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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Inventive ‘The Night Before the Night Before’ charms in Oshkosh

Critic At Large

Sundae + Mr. Goessl and guests

Sundae + Mr. Goessl in the first half of “The Night Before the Night Before” at The Grand Oshkosh. (Warren Gerds screenshot)

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – The title is intriguing: “The Night Before the Night Before.”

What could that be about?

“Two days before Christmas is a really ridiculous time to put together a show,” Joe Ferlo, president and CEO of The Grand Oshkosh, said Thursday as part of introductions for the evening that turned out to be catchy.

“The Night Before the Night Before” was presented in house with an audience and, being livestreamed, with an online audience.

On computer at home, what happened was like watching the Christmas variety shows that used to populate TV every year. They’d be hosted by stars and feature a bundle of guest acts. In this case, The Grand had its own, personal, original holiday variety show.

The stars: Sundae + Mr. Goessl. Again, what could that be about?

Sundae is a performer whose way fits her stage name – bright with tasty attractions in voice and personality. She sings with a distinctive voice – perky, clean, jazzy and often soft-torchy. An easy feel, like a natural. She also plays ukulele, melodica (hybrid harmonica-accordion wind instrument) and u-bass (a hybrid of ukulele and bass guitar). She breathes music. Sundae also makes up pun-jokes, and she had plenty that fit the Christmas theme along the line of this: “How can you tell when Santa is near? You can feel his presence.” Presence… presents – get it?

Mr. Goessl is always at hand with Sundae. As part of the act, Mr. Goessl doesn’t speak. He reacts facially to what Sundae says and accompanies her on guitars. Mr. Goessl lets the guitars speak for him in the way Les Paul would – very inventive. The expertise is a treat to hear. Mr. Goessl’s shtick includes gismos that allow him to lay down on track with a repetitive rhythm and then add another layer of guitar luster while helping Sundae sound good on vocals.

Sundae + Mr. Goessl in the second half. (Warren Gerds screenshot)

This team – the audience learned – is married (six years) and moved from Seattle to Oshkosh last January. In the house audience were Mr. Goessl’s parents, married 66 years. Sundae + Mr. Goessl must have checked around the area music scene because acts from there made up their guests on “The Night Before the Night Before.”

Their show had a lot of electic-tisity – cleverly offbeat appeal. In order of appearance:

+ Hannah Rose, a country vocalist in the husky range, and Brent Clauson, a deft steel guitarist (whose hands were seen in closeups on home screens).

+ Elle McBelle (also called Michelle Jerabek), a singer/saxophonist in a kind of/sort of folk-jazz spectrum, and Danny Jerabek, a pianist and accordionist who also sings. He was playful/teasing in “Blue Christmas” when he got to the line that became “tinkin’ about you” instead of “thinking.”

+ Erin Boehme, who is all about improvisational style in jazz singing and unleashed some huge notes in “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and Mike Kubicki, who teams with smooth, vibrant piano stylings.

For at least one audience member (ahem), the show was an introduction to some of the abundant music talent in the region.

The finale with, from left, Danny Jerabek, Mike Kubicki, Erin Boehme, Hannah Rose, Elle McBelle, Brent Clauson, Sundae and Mr. Goessl. (Warren Gerds screenshot)

In the song mix were standards done in new ways, appealing originals and the aura of freshness and spontaneity (as when Erin Boehme and Mike Kubicki danced to Sundae + Mr. Goessl’s alluring “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.”

Especially impressive was a Sundae + Mr. Goessl take on Louis Armstrong’s take on “Christmas in New Orleans” with Sundae in a kind of vocal slow shuffle and Mr. Goessl maneuvering guitar sounds around that.

The encore was a prime example of the eclectic-tisity – all the acts’ different styles at work in a “Silver Bells” done like it’s never been done before.

The evening had the feel of not being a one-off but of an idea born. The title’s too good to go away.

***

Program

Part I

“Sleigh Ride” – Sundae & Mr. Goessl

“Santa Baby” – Sundae & Mr. Goessl

“Come Darkness, Come Light” (Mary Chapin Carpenter) – Hannah Rose and Brent Clauson

“Let It Snow” – Sundae & Mr. Goessl

“Dear Santa, Won’t You Bring Me a Ring” (Sundae original) – Sundae & Mr. Goessl

“This Christmas” (Elle McBelle original) – Elle McBelle and Danny Jerabek

“The Man with the Bag” – Sundae & Mr. Goessl

“Christmas Time is Here” (Vince Geraldi/ “Charlie Brown Christmas” – Sundae & Mr. Goessl

“Jingle Bells” – Erin Boehme and Mike Kubicki

“Sisters” – Sundae, Erin Boehme and Mike Kubicki

Part II

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – All with Hannah Rose singing lead

“Christmas Song” (Mel Tormé) – Sundae & Mr. Goessl

“Blue Christmas” – Danny Jerabek (cigar guitar), Elle McBell (sax)

“Christmas in New Orleans” (Louis Armstrong) – Sundae & Mr. Goessl

“Cool Yule” – Sundae & Mr. Goessl

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Erin Boehme and Mike Kubicki

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” – Sundae & Mr. Goessl with Elle McBell (sax)

“Mr. Santa” to the tune of The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman” – Sundae & Mr. GoesslEncore: “Silver Bells” – All

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