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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 77
Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 77
1/31/09 Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, house concert. The evening began with a phone call from this North Carolina duo who had been misled by Mapquest and needed help zeroing in on our house. I stood out in the street talking them through the last couple of turns and waved them into the driveway around 6PM. Even though I had seen/heard them play plenty of times over the years, I had never actually met these guys until now…they were both very gracious and personable. Amid the usual hubbub (Saturday night pizza for the kids, guests arriving), Chris and Peter settled in and ran through a brief sound check. Knowing that Chris is a well-respected producer, I wasn’t totally surprised to discover that he was more meticulous than most when it came to tweaking the sound system.
Chris and Peter have a loyal fan base of people who have been following them since the mid-eighties when they were the principal songwriters for the indie-pop band, the dB’s. Not surprisingly, the house was full of people in their forties and early fifties, most of whom could sing along to all of the “hits” from way back (a couple of STL ex-pat friends/fans flew into town from Texas, especially for this show). They opened with the (later-period) Everly Brothers song- “Lord Of The Manor”, Chris laying on some eastern-sounding guitar and rhythmic hand-pops on his guitar body. They followed with a new one (“Early In The Morning”?), whose opening riff reminded me of some Whiskeytown (one of Chris’ production clients) song.
Even though the band was in the company of people predisposed to love what they do, Chris explained that he was suffering from a cold while Peter preemptively apologized that they had been so busy finishing up their latest album that they didn’t get the chance to rehearse for this weekend of duo gigs. All of this is a long way of saying that while the audience loved hearing some of their favorite songs played by a couple of their favorite singers in an intimate setting, the band felt like they weren’t seen/heard in the best possible light.
Chris’ modest and somewhat strained voice actually worked pretty well with the confessional, stripped-bare tone of Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos”…he also lit it up with some impressive acoustic guitar leads. Other set one highlights included “Taken” (this one from their Mavericks album also has an Everlys quality), “Close Your Eyes”, “Geometry” (nice counterpoint vocals by Peter) and “She Was the One”. Peter played keyboards on a new song (“Hang Around with You”?) which will, apparently, be on their upcoming release. They closed set one out with “The Child in You” (my favorite song from Mavericks …even more poignant, now that I’m a parent) and “My Friend The Sun” which is a cover from the band called Family; Peter on slide guitar.
Set two began with a couple of requests: “I Know You Will” and “Big Brown Eyes” (the latter is one of their super poppy songs from back in the dB’s days… requested by me). At about this point, some nasty squealing noises came through the speakers. After a brief attempt to eliminate the offending noise, they started into Chris’ quiet, contemplative ballad, “Something Came Over Me”. Just as he was hitting that spot and slaying us, the annoying audio squeal returned, causing them to stop altogether. Guitar cables were swapped in and out and they set out on take 2. The nasty squeal persisted, so they had to yank one of the cords of one of the guitars and continued. Sound glitches notwithstanding, the song was a highlight, as Chris took a brief lyrical detour into The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”.
Chris then took a couple of minutes to remedy the spotty sound while Peter told us all about their new CD, due out in May. From this point on, the sound was not an issue and Chris (in particular) was able to focus more on his performance than on the distracting sound problems. This greatly helped all aspects of the remainder of set two, which featured a couple of new songs, a couple from their solo efforts (“Cara Lee” stood out) and a few more songs from the dB’s catalog. They saved a couple of “hits” for right near the end… “Neverland” hit that hooky pop spot (even as an acoustic strum-along, it swings and sways mightily, Chris laying on the backing vocals and lead runs) and segued right into “Amplifier” (totally unexpected in this acoustic setting, but it somehow worked…more nice leads form Chris). They closed things out with “Let It Be Me”, ending as they began, with an Everly Brothers cover, giving us one last dose of their impressive vocal harmonies.
They kept things quiet and reflective with the one-song encore- Chris’ “Two Places at Once”, with Peter on keys. As is the pattern at these house concerts, people took their time filtering out. Plenty of time for everyone to catch up with the band and each other. Eventually, everyone cleared out, Chris and Peter found their respective bedrooms upstairs as I did the usual solo wind-down, clean-up thing.
My vantage point is too close to give the most objective description of tonight’s show, so you might also want to read this review that Steve Pick wrote for the No Depression website: http://www.nodepression.com/articles.aspx?id=5261
2/1/09 Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, Euclid Records. Having stayed at our place the night before, we fed this duo breakfast and sent them down to the record store in their rented car a little before noon. We caught up with them a little later.
Given that they hadn’t had a chance to work up a lot of songs, today’s set list borrowed heavily from that of last night’s house concert. Lots of the same people who were at last night’s show were on hand today, as well. My personal highlights were “The Child In You” and “Something Came Over Me”. Since this session was being recorded for a limited-release 45 RPM record, they ended up doing “Early In The Morning” twice, once early on, and again toward the end…there’s a chance they’ll splice the best elements of each on the final mix. They closed this set off with “Geometry”, with the lyrics reworked as a tongue-in-cheek jingle for Euclid Records; something like “If you need some crucial jazz/or cyberpunk or early Nazz…” You can read what Steve Pick from Euclid Records wrote about this set here:
http://euclidrecords.blogspot.com/2009_02_01_archive.html (scroll way down to near the bottom)
Chris and Peter showed back up our house in the late afternoon for a bit before heading down for their St. Louis weekend finale…
2/1/09 Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, Off Broadway. I watched the first half of the Super Bowl at John and Marie’s place before heading over to the club. When I walked into the room, there was a tiny, old black and white TV perched at the end of the bar. A handful of us watched the exciting conclusion of one of the most exciting Super Bowls since…(OK, last year’s was also exciting). The band started up almost immediately after the Steelers made their miraculous comeback TD.
That Super Bowl thing turned out to be a killer; I don’t think Steve at OB realized he was booking this Sunday evening show up against one of the biggest house-party nights of the year. Too bad there were only about twenty-five people on hand for what proved to be the best of this duo’s three performances in town this weekend. All of the elements that were a bit shaky the night before were much better tonight:
Chris’ cold had improved some, so his voice was stronger and more confident.
Their lack of rehearsal time last week was less an issue, as they had already played through these songs a couple of times this weekend…things were more seamless and cohesive tonight.
And, Off Broadway’s top-notch sound system didn’t throw us any curveballs tonight, so Chris and Peter’s acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies rang crystal clear.
Song selection was virtually identical to that from the night before. Many songs were performed for the third time this weekend: “Angels”, “I Want To Break Your Heart”, “The Child In You”, “Lover’s Rock”, “I Know You Will”, “Big Brown Eyes” and “Geometry” all sounded great.
For more details, here’s a link to Roy Kasten’s blog entry about the show; it’s got a link to a video clip:
As fun as this weekend was, I (and I’m sure PH & CS, as well) felt like things could have been better. Hopefully we’ll get them back to town (maybe as part of a tour when their new CD comes out) in front of a bigger crowd with everything just right.
2/6/09 Rough Shop, Atomic Cowboy. We took the whole family out to dinner tonight. Andy was singing “You’re Running Wild” as we found our table of friends right up front. The band was mostly backdrop to people talking in this Friday night happy hour setting. I didn’t notice right away, but there was a theme to the bar this evening. When Heather pointed out that I was the only man in this crowded room, I replied, “How about that guy over there?…oops, I guess you’re right”.
Scattered songs I remember seeping in from behind the conversation at our table: “Catfish John”, “Everything You Love”, “No Love At All” and “I’m Your Man”. Nancy took the boys home shortly after we finished eating. I stuck around talking and drinking beer until the band finished up and got a ride home from Marie. The usual good time.
2/7/09 Fred Friction CD release party, Off Broadway. I stopped at a party at a coworker’s house in the early evening and didn’t make it to the bar until after ten. By then, The Dock Ellis Band was most of the way through their opening set. They’ve turned into a nice little country-rock band (b, d, g ,g , steel & keez). They’re tight and twangy and have a lot of fun. I was outside hanging with friends while some guy played a solo set. I think Fred joined him for one song toward the end.
Fred Friction is nothing, if not beloved by everyone in the St. Louis music scene. The place was packed all night long for Fred’s big night… lots of familiar faces from back in the days of Frederick’s Music Lounge- even the old regulars who are not especially music fans were there.
Here’s where I have to admit to being way behind in doing these live-show write-ups and now way after the fact, I’m trying to come up with some kind of description. Fred played with a full band and sang into one of those old-timey, distorted microphones…great for effect, but anyone who wasn’t already familiar with the words to Fred’s impressive songs wasn’t gonna figure them out here (hopefully they bought the CD tonight).
But the blurry/distorto sound on stage seemed to fit in this room full of friends, as beers were bought all around. Fred did almost all of the songs from his new Jesus Drank Wine CD: “Goodnight K’leen” (a re-write of “Goodnight Irene” with endearing lyrics about Fred’s wife), “Little Baby Dreams” (the sentiment in this one is simultaneously wide-eyed and world-weary), “Whiskey I Drink” (my favorite FF song), “Everybody Got To Get Their Dime” (coins tossed at the stage from all corners) and “I Want To Go To Jail” stood out. Toward the end of the set, the band peeled off and Fred closed things out with duets with a couple of his good friends: “Cold Ice Water” with Bob Reuter and “Jailhouse Tattoo” with Mark Stephens.
2/18/09 Rough Shop, The Tap Room. I got to the bar in time to catch the last handful of songs by Fred Friction. Unlike his full-house, full band (with many guests) CD release party a couple of weeks ago, tonight Fred played all by his lonesome, sitting on a stool and raggedly strumming an acoustic guitar. Maybe 20 or 30 familiar faces on hand to hear favorites like “Little Baby Dreams”, “Transvestites And Wine”, “I Want To Go To Jail” and a new one about beer “Snag me a Stag, I’ll suck your cock for a Rolling Rock…” And another new one about a restraining order.
Next, STL ex-pat Michael Friedman got up and sang one song solo/acoustic before being joined by Roy Kasten for song #2. Michael was then joined by Rough Shop who accompanied him throughout the rest of his set. We heard a couple of Michael’s originals: “Come Back To West Virginia” and “Everything You Love” (Michael & Anne Tkach trading verses) as well as Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm” (Michael & John Wendland trading verses). Michael doesn’t make it back to St. Louis that often, so it was a treat for all concerned for him to be here making music with (and for) his friends. He’s got an endearing way of moving to the music between verses that expresses his joy in a very honest, un-self-conscious way…I guess it’s a variation on that hippie dance, but he’s our hippie and we love him.
After he finished up his relatively brief set, Michael pulled up a seat amongst his friends (beer in hand) as Rough Shop closed things out with “I See Shadows”, “Final Wild Son” and a new song by Andy. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, but Andy has become very confident and articulate on the electric guitar.
2/20/09 Big Smith, Gramophone. Dave and I showed up just before the band went on at around 10:30…maybe 120 people in the room. I have more of an appreciation for this band having recently seen the “Homemade Hillbilly Jam” DVD, which provides more of their backstory and gives glimpses into their corner of southwest Missouri. These guys use the music they grew up with in the Ozarks as a starting point, adding their own tweaks and twists.
Within the broad heading of “roots rock” they draw from influences as varied as Bill Monroe (“Twelve Inch, Three-speed, Oscillating Fan” features bluegrass harmonies in that “Fox On The Run” vein), Texas Swing, Old-time “cartoony” music (the kind once revived by The Cheap Suit Serenaders) and some loose, electric southern jam, ala The Allman Brothers.
Molly Healey alternated between fiddle and cello while the rest of the band (two pairs of brothers who are also cousins) swapped instruments all around…electric, acoustic and all points in between. Songs I remember: “Don’t Call Me Trash Til You’ve Slept In My Trailer”, “Back Water” and “I Am A Pilgrim”.