On a recent Wednesday evening, I found myself at the Main Gate on the Downtown Walkway, warming up to a solo act playing for a rather sparse clientele. Andrea Wirth was playing her heart out, letting that powerful presence captivate the fortunate few who happened to be there at the time. She played the Bobby Gentry hit, “Ode to Billie Joe,” as a personal request and then wowed us with one of the cuts of her new release, Something to Hold On To. The song, “Walking on Whisky” seem to always be on the request list everywhere Andrea goes, whether it is as a solo act or with her band, The Dirty Lil Fun-Havers. I’ll get to them it a bit. But the tune that got me on that blustery night was a mash up of “Folsom Prison Blues,” the Johnny Cash classic and “That’s All Right (Mama)” the 1954 Elvis Presley hit. What a combo and brought off by Ms. Wirth like it was originally written that way!
I want to cycle around a tad to several days before. I was out on a Friday night with the plan to end up at the late set by Andrea and her band at Lanhuck’s Tavern, at the corner of Columbia and Gavin here in Evansville. This is where the true essence of the corner bar still resides, with a little bit of 1960′s déjà vu added to spice up the joint. This night found Andrea Wirth and the Dirty Lil Fun-Havers in rare form. Anyone who has ever been in the place knows the lay-out. The band is in right in front of audience, in all that black-light glory with the musicians and stage almost in your lap. While the decibel load can be a little challenging, the whole atmosphere is designed to bring the Lanhuck’s patrons face to face with the best music the Tri-State has to offer.
I got there at 1st break so I had an entire set in front of me. I settle back and actually got some time with Andrea. She was excited about how the band was doing and the fact that they were going to Nashville, Tennessee the next day to play a gig. Then, after the round up that usually takes place on band breaks, the band turned on, tuned up, and kicked out the jams… well, you know the rest of it!
They wailed thru the set like a semi rolling down a southwestern highway, with Wirth all up in front and definitely in command. Whether it was drummer Kim McCready singing and striking the beat, Zack Killebrew dancing with his bass or Gerd Ellis making his guitar croon, the Dirty Lil Fun-Havers were as complete of a group as I have seen in quite a while.
The bulk of the set were songs from the newly released Something to Hold On To. One of the high lights, as with the solo effort I mentioned before, was “Walking on Whisky.” The set ended with a rocking version of the Kris Kristofferson classic “Me and Bobby McGee.” I thought at that moment that Janis would have been proud.
Now I want to get back to the solo gig at the Main Gate on that Wednesday night. Andrea and her girls where all buzzed about the Nashville gig. Seems Andrea’s sister had booked the group in a showcase in Music City called the Eastside Performing Artist Co-op at Five Points on the east side of Nashville. It was the CD release party for the Nashville area. And the band played to a good crowd, did some business, and was going to go back to the hotel. Somehow, and you’ll have to ask Andrea for more details, the band and some of the crowd they had just played for ended at Big Shotz, on the corner of 2nd and Broadway in downtown Nashville, across from the Wildhorse Saloon. The owner told Andrea and TDLF-H that they could do 3 songs. That turned into playing for a very appreciative crowd until last call. As the saying goes, if the mountain won’t come to you, you must go to the mountain. And this one radon opportunity may lead to a regular gig in Nashville. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. This girl and this band have the talent to go to that kind of venue and pull it off. Andrea Wirth and the Dirty Lil Fun-Havers could be that group that we all are glad we knew way back when.