Snow Doesn’t Deter the Dakota Crowd
Quizzing a few members of the audience who made it to the Lindi Ortega and Hugh Masterson show Sunday evening at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant might have revealed that, had they not prepaid for tickets, they would have been unlikely to attend. Who would have guessed that Minneapolis would be hunkered down under a daunting, record-setting April snow when blades of new grass should be pushing through city sidewalk cracks.
However, once inside the Dakota, the warm ambience of candlelit tables quickly helped dissuade any regrets for trekking through the blinding slop. Fully doubtful that anyone but paid staff would be attending this show, the potentially questionable audience was not a congregation of polar bears, penguins, and such, but warm, personable Dakota Jazz Club patrons who quietly enjoyed this eclectic haven of protection from winter’s last heavy breath.
Masterson Gutsy Guy
Donning a flannel over-shirt and red knit cap, Hugh Masterson was first to breathe life into the stage with his song “Small Town.” He resides in Nashville, but hails from rural Butternut, Wisconsin and fully understands small city life.
His down and dirty yet humorous stage persona quickly revealed his deep desire to communicate a message that ‘overcomers’ are by far better people for trying, and personal loss makes good song material.
His signature songs “Lost & Found” and “Milwaukee Man” were included in his brief set, interjected with stories of drinking too much two days before a snow storm.
The Lindi Ortega trio managed to escape winter’s stranglehold at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in time to take the stage, not looking one bit unprepared. Fortunately, the guitars didn’t get lost in luggage. Team Ortega members include guitar wizard James Robertson and timekeeper Ryan Brewer, and collectively they entertained their urban listeners with a unique blend of alt-country/Americana, framed by Lindi’s unique sometimes-alto, sometimes-soprano delivery.
Ortega Trio Shares in Earnest
I was not quite prepared for the occasional shrill dissonance from this songstress, but vocal intonation can be off for several reasons—lack of warm up time or lack of confidence, or difficulty hearing the music. It’s been said that air support is a good way to fix this. However, to her credit, she was able to stay on course for most of the concert. Live music will naturally be different than the pristine studio recorded versions of songs, and as Masterson points out, performing in front of people is ‘the most awkward thing you could do to yourself.’
Appropriate for a snowbound metro area, Lindi shared her slow meandering song “In the Clear,” a weather-themed metaphor for enduring hardships—something Minnesotans could relate to. Other renditions that made this set included “Ashes,” an up-tempo groove supported by Brewer and Robertson, which encouraged steady toe-tapping from their wide-eyed audience.
She pleaded convincingly, ‘don’t leave me in the ashes of your memory,’ yielding plenty of audience applause.
She admits that her latest 12-track release, called Liberty, has a “spaghetti western” feel to it, and the title song indeed feels like it fell right off a dusty New Mexico desert scene in an Eastwood flick, an infectious idea. Her father’s Latino musical influence, as noted at her website, is a welcomed aspect of songwriting on this album.
Her songs have witty and catchy phrasing, as well as quality rhyming schemes and grooves, such as ‘you took my life and wrecked it, but I’ve been resurrected,’ from hard-to-forget “The Comeback Kid.” It was quite obvious that “Champagne James”—as Lindi affectionately calls her lead guitarist—was thoroughly enjoying his ghostly bass and melody line accompanying this tune.
Her recent marriage to a Canadian musician influenced her to pen “Lovers in Love,” a heartfelt tune that personifies satisfaction and the contrast to those who do not embrace love: ‘just take a sip, while some drink it up, some leave, some stay when the going gets tough.’ Other strong performances included “The Day You Die” and “You Ain’t Foolin’ Me,” during both of which Robertson trounced the guitar, delivering mesmerizing accompaniments, and harmonic field goals.
Although her encore performance of “Gracias a la Vida” was a little underwhelming (her bit fell a little flat when only a couple audience members responded to Lindi asking if there were any Latinos in the house), she said farewell with her popular and interesting tune “Cigarettes and Truckstops,” and offered words of thankfulness to those who made the difficult journey to the Dakota. Keep an eye on this gal, as she continues to make strides upward in her genre.