Sean Rowe and Girl Blue on Tom Waits

Sean Rowe and Girl Blue on Tom Waits

On January 21, a host of the area’s premier musical talent will take the stage of Caffe Lena to pay tribute to legendary bluesman Tom Waits. The Alt spoke to both Sean Rowe, who is headlining the event, and Arielle O’Keefe of Girl Blue about how they discovered Waits and how he influenced their work.

“I first heard Tom Waits when I was 22,” recalls Rowe. “I was in a recording studio in Delmar and it was the first time I’d been in a studio outside of a band I was in. One day I had this idea and I brought in some pots I had that made a cool noise and some kitchen knives. When I got to the studio, the engineer mentioned Tom Waits.”

Rowe says that at the time he had never heard Waits so he went out and bought a collection of his early recordings. “It was sort Dylanesque but without the depth of his lyrics and I thought to myself ‘I don’t know why he mentioned that guy.’” It was a year later that Rowe said a girl he met played him Wait’s primal and cacophonous Bone Machine.

“I was hooked after that introduction. And now being on Anti, a label that was basically made for Tom, its pretty amazing.”

Interestingly O’Keefe says she also discovered Waits in her early twenties.

“My friend Dan introduced me to him him years ago when I was 20, 21. It changed my life in a really strange way. The first time I heard him I thought, ‘that’s who I am. That is the voice I hear inside my head,’” says O’Keefe.

O’Keefe said she was surprised to be invited to play the show, “I don’t think a lot of people know I’m into Tom Waits,” she said laughing.

Rowe says he’s actually avoided covering Waits in the past even though he’s earned plenty of attention for his interpretation of other artists’ works.  “It’s sort of an obvious choice with what I do,” he says. “I’ve actually only done one before and I’m just learning the rest from scratch.”

Both Rowe and O’Keefe played our VAlt sessions. You can check those out here

The Caffe Lena Tom Waits tribute features: Sean Rowe, Girl Blue, Mark Tolstrup, Thomas Dimopoulus, Elrod, MotherJudge, McWatters and host Michael Eck. The event starts at 8 PM. Caffe Lena is located at 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs.

Curious about what Waits songs will be in the rotation on Saturday? Here’s a taste of the setlist:

Sean Rowe

That Feel

Day After Tomorrow

Black Mariah

Who Are You This Time

Girl Blue

Big in Japan

Downtown Train

I’m Your Late Night Evening Prostitute

Take It With Me

Michael Eck

Jockey Full of Bourbon

Picture in a Frame

Fannin Street

Mark Tolstrup

On The Nickel


Down in the Hole

Cold Water

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