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, March 18, 2017

Live Show Log, February 2017

2 3 17 WINTER DANCE PARTY: Delilah De Wylde & The Lost Boys #3/DIFF & DUDLEY/DANGERVILLE Tip Top Deluxe, Grand Rapids On the 58th anniversary of The Day The Music Died, Ted Smith at Tip Top put together a tribute show to the three entertainers we lost. Understandably heavy on Buddy Holly numbers, but Mr. Valens and Mr. Bopper was represented as well. There were many overlapping tunes, but with the three acts’ different styles it was not an issue. Delilah, up first, kept it low key, no drums, traditional rockabilly, mellow and nostalgic. Great versions of “Down The Line,” “Everyday,” and the Burnettes’ “Train Kept A Rollin’.” Lee Harvey is a master of the clean Buddy type of guitar tone. Surprise of the night for me was Diff & Dudley: nominally a country band, they came across as a good version of the Eagles, or like a bar of band from Newaygo on the best night of their lives. These are older gentlemen who seem to have finally found the sound they need, like a redneck Vox Vidorra. A tiny bit of cringey gender humor, but otherwise I enjoyed them more than I had any right to expect. Twang where needed, guitar crunch welcome in spots. Three singers, all good, the craggiest fellow with the highest, sweetest voice. Highlights: “Ting A Ling,” a Mickey Jupp cover with a long name I can’t remember, and “Midnight Shift” played as a real shitkicker. A few of their own originals were very good and not a million miles away from the night’s theme. And then, Dangerville, and I was done. When I last saw them fifteen years ago, Delilah was actually in the band, and was a rare visible woman on a scene ruled by boys who could barely play their guitars. They are dinosaurs, their nominally rockabilly based, turn-it-to-11 noise for noise’s sake giving me old-Intersection flashbacks. Dick-swinging attitude, Brylcreem, Terminal Guitar Face: none of which bad, exactly, but I have moved on by and large to more subtle sounds. I left about six songs into their set.

2 4 17 THE NORTHERN FIRES/MATTHEW BOHR/Carrie McFerrin #2 Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo The best thing about the last year-and-change is the discovery that local artists like it when you talk to them and visibly appreciate what they do. Carrie is perhaps the friendliest of a friendly bunch; she reminds me of half my cousins, if my cousins could sing with the intensity of a brush fire. Her duo set with Matthew Borr was marked by interesting arrangements, practiced harmonies, and far-too-brief electric licks from Mr. Borr. The Northern Fires are a male-female duo as well, and there were various trios and quartets throughout the night on different songs for different effects. Thier songs were nice, mostly soft and strummy, though they drew my strongest interest when things got a mite fiesty. They possess the magic trick of harmonies so long-practiced they seem effortless. GR has a great music scene, but in Kalamazoo it is so close knit as to become a cable sweater. Saw Dooley for about 45 minutes at Tibb’s before heading over to this show; she has a Pokey LaFarge cover that is coming along nicely. Did Sunnyside at my request, such a lovely song. I accidentally sang a solo on The Bare Necessities.....

2 10 17 18TH ANNUAL WYCE JAMMIE AWARDS, The Intersection, Grand Rapids
2 10 17 The Verve Pipe #4/Papa Vegas #3/CHRISTOPHER ANDRUS, 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids In which Chad spends 12 hours on his feet. I started my day reasonably petrified, as a first time protector at the Heritage abortion clinic. Other people lasted an hour, maybe two, but thanks to my protective layer of blubber I was able to be out there from 8 am to noon, trying to shield women from the shrieking eels of anti-choice. Failed attempt at a nap, then to the Intersection by 5 for the beginning of the Jammies. This show is a longtime tradition that I have never partaken in before, but I never knew so many people before either. The night kicked off with Public Access, a math rock supergroup featuring Seth Bernard, the male Crane Wives, Steve Leaf, and a bunch of other guys I don’t know (yet). More on them in the next entry. There were 25 acts on two stages playing abbreviated sets; I wandered over to the smaller stage to check out Emma Loo, friend of many friends. And I Did Not Get It. Silver dress and body paint, deliberately difficult robotic sound, reminiscent of nothing so much as Ross’ “music” on Friends. And then she won Listeners Choice Awards for both Best New Album and Best New Artist. She seems like a sweetheart, so this is just my problem. Back to the main stage: Channing And Quinn, charming acoustic duo. He is also the program director for WYCE; she is also a member of the Verve Pipe these days. She has a truly magnificent set of pipes, playing with vocal dynamics with aplomb. And tap dancing! Smaller stage: Charlie Darling, girl with a guitar, nice but not ohmygod, reminiscent of Priscila Ahn. Main stage: Red Tail Ring, another acoustic male/female duo, but less interested in charming you than in ripping your heart to shreds. Intense guitar/violin interplay. The Legal Immigrants made a really bad first impression, soundchecking loudly over top of an acceptance speech by an elderly programmer, the only fellow to work at the station for all 30 years it has existed, maikng his speech from a wheelchair off the stage. Jackasses. Their songs were really good though, dammit, most intense of the night yet, Sloanlike rawk interplay with a late-set Melvinsish country curveball. The Bootstrap Boys were straight on country, well played but not my thing, so I headed down the block to the new downtown venue 20 Monroe Live, for hometown hero night. Attended with my sister and brother in law, so it counts as a break in Creepy Alone Guy status, even if we didn't find each other in the mob till the Verve Pipe's set. The brand new room looks like the Orbit Room with all the grime scraped off. Chris Andrus, the opener, had pleasant enough songs, with female backing and two guitars, no drums, but not much impression was made. Was selling CDs for $5 to benefit charity, some jackass behind me shouted he'd give him five bucks to get off the stage. Geoff said he was in Bless You Boys, a band that was around the same time as his Smalltown Stereo. After/before my time. Papa Vegas were great, forceful, not quite as massive sounding as last year's Intersection shindig, but always welcome in my eardrums. Highlight: the newish tune "She's Made of Stone." And then: the Verve Pipe, one original member but still sounding tight, played their nationally massive album "Villains" all the way through, start to finish, for the first time in twenty years. No one needs to hear "The Freshmen" again, really, but it was worth it to see Brian tear up at the crowd reaction at this Local Boys Make Good show. "Villains" would have been great if the drunk buzzard hadn't lunged between me and my sister with his fist at maximum pumpage. Beers were $11 each, so anyone who got drunk at that show was the smuggest of white yuppie assholes. (And I do mean white: it was revelatory going from the diverse crowd at the Jammies to the pale pale assemblage in this room. Sooo many backward ball caps.) Channing Lee had her moment to shine on "Medicate Myself"; Griff, the longtime harmonica dude, had his on "A Spoonful Of Sugar", five full minutes of grinning hacky sack catharsis. I had to leave when the first notes of "Take The Long Way Home" started; if you don't know that story, ask me sometime. Back over to the Jammies for one more performance: an all star jam on the smaller stage featuring Seth Bernard, Mark Lavengood of the Flatbellys, all four Crane Wives, Steve Leaf, and Max Lockwood of Big Dudee Roo, among others. Seth Bernard is almost all the way transformed into Neil Young, and this is a good thing: full of righteous anger and instinctive (and loud) guitar skills. "Turkeys In The Rain" is his one big dumb fun song, and I may have lost my voice shrieking along. "New Device" was another highlight. My feet hurt from standing, my throat hurt from singing, and my face hurt from grinning.
2 11 17 Megan Dooley #6 Pigeon Hill Brewing, Muskegon
2 11 17 PUBLIC ACCESS/HEAVY COLOR Founders, Grand Rapids
Double show Saturday began with Ms. Dooley in downtown Muskegon, at one of the many, many new brewpubs that provide all the musical acts so many more quality places to play out than there were fifteen years ago. Muskegon is the most racially diverse place on the lakeshore, but that room had every portly white mofo who wouldn't have been caught dead downtown even five years ago. Remarkable that Muskegon even HAS a downtown, development is finally filling the holes left by the demolition of the mall. Very few people in that room gave two shits what Megan was playing, but there was some applause and, who knows, maybe some converts after I left. I stayed for two of three sets; her smoky voice and Graham's bass were especially effective on O Death's song "Angeline". Her Pokey LaFarge number is relaxing into something highly nifty.
From there, drove to GR to hear Public Access' full set, after a taste at the previous night's Jammies. I missed the first opener, After Ours, and half of Heavy Color, a Toledo post-rock outfit; what I saw was impressively virtuosic, but only the impassioned saxophone kept things from drifting too far into Computer Land. Public Access features Seth Bernard, Dan and Ben from the Crane Wives, Steve Leaf and several of his Ex-Pats, among others; it is a math-rock geekout side project, a chance for these often mellow, often folky fellows to get their King Crimson on. Their 75 minute, vocal-free set was tight and melodic; where Heavy Color explores sound, Public Access explores melody, and that will always win with me. Each gentleman on stage (six guitars, bass and drums) carved out his own improvisatory space within a clearly well-rehearsed framework. A new number called Idea 9 rocked pretty darn hard; Yuki Noguchi and Ira Glass were the other clear standouts. (Got the song titles off the setlists at their feet, even I can't tell the individual numbers apart too well yet.) I really wanted to hear more when they were done, after the grinning pileup instigated by Bernard.
2 17 17 May Erlewine #2 Ten Pound Fiddle Series, MSU Community Music School, East Lansing  May Erlewine is almost 35 years old. She has been a fixture of Michigan's folk scene for well over a decade. I try very hard to avoid talking about the appearance of the people I review here, especially the women, because it's irrelevant to the music, and I have found that friendships have been easier to begin and maintain now that I'm dead inside from divorce. But. May has smile lines around her mouth and worry lines on her brow. She is diminutive, slender, the mother of a toddler. She has awkward little dance moves and bopping motions that go with certain songs. She's working on her stage presence with a coach, despite her long career. And she is the hottest freaking woman I have seen in years. I may not be quite as dead inside as I may have hoped. She has this inner kindness that she radiates when she sings, or smiles, or exists, and I am finding it hard to maintain any semblance of objectivity. This show was part of a folk music subscription series of long standing in the Lansing community; there were maybe a dozen people in the crowd of about 200 who were younger than me, and that includes the band (featuring Max Lockwood of Big Dudee Roo and Michael Shimmin, an extraordinarily disciplined drummer formerly with the Red Sea Pedestrians). I had failed to buy the wonderful, soulful Little Things EP at the Founders show, so I fixed that quick; only two songs from it were played, but they were great. The woman who introduced the show very sternly admonished us to keep cellphones away, so I couldn't take notes like I have been lately to enhance my memory; in consequence I can only say it was a wonderful show. The room was basically a choir room or a band room, that institutional smell, no risers, baffles on the walls. Most songs were from the most recent EP and the previous LP; she told several stories, some sad and one (involving a sobriety stop) uproarious. Highlights: Nothing But Love, an audience-led Shine On and Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. We were in the palm of her hand, and we were sorry to go home. 
2 18 17 JACK AND THE BEAR/Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #8/LIBBY DECAMP Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo This is basically one big lumbering beast of a band now, but it was my first time seeing Ms. DeCamp and the Schreibers playing their own material in full sets. This was the second show back in Michigan after a ragtag one-van six-headed tour of the far west. The night started out rotten for me: Facebook said 8 pm, the show got going around 9:30. The waitstaff ignored me. My stool got stolen twice when I got up to pee. The stageside seating in this place is really poor. But once the music started, it became worth it. Libby DeCamp has a small, enigmatic stage presence, but her baroque songs grow on you with each listen. Olivia seems to have had a confidence injection from the tour, or maybe she was just too exhausted to be nervous; she played an assured and upbeat set, with Bleu, Andy and the brothers, the newest songs all on fire. On A Grave is spectacular. Jack And The Bear (rejoined by the two members who didn’t leave Michigan) confused the audience at Old Dog with their stop-start rhythms, idiosyncratic line readings, and general wild-eyed abandon. Tepid applause greeted each new freakout. I loved it. Brandon was kind enough to give me a copy of their first album; the second, a song cycle about a dystopic future, is fine, but deliberately monochromatic. The first one explodes with Technicolor melodies, and that is always going to be my jam. Thanks dude.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Live Show Log, January 2017

1 6 17 Delilah DeWylde and The Lost Boys #2/THE BIRDSEED SALESMEN Bell’s, Kalamazoo First show of the new year found me turning away from new sounds toward an old, old one, with many happy returns. Delilah and her two henchmen play a low-stakes rockabilly that leans on the warm fuzzies more than angry energy, but is certainly no less for it. Great originals, faithful renditions of Elvis and Janis Martin among others, two guitars and a bass for half the set then light brushed drums for the rest. There are artists, who bring new things into the world, and there are craftsmen, who can make the same thing over and over again with consistent excellence. Lee Harvey, Delilah’s guitarist, is a master damn craftsman. Her bass playing is also excellent, not at all sure how you can learn to play so down and dirty when you’re from frickin’ Zeeland. Light but enthusiastic crowd for Bell’s. Met a new show buddy, Steve Salaba, who follows Delilah around like I do the Crane Wives. The Birdseed Salesmen were a real treat: three gentlemen, aged about 25, 40 and 50, who play vocal-free gypsy jazz, also on two guitars and a bass. Pleasure in craft rather than suffering for art was the theme for the evening. Delilah DeWylde The Birdseed Salesmen

1 14 17 Megan Dooley #5 Tibbs Brewing, Kalamazoo Very nice low-key set in a beer basement next door to the State Theatre. One cool unrecorded original. Part Of Your World made a welcome appearance. Talkative but not unappreciative audience. Pearl Jam’s “Elderly Woman...” was a highlight, she really nailed the dynamics even with just an acoustic. Got a ticket on the way home for rolling a 4 way on Bauer. And the Trump era begins.

1 20 17 ROOSEVELT DIGGS/Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #7 Red House Concert Series, Tri-Cities Museum, Grand Haven I like the intimate shows in the little breweries, but a big packed room is really something to behold, and this was one of those. The Tri-Cities Museum has a big newly renovated hall on the second floor, and they’re having a series of concerts featuring local music. Higher ticket prices mean people want to be there, skew a little older, and actually listen to the band play. There were almost 200 people there, the biggest audience I’ve seen the Troupe play for, and they rose to the challenge. The band has basically merged with Jack & the Bear at this point, with the brothers Schreiber; add in Libby DeCamp and the eight headed beast is going on a big tour of the west soon. (Hope the van is large and well-ventilated, guys!) Sat with Carlton again, becoming a habit. Someone thought I was Olivia’s dad, so I can officially kiss the last dregs of my youth goodbye. The sound was big, bright and sharp, with punchy horns from Andy and Bleu and Adam Schreiber’s distinctive falling-down-the-stairs-with-style drumming. She very bravely risked being upstaged by her own boyfriend, as Brandon took the mic for two Jack & The Bear songs, put over with theatrical intensity. I stand by it: Gogol Bordello with the douchery drained out. I really like the new songs, hope a recording is forthcoming. Roosevelt Diggs: very entertaining live, but I suspect their recordings might be too country for me, with the rush of live excitement removed. They wear ties and vests, but sell T shirts: shouldn’t their merch be neckties? Two singers, both quite good, harmonies excellent, ironically the guy playing acoustic sang more rockin’ numbers than the guy on electric. At one point the drummer strapped on a washboard with attached pie pan percussion, and the crowd went apeshit. Lotsa fun. They closed with a culturally dubious medley of rap numbers played old-timey, a much bigger cliche than the often impressive collection of originals from the night. (Unlike at Grand Armory in October, they removed most of the curse words, mindful of the two little girls in the front row...) Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe on Local Spins  Roosevelt Diggs on Local Spins Roosevelt Diggs Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe

1 21 17 SARA WATKINS/LIZ LONGLEY Bell’s, Kalamazoo I have been to Bell’s an awful lot in the past year; their bookers are so very good at what they do. I had heard Sara Watkins many times on Prairie Home Companion, always liked her squeaky little voice and virtuosic fiddle; when her more recent stuff turned rockier, I knew this would be a good show to see, and I was right. I don’t know her songs well enough yet to have favorites, but I enjoyed them, and her sound. Sara on fiddle, guitar, or ukulele, a gentleman on electric, and another gentleman on drums while somehow playing bass with his feet. Marred once again by people who would not shut the hell up, in this case the older couple sharing my table. They seemed nice, but then they would. Not. Shut. Up. Why would you pay $20 a head, plus beers, and then very loudly have a conversation you could have just as well at home? At one point they speculated very loudly on whether Ms. Watkins had a bra on, at which point I vacated my seat for the duration of the evening. Liz Longley didn’t play long, but she made a good impression, just her with an acoustic and some really funny stories about her songs. She is definitely country, but very engaging live. I missed her first couple songs because Dooley’s cats have needs. Speaking of the Megan, there was a bonus performance from her earlier in the day at Fountain Street Church, at a rally in support of the Women’s March in DC and elsewhere. It was a pleasure hearing her voice in that gigantic beautiful space; she has the biggest lady-balls ever, singing her murder ballad and plugging her merch from the stage. She is the bee’s knees, yo. Also heard Hannah Rose Graves, retroactively impressive after I learned she’d only been playing her own guitar for six months; Rachel Gleason, singer/poet, inspirationally intense with a crystal bell for a voice; and Dede Alder, a Good Hippie with a friendly guitarist/looper and a big ol’ marimba. I can’t believe it needs saying in 2017, but here goes: feminism is the radical idea that women are people. Sara Watkins Liz Longley 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Live Show Log, December 2016

12 2 16 Megan Dooley #4/CARRIE McFERRIN/DARCY WILKIN Webster’s, Kalamazoo I wasn’t initially going to go to this, thinking Dooley didn’t need a stalker, but she gently reminded me that she plays so people can hear, so I went. Very glad I did, because despite general crowd disinterest in this hotel-steakhouse back barroom setting, this was a novel way to see three artists who know and like each other to play “in the round,” that is, taking turns and collaborating rather than each doing a set. Carrie McFerrin looks like my cousins. She is a very nice suburban mom. So no one sees her coming. She sings like her life depends on it, like she is exorcising her demons lest they infect her and her loved ones. All three women played some nice covers, but the originals are what made me sit up straight, and Carrie’s are wrenchingly personal to the point where I sometimes had trouble watching her while she sang. When A Gun Goes Off is so harrowing she broke down a bit, clipping the ending (she cry-laughed to Dooley, “I lost ma shit!”) Gypsy Queen is one of the horniest things I’ve ever heard, a howling cry of aching need that seemed to pass right over the drinkers’ heads. And, killer cover of Neutral Milk Hotel!! This was my fourth Dooley show, and she seems to instinctively tailor her appearance and demeanor to each (wildly different) venue she plays while still remaining true to herself. This was Slightly Subdued Dooley, possibly aided by the theft of her kazoo and foot-tambourine last week. I was especially glad to hear Fall, a song she wrote for her father and rarely performs, a lovely tune. Darcy Wilkin is frickin’ amazing. I talked about that fine line between alt-country and Radio Sucktown; she knows right where it is and stays firmly in her lane. A relaxed, world-weary but not defeated voice, a lived-in sound, like John Prine or Townes Van Zandt. The world hasn’t made much room for female versions of those guys, so it’s about time it did. She very kindly gave me a copy of the CD from her band, the Corn Fed Girls. There is some nice music, but it’s her two songs that I went back to over and over. Need More Of This. I was wildly out of place here, in my giant-sock-monkey-attacking-Empire-State T shirt paying $42 for a Caesar salad and two cocktails, but the music is the point, and here tonight it was ON point.
12 3 16 GLITTER AND DOOM: A TOM WAITS TRIBUTE NIGHT (Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe, Mike List, Deep Fried Pickle Project, Jessica In The Rainbow, Libby DeCamp, Nate Harttmann, Chris Newman Band, Chris Miroslaw, Mark Duval, Megan Dooley, Jack And The Bear, Brenden Mann) Bell’s, Kalamazoo I waited too long to write this; it’s been six days and details are fading. This show was organized and staged by Dooley; there was a tintype photobooth ($60 or I woulda tried it), Waits-inspired props she grabbed from the junkyard, a “strange instrument petting zoo,” and gift bags containing whistles, bubbles, and tiny little aborted fetus things. Twelve acts, five hours of music, all Waits covers. A great idea for a casual Waits listener like me, since his voice is not up to the task of his own magnificent songs most of the time. (I do like later, weirder Waits.) Most of the people there were not casual fans though, these were the hardcore cool of the Michigan scene and I so did not belong there. The beards were long, the threads were groovy, and the hats were everywhere. But, music is the reason, so I plunked my butt on my high stool and took in every note. Dooley was vibrating with happiness that she pulled this show off virtually hitchless, I know that much. Transcribed from my notes, because apparently I take notes during shows now: Olivia Mainville kicked the night off, adapting Waits into her gypsy sound with added slinky saxy menace. Mike List played lap steel and shared the Waits trait of having a voice that has seen all of life, the sun and the dirt nap. Stole all the best covers too. Deep Fried Pickle Project is like the Stephen King version of the Scottville Clown Band, having more fun that strictly recommended by a physician. In a ZZ Topish irony, the one skinny beardless guy had the deepest, gruffest voice. Filipino Box Spring Hog was a highlight for me, complete with squeaking rubber pigs; beware the cymbal helmet! Also the percussion stick resembling a giant Bopit. Jessica In The Rainbow: Tom Waif? I remember being both pissed at people talking during her set and jealous that they had people to talk to. Libby DeCamp: ginger witch banjo goddess. Murder In The Red Barn was another musical highlight. This maybe isn’t the best place for someone who doesn’t like to be jostled. Nate Harttmann I liked because frankly his voice isn’t much better than mine, giving me the aspirations again. But, he can play several instruments and I can’t even play pinochle. Spoken word interlude with Robert English? I think was his name? What’s he building in there? With random percussive accompaniment. My favorite single bit of the night. The whole show had the kind of grimy sheen that attracts rather than repels. Chris Newman Band: Step right up. Chris Miroslaw: the mic distortion he dealt with merely added to the Waitsian ambiance. Mark Duval was gritty and authentic. There were sure a lot of weird little dudes there with absurdly attractive women. It was getting late and the crowd was thinning by the time Dooley herself played. Blue Valentines was very nice. Jack and The Bear was the discovery of the evening for me: amiable menace, tight control that sounds like falling down the stairs. Like Gogol Bordello with 90% of the asshole drained out. Took days, but I finally figured out who the singer looks like: spitting image of Bradley Whitford. Josh Lyman on baritone sax! Big finale: damn near everyone on stage, with a gentleman named Branden Mann singing Chocolate Jesus. Epic. Dooley used my picture! For a while. That was nifty.

12 9 16 Olivia Mainville (sans Troupe) #6 Tripelroot, Zeeland A last minute substitution for Delilah DeWylde, who had a sick husband/guitarist. It is beyond surreal to be seeing live music in Zeeland (!) in a brewpub (!!!) . When I was a kid, the only music in town was churchy, little kid singalonga, or guys in straw boaters hailing those lazy hazy crazy days of summer. Times change, even here. Tripelroot is in the old Ottawa Savings and Loan, which was Florsheim Shoes when Mom was a kid. The old bank drive-thru is now an outdoor deck. Except for Carlton, who I was pleased to meet here again, the patrons were vaguely discomfited by the girl singing in the corner, though they did pause quaffing to applaud now and then. I had never seen Olivia perform alone, and it was very interesting to hear her songs stripped so far down. I kept singing the horn parts in my head, and occasionally aloud... This is a pretty small space, and she did no crowd patter at all, just going from song to song. Taking pleasure in the playing. I did leave early to spend some time watching TV with my mom; I spent almost every Saturday night over there with her for over a year watching Stargate, and she’s been feeling a bit abandoned since I started going to so many shows. We started the new Gilmore Girls, yay!
12 10 16 MAY ERLEWINE Founders, Grand Rapids I have an older CD of hers; it’s nice, rootsy, slightly twangy, and it does not come close to representing the sound she has now, on her Little Things tour. She’s left her folkier roots behind for a happier, swingier, soulful sound. She was clearly grooving on the high proficiency of her crackerjack band. Special honors to the smoking organ and the masterful trumpet. May seems somehow both patiently kind and undeniably sexy, the Dolly Parton paradox, though Ms. Erlewine is more elegant than cheerfully brash. This show was billed as a dance party and if I could dance I woulda; the country-fried swing-soul proved dance music didn’t have to be an electronic squall like my cousin was attending down the block at the Intersection. Most of the originals were new and thus new to me; the covers were reassuring classics, like Cry To Me, Lean On Me, Stand By Me. There was an unapologetically political theme to the night (Mr. Big Stuff was dedicated to Cheeto Mussolini), with a proposal for women to run things at last, and for strong men to support them. The overall theme of the show was that the holidays can be blue; some are uncomfortable, some are grieving, some are angry, and this show and this music are a safe place for all to gather and find a smile. Time to find some new traditions, and let go of old ones that don’t empower or support others. There were a few people in the crowd who did not want to hear such liberal twaddle--an attempt at a moment of silence for Standing Rock failed pretty hard--but for those of us crushed by this horrible year, her message was more than welcome. After the show was over, I made a gigantic ass of myself, and my cheeks still burn when I think of the stupid thing I said to a wonderful person, but I am not gonna tell that story. Just leaving this note here to remind myself to always think before I speak, and always come down on the side of kindness.
12 17 16 Crane Wives #14 Founders, Grand Rapids I’m running out of superlatives for this band. There’s no such thing as “just another Wives show,” but I don’t have the power of description to differentiate one awesome show from another awesome show. Plus, I waited too long to write this. These are talented, friendly, and kind people who make songs that I want to hear over and over and over. Carlton was my show buddy again. I had a really tasty tuna melt. A knot of people in front of me would not stop talking; found out later they were friends of the band, and maybe familiarity breeds indifference for some. Not me, go talk somewhere else dudes. There was a new song, with less folk influence audible than ever: new direction? Big yay for a rare outing of October. Pretty Little Things was great. The Garden was reliably apocalyptic. Emilee enumerates my fears, and Kate channels my doubts, and yet somehow the music is not unremittingly sad. Encore: everyone knows you’re not gonna get out of here till ya play Sleeping Giants, kids. Good crowd for Founders, mostly there to see the band and not just quaff. (Terry Pratchett on quaffing: “a form of social drinking where most of the ale misses the mouth, and the tankard is used not so much as a vessel to drink from, but as something handy to conduct the singing.”) Opening was Morgan Haner, an Illinois transplant who looks like Steve Zahn and sounds like a happier Robbie Fulks. 
12 23 16 Christmas Eve Eve with Megan Dooley and Friends Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo I still don’t know if I should have gone or not. I’m making friends with these folks, but I’m not A friend, so I was feeling very divorced. Despite her atheism my wife was always nuts about Christmas and its attendant rituals; attending a show that was almost nothing but Christmas music was maybe not the best idea in the history of ideas. One fellow on accordion, Matt Milcarek, changed Dooley’s “Too Many Times” into a Christmas anthem: “He’s checkin’ with Jesus and General Grievous to find who’s naughty or nice.” Mike List was great, and soul crushingly depressing. My evening was saved by three women: Dooley, who thanked me for my random gift of cat food with a rose, first flower from a pretty girl in many years; Darcy Sahlgren Wilkin, who is making me believe in the power and the glory of Emmett Otter; and Carrie McFerrin, who skirted the evening’s theme and played her own great songs with the flimsiest of pretense, then capped it with “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, with her family on backing vocals. Abe Savas’ “Christmas at Gound Zero” tipped the scales firmly in favor of Totally Worth The Slushy Drive Home.
12 31 16 SETH BERNARD/Crane Wives #15/Vox Vidorra #5/THE GO ROUNDS Wealthy Theatre, Grand Rapids What a difference a year makes, and also things don’t really change. The Year Of Going Out has brought me a lot of wonderful music, and acquainted me with a lot of the great musicians who make it, especially The Women of Kalamazoo. But I was still alone in the front row, at the mercy of assholes. Seth Bernard was someone I had a distinct impression of: Earthwork Harvest, acoustic hippie harmonies, husband to May Erlewine, inoffensive folk. Well, dude has discovered that his knob goes to 11. Very reminiscent of when Chris Whitley went weird. Folk melodies at the bottom, worthy hippie sentiments, but more Neil Young now than Jackson Browne. I was surprised to learn the folkiest song of the night was actually a new one. Superb. Harrison’s All Things Must Pass was like a ray of sunshine. The Crane Wives were on top of their game, leaning toward the zippier end of their repertoire for the holiday show. Emilee’s man tailored suit was on point, as the kids say. New song, High Horse, sounded great. Vox Vidorra: holy crap, clear winners of the non-contest. (Far from a contest: there was was much collaboration between the acts all night.) I don’t know why a Tina Turner comparison never occurred to me before, possibly because I admire her more than actually enjoy her music, but Molly was a stage-stalking, skirt-bead-shaking force of nature. First time seeing them in such a large venue and by God did they make the most of it. They played two covers, one old song, and zero songs from the album they’re selling, and the crowd roared for more: never experienced anything like that even with a national act. So many exciting new songs coming down the pike. And the cover of Fame almost lifted the actual roof off the sucker. I was coming in completely blind to the Go Rounds, and they made a believer out of me: knotty, complex, spacey yet funky, danceable math rock. Weirdest music I’ve ever seen a crowd dance to enthusiastically. Graham Parsons is a skinny little fellow with a buck tooth grin you wouldn’t look at twice in Wal Mart, but when his voice started swooping and sighing along with his fiery guitar, even *I* wanted to have sex with him a little tiny bit. And then, after midnight (saved from no kiss by a drunken stranger in the second row), the all star jam. Molly Bouwsma Schultz wailing Harry Nilsson’s Jump Into The Fire was the cleansing primal scream we didn’t know we needed. The Go Rounds proved they can do simple with great effect too with Little Bitty Pretty One, with Kate and Emilee backing him up. No one can stay grumpy while that song is on, it’s just physiologically impossible. To sum up, musically an incredible night, top five of all time for sure. Personally....argh. Alone again and painfully aware of it now that divorce is finally starting to be in my rearview mirror. And the talkers. Jesus H. Christ, this was a theater, not Founders at Happy Hour, could your loud conversations maybe wait till after the amazing music is not coming at your heads? This one guy....I came so close to getting myself ejected. While Seth Bernard was speaking about the power of collaboration and the importance of community, this fucker was mocking him at high volume, ten feet away. And then he made some racially tinged digs at Molly! I mean, what the fuck kind of twatwaddle does this? Sigh. Apparently the kind very close to the musicians. If you’ve heard these songs a hundred times, for some people it must become background music. I just wish they had more respect for those of us who want to hear them a hundred more. Went to Grand Coney for a pulled pork hot dog and shepherd’s pie. I will still call the night a win. Thank you for this year, The Crane Wives, Vox Vidorra, Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe and Megan Dooley primarily, and many others as well. Let’s try to make 2017 suck just a little bit less than the Hunger Games we’re about to descend into will make it seem to.  Crane Wives on Local Spins


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Live Show Log, November 2016

11 4 16 Olivia Mainville & the Aquatic Troupe #5 Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Kalamazoo Fun show! Little kids dancing in the aisles. Best since Old Dog, even with borrowed drummer. 6 pm, which led to Double Show Friday, which led to.....

11 4 16 MEGAN DOOLEY Harmony Hall, Grand Rapids I’m already forgetting, only three weeks later, what led me to go see her play. Cross associations with other musicians? Vague recollection of seeing her play in a storefront during Artprize year before last? She’s just awesome. The definition of a working, play-it-as-it-lays gigging musician who is in it for the songs. Fiance on bass, relaxed and ready for anything, including getting a whole bar shrieking along to the Little Mermaid. A little older and wiser than most of the acts I follow, but not jaded: just seeing through the BS the world puts out and choosing to be amused by it. I got the last copy of the second printing of her CD. David Barrenger was kind enough to get it from his car. Songs About Drugs! Make It Happen!
11 11 16 Megan Dooley #2 Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum, South Haven I went into this one completely blind off a Facebook Event. Fundraiser for a cool, strange little museum dedicated to a dude from South Haven who became head botanist at Yale or something. Painfully obvious I had just seen her the week before, but she didn’t assume stalking at all! I think. Great sound in an ancient home. Free wine! (hic) And it was early, so Double Show Friday took me to.....
11 11 16 THE JETBEATS/SAILOR KICKS Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill, Grand Rapids Carlton Macksam, who I met at Dooley’s Harmony Hall show, recommended this band to me, and when I showed up, I sat with him: does that count as actually attending a show with another human being for the first time in 3 1/2 years? They were flat out amazing: zeroed in on the Beatles’ sound in 63 and 64, but with a fire lit under their asses. Punk energy welded to the greatest melodies ever written, and some damn fine originals in the Beatles style. Like a villanelle, it’s hard to stick to a rigid formula and come up winning, but success is theirs. It was a CD release party, yet the band was basically breaking up and reforming at the same time. The vagaries of lower-level showbiz. Sailor Kicks were very good, much younger, retro sound (more ska on the CD, which I did not pick up on at all live). The singer very kindly gave me their CD, which promptly got stuck in my car player. Thinnest CD I have ever seen. Thanks anyway dude!
11 12 16 Crane Wives #13 Rare Bird Brewpub, Traverse City I really should not have gone to this show. It was a two plus hour drive and I was sick as a dog. But. I had a really nice walk around town during my favorite time of the year, and the music was great as always. I needed a Crane Wives show after the election basically ensured the United States has no future. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we grow our crops with Brawndo.
11 18 16 Megan Dooley #3 Bookends Resale Shop, Parchment This one vies with Muskegon’s Blank Wall Concert Series for weirdest show: Dooley and her amp and her fiance tucked into the back corner of a consignment shop, between a kitchen table and a commode. (I still might buy that table.) We seem to be becoming, like, actual friends, which is, awesome? Disconcerting? Awesomely disconcerting? Went in blind off Facebook again. Had a good time anyway. Ate a lot of meatballs. Put away the knives if ya know what’s good for yas.
11 25 16 PLAIN JANE GLORY Grand Armory, Grand Haven Welp, this one falls under the heading of Can’t Win Em All...and it’s my fault, not theirs. This is a Muskegon husband-and-wife duo who play Americana that veers close to straight country without quite crossing the center line into Sucktown. He is an elfin little energy sprite who plays drums with his feet while guitaring and singing/harmonicizing. She is a Joss Stone lookalike in a print dress who plays an ancient violin. There were about half a dozen people there really into them, and a whole bar full of people roaring at the WMU game. They put out the best harmonies I have heard beyond the Crane Wives in years, truly magic when they intertwine, him often going high. They write perfectly pleasant little ditties. But. And this is a Bertha-sized but. About four songs in, I noticed two big stickers on the dude’s guitar case: CHOOSE LIFE and DEFUND PLANNED PARENTHOOD. My pleasure center shut right down. I’m sure they are very nice people, and they are undeniably talented musicians. But it takes good people supporting bad people to put orange Cheeto despots into power, and the election is still too raw a wound for me to have any objectivity whatsoever. Like I said, my problem, not theirs. Hey Trumpites, you don’t have to stick to Ted Nugent any more, here’s some really good tunes! I wish them well, truly, but this baby killer is taking a hard pass.
11 26 16 CHANCE JONES/THE REAL LAZY GENIUS Benefit show for Jazz Johnson, local hairstylist Long Road Distillers, Grand Rapids Chance Jones is a band I found only through the old, which had a good selection of GR music; their playing-out period was between my two scenes. (I stopped going out around 2000 when I got a computer and spent my nights wooing my future ex-wife from 2000 miles away.) I never saw them live, but I played their one album quite a bit. Not as much as the people there tonight for this one-off benefit show: they screamed along like I do with the Crane Wives. The crowd was ten to fifteen years younger than me, a change from the usual fifteen to twenty. The band’s leader, Joshua Berge, is now an actor of some renown, so this was a rare occasion. Their sound: what if the Hold Steady were from the Mitten? What if Nick Cave cracked a smile once in a while? There is a louche quality, especially on the CD, but it’s leavened by Midwestern earnestness. A Sergio Leone movie plays on a loop in his head, and his talented bandmates helped him exorcise the Fun Demons in a big way. I knew nothing at all about the Real Lazy Genius, still don’t really, but I really liked them. I feel like I have no frame of reference for rawk any more, since I follow so many gentler acts around now (though look out for Emilee’s teeth). So, here’s a stab: Modest Mouse after some time in a rock tumbler. Less jagged, very tuneful, Pixies on shrooms. It sounds great in the club, but I fear would never sell in the bigger world. Rock is dead as a commercial force at this level of experimentation; simpler arrangements rule the day. Both bands prominently featured a woman on backing vocals and percussion, more proof that gangs of boys who can barely play their guitars are the dinosaurs now. I felt a lot more lonely at this one than usual. For better or worse, and to a greater or lesser degree of self-delusion, I feel I’m becoming friends with the bands I follow; at the very least they smile when they see me and don’t call the cops. (Dooley in particular seems to have adopted me like a lost puppy.) I knew no one at all in that room. I would say I miss my wife, but she never wanted to leave her cave to see a band unless she was damn sure she already loved their music. So, yeah, great music, not sure it was a great time. It will be better next week at Doomy Doomy Doom. and


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Live Show Log, October 2016

10 7 16 Crane Wives #11 Grand Armory, Grand Haven Outdoor show, when it seemed like fall might actually be starting at last. Energy, spirit, drunken dervishes. Last night before my two week trip out west, good way to go out.

10 20 16 Crane Wives #12 Coppercraft Distillery, Holland (Kate and Emilee--acoustic) A rare Thursday outing on the last day of my vacation. A bit unnerving for buffer between me and the band at all. One other big fan in attendance. No way around the fact that hi, see me? You see me at all your damn shows. They did a couple never-recorded songs, which I listened to so intently I thought my eyes might sprain from being squeezed tight. Obsessed? Me? I drank booze too. I like rum and applejack, and dislike corn whiskey.  

10 22 16 Olivia Mainville & the Aquatic Troupe #4 Community Pavilion, South Haven Outdoor show, at noon I think, in a very drafty open barn. The rigors of gigging musicians very much in evidence. I was the only weirdo there to see them specifically, as far as I could tell. Sounding great, playing many songs not on the album, improving several that are. Growing and changing. Not sure I’ve ever seen a more consistently nervous professional musician, but she gets the music out into the world and I thank her for it.

10 28 16 Vox Vidorra #4 Devils Night show, HOME at the BOB, Grand Rapids Is there a more lovely group of people in this town? Everyone go to Creston Brewery and give them all the money. Complete mastery of tunes, including brand new ones, many of which are somehow even better than the songs on Promise Land. Sat with some other superfans, which was affirming. Not the only weirdo! Some drunken revelers marred the last twenty minutes or so, but till then it was solid gold awesome. Theo Ndawillie is a gentleman, a scholar, and a master of percussion. Molly Bouwsma Schultz is the most beautiful woman in the world who knows my name. Not a value judgment, since the music is the point, just a stone fact.


Thursday, March 02, 2017

Live Show Log, September 2016

9 4 16 Crane Wives #9 Harmony Fest, Three Rivers This one really drives home the rigors of trying to play music for a living to me. The (excellent) Tejano band before them ran way long, then came a bizarre interlude involving a kid doing a Michael Jackson impersonation, then they played for about 40 minutes, then the band after them started breathing down their necks. There was a traffic light mere feet from Emilee Petersmark's head, which was amusing. I brought Sheila, because outdoor show, but the fuzz were everywhere guarding the perimeter to keep dogs out, although there was no warning on the town website or any signs posted saying this. We found an uneasy detente, with me sitting on the sidewalk to the right of the stage in a gray area between In The Fence and Outside The Fence. Zito gave me a thumbs up. I’ll take it.
9 16 16 OVER THE RHINE Bell’s, Kalamazoo I was turned on to this band by my first “internet girlfriend” back in 2000. She was from North Carolina. Both her parents were named Tommy. It was awkward. Swooping melodies, natural instrumentation, shaggy charm. And a startling revelation: Bell’s has chairs! You better believe I will ask for one in future. 

9 17 17 BELLY Vic Theatre, Chicago Belly’s second album, King, came out while my college career was imploding under the weight of my own self-doubt. I listened to it for literally two weeks, on repeat, day and night. Not sure if it fed my paranoia or soothed the jagged edges, but constant companion it certainly was. They did a reunion tour. It was glorious. I had never seen them live; the muscular rock textures applied to such delicate songwriting and melody is a winning combination. They were and are beloved to a few. Also, no one who is fifty with two kids should still have a tight little behind like that. Ahem.
9 24 16 The Verve Pipe #3 Bell’s, Kalamazoo Yeah, there’s only one original member left. Yeah, they only ever play one song from their masterpiece. But it’s the Verve Pipe. It’s, like, mandatory for west Michigan males around my age to go to these shows sometimes. And Griff is still there, the amazing lust-for-life-like-Iggy-Pop Craig Griffith. And Joel. Let Joel sing one dammit! 
9 30 16 Crane Wives #10 Mendel Center, Lake Michigan College, Benton Harbor The best sound I have ever encountered. Pin drop clarity. A faux living room set up on stage, and damn if it didn’t impart some cozy feeling. Part of a subscription series, and a few older patrons abandoned ship at half time, but overall the crowd loved it. The band seemed a bit unnerved at the quiet atmosphere, in fact they came out and stated it, but I loved it unreservedly. They told stories behind many of the songs, answered audience questions, and were just charming as hell. I think they noticed me here, and started to worry if I was stalking them. Got my CD signed. 


Live Show Log, July and August 2016

7 23 16 Crane Wives #7 Rhythm On The River, South Haven They got through three songs before crazy sideways lightning shut that whole thing down. I got a set list. #rainwives Video is from Delton on a day I couldn’t go: those are four ludicrously attractive people.
8 12 16 Crane Wives #8 Bell’s, Kalamazoo All I really remember about this one is some asshole in the front shouting something at Kate that unnerved her, really cast a pall on the proceedings. If you can’t hold your beer (beer, people) maybe stay home.
8 27 16 The Saltbound #5 New Holland Brewing, Holland Probably my favorite Saltbound show. Kaity was there, it was on the back deck on a reasonably cool day, they played some wacky covers, and I attempted drinking.