5GB Interview: Hot Club of Cowtown – Playing Eddie’s Attic June 7

Hot Club of Cowtown: Jake Erwin, Elana James, Whit Smith. Photo by George Brainard
Hot Club of Cowtown: Jake Erwin, Elana James, Whit Smith. Photo by George Brainard

By Ellen Eldridge

The impression that the Austin, Texas, band Hot Club of Cowtown is in some way a country act, especially in the current climate of American popular music, is somewhat misleading since the Hot Club’s influences have always been as much the musette music of the smoky bistros of 1930s Paris as they are the hoedowns and Western swing of the mythic American West.

This fiddle, guitar and bass trio recently released Rendezvous in Rhythm on Gold Strike Records, calling it a foray into the Gypsy jazz and French swing of Paris in the ’30s. The band plays Eddie’s Attic June 7 so you can come out and decide for yourself how to label the act.

Whit Smith answered a few of our “tough questions” to give you a little hint as to what to expect at their upcoming show. Check it out!

What is the strangest thing a fan has done for you or at a show?

People have drawn big freaky caricatures of us and then eagerly presented them to us with the best intentions. That’s always kind of awkward!

Some song dedications to absent or deceased strangers can be a bit touch and go as well. Back in our early days we sometimes stayed at people’s houses instead of hotels when we were on long tours. They would feel compelled to entertain you even though all you really wanted was peace and quiet. Then inevitably came the big special meal they would cook up. Somebody once made some kind of Cajun Casserole that was just inedible!  It’s awfully hard to squirm out of eating that without hurting the host’s feelings.

What is the funniest moment you have had as a band so far?

Over the years there have been lots of funny things happen. Many are not funny at the time because you’re trying to do a job and some wacky person or challenging malfunction is happening. One event comes to mind: We had flown from Houston, TX to Salt Lake and then would drive over to Elko, Nevada to play a cowboy poetry gathering. We’re waiting around for the luggage but the bass never shows. They say they’ll bring it on to Elko so we drive away.

Next day there’s still no sign of the bass. So we put the word out we need to borrow one. Well, this old cowboy shows up with this lovely looking 200 year old bass that he himself restored. Just so happens he wants to sell it, too, so he’s delighted to let our bass man Jake borrow it for a show.

We were packed into a little auditorium with all the poets and audience and that ol’ boy right in front just beaming as Jake put on a show with the borrowed instrument.  We were in the middle of some high speed fiddle tune,  just wailing away, when suddenly there was a huge crack and boom as the bass’s neck shot off and the strings and bridge went everywhere!

Quite a crescendo!

The man couldn’t speak. He just stood there in disbelief.  His wife had to intermediate and of course Jake was a gentleman and apologetic but who knew it was an exploding bass?!

Against all odds there was a Peruvian string band at the festival and we were able to finish the show by their generous lending of their bass even after the volatile exhibit. Five days later the airline discovered Jake’s bass in Karachi, Pakistan.

All of the above is true!

If you could describe your music in one word, what would it be?

Our music can be many things. For sure it is sincere and energetic. It is also spontaneous and never boring.  It is an art and a physiological event unique from the individuals making it. It’s also an endangered species!

Catch Hot Club of Cowtown at Eddie’s Attic Friday, June 7th! Tickets below!

Find Tickets at Ticket Alternative



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