There is an old tradition of gigging for sucker fish in the chilly waters here in Ozarks, and that hasn’t changed too much for true-blue locals that are looking for some fun and a good meal. The newer Ozark residents are more familiar with gigging with music for their food by catching a few tourists. (I almost said “a different kind of sucker” but PT Barnum beat me to it.) So many are looking for the big catch, but when the roles are reversed, those smaller gigs are often the tastiest. There are a couple of intimate shows in Branson and are packed with some delicious talent.
The first small band of singers and pickers to mention are the Petersen Family Bluegrass at the Imax Entertainment Complex in the Li’l Opry Theatre. I know that you’re thinking that you can’t handle much bluegrass, but you haven’t seen this gang. Although they play traditional, non-electrical instruments, they blend it with folk and ballads and plenty of original material that isn’t often seen. This clean-cut family with a mouthful of teeth may not fit the stereotypical Ozark look, but they are as talented as any pickers you will find. And voices…. Sweet tones of smooth perfection like that first lap of ice cream on a summer’s day. They are like family by the end of the show and you’ll feel welcomed like that cousin that holds your favorite fishing spot secret. You may even recognize one of the daughters as a top on American Idol!
The second small show that is a giant catch is the Johnson Strings. There are over a hundred years of musical training among the six siblings and it shows as they make their violins, violas, cellos burst to life with an engulfing and consuming melodiousness. From Irish to classic to hoedown, these young adults and their parents harpoon the strings with expertise. It’s not uncommon to hear blogs or advertising about being in awe of talent, but these musicians are stunningly proficient and so impressive that you will be wide-eyed and slack jawed at what they accomplish on their instruments. Although in a theatre that seats just over a hundred, the lighting and sound are outstanding and contribute to the ambiance as the family moves about the stage instead of just standing there. My mother was a violinist and just had her 90 th birthday in April, this is the show where I take her.
PT Barnum may have said that, “There is a sucker born every minute,” but he also stated, “The noblest art is that of making people happy.” Take the time between those big, well known productions and put a smile in your heart with art just a few feet away, hear each breath taken, and watch in awe as tips of fingers create magic by pure talent. You can follow the other fish to the usual, or you can experience it firsthand. It’s a boat that you don’t want to miss and won’t soon forget.
John is the fun-loving manager of Branson Ticket Deals who has lived in Branson for well over 25 years. He help establish BTD and continues to work as an entertainer in the area all the while staying broke as a single dad of four.