One Wednesday night in the late '70s, Sonia Rutstein and her sister Cindy were playing Joni Mitchell's "Real Good for Free" on guitar at the old Peabody Bookstore and Beer Stube on Charles Street. She was only 16 or so, too young to be in a bar, but it was her first paying gig ($50 per week) and she loved the place. The crowd - mostly writers, musicians and intellectuals - was chattering about whatever that kind of crowd chatters about.
Then one long-haired fellow started playing the song's trademark clarinet riff on his flute, which cut through the air and quieted the crowd. The flute player's name was Michael Hedges, a student at the Peabody Conservatory who would become a renown guitarist and flutist.
Sonia and Cindy would form disappear fear, an acoustic outfit that toured the world until it split in the mid-'90s so Cindy could devote more time to her family.
SONiA kept touring after the Peabody Bookstore closed, though she sought the same kind of audience that frequented the place: writers, musicians, people who had something authentic to say.
"That's really indicative of what my music's about and what I make my time about - that it's real and that it's true for me," she said. "I love what I'm doing, and Baltimore's a funky, quirky place, and I love it. I'm not home that much, but it will always be a big part of where I'm from and what influenced my upbringing."
SONiA will be home Sunday to headline the Baltimore Pride Festival with a new incarnation of disappear fear, a power trio featuring drummer Laura Cerulli and bassist Angela Edge.
They're touring in support of the new album No Bomb is Smart.
While recording No Bomb is Smart in Nashville, Sonia flew in Cindy to sing on 10 of the 12 tracks. The sisters reveled in the reunion before Cindy flew home to be with her family and SONiA set off on her tour.
During the summer, SONiA hits the festival circuit hard, including pride festivals in plenty of cities across the country. She loves the crowd's vibe at pride festivals.
"I think acceptance of ourselves and celebrations of ourselves on pride days are just fabulous to be around," she said. "It's a big party, and it's good, and we all deserve it."
Sonia said she's looking forward to disappear fear's gig Sunday at the Baltimore Pride Festival because it's a combination of two things she loves: a pride festival and her hometown.
"It'll be great," she said. "It'll be a real coming home in many ways, so it'll be special and I love my Baltimore friends. I've had friends there for decades and supporters for decades and it will be wonderful. It will be wonderful, wonderful, wonderful."
The free Baltimore Pride celebrations kick off with the Pride Parade at 4 p.m. Saturday. The parade starts at Charles and Franklin streets and continues north to Biddle Street. The Baltimore Pride Block Party featuring Ru Paul starts at 6 p.m. Saturday on Eager Street between Cathedral and Charles streets. The Baltimore Pride Festival starts at 11 a.m. Sunday at Druid Hill Park. SONiA and disappear fear perform at 4 p.m. Sunday. Call 410-837-5445 or visit www.baltimorepride.org.
For more club events, see Page 32.