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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.



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