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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 73

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 73

10/3/08 Dale Watson, House Concert.  Another max capacity house concert…Dale could easily draw two or three times as many people, but somehow he ended up playing at our house for about 85 happy people…many newcomers to the house concert thing; lots of hard-core DW fans who found out about this show via Dale’s website.  There was a contingent of motorcycle riding cops who made the trip down from Chicago. 
 
Dale’s good friends Brian and Lisa showed up with dinner at around 5:30, but (true to their pattern) the band didn’t show up for another hour and a half.  They parked their forty foot tour bus right in front of our house and made pretty quick work of setting up “onstage” and chowing down on bar-b-q.  I grabbed a quick bite aboard the tour bus…it was pimped out pretty good, with couches, TV/DVD, computer and video games.  The “back room” had a bunch of bunks on either side of the aisle.
 
Our friend Suellen (a big DW fan visiting from Atlanta) assumed the role of doorman and made sure people got with the program while the band (b, d, fiddle, steel and DW on electric guitar and vocals) assembled in the back corner and started up.  With only a minimal sound check, the overall sound was amazing…attribute it to their experience or the fact that all instruments were run through their own amps (rather than our PA), but things sounded great. 
 
Both sets seemed to fly by in a joyous blur, so rather than assign specific comments to specific songs, I’ll just say that the instrumentation was crisp and tight (lead guitar, fiddle and steel seamlessly trading leads) and varied from song-to-song.  Dale’s rich voice is very much in that Merle Haggard range.  At a couple of points in the proceedings, a bottle of brown whiskey was brought to the stage (courtesy of the biker cops from Chicago) and passed all around. 
 
10/11/08 Thee Dirty South, Deluxe.  After we got home from my kid’s baseball doubleheader, I didn’t get to the bar until almost midnight.  I did hear the last 45 minutes (or so) of the set by Bob Reuter’s current band.  It’s a down and dirty, blues based thing.  There were maybe twenty or thirty people in the bar, most of whom were talking among themselves.  I was the only one who seemed to be paying attention (or clapping).
 
Judging from the verbal interjections on his radio show and his stage presence tonight, it’s tempting to say that Bob is turning into an old black man.  He plays seated in a chair and belts out his songs in a relaxed, devil-may-care manner.  Marc Chechik (also playing seated) applied a whole mess of greasy blues leads, just right for where Bob is at these days.  Scattered songs that my “week after” memory is coming up with: “Going”, “Mr. Soul”, “The Dirty South” and “Little Sister”. 
 
If you live in a town long enough, you’re likely to get hit by orbiting fragments of history.  After the show, Suzanne Miller (the club owner) reminded Bob that she was briefly a backing singer in the revolving door lineup of his old band, Kamikaze Cowboy.  Now that she mentioned it, I have a vague memory of seeing her sing with Bob at Off Broadway, maybe fifteen years ago.
There was a sense of things coming full circle tonight, as Bob played here at Suzanne’s new club in Maplewood (Bob went through lots of big changes during his years in Maplewood).
 
Speaking of bringing it all back home, no trip home from Maplewood is complete without a late-night stop at the drive-thru window of White Castle.
 
10/18/08 Charles Walker And The Dynamites, Gramophone.  This was my first time at this new club on that new, up and coming part of Manchester, just south of SLU…not too many familiar faces in this crowd of college-age people.  I ended up hanging with Nico and Nicole off to the side of the stage.  A few more friends showed up just before the band went on, raving about the David Byrne show they had just seen at The Fox.
 
The small room was full (maybe 100 people) as the band (b, d, g, sax, trumpet, keys) did their usual instrumental warmup (a disco-ish “Tighten Up” riff prevailed at some point) before welcoming Mr. Charles Walker to the stage. 
 
The obvious reference points are James Brown (the funky horns) and Otis Redding (the sweet soul crooning)…made me imagine some kind of volt meter that would swing the needle to the correct point on the spectrum for each song.  One song blenderized “I’ll Take You There”, “Land Of A Thousand Dances” and “Satisfaction”.
 
The stage lights were on a timer so that the entire band would be bathed in one color of light for about a minute before changing to another…when it was on “light blue”, it produced a monochromatic look that felt like this crowd of college kids was looking at black-and-white footage of an old jump/swing band, all decked out in vintage suits. 
 
My KDHX peeps left about an hour into the set, as did about half the crowd.  This kind of music works best when there’s a big, dense crowd jumping up and down, right there with them.
On that count, there was a bit of a disconnect, as the crowd thinned out.  It’s a shame these guys don’t have a bigger following.  Somewhere toward the end of the set, CW rewarded those who stuck around with his slow, soulful rendition of “Summertime”.  They went out on one that reminded me of Van McCoy’s “Gettin’ Mighty Crowded”.
 
10/23/08 Kevin Gordon, Off Broadway.  My buddy Pax picked me up and drove a very altered route to the club.   By the time we got there, there were maybe 20 people (I knew 15) on hand and Amelia White was playing her last song.  I liked what I heard; kinda like a raw, Appalachian version of Lucinda or Gillian.  At least that’s my week-after memory (I’m way behind in turning my scribbled notes into words/sentences/paragraphs)
 
Melody Den played next…their set was very typical of that whole Undertow/Waterloo/Magnolia Summer consortium: fairly even, monochromatic vocals over gentle melodies that then get lit up by impressive musicianship from all corners.  Marc’s guitar playing is very accomplished and expressive and Dave’s bass adds some emphatic punctuation.   A new second guitarist (Jerry…first time I’ve heard him) made for a fuller sound.  Marc has a new song with a clever turn of phrase on the mid-forties theme…something like “getting old is new”.
 
Nashville’s Kevin Gordon closed things out.  Backed by bass and second guitar, KG did a typical set that I’ve come to think of as a minor-league version of John Hiatt (relaxed blues-pop sung in rich voice similar to JH’s) with a dose of that chooglin’ Creedence swamp vibe.  He played his most notable song, “Twenty-four Diamonds” right around midnight in front of about a dozen people.  Pax and I picked up Taco Bell on the trip home and rendezvoused with Dave at the ranch house for a 1:30 nightcap.
 
10/24/08 The Diplomats of Solid Sound The Gramophone.  Our little crew made the rounds from an art gallery opening to dinner at The Tap Room but still made it to the club in time to catch most of the first set (and all of the second) by this soul band from Iowa (oxymoron?).  The band (b, d, g, saxes, Hammond B3…no bass) had the chops and had the good-size crowd (maybe 100 people?) into it.  Two female singers in dresses took center stage, literally and figuratively, as they set the tone with their smooth vocals.  I recognized one cover, that I’m not remembering.  My overall impression was that I found their sound/feel/instrumentation more memorable than their songs.
 
This being the week before the election, the subject of race is more on people’s minds than usual.  I found myself wondering about the credibility of this bunch of white folks all dressed up playing soul music.  Would the exact same sounds strike me differently, if produced by a bunch of older black people?
 
10/26/08 Jonathan Richman, Off Broadway.  About 90 people showed up for this early show on a Sunday night.  Tonight, the band was just Tommy Larkins on drums and Jonathan on guitar.  Jojo is such a “follow your heart/live in the moment” guy that he eschews doing the “greatest hits” thing (and he certainly has ‘em) in favor of what he’s currently jazzed about.  In his hour-plus set, the only songs I recognized were “I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar”, “Give Paris One More Chance” and “Pablo Picasso” (he now slurs/blurs the “never called an asshole” part).
 
Most of his new songs are variations of that ongoing heart-on-the-sleeve theme.  That wide-eyed wonder was abundant in one song about sweaty lovers kissing in the rain outside of the youth hostel.  JR is so known for his sincere songs (lyrically and vocally), that it’s easy to forget what an expressive guitar player he is…it’s that smooth, heartfelt chords thing, with the occasional lead run thrown in.  When Tommy would take a brief drum solo, Jojo would plunk along on cowbell.  His between-song banter has taken on an exaggerated tone, like that of an old Jewish man.
 
When the set ended, I pushed on the railing (near the back of the room) to push my barstool away, so I could stand up...unfortunately, the feet of the barstool stayed put and I ended up falling over backwards, barstool and all.  I literally lived the cliché, as I fell off of a barstool.  It was slightly painful, but mostly embarrassing…I only had three beers.
 
The encore opened with a call for requests…“Vampire Girl” was promptly delivered, first in English, then in Spanish.  Jonathan closed things out with a new one about visiting his dying mother in the nursing home...I was stunned.
 
The nice thing about these early Sunday shows is that I was home by 11:15.
 
11/7/08 Magnolia Summer, Off Broadway.  Dave and I got there in time to catch the last song by Theodore (guitar, lap steel, stand-up bass)…I liked it.  The singer’s voice had a bit of a John Fogerty feel to it.
 
Tonight was the CD release party for the Lines From The Frame CD by Magnolia Summer.  Lots of familiar faces in the crowd of maybe 70 people.  For as many times as I’ve seen these guys, you think I’d get used to the way they open their sets with that dreamy slow-burn that eventually builds in intensity (“simmer ‘til it shimmers” is my thumbnail characterization of the Undertow sound).  I’m personally a fan of the “jump start” set opener; something catchy and hooky that grabs you from the get-go.  A few songs into the set, they got around to instantly upbeat material like “Short Wave Decline” and “Wrong Chords” (this one has a fun little bounce to it that somehow reminds me of The Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing”). 
 
Throughout, the band layed on lots of layers…Chris Grabau’s warm, gentle vocals backed by bass, drums, two (sometimes three) guitars. This was the first time I’d seen them with the new steel guitar player, Dave Anderson.  He adds an earthy, organic country-rock feel to things, kinda like those Mike Nesmith records from the seventies.  Knowing that Kevin Buckley’s fiddle is featured on the new CD, it was easy to imagine it fitting right into the mix; too bad KB was elsewhere tonight.  The overall sound is so full, rich and accomplished, that it’s hard to believe these are a bunch of guys with day jobs (except for the John Horton, who had a break in his schedule with The Bottlerockets).  Now I gotta go listen to the new CD.
 
I was outside in the smoker’s area for the first half of the headlining set by John Hardy And The Public (b,d,k,g,g).  Blame it on the beer or all of my buddies (Cat introduced me to the terms “xtube” and “gloryhole” tonight) or the time lag in getting around to writing this up, but I don’t have much to say about JH & TP other than that they wore suits and layed on the guitars with an urgent intensity.  They did a pretty spirited version of Randy Newman’s “Short People”.  I owe them a more proper listen sometime down the road.

   

 

 

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