Stolen Wallpaper

Words but a whisper, deafness a shout

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Location: Zeeland, Michigan, United States

Hi. I wish I had a job selling squirrels. They're so furry, and give you toothy grins. Unless they're rabid, in which case they will eat your face off and then find the rest of your family. That's not so good, I guess.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Live Music Log, November 2017

11 2 17  Nicholas James Thomasma #2/RALSTON BOWLES/LEXI ADAMS  Creston Brewery, Grand Rapids  Last bonus show from my foot injury:  would not have been able to attend a Sunday night show otherwise, so uh, yay blister from hell?  No Schultz sightings, sadly, but I had a tasty cider while listening to these three very different musicians play songs and tell the stories behind them, in the round.  This, the first night in a new "Songtellers" series, was Nick's baby, and he tried (in vain) to hush the quaffers a few times...but those who wanted to get something from this were able to. In this more sober, contemplative setting, Nick shone, for me, much more than at Harvest.  Thoughtful, heartfelt songs, drawn from his life, played in this intimate setting:  I found it very appealing and affecting.  This is a man who loves his avocation, his vocation, and his city.  Lexi Adams was someone I had seen around in Kzoo (often at Dooley's aborted Craft Draft 2 Go residency) but had not heard yet. Now I have, and she's good. Moved back here from six years in Nashville. Still young, needs to deepen, but good.  Highlight was a song that felt more personal than the others called "You Got Me."  Ralston Bowles is a local legend, a raconteur, Elvis Costello hat at a rakish angle.  Life has been a challenge for him, but he keeps meeting it with his wry, observational songs.  He ribbed Lexi for strumming while she talked, and I swear he did it just so he could sing a song about asking for forgiveness right at her.  His lighter songs and heavier songs meshed well (tone and content, not volume);  I hope to hear more from him soon.

11 3 17 Kaitlin Rose #2/Carrie McFerrin #11/STACY KOVIAK-DAVISON  Webster's, Kalamazoo  Another in-the-round show, with the three singers taking turns rather than playing sets.  I really like the variety this engenders, especially when it's just people with acoustic guitars, which can get samey.  Kaitlin Rose has no chill, and this is a good thing:  intense songs sung intensely, while compulsively prowling the performing area.  (Lil less room for prowling in tiny Webster's than the Old Dog stage...)  "Bad Mother" is an anthem for the ages, and I hope it finds a way out to the wider world.  Carrie has never lacked for confidence, she will say or do just about anything that pops into her head, but she is still somehow deepening as a performer: what she plays sticks with you harder than even a year ago, if that makes any sense.  And she played a song so funny that I stopped breathing for a couple moments. Stacy Koviak-Davison is the leader of the band Treading Bleu and a former bandmate of Dooley in Dooley Noted; first time hearing her, and I liked it a great deal.  Brought the chill that Kaitlin can't.  She plays solo very seldom, so we got to hear songs that were very old and very new, non-band material.  Wish I'd rolled tape.  I find it strange that they allow us ruffians to enter the rarefied atmosphere of a schmancy hotel steakhouse for these tiny music shows, but I hope they don't wise up any time soon.

11 4 17  REGINA SPEKTOR  20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids I don't go to shows by national or international artists all that often: the cost is always high, the crowds are always large and noisy, and there is so much good stuff right here.  Made an exception here, even for the hated 20 Monroe Live, and oh my Jeebus was it the right call.  Has to be in my top five shows ever.  Soviet-born Spektor came out on stage, all alone, sat down at her piano, and whispered "I love you" into her mic, and that set the tone:  intimate yet raucous, hushed and celebratory, sacred and profane.  (Sooo many f bombs.)  Despite a bad head cold, she held 1,200 people in the palm of her tiny hand for 90 minutes.  No band, just her on a grand piano, electric guitar on two songs, or a keyboard with accompanying drumstick-on-wooden-chair.  She told stories, and bantered with the audience, and was just an all around delight.  Favorite line:  "I wasn't born here.  I'm a refugee.  I'm the one they're REALLY scared of."  Musical highlights:  "Ode To A Politician," "Don't Leave Me," "Better," and the encore "Samson" that I filmed here.  Reaffirmed for me that there is nothing so powerful as a righteously pissed off woman with an instrument and a strong voice.
11 10 17  Ladies Songwriter Night:  Darcy Wilkin #8/HOPIE JO/Kaitlin Rose #3/Lexi Adams #2  Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo  I really enjoy these multi-artist hootenannies, if you couldn't tell.  This one was not quite in the round, more like two half hour sets each (which made for a pretty long night, with flagging attention from the Old Doggians).  Darcy was low key Darcyish, with added Nesmith. "Ransom Street" came out of retirement, a paean to summer in the city with the old folks that really makes you feel the sun killing you. Kaitlin was restlessly Kaitlinish, at one point pulling the cord out of her guitar with the stage stalking. I've given up mostly on taking notes, but I think she played "Dreamt Of Montana," an impossibly lovely song.  Lexi Adams played much the same material as at Creston, but with many more covers, most affecting of which was a soaring "Angel of Montgomery."  Hopie Jo leads a band called Peach Lavender, and like Stacy Koviak-Davison, doesn't play solo often, so we got to hear her working out how to get across her message without a band, and she did it well.  She sounds like Zooey Deschanel THINKS she sounds:  charming tiny voice with big ideas.  A good night of stellar tunes.

11 11 17 May Erlewine #8  Gopherwood Concert Series at the Eagles Lodge, Cadillac  I bought five raffle tickets at Harvest Gathering.  With one of them, I won ice cream for five, yay!  I had to go home Saturday night.  In Sunday's drawing, apparently, I won two passes to this concert series in Cadillac; that is, two seats to every show in the run.  I didn't know this till almost two months later, at which point I had missed a Lindsay Lou show (s'allright, it was a Crane Wives night).  But a dude tracked me down at the Frauenthal and hooked me up with my prize, and so off to the north went Rich Wojtas and I.  This was the Mother Lion show again, with the candles and the poems and the red dress amid the black shirts, but it was such a different vibe than Bell's.  Up North is where May is loved by all: about a third of that room knew her personally.  A long high second floor meeting hall, packed to the brim with mostly older folks primed for folk music and coming away mostly satisfied.  I met Frank Youngman.  I could not stop myself from shouting along with Never One Thing.  I somehow shook May's hand without perspiring on it.  So worth the two hour drive.

11 16 17 Morgan Haner #2/THE FOUNDING  GR Live at Home at the BOB, Grand Rapids
               KARISA WILSON  Grand Rapids Public Library, Main Branch
               The Founding #2/PEAT IN THE CREEL  Wealthy Theatre, Grand Rapids  Cutting my hours at work led to a monster silver lining, a Triple Show Thursday.  WYCE's noon broadcast from the BOB featured Morgan Haner, a friend of the Crane Wives who now runs sound at Founders, and writes and sings wry heartfelt songs about the things that shape us.  Think Vic Chesnutt, or Robbie Fulks in low gear.  Not sure how anyone stays that nice after living in Chicago so long.  He was followed by an Irish band, formerly Blarney Castle, six members, all 23.  I want to hate them, for their youth and talent, but they are too skilled to shut out.  Interest was piqued enough to check out their show later that night....but first, I stopped at the GR Main Library for Music In The Stacks.  Literally:  a couple dozen chairs were set up between the biographies, and Ms. Wilson played in front of the great old windows facing east.  She is a longtime fixture in our local scene, very glad to finally catch her performing; she doesn't get out as much because of demands on her time as a music teacher.  Thoughtful ballads, skilled strumming, covers included Billie Holiday and Ernest Tubb (!).  Bought her album, tastefully arranged neo-soul, the ever present Max Lockwood on bass.  then, off to the beautiful Wealthy Theatre for a passel of Irishness.  Peat In The Creel were more traditional in sound than the Founding, four members ranging in age from late twenties to late fifties, one woman on flute, cracking jokes and tossing out jigs and ditties like it was no thing.  The Founding impressed me.  Traditional music is not my go-to genre:  I admire the skill that goes into it without always enjoying it.  But these youngsters, numbering six, the only woman on vocals and flute (again), put enough idiosyncratic spin on their original music to maintain and build interest in the casual listener.  Between songs, the band's (more or less) leader, Joel, told the story of how they came together, and Jesus is this kid funny.  I mean, his comic timing!  If this music thing hits the crapper, he could set up shop in Dr. Grins.  I am not really that easily impressed by people who think they're funny, this guy really is.  Should mention all six members were highly skilled on their instruments;  whatever they are putting in the water in Kalamazoo, I hope they never replace the pipes.

11 17 17  The JetBeats #2/Dangerville #2  Billy's, Grand Rapids  I was accompanied out by my friend Julie (her idea!) to this night of Old Time Rock and Roll in Eastown.  Dangerville are proud dinosaurs, amps to eleven, off color jokes between songs, hit em hard and fast one two three four, rockabilly psychobilly rah rah rah.  Seemed obnoxious in March, somehow more fun tonight.  It had been too long since I had seen the JetBeats:  AJ Dunning, formerly of the Verve Pipe, was a member for a whole year, yet here I was watching his swan song with the band.  I love this concept so much:  the Beatles with Yosemite Sam shooting at their feet to make them dance.  Like how you imagine a show at the Kaiserkeller might have sounded.  I love their originals too, especially Top Of The Line and Backstabber.  Also loved that every kind of Grand Rapidian was out there on the dance floor:  all ages, races and genders, boogying down.  Almost made me wish I could dance.

11 24 17  THE WILD SPARKLINGS/STRANGE COUNTRY  Webster's, Kalamazoo  I tracked Matt and Carrie separately in the past (though I don't think I've ever seen Matt without Carrie), so for their new duo name, we'll call it a first show.  I can't claim much objectivity any more when it comes to Borr and McFerrin;  these are great people and good friends who play music I like very much.  That said, the new name seems to have lit a fire under Mr. Borr:  he had two new very good songs on this night.  Carrie is writing too, a godsend since her quantity has long lagged behind her quality.  Acoustics, harmonies, an occasional Laurie Laing assist:  this is what nights are for.  First time officially seeing Strange Country too, though I have seen Mike List and Pete Weir playing with others around town several times by now.  They are well named:  straight country bent and twisted into a shape that country music detractors can appreciate.  It was also fun seeing them play their shitkickers in the rarefied atmosphere of Webster's, the land of the $28 salad.  Thank you all for existing.

11 25 17  THE DACIA BRIDGES PROJECT  Harmony Hall, Grand Rapids Went into this one semi-blind, based solely on the participation of Sarah Halsey Fuerst, of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and the Corn Fed Girls.  In this band, she is on electric bass, first time I've seen her play it, along with some other Kalamazoo ringers on violin and drums, backing up a force of nature with an acoustic guitar named Dacia Bridges.  Some more scratching of that Vox Vidorra itch, with opinionated soul with occasional dancey leanings played on organic instruments for a hell of a sound.  If Karisa Wilson is mostly placid, then Dacia Bridges is mostly turbid:  gleefully stirring the waters to see what comes up.  First time in this room since discovering Dooley here, which led to somehow making a million friends in Kalamazoo.  Had some tasty lamb soup.

11 30 17 Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe, Steve Hilger and J. Oscar Bittinger at GR Live, Home At The BOB, Grand Rapids  I wasn't sure I should even count this as a show--I won't count it in the numbering--since the Troupe played maybe 25 minutes, at noon, and I barely paid attention to the other acts.  It amounted to me hanging out with friends, which I haven't successfully done on a regular basis in over twenty years.  They are so painfully young, but so talented, so genuine.  I am not worthy.  But I'm sticking around anyway.  Notable:  Adam was trying to decide whether to spring for tickets to the Grammys for $200 a pop (he's a member of the Academy as a producer), asked my opinion.  I said few people get the opportunity to see so many of their heroes in one room at once.  He went for it, and blamed me, so if Jack And The Bear don't make rent this month it is apparently my fault.  Olivia's Danger Death Ray sounded so good on live radio:  the sunniest ode to necrophilia ever.  Mr. Bittinger was talented, as was Mr. Hilger (excellent intertwined acoustic lines with a partner whose name I did not catch), but I was tuned out.  Baaaad blogger.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Live Music Log, October 2017

10 11 17  Open Mic at Louie's Trophy House, Kalamazoo  The lengthy gap in shows between this and the last one is where I took a twelve day trip out to the Pacific Northwest.  I used to look forward greatly to these trips....but now I know people.  I missed them, and I missed a LOT of good music while I was gone.  In Bend, Oregon, I missed the Accidentals by a day;  in none of the towns I stopped in was any live music to see on the night I was there.  So, on my way back into Michigan, it occurred to me that I could attend Carrie's open mic for the first time, so I veered off to Kalamazoo.  It was really good to see her, and Kevin Hamman, and Lisa Moaiery, and maybe Ken?  Maybe Darcy?  For the first time in my life, I have more friends than fingers, but of course most of them are sixty damn miles away.  John Roche was grave and gravelly. Kate Arcangeli was earnest and high pitched, with a keyboard instead of guitar.  (Her last song was acapella, frickin fearless.)  Tyler Wood was memorable for playing guitar with only one arm:  he strums with his nubbin, and sings very well.  Kevin Hamman and Mike List were both great. Timothy Patrie was another keyboardist, with a flawless high tenor. (No one ever needs to hear Candle In The Wind ever again, however.)  Lisa Moaiery and Carrie ended the night.  I wish I could come out more often on random nights, but not if it meant working mornings, because screw that noise.

10 12 17  The War And Treaty #2/THE HACKY TURTLES  Founders, Grand Rapids  This band is so powerful that the crowd at Founders (mostly) shut the hell up and marveled at what they were seeing and hearing:  a hurricane of amplified blues, of down and dirty gospel, a kind of revival meeting that atheists desperately want to attend.  The core of the band is husband and wife Michael and Tanya Trotter, who moved from Baltimore to Albion and began making music.  When it came time to tour, they put together a phenomenal band from around the area, tight, professional, multiracial, grinning because they know they're good. The energy pouring off the two massively powerful singers during the show was overwhelming;  I am afraid that Michael in particular may have an aneurysm on stage someday.  They are now touring the South, and I hope the South gives them back, because there's a chance they won't.  Opening was the Hacky Turtles, a kind of Go Rounds Lite:  no bass, funny hats, highly versatile, guitars funky or plinky at turns,  trumpet and banjo making appearances.  Slight faux-Caribbean flavor. Like 311 had gone to finishing school.  Praising with faint damns a bit here, but they were entertaining.

10 13 17 Lisa Moaiery #2 Harvey's, Kalamazoo
               RIVER BEND  Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo  This night was kind of weird and unfinished, lotsa ships passing in the night.  Started on the pleasantly ramshackle deck at Harvey's for some of Lisa's tunes, a bit awkward since few others there seemed to be there specifically for her, but she has some very thoughtful songs and a relaxed way of delivering them. Headed over to Louie's intending to see Jesse Ray...but the show started way later than Facebook had indicated.  A young kid named Jacob Rollins played the blues, with massively impressive slide guitar licks and extremely awkward vocals.  Clearly a disciple of Son House and Charlie Patton, but no young white boy in 2017 should be singing about picking cotton.  I left there and went to Old Dog to catch River Bend, a cover band from Otsego which Kaitlin Rose sometimes fronts when it's time to release her inner Ronstadt.  Eric the sound dude was on drums. It was inconsequential but super fun, a good break for her I'm sure from her own emotionally laden songs.  They did Badfinger's No Matter What, a nice slightly obscure surprise.  Nothing I saw this night rocked my world, but it all keeps the hamster running in the wheel.  Music in, life out.

10 14 17 May Erlewine #7  Bell's, Kalamazoo  This was the triumphant coming out party for the Mother Lion album, a small tour with a big band, playing the whole album with only a few other tunes thrown in.  Very sedate (the rare Bell's chairs made an appearance), dim lighting with red predominant, adoring audience:  the kind of show where the artist occasionally reads some poetry aloud and is listened to.  A tiiiiny bit too precious compared to the all out joyfests she puts on with the Motivations, but a great experience nonetheless.  Opening violin pyrotechnics by Katie Van Dusen, who also played with May's band.

10 20 17  REDEMPTION NIGHT:  MATT GABRIEL/Carrie McFerrin #10/Megan Dooley #13/Brian Koenigsknecht #6/Darcy Wilkin #7/Olivia Mainville (with Brandon James) #14  Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo  This is probably the pinnacle of my life as any kind of public person:  a show I conceived, packaged, and sold, with a lot of help amid the dead ends.  I had a very musical marriage:  we met in the mtv.com chatroom when I mentioned the band Supertramp, her improbable favorite.  After it dissolved, great swaths of music were now minefields of bad feelings.  I wanted to stop feeling sad every time I heard the Beatles' I Will or Domestic Problems' Untitled, among many others.  So the idea:  ask some of my new musician friends to play these songs, to reclaim them, to make new happy memories to at least partially overwrite the old sad ones. Redeem the songs:  REDEMPTION NIGHT.  It first started forming in my wee noggin back in May, and I started talking about it to a few people in June.  Megan Dooley's enthusiastic reaction to the concept led me to pursue it vigorously, and Darcy Wilkin's advice and assistance is what got the thing to the finish line.  Three attempts to put this together as a house show all failed:  I was about to give up when Darcy suggested Old Dog Tavern as a site, $5 a head instead of $20, costs amortized across the masses.  Confusions over who could play what dates where led me to ask more singers than I feasibly could feature....so of course in the end I featured almost all of them. Oct. 12 would have been my tenth anniversary, the 20th was the closest to that dread date I could get.  Kaitlin Rose Parmenter graciously let me have that date in exchange for keeping Matt Gabriel, already signed for that date, on the bill.  I didn't know Matt, but his intense melodic musings fit well in the end as an opening set, and I was glad to meet him and hear his talent.  Carrie was a hoot, bantering Carrieishly between bouts of smashing my heart to splinters with Supertramp's "Give A Little Bit," Inara George's "Fools In Love," and a slow version of her "The Wolves." Ably assisted by Mike List on lap steel:  I wish I had more time in between vacation and foot problems to corral more collaborations between these amazing people.  Dooley had refused to tell me what she picked to play off my list of Redemption Songs; she walked up in her long white pimp coat, flashed a shark smile, and completely destroyed me with "I Will," the song I had sung over the phone to my wife that (we both later agreed) had clinched it, and Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life," a song she was obsessed with. Her own redemption song:  Coldplay's "The Scientist." I didn't talk to her much that night, she was back at the cool kids table while I was on the edge of my seat at the stage, but it meant a lot to me that she was always behind this. Brian was....feeling jovial.  No pain.  Loose limbed.  Dude was drunk.  But that voice!  His redemption song:  Tom Petty's "A Face In The Crowd." Carrie and Laurie Laing added harmonies on a couple tunes, Dooley duetted on a killer "Please Call Me Baby," my beloved "Last Of The Venues" was played, then he finished up with a masterful rendering of Supertramp's "Downstream," a piano ballad he found a way to blow us away with on acoustic guitar.  Darcy was really battling uphill against an increasingly disinterested crowd of also rans, but I sure appreciated her efforts.  "I Will Follow You Into The Dark" was affecting.  Then, for TMBG's "She's An Angel," she called me up on stage to botch pushing one key on a Casio, and ambushed me a little by getting me to sing on the last chorus.  Mortifyingly thrilling.  Another highlight: her original, "Letters In A Drawer," very appropriate to the theme.  Olivia was coming from another gig in Zeeland so she played last: she had no connection to the other players except possibly Dooley, so I was very grateful for her participation.  She redeemed the hell out of "The Man Who Sold The World,' then played a bunch of new songs, one so new it has no name yet, as well as the Boswell Sisters' 1934 hit "Everybody Loves My Baby," then Brandon (along for the ride on googly eyed bass) closed the show with "The Deal."  There were half formed plans for a grand finale where I would lead the ensemble in Da Vinci's Notebook's "Enormous Penis," but I could not herd the cats together, and I was feeling too overwhelmed to fight off stage fright anyhow.  The crowd was loud and frequently disinterested, none of my family could make it, and my foot was in a boot from cellulitis.  It was perfect anyway.  Thank you to all who sang, all who came, and Ken Campbell for filming it.  It's all downhill from here. And who doesn't like sledding?

10 21 17  Thunderbolt & Lightfoot #4/Gifts Or Creatures #2/Brian Koenigsknecht #7  Rootead, Kalamazoo  Beautiful show in a beautiful space on an unusually beautiful late indian summer day.  Started off at Carrie's Backyard Boutique, with Bride of Fleckenstein once again jamming acoustically while clothing was sold;  from there, Laurie accompanied me over to the (really hard to find) new venue, Rootead, in an old factory next to the Kal-Tone Guitar craftery. Sedate compared to the previous night's rowdy:  thoughtful songs and arrangements in an airy (tiny bit hipster) space.  (Unfinished:  there were some jokes about the chasm of bricks immediately behind the performers.)  T&L have possibly the best harmonies in Kalamazoo and that is saying something;  I hope for more material from them. (Mine your Corn Fed Girls past!) Gifts or Creatures, ostensibly headliners, played in the middle, a set very close to what they played at Harvest Gathering but only as a duo this time.  I get the definite sense that Brandon Foote could melt our faces off with that guitar should he so choose, but he uses effects and techniques to soothe and inform instead.  And Bethany is the perfect partner for their little historical curio songs.  Brian played last, tonight in a very sober vest and proper trousers, with his bud Geoff on guitar and a string duo: absolutely pindrop beautiful.  (Let me be clear, I like my Brian both ways.)

10 22 17  Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys #4/Dan Rickabus #3  Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids  My bad foot meant I couldn't work, and could instead attend this Sunday show, part of the Farewell Huggy Bear tour.  Mark Lavengood is leaving the band to stay in GR, and they seem to be taking the opportunity to ditch the "Flatbellys" name.  Dan opened the show with a few Void/Journal numbers on ukulele, with a couple of Flatbellys guest shots. I didn't take notes, so I can't remember everything I'd like to, but this was SUPER FUN TIMES.  Lindsay Rilko's voice is the finest honey, and the three men are No Slouches Either. Top notch musicians playin' around, to a crowd that kinda sorta listened (I hate you, Pyramid Scheme).  Hightlight:  "In Transit," a Flatbellys tune just released as a Lavengood solo single, and the grand finale, John Hartford's "Get No Better," in which Dan, Emilee, Molly Bouwsma-Schultz, May Erlewine (who also guested on her own song "The River Jordan"), and Max Lockwood joined the jamboree.

10 25 17  Open Mic at Louie's Trophy House, Kalamazoo  I seriously can't remember anything musical from this night, other than T Rex Roth's intense reading of several Pat Carroll songs.  But I had fun with people who seem to like me, and some really tasty chicken wings, and that is Living My Best Life right now.

10 27 17  The Accidentals #3/The Crane Wives #35/JAKE ALLEN  Frauenthal Theatre, Muskegon  Jack Clark co-runs the Red House Concert Series that stages such great shows in the Grand Haven museum;  he was one of the people I talked to on the road to Redemption Night.  This was his Big Fish:  a thousand seater with the biggest band in Michigan right now.  I first saw the Accidentals and the Crane Wives at the same time;  the numbers above tell you where my loyalties lie...but the Accidentals are more and more impressive, as their road tested skills and ever-improving songwriting propel them across the country on Sony's dime.  I love the Wives' songs, first and foremost, but the Accidentals achieve a solid wall of sound, with only three (or four) players, that is complex, melodic, and affecting as hell.  "Crow's Feet" is an amazing song.  Other highlights:  ""Memorial Day," "Earthbound," "The Sound A Watch Makes When Enveloped In Cotton," the company of Julie, and the grandeur of the Frauenthal Theatre.  Kate said she thought this might be the biggest crowd they've ever played for!  There was a new Emilee song, "Volta," and both bands joined forces for a roaring "Sleeping Giants." Second Wives show I've ever seen, after Harvest Gathering, with nothing from the first two albums:  they can see the future from here.  Jake Allen is a guitar wizard, also in the Accidentals' touring band, who has good songs but somehow sounds like a CCM artist to me, I need more time with him.

10 28 17  Domestic Problems #2  The Intersection, Grand Rapids
                The Crane Wives #36  Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids  The old love battled the new love, and the new love won.  DP is a classic party band with a horn section and brassy original tunes from the heyday of GRD Rock, in the late nineties;  they only play a few times a year, so I bought tickets early for this event.  With my injured foot, I had to sit down in the back, which compromised my enjoyment immensely, and also reminded me strongly of the time my ex wife and I went to see them at Billy's, and her agoraphobia forced into the room BEHIND the stage, where we could hear but not see. The band were dressed in Stars Wars themed costumes.  Billy, the singer, had a Leia wig and a T shirt reading "Don't Call Me Princess."  They were to play their album Play in its entirety....for the second set.  The first set was full of sweaty fun, but as the second started, I was watching the time, not wanting to miss any Wives.  When buddy Dan threw up the bat signal, I left the Intersection without a backward glance, got my illegally parked car out of the lot somehow without hitting any costumed revelers in line for the eighties dance party, and got to the Scheme just in time.  Dan: Mario.  Ben: some kinda Boy Scout character I didn't know.  Emilee:  Han Solo. Kate:  almost unrecognizable as Tina from Bob's Burgers.  The new song, Volta, was repeated.  The safe ship was harbored.  Stefany had a toothache.  These are my favorite songs, and my favorite people:  no way to really deny it.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Introductions

Matt Gabriel is a singer/songwriter from Grand Rapids who has spent over ten years honing his bluesy folky sound.  Making his Old Dog debut tonight. His next local show will be at Our Brewing in Holland on November 24.

Carrie McFerrin is not from here, but she is OF here now:  raising her family, hosting the open mic at Louie's every Wednesday night, and playing her swanky twang for our lucky ears, often with her musical partner Matthew Borr.  (Band name to be revealed next week Friday on this stage!) She will also be playing in the round with Kaitlin Rose and Stacy Koviak-Davison at Webster's on Nov. 3.

In many ways, Megan Dooley IS Kalamazoo music.  15 years of playing her own great originals and songs from the vast American songbook, she has crafted a lasting legacy of music, and she is nowhere near done yet. She will be at the Cascade Library on Sunday, and at the Hilliards Corner lounge next Sunday.

After being a valued part of the Kalamazoo scene for almost 20 years, this is Brian Koenigsknecht's moment:  widespread acclaim for his album From The Shallows To the Deep, powerful live shows, and collaborations with just about everyone in town.  Tomorrow night at Rootead is just such a night, with Gifts or Creatures, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and a string section.

Darcy Wilkin has a lot of irons in the fire: longtime membership in the folk group The Corn Fed Girls, the long-running WMUK show Grassroots, which she hosts with her father, Mark Sahlgren, and now she's venturing out to play solo.  She is playing Nov. 2 at the Richland library, and the 24th at Louie's along with Brian and Jonathan Timm.

From Holland, Olivia Mainville is the youngest act here tonight, but she has accomplished a great deal, with much more to come.  Constant touring with her Aquatic Troupe has paid off in great sound and wide recognition.  Her new single, Danger Death Ray, comes out on Halloween.  She plays with Brandon James tomorrow night at Grand Armory in Grand Haven.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Review: Olivia Mainville and the Aquatic Troupe, "Danger Death Ray"

Olivia Mainville just turned 21, and she's already on the third reinvention of her sound. First was earnest balladeer, then lively pop-folk party music, and now, with this song and some other new ones I've heard, we're heading into black magic purveyed with a smile. Danger Death Ray is a cautionary tale: you can love the dead, but maybe don't LOOOVE the dead. Doomy tympani punctuation to lively gypsy swing, anchored by Adam Schreiber's idiosyncratic timekeeping, Bleu Quick's trusty trombone (the only surviving element from the first LP), and a welcome jaunty violin darting around the periphery like a tipsy hummingbird. Recommended for fans of Gogol Bordello, Davina and the Vagabonds, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and early Andrew Bird. This video clip is an in-studio live recording, NOT the final studio version: for that, check iTunes and Bandcamp, rather appropriately, on Halloween.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Live Music Log, September 2017

9 2 17 Brian Koenigsknecht #4  Harvey's, Kalamazoo  I was about an hour late, for reasons I already can't remember, but it was a low key show, just a dude playing for mostly his own friends on the pleasantly ramshackle upstairs deck. I remember Ken Campbell, Jeremy Rilko, and I think John Mickley?  Chuck for a while?  Istanbul Sky is a man-weepy masterpiece.  Last of the Venues is the best song I know about that feeling after a good show, not wanting the night to end. And I love hearing How To Rest, even in a much lower register than nature intended.

9 2 17  Lazy Genius #2/HOLLYWOOD MAKEOUT  Mulligan's Pub, Grand Rapids  After all the folky rock and rocky folk I've been partaking of, I felt the need for something snottier, so I ascended fifty miles and descended fifteen years for a late rawk show at Ye Olde Shithole.  This kind of insouciant noise rock will never completely die, not while guitars and amps are relatively cheap, it just won't make it past the local pubs especially often any more.  Bands usually play in reverse order from billing, so when Lazy Genius started I thought they were CARL, even though I saw them play last winter at Long Road with Chance Jones.  At that previous show, I was impressed by their dynamic sound and thoughtful lyrics;  here, on an ancient shitty PA (probably still from the original Intersection, once housed here) mixed by a sound guy wearing boxing gloves, all was sludge. I saw him listen to the dire din coming from the monitors and actually nod his head in satisfaction. Sludgy vocals, sludgy guitars, occasional desultory tambourine clangs from a girl who resembled Mindy Kaling.  Will see again, but never here.  Hollywood Makeout fared a little better, since they played slightly quieter or at least with more space between notes, giving the dodgy PA more time to catch up.  Machine-gun precise drummer, theatrically showy bassist, singer/guitarist who is gorgeous in that Tina Weymouth just-doin-my-job way.  Again, need to see in better venue.  I didn't see it happen, but on the night I was there, the bouncer (allegedly) pushed a disruptive customer out the door BY HER BREASTS.  It caused a social media shitstorm, of whose effectiveness I do not know.  But even if this assault, by bar staff, didn't happen or happen differently, it is all too easy to believe it did.  Years and years of unearned anger and privilege, of curdled tattoo misogyny, have soaked into the walls, to be time-released into the patrons as the paint peels.  Mulligan's is bad.  Do not go there, do not spend your money there.

9 8 17 Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #13  New Holland Brewing, Holland  It seems vaguely treasonous to say this, but I might have the most fun at an Olivia show out of all the acts I go see.  These slightly brain damaged young people seem genuinely enthused to have me around.  They joke with me, with each other, with the audience, during the show.  They give me cider.  They eat my pinwheels.  I hung out with her parents, for gods sake.  Dwayne and the Rock Johnsons!  Brandon goes off the rails and sings Disney tunes, Olivia looks on exasperated and secretly tickled, Bleu is my ally in lobbying for old songs, Adam sits back and benevolently observes the circus. Good to see Steve, lovely to meet Janet.  (Olivia's actual parents, not Anna Paquin and Gilda Radner as appearances might suggest.)  As these two videos suggest, Brandon's influence is sending Olivia down a darker, stranger path, but her sound is still uniquely her own.

9 9 17 Megan Dooley #12  Crane's Pie Pantry, Fennville  Dooley can only be Dooley.  She has no artifice, no guile, no bullshit manufacturing capability.  This early afternoon show by the Pie Hole found her hungover and grumpy, and she let us the audience know it.  She kinda yelled at me, then gave me her fries.  And she sounded wonderful; her brain might not like it early, but her vocal cords sure do.  Part Of Your World rang out among the apples like a crystal clear bell.  Whistled La Vie En Rose pierced every heart.  And the reefer song, again, to the small children.  She is the greatest.  Later that day, she took the first steps toward recording her new album.  And then the next day, her cat messed up her hand really badly.  Watch this space.
9 9 17 Papa Vegas #4/Crane Wives #33/MISS ATOMIC  Perrin Brewing, Comstock Park (Fifth Anniversary Party)  The past and the present collide in a remote part of GR.  Perrin is a brewery with a pub added after some success came their way;  the location is not the best, way the heck out off the main drag beyond Comstock Park.  A stage and a series of beer tents and booths were set up in the backyard, and parking was way the hell down the street.  Coming from Fennville, I thought I saw Kate walking down the road, thought, naaah.  Parked in a hay field planted on undeveloped industrial land, and promptly ran into Dan and Kate, who WERE on foot.  Even the artists had to park in the boonies?  This was a Lonely Show, knew no one here, buncha drunken louts, dudes broing down, attractive women with really homely men, so much beerness.  Miss Atomic wanted to be the Killers sooooo bad.  There were some melodies there, but the Brandon Flowersisms (including a white blazer in the blazing heat) kept me from digging too deeply for them.  Early 90s soft rock is coming back it seems. The Wives were good, they're never not good, but I was feeling so out of place that I can't say I enjoyed it much.  Emilee was freaked out audibly by the buzzing, diving quadracopter. Some dude behind me:  "Hey, that chick looks like Michelle Branch." There was a weird echo on Dan's drums that I kinda liked, like a Jamaican dub sort of effect.  I took Kate and Dan to Fricano's, which they had never had, and tried not to squee like a fangirl through dinner.  Pizza meant I missed most of Jake Kershaw, a 17 year old kid with lightning fast guitar skills.  He was playing mostly warmed over cock rock, but he was playing it so freaking well that he definitely has a bright future.  I did see him close with Hendrix's Voodoo Child, which was genuinely astonishing.  Most of the crowd left after young Kershaw got done:  it was getting cold, and Papa Vegas apparently isn't a draw any more, which saddens me.  They sounded great, but they looked tired (except for Joel's daughter, new to the band on keyboards, adorably hopping up and down to her dad's songs) and they played just less than an hour.  No Resolve, no Never, but two really good new ones, indicating they're keeping to their schedule of one new album every nine years.

9 15-16 17  EARTHWORK HARVEST GATHERING Earthwork Farm, Lake City  GREGORY STOVETOP/E MINOR/Thunderbolt & Lightfoot #2/NICHOLAS JAMES & THE BANDWAGON/Seth Bernard #3/JIVE AT FIVE/Go Rounds #3/RED SEA PEDESTRIANS/Steve Leaf & The Ex Pats #2/Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish #2/The Northern Fires #2/SARI BROWN/ANNE ERLEWINE/BILLY DAVIS/MICHAEL BEAUCHAMP-COHEN/GIFTS OR CREATURES/Stepladders #2/VESPRE/FRED ZEPPELIN/Crane Wives #34/DANIEL KAHN/Dan Rickabus #2/Public Access #3  Another festival....but a very different one.  For all its Michigan leanings, Hoxeyville is very much a traditional hippie festival;  Harvest feels utterly unique.  Very short 45 minute sets by everyone, from the unknown to the highly famous.  A robust and extensive volunteer culture that could have you washing dishes alongside the musicians you came to see.  Over a hundred acts over three days, carefully curated by Seth Bernard, Bill Chesney and a select few others.  I could not stay for Sunday, sadly, but I sure as hell made the most of my weekend.  (And learned my lesson:  a hotel room in Lake City meant I traded some connectedness for a good night's sleep.)  Spotted Dan Lauterbur as I walked in, a good sign that I was gonna know people.  The biggest difference by far between now and a year ago is just the sheer number of acquaintances I have, people who seem to like to see me.  They can't ALL be brain damaged, can they?  I kicked off my festival in the century-old Bernard barn (smaller than ours, but much better kept) with Gregory Stovetop. Long beard, wild eyes, Tom Petty T shirt. Much talked up by Dan and Seth Bernard of late, this set was solo, with a flying V and a drum machine.  A small dervish child in front of the stage stole the show.  It was very Murrican, and it was okay.  He played a full band set later in the evening to widespread acclaim, but I chose a different adventure.  Next to the Hill Stage (where I and a big big big log were to get well acquainted over the next two days) for a woman named Elizabeth Landry, who goes by E Minor.  Paradox:  sunny blues.  Bassist playing a contraption built from an oil drum.  Slow torch song Dust Out of Sand was a highlight.  She had a commanding presence and a great voice.  Will Investigate Further.  Next up, same stage, was Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, with their tight harmonies, sweet songs, and almost no crowd.  Most of the people there to see them were friends from Kalamazoo (and me). Mike Fuerst dared to wear a cowboy hat.  The Change were a dire JV Blues Traveler, so of course they drew three times the crowd for their hippie dirges.  Blargh.  I went and had a gigantic grass-fed hamburger.  Came back for Nicholas James and the Bandwagon, led by my Hoxeyville savior, Nick Thomasma.  Answers the question:  what if Tommy Chong was really good on the guitar?  This is not a criticism:  this is grinning Americana, shaggy dog anthems in the spirit of Todd Snider and Arlo Guthrie. Tours the nation in an orange VW bus. Ended the last song, whose chorus had been "She'll be mine," with "She'll be her own person but she'll love me just the same."  Second best joke of the festival. Passed up a second helping of Stovetop for the old-coot swing of Jive at Five, made up of most of the festival's elder all stars, impressive as hell, rocking that jump blues and dizzy swing for all the cool cats.  Frank Youngman, Mark Schrock, Madcat Ruth, and company, some of the best pure fun sound I heard all weekend.  Next up, my first trip to the biggest stage, Cedar, for the Go Rounds.  I know there's melody under the noise somewhere, and I hope they don't give up shoveling till they find the pony. They risk floating off into dance prog oblivion like Of Montreal.  But Texas Desert Rose, Shock and Awe, and (the still very welcome) Jump Into The Fire prove there are nuggets of gold for the patient.  Up the hill for the Red Sea Pedestrians.  A twin band of sorts to the Corn Fed Girls, another collective of Kalamazoo super-musicians, klezmer origins but not tied down to one sound (unless you consider awesome a sound). Rachel Gorman is a clarinet superstar.  Need To See Again.  Way way out to the Market Stage, the most remote, for the only time, for the last two acts of Friday night.  Steve Leaf and the Ex Pats, to me, have achieved the tension-and-release, dynamic pwawawang sound that the Go Rounds are chasing.  They've taken all their videos down off YouTube, which is perplexing, but seek out their records for sophisticated rock and roll.  Much more raucous live, and funny as hell, with extended bits about radio morning shows, credit where credit is due, and the best audience troll I have ever seen:  the same two lines of Neil Young's Harvest Moon, over and over and over, for ten minutes.  The audience went from amused, to perplexed, to slightly annoyed, to fist pumping joy.  Steve Is A Monster.  Last up, Jesse Ray and his highly inauthentic, enjoyably frenzied take on rockabilly.  This is music as aerobic exercise, and a great way to close off a night.
I started out Saturday refreshed, thanks to the glory of not sleeping on the dirt, and headed back to the festival grounds for a long, long day of soaking in all the sounds.  I missed Nik Carman, an 11 year old guitar whiz.  I was going to catch a few songs by the Northern Fires, then sneak off to the Corn Fed Girls....but the open mic ran late, then there were sound issues, and Laurie had seen me, I didn't dare leave for fear of giving offense.  Pesky new friendships!  But I was glad I stayed, because they have never sounded better.  Laurie and Noah can have pitch issues at Old Dog, but here in the sunshine the harmonies rang out loud and true, on a great batch of new songs, for a really strong set. Over to the big Cedar stage for Sari Brown, whose life story was much more intriguing than her songs.  She came out, a small woman in a small dress, you're thinking, oh here comes the twee.  But she was older than she looked, and an ordained minister!  Married to someone with little English.  Her newer songs were Jesusy, nice but not my bag, her older ones were knottier and naughtier. Gotta try different things sometimes.  Same stage for Anne Erlewine, sister of May, apparently started her career first.  Looks a lot like Lily Tomlin.  Somewhat saltier than the sister, sleepy acoustic accompaniment aboundeth. When Vox Vidorra broke up, Theo kept their slot here....but then Theo didn't show, the only cancellation of the 118 acts here, so I stayed at Cedar, again, severe crick in back from leaning on electrical box (I forgot a chair) for Billy Davis.  A very elderly guitar legend, member of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, contemporary of Hendrix, thrust into a starring role late in life, playing in a guitar duo with a fiftyish white dude. Seriously awesome playing, seriously retrograde songs.  I swear to God one song sounded like an unrequited yearning  aimed at a daughter of a friend.  Off to the barn, and the best-placed old truck bench in the world, for the next three sets:  Michael Beauchamp-Cohen, on holiday from Red Tail Ring, is absurdly good looking and ludicrously talented, with a voice like spun honey, and it is not fair.  So good that I saw Darcy (or is that Dirgey now?) stay for someone's whole show for the first time ever. A highlight was Ohio Turnpike, and a John Prine tune with Max Lockwood sitting in.  Next:  Gifts Or Creatures, a Lansing married duo with Max and Dan backing them up, performing their entire new album, a song cycle about Michigan history that I need to own, combining as it does so many of my geek loves.  Soft sound, but steel at the core. Reminds me of Hem. Grand Rapids Brakeman was a highly propulsive highlight.  Stepladders next, Bill Chesney and his crew of ringers playing pop-rock straight up, Emilee as vocal foil on several tunes.  One song, I think it's called Starting 5 For 5, is about sports, and it's hilarious:  makes you wonder why so few dudes write love songs to their teams.  Left to get lunch, won ice cream for five in the raffle right as I walked up.  Back to Cedar for Vespre, a woman from Detroit singing what she called "soulgaze."  Just her and either a keyboard/sequencer (okay) or a guitar (much better).  Bewitching presence, only a 25 minute set. (Only has one single out yet.)  Walked up to Hill Stage, caught the end of alt-country TC-turned-Nashvillian Dylan Lancaster, for an unexpected country song about Beaver Island.  And then:  Fred Zeppelin.  The 12 year old son of Corn Fed Girl Jon Campos on precocious guitar pyrotechnics, along with Phil Barry, Mike Fuerst, Matt Gross of Knee Deep Shag, and other ringers, doing Led Zep covers at high volume.  Completely ridiculous, and face meltingly awesome.  Matt Borr and I were screeching along with glee.  Back to Cedar for the Crane Wives, who officially played for the biggest crowd at the entire festival.  They're headliners yo.  Extremely energetic set, feeding off the crowd's happy vibes and returning them fivefold, grinning madly through the tales of woe and sadness.  For the very first time, I heard nothing from the first two albums:  looking to the future now.  (Or just a short slot.)  I had Matt with me, so I didn't crowd the stage, but I wanted to.  So old, so fat, so 23 in my mind.  Back to the barn for the rest of the evening:  caught the tail end of John Sinclair, the old beat poet/impresario who founded the White Panther party, managed the MC5, and hung out with John Lennon a bit.  There was a recitation of the history of Delta blues, with chugging, skronking accompaniment by a large crew of Earthwork all stars, plus Billy Davis, that was mesmerizing in its erudite ramshackle glory.  Daniel Kahn was a name that meant nothing to me, I was just riding the bench till Public Access, but he was the biggest pleasant surprise of the festival.  A Michiganian who now lives mostly in Berlin, playing with a trio called the Disorientalists, he presented an audiovisual tour de force cabaret performance about the life of Azerbaijani Assad Bey, who lived as a Muslim in 1930s Germany.  History lesson, cautionary tale, jaunty knees up, all in one. In a century old barn in northern Michigan.  Life can be very strange.  And now, the ten person crew assembled for the Dan Rickabus Experience:  a debut airing of most of his Void/Journal album with a full, rich sound.  Different from the layers and layers on the record, but much bigger and more ambitious than his ukulele renditions.  Emilee on keyboards!  Kate on percussion!  Max and Ben trading off bass!  Alex Atkin and Steve Leaf on geetar!  And the maestro drumming and singing and exploding with infectious joy.  Really glad I got to see that.  Then, the teenage guitar geek's instrumental fever dream, Public Access.  Boiler suits, sunglasses, big melodic riffs pounded into submission by seven guitars.  Ben and Dan anchoring it all.  Encore Smells Like Teen Spirit had the crowd going absoreetly apeshit, myself included, jesus was I hoarse after that.  It was 3 am.  I had seen a lot of people I know, some a lot less than I would have liked, but I had actual companionship for a larger portion of my time than perhaps ever before in my life.  I drove the two hours home in the wee hours, all the many tunes I'd heard still ringing in my ears to keep me awake.  Thank you, friends, and thank you, music, for making life in this terrible time worth hanging around for.

9 22 17 Brian Koenigsknecht #5/Thunderbolt & Lightfoot #3/MIPSO  Bell's, Kalamazoo (Oktoberfest)  An extremely unseasonable heat wave gripped Michigan:  four or five days in a row in the 90s, in late September.  The tent put up in Bell's backyard for this event just trapped the heat from the audience's bodies like a boiling pot.  Blargh.  Brian was playing with a fullish band, including strings, and it sounded marvelous, especially Istanbul Sky and Nova.  His soft-gravel voice got attention, even with all the beer a-flowing.  Phil and Sarah had a smaller sound than Brian, two voices and a guitar, and they lost the super-beery attention, but those who listened were rewarded with impeccable harmonies on their charming songs.  Mipso was a band that exists.  I was too hot by then to care much.  From North Carolina, all exceedingly, even offputtingly good looking, excellent vocals, Mumfordy, too slick by half, someone else's favorite band, have a safe trip back to wherever that is.  I am going home to lie in front of the fan with the dog.

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Saturday, September 02, 2017

Live Music Log, August 2017

8 4 17 Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #12/IAN LINK The Knickerbocker, Grand Rapids  I had attempted once before to come to a show here, New Holland Brewing's new GR outpost.  That was for Delilah DeWylde;  there was no seating anywhere near the stage, so I left.  This place is offputting and brutalist where New Holland is warm and homey, very strange room.  But, this time I got to sit with the band and the band fam. Knowing people in places I go out to is a new and welcome sensation for me. Brandon Schreiber is a good fellow, a goofy dude, and an excellent songwriter, and he seems to have taken a shine to me.  I finally had a conversation with Bleu Quick, and he is likewise a good young fellow with another band (Footage) going on the side.  David Barrenger was also there, and fun to hang around with; a couple weeks later, after a Facebook thread about fascists went weird and he got death threats, he seems to think I'm against him, and I am so not.  David, if you read this, please know I am not your enemy and never was, and Emilee didn't call out the troll army either.  I would never call the dogs out, I have no dogs to call.  Add in Carlton and date, Adam and Libby, and Olivia's dad Steve, and we had a big old party of young and old, ready to play/enjoy some gypsyish rock and roll.  New songs Danger Death Ray, the Trudge(?) and another one I didn't catch the name of indicate growth, diversification of sound, and hell of fun to be had.  The new recordings are going to be amazing.  Couple of Brandon vocals to befuddle the crowd, a Libby one to soothe them.  In back of the stage, big garage-door windows opened right onto Bridge Street;  at one point Brandon leapt out there, still playing guitar, and interacted with the passersby mid-song.  These five musicians, and the three bands they form, are going places.  Opener was Ian Link, a super nice guy with tunes I need to hear better someday soon:  in that cavernous room they evaporated into thin air.

8 12 17 Darcy Wilkin #5 Crane’s Pie Pantry, Fennville  Super low-key acoustic set, in the early afternoon, played right in front of the window in the wall through which pie was sold:  the Pie Hole, if you will.  Young son Emmet seated beside her, more than slightly bored; father in attendance;  a third of the audience friends of hers from her Fennville teaching days.  A Darcy show is always friendly and autumnal;  even in the hot summer, her sad songs make you want to wear flannel and drink cider.  The definition of pleasant.

8 12 17 Crane Wives #30/THE WAR AND TREATY/ALLIE GARLAND Arcadia Ales, Kalamazoo  Arcadia, a fairly new brewery on the eastern edge of downtown Kzoo, had been running a monthly series of all-day shows all summer, and this was the one I had to go to (gee wonder why).  Brand new stage in a stunning riverside setting.  Carrie McFerrin was selling her Quirkandise under a canopy right on the water, and I spent a lot of my time hanging out there and helping/bugging her, along with Kevin Hamman.  I have adult friends that I made without the help of my wife, I still cannot wrap my mind around that.  The music started with an excellent DJ spinning soul tunes, then came Allie Garland.  I never came up from the riverside, so I don't know how the presentation was, but what I heard was inventive guitar loops utilized on the most hackneyed list of covers I have ever heard.  Eagles!  Stairway!  Lose Yourself AND Stan!  No thanks.  I had been looking forward to The War And Treaty, and they were in fact excellent:  an indie blues/soul married duo from Albion, with a five piece band along for the tour.  Gravity, commitment, grit, and fun were all ingredients in the sonic stew.  I want to hear them again in a longer set.  I sat fatly in the grass next to the impossibly handsome Matthew Borr, and we both dug it hard.  I skipped Last Gasp Collective (a GR indie R&B/rap combo) to try to catch some of the Go Rounds at Old Dog, and that was a mistake:  an hour after posted start time, they still weren't playing, then things sputtered to life with some of their more out-there sounds.  The Go Rounds are best when the weirdness serves the melody, not the other way around.  I led Brian K and Brad Frank back over the river with me for the Crane Wives, then kept looking at them to see if they dug it as much as me, like a 12 year old showing his poetry to his mom.  This was the day of the Charlottesville protest vs. speeding car incident, and Emilee was visibly shaken during the set;  they sounded good, but on Wives Autopilot, not entirely present in the moment.  The mighty yawp of Sleeping Giants was good and cathartic on this night. A picture was taken with me, Dan L, Michele and the band, in which I look like Salman Rushdie.  I failed to get Kate to buy Carrie's jewelry.  I like having friends, even if it's two inches deep still.

8 18-20/17 HOXEYVILLE MUSIC FESTIVAL, Hoxeyville Festival Grounds, Wellston: The Accidentals #2/Seth Bernard #2/Go Rounds #2/WHISTLE STOP REVUE/APPLESEED COLLECTIVE/Darcy Wilkin #6/Big Dudee Roo #3/Public Access #2/May Erlewine & The Motivations #6/FRANK YOUNGMAN ALL STARS/JON STICKLEY TRIO/Crane Wives #31/STEPLADDERS  In which I fail at camping but succeed in soaking up some super swell sounds. Work kept me from getting up as early as I'd like, but I had no line to wait in, just drove right into the grounds around 10 am.  I thought camping back in the woods would be cooler than an open field spot (BIG MISTAKE #1), so I drove way to the back and picked a spot off the path to set up my ludicrously huge borrowed tent.  As soon as I pulled it out and tried to puzzle it together, the rain began.  It never poured, but it was enough to keep me from having a prayer of putting this gigantic thing up alone, and no way in hell was I going to ask help from random campers around me. The near-complete lack of internet signal hindered my faint cries for help to Darcy Wilkin and Rich Wojtas. Finally I got up the nerve to flag down a passing official golf cart, and two affable dudes (one of whom turned out to be Nicholas Thomasma) helped me get it up in no time. (THAT IS WHAT SHE SAID)  I made it to the Accidentals' festival-opening set with only moments to spare.  I haven't seen them since that very first Crane Wives show two NYEs ago, and here on their home turf, on the DAY their major label debut was being released, their sound was huge and triumphant.  I don't think I will ever love this band, but after listening to the new disc I like them quite a bit.  More meat on the bone.  240 shows a year have made these three young young people (plus road guitarist Jake Allen) a lean mean music machine, with damned impressive chops on an array of instruments.  In The Morning was a highlight, as was Crows Feet, by far my favorite of the new ones.  Groovy, sinewy, violiny.  A busy, funky workup of Taxman.  The End was a very Olivia gypsy sound (slightly suspiciously so, since they played together a lot a few years ago).  Desperate need for a nap meant I missed both Larry Keel and Eric Engblade, and so I spent the rest of my Friday at the smaller Mitten Stage, under a big tent near the entrance. (Wow do I not give a rat's ass about Greensky Bluegrass, for instance.)  Seth Bernard played wrenchingly personal new songs on acoustic guitar, sandwiched by wild electric-guitar soundscapes, for an intriguingly schizophrenic solo set.  Like if Neil Young played Le Noise and Unplugged at the same time.  Speaking of Mr. Young, there was a lovely cover of After The Gold Rush, and a chimingly beautiful All Things Must Pass.  Be Love was another highlight.  The Go Rounds were much more disciplined than at Old Dog, the weirdness better tethered to the strong melodies and Gram Parsons' otherworldly soaring tenor voice.  I was pretty pissed about the super strong stench of marijuana, but I know full well it goes with the hippie territory.  (I was offered weed by five different people, ranging from total stranger to famous musician.  Trying to corrupt me at my ripe old age?)  This band has invented its own genre:  dance prog.  No worries about sound bleed from the main stage for THIS set:  I wonder if Sam Bush on the main stage had to contend with the small nuclear explosion coming from the side tent.  Capping off Friday night, for the few stragglers not over at Greensky, was the Whistle Stop Revue, the best band of the fest I had never heard of before.  Deadish Americana, right down to several Dead covers, but concise, tastefully played (apparently rare for them to play electric like this), the kind of nod-rock that has no future on the radio but will always have a place on the hippie festival circuit.  Will definitely investigate them further.  They have a whole album about trains, which tells you a lot of what you need to know. Kevin Hamman played me a couple of songs from the back end of his car.  They were nice.  We staggered the muddy lanes, searching in vain for jam sessions.  Then I hit the tent, where everything was clammily damp, and failed to sleep much.  Too hot....

...then too cold in the morning.  Saturday began with a dead phone, because the solar charger I had bought was completely useless as a charger (it did gain me about 20% as a stored-charge battery).  I then proceeded to run the car battery dead to gain about another 7% (BIG MISTAKE #2).  I hate being that guy, but with no internet, I ran the perilous risk of being alone with my own thoughts, and only a monster or a narcissist could face that fate with anything approaching equanimity.  Michele Clark was there as a vendor, which meant she had a plug, so I got a tiny bit more charge at her kind assistance, but not enough to do a whole lot with.  Few pictures, no surreptitious videos, just a few "help I'm muddy" posts to Facebook. Great big breakfast burrito and I was ready, more or less, for the musics.  First up in the late morning:  the Appleseed Collective, who sound just like that name would lead you to guess:  snazzy organic old timey blues.  Excellent without being especially memorable, like a JV Punch Brothers. The rest of my day, again, was spent at the smaller Mitten Stage, my interest being mainly in the smaller Michigan acts.  First up over there:  none other than Ms. Darcy Wilkin, in a green dress, Pepsi hair, and boots with lifts that made her loom benevolently over the sparse attendees.  She played a few songs with her dad, a new treat for me:  he is a super fun old coot who pulled out a Civil War era banjo for a few tunes.  She called me out from the stage, repeating a couple of my jokes, causing severe blushage.  I fled the electronica band for lunch and a nap, then came Big Dudee Roo.  I wish this band of Wayland natives had used the name Wayland, it being obviously viable for a bunch or radio friendly hacks GRD plays all the time, but under whatever name, this most conventional rock band of the festival Kicked Some Ass.  The tent went whoomph as the crowd got into them good and hard.  Nate Wagner's songs are real highlights for me, Hunker Down and Shit's Bubblin' Over both being raggedly glorious.  Max ain't no slouch either, Justin Dore is a forceful and tasteful guitarist, and Daine the newish drummer brings a power not always there on record.  But if you want power...next was Public Access, the boiler-suited supergroup of young men grinning while riffing in unison, working out their King Crimson fantasies before going back to their day-job bands.  Of the seven guitarists, Steve Leaf and Alex Atkin had the tones I could most easily pick out, impressive since Atkin is currently in no other band. Dan Rickabus's wife and father in law joined in on violins, adding an extra level of complexity to the massive massive riffage on display. Everyone involved grinned like fools.  Last act of the night, for which seemingly every non-Greeensky fan on the grounds packed into the tent for, was May Erlewine and her soul revue band, the Motivations.  For sheer joy and pleasure in the sound of music and the spirit of fellowship, this was the absolute peak of the festival.  May can take a slightly cringeworthy concept, the whitest woman imaginable singing R&B, and filter it through her irrepressible and irresistible charm till it comes out clean and shiny and ready to dance like a fool to.  There is no adult more adorable in this world than May Erlewine awkwardly dancing and bopping along to her crackerjack band in their matching black suits.  Sweet Days marked the first time I'd heard her adapt one of her own folk songs to the soul sound, and it worked a treat.  Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?  Surprising amount of male grumbling from stageside during her "give women the power for a while" speech; combined with the Kid Rock for Senate shirt I spotted earlier, I wondered if the hippies were losing ground to the squares round these parts.  Anyhoo.  May's set is the closest I ever come to dancing, which is to say, I look like an overfed baboon trying to dislodge a fly from his facial fur.  When May is singing, I Do Not Care.  I chickened out of attempting to hang out with the Crane Wives and their people, and stumbled back to the tent in the dark.  Everything was damper.The phone was dead.

Back there in the woods, we had a weird trailer bathroom thingy.  Marginally better than a port a john, it had two rooms:  one with urinals, and one with (coed) stalls.  Twice women fled when I was in a stall.  Water for washing came from a big squirter like the ketchup dispenser at McDonald's.  Thus began Sunday, the only day I spent most of my time at the main stage.  Most of it BACKstage, in fact, thanks to Darcy.  I packed up the tent, with kind help from Rich Wojtas, borrowed a jump box for the dead car, and moved it to day parking, because there was no way in hell I was spending another night on the hard damp ground.  Cutting back over behind the stage with Rich, we were just in time to witness a dead tree fall hard on some poor bastard's truck.  We, among others, came running to make sure no one was hurt (all OK), but yeah, that sure put my wee camping misfortunes into perspective.  So, the music:  first up was the Frank Youngman All Stars.  Mr. Youngman is a music teacher, I've heard, who taught a lot of the Michigan luminaries a lot of their tricks.  Seth and May, on the stage at the same time!  Shimmin and Lynch!  Lots of extraordinary players playing goofy tunes for a good start to the day.  Next up: the Jon Stickley trio, energetic vocal-free music, like if the Moxie Strings got really pissed off.  Calisthenic drummer, powerhouse violinist, Mr. Stickley on acoustic the least interesting part of his own band.  Dynamic enough to hold an hour's interest with no vocals, not very easy to do.  And then, worlds collided:  Darcy introduced the Crane Wives.  I got to watch from the side of the stage as they did their thing for the masses.  No surprises in this 75 minute slot, but super fun to see them feed off the energy of a crowd that huge. Seth Bernard sat next to me for the set, and we exchanged goofy grins a couple times.  This band is my life.  Over to the small stage for the only time today for Stepladders, the ad hoc band featuring Bill Chesney and whoever he can round up on a given day.  And he is good at the rounding up:  Ben, Dan, Seth, Steve Leaf, all assisting on his surprisingly sensitive songs (dude is a good dude, but looks so dudebroey).  To my chagrin, Darcy was more into Stepladders than the Crane Wives....  He actually dismissed his overpowered all stars to play his newer songs alone on acoustic, a badass move and a half.  Gave away a stack of spare CDs ("either free or a thousand dollars," quoth the Leaf).  I felt too worn out by camping failure to stay for Airborne or Aquatic, so I said a round of goodbyes and hit the road home.  Thank you to all who helped me get through this mess, or at least offered a friendly face.  I know people now, and some of them seem OK with knowing me.

8 24 17 Big Dudee Roo #4 Relax At Rosa Series, Rosa Parks Circle, Grand Rapids  I had time before work, so I went and had me a fifteen dollar food truck burger and some big old heartland rock and roll.  School was back in for a lot of kids, plus there was drizzle, so the turnout was waaaay lower than for the Crane Wives earlier this summer.  And Nate Wagner couldn't get away from his construction day job, so this was a trio today.  But lo, it was good, and the big rock sound did bounce off the downtown buildings.  Long Road was a highlight, from Max's solo album.  They are the only band I follow now who could be dropped seamlessly into the scene fifteen years ago....but if they were, they'd be on top.

8 26 17 CORN FED GIRLS/DREW NELSON & HIGHWAY 2 Crane’s Pie Pantry, Fennville  Surprisingly, my first full fledged Corn Fed Girls show.  Staged down the hill from the restaurant, in a low spot before the orchards march up the hill, an absolutely stunning setting for an early afternoon show...that was sparsely attended.  This was Crane's Ciderfest, a shindig meant to celebrate the release of their line of hard ciders, also featuring tasty chicken dinners.  There were just not very many people there.  And the bands played in a tent that blocked out most of the glorious weather, and the sound was rough (I think Sarah Halsey Fuerst was seconds from cutting a bitch).  So fun to hear Darcy in context, with six ludicrously talented people joining forces every once in a while to make a bigger noise.  I didn't take notes, so not sure of song names, but they were superb.  Opening was a true blast from the past, Drew Nelson.  Fifteen years ago he was a bro-ey kid with a guitar and some nice tunes, now he's a man who's been run over several times and is still somehow growin' out of the ground.  I requested one of those ancient songs, and he looked at me like I had a gun and he had antlers.  What he plays now is battle-hardened, shitkicking roots rock with its heart on its sleeve, with a pickup band of good old boys all his senior. A quip from the stage: "You're gonna hear a bunch of songs you don't know, cuz my career hasn't gone all that great."  He had an excellent album a few years back on a bigger indie that did not sell well.  Tilt a Whirl.  Go buy it.  Or visit his woodworking shop.

8 26 17 NASHON HOLLOWAY BAND New Holland Brewing, Holland  The Curse of The New Holland PA strikes again.  Seen the Wives battle it, seen Steve Leaf completely outdone by it, now comes Ms. Nashon Holloway, late of Kalamazoo and now of Chicago, to do battle with the wayward beast.  Finally sputtered to life at 10:45 pm. The timing of this show was perfect: with the sad demise of Vox Vidorra, I needed a sound to fill that indie-soul hole in my heart, and this will go a long way toward that.  Maybe not quite the same wild creative, collaborative spark, but these are polished, accomplished musicians with polished, memorable songs, and a singer who can go from croon to grunt to scream within moments on the same song. Too soulful for rock, too straightforward for jazz, too raucous for soul: uncategorizable music is the best music. Tastefully jazzy where required, unexpectedly ferocious at times (a Come Together cover), thoughtful as hell ('S Good, Throwing Stones Up To Heaven), and just sweet (Don't Walk By), this is a sound I need more of.  She kindly gave me a CD for the $6 in cash I had left on me, and it hasn't left the car since.  I am glad she overcame her clear frustrations with New Holland's shitty PA to deliver us few listeners some great, great sounds.

8 27 17 Crane Wives #32/DAN RICKABUS Gratiot and Derby House Concert Series, Grand Rapids  I don't even know what to say here.  These people are just my favorite non-relatives.  They are so friendly to me, the giant awkward gomer in the custom T shirt who shows up to all their damn shows.  I took off work for this one, a full band acoustic house show being rare as hens' teeth.  This show was put on by Rob Reider, a professional mime who runs classes on stage presence that the Wives, Max Lockwood, and May Erlewine have all taken, in the basement of his home. (I retroactively recognized him from Hoxeyville.)  Dan opened the show with some Void/Journal tunes on ukulele:  no Blindfold, sadly, but sooo much better than Rockford, here you could hear what he was saying.  The Wind Will Rise was a highlight, oddly reminiscent of Don't Fear The Reaper.  I got there super early like the giant dweeb I am, first one seated, peeked at the set list on the floor:  no rare treats, oh well, it will sound great.  And it did:  first acoustic outings for the three new singles, Empty Page especially coming off well.  Loudest Curses ever.  Good to see Zito slappa da bass.  But then.  At the point where the set list said October, Kate said, "this is for our buddy Chad," and launched into Margaret, the unreleased Emilee gem I had only heard once, at that duo show in Holland last fall.  THEY FAKED THE SET LIST just to pull one over on ME.  I EXIST.  My flabber is still gasted.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Live Music Log, July 2017

7 1 17  THE RIGHT NOW/RED RIO  Founders, Grand Rapids  After the previous night's barhopping, I picked one show and stuck to it, and a good one it was.  Founders' bookers really go out of their way to bring things to GR that might not otherwise come through, and the Right Now, from Chicago, is a sound we could use more of.  It's a seven piece soul-pop band with a hot blonde singer and a thoughtful guitarist who looks like Paul Kantner.  (These two seem to write most of the songs, too.)  Sounds a lot like Vox Vidorra with a lot less on its mind:  not nearly as complex or deep, but big, brash, and a whole lot of fun.  Somehow it's the drummer who has chronic Guitar Face, while the guitarist throws out his licks while remaining placid of puss.  This is the Triple A ball version of what Hannah Rose Graves is doing at the Single A level, and Sharon Jones would have been considered the majors.  All originals, except for an unlikely funked-up For What It's Worth and a semi-karaoke version of Heart's Alone, a terrible song sung impressively.  Another highlight, despite sounding like Get Lucky:  Up All Night.  I got their newest CD at the show, and it's....all right.  Much more poppy and generic.  But this band is not to be missed live, the energy and oomph and sheer fun coming off that stage is why random nights out can pay off.  Opening was Red Rio aka Alexis Brooke, torch singer and Founders employee, with the intensity and appearance of the young Roberta Bradley, but more angsty than bluesy.  Minor key heartbreak with just her own guitar backing her up.  Highlights:  a slinky Hit The Road Jack, and a sweet song about her parents, sung TO her parents in the audience.

7 7 17  Crane Wives #28  Thornapple Plaza, Hastings  The city of Hastings is using an NEA grant to put on an impressive 80 different musical performances this summer at three different venues, and this was one of 'em.  Bandshell only a couple years old, good hot dogs, cold beer for those who want it, big curious crowd.  Small town tax dollars put to best use.  So many moppets pogoing to Rockslide and all the other big-tempo numbers.  The neatest trick this band pulls is the outright jubilation it inspires with its sad, angry songs, simply by playing them in such an upbeat, sprightly fashion.  Safe Ship, Harbored is a portrait of frustrated defeat, and crowds go absolutely apeshit for it.  Easier is about caving in and swallowing your pain, and grandmas do the do-si-do.  Sleeping Giants is about a fricking earthquake, and fists pump the air.  There is catharsis in setting fear and pain to a major key, even if the audiences don't quite realize what's going on.  I lent Kate a big bag of books in the most awkward way possible.

7 8 17 Megan Dooley #11/Carrie McFerrin #9/Darcy Wilkin #4  Memorial Park, Mattawan  WMD saddles up, and rides for possibly the last time this year, if my show falls apart like it's starting to look.  Absolutely gorgeous summer day:  if they were all like this, I might hate this season a lot less.  Outdoor park show meant I could take Sheila to meet the ladies.  Jonny's dog wanted to eat her soul.  Jeffrey Babbitt, the organizer of the show (through the auspices of the village library), opened the show with a few songs, not bad at all, apparently he does the open mics in Kazoo on occasion.  Then came a man named Steven McLain with his son Dan, doing some pleasant Buffettish tunes, including a First World Problems anthem about having it too good to sing the blues.  Darcy, her hair red and blue like the world's saddest sno-cone, serenaded the park populace with her alluring downers.  Most upbeat song:  "enjoy yourself, it's later than you think."  Dooley Dooleyed it up good, rocking the Uncle Jesse lifestyle, singing the reefer anthem to little kids like it's no thing, momentarily nonplussed by a VERY fast train passing right behind the gazebo stage thingy.  Carrie flew without a setlist net, enjoyably scattered, telling stories around every song.  No Wolves for the first time I've seen, but Gypsy Queen sounded great solo.  All in all a very gentle, relaxed show in a beautiful setting.  I want this to become a baaaaaaand.

7 8 17 Delilah DeWylde & The Lost Boys #4  New Holland Brewing, Holland  The early show in Mattawan left me plenty of time to catch this late one in Holland, didn't start till 10.  Down The Line, from the Buddy Holly show, seems to have taken up a welcome place in the permanent set list.  These tunes, from Elvis, Janis Martin, the Burnettes, Patsy Cline, plus the occasional nice original, are the definition of musical comfort food;  you can pick 'em up again whenever you feel the need.  It took me waaaay too long to figure out where I knew her from:  she was Aaron Klamer's big sister.  Steve was there, his superfandom of Delilah mirroring mine of the Crane Wives.  He's my canary in the coal mine, I guess.

7 14 17 Crane Wives #29/GRACE ELIZABETH LEE  Otus Supply, Ferndale  Warring impulses:  Must see Crane Wives!  Must not leave zone o' comfort!  For all my lifetime lonerdom (with the weird seven year interruption), it's still nice to have familiar surroundings, a sense of control over my environment.  This was a new venue in a Detroit suburb I had never spent more than a few minutes in.  I was super early, didn't wanna be That Guy, so I took a long walk (gorgeous night, streets closed for a big pork-and-booze festival, had me a shave ice) and then I was too late for a good seat.  This room was surprisingly small, about the size of the Intersection's front room known as the Stache.  Maybe a little bigger.  The opener was a 17 year old girl who held the audience's attention mainly with her teenageness;  Zito said they didn't know her from Adam.  I was feeling the pressure of not knowing anyone in this whole damn county except the four people on stage.  So....I took my glasses off and put them in my pocket.  No eye contact = much less social anxiety.  I sang every line, I clapped in the general direction of the blobs on the stage, I soaked in the life giving tuneage (very good sound tonight, with a very engaged crowd), and I existed in my own little myopic bubble for a couple of hours.  Never bought a drink because the waitstaff ignored me completely.  Said hi at the end.  Buggered off into the night.  Not to be seen again till after Vegas.

7 15 17  Brian Koenigsknecht #3  Harvey's, Kalamazoo
7 15 17  May Erlewine #5/KAITLIN ROSE  Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo  The very next night was a Kalamazoo double show, and it felt so much better it's ridiculous.  There are more people there who smile when they see me at this point than in my home town.  Started off at Harvey's, a relatively ancient place downtown that just revived live music, on an upper outside deck, pleasantly ramshackle, nice breeze in off the river.  Brian was performing as a benefit for Graham Parsons' Walnut House charity, a musical youth center.  He learned 21 (!) songs by Michigan artists to cover, along with his own fine originals.  I was frankly dismayed at the low turnout, but who did turn up was quality:  Abe Savas, T Rex Roth, Grace, and Kevin Hamman, among others.  My videos, above, are excellent:  his own Last Of The Venues, a charmer about the old days of playing out, and the Crane Wives' How To Rest, my own white whale I donated to hear.  He also did songs by May Erlewine, Seth Bernard, Carrie, Kaitlin Rose, Nicholas James Thomasma, and many more, including the late great Patrick Carroll.  Then I walked (because Kalamazoo is wonderful) over to Old Dog, in the back yard, for a May fix.  Kaitlin Rose opened, my first time seeing her do a full set of her own stuff.  I did not take notes, but it was good and I want to hear more.  I love that her mom is in her band.  And then May, the exception to my garden gnomedom.  Not quite Motivations, not quite folkie time:  Shimmin, Lockwood, Phil Barry, and the kid whose name I keep forgetting.  She's an angel, she sings like one, and cynicism has no place while she is singing or playing or speaking or awkwardly dancing.  I even saw her sit on the wall down among the crowd to listen while Kaitlin Rose played.  I saw Grace again, and Kevin, and Brian K, and Darcy, and Dan Lauterbur down in front worshipping his deity.  I keep getting tempted to drive forever to see people, and I really just need to wait till they play K-zoo.  Because everyone does, eventually.

7 21 17  Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys #3/CURVED EARTHWARD  Park Theatre, Holland  Ticket said show at 8, marquee said doors at 8, which led to a confused mob on the sidewalk.  It got better from there.  Curved Earthward is a couple of hobby codgers, off key and enthusiastic, with some fun original songs.  The younger dude's three kids were sitting (and standing, and running, and asking their mom to do cartwheels) next to me, all thrilled at their dad being up on the big stage.  And then the Flatbellys, four mics but plenty of instrument swapping, unearthly harmonies, many new songs, many from Ionia, basically nothing older.  The Voice (see my video) is going to be an absolute monster on the record, I just know it.  Good crowd singalong on Shining In The Distance.  Fun surprise closing cover of King Harvest's Dancing In The Moonlight.

7 28 17  Olivia Mainville #11 & Brandon James  Tripelroot, Zeeland  Wasn't gonna go out this night, but found out the Duo in Black were playing in Zeeland so I spent some time with them before going over to the mother for teevee.  Relaxed fun, no one paying too much attention but no one minding the atmosphere that live music generates either.  The big garage doors open at the front, good summer breezes, tasty cider, really tasty blueberry stonebread thingy, and the friendliest smiliest goths on earth.  Brandon played Riddles In The Dark for me.  Olivia's On A Grave is a top ten hit in an alternate universe, a better one.  I pitched my show again, and she's a maybe.

7 29 17  THUNDERBOLT & LIGHTFOOT/GERALD DOWD/LISA MACKIE MOAIERY  Louie's Trophy House, Kalamazoo   This one was special.  A room full of people, maybe a third of them other musicians, who hung on every note.  I had not seen Lisa before, she was a new Kazooan to me, but she was good, very informative with a song about the women who built Gibson guitars during WWII.  An arresting line from one of her songs:  let's keep off the straight and narrow.  She closed with a chiming cover of Mazzy Star's Fade Into You that gave me major dorm room flashbacks.  Gerald Dowd is from Chicago, but he married a woman from Kazoo, so he's connected too.  Primarily a drummer, for Robbie Fulks among others, this was him playing acoustic balladeer.  He stated that many of his songs have jerks for protagonists, I need to give them another listen to detect all the jerkage.  The clear standout was My Sweet Old Etcetera, reminiscent of McCartney's Honey Pie, a sweet little trifle sung in an affected accent.  Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, whom I had previously seen play an abbreviated set at that church show in May, are one third of the Corn Fed Girls, who have their own thing going on the side.  (No, not like that.)  Phil Barry and Sarah Halsey Fuerst have the magic harmonies that only a select few can achieve.  I know I say a lot of people have great harmonies, but this is Next Level Black Magic.  The first set was just the two of them acoustic, the second featured a full band (for the first time) including two more Corn Fed Girls.  (A fifth, Darcy, ran merch for 'em.)  At one point, a door kept banging in the back where people were passing in and out of the back patio;  Darcy had propped it, but that led to loud voices marring the sound, so it got closed again.  Sarah said something about having to endure random bangs, to which I automatically called out "That's what she said!"  The room erupted with laughter, to my comingled delight and shame.  Highlights:  Dearly Beloved, a realistic set of wedding vows, and Can't Be Trusted, a haunted and haunting tune.  Closing was two Stones covers, Dead Flowers and You Can't Always Get What You Want, to which I probably sang along too loudly.  I was sitting with Matt Borr and Brian K, like I actually deserved to be in their company, which I don't.  (Matt is 46.  I feel like a rusted VW bus parked next to his Bentley.)  Before the show, I spent a couple of hours in Carrie's backyard:  she had a popup store set up for her Quirky Bohemian line of clothing and jewelry, with Bride of Fleckenstein jamming acoustically, and serving the strongest margaritas I or anyone in attendance had ever experienced. Pleasant folky strummage:  Wagon Wheel was heard, as was Elton John's Roy Rogers. She looked positively glowing, but that may have been the Xanax.  Finally met her husband, drank more than possibly ever in my life, and just generally relished being a person that other people like to have around on occasion.  Thanks Carrie, hope you made a buttload of cash on the day.

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