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.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Live Music Log, September 2017

9 2 17 Brian Koenigsknecht #4  Harvey's, Kalamazoo  I was about an hour late, for reasons I already can't remember, but it was a low key show, just a dude playing for mostly his own friends on the pleasantly ramshackle upstairs deck. I remember Ken Campbell, Jeremy Rilko, and I think John Mickley?  Chuck for a while?  Istanbul Sky is a man-weepy masterpiece.  Last of the Venues is the best song I know about that feeling after a good show, not wanting the night to end. And I love hearing How To Rest, even in a much lower register than nature intended.

9 2 17  Lazy Genius #2/HOLLYWOOD MAKEOUT  Mulligan's Pub, Grand Rapids  After all the folky rock and rocky folk I've been partaking of, I felt the need for something snottier, so I ascended fifty miles and descended fifteen years for a late rawk show at Ye Olde Shithole.  This kind of insouciant noise rock will never completely die, not while guitars and amps are relatively cheap, it just won't make it past the local pubs especially often any more.  Bands usually play in reverse order from billing, so when Lazy Genius started I thought they were CARL, even though I saw them play last winter at Long Road with Chance Jones.  At that previous show, I was impressed by their dynamic sound and thoughtful lyrics;  here, on an ancient shitty PA (probably still from the original Intersection, once housed here) mixed by a sound guy wearing boxing gloves, all was sludge. I saw him listen to the dire din coming from the monitors and actually nod his head in satisfaction. Sludgy vocals, sludgy guitars, occasional desultory tambourine clangs from a girl who resembled Mindy Kaling.  Will see again, but never here.  Hollywood Makeout fared a little better, since they played slightly quieter or at least with more space between notes, giving the dodgy PA more time to catch up.  Machine-gun precise drummer, theatrically showy bassist, singer/guitarist who is gorgeous in that Tina Weymouth just-doin-my-job way.  Again, need to see in better venue.  I didn't see it happen, but on the night I was there, the bouncer (allegedly) pushed a disruptive customer out the door BY HER BREASTS.  It caused a social media shitstorm, of whose effectiveness I do not know.  But even if this assault, by bar staff, didn't happen or happen differently, it is all too easy to believe it did.  Years and years of unearned anger and privilege, of curdled tattoo misogyny, have soaked into the walls, to be time-released into the patrons as the paint peels.  Mulligan's is bad.  Do not go there, do not spend your money there.

9 8 17 Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #13  New Holland Brewing, Holland  It seems vaguely treasonous to say this, but I might have the most fun at an Olivia show out of all the acts I go see.  These slightly brain damaged young people seem genuinely enthused to have me around.  They joke with me, with each other, with the audience, during the show.  They give me cider.  They eat my pinwheels.  I hung out with her parents, for gods sake.  Dwayne and the Rock Johnsons!  Brandon goes off the rails and sings Disney tunes, Olivia looks on exasperated and secretly tickled, Bleu is my ally in lobbying for old songs, Adam sits back and benevolently observes the circus. Good to see Steve, lovely to meet Janet.  (Olivia's actual parents, not Anna Paquin and Gilda Radner as appearances might suggest.)  As these two videos suggest, Brandon's influence is sending Olivia down a darker, stranger path, but her sound is still uniquely her own.

9 9 17 Megan Dooley #12  Crane's Pie Pantry, Fennville  Dooley can only be Dooley.  She has no artifice, no guile, no bullshit manufacturing capability.  This early afternoon show by the Pie Hole found her hungover and grumpy, and she let us the audience know it.  She kinda yelled at me, then gave me her fries.  And she sounded wonderful; her brain might not like it early, but her vocal cords sure do.  Part Of Your World rang out among the apples like a crystal clear bell.  Whistled La Vie En Rose pierced every heart.  And the reefer song, again, to the small children.  She is the greatest.  Later that day, she took the first steps toward recording her new album.  And then the next day, her cat messed up her hand really badly.  Watch this space.
9 9 17 Papa Vegas #4/Crane Wives #33/MISS ATOMIC  Perrin Brewing, Comstock Park (Fifth Anniversary Party)  The past and the present collide in a remote part of GR.  Perrin is a brewery with a pub added after some success came their way;  the location is not the best, way the heck out off the main drag beyond Comstock Park.  A stage and a series of beer tents and booths were set up in the backyard, and parking was way the hell down the street.  Coming from Fennville, I thought I saw Kate walking down the road, thought, naaah.  Parked in a hay field planted on undeveloped industrial land, and promptly ran into Dan and Kate, who WERE on foot.  Even the artists had to park in the boonies?  This was a Lonely Show, knew no one here, buncha drunken louts, dudes broing down, attractive women with really homely men, so much beerness.  Miss Atomic wanted to be the Killers sooooo bad.  There were some melodies there, but the Brandon Flowersisms (including a white blazer in the blazing heat) kept me from digging too deeply for them.  Early 90s soft rock is coming back it seems. The Wives were good, they're never not good, but I was feeling so out of place that I can't say I enjoyed it much.  Emilee was freaked out audibly by the buzzing, diving quadracopter. Some dude behind me:  "Hey, that chick looks like Michelle Branch." There was a weird echo on Dan's drums that I kinda liked, like a Jamaican dub sort of effect.  I took Kate and Dan to Fricano's, which they had never had, and tried not to squee like a fangirl through dinner.  Pizza meant I missed most of Jake Kershaw, a 17 year old kid with lightning fast guitar skills.  He was playing mostly warmed over cock rock, but he was playing it so freaking well that he definitely has a bright future.  I did see him close with Hendrix's Voodoo Child, which was genuinely astonishing.  Most of the crowd left after young Kershaw got done:  it was getting cold, and Papa Vegas apparently isn't a draw any more, which saddens me.  They sounded great, but they looked tired (except for Joel's daughter, new to the band on keyboards, adorably hopping up and down to her dad's songs) and they played just less than an hour.  No Resolve, no Never, but two really good new ones, indicating they're keeping to their schedule of one new album every nine years.

9 15-16 17  EARTHWORK HARVEST GATHERING Earthwork Farm, Lake City  GREGORY STOVETOP/E MINOR/Thunderbolt & Lightfoot #2/NICHOLAS JAMES & THE BANDWAGON/Seth Bernard #3/JIVE AT FIVE/Go Rounds #3/RED SEA PEDESTRIANS/Steve Leaf & The Ex Pats #2/Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish #2/The Northern Fires #2/SARI BROWN/ANNE ERLEWINE/BILLY DAVIS/MICHAEL BEAUCHAMP-COHEN/GIFTS OR CREATURES/Stepladders #2/VESPRE/FRED ZEPPELIN/Crane Wives #34/DANIEL KAHN/Dan Rickabus #2/Public Access #3  Another festival....but a very different one.  For all its Michigan leanings, Hoxeyville is very much a traditional hippie festival;  Harvest feels utterly unique.  Very short 45 minute sets by everyone, from the unknown to the highly famous.  A robust and extensive volunteer culture that could have you washing dishes alongside the musicians you came to see.  Over a hundred acts over three days, carefully curated by Seth Bernard, Bill Chesney and a select few others.  I could not stay for Sunday, sadly, but I sure as hell made the most of my weekend.  (And learned my lesson:  a hotel room in Lake City meant I traded some connectedness for a good night's sleep.)  Spotted Dan Lauterbur as I walked in, a good sign that I was gonna know people.  The biggest difference by far between now and a year ago is just the sheer number of acquaintances I have, people who seem to like to see me.  They can't ALL be brain damaged, can they?  I kicked off my festival in the century-old Bernard barn (smaller than ours, but much better kept) with Gregory Stovetop. Long beard, wild eyes, Tom Petty T shirt. Much talked up by Dan and Seth Bernard of late, this set was solo, with a flying V and a drum machine.  A small dervish child in front of the stage stole the show.  It was very Murrican, and it was okay.  He played a full band set later in the evening to widespread acclaim, but I chose a different adventure.  Next to the Hill Stage (where I and a big big big log were to get well acquainted over the next two days) for a woman named Elizabeth Landry, who goes by E Minor.  Paradox:  sunny blues.  Bassist playing a contraption built from an oil drum.  Slow torch song Dust Out of Sand was a highlight.  She had a commanding presence and a great voice.  Will Investigate Further.  Next up, same stage, was Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, with their tight harmonies, sweet songs, and almost no crowd.  Most of the people there to see them were friends from Kalamazoo (and me). Mike Fuerst dared to wear a cowboy hat.  The Change were a dire JV Blues Traveler, so of course they drew three times the crowd for their hippie dirges.  Blargh.  I went and had a gigantic grass-fed hamburger.  Came back for Nicholas James and the Bandwagon, led by my Hoxeyville savior, Nick Thomasma.  Answers the question:  what if Tommy Chong was really good on the guitar?  This is not a criticism:  this is grinning Americana, shaggy dog anthems in the spirit of Todd Snider and Arlo Guthrie. Tours the nation in an orange VW bus. Ended the last song, whose chorus had been "She'll be mine," with "She'll be her own person but she'll love me just the same."  Second best joke of the festival. Passed up a second helping of Stovetop for the old-coot swing of Jive at Five, made up of most of the festival's elder all stars, impressive as hell, rocking that jump blues and dizzy swing for all the cool cats.  Frank Youngman, Mark Schrock, Madcat Ruth, and company, some of the best pure fun sound I heard all weekend.  Next up, my first trip to the biggest stage, Cedar, for the Go Rounds.  I know there's melody under the noise somewhere, and I hope they don't give up shoveling till they find the pony. They risk floating off into dance prog oblivion like Of Montreal.  But Texas Desert Rose, Shock and Awe, and (the still very welcome) Jump Into The Fire prove there are nuggets of gold for the patient.  Up the hill for the Red Sea Pedestrians.  A twin band of sorts to the Corn Fed Girls, another collective of Kalamazoo super-musicians, klezmer origins but not tied down to one sound (unless you consider awesome a sound). Rachel Gorman is a clarinet superstar.  Need To See Again.  Way way out to the Market Stage, the most remote, for the only time, for the last two acts of Friday night.  Steve Leaf and the Ex Pats, to me, have achieved the tension-and-release, dynamic pwawawang sound that the Go Rounds are chasing.  They've taken all their videos down off YouTube, which is perplexing, but seek out their records for sophisticated rock and roll.  Much more raucous live, and funny as hell, with extended bits about radio morning shows, credit where credit is due, and the best audience troll I have ever seen:  the same two lines of Neil Young's Harvest Moon, over and over and over, for ten minutes.  The audience went from amused, to perplexed, to slightly annoyed, to fist pumping joy.  Steve Is A Monster.  Last up, Jesse Ray and his highly inauthentic, enjoyably frenzied take on rockabilly.  This is music as aerobic exercise, and a great way to close off a night.
I started out Saturday refreshed, thanks to the glory of not sleeping on the dirt, and headed back to the festival grounds for a long, long day of soaking in all the sounds.  I missed Nik Carman, an 11 year old guitar whiz.  I was going to catch a few songs by the Northern Fires, then sneak off to the Corn Fed Girls....but the open mic ran late, then there were sound issues, and Laurie had seen me, I didn't dare leave for fear of giving offense.  Pesky new friendships!  But I was glad I stayed, because they have never sounded better.  Laurie and Noah can have pitch issues at Old Dog, but here in the sunshine the harmonies rang out loud and true, on a great batch of new songs, for a really strong set. Over to the big Cedar stage for Sari Brown, whose life story was much more intriguing than her songs.  She came out, a small woman in a small dress, you're thinking, oh here comes the twee.  But she was older than she looked, and an ordained minister!  Married to someone with little English.  Her newer songs were Jesusy, nice but not my bag, her older ones were knottier and naughtier. Gotta try different things sometimes.  Same stage for Anne Erlewine, sister of May, apparently started her career first.  Looks a lot like Lily Tomlin.  Somewhat saltier than the sister, sleepy acoustic accompaniment aboundeth. When Vox Vidorra broke up, Theo kept their slot here....but then Theo didn't show, the only cancellation of the 118 acts here, so I stayed at Cedar, again, severe crick in back from leaning on electrical box (I forgot a chair) for Billy Davis.  A very elderly guitar legend, member of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, contemporary of Hendrix, thrust into a starring role late in life, playing in a guitar duo with a fiftyish white dude. Seriously awesome playing, seriously retrograde songs.  I swear to God one song sounded like an unrequited yearning  aimed at a daughter of a friend.  Off to the barn, and the best-placed old truck bench in the world, for the next three sets:  Michael Beauchamp-Cohen, on holiday from Red Tail Ring, is absurdly good looking and ludicrously talented, with a voice like spun honey, and it is not fair.  So good that I saw Darcy (or is that Dirgey now?) stay for someone's whole show for the first time ever. A highlight was Ohio Turnpike, and a John Prine tune with Max Lockwood sitting in.  Next:  Gifts Or Creatures, a Lansing married duo with Max and Dan backing them up, performing their entire new album, a song cycle about Michigan history that I need to own, combining as it does so many of my geek loves.  Soft sound, but steel at the core. Reminds me of Hem. Grand Rapids Brakeman was a highly propulsive highlight.  Stepladders next, Bill Chesney and his crew of ringers playing pop-rock straight up, Emilee as vocal foil on several tunes.  One song, I think it's called Starting 5 For 5, is about sports, and it's hilarious:  makes you wonder why so few dudes write love songs to their teams.  Left to get lunch, won ice cream for five in the raffle right as I walked up.  Back to Cedar for Vespre, a woman from Detroit singing what she called "soulgaze."  Just her and either a keyboard/sequencer (okay) or a guitar (much better).  Bewitching presence, only a 25 minute set. (Only has one single out yet.)  Walked up to Hill Stage, caught the end of alt-country TC-turned-Nashvillian Dylan Lancaster, for an unexpected country song about Beaver Island.  And then:  Fred Zeppelin.  The 12 year old son of Corn Fed Girl Jon Campos on precocious guitar pyrotechnics, along with Phil Barry, Mike Fuerst, Matt Gross of Knee Deep Shag, and other ringers, doing Led Zep covers at high volume.  Completely ridiculous, and face meltingly awesome.  Matt Borr and I were screeching along with glee.  Back to Cedar for the Crane Wives, who officially played for the biggest crowd at the entire festival.  They're headliners yo.  Extremely energetic set, feeding off the crowd's happy vibes and returning them fivefold, grinning madly through the tales of woe and sadness.  For the very first time, I heard nothing from the first two albums:  looking to the future now.  (Or just a short slot.)  I had Matt with me, so I didn't crowd the stage, but I wanted to.  So old, so fat, so 23 in my mind.  Back to the barn for the rest of the evening:  caught the tail end of John Sinclair, the old beat poet/impresario who founded the White Panther party, managed the MC5, and hung out with John Lennon a bit.  There was a recitation of the history of Delta blues, with chugging, skronking accompaniment by a large crew of Earthwork all stars, plus Billy Davis, that was mesmerizing in its erudite ramshackle glory.  Daniel Kahn was a name that meant nothing to me, I was just riding the bench till Public Access, but he was the biggest pleasant surprise of the festival.  A Michiganian who now lives mostly in Berlin, playing with a trio called the Disorientalists, he presented an audiovisual tour de force cabaret performance about the life of Azerbaijani Assad Bey, who lived as a Muslim in 1930s Germany.  History lesson, cautionary tale, jaunty knees up, all in one. In a century old barn in northern Michigan.  Life can be very strange.  And now, the ten person crew assembled for the Dan Rickabus Experience:  a debut airing of most of his Void/Journal album with a full, rich sound.  Different from the layers and layers on the record, but much bigger and more ambitious than his ukulele renditions.  Emilee on keyboards!  Kate on percussion!  Max and Ben trading off bass!  Alex Atkin and Steve Leaf on geetar!  And the maestro drumming and singing and exploding with infectious joy.  Really glad I got to see that.  Then, the teenage guitar geek's instrumental fever dream, Public Access.  Boiler suits, sunglasses, big melodic riffs pounded into submission by seven guitars.  Ben and Dan anchoring it all.  Encore Smells Like Teen Spirit had the crowd going absoreetly apeshit, myself included, jesus was I hoarse after that.  It was 3 am.  I had seen a lot of people I know, some a lot less than I would have liked, but I had actual companionship for a larger portion of my time than perhaps ever before in my life.  I drove the two hours home in the wee hours, all the many tunes I'd heard still ringing in my ears to keep me awake.  Thank you, friends, and thank you, music, for making life in this terrible time worth hanging around for.

9 22 17 Brian Koenigsknecht #5/Thunderbolt & Lightfoot #3/MIPSO  Bell's, Kalamazoo (Oktoberfest)  An extremely unseasonable heat wave gripped Michigan:  four or five days in a row in the 90s, in late September.  The tent put up in Bell's backyard for this event just trapped the heat from the audience's bodies like a boiling pot.  Blargh.  Brian was playing with a fullish band, including strings, and it sounded marvelous, especially Istanbul Sky and Nova.  His soft-gravel voice got attention, even with all the beer a-flowing.  Phil and Sarah had a smaller sound than Brian, two voices and a guitar, and they lost the super-beery attention, but those who listened were rewarded with impeccable harmonies on their charming songs.  Mipso was a band that exists.  I was too hot by then to care much.  From North Carolina, all exceedingly, even offputtingly good looking, excellent vocals, Mumfordy, too slick by half, someone else's favorite band, have a safe trip back to wherever that is.  I am going home to lie in front of the fan with the dog.



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