Tom Beneke brings tunes to Coffeehouse

Laura Streyle

After making it through a full day of academic stunts and tightly scheduled events last Thursday, I was looking forward to finally getting a breath of fresh air as I made my way down to the Underground Coffeehouse.
As promised by SOUP’s many flyers hung around campus, I found Tom Beneke playing “live” to a crowd of lounging, studying, relaxing and toe-tapping people.
After singing and playing a few of his solo tunes with his slider and smiling voice, Tom was joined by fellow music makers Charles Ging on bass guitar, Kyle Dallman on drums, Eric Klosterman on accordion and Vince Johnson on piano.
The folksy rhythms and tunes made me want to get up and dance on my feet and close my eyes to take in the harmonies. The show provided exactly the kind of breath I had been waiting to take all day.
When asked if he knew whether the posters advertising for this event were printed by SOUP, Tom lifted his eyebrows and said, “Posters?” It became apparent after speaking with Mr. Beneke that I was talking to an experienced old-timer of the Coffeehouse, who is anxious to get more people up on stage. On second thought, “anxious” is not the first word I would use to describe Tom Beneke.
Let me illustrate. To answer the question about his strategy for finding time to practice, Tom simply replied, “It’s just like everything else; it’s a hobby just like kayaking or fishing.”
Long before playing guitar turned into a hobby, each lesson he took as a third-grader meant twenty-five cents from his parents dropped into his piggy bank. Fortunately, playing gigs like the one last Thursday continues to put some extra money in his pocket. Blues and folk artists made up the list of musicians who have influenced Tom. Charlie Parr, Gary Davis, Lightning Hopkins and Greg Brown were artists that came to mind.
While Tom might not be “anxious” about getting more people up on the Coffeehouse stage, his final comment proves that he thinks it would make the world a better place. “More people need to sign up to play for Soundboard,” he said. “I’ve played too many times at that coffeehouse, and [the performers] just play on a cycle. We need some more variety.”
The group of people that appeared on stage last Thursday night gave a nice glimpse of the kind of musical collaboration at Lawrence that allows the University to take a deep breath, slow down and hum for a while.