Annie Corley (C’20) and Julia Thompson (C’22) perform a collection of Kacey Musgraves songs. Photos by Matt Hembree (C’20).
By Vanessa Moss
It’s as if you plucked a bar from Nashville’s Broadway strip on a Friday night (and mind you, this is the city that usurped Las Vegas as best bachelorette party location in 2015) then shook the contents, people and booze and paisley and all, into your living room. Scant for space, these honky-tonk lovers would throw open windows and sit in the sills, stack themselves on couches and armrests and side tables, gesticulating wildly and single-handedly as they chat, occupied by mason jars of wine and bottles of craft IPA.
Cowboy hats are passed like joints around a corner of the 30 or so people squeezed on the floor, while a line of couples nestled in the bottom of a misplaced bunk bed realize their mistake in taking up residence beneath the top-bunk drunkards spilling tequila down the wall.
This isn’t a honky-tonk fever dream from watching Sweet Home Alabama too many times, but instead the “420th annual A** and Flounder,” as Masters of Ceremony Garrett Lucey (C’19) and Sara Thompson (C’19) dubbed it, taking place at the Green House on April 19.
In reality, this 420th A** and Flounder was actually the tenth annual musical showcase known as Leg and Salmon at Sewanee: The University of the South in middle Tennessee.
Leg and Salmon is really the springtime rendition of Arm and Trout, which is either a bastardization of or a hat tip to the living room’s previous owners, the Armentrout Family.
Donald Armentrout was a theologian at the School of Theology for 42 years, and as long as his family lived there the French glass doors were unlocked and a bumper sticker fit with an olive branch and dove hung above the entrance in greeting: This House is a Peace House.
Peaceful it was, even after the sticker was removed and the residence was passed on to students for a new sustainability-themed and (then) substance-free residence, The Green House. According to Dr. Eric Keen (C’08), the first Arm and Trout was roughly half Sewanee staff, from professors to McClurg Staff to students. Only 20 to 30 people were in attendance, and the ambiance was of a small coffeehouse for faculty and student bonding and a small display of local talent.
Nearly a decade later, the love once posted on the doorframe remains, expressed in bursts and shouts of “You got this!” as performers confess nervousness or introduce original songs. But the “Peace” shook loose over the course of the evening in the hands of the overwhelmingly white, acoustic, and alcoholic crowd.
At 7:05 Thompson and Lucey opened the event, introducing a two-person act from a local band named Doctornorm; the only non-student performers of the evening. The crowd had settled in for the “marathon,” and refrained from picking up a third round of “Chug! Chug! Chug!” to hush one another and nod along as the guests picked and harmonized away.
Applause burst with dammed energy after their two songs, more passionate and encouraging than would ever be heard at a Nashville dive after a six-minute set. But after the ‘adults’ left the stage, the stocatto of intermittent boisterousness quickly blended with the performances themselves. By 9:00, Thompson and Lucey’s transition to the next performance was derailed by demands from the crowd to shotgun two Natural Lights, and after obliging, the two used a megaphone siren to get the program back on course.
Though wobbly and frenzied at times, roughly 100 people planted themselves for a four-and-a-half-hour celebration of friends’ talent and springtime in Sewanee. If you couldn’t make it or couldn’t take it, here’s a quick catch-up:
Students Jackson Campbell (C’20), Wilder McCoy (C’20), Max Saltman (C’21), and Thomas Chapman (C’19) perform with an eclectic combination of instruments towards the end of the evening.
Featured instruments ranged from fiddle to electric ukulele to dulcimer to saxophone: Olivier Mbabazi (C’21) proved that “Love The Way You Lie” was actually composed for acoustic guitar; Izzy Speed (‘19) and Abby Warr (‘19) wooed the audience with an unintentional sing-along of “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
Original songs were performed live for the first time by student creatives such as Madeline Wilson (C’19) and Jack Barganier (C’20); freshman Julia Thompson (C’22) led one MC to tears through her iconic southern vibrato; Jack Harris (C’19) convinced a rag-tag group of musicians onstage to join him for some Grateful Dead.
A heart-wrenching reenactment of Mufasa’s death was performed by some faceless sock puppets with voices reminiscent of Abby Vogelsang (C’21) and Grace Gilbakian (C’21); Mary Margaret Murdock (C’19) led a storming of the stage for a group rendition of “Across the Great Divide”; and the campus’s resident punk band, Live Safe//Die Hard closed out the evening with a matzah-related production of “Dick in a Box,” lead vocalist Max Saltman (C’21) parting with a proverbial megaphone-drop: “And now we’re going on strike.”