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.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Live Music Log, March 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.

3 2 18 Corn Fed Girls #3  Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Kalamazoo

       Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #18 Final Gravity Brewing, Kalamazoo  This CFG show was the official kickoff for the Fretboard Festival, mostly held the next day, a smorgasbord of different musical performances, workshops, and stringed instrument petting zoos.  This show was in the large vestibule outside the planetarium. Darcy was droll.  John Campos was gnomishly hilarious.  Mike Fuerst was earnestly virtuosic.  Phil and Sarah were thunderbolty.  Everyone was effortlessly skillful.  This is the biggest band of ringers in town.  This is the '42 Yankees, the '84 Tigers of Kalamazoo folk music.  And then, because Kalamazoo is magic, this early show gave me time to walk literally feet to Final Gravity for everyone’s favorite smiley goth chick, Olivia Mainville. The Troupe this time was missing Bleu, so no trombone, but Libby DeCamp was here for some banjo and harmony, along with the Wonka-ishly entertaining Schreiber brothers.  Since I first saw her, she’s become so much more professional, but…maybe a little less hungry?  I am very much looking forward to new recordings on the horizon.  She’s just getting started.  Remember her name.

3 3 18 KALAMAZOO FRETBOARD FESTIVAL: Thunderbolt & Lightfoot #5/Mark Lavengood Band #2/May Erlewine #9
Kaitlin Rose #4/Brian Koenigsknecht #10/Steve Leaf & The Ex Pats #3 Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo The festival started at noon, on two sites at the downtown campus of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, but I couldn’t get there till 3, so I only caught three acts out of about a dozen that played throughout the day. Phil Barry and Sarah Fuerst, operating as Thunderbolt and Lightfoot ( a wholly owned subsidiary of CFG Inc.), have the kind of effortlessly blending harmonies that either come from being siblings or working together a long, long time. This is the second kind. With just guitar and occasional ukulele, a spell was spun in an overly sunny college classroom. Mark Lavengood is good time knees up slap yer fanny bluegrass, with some rock n roll energy and a set of epic beards. In Transit, recorded before his exit from the Flatbellys, is a favorite of mine. I caught just two songs from Channing and Quinn, but I really need to get to a whole show: utterly charming and unique, complete with tap dancing. May Erlewine was the main event, always a celebratory occasion and a community happening. I’ve made the unlikely comparison to Dolly Parton: both women make you feel like you matter, like you’re part of their world. These songs of healing and compassion, of dark thoughts and distant solutions, are mother’s milk to a troubled mind. I may have shouted along to Never One Thing too loudly, judging by some looks I got. I Do Not Care.

3 4 18 EMILEE PETERSMARK/Brian Koenigsknecht #11/Nicholas James Thomasma #3 Creston Brewery, Grand Rapids This one I had to take off work for. Entry…five? Nick Thomasma’s excellent Songtellers Series, where artists play in the round and talk about their process. Nick continues to impress the hell out of me with his introspective side, I really need to get that Long Story Short album. Brian was on the cusp of releasing his fifth full length, Roswell, and many songs from it were featured, with collaborations from the other two on stage. And Emilee…after 41 Wives shows, a couple years of friendship, this was the first time I had ever seen her do more than one song solo. And it was spine tingling. Every single thing she played is completely unavailable, either really old or really new. My ears were not big enough to absorb all the life giving new music. I filmed the whole thing for absent friends on Facebook Live, but I ruined it, bad, with my own talking and singing, gawd I cannot bear to hear it but I must, because of that treasure trove of unique performances. That was an out of body experience. Someone tune that thing up while I’m gone, would ya?

3 9 18 Matthew Borr #8/Carrie McFerrin #16 Final Gravity Brewing, Kalamazoo A New Year’s resolution of mine was to try to see new and different acts as much as possible this year. I am failing at that because I have friends now, and they often make good music. I was going to pop in here, have some laffs, and pop out to see some other thing, I can’t remember what any more, but the cider was good, the tunes were great, and the company was sparkling, pun intended, so I never left. Some really nifty new songs in the mix: Dreamed A River, Kathleen, and Pick A Flower. (“Thank you for deflowering my song,” sez Carrie to the audience.)

3 10 18 "WEIRD AL" YANKOVIC 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids Such a great idea for a tour: The Ill Advised Self Indulgent Vanity Tour! Pulling out none of the stops! No parodies, all originals! I was excited for this, but in the end, bets were hedged. Emo Philips opened with a set of breathtakingly misanthropic comedy: I didn’t remember him being quite this vicious. Excellent. Then Al: seated, accordion in lap, no costumes, no video screens, just music. Same band for thirty years, all crackerjack players. Jackson Park Express. One More Minute. Dare To Be Stupid played Grateful Dead style. Biggest Ball of Twine….so long and boring, I’m afraid. Thrilling cover of the Kinks’ All Day and All Of The Night. Medley of parodies, making the night’s concept wobbly. Encore: The Saga Begins….long and boring. And 75 minutes in, it was all over. Al is in possibly the finest shape and voice of his life, his relevancy is clear, his artistry is without question…but the brevity of the show, and the absence of his masterpiece Albuquerque, left me with some buyer’s remorse. With my hours being cut at work, I need to stick more to local acts charging $5 to $10 for a while.

3 14 18 The Crane Wives #42 (Kate and Emilee--acoustic) Grand Armory, Grand Haven Another Must Take Off Work Or Else show. Only the second duo gig I’ve been to, and the first was where I officially met them. The Grand Armory curse had me and friends sitting off to the side, causing neck craning issues, and a number of patrons Did Not Care, but enough did to call it a success. I definitely saw other people singing along. Newer songs in an acoustic setting sounded wonderful. A rare performance of New Discovery was a highlight as well. The folk roots of the Crane Wives are much more evident here than in contemporary performances, which skew more indie rock. (The CW Spotify station is full of folk music, except when they themselves are on.) An awkward group photo was taken.

3 16 18 MARK STUART/Darcy Wilkin #10 Kal-Tone Instrument Co., Kalamazoo Not really a house show, but not really a ticketed venue either…an industrial show? This is a workspace where artisans build guitars, called the Sand Room (from when it was a foundry), about the same size as my room at home. We got about thirty people in there, and I finally got to hear Darcy play to SILENCE. No fighting to be heard with quiet voice and strum over drunken maroons. It was glorious. The Steven Wright of music: so morose yet so hilarious. Pavilion Estates is a new character study song. Mark Stuart is a longtime member of Steve Earle’s backing band (and his brother in law) who also writes and sings some fine songs, often with his wife. He looks like a face meld between the two cousins on Perfect Strangers, swear to God. His songs are good, often insightful, but they are a delivery system for his dexterous, fluid guitar playing. He is the best guitarist I have been in a room with since I last saw Guided By Voices in 2002, and Mark was literally eight feet away. I lost my notes with a change of phones, so I don’t have titles, but the overall impression was extreme journeyman competence and pleasure in a job well done. A mob of us went to dinner after the show, and he came along. Great guy.

3 17 18 They Might Be Giants #2 Vic Theatre, Chicago I was introduced to this band, a geek-male favorite, by the prettiest girl I ever went out with, so there’s defiance of stereotypes right there from the beginning. A self-serious comedy band, a fringe act that rocks harder than anything now on the radio, a duo and a five piece. I hate the Vic Theater: no free water, attendants in the fetid restrooms, chewing tobacco ads everywhere, but if that’s where they play that’s where you go. An incredibly obnoxious dudebro tried his best to kill my fun—he was literally keening like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber for a while--but I edged away and he finally fell down drunk. The new album, I Like Fun, is an astonishing work for a thirty year band, a mordantly funny meditation on mortality in its multifarious forms, and it was liberally represented in the set list. Touring trumpeter Curt Ramm is a force of nature, and got several deserved spotlights, including A Self Called Nowhere to my great delight. He elevated Istanbul (Not Constantinople) to a religious experience for the sweaty, heaving mob. Ana Ng melted faces. When Will You Die and Your Racist Friend melted brains. Birdhouse In Your Soul melted hearts. With so much great music right here, I’m reluctant to roadtrip these days, but this was so worth it, even in Loner Guy mode.

3 18 18 Dan Rickabus #5 Chaffee Planetarium, Grand Rapids Is this drugs? Is this what drugs feel like? Trippy visual effects projected on the big dome while Rickabusiness shows em how it’s done? So very good. I like the record. I like the ukulele performances. But I flat out love the Dan Big Band: all three other Wives, Seth Bernard, Steve Leaf, Alex and Doug Smith, Chesney on the sampler. “I want to die in a burst of enthusiasm” is the key lyric here: for this show, for this project, for Mr. Dan Rickabus. Too often, this kind of head trip music relies heavily on synthesizers; there is a keyboard here (played by Emilee!) but the emphasis is on the interplay between guitars, drums, and bass. Your basic rock ingredients reblended and served up as a Tangerine Dream-whip. I don’t think I stopped grinning. Chesney gave me his frankly indecipherable set list. So happy.

3 23 18 DEDE AND THE DREAM/Seth Bernard #4/MISTY LYN/FRIENDS WITH THE WEATHER First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo Should have been a sign above the door: Cynicism Shall Not Pass. There was accomplished music here, but all of the quiet, folky, EARNEST variety. This show was to raise awareness for Seth’s Clean Water Campaign for Michigan, featuring poetry readings by Sarah Drumm between sets. This beautiful church is acoustically perfect and highly liberal (currently providing sanctuary to a potential deportee). Dede and the Dream is a husband and wife duo, sometimes joined by others but not this time, with a marimba and a violin. Dede Alder is a writer of quirky, wry little odes to small joys and bigger concerns. Seth played some conscious numbers and some fun tunes on his battered acoustic. Misty Lyn reminded me some of Joan Baez with a better sense of humor, and a lot of songs about death. Friends With The Weather is three salt and pepper dudes out of Ann Arbor and Toledo, led by a pastor, who sing (and play, impressively) ditties about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, and also admonitions to keep life manageable, simple, easy and happy as possible: be the song.

3 24 18 The Crane Wives #43 Pigeon Hill Brewing, Muskegon As I’ve said before, possibly unfairly, Pigeon Hill is roost to all the white mofos who wouldn’t have been caught dead downtown Muskegon five years ago. Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish, who opened with their high energy rockabilly, got a bigger reception to be sure (I missed all but two songs), but the Wives were not received tepidly or unkindly: the crowd was there for them, even if the sound guy was not. Show was in a tent in the street attached right to the front of the building, so people could pass in and out through the big garage doors seamlessly. Carlton and I hovered in a corner and inhaled the amazing sounds. Kate’s new one, which I am titling Ghost Of Me until I hear different, is wonderful and we don’t quite deserve it yet. Volta is a primal roar of hope. The woman behind me, who looked like Eva Mendes’ bratty little sister, was vocally unimpressed. She was wrong. But I fear that she and her ilk are going to drive this life giving band, and all the others out there, off the road and into day jobs just to survive. Please, please, go to shows, pay attention, spend money, make sure the venue knows you’re there to see the band. This is a golden era for live music in West Michigan, let’s not let it get smothered in the crib by the kind of dudebros and dudettes who take up the eight-top right in front of the stage and then get annoyed when the music makes their conversations difficult.

3 31 18 MATT GROSS/Brian Koenigsknecht #12/Darcy Wilkin #11 Brian's house, Kalamazoo This might be the only way said golden era survives: by going underground. This house show was absolutely packed to the gills, with people who wanted to hear every note they were gifted with. I may have cracked a few too many jokes during the show, but I felt among friends. Spur of the moment collaborations between these three were frequent and welcome. Darcy is playing more originals than covers now, her confidence is growing thanks to sweet shows like this. Brian has a new record coming out, heart on sleeve troubadouring to do, and here at this home game he shone with his intense baritone. And Matt Gross…could kill by singing the phone book, but fortunately his songs are funny, heartfelt, or both. The longtime lead singer of Knee Deep Shag, a band I saw a lot in a past life, he’s been beavering away at a solo project for the better part of a decade, and we lucky few got to hear what he’s been working on. Watch out for him: completely off the social media grid, but that may change when he has something to share with us all at last. The most pristine high tenor in Kalamazoo (that’s right, Graham Parsons, I SAID IT). “Grief is love without a place to go”: a phrase untethered in my notes, I think it was from a Matt Gross song. I also seem to remember Darcy riffing on service kids, like service dogs for the childless, but I could be wrong. I had a lot of fun and a lot of cheese. Inside joke: sorry Lana!


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Spotlights for March 2018

3 17 18 Darcy Wilkin Take You With Me

3 18 18 Olivia Mainville and the Aquatic Troupe Danger Death Ray

3 19 18 Michigander Falling

 3 20 18 Hollywood Makeout Speedo Spider

3 21 18 Bet On Rats Attraction to Reaction

3 22 18 Borr + McFerrin Pick A Flower

3 23 18 Friends with the Weather Be The Song

3 24 18 Crane Wives Daydreamer

3 25 18 Chuck Whiting If Everyone Loved Like You

3 26 18 Dacia Bridges Project I Begin To Wonder

3 27 18 Major Murphy Step Out

3 28 18 Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas Hot Damn

3 30 18 The Krelboynes

3 31 18 Delilah DeWylde  the Devil Inside


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.