Sour Mash Hug Band at Club Kuumbwa in Santa Cruz

On Saturday, September 28, the Sour Mash Hug Band performed at Club Kuumbwa in downtown Santa Cruz, “a new, casual concert series featuring independent artists and cheap beer!” Club Kuumbwa presents all ages shows at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, a nonprofit arts organization which has been celebrating creativity since 1975.

Kuumbwa Jazz “provides opportunities for residents and visitors in the Santa Cruz area to enjoy and appreciate the full spectrum of jazz music through live performance and education. Kuumbwa Jazz envisions a community where all people can experience the joy of music, and understand the value and legacy of jazz as an original American art form.”

Shiri Goldsmith, lead singer for Sour Mash Hug Band, is a multi-instrumentalist Yiddish chanteuse. Towards the end of the show, Tyler Stone observered, “It’s not every @clubkuumbwa show where the crowd yells ‘more Yiddish!'”

Shiri captivated the audience with skills, humor, and charm. She borrowed a beer from the audience for a gurgling song. For the rest of the show, she proudly drank from a carton of coconut water. At one point, Shiri paused saying, “I should introduce the band.” Then she turned around, shook hands with, and introduced herself to, all her bandmates. Before the show ended, there was a slightly more formal introduction of the band to the audience.

The cover charge for the show was only $5 (Seabright Amber Ales were $3). As a five-member touring band, surely they were not making out like bandits. Shiri made a few pitches for people to purchase one of their CDs. Most notably, Shiri got serious and stated, “PSA: We here at the Sour Mash Hug Band are a non-profit organization. That is not by choice. Please buy a CD.”

The Sour Mash Hug Band’s current members, based in Oakland and Berkeley, are Mickey — Fiddle, Accordion; Shiri — Accordion, Trombone, Banjo-lele; Scott — Guitar; Julianna — Bass; and Leo — Drums. The San Francisco Chronicle describes the band as “an irresistible mix of old-time, gypsy, bluegrass, jazz, Irish, and ragtime.”

You can read more about the band on their successfully funded Kickstarter project to release their latest album.

The Story of Sour Mash Hug Band

“The Sour Mash Hug Band has toured the highways and byways of North America for over a decade now. Its a classic American story: in the beginning, a band of kids ride freight trains across the midwest with nothing but a banjo, a fiddle, a washboard, and a washtub bass. They play at your local farmer’s market, dive-bar, or street-corner. They end up in New Orleans, spend some time playing dixieland, go up to Oregon and play old-time and bluegrass for a while, head out to New York pick up a a little Klezmer, hike around Romania searching for old men that know fiddle tunes. Finally they fall in love with the new revival of jazz culture and it’s full circle.

“The Sour Mash Hug Band is one of the best bands working to keep traditional folk culture and vaudeville music alive in America today. They have won hearts and rave reviews at festivals including Northwest Folklife, the Benbow Arts Festival, and the Subdued String Band Jamboree; they have been called ‘a true treasure of the Bay Area’ by the Bay Times. ‘Folk Music in it’s most beautiful sense’ by Robert Blake, ‘Irresistible’ by the SF Chronicle.”

After the show, Fiddlin’ Mike, the singing fiddler, told me they were performing again in Santa Cruz, at the Poet and Patriot (located next to the Kuumbwa Jazz Center), “in a couple of weeks.”

For now, keep one ear to the ground; soon they will be selling out larger venues.

For more information, visit Sour Mash Hug Band on Facebook.

The next scheduled Club Kuumbwa show is on Saturday, November 9 — Michael Feinberg Quartet feat. Billy Buss.