Last night I drove 90 miles up to a little dot on the map, Pomeroy, Iowa, to hear an old friend, David Olney. Olney has made a career of combining blues rock and a variety of other styles with a wide range of subjects and points of view, including Van Gogh, Jesse James, and baseball players.
There was much to learn from his performance which was structured very much like a classical two act numbers opera. As he got into his second set, he started to run the songs together to build to his finish. He interspersed narration like recitative--sometimes serious and sometimes funny--to introduce his songs. His fellow performer, Sergio Webb, provided a wide variety of guitar styles and rousing solos. David is a master at holding the attention of a barroom concert, where most are listening, but some are not. He isn't afraid to throw in a daringly slow and contemplative song about Van Gogh in the midst of songs about love gone wrong, or men gone bad.
Byron's Bar has a great vibe. There is the usual Iowa and Iowa State memorabilia, and pictures of previous acts--and an extensive Grateful Dead shrine--but also a tie dye backdrop and a Buddha in the upstage corner of the little stage. Byron himself presides over a doorprize giveaway that included plungers, jump ropes, and koozies.
The room was full to capacity and everyone clearly enjoyed David and Sergio. I'll be back in Pomeroy again someday.