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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.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Live Music Log, July 2017

7 1 17  THE RIGHT NOW/RED RIO  Founders, Grand Rapids  After the previous night's barhopping, I picked one show and stuck to it, and a good one it was.  Founders' bookers really go out of their way to bring things to GR that might not otherwise come through, and the Right Now, from Chicago, is a sound we could use more of.  It's a seven piece soul-pop band with a hot blonde singer and a thoughtful guitarist who looks like Paul Kantner.  (These two seem to write most of the songs, too.)  Sounds a lot like Vox Vidorra with a lot less on its mind:  not nearly as complex or deep, but big, brash, and a whole lot of fun.  Somehow it's the drummer who has chronic Guitar Face, while the guitarist throws out his licks while remaining placid of puss.  This is the Triple A ball version of what Hannah Rose Graves is doing at the Single A level, and Sharon Jones would have been considered the majors.  All originals, except for an unlikely funked-up For What It's Worth and a semi-karaoke version of Heart's Alone, a terrible song sung impressively.  Another highlight, despite sounding like Get Lucky:  Up All Night.  I got their newest CD at the show, and it's....all right.  Much more poppy and generic.  But this band is not to be missed live, the energy and oomph and sheer fun coming off that stage is why random nights out can pay off.  Opening was Red Rio aka Alexis Brooke, torch singer and Founders employee, with the intensity and appearance of the young Roberta Bradley, but more angsty than bluesy.  Minor key heartbreak with just her own guitar backing her up.  Highlights:  a slinky Hit The Road Jack, and a sweet song about her parents, sung TO her parents in the audience.

7 7 17  Crane Wives #28  Thornapple Plaza, Hastings  The city of Hastings is using an NEA grant to put on an impressive 80 different musical performances this summer at three different venues, and this was one of 'em.  Bandshell only a couple years old, good hot dogs, cold beer for those who want it, big curious crowd.  Small town tax dollars put to best use.  So many moppets pogoing to Rockslide and all the other big-tempo numbers.  The neatest trick this band pulls is the outright jubilation it inspires with its sad, angry songs, simply by playing them in such an upbeat, sprightly fashion.  Safe Ship, Harbored is a portrait of frustrated defeat, and crowds go absolutely apeshit for it.  Easier is about caving in and swallowing your pain, and grandmas do the do-si-do.  Sleeping Giants is about a fricking earthquake, and fists pump the air.  There is catharsis in setting fear and pain to a major key, even if the audiences don't quite realize what's going on.  I lent Kate a big bag of books in the most awkward way possible.

7 8 17 Megan Dooley #11/Carrie McFerrin #9/Darcy Wilkin #4  Memorial Park, Mattawan  WMD saddles up, and rides for possibly the last time this year, if my show falls apart like it's starting to look.  Absolutely gorgeous summer day:  if they were all like this, I might hate this season a lot less.  Outdoor park show meant I could take Sheila to meet the ladies.  Jonny's dog wanted to eat her soul.  Jeffrey Babbitt, the organizer of the show (through the auspices of the village library), opened the show with a few songs, not bad at all, apparently he does the open mics in Kazoo on occasion.  Then came a man named Steven McLain with his son Dan, doing some pleasant Buffettish tunes, including a First World Problems anthem about having it too good to sing the blues.  Darcy, her hair red and blue like the world's saddest sno-cone, serenaded the park populace with her alluring downers.  Most upbeat song:  "enjoy yourself, it's later than you think."  Dooley Dooleyed it up good, rocking the Uncle Jesse lifestyle, singing the reefer anthem to little kids like it's no thing, momentarily nonplussed by a VERY fast train passing right behind the gazebo stage thingy.  Carrie flew without a setlist net, enjoyably scattered, telling stories around every song.  No Wolves for the first time I've seen, but Gypsy Queen sounded great solo.  All in all a very gentle, relaxed show in a beautiful setting.  I want this to become a baaaaaaand.

7 8 17 Delilah DeWylde & The Lost Boys #4  New Holland Brewing, Holland  The early show in Mattawan left me plenty of time to catch this late one in Holland, didn't start till 10.  Down The Line, from the Buddy Holly show, seems to have taken up a welcome place in the permanent set list.  These tunes, from Elvis, Janis Martin, the Burnettes, Patsy Cline, plus the occasional nice original, are the definition of musical comfort food;  you can pick 'em up again whenever you feel the need.  It took me waaaay too long to figure out where I knew her from:  she was Aaron Klamer's big sister.  Steve was there, his superfandom of Delilah mirroring mine of the Crane Wives.  He's my canary in the coal mine, I guess.

7 14 17 Crane Wives #29/GRACE ELIZABETH LEE  Otus Supply, Ferndale  Warring impulses:  Must see Crane Wives!  Must not leave zone o' comfort!  For all my lifetime lonerdom (with the weird seven year interruption), it's still nice to have familiar surroundings, a sense of control over my environment.  This was a new venue in a Detroit suburb I had never spent more than a few minutes in.  I was super early, didn't wanna be That Guy, so I took a long walk (gorgeous night, streets closed for a big pork-and-booze festival, had me a shave ice) and then I was too late for a good seat.  This room was surprisingly small, about the size of the Intersection's front room known as the Stache.  Maybe a little bigger.  The opener was a 17 year old girl who held the audience's attention mainly with her teenageness;  Zito said they didn't know her from Adam.  I was feeling the pressure of not knowing anyone in this whole damn county except the four people on stage.  So....I took my glasses off and put them in my pocket.  No eye contact = much less social anxiety.  I sang every line, I clapped in the general direction of the blobs on the stage, I soaked in the life giving tuneage (very good sound tonight, with a very engaged crowd), and I existed in my own little myopic bubble for a couple of hours.  Never bought a drink because the waitstaff ignored me completely.  Said hi at the end.  Buggered off into the night.  Not to be seen again till after Vegas.

7 15 17  Brian Koenigsknecht #3  Harvey's, Kalamazoo
7 15 17  May Erlewine #5/KAITLIN ROSE  Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo  The very next night was a Kalamazoo double show, and it felt so much better it's ridiculous.  There are more people there who smile when they see me at this point than in my home town.  Started off at Harvey's, a relatively ancient place downtown that just revived live music, on an upper outside deck, pleasantly ramshackle, nice breeze in off the river.  Brian was performing as a benefit for Graham Parsons' Walnut House charity, a musical youth center.  He learned 21 (!) songs by Michigan artists to cover, along with his own fine originals.  I was frankly dismayed at the low turnout, but who did turn up was quality:  Abe Savas, T Rex Roth, Grace, and Kevin Hamman, among others.  My videos, above, are excellent:  his own Last Of The Venues, a charmer about the old days of playing out, and the Crane Wives' How To Rest, my own white whale I donated to hear.  He also did songs by May Erlewine, Seth Bernard, Carrie, Kaitlin Rose, Nicholas James Thomasma, and many more, including the late great Patrick Carroll.  Then I walked (because Kalamazoo is wonderful) over to Old Dog, in the back yard, for a May fix.  Kaitlin Rose opened, my first time seeing her do a full set of her own stuff.  I did not take notes, but it was good and I want to hear more.  I love that her mom is in her band.  And then May, the exception to my garden gnomedom.  Not quite Motivations, not quite folkie time:  Shimmin, Lockwood, Phil Barry, and the kid whose name I keep forgetting.  She's an angel, she sings like one, and cynicism has no place while she is singing or playing or speaking or awkwardly dancing.  I even saw her sit on the wall down among the crowd to listen while Kaitlin Rose played.  I saw Grace again, and Kevin, and Brian K, and Darcy, and Dan Lauterbur down in front worshipping his deity.  I keep getting tempted to drive forever to see people, and I really just need to wait till they play K-zoo.  Because everyone does, eventually.

7 21 17  Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys #3/CURVED EARTHWARD  Park Theatre, Holland  Ticket said show at 8, marquee said doors at 8, which led to a confused mob on the sidewalk.  It got better from there.  Curved Earthward is a couple of hobby codgers, off key and enthusiastic, with some fun original songs.  The younger dude's three kids were sitting (and standing, and running, and asking their mom to do cartwheels) next to me, all thrilled at their dad being up on the big stage.  And then the Flatbellys, four mics but plenty of instrument swapping, unearthly harmonies, many new songs, many from Ionia, basically nothing older.  The Voice (see my video) is going to be an absolute monster on the record, I just know it.  Good crowd singalong on Shining In The Distance.  Fun surprise closing cover of King Harvest's Dancing In The Moonlight.

7 28 17  Olivia Mainville #11 & Brandon James  Tripelroot, Zeeland  Wasn't gonna go out this night, but found out the Duo in Black were playing in Zeeland so I spent some time with them before going over to the mother for teevee.  Relaxed fun, no one paying too much attention but no one minding the atmosphere that live music generates either.  The big garage doors open at the front, good summer breezes, tasty cider, really tasty blueberry stonebread thingy, and the friendliest smiliest goths on earth.  Brandon played Riddles In The Dark for me.  Olivia's On A Grave is a top ten hit in an alternate universe, a better one.  I pitched my show again, and she's a maybe.

7 29 17  THUNDERBOLT & LIGHTFOOT/GERALD DOWD/LISA MACKIE MOAIERY  Louie's Trophy House, Kalamazoo   This one was special.  A room full of people, maybe a third of them other musicians, who hung on every note.  I had not seen Lisa before, she was a new Kazooan to me, but she was good, very informative with a song about the women who built Gibson guitars during WWII.  An arresting line from one of her songs:  let's keep off the straight and narrow.  She closed with a chiming cover of Mazzy Star's Fade Into You that gave me major dorm room flashbacks.  Gerald Dowd is from Chicago, but he married a woman from Kazoo, so he's connected too.  Primarily a drummer, for Robbie Fulks among others, this was him playing acoustic balladeer.  He stated that many of his songs have jerks for protagonists, I need to give them another listen to detect all the jerkage.  The clear standout was My Sweet Old Etcetera, reminiscent of McCartney's Honey Pie, a sweet little trifle sung in an affected accent.  Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, whom I had previously seen play an abbreviated set at that church show in May, are one third of the Corn Fed Girls, who have their own thing going on the side.  (No, not like that.)  Phil Barry and Sarah Halsey Fuerst have the magic harmonies that only a select few can achieve.  I know I say a lot of people have great harmonies, but this is Next Level Black Magic.  The first set was just the two of them acoustic, the second featured a full band (for the first time) including two more Corn Fed Girls.  (A fifth, Darcy, ran merch for 'em.)  At one point, a door kept banging in the back where people were passing in and out of the back patio;  Darcy had propped it, but that led to loud voices marring the sound, so it got closed again.  Sarah said something about having to endure random bangs, to which I automatically called out "That's what she said!"  The room erupted with laughter, to my comingled delight and shame.  Highlights:  Dearly Beloved, a realistic set of wedding vows, and Can't Be Trusted, a haunted and haunting tune.  Closing was two Stones covers, Dead Flowers and You Can't Always Get What You Want, to which I probably sang along too loudly.  I was sitting with Matt Borr and Brian K, like I actually deserved to be in their company, which I don't.  (Matt is 46.  I feel like a rusted VW bus parked next to his Bentley.)  Before the show, I spent a couple of hours in Carrie's backyard:  she had a popup store set up for her Quirky Bohemian line of clothing and jewelry, with Bride of Fleckenstein jamming acoustically, and serving the strongest margaritas I or anyone in attendance had ever experienced. Pleasant folky strummage:  Wagon Wheel was heard, as was Elton John's Roy Rogers. She looked positively glowing, but that may have been the Xanax.  Finally met her husband, drank more than possibly ever in my life, and just generally relished being a person that other people like to have around on occasion.  Thanks Carrie, hope you made a buttload of cash on the day.