John Kunert and Kristin Kehl
The Owen Temple Band and Brown Derby are about to embark on a mini-tour that will take them to a pair of ballrooms in small town Iowa, but before they left town they played a kick-off show at Mickey's Tavern on Thursday night. Mickey's has no illusions of ballroom grandeur. The bands played for tips, and they set up with their rhythm sections wedged so far back in the corner that you could almost forget they were there. Still, Mickey's is an undeniably charming place to see a show, intimate and interactive, with the crowd often being as much a part of the show as the band.
Much like fellow Madison transplant Kelly Pardekooper, Owen Temple already had an established music career, with three CDs under his belt when he relocated to Wisconsin. Born and raised in Texas, his move to Madison definitely influenced his new record Two Thousand Miles. "It may not actually be 2,000 miles from Texas to Wisconsin," Temple explained, "but it sure felt like it." His theory is that before you are issued a marriage license you should be required to drive cross-country with your intended partner, and if you survive that, "do it again with a three-year-old between you."
From the sound of it, Temple survived just fine, his wit and aw-shucks-y'all charm completely intact. Turns out the move wasn't as much of a culture shock as he had expected. "I was glad to find out I didn't have to leave demolition derbies behind," he announced before playing a song named for the sport, claiming the smash-'em-ups remind him of some of the relationships he's been in.
He hilariously dedicated "Pluto Blues" to "any former planets or former child stars." Detailing Pluto's fall from grace, the song claims "today's star is tomorrow's black hole." He also included the Johnny Cash landmark "Ring of Fire" in the set, explaining his dad only had three 8-track tapes when he was growing up, but that Cash, Willie Nelson and Marty Robbins had gotten him through the first 10 years of his life pretty well.
Tourmates Brown Derby followed with a set that took them right up till last call. Despite lead singer/guitarist John Kunert's claim that they only play originals, and "that's why you might not recognize any of our songs," they actually played several covers. The classic duet "Milwaukee Here I Come" highlighted vocalist Kristin Kehl's increased role in the band. She used to only take the stage for "Always and Forever" featured on their debut EP This Drinkin' Life, but tonight she sang on several songs, and even occasionally strummed the mandolin.
It isn't surprising that the two bands are heading out on the road together. Temple and Kunert have been co-writing songs recently. Temple joined the band for one of their newest compositions, currently titled "Leaning on Wine." They'll probably have the chance to work on a few more on that long drive to Iowa, which is certainly a good thing for their fans back in Madison.