Five years ago, the Hideout’s talent booker at the time, Sullivan Davis, teamed up with producer and musician Dorian Gehrig to start the Cosmic Country Showcase. Their dream was to bring to life Gram Parsons’s philosophy of a welcoming, expansive, and absolutely trippy form of country music, freed of its hidebound and less imaginative old wooden box. Now hosted by angel-voiced and devilishly witty crooner Andrew Sa (who released a gorgeous EP of country covers in 2021), the showcase has a decidedly queer spin, and it presented some of the final performances by Sa’s mentor, the great Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country, before he died at age 78 in 2022. That sense of history and continuity informs the Cosmic Country Showcase and gives it a torch to carry through its crowd-pleasing and occasionally crowd-baffling revues.
Cosmic Country went virtual when venues were closed during the early days of the pandemic, which whetted everyone’s appetite for more. (It didn’t hurt that Spencer Tweedy—who plays in the house band with Davis and Gehrig—published a timely book on self-recording in October 2020.) Since live performances resumed in 2021, the showcase has bounced among several local venues.
This fifth-anniversary Cosmic Country party at Lincoln Hall features two headliners: New Mexico-based singer-songwriter Esther Rose recently released her fourth album, a lovely and bittersweet chronicle of wanderlust called Safe to Run (New West), and Canadian folk duo Kacy & Clayton recorded their Jeff Tweedy-produced 2017 album, The Siren’s Song, in Chicago after touring with Wilco. More recently the duo recorded a 2020 full-length collaboration with New Zealand singer-songwriter Marlon Williams. Cosmic Country’s first host, David Brown, will drop in from his current home in California, and sketch-comedy group Gag Reflex will make sure things never get too serious—as if that were ever a risk.
The showcase is pulling out all the stops with surprise guest stars too, and its efforts will add up to the sort of atmosphere that has made Cosmic Country such an enduring cult hit. It’s got country soul for sure, but it’s also part outlandish comedy, part drag show, and all razzle-dazzle. As an extra bonus, with a date this close to Halloween, the organizers will doubtless show no restraint whatsoever with the usual puppets and costumes.
Cosmic Country Five-Year Anniversary Showcase With coheadliners Esther Rose and Kacy & Clayton, plus featured guests including Sima Cunningham, Rahila Coats and Clarence Young of the Family Junket, David Brown, Matthew Yee, and Gag Reflex. Hosted by Andrew Sa. Fri 10/27, 8 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, $20, 18+