Heather Roberts had a hard time keeping up with the crowd at The Crux's inaugural Singer-Songwriter Showcase Showdown on Wednesday, Aug. 14.
"This night has been more successful than we anticipated," she said to the audience 40 minutes into the show. Soon after, she ran out to make more voting ballots.
More than 60 people showed up to vote for their favorite performers. Although Beth and Tate Mason from Americana group Idyltime and Storie Grubb delivered strong performances, The Fiddle Junkies' Austin Clark won the show's grand prize: five hours of free recording time at Tonic Room Studios.
This show--and the three singer-songwriter showcases that led up to it--were conceived by Roberts. Under the name Ten Gallon Cat, she has started promoting concerts as part of her master plan to cultivate local folk music and songwriters.
"There's a lot of music that I would love to share with Boise that comes from the Northwest," she said before the show, "and people [who] have never been here because it's not necessarily ... seen as a folk music community. But I think that that's a fallacy."
Wednesday night's turnout would suggest she's right. Roberts estimated that audiences for The Crux's past three showcases averaged about 30 people. By the end of the first set (around 7:40 p.m.), the crowd numbered 50.
The Masons, who won July's Singer-Songwriter Showcase, played first. Tate's nasal timbre and nimble banjo picking blended nicely with Beth's warm, low vocals and steady guitar strumming. Their jaunty bluegrass tunes and funny, earthy lyrics recalled the work of Steve Goodman and John Prine.
Austin Clark, winner of May's showcase, played next. His lyrics lacked the specificity of the Masons', but his polished, catchy melodies compensated. Similarly, his singing was so direct and assured that it balanced out his affectedly gritty drawl. What really put his set over, however, was Craig Christ's slick, tasteful guitar accompaniment.
Last up was Storie Grubb, who won the showcase in June. While his cryptic lyrics and quietly abrasive murmur may have made him less accessible than the other performers, his well-crafted tunes and deft guitar playing still earned some decent applause.
But even before the crowd had turned in its ballots, the raucous reception that Clark received indicated he was a sure winner. Roberts congratulated him, adding with a smile that she thought "he should give a lot of the credit to Craig."
Roberts also announced that the fourth Singer-Songwriter Showcase series at The Crux starts in September. The showcases are held the second Wednesday of the following three months, culminating in another showdown in December. Anyone with 30 minutes of original material who wants to perform can contact Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.