Mike Farris gets silly at Thrasher Opera House, Green Lake WI May 5, 2023
Right from the start of Mike Farris’ performance at Thrasher Opera House in Green Lake, Wisconsin, he was intent on audience participation. Farris came out on his own for the first four songs, beginning with a cover of Bill Withers’ classic “Lovely Day,” and he requested, no he demanded, the crowd join him on the refrain.
It was like that all night, as Farris often invoked the support of the small crowd whether it be singing, clapping, dancing or just acting silly.
Perhaps at no time was this more evident than at the onset of set two when Farris spoke/sang the following entreaty during “Can I Get a Witness?” — a roots and gospel soul groove from his 2018 album “Silver and Stone.”
“The older I get, I find myself having to remind myself everyday … I have to give myself a mission to act a fool at least one time a day. Cuz I don’t want to lose touch with the child within. Amen? Somebody say, ‘Amen!’ Hallelujah. So the older we get the more we have to remind ourselves that it’s alright to act the fool sometimes. Ya all know what I’m talkin’ about? Sometimes you just gotta be silly,” he shouted before encouraging the group to sing along “like you’re Aretha Franklin!”
“Don’t ya feel better? Man, you have to give yourself permission to act silly. I’m too good at it,” said Farris between songs. “My wife has to pull the belt out on me sometimes.”
“And you like it,” came a yell from a female in the crowd.
It’s that type of back and forth between artist and fan that only happens in small venues like Thrasher. The vibe of which was not lost on Farris.
“You know, these kinda rooms are a total luck of the draw,” he said. “People spend literally millions of dollars trying to create a great sounding room, and 90% of the time they fail miserably. You come into a place like this in little Green Lake, Wisconsin, and ‘wow!’ … I want you to cherish this room and really come over here and support it and enjoy the music that just fills this room every time people come here and play.”
And with that, Farris and his band, composed of Kevin Clayborn on guitar, Saunya Linè on vocals, Walter Blair on bass and Jordan Hymon on drums — continued to fill the room with raw and heavenly rock and blues sound.
Farris has been forming that sound for more than 30 years, beginning in the 1990s with the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies, followed by Peaceful Knievel and even a stint fronting the late Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing trio Double Trouble. He’s been recording under his solo moniker since 2002’s “Goodnight Sun.” Farris has received an Americana Music Award (2008) for new and emerging artist, a Gospel Music Association Dove Award (2010) for traditional gospel album of the year for “SHOUT! Live” and a Grammy Award (2014) for best roots gospel album for “Shine for All the People.”
“If you haven’t won a Grammy, I highly suggest doing that,” he told the Thrasher crowd. “I have legally changed my name to Grammy Award Winner Mike Farris.”
For all the laughter and fun-at-his-own-expense banter Farris conjured up throughout the night, the music and its message of love and hope was never lost. He and the band closed out the night with the tender and timeless plea “Mercy Now,” before Farris spent the next hour chatting with fans at the back of the room.
Every living thing could use a little mercy now.
Only the hand of grace can end the race toward the mushroom cloud.
The people in power, they’ll do anything to keep their crown.
I love life, and life itself could use a little mercy now.
Farris is on tour through the summer before regrouping yet again with his Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies for the prolonged and appropriately titled “The Long Goodbye” tour.
More info at http://www.mikefarrismusic.com/
Lovely Day (Bill Withers cover)
Corrina (Taj Mahal cover)
Let Me Love You Baby (Willie Dixon cover)
Can’t No Grave Hold My Body
Jonah & The Whale
Snap Your Fingers
I’ll Come Running Back to You
Are You Lonely for Me Baby?
Can I Get a WItness?
I Don’t Know What You Come to Do