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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 8

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 8

11/14/03 Brian Capps, The Venice Café. I showed up a little before the second set. A bunch of us hung out at the top of that wacky mirrored stairwell until the music started back up; we then proceeded to squeeze into the crowded front room (where the band plays). Brian Capps, ex-bassist of The Domino Kings played a nice long set backed by fellow Springfield, MO natives The Skeletons (minus keyboardist Joe Terry tonight). He sings country and rockabilly songs with an easy, honest stage presence and delivery. He and the band seemed to be on the same page, as far as material and attitude go. We heard a few original songs as well as a healthy dose of covers- "Red Hot", "Swingin’ Doors", "Okie From Muskogee" ("We display the ten commandments down at the courthouse") and "Rock Island Line" all worked well with Capps’ voice.

This set featured an equal amount of classic Skeletons material, as well. They mined their recorded output for songs like "Crazy Country Hop", "Thirty Days In The Workhouse" and the ever-inspiring classic "Reds". "Wooly Bully" showed up somewhere in there as well, as Donnie (guitar) and Lou (bass) applied their considerable instrumental talents in an understated way that made things all the more enjoyable. These guys have more ability than your average rock star and none of the pretension. Just as I was thoroughly entertained by the three guys out front, drummer Bobby Lloyd Hicks would do something to remind me of his impressive abilities, too. The decidedly un-serious nature of this bunch was probably best displayed on the song where Bobby Lloyd and Lou stood close together and put on a gigantic t-shirt (Bobby’s right arm out one sleeve and Lou’s left out the other) and played a song on acoustic guitar.

11/15/03 Grand Champeen, Frederick’s. This was a show that I had a hand in putting together along with the Twangfest crew. (We must have been a sight to see hanging a banner with each committee member offering his own piece of advice on how it should be done.) Roy Kasten had a two-page feature in this week’s RFT and we got Fred to extend his happy hour prices until 10 PM. The place was packed by the time the opening band, Two Cow Garage went on- quite different from the twenty people that came out to see them here last time. This Columbus, OH trio plays real hard and ragged, so the fact that the sound was distorted and (almost painfully) loud wasn’t as noticeable as it might have been with someone else. The drummer plays particularly furiously. Their road manager joined them on second guitar for a couple of songs. As always, they did a most grungified version of The Beatles’ "Don’t Let Me Down". Near the end of the set, Fred Friction joined them on drums for their original, "Wait".

Between bands, the room became so crowded that it was hard to move around. The bartenders were almost overwhelmed and I got pressed into service as bottle-clearing busboy. Thankfully, the sound was cleaned up somewhat as Grand Champeen opened with the first two songs from their current "The One That Brought You" CD- "The Good Slot" and "Rest Of The Night". These guys play a poppy brand of punk that allows them to cover the likes of Neil Young ("Let’s Go Downtown"), Smoky Robinson ("The Tracks Of Tears") and Springsteen ("Born to Run") without really changing gears from the way they treat their original material. I’ll have to admit that things became a blur toward the end, as the band kept playing and the beers kept coming. I do remember jumping up and down to a fairly faithful version of The Replacements’ "Can’t Hardly Wait" and looking up to the front door at some point and seeing the "sold out" sign taped across the glass.

11/18/03 Jeff & Vida, Frederick’s. Things were a lot less loud and crowded than three nights ago…around twenty five people were seated at the tables and bar to hear this trio from New Orleans perform a warm and cozy set with a real "living room" feel to it. In keeping with true bluegrass tradition, all instruments and vocals were delivered through a single, high-quality microphone that the band brought with them, resulting in the clearest sound quality I’ve ever heard at Fred’s. Jeff and Vida played acoustic guitars and sang while a stand-up bass player filled in the bottom. For certain songs, Jeff would switch over to mandolin or banjo. They did a sweet ballad called "Lonely Eyes" (or something like that) and a sadder one written by a friend of theirs- I think it was called " Oh Fire"…serendipitously, the video screen in the corner of the stage was playing one of those hour-long fire-in-a-fireplace videos, adding visuals to the lyrical content. The bass player (Mike) sang one called "Rowboat" (not the Beck song).

Tonight’s headliner was Tres Femmes, a trio of female singer/songwriters from Chicago. There was a full-page preview article in this week’s RFT, but that didn’t seem to bring a big turnout. They took a good twenty minutes to tweak the sound of their three mics just right before opening with "Friends For Life", a song that somehow conjured up a granola bar/Indigo Girls vibe in my cynical cerebellum. It’s three chicks strumming guitars and singing oh so sweetly about friendship and boys who flirt and then don’t deliver. It’s all noble in it’s aims, but not really my thing. This being a school night, I didn’t stick around to get enough of a sampling to form a definitive opinion; maybe some other time.

11/21/03 The Safes, Frederick’s. Thee Fine Lines opened. This Columbia, MO trio so faithfully recreates that sixties garage rock sound that they bring their own P.A. system just to insure the right amount of fuzzy distortion. Ironic, considering how capable the house P.A. at Frederick’s can be in that regard, without even trying. With a couple of exceptions, the tempo didn’t vary all that much from one song to the next, but monotony was avoided as the lead vocal chores were split between the guy guitar player and the girl bass player. The drummer had a playful tom tom-heavy bounce going, reminiscent of that heard in The Trashmen’s "Surfer Bird". All three players wore striped shirts.

Between bands there was a screening of a new independent film called "Garage Rock U.S.A.". Filmmaker Dave Erikson was on hand to say a few words before this hour-long documentary/celebration was shown on the three video screens at Fred’s. It started out interesting enough, as some of the pioneers of sixties garage rock were highlighted and current-day interviews with some of these musicians were featured. One guy interviewed was a guy who was on Erikson’s Rockford, IL Little League team, Brad Carlson (a.k.a. Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos). It was great to hear snippets of songs like "Dirty Water", "96 Tears" and "Pushin’ Too Hard" as the images of the actual records spun around over old pictures of garage rock bands.

Unfortunately, this film made a wrong turn when the second half documented a reunion concert featuring Sky Saxon (of the seminal band The Seeds) backed by original garage rockers The Shadows Of Knight (who had a big hit with "Gloria" in the sixties). The show was just a year or so ago; the musicians looked old, the venue wasn’t especially full and it just seemed kind of embarrassing. Erikson could have used this film to show how the sound founded by these great acts of the sixties lives on today with bands like Thee Headcoatees, The Woggles, The 45s, etc., all of whom bring new life and energy to this older genre. By the time the film ended, most of the crowd of 30 or 40 people wasn’t paying much attention.

So after the faithfully re-created garage rock set by Thee Fine Lines and the film covering the same topic, I was fully expecting tonight’s headliners to be more of the same. But, surprisingly (and refreshingly) they were not. While not altogether unrelated, The Safes do a punk influenced pop thing that borrows some of The Clash’s punch as well as a bit of The Buzzcocks’ sneer. This trio consists of three brothers all of whom write and sing. The sound and tempo varied from song to song. The guitar leads were all over the place and the sound of the drum was brighter than most- lotsa snare & cymbal.

11/22/03 Waterloo, Frederick’s. I got there during their second song. Waterloo plays out so seldom that it took a couple of songs just to refamiliarize myself with what they do. Even though guitarist Chris Grabau has been in this band for over two years, in relative terms, I’m still amazed with how his addition to the band has taken them to another level. Whenever anyone would ask me to describe Waterloo’s sound, I would always say that it was somewhat quiet and moody. Well, I have to revise that to occasionally quiet, as the band typically starts with the slow burn that frontman Mark Ray’s unassuming songs establish, before sonically swelling into something upbeat and animated. Chris’s guitar gets intense and edgy (often with the use of an e-bow) and Dave Melson never ceases to amaze me with his innovative basslines. Mark delivers the vocals in a modest, understated manner. I don’t know their songs by name, but I remember liking the one about the Christian Academy as well as the instrumental that always reminds me of Badfinger’s "Day After Day". This relatively brief set started (and ended) early- the music was over right around midnight.




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