BAINBRIDGE ISLAND Gig Confirmed at The Treehouse Cafe

Performances that come from the heart and soul | Kitsap Weekly
April 7, 2016 · 2:21 PM

Brother Dege is considered one of the best-kept secrets of the Deep South. / MIKE BUCK PHOTOGRAPHY

Bainbridge Island Review

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — Arnie Sturham is a tough cookie.

Normally, the Treehouse Café owner lives by two criteria for booking a gig: name recognition and a built-in following. The Bainbridge crowd can be picky — “discriminating,” is the kinder word Sturham uses on his website — and the Treehouse Café receives dozens of inquiries every day, so he takes his time curating a line-up.

He can’t just breeze through his iPod and let his personal preferences dictate (although James McMurtry did grace his stage in both 2011 and 2013). Nor can he sell local musicians.

“That took us about a year and a half to figure out and [we] beat our heads against the wall,” Sturham said. “I can’t even give away a $5 ticket.”

He added, “People appreciate seeing bands that they would normally be on the fence about going to the city for.”

Often, that boils down to Americana.

“We get a lot of bands from Austin, Texas and Nashville that come through, and that seems to be what is probably the most well-received, but that doesn’t mean that’s all we’re doing.”

In the case of Sam Baker, who performs at the Treehouse on April 10, it was the crazy story that lured Sturham in.

In 1986, Baker — at the time a whitewater river guide — was on his way to Machu Picchu, traveling by train. He had barely snagged his seat when a bomb placed on a luggage rack exploded above his head. Seven passengers died, including a 19-year-old German boy sitting next to him.

Baker’s lungs collapsed, his ear drums had blown in and an artery had been cut. He was bracing himself for death, trailing a muffled voice down a smoky-gray tunnel that broke into liquid light, when a station worker hauled him out. Baker woke up and the voice spoke again, said, “You are here to do something.”

And that’s where the music began.

Healing took forever — Baker would undergo 17 reconstructive surgeries — and in the quiet, un-physical slog and years of no mobility, he wrote songs. Songs about tragedy, songs about empathy, songs based on old hymns and characters he’d see.

“He’s unique,” Sturham said. “No doubt a quality musician.”

Other upcoming acts may not be new to Treehouse regulars.

Seattle’s own Ian McFeron — who’s been compared to John Lennon, Tom Petty and Ryan Adams — will bring his band back to the pizza parlor April 30. Also returning is Marley’s Ghost, with a potpourri of Appalachian folk songs, reggae and honky tonk; and Ron Artis II and his brother Thunderstorm, who deliver rapid-fire rap and funk acoustic straight from Hawaii.

The last time Artis performed, as an opener for LeRoy Bell, Sturham said he almost got his butt kicked.

“LeRoy looked at me like ‘You’re an ass. You booked this kid that’s stealing the crowd before I’m even out there.’ ” (LeRoy, by the way, is coming back in August.)

May 22, Treehouse will host a farewell concert for Hans Araki, a former resident who is taking his penny-whistle and Irish flute to Portland, Maine. He’s accompanied by traditional singer Colleen Raney and Cary Novotny on guitar.

The following week, Ashleigh Flynn will have her second go-round.

“She reminds me of Lucinda Williams a little bit,” Sturham said. “She writes complex songs and she has a fantastic voice.”

But the show that Sturham is most excited for is the one he just booked: Brother Dege, whose song, “Too Old to Die Young” was featured on the soundtrack for “Django Unchained.”

“Brother Dege’s a really cool, unique Southern blues dobro player,” Sturham said. “It’s just unlike anything we’ve done before. I know I’m going to have a hell of a good time.”

Tickets and info: www.treehousebainbridge.com.

At the Treehouse
— Sam Baker: 7:30 p.m. April 10.
— The Ian McFeron Band: 8 p.m. April 30.
— Marley’s Ghost: 7:30 p.m. May 15.
— Ron Artis II and Thunderstorm & Kapali Long: 8 p.m. May 21.
— Hanz Araki, Colleen Raney & Cary Novotny: 6 p.m. May 22.
— Ashleigh Flynn & Kathryn Claire: 8 p.m. May 28.
— Brother Dege & The Brethren: 8 p.m. July 14.

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