Syd Straw Live at Butchertown Pub

By Darrell Ray Elmore

I like to get to these shows kinda early. That way, you get a feel for what's going on. Sure, it's a little tedious, what with the booking agent running around screaming at the sound man 'cuz Syd is stopping in the middle at songs during the sound check and squinting into the lights every time the monitors give out a banshee wail. Fun. Big Fun.

Syd took the stage wearing an ear X-tacy T-shirt and blew everyone's heads off with an eye-popping, gut-wrenching, soul-stirring song that I forget the name of. She said something about being "a human billboard" and removed the shirt, revealing (surprise!) a plain black one underneath. This girl has class, she has style, she's even got a cool hat. Local boy and girl Tim & Tara (previously of Antietam) also had hats and they certainly did a bang-up job backing up Ms. Straw.

The set consisted of mostly Syd Straw- like anthems of bewilderment, sorrow, beer and pool cues clicking against the eight-ball of life. The band covered several Golden Palomino songs and of particular interest, Ms. Straw sang two Lucinda Williams covers, plus several new pieces she had been developing with bandmate Tara Keys. One of the bright moments was when Ms. Keys did an impressive David Grissom imitation complete with a flying shot glass which knocked over one of her amps.

The most amazing thing about the performance was Syd' s actual appearance. I polled several people and my findings were conclusive. Everyone who had not previously seen Ms. Straw expected her to be a tall, leggy blonde with a diaphragm to match, based purely on the sounds that emanate from any record bearing the name Golden palominos. However, Ms. St:raw's true identity is that of a petite five-foot young girl with glasses. It was eerie to see this big voice, fraught with jealousy, pain, rage, bitterness, joy, rapture and maybe just a tinge of Southern Comfort come out of such a tiny little body. Quite frankly, I was enthralled. The audience was enthralled. Even the bartenders seemed a little enthralled.

After the big bang blow-off, I hung around, hoping to see Ms. Straw up close and personal. My chance came when she walked up to the bar where I was sitting, looked me right in the eye and said: "Could I have a couple of those napkins?"