“I’m an old familiar tune that you used to hum,
set your watch back baby when you see me come.”
– John Paul Keith, “The Man that Time Forgot”
I have to start out with a confession. Although I’d caught bits and pieces of shows at daylight festivals and such, I’d never actually seen John Paul Keith perform a whole set live before yesterday. I know that’s embarrassing, but the explanation is simple: John Paul has been in Memphis for 11 years, and I have a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old, so my late night journeys to the bars and clubs that JPK and his two badass bands would normally be found have been severely limited as he’s been persistently dominating the scene. What great good fortune, then, that on a Saturday night when I was home with my kids, John Paul Keith sauntered into my dining room and played his face off, while still courteously finishing up by bedtime.
It’s such a different vibe when local folks play for us – not better or worse, but certainly more familiar and just a tidge rowdier (within my strict supervision, of course). Still, it’s a far different feel from a Memphis bar, and John Paul was facing a house show crowd solo for the first time ever. He adjusted perfectly to playing for a room where people actually heard the jokes and felt the pathos in each song. In honor of the environment, he played totally acoustic and filled the 90+minute set entirely with originals, ranging from One Four Five janglers to Motel Mirrors heartbreakers to his own solo rockers (including some written as recently as that morning), while an audience of fans old and new sang along.
And okay, I have another confession. Yesterday was a hard day for me. My family was gathered on the other side of the country to say goodbye to someone I dearly love. So while I was totally committed to putting on a great show, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to put my heart into it. Yet from the moment John Paul walked into the house, his charm and humility and relentless talent put me right. That room full of warmth and joy was a potent reminder that life is amazing and surprising, even in our toughest times, and music is often the fastest path to amazement.
Thanks so much for taking a chance with us, John Paul. Come on back anytime.
If you joined us for this or any other show, we’d love to have you sign the guest book.