November 18, 2011 at 1:36 PM

Blow the Whistle: Vanessie Santa Fe Reinvigorates Live Local Music

Q&A with Jono Manson

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I will always have a deep affinity for Vanessie’s of Santa Fe. It is the place where my wife and I had our first date 16 years ago and ended up making out in the parking lot like a pair of wolverines. It’s where I had my college graduation party with my classmate and roommate, who also happened to be the restaurant manager. To say that we would end up getting gassed at the bar on a regular basis during our days at the College of Santa Fe would be a significant understatement. This is also the place where I was thrown out for spanking a friend on the bar, while she howled like a retarded banshee completely twisted on Grey Goose martinis.

Years later, someone you wouldn’t normally associate with Vanessie, Jono Manson, stepped into the picture. The singer-songwriter, producer and owner of Kitchen Sink Recording Studio, took the helm of “The Vanessie Sessions,” a new bi-monthly music series aimed to put the swagger back into the piano bar, which has—and you can quote me—the best sounding room for singers in Santa Fe. Jono doesn’t have a set style or vibe to the series, and as I sit and watch Vince Bell and Catfish Hodge awaken the boomers in the audience into a lather at the most recent Sessions’ gig, I do everything in my power not to take a digger into the fine Spanish tile and pray to sweet baby Jesus to please keep this afloat for sake of our music scene.

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Before you start reading this very insightful Q&A with Jono, I should mention that you should check out www.vanessiesantafe.com. There you will see the November – January music line up, above and beyond the Vanessie Sessions, which by the way, hosts BANJOMANIA: Three banjo players, swapping songs throughout the night. Jeff Scroggins (from Denver, with his son Tristan on mandolin) playing Bluegrass, Tom Adler playing original "Old Style" compositions, and Todd and the Fox laying it pachuco/juke joint style. Wednesday, November 23. 7:30 p.m. No cover.

You will also notice on December 3, The Ryan McGarvey Band , 8 -11 p.m. This is relevant in several ways.

  1. The only thing keeping this kid from being the next Joe Bonamassa, if not better, is that his recorded material including his album “Forward in Reverse,” doesn’t come close to capturing his live performances. Ryan is one bad, fire-breathing motherfucker and if you have a shot at seeing him live at a place like Vanessie’s, take it.

  2. Promoting music is not unlike the task of a good sommelier. Pairing sound to scenery is no simple undertaking, so having Ryan play at Vanessie’s is both inspired and risky, like having a 1996 Jordon, Cabernet Sauvignon with the fish.

  3. John Mayer failed by flossing his J-Crewed man-gina when he became famous. No one knew he could play guitar like a man possessed. Ryan is doing it the other way around, keeping the guitar at the center of things. So when he breaks he won’t have to shed the skeezed out prep school vibe.

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How did you become involved with this project?

I was asked by RJ Laino, and I'm always excited to get involved in interesting and challenging musical projects. At this point, it's strictly a labor of love on my part. In other words, I'm making little, if any, money for doing this. I feel that Vanessie can offer a lot of possibilities and anything we can do to keep the programming alive and fresh increases the odds that the new musical format at the club will continue to grow. It's a great room and the food is awesome!

Besides revitalizing the entertainment line-up at Vanessie’s, what is the vision behind the series?

Being able to attract regional and national acts and having them perform side-by-side with local artists. I think that we can create buzz amongst touring acts about this series and about the venue in general. Vanessie also owns the adjoining inn, so it's a no-brainer for them to offer hospitality to touring artists as part of the deal.

As the host, will you interview or interact with the musicians during the gig or is this a straightforward music showcase?

Yes, I will interact and, at times play with the acts as well...it will vary depending on the nature of a given night, for example, I'll be the odd-ball NON banjo player next Wednesday. Now that I've blown through the opening night jitters of the first "sessions" gig, I think I'll feel a lot more at ease kibitzing with the artists. I will also play a short set (three songs or so) to kick off each night.

This is new musical territory for Vanessie’s. Most people know it as a piano bar.What can we expect from the music series?

They've given me free reign (for now) so anything goes...heck, they let me book THREE banjo players on ONE night (there's gotta be a joke in there somewhere).

Santa Fe can be a tough place to run a music venue. Is this a trial run for the music series, or are you digging deep with long-range plans?

I take things as they come...but plan for the long haul, and I'm putting out feelers and casting a wide net for acts to participate in the series going into the new year.

Despite popular opinion, there are many places where audiences enjoy live music. What do you hope add to the local music community?

There are a great number of artists who live here who make rarely play locally. I'm hoping to coax more of them out into the community. And, we've made a deal to have this be a NO COVER event, so right there we're offering something special in a very classy venue. Plus the gigantic mirror behind the artists gives the audience a "unique" perspective.

The Vanessie Sessions

Vanessie of Santa Fe

427 W. Water Street

6-9 p.m.

Free Admission

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