since his Mad Season Days. Jeff Rouse of Loaded, McKagan's latest band, handled vocals.
Aside from the Mad Season moment and Warnick's successful return to the stage (she retired in 2004) the other star of the first half of the night, and perhaps the entire night itself, was Star Anna. The Ellensburg native made an early impact with her delivery of The Beatles' "I've Just Seen A Face." It was one of the best Beatles covers I've heard. She also hit home runs with her rendition of "Knocking on Heaven's Door," delivered as a duet with McKagan, and Otis Redding's "That's How Strong My Love Is."
The second set started off with a surprise in the form of a song by Brad, a band featuring Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard and Satchel's Shawn Smith, who returned to the stage later for Mother Love Bone's "Crown of Thorns" with McCready and Gossard on guitars, Matt Cameron behind the kit and McKagan on bass. Hearing that song performed by those musicians, all of whom have suffered tragic loss and some of whom have had experiences with addiction, was a bone-chilling moment — the highlight of a night filled with highlights.
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