Howard Markman photographed by Steve Parke
Howard Markman photographed by Steve Parke

Two bands are preparing to shake up the status quo of concert set lists on December 14th at An Die Musik. Songwriters Howard Markman, of Palookaville, and Adam Trice, of Red Sammy, will share the stage to perform each other’s music. That’s right; Palookaville will play its renditions of Red Sammy’s songs and vice versa.

The inspiration came three years ago when Markman met Trice during a shared gig for the Roots Café at The Windup Space. Markman recalls hearing Red Sammy’s “Camping Trailer” and connecting to the similarities between their writing.

“I heard that live and knew our lyrics would work together,” Markman says. “I see a kindred spirit in our world view.”

Trice agrees. “I hear a resonance in Howard’s songs. There’s this humor, but also an Everyman’s honesty coming out,” Trice says.

However, the format for this evening, three years in the thinking, is more outline than polished script. The bands might even call it, unheard of.

“I wanted to do something bigger than you play a set then I play a set,” Markman says.

Advertised as “a night of repackaged goods,” bands and audience members alike won’t discover what’s under the wrapping paper until their performances. Aside from run-throughs of the songs both bands will perform together, the bands are not rehearsing with each other. They won’t even fully disclose in advance which songs they’ve selected from the other band’s repertoire. They will also resist a peek at these repackaged, or restyled goods during the sound-check snippets.

Trice compares their approach to the playful exquisite corpse technique of collaborating to write a new story, the catch being that neither Trice nor Markman will fully realize what that story is until it unfolds live on stage.

“It will be a breath of fresh air,” Trice says about experiencing the performance with the audience. “The final product will be something different, an atmosphere we create by playing off each other.”

In true holiday spirit, Trice drops a hint. Red Sammy is practicing a stripped down version of Markman’s “Carla Bley,” which Markman originally recorded with an acoustic and electric guitar, electric bass, drums, trombone, sax, and an assortment of generated feedback and detuned instruments for effect.

“I’m approaching it like a troubadour,” Trice says. “I want to deliver the same movement of the song with a quarter of the musicians.”

Trice smiles, adding, “I hope Howard doesn’t think I’ve butchered it.”

As with any gift exchange, there comes a concern and hope that the gifts will be enjoyable. Markman and Trice joke about how their unconventional spontaneity could backfire.

“It could be the fruitcake that gets regifted,” Markman says.

“Or socks,” Trice responds.

Markman says of the risk, “When you do a singer-songwriter show it can be like a blind date. Within two or three minutes you know whether it will work, but you’re on stage in front of everyone.”

Still, they both believe that that they’ll avoid the worst-case scenario–an offensive remake. Their reasons go back to their respect for the lyrics.

“When I listen to Adam’s stuff,” Markman says, “I feel some of the ands and buts were sweated over.”

Trice agrees that regardless of how Red Sammy alters Palookaville’s style, they’re ultimately giving “the same meaningful delivery of words.”

Now that they’ve shaken the setlist box, they’ll have to open it to hear what’s inside.