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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Live Show Log, May 2017

5 6 17 BLUE COLLAR SONGWRITING SERIES: TRIBUTE TO THE POSTAL SERVICE House show, Grand Rapids I have a long and tortuous history with the Postal Service’s sole album, Give Up. It was Scottie’s favorite album, the only one she bought on vinyl in her impoverished late teens. She played it at least once a week. I learned to look past the electronic textures to the bleeding heart at the center of these fractured songs. I thought hard about whether or not I could go to this show and not end up a blubbering mess. But I need to reclaim good music from the Ex Wife Black Hole, it’s been three damn years. Kate and Justin are gracious hosts, and as it turns out, talented musicians, and it was good to see Carlton and Emilee. I survived. Almost knocked a picture off the wall. Best part was hearing so many musicians for the first time live, lotsa names to look up on YouTube and Bandcamp. The clear highlights for me were Kevin Fein’s haunting acoustic guitar rendition of Sleeping In, Emilee’s Clark Gable, Alexis Brooke/Red Rio’s delicate Brand New Colony, Jes Kramer’s robotically heartfelt Be Still My Heart, and Justin and Kate’s rousing singalong of Such Great Heights. The ghosts aren’t vanquished, but at least I’m not unarmed any more.

5 12 17 Crane Wives #24/RACHEL B Red House Concert Series, Tri Cities Museum, Grand After the slight weirdness of Marquette, I might have passed this one up. But A. Already had a ticket to a sold out show, and B. I actually had company, of the female-near-my-own-age variety, for the first time in...fifteen?...years. The second floor museum space was packed to the gills, so awesome to see such a huge enthusiastic crowd for this band that really should have graduated from Douche Bars by now. Rachel B....seems like a very nice person. I don’t know who actually reads this thing these days, so my apologies if you enjoy her music, but for me, born too early for the boy band era, that was excruciating. It was late 90s radio pop. It was Britney Spears. It was entirely synthetic except for her live vocals. Gyrating in front of senior citizens was involved. It was the worst match for the Wives I could think of. My friend and I kept looking at each other, wondering if we were being punked. She picked up a keytar for one song, easily the best one: proof that everything is better when ridiculous instruments are involved. And then the Wives: Sly Kate, Laconic Ben, Happy Dan, and Giant Pole. (We had obstructed seats.) The energy level, feeding off that many people, was off the Richter scale. The two new singles were received as rapturously as the oldest classics. Kate thought my friend hadn’t enjoyed the show, since she sat hands folded stone faced throughout, but I reassured her that’s just how Zeelanders are: never show your hand. She actually loved it and bought all three available CDs. The Garden was an absolute monster. Best moment: At the end of New Colors, they came to an ending, rather than go right into Kick Drum Heart as they so often do live. The crowd, led by Jack Clark, the show’s promoter, was not having that, and the stomping and clapping commenced. The band looked at each other in confused delight, shrugged, and duly launched into Kick Drum Heart. There are real fans of this band, and they know what they want. Sleeping Giants was a roar, biggest crowd response I’ve seen since Founders over a year ago. I wrote a new bio, it got approval, trying not to check the website hourly to see if it’s gone up: I know my devotion seems excessive--hell, it does to me--but these 55 songs represent the fourth or fifth act of my life, and I would like it to keep going well.

5 13 17 PEACE PARTY: A Concert To Benefit KNOW (Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents Of War) featuring Kaitlin Rose and Matt Gross, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and The Corn Fed Girls First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo
5 13 17 May Erlewine #3 (with the Motivations) Founders Brewery, Grand Rapids So much great music this night, with emotions overcoming both the oldsters and the hipsters. Many more people are familiar with the Corn Fed Girls than with Darcy as a solo act, so I came at my fandom backwards, but the dates finally aligned in such a way as to see her in context. This antiwar benefit in a huge beautiful church in downtown Kazoo kicked off with an acoustic set by Kaitlin Rose, shorn of Bob wig, and Matt Gross, whom I had never heard of but now want to be when I grow up. Rose In A Cornfield was a soaring epic, and With God On Our Side started acapella by Matt with a chorus of the night’s other musicians eventually filling in behind him. He was shaking with emotion by the end, it was so powerful. And then the tension was expertly punctured by a quick jazzy Route 66. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, a male/female duo who are both also part of Corn Fed Girls, were next, with strong harmonies and quirky mainstreamish songs, along with a cover of Springsteen’s I’m On Fire that somehow didn’t bring down a lightning strike from Jeebus. A collection plate was passed, a very brave recitation of “Amazing Grace” happened, and then, at last, CFG. Six members, only two of them female, highly versatile instrumentally and vocally (Darcy played drums at one point!) Thy would have been a perfect house band on the old Prairie Home Companion: organic, accomplished, reverent of tradition but just subversive enough to add a twinkle to Garrison’s eye. Highlights: acapella closer Golden Band, Darcy’s Magdalene, Mike Fuerst’s amazing vocals, and John Campos’ Life As A Bachelor, which puts the best possible spin on abject loneliness. I should try hard to become everyone’s favorite parasitic hanger-on so I can witness more musician lovefests like this. And then, I drove up to GR for May. Had originally planned to just see May tonight, but the lure of CFG was just too great; I missed the first 35 minutes or so of The Motivations’ set, but that’s okay. I got to hear two right away from The Little Things. A seven piece band, so reahearsed and tight you could bounce a quarter, paired with May’s blazing heart and feisty resistance to the Way Things Are, makes the Motivations perfectly named. Mr. Big Stuff, again dedicated to Cheeto Mussolini, lifted the roof off, as did a surprisingly raunchy Beast of Burden and the closing Soulful Strut, for which May just got to dance (with Max’s sister). This woman is pure sunshine, and beyond adorable. The Corn Fed Girls Thunderbolt & Lightfoot

5 19 17 Carrie McFerrin #4/Matthew Borr #3 Craft Draft 2 Go, Kalamazoo
5 19 17 Vox Vidorra #8 Bell’s, Kalamazoo Kalamazoo is the true music mecca around here: so many venues so close to each other. Except for this new place, Craft Draft 2 Go, way out on the edge of town in a nondescript strip mall, not even very visible from the road. But, it’s nice inside, and they’re aggressively booking in local talent for live music, so yay for that. I had about 45 minutes for Matt and Carrie, in a super laid back atmosphere. Hilariously so: Carrie introduced a song and then wandered off to talk to someone, leaving Matt confusedly vamping. Impressions: great harmony on Trains In The Field, wonderful cover of a Kaitlin Rose tune, and an annoying grinding noise from behind the bar that marred the whole set. Carrie had a small fan at her feet, which was maybe not the best choice to go with her billowing skirt: despite a valiant effort not to, I did occasionally glimpse France. On to Vox Vidorra, at a Kalamazoo Pride event at Bell’s. I was at this same event last year with the Crane Wives, at which the place was packed; tonight it was bizarrely sparse given the extreme excellence of the music played. Even at gay pride events, Bell’s always has drunken morons: this guy kept sitting ON the stage and talking to the band mid song, and staff didn’t intervene. You can see him in my video below. Very heavy on new songs, this album is going to be so insanely good. Molly, henna tattoos up and down her arms, was in strong voice; that Kraftwerky one whose name I can never remember was flippin awesome, and there was one I hadn’t heard before with a strong early Fleetwood Mac vibe, possibly called Check Me Out. I met Sarah Craig, who seemed to be the only other person in the room who knew all the words; we both got slightly drunken hugs from the Schultzes at the end of the night. I would be a better ally if I knew more actual non-basic people, but I do what I can, and coming to this show was not exactly a chore.   

5 27 17 Olivia Mainville #9 (with Brandon James) Tripelroot, Zeeland
5 27 17 Libby DeCamp #2 (with Adam Schreiber) HopCat, Kalamazoo
5 27 17 Megan Dooley #8 Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo
5 27 17 BIG DUDEE ROO Bell’s, Kalamazoo In which I GO TOO FAR. Four shows in one day, not even a festival involved. It all started with Olivia and Brandon in Zeeland, an inherently hilarious concept. Brandon was wearing a shirt with diaphanous sleeves; this is not the kind of place where anyone would even admit knowing the meaning of “diaphanous.” Despite the Dooley-hosing, Tripelroot is a nice enough place, with the music mostly being ignored, so they could basically just amuse themselves, or me. Danger Death Ray, On A Grave: need recordings for my earhole. Brandon busted out an unrecorded Halloween tune, to amuse Olivia. I met Olivia’s dad, who is one year YOUNGER than me. Kill me. Left after the second set to get a dog walk in, then it was off to Kazoo for a triple play, including the first Dooley show in almost three months. Libby DeCamp on the back deck at HopCat, with Adam on drums: just like Tripelroot, big disconnect between the effortlessly cool black clad hip kids and the gomers in cargo shorts perched atop metal stools, myself included. Languid ballads by ethereal redheads are maybe not the natural tuneage for this swill-soaked environment. But it sounded great: The Blues was a nice song she wrote at age 15, Vernal Sway was wonderful as always, Orchard was a baroque number coming out on 7” soon, and a Waitsish number about killing the conductor went over well. And she tells jokes! “This one’s a dance number about factory farming.” “Any General George Armstrong Custer fans out there?” These four need to put together a Randy Newman tribute night. Next door, and my return to Dooley-watching. The Plainwell weirdness was on my side only it seems, she was glad to see me, friendly, fresh outlook after London misadventures and other life events. No big changes in the setlist to match her dramatic haircut. The crowd got Part Of Your World without quite deserving it. One super cool addition, a twenties tune called Sugar Blues. And then, show four, the new experience of the night: Big Dudee Roo, another case of strange name for a great band. Led by Max Lockwood, who I’ve seen several times backing up May Erlewine and Seth Bernard, with Nate Wagner also writing and singing. (Like the Goo Goo Dolls: hey, let Robbie sing one!) Just like last week, the crowd at Bell’s was uncharacteristically sparse, but I missed both opening acts and it was the holiday weekend. MUCH louder live than on record, trading a little nuance for power, but hey, power has its place, and I have the records on Bandcamp (what if Tom Petty fronted My Morning Jacket?). Newish drummer kept up a hell of a great noise. New song, The Game Is Rigged, excellent and propulsive; new Nate song, Hunker Down, reminded me of Bottle Rockets with its light twang and its wryness. Then to underline Max’s Pettyishness, they actually finished with You Wreck Me, with a little Blitzkrieg Bop mixed in. Sounded like a mission statement. 
5 28 17 HANNAH ROSE & THE GRAVESTONES/Big Dudee Roo #2/JESSE RAY & THE CAROLINA CATFISH HopCat (outdoors), Grand Rapids A Sunday afternoon show, to commemorate both the end of HopCat’s 5K race and the release of Local Spins’ 5 year anniversary CD, a collection of live tracks by 12 local bands, including Olivia and the Crane Wives. I stood under a tree in the semi-shade and observed the hip, the fit, the fat, and the nearly famous intermingle in a roped off parking lot. Jesse Ray is a high energy rockabilly player, who I’m told used to do Jonas Brothers, but kinda samey. Duo: the “Catfish” is just one guy on drums, but he is very good and they are very loud and fun and they could have been in GR fifteen years ago. Second day in a row for Big Dudee Roo, I actually think they sounded better in the open air. Michigan is a pander, and also a great song. Hannah Rose has apparently put her guitar aside again, and assembled a new seven piecee blues/soul revue that sounded fantastic, a leap above the band I almost saw at Billy’s a few months ago. Bluesy swing, not a million miles away from what Roberta Bradley and Gypsy used to do: maybe more low end and less Latin flavor. Horns make everything better. Highlights: James Brown’s I Feel Good and smokin’ original Hot Damn. Sinkevics liked my Crane Wives shirt.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

CW Bio Attempt

In Japanese folklore, the crane wife is a bird disguised as a woman who spins fine silks from her own feathers, until her identity is discovered. The Crane Wives spin fine songs from whole cloth, and you will never want the melodies to leave your head. From murky origins in Chinese restaurants, high school ska bands, and dorm room jam sessions, the band came together in 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and immediately began gathering a following with intricate melodies, sister-harmonies, and compelling songcraft.  Initially part of the indie folk boom, their sound has grown and broadened with each new recording till categorization becomes difficult:  rock, pop, folk?  Just call it really good music.  Audiences and critics agree:  seven "Jammie" awards from influential radio station WYCE in '11, '12 and '17;  winner of Best Folk/Country song from international competition ArtPrize for "Easier" in '12; and selection as one of ten "Entries We Loved" from the renowned NPR Tiny Desk Contest for "High Horse" in '17.  Kate Pillsbury:  guitars, vocals, a twinkle in her eye that tells you she sees through your BS but chooses to be amused by it.  Emilee Petersmark:  guitars, banjo, vocals, boots that will stamp out injustice wherever it may lurk.  Ben Zito:  bass, occasional howls, secret production weapon.  Dan Rickabus:  drums, harmony vocals, engineering, relentless and frankly exhausting levels of positivity.  Four albums released to date:  "Safe Ship, Harbored" (2011), "The Fool In Her Wedding Gown" (2012), "Coyote Stories" (2015), and "Foxlore" (2016), plus a series of new singles in 2017, all available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, Bandcamp, CDBaby, and hell, even Myspace.  If you want to hear about love, life, fear, hope, pain, and the occasional natural disaster, this band, and these songs, are for you.