When: Thu., Dec. 22, 8 p.m. 2016
A lot of musicians have résumés listing eclectic survival skills, but juggling is a skill few can claim, save for Jim Watson. The mandolinist cofounded the Red Clay Ramblers and stayed with the band for fourteen years before departing in 1986 to pursue other musical interests and hone his juggling skills. Watson never got to the flaming-torch or buzzing-chainsaw-tossing level, preferring instead to work with a smaller, safer medium—padded balls, three at a time, he says. But when he arrives at The Cave for his thirty-first annual Christmas show, expect Watson to stick to his musical magic.
"The ceiling is so low, it's not really conducive to juggling," he says.
Even without the parlor tricks, Watson's Cave Christmas is a long-running seasonal treat. It started in the eighties, when Meg Rose Sorrell and Bo Porter, The Cave's co-owners, featured only acoustic music. While talking with Sorrell after a gig there one night, Watson proposed doing a show with sing-along Christmas carols. He went to his parents' house in Durham where he grew up, rooted around for a stash of printed songs that he remembered from his youth, and made some copies.
"Some people who were just coming to The Cave to drink beer were a little surprised to be asked if they wanted to sing some Christmas carols," Watson says of that performance. "And I'd hand 'em these sheets, and some people would actually sing along."
These days, Watson offers three sets of songs at his Christmas convention, and yes, attendees are still expected to join in on the merriment.
"The second set is sing-along carols, and most people clear out after that," Watson admits.
"But I still do a third set because I learned these songs, I only do 'em once a year, so I figure I might as well keep doing 'em," he adds. —Grant Britt