Emily Bonn and the Vivants – “Riot At The Rite Spot”

In a recent column I implied that the scene around Amnesia might have lost some of its vitality. I am happy to report that I was wrong. Emily Bonn and The Vivants, expert local western house rockers, brought a bill that featured support from as far off as Nashville and the Great White North here Thursday night to a packed and raucous house.

Old Man Ludecke hails from around Nova Scotia, and not only was this his first show in San Francisco, it was his first night in San Francisco ever! “Well, I rented a car here once,” he qualified.

Ludecke delivers wry original ballads with an endearing talking-blues style. His songs are gentle and self-deprecating without laying on anything too heavy or deliberate. One of his compositions spoofed his inability to yodel with the lines, “Yo de lay/You’re the lady of my dreams.”

Los Angeles trio The Wild Reeds also made their San Francisco debut, looking the nervous novices as they sound checked a promising array of gear – mandolin, autoharp, harmonium, banjo, vintage Danelectro. They hit another gear once they played and sang together. Their material, playing, harmonies, and their energy were all clicking for the assembled. Their finale of the Boswell Sisters’ arrangement of “St. Louis Blues” elicited a particularly robust response.

Diana Jones, touted in the publicity as “a special guest from Nashville,” took the stage next, solo with her guitar. Her subdued, minor-key finger picking and honey n sandpaper alto brought her subtly personal songs to life with all the power of a music city vet. “I’ve had lots of gigs,” she said at one point. “And this’ll be one of them.”

Emily Bonn and the Vivants – “Georgia Johnny”

Emily Bonn and the Vivants have been working the local bar scene – with side trips to France and Belgium – relentlessly over the past few years. As with many country outfits, various members have come, gone and come again, but Emily has counted on the core of accordionist/multi-instrumentalist Isaac Bonnell and bassist James Touzel.

As The Vivants made ready, a chant of sorts began to rise from the audience, sporadic and disorganized, but impossible to ignore.

“Jody! Jody! Jody!”

At this moment I discovered that, whether by luck or my deeply ingrained journalist’s instincts, I was blocking the view of this celebrated individual’s mother. She explained that the chanting was for the Vivants’ brand new fiddler and vocalist, Jody Richardson, a local whose family and friends had all turned out for her debut.

It will probably come as no surprise to hear that Emily and crew put all their road-honed chops on display and peeled off one of their tightest, most energetic sets I can recall. Much of their material is tried and tested, but they can whip up a crowd with whatever they choose to play.

Trumpeter Noah Levitt from The Go Van Gogh joined for a few, including Emily’s own “Simple Thing.” As if it wasn’t almost illegally awesome already.

And not only is Ms. Richardson a fantastic singer and instrumentalist, she rounds out the band – two gals, two guys – perfectly. Emily is accustomed to having a woman fiddler or singer to play off, and her chemistry with Richardson – vocally and otherwise – lit up the set.