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.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Live Music Log, November 2017

11 2 17  Nicholas James Thomasma #2/RALSTON BOWLES/LEXI ADAMS  Creston Brewery, Grand Rapids  Last bonus show from my foot injury:  would not have been able to attend a Sunday night show otherwise, so uh, yay blister from hell?  No Schultz sightings, sadly, but I had a tasty cider while listening to these three very different musicians play songs and tell the stories behind them, in the round.  This, the first night in a new "Songtellers" series, was Nick's baby, and he tried (in vain) to hush the quaffers a few times...but those who wanted to get something from this were able to. In this more sober, contemplative setting, Nick shone, for me, much more than at Harvest.  Thoughtful, heartfelt songs, drawn from his life, played in this intimate setting:  I found it very appealing and affecting.  This is a man who loves his avocation, his vocation, and his city.  Lexi Adams was someone I had seen around in Kzoo (often at Dooley's aborted Craft Draft 2 Go residency) but had not heard yet. Now I have, and she's good. Moved back here from six years in Nashville. Still young, needs to deepen, but good.  Highlight was a song that felt more personal than the others called "You Got Me."  Ralston Bowles is a local legend, a raconteur, Elvis Costello hat at a rakish angle.  Life has been a challenge for him, but he keeps meeting it with his wry, observational songs.  He ribbed Lexi for strumming while she talked, and I swear he did it just so he could sing a song about asking for forgiveness right at her.  His lighter songs and heavier songs meshed well (tone and content, not volume);  I hope to hear more from him soon.

11 3 17 Kaitlin Rose #2/Carrie McFerrin #11/STACY KOVIAK-DAVISON  Webster's, Kalamazoo  Another in-the-round show, with the three singers taking turns rather than playing sets.  I really like the variety this engenders, especially when it's just people with acoustic guitars, which can get samey.  Kaitlin Rose has no chill, and this is a good thing:  intense songs sung intensely, while compulsively prowling the performing area.  (Lil less room for prowling in tiny Webster's than the Old Dog stage...)  "Bad Mother" is an anthem for the ages, and I hope it finds a way out to the wider world.  Carrie has never lacked for confidence, she will say or do just about anything that pops into her head, but she is still somehow deepening as a performer: what she plays sticks with you harder than even a year ago, if that makes any sense.  And she played a song so funny that I stopped breathing for a couple moments. Stacy Koviak-Davison is the leader of the band Treading Bleu and a former bandmate of Dooley in Dooley Noted; first time hearing her, and I liked it a great deal.  Brought the chill that Kaitlin can't.  She plays solo very seldom, so we got to hear songs that were very old and very new, non-band material.  Wish I'd rolled tape.  I find it strange that they allow us ruffians to enter the rarefied atmosphere of a schmancy hotel steakhouse for these tiny music shows, but I hope they don't wise up any time soon.

11 4 17  REGINA SPEKTOR  20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids I don't go to shows by national or international artists all that often: the cost is always high, the crowds are always large and noisy, and there is so much good stuff right here.  Made an exception here, even for the hated 20 Monroe Live, and oh my Jeebus was it the right call.  Has to be in my top five shows ever.  Soviet-born Spektor came out on stage, all alone, sat down at her piano, and whispered "I love you" into her mic, and that set the tone:  intimate yet raucous, hushed and celebratory, sacred and profane.  (Sooo many f bombs.)  Despite a bad head cold, she held 1,200 people in the palm of her tiny hand for 90 minutes.  No band, just her on a grand piano, electric guitar on two songs, or a keyboard with accompanying drumstick-on-wooden-chair.  She told stories, and bantered with the audience, and was just an all around delight.  Favorite line:  "I wasn't born here.  I'm a refugee.  I'm the one they're REALLY scared of."  Musical highlights:  "Ode To A Politician," "Don't Leave Me," "Better," and the encore "Samson" that I filmed here.  Reaffirmed for me that there is nothing so powerful as a righteously pissed off woman with an instrument and a strong voice.
11 10 17  Ladies Songwriter Night:  Darcy Wilkin #8/HOPIE JO/Kaitlin Rose #3/Lexi Adams #2  Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo  I really enjoy these multi-artist hootenannies, if you couldn't tell.  This one was not quite in the round, more like two half hour sets each (which made for a pretty long night, with flagging attention from the Old Doggians).  Darcy was low key Darcyish, with added Nesmith. "Ransom Street" came out of retirement, a paean to summer in the city with the old folks that really makes you feel the sun killing you. Kaitlin was restlessly Kaitlinish, at one point pulling the cord out of her guitar with the stage stalking. I've given up mostly on taking notes, but I think she played "Dreamt Of Montana," an impossibly lovely song.  Lexi Adams played much the same material as at Creston, but with many more covers, most affecting of which was a soaring "Angel of Montgomery."  Hopie Jo leads a band called Peach Lavender, and like Stacy Koviak-Davison, doesn't play solo often, so we got to hear her working out how to get across her message without a band, and she did it well.  She sounds like Zooey Deschanel THINKS she sounds:  charming tiny voice with big ideas.  A good night of stellar tunes.

11 11 17 May Erlewine #8  Gopherwood Concert Series at the Eagles Lodge, Cadillac  I bought five raffle tickets at Harvest Gathering.  With one of them, I won ice cream for five, yay!  I had to go home Saturday night.  In Sunday's drawing, apparently, I won two passes to this concert series in Cadillac; that is, two seats to every show in the run.  I didn't know this till almost two months later, at which point I had missed a Lindsay Lou show (s'allright, it was a Crane Wives night).  But a dude tracked me down at the Frauenthal and hooked me up with my prize, and so off to the north went Rich Wojtas and I.  This was the Mother Lion show again, with the candles and the poems and the red dress amid the black shirts, but it was such a different vibe than Bell's.  Up North is where May is loved by all: about a third of that room knew her personally.  A long high second floor meeting hall, packed to the brim with mostly older folks primed for folk music and coming away mostly satisfied.  I met Frank Youngman.  I could not stop myself from shouting along with Never One Thing.  I somehow shook May's hand without perspiring on it.  So worth the two hour drive.

11 16 17 Morgan Haner #2/THE FOUNDING  GR Live at Home at the BOB, Grand Rapids
               KARISA WILSON  Grand Rapids Public Library, Main Branch
               The Founding #2/PEAT IN THE CREEL  Wealthy Theatre, Grand Rapids  Cutting my hours at work led to a monster silver lining, a Triple Show Thursday.  WYCE's noon broadcast from the BOB featured Morgan Haner, a friend of the Crane Wives who now runs sound at Founders, and writes and sings wry heartfelt songs about the things that shape us.  Think Vic Chesnutt, or Robbie Fulks in low gear.  Not sure how anyone stays that nice after living in Chicago so long.  He was followed by an Irish band, formerly Blarney Castle, six members, all 23.  I want to hate them, for their youth and talent, but they are too skilled to shut out.  Interest was piqued enough to check out their show later that night....but first, I stopped at the GR Main Library for Music In The Stacks.  Literally:  a couple dozen chairs were set up between the biographies, and Ms. Wilson played in front of the great old windows facing east.  She is a longtime fixture in our local scene, very glad to finally catch her performing; she doesn't get out as much because of demands on her time as a music teacher.  Thoughtful ballads, skilled strumming, covers included Billie Holiday and Ernest Tubb (!).  Bought her album, tastefully arranged neo-soul, the ever present Max Lockwood on bass.  then, off to the beautiful Wealthy Theatre for a passel of Irishness.  Peat In The Creel were more traditional in sound than the Founding, four members ranging in age from late twenties to late fifties, one woman on flute, cracking jokes and tossing out jigs and ditties like it was no thing.  The Founding impressed me.  Traditional music is not my go-to genre:  I admire the skill that goes into it without always enjoying it.  But these youngsters, numbering six, the only woman on vocals and flute (again), put enough idiosyncratic spin on their original music to maintain and build interest in the casual listener.  Between songs, the band's (more or less) leader, Joel, told the story of how they came together, and Jesus is this kid funny.  I mean, his comic timing!  If this music thing hits the crapper, he could set up shop in Dr. Grins.  I am not really that easily impressed by people who think they're funny, this guy really is.  Should mention all six members were highly skilled on their instruments;  whatever they are putting in the water in Kalamazoo, I hope they never replace the pipes.

11 17 17  The JetBeats #2/Dangerville #2  Billy's, Grand Rapids  I was accompanied out by my friend Julie (her idea!) to this night of Old Time Rock and Roll in Eastown.  Dangerville are proud dinosaurs, amps to eleven, off color jokes between songs, hit em hard and fast one two three four, rockabilly psychobilly rah rah rah.  Seemed obnoxious in March, somehow more fun tonight.  It had been too long since I had seen the JetBeats:  AJ Dunning, formerly of the Verve Pipe, was a member for a whole year, yet here I was watching his swan song with the band.  I love this concept so much:  the Beatles with Yosemite Sam shooting at their feet to make them dance.  Like how you imagine a show at the Kaiserkeller might have sounded.  I love their originals too, especially Top Of The Line and Backstabber.  Also loved that every kind of Grand Rapidian was out there on the dance floor:  all ages, races and genders, boogying down.  Almost made me wish I could dance.

11 24 17  THE WILD SPARKLINGS/STRANGE COUNTRY  Webster's, Kalamazoo  I tracked Matt and Carrie separately in the past (though I don't think I've ever seen Matt without Carrie), so for their new duo name, we'll call it a first show.  I can't claim much objectivity any more when it comes to Borr and McFerrin;  these are great people and good friends who play music I like very much.  That said, the new name seems to have lit a fire under Mr. Borr:  he had two new very good songs on this night.  Carrie is writing too, a godsend since her quantity has long lagged behind her quality.  Acoustics, harmonies, an occasional Laurie Laing assist:  this is what nights are for.  First time officially seeing Strange Country too, though I have seen Mike List and Pete Weir playing with others around town several times by now.  They are well named:  straight country bent and twisted into a shape that country music detractors can appreciate.  It was also fun seeing them play their shitkickers in the rarefied atmosphere of Webster's, the land of the $28 salad.  Thank you all for existing.

11 25 17  THE DACIA BRIDGES PROJECT  Harmony Hall, Grand Rapids Went into this one semi-blind, based solely on the participation of Sarah Halsey Fuerst, of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and the Corn Fed Girls.  In this band, she is on electric bass, first time I've seen her play it, along with some other Kalamazoo ringers on violin and drums, backing up a force of nature with an acoustic guitar named Dacia Bridges.  Some more scratching of that Vox Vidorra itch, with opinionated soul with occasional dancey leanings played on organic instruments for a hell of a sound.  If Karisa Wilson is mostly placid, then Dacia Bridges is mostly turbid:  gleefully stirring the waters to see what comes up.  First time in this room since discovering Dooley here, which led to somehow making a million friends in Kalamazoo.  Had some tasty lamb soup.

11 30 17 Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe, Steve Hilger and J. Oscar Bittinger at GR Live, Home At The BOB, Grand Rapids  I wasn't sure I should even count this as a show--I won't count it in the numbering--since the Troupe played maybe 25 minutes, at noon, and I barely paid attention to the other acts.  It amounted to me hanging out with friends, which I haven't successfully done on a regular basis in over twenty years.  They are so painfully young, but so talented, so genuine.  I am not worthy.  But I'm sticking around anyway.  Notable:  Adam was trying to decide whether to spring for tickets to the Grammys for $200 a pop (he's a member of the Academy as a producer), asked my opinion.  I said few people get the opportunity to see so many of their heroes in one room at once.  He went for it, and blamed me, so if Jack And The Bear don't make rent this month it is apparently my fault.  Olivia's Danger Death Ray sounded so good on live radio:  the sunniest ode to necrophilia ever.  Mr. Bittinger was talented, as was Mr. Hilger (excellent intertwined acoustic lines with a partner whose name I did not catch), but I was tuned out.  Baaaad blogger.



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