By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Tony Furtado isn’t one to write a setlist. When the banjo-slaying singer-songwriter looks forward to his live performances, he knows there’s an essential element he can’t yet consider: the audience.
“There’s two loves I have with the playing and creation of music. One is recording, which is fun, but in a way, it is very solitary,” Furtado told the Reader. “But when you get on stage and perform that music, there’s a two-way interaction you have with the audience and yourself. … It’s very social. It provides the opportunity to be very generous with the art. You’re feeling what you’re putting out, and I really thrive on that.”
In return, Furtado said, he feels what the audience gives back — hence, no setlist.
“I’m inspired, a lot of times, by what I’m feeling back from the people who are there listening,” he said.
The result is a conversation, spoken entirely through the medium of song.
Furtado looks forward to having such a musical conversation at Di Luna’s Cafe on Thursday, March 9, as the eatery hosts its first live music in three years. Tickets, which are nearly sold out, cost $75 and include both dinner and entertainment. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with dinner slated to be served a half hour later. Furtado will take the stage at 7:30 p.m., rounding out an evening sure to satisfy all of the senses.
Furtado, who has played the Di Luna’s stage in the past, told the Reader he is inspired to return thanks to the venue’s reputation as a true listening room, and lauded the restaurant for its commitment to showcasing high-caliber folk musicians.
“It’s just such a nice environment to play music that people actually listen to,” he said. “People that come there know that they’re coming to see a show and listen to the music.”
Furtado can certainly be counted among the high-caliber talent known to play Di Luna’s. Inspired at age 12 by the Beverly Hillbillies and a grade-school music report, the artist — originally of Pleasanton, Calif., and now of Portland, Ore. — took up the banjo and proved himself rather adept at the instrument, earning top prize at the 1987 National Banjo Championship in Kansas. What followed has been a lifetime of musicianship, including record deals, several critically acclaimed albums and artistic partnerships with well-known musicians across genres.
Furtado said that while the various stages of his career have taken on different flavors, he tends to describe his work as Americana folk, casting a wide net to best capture the bluegrass-meets-blues-meets-folk sound accomplished with banjo, slide guitar and more.
For the Di Luna’s show, Furtado will be joined by four-time national fiddle champion Luke Price, adding another instrumental and vocal layer to Furtado’s sound. The pair has been touring together off and on for more than a decade.
“He’s just such a solid musician and a really great harmony singer,” Furtado said of Price. “We have a lot of fun going back and forth with the instrumental stuff, too.”
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