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, March 02, 2018

Live Music Log, February 2018

2 1 18 Public Access #4/CHRIS DUPONT/DEAN MARTIAN  GR Live at HOME at the BOB, Grand Rapids  These noon live broadcasts are fairly easy to pop into and out of in time for work when something interesting is coming down the pike.  This day featured Public Access promoting the big album release show (see the 10th).  Public Access Lite, that is:  just Zito on bass, Rickabus on drums, Leaf on the one and only guitar, and Chesney on the noise machine. A melodic racket was still made, proving the infinite malleability of this band’s genius concept:  when the world is running down, make the best of what’s still around.  Chris Dupont is a sensitive dude with an acoustic guitar who used to play heavy metal.  There are literally thousands of guys who fit that description, but he had a wry self-effacing manner and some good songs.  Worth investigating further.  Dean Martian is an EDM DJ who made some noises outside my realm of knowing what’s good and what’s not. Because I am old get off my lawn.

2 2 18 Kevin Hamman #2/PERILOUS CATS Kalamazoo Piano Co., Kalamazoo
2 2 18 Carrie McFerrin #15/Matt Gabriel #2/Brian Koenigsknecht #8  Webster’s, Kalamazoo
2 2 18 Olivia Mainville #16 (with Brandon James)  New Holland Brewing, Holland  Triple Show Friday baybee.  Kalamazoo’s sprawling ArtHop events, first Friday of every month, bring together fine art and music for a full sense experience.  Kevin Hamman is both, and he was playing music and selling art at this piano shop downtown.  I helped set up chairs and carry stuff, it was all very DIY and charming as hell.  Kevin is a teacher by trade, a very enthusiastic amateur who can sneak up on you with the insight of his songs.  The Perilous Cats is an ad hoc agglomeration of scenesters who mainly pay tribute to the late great Patrick Carroll. Of special note are the soaring tenor of Nathan Moore, and Chris Schleuder’s remarkable ode to Carroll, Sprint The Mile:  “I feel you slipping away to music only you can hear.”  Moseyed on over a block and a half to see three of my Redemption Night personnel sharing a bill at Webster’s in the round: so very much fun, so very many tuneful tunes.  So great when Carrie adds an impromptu harmony to a Brian song, or Brian pulls out a harmonica to augment Matt’s tune. I am guilty of talking and laughing and joking with these people during the show, I might kinda hate me if I was in that audience, but these are really friends now, not just people I see play music.  The beauty of Webster’s is that maybe half a dozen people care what’s playing, but having anything playing at all adds cachet and ambience, so they keep booking great talent.  And I can bug my friends at work without worrying TOO much.  Hour’s drive to Holland for New Holland’s late starting show with Olivia:  about 45 minutes late, but I still heard lots and lots of tunes.  Hanging with Carlton and the Mainvilles (sounds like a band name) while the kids goof around and slappa da bass.  Low stakes gypsy swing: it gets no funner. 

2 3 18 Big Dudee Roo #5 Grand Armory Brewing, Grand Haven  This began as a Dudee Duo, due to Daine the drummer being at a daddy-daughter dance.  That was a fun sentence to write, not gonna lie.  More fun, in fact, than I was having at this show: I forgot that I rather hate this venue.  Indifferent crowd of quaffers, overpriced mediocre barbecue, nothing to drink but beer (not even pop other than root beer), The duo sound was nice, some moody rhythm work by Max; a highlight was his own spin on Harvest Moon, and Justin Dore’s lead tone is one of the best around.  But when a friend wanted a ride to a party in GR, I took them.  For the first time in my life, I left a musical event for a non-musical one.  Is that growth?   Tiny treasonous whisper:  I miss Nate.

2 8 18 Dan Rickabus #4/MARK LAVENGOOD/HANNAH LAINE  GR Live @ The BOB, Grand Rapids  Another afternoon to support Mr. Rickabus, here to promote the next night's Jammies along with Mark Lavengood, late of Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, and Hannah Laine, a powerhouse neo-soul vocalist. Dan plays his songs either alone on ukulele or with a massive conglomerate of sound, so hearing him here with just one or two people in support was a treat. Lavengood, Laine, and bassist Ian Thompson assisted nicely.  Lavengood grinned his way through a couple numbers, including the Guess Whoish In Transit.  Then Hannah Laine blew my eardrums out, in a good way.  Huge huge voice without the Mariah melisma.  Here's a video.  Go see her.

2 9 18 19TH ANNUAL WYCE JAMMIE AWARDS The Intersection, Grand Rapids featuring the B Side Growlers, Dan Rickabus, Brian Koenigsknecht, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, Hannah Laine, Justin Avdek, Mark Lavengood, Hollywood Makeout, The Crane Wives, Lipstick Jodi, and Lazy Genius  A local awards show where half the nominees were snowed out...but those of us who made it had a grand old time.  Short sets and big crowds don't lead to much in the way of meaningful mind melds with the artists, but it can lead to great new discoveries. Just getting out in front of a crowd that huge can be a boon for a lesser known artist. Bigger acts on the main stage, "emerging" artists on the little Stache stage next to the johns. I was as close as I get to my High School Spaz days, I had so many friends around to talk to and listen alongside.  Beyond the musicians, shoutouts to Ken, Jacob, Dan, Sarah and Randi. Festivities kicked off with the B Side Growlers, old timey washboard grinners gathered around one mic like they seen in that one movie.  Ramshackle but secretly accomplished.  Dan Rickabus on the main stage: widescreen Technicolor perfection.  The Really Big Band, with the other Crane Wives plus Leaf and extended family, brought the epics to life in a satisfying fashion.  Over to the small stage, where an unfortunately thin early crowd was catching Brian's exuberant set, then Phil and Sarah's hushed but sweet one.  The Kalamazoo Invasion begins. Hannah Laine and Justin Avdek have a new funk-prog band together, Earth Radio, so their adjoining sets basically became the first big gig for Earth Radio, and I am on board.  Weird yet tuneful, vocally acrobatic yet somehow not annoying, sweetly funky pop soul for the discerning listener.  Mark Lavengood is a one man Greensky: fun without much in the way of consequence, and the greatest guitar face ever.  Hollywood Makeout was the revelation of the evening:  I had seen them once before, at Mulligan's, home of the Shittiest PA Known To Man, but here on this stage they were Fun Squared.  Erin Lenau is magnetic, and the band is tighter than a fitted sheet in a military barracks.  Shorthand:  what if Blondie played only Strokes songs? High volume melody with not one extra note. And then: with May Erlewine snowed out, the Crane Wives pinch hit a set; with no nominations, no skin in the game, they could play a victory lap for the hometown crowd, wonderful new songs with the big old favorites, and I was right up front shouting along.  Lipstick Jodi were very good, more 80s slick than Hollywood Makeout but good fun and a sound that could take them places.  Shorthand:  genial lesbian insouciance.  Back over to the small stage for Lazy Genius, light psychedelia with no bullshit attached, like Flaming Lips before the dude started wearing suits.  Featuring a woman whose instrument is inchoate Yoko wails.  I left before the afterparty got into full swing because all my friends were going home to bed.  But oh holy Jesus on a Segway did I have a whole lot of fun.

2 10 18 Public Access #5  Wealthy Theatre, Grand Rapids   The Monster Melody Machine rides again:  this show was the victory lap after the successful Kickstarter campaign that financed the guitar army’s second album.  (I was backer #2. I got a T shirt, a mug, and a tote bag, along with two tickets to this.  I brought Kay.)  So many moving parts, but played so cleanly that you can hear each cog.  Seth Bernard has a field day with his pink electric guitar;  Rickabus is the bandleader, keeping the beat and the peace;  Leaf is the Cheer/Leader, pushing everyone to the finish line.  Saxophone, keys, bass, eight or nine or ten guitars:  King Crimson, eat your heart out.  Notable for the jumpsuit debut of Ben Kolk, Kate Pillsbury, and Fiona Dickinson:  some estrogen enters the clubhouse.  I could pick out Kate’s tone from the melee, and Dickinson is a damn wizard; I hope they stick around.  We sat right up front like giant dorks because that’s what you do when your enthusiasm outstrips your dignity.

2 16 18 Megan Dooley #15  Final Gravity Brewing, Kalamazoo
2 16 18 FLEETWOOD MAC TRIBUTE NIGHT with the Marci Linn Band, Big Boss Band, Bride of Fleckenstein with Laurie Laing, Matt Gabriel, and the Kaitlin Rose Band  Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo  I started off with Dooley playing her first home game at her new job, Final Gravity.  She hosts an open mic, but this was her first full starring gig.  She sounded relaxed and committed, next to a comically large ancient amp.  Cry To Me was a strong opener, and she gave good banter, despite the presence of a table full of noisy assholes close to the stage.  First Day of My Life made me weep a little dammit.  Over to Old Dog for a Fleetwood Mac night that was popular beyond anyone’s wildest dreams:  even with a $10 cover, the place was over capacity.  Took me an hour to get in, but I heard most of the music from the hallway.  Mini sets from different combinations of KZoo All Stars played tracks from all eras of the band’s knotty history.  Especially impressive was the Big Boss Band, with a pensive Albatross and a swinging version of Hypnotized!  (I chipped in the tip jar for that obscure favorite.)  Matt Gabriel tore it up on Go Your Own Way.  Laurie Laing’s growl made Tusk rise above some unfortunate verse confusion.  Just like her Dylan night, Kaitlin Rose was clearly having a damn ball, and her enthusiasm infected that packed house.  Original music is great and wonderful and worthy, but an occasional nostalgia wallow is nothing to be ashamed of.

2 17 18 Brian Koenigsknecht #9/Samantha Cooper #2/Fiona Dickinson #2  Louie's Trophy House, Kalamazoo  Nice show that could have been nicer with a better PA.  Brian opened acoustically, with Sam Cooper accompanying on violin, for a short set of heavy hitters.  Soon-to-be-released Roswell, a strong Istanbul Sky with the violin deepening the pathos, and Seth Bernard’s Overhaul, a great emotional song, and Pat Carroll’s Stay Up Late. Ms. Cooper weds the innocence of the Icicles with the philosophical bent of Ani DiFranco for a unique, bouncy yet serious sound, played with a full band’s muscle and nuance. Dickinson’s guitar, especially, works very well within the context of Cooper’s songs…but during her own set, it overpowered her compositions, at least with this sound mix.  Her playing was dexterous, wondrous, tasty as hell….but I could not understand a single word she sang.  I think I heard “twenty-nine” a few times.  Looking very much forward to hearing her in a bigger room with a bigger mix.  She is the Catherine Wheel to Samantha’s Lush, for the shoegaze fans who can follow that analogy.

2 23 18 Olivia Mainville #17 (with Brandon James) Short's, Bellaire  I don’t like to work on my birthday.  I like to get the hell out of town.  So I went Up North for the weekend, for two nights in Charlevoix.  This show was a last minute idea (thanks, Facebook Events) and a good one.  Short’s is a nationally distributed beer made in this tiny town, and the flagship store is impressive in size and in musical bookings.  These Krazy Kids played basically the same set they would in Zeeland’s Tripelroot, trading back and forth on guitar, bass and vocals, setlist confusion, wacky banter, and murderous glances when Dwayne and the Rock Johnsons are mentioned.  The Dahlbergs kindly let me join them for the hijinks. A birthday beverage was bought for me afterward at the dive at the end of the block.  Thank you both.

2 24 18 The Crane Wives #41 Charlevoix Cinema III, Charlevoix  I saw that this show was happening on my birthday several months earlier, and just knew that had to be the kernel of a trip. I expressed misgivings about going so far to be Creepy Alone Guy…and Ms. Kate Pillsbury set me straight.  She told me it was brave to seek experiences alone, that I had proven over and over I am not creepy, and that my support meant a lot to her and the rest of the band.  It was the nicest set of things possibly ever said to me by someone I was not related to.  In the end, my friend Roo came with me so I wasn’t even Alone:  I was just Guy.  Strange show, the band in single file on a very narrow stage in front of a movie screen in the town cinema, but packed, thanks to heavy promotion, with a fun, relaxed atmosphere.  The comfort level led to more storytelling than usual, a special treat.  I love Volta and Daydreamer so much:  all songwriting cylinders are firing, seven years in.  New Kate song, inspired by Detroit desperation, that I have named Ghost Of Me in my head.  Another birthday drink from Roo afterward in the most obnoxious townie bar imaginable.  It’s been a good year, despite the world ending, and every indication points to 44 being a pretty damn good one too.


Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Live Music Log, January 2018

It occurs to me that any new readers might not know anything at all about me.  So, here's a lil recap. After a bad divorce, I crawled home from Arizona and lived in a cave for about a year.  Then it occurred to me that I could go see live music again, and I did, and then I did again, and again.  I reactivated my ancient emo blog to keep track of who I see.  I have managed to make some good friends, in and out of the bands, along the way.

1 6 18 SNOOZE CYCLE/KATE AND THE COLD CALLS/MAT CHURCHILL Rocky’s, Grand Rapids  A New Year's resolution, one I'm much more likely to achieve than weight loss, was to see different and more diverse acts.  This was first foot forward. It's a testament to the progress I've made this past year that I knew three people in a room I've never set foot in before.  Long, low, stage at the back, awkwardly next to the bathrooms.  First up, Mat Churchill, burly dude with a sensitive acoustic guitar.  Probably used to be in hardcore acts till he found his means of expression limited.  A thick Michigan accent away from being labeled outlaw country, like 19 Wheels at their most contemplative.  Occasional harmonies provided by buddies from other bands who just stepped up, sang, stepped back out.  Lots of lonesome laments in 3/4.  Excellent, atmospheric finger picking:  what if Paul Simon was from Newaygo?  Kate and the Cold Calls is an ad hoc band that should become post hoc:  the find of the night. Kate Crampton, Bill Chesney's former partner in Stepladders, with a distinct clear tone and point of view, a basic rockish four piece delivery system for some super swell songs.  Reminds me of the old local band Swinglove: what if Neko Case was from Grand Haven?  Nice harmony from her guitarist, highly dapper drummer.  Highlight tune I think called All I Ever Wanted Was A Lie.  Also Blink 182's Dammit recast as a plaintive ballad, and a ripping version of Black Keys' Gold On The Ceiling.  No web presence whatsoever, so keep your eyeballs peeled for any fleeting mention of this band ever and then GO SEE THEM.  Snooze Cycle:  a couple, man on drums and guitar simultaneously, very pregnant woman on vocals.  Ramshackle Stripes/Femmes vibe:  what if Matt and Kim were from Hudsonville?  Highlight: a swirling ditty called The World Is A Shitshow.  The crowd was very light at the end, but I was too tired from a long day to stay for the whole set.  But on the whole, Mischief Managed.  Good to see you, Herm and Justin.

1 12 18 DAVID BOWIE: A TRIBUTE with Matt Milcarek, Zoo Wave, Ghost Bunnies Rupert’s Brew House, Kalamazoo  My first full show at this venue, seedier than most in Kzoo, with a pleasantly medieval vibe and a truly repellent bathroom.  Matt(squared) aka Milcarek, who also planned this shindig, opened festivities with his trusty accordion, some appropriate makeup, and Five Years.  Best take:  Young Americans on acoustic guitar.  Zoo Wave, led by Abe Savas, is a new wave cover band made up of talented ringers from the scene, often jazz players, and they CRUSHED it.  Even just their soundcheck, Talking Heads' This Must Be The Place, was amazing.  Impeccable Sound and Vision, intricately cacophonous Heroes, apocalyptic Let's Dance, positively ferocious Scary Monsters that may have outdone the source.  Ghost Bunnies was good, but could never hope to match Zoo Wave, and so they didn't try:  kind of a brotastic take on Of Montreal, amiably spacey, like Zach Galifinakis fronting Kings of Leon.  Kept flubbing words:  hey dude, cheat sheets are your friend.  Standard millennial ramshackle affability, which is not to say unenjoyable.  And it's hard to go wrong with these deathless anthems to play:  epic singalong on Space Oddity and Starman,  Best bit:  a game run at Under Pressure.  Worth the drive.  Thanks to Ken for holding down the front couch with me.

1 13 18 Carrie McFerrin #14 Hilliards Corner Lounge, Hilliards  I knew going in I would be the only person there to actually see Carrie (not quite true in the end, her mom showed), so this was a moral support show as much as anything.  She is so comically confident that she didn't even really need it:  after spending all day with toddlers, what's singing in front of people but a vacation?   This is a large pole barn-ish room in BFE, the kind of place with deer hunting video games and fairground beer mirrors on the walls, but their talent booker is aggressively signing Kalamazoo's finest lately (Dooley and Big Dudee Roo have played there multiply).  Three sets, so I got to hear everything from her trick bag, from dusty early tunes to brand new shiny ones.  Neil Young's Love Is A Rose was nice.  Momma Said's "hell" became "you know where" for the mixed dinner crowd, which was indifferent but not hostile or impolite as they shoveled in the chicken fried steak while a woman inexplicably sang to them from the corner.  I overheard from the next table:  "the kids know the gun safe is always open, and there's hundreds of ammo rounds in there!" I grew up in the country, on a farm, in the most conservative county in the nation.  I am making no judgment here, I really am mystified:  why am I not like this too?

1 19 18 The Crane Wives #40 Moon Tower, Traverse City (house show)  So this one was a tad eventful.  Again, for new readers, I have a history with this band:  first album and then show that snapped me out of post-divorce funk, many many shows, friendship somehow developing instead of restraining order, etc. TC is a long way to go, but their current twin-electric touring MO means this was a rare chance to see them playing acoustically in an intimate setting.  I took a lot of back roads, enjoying the drive....but then about 40 miles south of the show, near Hoxeyville, my car threw up a red warning of death:  steering failure, pull over safely.  My power steering was gone.  No hydraulics, all electronic.  Rebooting did not help.  Choices:  A.  Pull over, call expensive tow truck, life goes to hell.  B.  Stop at next motel, figure it out in the morning.  C.  Wrestle with steering wheel for 40 miles to make it to the damn show.  I chose C because I am insane.  I got there (a gorgeous house in a secluded subdivision well east of town, with a high vaulted ceiling) with about ten minutes to spare, parked my folding chair right down front in an SRO crowd, and decompressed in the best of all possible ways.  Acoustic guitars and bass, cajon and one snare:  stripped to the studs, you can hear every nuance in these glorious songs.  The triple harmonies on Easier.  The catch in Kate's voice leading into an absolutely perfect Caleb Trask.  The mighty Margaret (along with turning me red by calling me out as the force for its resurrection). Volta and Daydreamer, evidence that the songwriting is only getting stronger as time goes on.  It's getting harder to be Alone Guy at shows as I actually make friends, but this band will always be an exception, because I am not alone.  I'm with them.  Got an emergency hotel room, took the car to a dealer in the morning:  $2,000.  Goodbye to pre-work lunches for the rest of the year.  But they gave me a brand new car to drive home with:  I'll never drive a car with eight miles on it again as long as I live.

1 20 18 SAMANTHA COOPER/FIONA DICKINSON Harmony Hall, Grand Rapids  Two Kalamazoo based artists who made the trek up to GR, cutting my usual Musical Commute considerably.  Fiona Dickinson is British, not sure how she's ended up here for so long, and she is a guitar wizard:  would make a fine addition to Public Access, or to any really good shoegaze act.  Her 4AD ethereality was completely swallowed by the trestle table indifference of the quaffers at Harmony Hall (small exception, the crowd I sat with, chock full of ludicrous talent.  That audience could form a killer band).  Intense, moody, lyrics barely audible:  like Olivia Mainville if she gave up on pop melodies completely.  Samantha Cooper is also excellent, but much more accessible;  Fiona is in her five piece band as well, and their harmonies were angelic.  There was a successful audience singalong set to a Wendell Berry poem, for God's sake.  Ancient melodies on modern instruments seemed to be the overriding theme.  Plants and Animals was a bouncy little Muppety ode to the things we eat to survive.  This was a session of secular church, and I left an offering in the plate.

1 27 18 The Accidentals #5 Corson Auditorium, Interlochen  I have not met these three young musicians, though a lot of people I know know them well.  But I am impressed and heartened by their national success while doing their unique West Michigan folk rock thing.  This show was a triumphant homecoming and a magical history tour.  Sav and Katie went to Interlochen's performing arts academy, and can be considered the biggest alumnae since Jewel.  Opening was two current students performing as Chamomile and Honey:  the female half, Summer Green?  Watch for her name, she's magnetic.  Then came "The Treehuggers:"  Sav and Katie's first band name, playing the White Stripes' We Are Going To Be Friends, the first song they ever played together.  This show had friggin' costume changes as the first half led through the band's history, and the second half showcased the monumental Sony album Odyssey as well as a few new ones.  The early juvenilia, which I was never quite sold on, was delivered with sincerity and skill, and requires my reappraisal.  So much power and skill in these youngsters, especially after a grueling neverending national tour.  Chicken dress!  Dause is the funkiest of Muppets.  I am not a big rap person, but Parking Lot NEEDS the energy of Rick Chyme to be the most fun thing in the playlist. New song Sleeve is a funktastic ode to an old jacket Katie lost and is the closest they come to a love song.  Nightlife was played with cello, violin, and harp, exquisite.  I am not quite Fam yet, but I am sold.  Thanks to Roo for her attendance, since she grabbed the garage door opener I left in the loaner when I picked my car up from the dealer.....


Saturday, January 06, 2018

Live Music Log, December 2017

12 2 17 BRAWLERS, BAWLERS AND BASTARDS:  3RD ANNUAL TOM WAITS TRIBUTE NIGHT featuring Buck Merill, Nate Hartmann, Chris Miroslaw, Matt Milcarek, Bob English, Mike List, Jessica in the Rainbow, Brian Koenigsknecht, Abe Savas, Chris Newman and Phantom 309, Libby DeCamp, Olivia Mainville and The Aquatic Troupe, Jack and The Bear, and Megan Dooley with the Hangdown Yer Heads   Bell's, Kalamazoo  I do not know what to write about this show, partly because I've mostly abandoned taking notes, and partly because I don't want to be the asshole who writes bad things about people.  There was a dazzling amount of talent on that stage, yet the show seemed smaller than last year.  I had a lot more fun, but a lot less of it came from the music itself.  It was an artistic success that played to about half the crowd as last year. I had people around me who liked to have me around, and I spent half the show worrying about someone I don't really know very well.  Matt Milcarek opened the festivities by semi-busking out in the hallway with his accordion, setting the enjoyably strange tone. Dooley played with a full band of ringers, including Brandon and Adam from Jack and the Bear, Bleu from the Troupe, Abe Savas, Matt, Chris Miroslaw from Treading Bleu, and Jarad Selner from Saxsquatch and Bridge Band.  I can not remember what anyone played, baaad blogger....other than Brian Koenigsknecht, who did several songs from The Heart Of Saturday Night album, in fully convincing Waits-in-71 drag.  Musical highlight:  Jessica In The Rainbow's utterly charming "The Piano Has Been Drinking."  Bob English's monologue also scratched my itch for the absurdly sinister. Libby DeCamp is from another, more languorous planet (possibly named Romeo).  Only other thing I will say:  apparently I'm still considered attractive by some, so...yay?

12 9 17 Carrie McFerrin #12/Matthew Borr #6 Potter's, Kalamazoo  My first time at a venue outside downtown, this one at a freeway hotel way on the east side.  Easygoing, breezy, a set designed to keep the patrons eatin'.  The Wild Sparklings are no more, long live Borr and McFerrin.  Got a reprise of Redemption Night's "Fools In Love," which just tingles my damn spine.  Other friends there too, nice dinner, nice low-stakes evening out.

12 10 17 The Crane Wives #37  Kent District Library, Cascade Branch, Grand Rapids 45 days between shows seems too long, at least for the insane.  So I played hooky from work for two hours for this one.  The same concert series that sponsored Dooley in October, set up by Dan's wife Alex, this was a hugely fun all-ages daytime affair, a good way to really hear the songs without the overlay of barroom bozos.  Caleb Trask was taken out of the closet, dusted, and given a stunning reupholstery.  Brand new songs Volta and Daydreamer shine bright, new triumphs from writers who Just Keep Getting Better.

12 15 17  Carrie McFerrin #13/Matthew Borr #7  Chau Haus Schnitzel Station, Kalamazoo  I probably shouldn't do repeat shows as much as I do, in fact I am going to make an effort in 2018 to diversify the acts I go to see, but dammit these are fun people who play well and like me, so here I am again. Went to a Christmas party afterward, the first I've ever been invited to by a non-relative that I could attend.

12 16 17 Olivia Mainville & the Aquatic Troupe #14/Jack And The Bear #2/Red Rio #2 Tip Top Deluxe, Grand Rapids  This was a whole lotta fun.  I'm an auxiliary member of their Scooby gang by now, somehow, along with Olivia's parents, Barrenger, Carlton, and assorted sundry.  Red Rio, aka Alexis Brooke, played as a trio, adding muscle to her intense delivery of songs that were whisper quiet at Founders.  Like if Mia Doi Todd hooked up with the Black Keys, for a nice obscure reference.  Then a whole bus full of bozos hijacked the Tip Top, with some interminable reindeer games involving balancing balloons.  Olivia and Brandon were seething, but they all paid their cover and then split, so the disruption subsidized the show.  Olivia's set is over half unreleased material now, so much of it excellent:  need new record now plz.  Higher Ground sounds like a hit to me.  And then Jack And The Bear:  OG Style, the two east siders in residence, Evan Close on bass and Christina Nielsen on trumpet and oil can.  Also played a couple new ones, in a promising return to Technicolor.  Not technically a west Michigan band, so I'm glad they play here so much:  the scene needs their sinister amiability.  You may sell your soul, but you will be shown a good time along the way.

12 22 17 Darcy Wilkin #9 Webster's, Kalamazoo
12 22 17  The Crane Wives #38/Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #15  Bell's, Kalamazoo  Just about everyone I have met in the last two years was within a few blocks of each other this night.  It was a hard decision on where to go, but I chose the show without Christmas music (bleah).  At Webster's, the schmancy little room inside the Radisson Hotel, a killer lineup of Darcy, Matthew Borr, Dooley, and Matt Milcarek were doing a Christmas thing. (Carrie McFerrin was out sick.)  I only had time to catch Darcy, who gave her melancholy spin to the season, with "Christmas In Prison" and an Emmet Otter tune, along with a preview of the bonkers Rankin-Bass CFG show.  Then I hiked over to Bell's and never stopped grinning.  The Troupe were Bleu-less, as he was spending the holiday with family in the frozen north, but the three piece sound was good: like the duo shows with added Adam drums, nice relaxed takes on my favorite damn songs.  Crowd especially responded to the Boswell Sisters cover, Everybody Loves My Baby.  I have a theory on covers:  I see them as a reward to an audience for paying attention during the originals, like, "oh good doggy, now here's a Milk Bone after you ate all your nice kibble." A well chosen, well played cover will actually help win an audience over, as they remember your tunes fitting so nicely with that one you played they know and like.  (coughbringbackToxiccoughcough).  The Crane Wives are amplified to rock now, folk music is decidedly in the rearview mirror.  The uncategorizable band is being led by the bass down the path of the devil horns.  And I am AOK with this.  Hard to resist the urge to keep elbowing Brandon (seeing them for the first time) and saying "this is good, right?  Isn't this awesome?  Pretty swell? Eh?" Daydreamer is a whole other thing: a sunshiney song like the early ones, but tempered by all the water under the bridge since then.  They never stop growing as songwriters and musicians, and I am privileged to be able to hear that progression in real time.  I did not want to go home.

12 23 17 Corn Fed Girls #2/AARON WRIGHT  Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo  And here is the bonkers Rankin-Bass Christmas show.  Each of the six members dressed as a character from the classic stop motion specials.  Darcy destroyed her hair to embody Hermes the elf.  Jon Campos' Yukon beard kept threatening to steal the show, as did Mike Fuerst's inflatable ostrich-between-the-legs.  (Remove the beak, presto, not a family show.)  Silly trappings, amid some seriously skillful and melancholy songs:  their originals, plus songs from the specials, plus A Holly Jolly Christmas from the opener, Aaron Wright (dressed as Burl Ives).  If you have to do Christmas music, this is the way to do it:  with tongue pressed so firmly in cheek it starts to ache.

12 30 17  A TRIBUTE TO TOM PETTY featuring May Erlewine, Max Lockwood, Karisa Wilson, Lucas Wilson, and Phil Barry  Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids  This was a must see.  Tom Petty was probably the last rock star everyone loves, with the passing of Bowie and Prince, and his early death was a damn shame.  Many many tributes popped up in the months since, but this one had a secret weapon:  Max Lockwood, leader of Big Dudee Roo, bassist to all, who organized this weenie roast as a charity benefit.  The spitting image of the man, with an eerily similar vocal range:  could call him a reincarnation if he wasn't already, you know, like 30 years old.  Other weapon, less secret:  the divine Ms. Erlewine, seen here in rare proximity to extremely amplified guitars.  Two other singers:  the powerful Karisa Wilson (oddly on vocals only:  doesn't she TEACH guitar?) and Lucas Wilson, an intense soulful fellow I couldn't place till someone mentioned he was in Sweet Japonic, a dudebro band from some years back.  Perfectly calibrated set list, great mix of massive and obscure, songs assigned to each singer with thought and care. Joe Van Acker on bass, Mike Lynch on keys, Phil Barry on extremely Campbellish guitar, and the very well named Daine Hammerle hammering away on drums.  Kicked off, perfectly, by May's sweet "Wildflowers," going right into a super punchy "American Girl" by Max.  Lucas' highlight:  a "Nightwatchman" that actually sounded BETTER than the original.  Karisa's:  the semi-obscure 2010 cut "I Should've Known It' that just MELTED FACES.  May has been playing "Learning To Fly" all year, but it lost no passion or sweetness in context. Phil took one vocal, on my all time fave "Honey Bee," and it was fuckin' glorious, footstompy fun.  Max sounded perfect on all the big ones:  "I Won't Back Down," "Last Dance With Mary Jane," encore "Running Down A Dream."  Slight surprise:  May took "You Wreck Me," and took it alllll the way.  Such a powerfully evocative singer, in folk and in the Motivational soul band, so good to see her just go for it like this.  If you weren't there, brothers and sisters, I can't help but feel a little sorry for you.

12 31 17  The Accidentals #5/The Crane Wives #39/Jake Allen #2/STEPHIE JAMES Founders, Grand Rapids  Third year in a row ringing in the new year with the Crane Wives, a tradition I will do my damnedest to maintain.  Even had a companion this time.  Founders is a very different atmosphere than the Wealthy Theatre, but in some ways it was superior:  being up front and standing meant no asses in my face for once.  (Instead I blocked the view of many others....)  Minimal jostling thanks to my tiny bodyguard.  Many tables cleared to make an unusually huge SRO section, since the Accidentals are kind of a big deal now.  Jake Allen was halfway through his set before I realized he wasn't just soundchecking. Impressive control of his guitar, including as a percussion instrument. Stephie James was marvelous:  a female Chris Isaak.  Looks like Punky Brewster, sounds like Tanya Tucker.  Her languorous, atmospheric tunes brought a welcome shot of blues to the evening.  Couldn't make out lyrics in the party atmosphere, Will Investigate Further.  The Crane Wives #39:  no less inspiring than #1.  Visibly and audibly jazzed by a big enthusiastic hometown crowd, they had a wee bit extra zing in their strings.  Front loaded with the great new songs, reaching back to favorite old ones, The Garden scorching the earth, Accidental Wives ripping out Safe Ship Harbored:  it gets no better.  Then the Accidentals, and they're great.  Tempered by the fires of grueling national tours, riding the confidence of a well-written, well-received major label album, they are not the same kids I saw exactly two years earlier.  They are kids who can do basically anything.  Did not play my favorite, Crows Feet, or their new single Earthbound:  instead gave the crowd tastes of some new tracks recorded the day before.  Memorial Day is a great sweet song.  Parking Lot is the most fun.  The End is a complete Olivia pinch, played amazingly.  In the new year I am going to strive to see more unfamiliar acts, I may have gotten too comfortable in 2017, but this was the way to end it in style.  Only regret:  wearing long johns.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

CW Album Ideas

I was bored on Christmas Day.  So I wrote this insane missive and dropped it into the email inbox of my favorite band, the Crane Wives.  I was almost immediately horrified at my own chutzpah, and quickly sent another titled Disregard:  "You are people with jobs, not my fantasy football team.  Merry Christmas."  But.  The next time I saw him, Dan Rickabus gave me a big hug:  said he totally identified with geeking out over your favorite music, and the second email proved I was coming from a place of crazed fandom rather than entitlement.  So, here, preserved in amber.  I stand by the hybrid idea.


So.  Hiya.  Completely unsolicited ideas from your number one local schmuck.  It's been mentioned that you're considering rerecording songs from your first two albums, because of rights snafus to the original masters.  I HAD SOME THOUGHTS SURPRISE SURPRISE.  I envision this as something to be sold at shows as souvenirs, something to get people through till a new album (in 2019?) Three ways to go came to me, and they are as follows.  (I have very little else to do on actual Christmas.)

Pro:  maximization of renewed revenue from songs, but not recordings, you already own
Con:  longtime fans will have all this already, will be dubious of added value
I see this as a quick n' dirty session, maybe two weeks at Centennial, Dan and Ben on the boards, waking up the old songs with your new rawk sound.  Just enough difference from the old versions to hold interest for the hardcore, and a good way to get these songs into the hands of the new fan.

1. Safe Ship, Harbored 2. Shallow River 3. Strangler Fig 4. Counting Sheep 5. October 6. Hole In The Silver Lining 7. Tongues and Teeth 8. Caleb Trask 9. Show Your Fangs 10. Once And For All 11. Margaret (era appropriate, never released....hook for the old fan!) 12. New Colors 13. Easier 14. I Ain't Done

Pro:  shows the breadth of your whole career, minimizes time spent rerecording, adds new songs
Con:  duplication with what you already have for sale
In seven years, you have produced an impressive body of work.  This would be a bit of a victory lap till your next move becomes apparent.

1. High Horse 2. New Colors 3. Hard Sell 4. Tongues And Teeth 5. Empty Page 6. October 7.Rockslide 8. Easier 9. Down The River 10. Take Me To War 11. Strangler Fig 12. Safe Ship, Harbored 13. Once And For All 14. Volta 15. Sleeping Giants

Pro:  no duplication with current discs
Con:  leaves out the last three years
This would mix the five new songs of 2017, plus eight rerecords, plus Margaret.  I really like this idea.

1. High Horse 2. New Colors 3. Strangler Fig 4. Empty Page 5. Tongues and Teeth 6. Take Me To War 7. Show Your Fangs 8. Once And For All 9. October 10. Daydreamer 11. I Ain't Done 12. Margaret 13. Safe Ship, Harbored 14. Volta

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.


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 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 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 Megan Dooley #14  Kent District Library, Cascade Branch, Grand Rapids  I am adding this show in two months late because apparently KDL deletes its events and I completely forgot it happened.  Only two days after Redemption Night, too.  Dumb me.  Dooley does not like early shows, though her voice does:  she sounds so good in an environment in which she can be heard.  I'm sad that she's retired so many originals, but her cover choices remain impeccable:  at least one song from every decade, she says.  Once again sang the reefer song to a roomful of children.  She's a shark, but she's taken the pledge:  friends not food.

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 #4/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.