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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 76
Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 76
12/13/08 The Wilders, House Concert. This Kansas City quartet showed up in the late afternoon and didn’t take long to adjust our PA to their particular needs. They replaced our mics with their own, higher quality mics and moved out the monitor speakers. Soon after, they changed into vintage clothing to match their vintage instruments- guitar, fiddle, stand-up bass and dobro/banjo/mandolin) right before the guests arrived. Our December house concert is billed as the Twangfest/KDHX Holiday Party…we had the Christmas tree set up in the corner next to the band. There was a nice, wholesome, community vibe as a number of KDHX donors were invited and a bunch of people brought their kids.
The best reference point I can come up with for these guys is Red Knuckles And The Trailblazers. They do an old-time vintage, period-piece thing, drawing from elements of bluegrass and country music from the 40s and 50s. They opened with Lefty’s “If You’ve Got The Money”. For being relatively focused on a certain time period, they managed to keep things varied, song-to-song. Other songs that stood out in the first set were “Fireball Mail”, “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy”, “There Goes My Love” (exit Betse and Nate as Ike Shelton & Phil Wade harmonized ala Charlie and Ira on this Buck Owens classic) and “High-steppin’ Country Girl” (Phil getting all vigorous on banjo).
The three dudes left the “stage” for a few minutes while Betse sang (and played fiddle simultaneously!) on a couple of Ozark spirituals: “Heaven Bells Are Ringing” and “If You Got Land (?)”. The full band closed set one out with a spirited version of Hank’s “I’m A Long Gone Daddy”, Phil and Betse trading leads back and forth on dobro and fiddle.
Set two opened with “Rock in the Woods” (a jumping instrumental) and Hank’s “Settin’ The Woods On Fire” (more dobro/fiddle interplay). The original murder ballad, “Someone’s Got To Pay” took things into mournful mode…but only briefly, as it was followed by “Here Comes Santa Claus” (this is our holiday party, after all). This song was the perfect cue for our friend Mikey (who had just arrived from another party in a Santa suit) to come front and center to dance around with the band. It was one of those wholesome, feel-good moments…a handful of little kids were transfixed.
The raucous instrumental “Goin’ Across The Sea” (fiddle and mandolin seemed to be in a playful race on this one) preceded their “big hit”…”Hey Little Darlin” features a distinctive melody and an easy, relaxed tempo. The home stretch contained a few classics- Son House’s “Death Letter Blues” (started and ended with slow, plunked banjo…but swelled into something larger and louder in the middle), “Children Go Where I Send Thee” (a traditional Christmas-themed gospel song) and “Broken Down Gambler” (a hyper-paced instrumental) as well as the originals “Honky Tonk Habit” (hits that “Honky Tonk Man” spot…dobro and fiddle again trading licks) and “Sorry I Let You Down” (ever seen a dobro player pogo while playing?). They closed the set out with “Run, Run Rudolph” (with a proper shout-out to hometown hero Chuck Berry)…Santa returning to the stage for a last hurrah.
They came back out for a two-song encore: Ike sang the hearty/wholesome “Holly Jolly Christmas” and Betse sang the more obscure/raw/primitive “Breaking Up Christmas”. After the usual meet-and-greet/merch sales, the guests all filtered out. I had a good time hanging out by the fire out back with Ike and Betse before calling it a night. We fed the band breakfast before they hit the road around 10 AM on Sunday morning.
1/4/09 Dale Watson And The Lone Stars, Deluxe. Having been out of town for the holidays until about an hour before this Sunday night show was to start, it would have been easy just to stay home and settle back in rather than head out to the bar (pretty much guaranteeing that I’d start the work week/year hung over). But no…I had to be there. Dale’s big ol’ tour bus took up most of the length of the building in the parking lot. Lots of familiar faces (most of whom came to see Dale at our place last October) in the crowd of maybe 70 people.
The sound and volume were just about perfect as Dale ran through two long sets, the band once again seamlessly trading instrumental leads between Don’s fiddle, Don-Don’s steel and Dale’s Telecaster. The set list contained lots of Dale’s classics: “Country My Ass”, “Where Do You Want It?” (about Billy Joe Shaver), “Truck Stop In La Grange”, “Twelve Miles South Of Round Rock, TX”, “Honky Tonk Wizard Of Oz” (tequila and whiskey and beer, oh my…), “Jessie Brown” and “Exit 109” (tonight’s drum solo wasn’t as full-blown as last October’s). I was happy to hear them do a couple of covers I had never heard them do before: Buck’s “Girl Made In Japan”, Johnny’s “Guess Things Happen That Way” and Merle’s “Mama Tried”. This being one of those Sunday night shows, things started and ended on the early side. I got home right around midnight.
1/9/09 The Lettuceheads, The Tap Room. Tonight’s show was put together by Chris King who, more than just about anyone I know, has persistently kept in touch with local musicians from back in the day and encouraged them (and their fans) to get out and keep it going. I think there was a swap meet/listening party earlier in the evening, featuring lots of recordings from the local music scene in the late eighties/early nineties.
The Lettuceheads were playing when I arrived. These guys are very accomplished musicians who were always very well respected among their peers. Having not seen/heard them in almost 15 years, I was more taken with their musicianship than the actual songs. I wish there had been more catchy hooks/hummable melodies to sink my teeth into.
Last To Show First To Go played next…confessional/heartfelt lyrics over fairly straightforward instrumentation (g, b, g & d). The drums stood out, especially on songs with complex start/stops.
James Weber and band (d, Joe Thebeau on bass, Jason Rook on lead, often slide, guitar & JW on guitar + vocals) closed things out with a set of pretty much, straight-up rock. The set ended with James doing a solo version of Neil Young’s slow, gripping, “Ambulance Blues”.
1/16/09 Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks, The Sheldon. A buddy and I found our comp seats in the last row right before show time. Lots of fifty-something year-olds in this sold-out crowd…that would have put them at about college age when Dan’s first few albums came out. Dan’s backing band has been pretty much overhauled from the seventies…these days the Hot Licks consist of Paul Smith on stand-up bass, Richard Chon on violin, Dave Bell on lead guitar and two younger women (Roberta and Daria?) on backing vocals. The overall feel of their sound is still loose, swingy, stringy and alternately poignant and absurd.
Tonight’s show was billed as “a salute to the folk years”. The idea was that among some of Dan’s original songs (“Long Come A Viper” and “Milk Shakin' Mama”) were a few classic folk songs from the sixties; stuff like “Walk Right In” and Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” (“Where I’m bound, I can’t say…how can I miss you when you won’t go away?”) It all went over well with this crowd/setting. Set one ended with the moody original “I Scare Myself”.
The loose, relaxed vibe carried over into set two with more of that original/classic cover mix. “I Feel Like Singing” (featuring some scat singing) and “Jug Band Music” stood out, as did Elizabeth Cotten’s “Oh Baby It Aint No Lie”. Inspired versions of a couple of the Hot Licks’ classic instrumentals showed up along the way. Dan saved his “greatest Hit” for the end, closing things out with the swingy and askew “Payday Blues”.
1/20/09 James Intveld, Off Broadway. Maybe around 40 people braved the chilly weather on a Monday night (also inauguration day). I got there just before James and band started their first set (no opener tonight). James’ band on this tour consisted of Storm Rhode on lead guitar, Lorne Rall on bass and Steve Mugalian on drums. James was smooth and cool as ever. The dark, moody Roy Orbison vibe that he channels got some visual enhancement tonight from the swanky velvet curtain backdrop (think “Eraserhead”/”Blue Velvet”). Storm’s leads were as articulate and impressive as I remember from last August’s house concert.
Over the course of two long sets, James had plenty of time for a good mix of originals (“Samantha”, “Barely Hangin On” and “My Heart Is Aichin’ For You” stood out) and covers (Buddy Holly’s “Modern Don Juan”, Don Gibson’s “Blue, Blue Day” and Wynn Stewart’s “Pretty World”)
After an hour or so of socializing, selling and signing CDs and loading out, the band piled into their van and followed me home around 2AM. We had a nice late-night catch-up session around the kitchen table until around four. Since my work schedule was loose the next day and the band didn’t have a gig that night, we all hung out until they finally headed out for Oklahoma around 3PM.
1/25/09 Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost, The Wedge. It would have been easy to stay home on this chilly Sunday night, but I’ve missed the last few times Bob has played, so I made the long drive down to 55 and Bates to this cool urban hipster bar I had never been to before. I had a good time catching up with Byron before the music started up.
The crowd was kinda light for the opening set by some guy named Jason. Sporting dark sunglasses and doing a pick-less strum/fingerpick thing, he played and sang bluesy songs celebrating all forms of debauchery…several about getting drunk. He expanded his repertoire a bit on one called “Booze And Weed”. Eventually we heard a song about sheep fucking and another about his girlfriend’s dildo.
The small room filled up (maybe 40 people) by the time The Rum Drum Ramblers played. Tonight they were just a duo…Mat on Guitar and Ryan on harmonica. They play in that lowdown sleazy/greasy bluesy mode. Somewhere in there, a drunker than usual Fred Friction showed up and joined in on spoons. When he accidentally knocked over his full beer, he cleaned it up with a combination of sopping it with his shirt and lapping it up off of the floor.
It was almost eleven when the stand-up bass player showed up from his restaurant gig and Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost took the stage. What we have here is Bob Reuter fronting a loose collection of members of The Rum Drum Ramblers, The Vultures, Johnny O and the Jerks and The Seven Shot Screamers (stand-up bass, spare, stand-up drum, guitar, harmonica and BR on guitar and vocals). I think this was their first ever gig. I’m guessing that these guys are all about half of Bob’s age, but have somehow turned on to his music and lovingly cast a new character onto songs from all points in Bob’s long career (?). Bob was very much at ease and enjoying his current company as they ran through “Jack Ruby”, “Jefferson Davis”, “Second Hand Smoke”, “Rock And Roll Moron”, “Going” and a handful of other originals, each with it’s own personality.
Thankfully, Fred’s motorscooter was in the shop for repairs, so I dropped him off on my way home. He fell out onto the sidewalk when he got out of the car, but I made sure he made it to his feet and into the house.
1/30/09 Adam Reichmann, Fred’s Six Feet Under. For a while a few years ago, Adam (with his band, Nadine) kept a pretty high profile around St. Louis. The band got a lot of buzz and even had their CD release party at a packed Mississippi Nights. The lineup of the band got fine-tuned a couple of times as their sound evolved in a way that served to light up Adam’s heartfelt and melodic songs. They toured a bit and there was talk of them getting a more national (even international) following. I always liked them, but have never been very good at (or even that interested in) predicting what will catch on with the masses. At any rate, after a couple of years of gelling as a band and paying their dues on the road, the whole thing abruptly came to an end as everybody in the band scattered to other pursuits.
Blah, blah, blah…at any rate, it was a real out-of-the-blue surprise to learn that Adam was making this modest step back onto a stage. “Modest” might be an understatement, as the capacity of this particular venue is around 30. The place was about half full when I showed up at ten, but was packed (maybe 35) before the evening was over.
“Modest” would also describe the overall tone of Adam’s stripped-down delivery…without bouncy basslines, heroic guitar leads or keyboard fills, the feel of Adam’s high, spare voice and acoustic (occasionally electric) guitar was akin to that of that self-titled Neil Young record (“I chopped down the palm tree and it landed on his back”). Somewhere in there, Adam was joined by Todd Schnitzer on bass and keyboards.
With only Fred behind the bar, there was a bit of a line when I went back to get a round for my table. No big deal for me, but the woman behind me seemed put out by how long it was taking to get a drink. Right as it was her turn to order, Fred walked out from behind the bar and sat in a chair, front and center for the entire duration of “Here To Amuse You”. I was amused.
In no particular order, other songs I remember include “All Things Considered”, “End Of The Night”, “Angela”, “Different Kind Of Heartache”, “Back To My Senses”, “Twilight” and “Sleep With The Radio On”. The small, but enthusiastic crowd coaxed Adam into a one-song encore- Tom Waits’ “Glad That You’re Gone”.
Roy Kasten wrote about this set in his blog on the KDHX website (there are a couple of video links from the show there, as well):