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Wednesday March 23rd, 2022 at The Mockingbird Lounge in Kansas City, KS
Daniel Gum

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I've written about the Songbird Sessions at Mockingbird Lounge before. And in fact, in 2021 I even wrote about Daniel Gum playing this singer/songwriter series. So, there's not much of a reason to do it again. Other than to remind you that it's still a fine night out – even on a cold rainy Spring night where the performer must play indoors in a small dimly-lit corner. And, of course, to remind you that Daniel Gum is still an excellent songwriter and an entertaining performer – even in a low-stakes show when he occasionally relies on the audience for lyrical prompts.

The format is simple: every Wednesday there's a free show at Mockingbird Lounge in Strawberry Hill. The performer has an 8-10pm slot which usually manifests as two half-hour sets. Performers can play at most once per year. When weather cooperates, the event takes place on the lovely patio with views of downtown Kansas City. When it doesn't, it takes place inside the warm and welcoming bar. On this forty-degree Spring night, warm and welcoming was good. I grabbed a Ginger Beer indulgence and slid into the long booth that runs most of the wall of the club. As I flipped through a backlog of emails on my laptop, I watched regulars come in the door to shake off the rain and join compatriots at tables, as well as friends of the performer coming in to claim the stools at the bar that afforded the best views. At 8:15 the music began.

Daniel Gum's first set started with the delightful "Alice" from his debut album. The song is a sort of fingerpicked lament that doesn't stray far from either Elliott Smith or Nick Drake. If those are touchstones, you know you're doing something right. Several songs later a new one called "Glory of Love" popped up. This one more driving. Like most songs played, Gum introduced the song with a short description. "This one is about bad reviews, good friends, best friends, and Bruce Springsteen," he said. Generally, the deeper Gum goes in his list, the less reliable the item is. But I might believe him here. Between each song Gum chatted with the audience – at least the small friendly portion that were up front – those deeper in the room happily (and without fault) carried on their own conversations. During the breaks he also re-tuned his Gretsch guitar. Is every song in a different tuning? Possibly. And a different key too based on the workout his capo got. Somewhere in the middle was a cover of Big Star's "Thirteen." Gum apologized for those that had heard him play it many times before, and defended that practice saying, "But I like singing it." I liked him singing it too. Is this why he titled his debut album Thirteen? The final song of this set was another new one. I think it may be called "Cowboy Song." Gum announced he'd be playing it with a pick (and stood by his words even when an audience member suggested it was technically a "plectrum") rather than fingers as he usually does. This happened several times over the course of the night. Later Gum would tell me he thought finger picking wouldn't carry very well on the electric guitar, punctuating his decision with, "it was mostly just a tone decision, and to see if I could do it."

After a half hour break the second set began. Another new song. This one might be called "Not Much Time Left for Summer." Gum explained it was about making the most of your time on earth and "the government." Remember, you should feel free to strike the last item from any of his lists. Gum leaned heavily on a tremolo pedal for this one. And a few others too. The watery tone was an odd choice. The set continued with more banter. He introduced "Sarah" with the abrupt "It's not about someone named Sarah, so don't worry about it." I hadn't before, but now I was. Who's Sarah? Afterwards he told us we could find the song and the album on Spotify. And Pirate's Bay. And then asked us to make our own choices about which was the lesser of two evils. The album was released on Manor Records run by Shaun Crowley who tried to steer the conversation in a different direction from his stool at the bar, offering that it's also available on tape, and even noted a new pressing is coming with hot pink cassettes that look "really cool." Gum acquiesced but noted he didn't bring any cassettes. Back to Pirate's Bay for everyone.

While Gum stumbled on lyrics once or twice in the first set, requiring him to quiz cohorts in the audience for his next line, during the second set the fumbles started piling up. Gum noted this saying, "I'm kind of tanking this second set." Maybe that's a little harsh, but I was sad that he had to abort a cover of an Elliott Smith deep cut that I hadn't heard him play before. After that incident he stuck to the tried and true, beginning with "Andrew." This song is a highlight on the album, just as it was in this set. I didn't compare my notes with the pre-written setlist, but I suspected everything was cut a bit short when Gum closed with "Blue Light."

After Gum finished his set, his friends that sat on stools at the bar stayed on their stools and the regulars that had been chatting at tables kept chatting. No bright lights appeared to chase everyone out. No one needed to chug their drinks and get out. Rock shows and all the associated trappings are nice, but it's also nice to just enjoy a night of no-pretense live music, and that's what Mockingbird Lounge, Songbird Sessions, and Daniel Gum combined to deliver.