'Sunday Gravy' an intimate approach to music

| Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Pittsburgh is the new host of a monthly performance that brings the entertainment home.

“The Sunday Gravy Show” debuted earlier this week and will take over the living room of a Pittsburgh-area resident once a month for an all-ages concert and quiz show featuring internationally touring artists and musicians.

Wammo, recording artist and co-founder of the Asylum Street Spankers, hosts each event.

“It's a little more than your typical house concert,” says Traci Jackson, event organizer, who's married to Wammo. “It's an opportunity to learn more about the performer and hear about what inspires them as musicians.”

Each event, sponsored by the Sprout Fund and in partnership with Calliope, The Pittsburgh Folk Music Society, is limited to 50 seats.

The debut performance was held Nov. 24 at a restored home in Lawrenceville and featured Frank Orrall of Poi Dog Pondering and Thievery Corporation. The exact location of each event is revealed only to people who purchase tickets.

Wammo, who has been performing nationally and internationally for more than 25 years, says the key elements of “Sunday Gravy” shows are intimacy and interaction.

“That's what makes a house concert so beautiful,” he says. “You can hear the music in its true form.”

The first show also featured Washington, Pa., guitarist Kyle Ingram, whom Wammo expects will become a permanent “Sunday Gravy” fixture, as well as a special surprise for the audience — an impromptu electronica performance.

Wammo loves the opportunity for improvisation the show provides.

“It's fun when you're thinking on the balls of your feet the whole time,” he says with a laugh. “It's like you've got a sledgehammer in one hand and feather in the other.”

Jackson staged house concerts and other cultural events around Pittsburgh for years before moving to Austin, Texas, where she and Wammo continued to host musicians at friends' houses. The show gained a popular following, then went on hiatus when the couple moved back to Pittsburgh two years ago. Now, they're hoping to give it new life.

Ben Hartlage of Lawrenceville attended the first event and is looking forward to future shows.

“It was great,” he says. “It was a really interesting show in a unique format. I hadn't quite seen something like that before.”

Jackson, a community planner, says the goal is to host the series at a variety of historically significant or renovated homes of local “movers and shakers.”

The name “Sunday Gravy” came from a brainstorming session when Wammo and Jackson tried to pinpoint something that makes everything better. The term is an Italian-American phrase used to describe the sauce many families would make together on Sundays.

“It really resonated with us,” Jackson says. “We liked it and felt like it worked. It has a deeper meaning in terms of bringing folks together to share something really great and really special.”

The next Sunday Gravy show will be held on a yet-to-be-determined date in January. Reservations required. Ticket prices vary. Details: www.calliopehouse.org/sunday-gravy or find “The Sunday Gravy Show” on Facebook.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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