SG Goodman and I have something in common: We both studied philosophy in college. I like to get in a good zinger when I can in these, so, if you’re reading this SG, here goes: What does Zeno take in his coffee? Half and a quarter and an eighth….
Goodman had recent jokes of her own at Songbyrd Music House, which mainly involved repeating her own name as many times as she could. It was a funny bit, with just the right mix of sarcasm and sincere salesmanship. A native of Hickman, Kentucky, her music takes on Southern culture and stereotypes with a unique perspective, intelligence and compassion, channeled through her perspective as a queer woman.
At Songbyrd on Sept. 24, Goodman’s songs hit hard, like her opening number, “Work Until I Die” and “If You Were Someone I Loved,” which was dedicated to love those who been lost to the opiate crisis. The set continued with the title cut of her 2020 debut album, Old Time Feeling. She cautioned the audience against releasing their debut album, as she did, in the middle of a pandemic, or you will find yourself — as she is — on your first headlining tour three years later. As difficult as that’s been for her, she did manage to get that headlining tour; many artists who had their first release in that time will, sadly, get lost in the shuffle.
Watch the official music video for “If You Were Someone I Loved” by SG Goodman on YouTube:
While there’s a lot of nods to Southern culture in her songs, there’s other, more abstract, conceptual material alongside it, like “Space and Time.” It’s not surprising that someone with a background in philosophy would write a song with that title and that she would find such issues interesting. There’s a fierce intelligence here, with some sharp elbows to go with it. After playing the title cut of this year’s Teeth Marks, she said, “I’m not an easy woman to deal with,” and she told the audience she tends to rub people the wrong way. I find this relatable; I have a short story under submission called “Biting People’s Heads Off: A Love Story.”
Also relatable: she said “the way I talk is the way my daddy talked” when she introduced, reasonably enough, “The Way I Talk.” In my case, though, I have a Ohio non-accent shaped by my father shouting “flaming f-ing idiot” at the dinner and his favorite joke, the one about how he he liked to sneaked into my and my sister’s room in the dead of winter, peel off the covers, and watch us shiver. And he wonders why I occasionally say things that fall outside the “norms of conventional discourse.”
Watch the official music video for “The Way I Talk” by SG Goodman on YouTube:
The next song up, “Back To Me,” is what she calls her “positive mantra.” It’s about how the things you put out into the world are visited back upon you. “I don’t normally play this,” she said, introducing “Solitaire,” which she closed the set with. It’s a song that didn’t make her latest album, and it was inspired by watching a game of poker. The lyric “lost on the river” came from terminology used in the game.
The crowd at the Songbyrd — many of whom were making the first visit since the venue moved from Adams Morgan to Union Market, which was generally agreed to be upgrade over the previous location’s basement setup, and also had nearby, free street parking — welcomed her back enthusiastically for an encore. Goodman said, “We’re not necessarily responsible for the trauma we experience, but we have the tools to process it.” I wish I had recorded the first part of that sentence and could play it back for my mom! Anyway, SG and her band closed out the show with “Keeper of the Time.”
Before Goodman took the stage, Montreal, Quebec, Canada-based singer-songwriter Le Ren played a 30-minute solo acoustic opening set. Humorously, she mentioned she didn’t realize she had a Canadian accent. After her set, I told her the old David Foster Wallace joke: Two fish are swimming along, and they pass an older fish who says, “Morning boys, the water’s great today!” The fish swim along a bit more, then one looks at the other and asks him, “What the hell is water?”