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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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Live Show Log, June 2017

6 1 17 Crane Wives #25 Relax At Rosa Series, Rosa Parks Circle, Grand Rapids I could only stay for 70 minutes of this noontime lunch show downtown on a Thursday before heading to work. Just enough to get my fix. They looked a little dazed in the concrete sun, but sounded great. Take Me To War now full throated, confident, boot stompin’. I sat with Michele Clark, the Brazilian partially hinged superfan, and her daughter. I ate an overpriced food truck sandwich. And I skedaddled.

6 2 17 NELSONVILLE MUSIC FESTIVAL: Apple & The Moon, Caitlin Kraus, Wished Bone, Sara Watkins #2, Frazey Ford, Honeyhoney, Rodriguez, They Might Be Giants Hocking College, Nelsonville, Ohio I took a half day of work, then got up super early and drove six hours south to Nelsonville, a bucolic Zeeland-size town south of Columbus in the Hocking Hills. This festival was set up on the grounds of a small college that was out of session, with camping along the river and stages set up interspersed with some old timey cabins permanently erected as a historical village-ish thing. I checked into my frightening hostel (of which more later) then settled in for a day of tuneage. (Just one day of a four day shindig.) There were 27 performances this day, I saw eight. Apple And The Moon: local heroes, around my age, woozy pleasant psych bluesy dad rock, female fronted. Slight redneck bent, impressively no covers. Basically what I would be doing if I could play at all: out there havin' fun on the weekends. Caitlin Kraus: looks like Lorde, sounds like baby Kristin Hersh. Shorthand: organic goth. Around 25, may be going places. Aaron Lee Tasjan: smokin' dope for Jesus. Hard pass. There was a small stage set up at the Gladden House, one of the olde tyme cabins, for major acts to play short sets for public television: a good idea, completely ruined by noise bleed from the second biggest stage right behind it. Both Frazey Ford and Sara Watkins were damn near drowned out; if they got usable takes, then their sound engineers are wizards. Right next to Gladden House: No-Fi house, a faux-old one room schoolhouse hosting intimate performances. Again, a great idea, killed by the THUMPATHUMPATHUMPA from next door.In there I saw Wished Bone: four youngsters, female fronted, grinning profusely. Room so small the pianist had to reach his bench by climbing through the back window. In my notes I mistakenly wrote "Whitey Bones," which pretty much sums it up. They were kinda terrible, but it was still enjoyable: communal experience, hard to replicate, with so many young pretty people in very little hemp clothing and no deodorant actually LISTENING, not chatting while quaffing like so many events in GR. Trudged up to the main stage for Sara Watkins; very little shade, what there was hogged by a sea of camp chairs. Picked a semi-shaded spot along the fence, laid down, and dozed in and out for Ms. Watkins (doing mostly her same show I saw at Bell's, some nice moody minor key work, a couple of Nickel Creek crowd pleasers) and for Frazey Ford, formerly of the Be Good Tanyas. Ms. Ford, A British Columbian, is doing something similar to May Erlewine's recent soul revues, with perhaps more rural grit and either real or feigned drunkenness. The pleasant surprise of the day was Honeyhoney. I have their first album from a dozen years or so ago, the poppiest possible roots rock, sold on the strength of Suzanne Santo's gorgeousness. She's still gorgeous, but all these years of touring as a third string act have added a lot of authenticity she never had before. I can't say I'd ever watched someone get a sunburn in real time before this set. The sound is actually similar to the Crane Wives; roots instrumentation for solid pop songs of the kind that can't get on the radio now. One raucous number morphed into Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," with some convincing Ann Wilson-style belting from Ms. Santo, after which she collapsed to the stage. "I just need a second y'all...." Rodriguez is an interesting fellow: a man out of time, beamed forward from 1970 with his old time skills intact, for better (his startlingly original originals) or worse (a half dozen covers of the most overplayed songs ever). Think the midpoint between Paul Simon and Lou Reed, with some Daniel Johnston for seasoning. Dooley opened for him once at Bell's. A fragile man with big muscles, a writer of drug anthems who actually called for "hugs not drugs" with zero irony, a band that was patient with his fits and starts. See the movie Searching For Sugar Man for his whole story. And then, the murderous sun finally set, the crowd all gathered at the biggest stage, and They. Might. BE. GIANTS! Despite the playing of Older and When Will You Die, no band is better at making me forget the rapid hurtling certainty of my own death, not even the Beatles. Every song is a singalong anthem, even Spider if you try hard. Opened with Damn Good Times, and damn they were. My ex wife loved (loves?) TMBG, so this show was a big first step in Taking Back The Tunes. Ana Ng! Fingertips! Istanbul, with an extended flamenco intro! NUMBER THREE, for God's sake! Everything Right Is Wrong Again sent me into actual spasms of joy that might have been mortifying if I knew anyone within 300 miles of there. So very good. And then, since I cannot camp, back to the hostel. Up a long set of steps at the top of a hill was a scary, stinky house. The room I was assigned had no fan or AC, so the creepy owner came up from the basement with a miners lamp on his head to change my assignment. Everything was clammy. I did not dare remove my socks. Surveillance cameras everywhere. If I was younger, or female, I would have gotten the fuck out of there. But I was so tired I just squelched into bed, fired up the Sleepy Podcasts, and Dealt With It. (Note: this is the second draft; the first was eaten by Facebook Notes when I tried to attach a picture. That, of course, was witty, erudite, trenchant, and this is doo-doo. Stupid technology.) Apple & The Moon Caitlin Kraus Frazey Ford HONEYHONEY RodriguezMusic They Might Be Giants


6 3 17 Crane Wives #26 Local First Street Party, outside Bistro Bella Vita, Grand Rapids Super late show, 11 pm, downtown at the tail end of Festival. Not fully recovered from the epic drives of the two days before, so I don’t remember much beyond bellowing along unashamedly with Superfan #2 Michele Clark. (I’m #1, Dan Lauterbur is #3, Carlton might be #4, everyone else can fuckin’ get in line.) Saw Sarah Craig briefly, then I think she had to go deal with the immediate aftereffects of overimbibing. Shut down by the fuzz promptly at 12, leaving Easier as the accidental low-energy closer. I wish the hometown crowd had been bigger....but I still think this is the year the crowds in other places are going to grow and grow. Maybe I won’t get to see them twenty times a year, but thousands of other people around the country are going to get to discover their new favorite band, and I can’t hate on that one bit.

6 9 17 Darcy Wilkin #2 Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo
6 9 17 Brian Koenigsknecht #2/Carrie McFerrin #5/Matthew Borr #4/KEVIN HAMMAN/THE MISSING GENERATION Louie's Trophy House Grill, Kalamazoo How can someone so hilarious be so sad? Such is the question engendered by the spectacle of Darcy Wilkin Solo. Only the second time I've seen her do her own thing, and the first time alone. Just her and a guitar, separated from the Old Dog patrons in the backyard by a sea of grass, occupied by college kids playing beanbag toss. (I messaged her, and she read it from the stage: "Name of your live album: Upstaged By Cornholers.") Only a few people in the beer garden were paying much attention to the opening act to the opening act, but she sounded great when not stymied by mic problems or traffic noise (which teamed up to completely abort one song). "Here's a murder ballad, and then a palate cleansing ode to alcoholics!" "I don't know whose gear this is, but it makes me feel much more rock n roll." Jokes and sad songs, in her plaintive, been there done that burned the T shirt voice. She asked me when the hell I was moving to Kalamazoo. I heard a guy in a pink mohawk (member of the next band) say gosh dang. In my notes, no memory of the context: anusbags. Went a few blocks down the road (gotta love Kazoo) for a songwriters night at Louie's, much less stinky than my last visit. Still a giant bison head looming over the stage though. "Time is a healer, an invisible drug dealer, it burns your heart and turns it into coal." Brian Koenigsknecht has the intensity of Scottie's beloved Mikel Jollett without any of the accompanying douchery.He played Istanbul Sky at my request: goosebumpy. Then Carrie: "this is a night of our youth!" To which Brian replied: "You say that at every show, It's like how Art Van is always having a sale." Really good version of Wolves with Brian and Matt assisting. That song is as good as anything written by anyone around here ever, a stone classic. There was a newer one too, Honey Darling, played on a shiny new banjotar. Guitbanjo? Matthew Borr: mild mannered professor by day, mild mannered guitar hero by night. I had met Kevin Hannam several times at Old Dog, but had never heard him sing or play, and he's the male Carrie: got other things to do but the songs MUST COME OUT or aneurysms will happen. He has a Craig Finn quality, a joyous desperation in performance and lyric. I could not make out many of the words, with the good drumming (by the tiny happy drummer girl) and the bad PA, but I revisited on Bandcamp later. Songs good. The Silent Generation is a bunch of sheepish dudes, early to mid thirties, playing thoughtful trad rock. Sitting in was Abe Savas, whose song Maxine is a marvel and I want on YouTube now (please sir). A great night of music in Kalamazoo....they almost always are.
6 10 17 LAITH AL SAADI/DANIELLE NICOLE/Megan Dooley #9(with Saxsquatch and Bridge Band) Bell's, Kalamazoo
6 10 17 THE GASOLINE GYPSIES/Carrie McFerrin #6 (with Michael Powell) Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo Megan got me and my new friend Sarah into this show; I was hoping to meet with her about the October Taking Back The Tunes show (I really need a decent title), but there was no time in the end. this was my first time seeing her with a full band: drums, another guitar, the works! And she was jazzed about the big big sound, wide shark grin beneath cool-girl sunglasses. Newish, or old reworked song, Glad You're Gone: excellent kissoff, hope she'll play that one in October. Absolutely epic Whipping Post in honor of Gregg Allman's passing, the Dooley howl cranked to maximum. Danielle Nicole I knew nothing at all about coming in, and I'm here to tell you that she's frickin' awesome. Found out later she was in a blues band with her siblings till very recently, but this show was definitely blues-influenced RAWK, low down dirty gutbucket division. A lonely row to hoe, especially for a woman, but a singular sound and artistic success. Highlights: original Wolf Den, a titanic Spoonful, a left field cover of a 1989 Aerosmith track that segued into another excellent original. Rock and roll isn't dead, it just moved into the backyard. Ann Arbor-based Laith al Saadi was apparently on that Voice reality show? And did well? I know not of such matters. He had a pleasant voice, a song selection stuck very firmly in the late sixties, and an absolute monster of a guitar tone. Highly fleet of finger. Early impression was that he's who Seth Bernard wants to be when he grows up, but then the sixties blues rock covers started piling up. Seth is leading us into the future, such as it is; Mr. al Saadi will lull us with an excellent recreation of our past while our asses slowly get fatter. Lest this sound too harsh, let's celebrate the fact that a shit-hot guitarist with a vaguely Islamic name playing old songs tore it up good on American television, and that is something to toast to. Crossed the street to Old Dog for a late show (hoping to catch the spillover from the Laith show): Michael Powell was Carrie's first collaborator; they play together less often than Carrie and Matt these days. He brings a light, slightly jazzy feel, with nimble acoustic skills. He was firmly placed in a support role, sang no songs of his own (he has at least one very good one, but they told me later the vibe wasn't right). Gypsy Queen was a highlight, along with the secretly pleasant mortification of being shouted out from the stage. And then, the Gasoline Gypsies, from Port Huron. They are in the same JBL contest as the Crane Wives, also made the top five, and I Do Not Get It. My line: What if Pop Evil wanted to be taken seriously? Another man's take: a poor man's Los Lonely Boys. Undeniable instrumental talent, polished presentation, songs that flew past me on their way to the HopCat bros. Dressed like Mumford and Sons, sounding like every GR band of 1996 (of which Pop Evil was one), really strong harmonies. "I wanna get laid but don't feel like trying, I wanna get high but I don't feel like buying." Ugh. They grew on me a tiny bit during the show due to sheer tuneful competence, but everything's better live. They are someone's favorite band, every town has one, every town needs one. Port Huron can have them.
 
6 16 17 May Erlewine #4/THE STRAPPING OWLS  Park Theatre, Holland  This was Motivationless May, back in folk/acoustic mode:  full sound, but a four piece band, much smaller in scope and impact while still having a bigger sound than straight hootenanny folk.  My notes are not good and I waited too long to write, but I can say that time spent in the presence of May Erlewine is always time well spent.  She is self-effacing, charming, adorable, firmly political, motherly, steel inside chintz.  Le sigh.  The exception that proves my rule.  Really good new song about "setting my hope on fire," aimed at Cheeto Mussolini.  Pin-drop perfect version of "Wild," recorded by me and posted here.  The Strapping Owls were pleasant ramshackle blues, with bass provided by a sousaphone played by the organizer of Park Theatre's folk series.  Somehow the sound mixed Van Morrison and Rickie Lee Jones, with some Deep Fried Pickle Project weirdness around the edges.  They played second, allowing the audience to trickle out in twos and threes.

6 17 17 The Crane Wives #27 Summer In The Village Festival, Lathrup Village   This seen-better-days suburb of Detroit hosted a small shindig for its residents:  pony rides, food trucks, bouncy houses, bbq cookoff, the world's tiniest petting zoo, and the Crane Wives.  3 pm show, would have been sparsely attended if most of Emilee's family hadn't come down from the tonier suburbs.  I said hello, then moved, but they all oozed along with me to a tent closer to the stage.  (Hot day, multiple canopies thoughtfully strewn in the show area.)  Was good to sing my head off among people who did not mind at all, being related to the author.  Emilee's mom and aunt did some dancing here and there, barefoot on the grass, and it was frickin' adorable.  Sound was ok, par for the course for thankless sun-baked outdoor obligations;  really good rendition of October, just for Mom.  Dan grinned in my direction pretty frequently, always making me feel like coming out is a good idea. Only occurred to me later that this was the first time I had not heard Safe Ship Harbored.  The past is being left, very slowly, behind.  Up and out.  Vegas beckons.


6 23 17 Carrie McFerrin #7/Matthew Borr #5  Brews, BBQ and Bourbon 2017, Ah-Nab-Awen Park, Grand Rapids  

6 23 17  Fleetwood Mac's Rumours Tribute:  Amy Andrews/Megan Dooley #10  Coppercraft Distillery, Holland
6 23 17 Libby DeCamp #3  Fireside Brewing, Holland   Triple Show Friday kicked off at a two day boozefest in the park by the river;  Matt and Carrie were the first act of the first day, and were about 50 minutes late getting started.  The next act, the Douchenozzles (not really, but shoulda been), were setting up a drum kit in the middle of what should have been their set.  The lower rungs of showbiz are littered with such indignities, I look forward to seeing them climb a little higher.  In my notes, not sure of context:  Carrie proclaiming, "It's like, I care, but I don't give a fuck, you know?"  Matt: "[This songwriter] is a beautiful man.  Well, he's passed away now, so not AS beautiful...."  Great harmony on Trains In The Field, maybe a dozen people around as this event just barely gets started.  Got a free whiskey sour because it took so long.  "This is an old Robert Johnson song!"  "Well, there aren't any new ones."  Matt's stomping was semi-hilariously arrythmic.  I enjoy what they do, even if I seem to be the duo's one and only fan.  Over to Holland, where the show was preceded by a motorcycle crash right in front of the place on 120th by the tracks.  Megan and her boyfriend both ran out to make sure everything was okay;  Barrenger saw it happen when he arrived.  Broken arm, lucky as hell.  Amy Andrews is from Maryland, I believe, with some Holland connections that led to this show.  Still hazy on how Dooley got involved, but it was a good idea.  There were three very young guys from Virginia who served as house band, none of whom had met before this;  I really should get the story from Dooley and rewrite this later.  the first side was played, with Dooley CRUSHING it on Songbird, then some other Mac songs to fill a full show. Ms. Andrews acquitted herself well on Dreams. I left before the second side started (during some semi-dippy noodle-jazz), but I wish I had stayed, because Libby's set was in the worst venue I can imagine.  Fireside Brewing is in part of the old Holland Ladder plant; the show was in a cavernous back room that stank of wet paint (Live Art was happening apparently) and sounded like crap.  Libby sounded great, but she was sticking to one mood;  slow, languorous, sleep-inducing. Solo guitar, no Adam. I almost fell off my stool.  A foosball game at the back kept drowning her out. At the end I requested Put The Kettle On, to remind the audience (and Libby) that she possesses more than one gear.  And It sounded swell.

6 30 17 Olivia Mainville #10 & Brandon James  HopCat, Kalamazoo

6 30 17 Carrie McFerrin #8/Matthew Borr #6/Darcy Wilkin #3  Feed The World Cafe, Oshtemo  A night of Too Many Choices in Kalamazoo.  I skipped a Janis Joplin tribute at Bell's featuring Molly, Kaitlin Rose, and Hannah Rose Graves, and a singer songwriter night at Craft Draft 2 Go with Dooley and Brian K.  I started with about 75 minutes worth of Olivia and Brandon playing to a rain soaked beer garden, no one in front of them, about 20 people up on a balcony to the right, and me and a few other people at a bar BEHIND them.  Weird.  I kept distracting them, especially Olivia, felt guilty about it later, but with no one out on the wet patio it felt like a private show.  Excellent new song I have dubbed The Trudge.  On A Grave still my fave, hey that rhymes.  Out to the sticks for W and M with a side of B, at a charity cafe that donates food for every meal purchased.  Wonderful cause, too bad my food and service were non-good.  Darcy;  the saddest songs, the sparkliest shoes.  I think two thirds of that crowd was her family and friends.  The crowd steadily dwindled through the night, because the kitchen closed at 8:30 for an 8 to 10 show.  Take You With Me is a goddamn American classic, good enough to go toe to toe with her beloved Prine and Van Zandt.  And then Carrie and Matt:  dizzy banter, intricate guitar, great harmonies, tiny tambourine, no Wolves tonight.  Shellshock from driving four hours from Royal Oak for a rib festival, and they didn't even get any ribs.  They shouted out this blog, and I turned pretty red, it is so not worthy.  On the way out I stuck my head in at Dooley's thing to see if anything was still up:  just in time to hear Nothing But Trouble.  But a loud buzzing was marring the sound, the patrons were chock full of Not Giving A Fuck, and the hinted-at jam session did not happen.  Pete Weir was talking to a very loud unpleasant woman who proclaimed the charms of wheat thins all over Dooley's singing.  It was awkward.  I drank a cider and left.

Friday, June 09, 2017

School Section Lake

The only thing I’ve written between college and now that was any damn good. Its old web site vanished, so putting it up here.
 
SCHOOL SECTION LAKE
Fearless in one way, terrified in most others
He points the nose of the car at the North Star
White lines zip by like Minute Rice
Heat on, window rolled down
Occasionally slapping himself in the face to keep alert
Gaylord, Grayling, Wolverine, Vanderbilt
Towns built by men who did great works
Hewing and hauling great logs for great endeavors
In a time before consquences were more than dimly understood
Floated down rivers to be subsumed into society
An unseen labor, like making sausage or sewing flags
Best not to think about cocooned by weak modernity
Trees trees trees mailbox trees trees trees dirt sidetrack trees
What was once logged over is now again impenetrable
Nature and 1929 teaming up to reclaim their dues
Fresh gravestones two miles from any lonely outpost home
History rolls past unceasing, but genealogy shudders and jerks
2009 on the road, 1972 on blocks in a front yard
Abandoned trailers: the second or third wave of northern failure
But at least up here you smell pine more than motor oil
He slows down, flicks the brights, squints at the street signs
Finds his turn and leaves the wider world behind
Grass growing in the middle of the “road,” tickling his muffler
Pin straight thanks to Herculean surveys that were overly optimistic
But eventually impassable to the new order
Trees closer, crickets louder, stars bright
But here is the white sign that says “White Sign”
And here is the nearly forgotten cottage on a nearly forgotten pond
And here are the ways and means to be a bit more yourself
Than these days of Apple and Amazon will usually allow
The cot creaks concernedly but holds
He sleeps with fire in his eyelids, like his ancestors did
And for an evening finds peace

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Open Letter To The Womenfolk

I am a strange little man. At my advanced age I am well aware of this. What I am not, is a creepy little man. All the creep was leeched out of me by successfully getting married, and that marriage ending has not seen it return. I AM getting over my divorce, at long last, largely through the healing power of as much live music as I can cram into my earholes, and my bewildered dog Sheila. If I want to spend time with you, if I comment on your Facebook stuff, if I invite you to a show: I am NOT hitting on you. I think of myself as a former heterosexual these days: I am capital D Done Divorced Dead Inside. My friends have always been mostly women. It is so hard to make friends as an adult as it is, and gender roles make it even harder. (That's what she said.) I don't seek entry into your trousers, I simply like you and want to share my metaphorical Legos. If I think you're pretty, it's a fact, not an opinion, if that makes any sense: it has zero bearing on how I interact with you. If I ever do recover enough to actually attempt dating again, it will be with someone near my own age: no cradle robbing ever again. My god, when I found out one friend was one WEEK older than my ex wife, I swear my testicles tried to escape. I have had a very good year and a half, I have gotten out there and met a whole lot of awesome people, most of them female, and I want to be transparent. I want to be your favorite garden gnome, not your boyfriend.