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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 24

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 24

1/7/05 John Wendland & Andy Ploof, The Studio Café. The early part of my evening was spent with the kids out in the snow- sleds, snowballs, snowmen…I didn’t make it downtown until around 11:30. The combination of the short notice of this gig and the snow made for very light attendance- I pulled up a chair next to Roy Kasten and doubled the size of the "crowd". John and Andy were up on the stage trading instruments (guitar, mandolin & Andy on dobro) as well as lead vocals. John sang "Hairless Chihauhau" right before they took a break.

Roy got up and sang Michael Freidman’s "Everything You Love" (accompanied by Andy) to open the second set…he then took off to get some sleep before his Saturday morning radio show, leaving me as the only member of the audience. What is the sound of one man clapping? Michele came out from behind the bar and joined me up front as they finished with a dozen or so songs. Needless to say, things were intimate- they asked for and honored our requests (when I asked for a Dylan song they aptly responded with "You Aint Goin’ Nowhere") and we got a little sports talk in between songs. In addition to originals like "Fences" and a relatively new one by Andy, they covered Dylan’s "Shelter From The Storm". Kind of ironic to drive all the way downtown (through the snow) to hear a guy who lives six blocks from my house.

1/11/05 Bagheera, Frederick’s. I heard the last handful of songs by Red Eyed Driver. This five piece (b, d, g, g & k) play pop music- the lead singer has a slight British affectation to his singing along the lines of Glenn Tillbrook (or thereabouts). The lead guitar stood out as intense and inventive.

Bagheera opened their set with just the husband/wife duo strumming their guitars and singing their clever and charming originals, including that wry, biting one that might be called "(You’re) The Johnny Appleseed Of Pain", before being joined by the rhythm section. Musically, I got more punch than melody from this bunch. Heather’s dissonant voice offered occasional glimpses of Exene Cervenka. Obie is a force of nature as he throws his considerable talents and enthusiasm into his bass playing. The full band set took a while to develop, but eventually picked up steam and rocked. The lead guitar was virtually inaudible in the mix, so I feel like I still haven’t heard these guys the way they ought to be heard.

I ended up staying at Fred’s house well after closing time- fun at the time, but not so fun when the kids are waking me up at 7AM…It was worth it though, if only for the couple of songs I heard Fred Friction sing (accompanied by just his acoustic guitar)- "Little Baby Dreams" and "(I wish I were as strong as) The Whiskey I Drink" rang out in a most ragged yet righteous manner at around 3AM. Fred even coaxed me into some (out of practice and was never that good to begin with) playing and singing - I don’t think he knew what he was in for.

1/22/05 Cary Hudson, Frederick’s. Fun with words: On the way over, I noticed that the "W" was unlit on the sign at the Walgreen’s at Kingshighway and Chippewa, making it "Al Green’s". Anyway, Cary Hudson was a few songs into his opening (solo) set when I showed up- more of that Mississippi acoustic blues guitar and a general relaxed feel from his easy, down-home vocals. At times he would get some intricate picking patterns going. He did one song from his days in Blue Mountain- "Blue Canoe" fit right in with the laid-back feel of his newer bluesier material. He ended with "Cool Breeze", getting a bluesy slide guitar sound without the aid of an actual guitar slide. I talked with him some afterward- he’s every bit as easy-going and down-to-earth as his music is.

The headline act was Paradise Vending. This 5-piece (b,d,g,g & k) from Columbia, MO (which features former Ditchwitch guitarist Barry Hibdon) took the stage, in almost-matching flannel shirts. But instead of sounding like reconstituted Uncle Tupelo (a gripe that some folks had with Ditchwitch back in the day), the songs that I heard drew from pop/rock reference points as catchy and diverse as Springsteen and Centro-matic. For as much as Barry was running up and down the fretboard, his input was barely audible in the house mix. I found the songs pretty interesting and engaging, but I was soon out the door, following a handful of friends over to…

1/22/05 Bobby Bare, Jr., The Duck Room. This show apparently started way early…by the time I got there at eleven thirty, BBJ was up for a couple of encore songs. The first was on the quiet, reflective side and the last had a trashy hard-rock feel to it. My buddy Dean (who had heard the entire show) was all jazzed about the lead guitar playing of Duane Dennison (ex-Jesus Lizard). In the little sampling that I heard, the instrumentation (d, g & BBJ on bass) was fine, but it’s Bobby’s weary, yet rich voice (along with one memorable melody, in particular) that carried things. Without knowing the specific lyrics being sung, I somehow get the general vibe that he’s often being fucked over (or fucking up, himself) in some relationship, yet is forever asking for one more chance. I would have liked to have heard more, but that’s the way it goes. It was nice to get a chance to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen since the holidays afterwards.

1/26/05 Frank Lee, Frederick’s. Along with maybe fifteen other people, I caught all of the second set by this nice guy from western North Carolina. He does this acoustic blues thing, taking his cues from old school delta bluesmen like Robert Johnson and Mississippi Fred McDowell (he cited the latter as a major influence). Instrumentally, he alternated between a vintage 1912 Gibson guitar, a banjo from approximately the same time period and something resembling a National steel guitar. In a gentle voice akin to that of Jesse Winchester, he sang mostly old rural blues standards like "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl". His playing was clean and precise throughout, but frankly (couldn’t resist the empty-net pun), it was a little too correct and friendly, leaving the overall tone distant from the gritty, down and dirty feel of the originals. Things were neither down nor dirty when he dedicated a song to his cats; a silly little number called "The Cat Came Back"…didn’t they used to make us sing this one at camp?

1/29/05 The Avett Brothers, Off Broadway. Dave and I caught the last half hour or so by this trio (stand-up bass, guitar & banjo/guitar) from North Carolina. Much like The Old Crow Medicine Show, they play in an exaggerated and animated manner- the bass player punches up the emphasis on the beat and the vocals (all three guys sing) are virtually shouted, allowing whatever resultant untrained waiver to hang out there in all of its aching glory- it’s rough, it’s ragged, it’s real…and sometimes it’s real hard to listen to. I find certain songs on their "Carolina Jubilee" CD virtually unlistenable.

But tonight in this live setting, the passion they packed into their playing went a long way to forgiving the exuberant, if flawed vocalizing. At times one of the guitar players would stomp on a high-hat, adding a percussive rattle alongside the up tempo onslaught of the stringed instruments. The only song I recognized by name was the slower "Last Song To Jenny". A real "old-time" feel is conveyed both in their sound and their look; they could be extras in a civil war movie. My particular issue with the drawn-out, off-key vocals was only really noticeable when they would dampen their instruments and attempt a little a capella. They ended with a somewhat wholesome, uplifting song…something like "Beat the bad/Cheer the sad/Leave this world a better place". Since this show ended a bit on the early side, we headed over to…

1/29/05 The Hoyle Brothers, Frederick’s. We arrived amid the flurry of some major broken glass/spilled beer incident…a perfect compliment to the authentic honky tonk music coming from the stage. Frederick’s often features country-influenced acts, but rarely bands that are as traditional as these guys. This Chicago five-piece (b,d,g,g/v & steel) keeps the flame of old-school hard country music alive in much the same way as Dale Watson And The Lone Stars.

They covered Mr. Watson, as well as Merle Haggard, Dave Dudley and Ray Price. When someone requested "Crazy Arms", they started (and quickly ended) it in two different keys, before finally settling into one (I think it was G) that suited frontman Jacque Judy’s vocal range. The pedal steel and lead Telecaster player traded off some impressive leads on just about every song. One original song about driving while impaired stood out- "I got hammered (boom, boom) I got nailed…"




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