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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 82

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 82

5/15/09 Travis Linville and Mark Bilyeu, Ranch House Concert.  The evening started off with me at home with our boys, trying to keep my eleven-year-old from freaking out during a big, spooky thunderstorm.  By the time Nancy returned from taking Griffin out for a book signing with his favorite author, the storm had subsided and we both made it over to The Ranch House about halfway through the opening set by Mark Bilyeu…a nice folky, acoustic stuff with an overall relaxed feel.  Our host, Dave Melson, joined him on bass for a good number of songs, including the easy, laid-back Big Smith (Mark’s main band) song, “Back Water”.  Mark’s friend, Cindy Woolf joined in on backing vocals for one song toward the end of the set.
 
The between-set break was dense with catching up with people from in and out of town.  Walt from Fayetteville introduced me to Mark and Travis out in the garage, which somehow serves as the “green room”.  We got all caught up in talking and carrying on until Angela came out and told Travis it was show time. 
 
There were about 50 people on hand as Travis Linville started up.  Being totally unfamiliar with his stuff, it was nice to take in this introductory set in this cozy, intimate setting…the PA sounded great and the crew of familiar faces was attentive and into it.  I was mostly taken by the general tone/vibe of TL’s songs, lyrics and vocal delivery…clean, acoustic, somewhat bluesy songs very much in the style/tradition of singer/songwriters like Peter Case or Slaid Cleaves. A solo acoustic performance by a solitary singer/songwriter can sometimes get a bit monotonous over the course of an entire set, but he kept things varied and interesting, as he threw in a few covers (Billie Jo Shaver’s “Old Five And Dimers” and Chuck Brodsky’s “Lefty”) as well as a few impressive instrumentals (he got all Merle Travis on “Cannonball Rag”, laying on some clean, articulate picking).
 
Toward the end of the set, Travis was joined by Mark B on guitar and Dave Melson on bass.  A couple of covers I remember from the home stretch were “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” and “The Weight” (the audience was encouraged to sing along with the latter).  I stuck around for the usual post-show festivities…lotsa fun hanging with the usual suspects.  I bought a copy of Travis’ See You Around CD right before I caught a ride home in the last car leaving the party.
 
5/16/09 Cindy Woolf, House Concert.  This wasn’t a typical house concert at our house.  This time around, we left the booking of the band and the inviting of the guests up to Jessie K, our 21-year-old friend/babysitter…this was her SLU graduation party.  A handful of Jessie’s friends and family arrived at around 5PM with a big ol’ spread of bar-b-q and a couple of small kegs of beer.  Soon after, about 50 or 60 people of all ages (college students, their parents and even grandparents) showed up and it was a party.
 
The scene at our place could usually be described as a concert with occasional breaks for food/drink/socializing.  Tonight the emphasis was reversed.  Most people had not heard (nor even heard of) Cindy Woolf before, but were happy to take a pause from the graduation party for a couple of sets by Cindy, who was accompanied by our friend, Dave Melson on electric bass (and second acoustic guitar on a couple of songs).
 
Cindy’s songs, voice and general presentation are sweet, honest and direct enough that they could be appreciated by people hearing her for the first time, as well as the handful of people who were singing along to originals like “Dearest Pearl”, “Born Under Greer’s Ferry Lake” (ironically, GFL is the site of Jessie’s family’s lake house), “Portland East To Portland West” (the lyrical “doo, doo” refrain got a chuckle out of the 5-year-old in the room) and “Blurry”.  “Cloudy Head” is my personal favorite- music and lyrics both convey a dreamy/confused/confessional tone.
 
Dave M has an innate sense of song structures and has always impressed me with his ability to pick up on a basic chord progression and go with the flow in a pick-up situation.  In this spare, duo setting, he actually stepped forward with a handful of impressive lead runs.  He also injected a lively punch into Buck Owens’ “Down On The Corner Of Love” and Smokey Joe Miller’s “I Told Them All About You” (the latter featuring some emphatic pauses).  There was a funny moment in the first set when Nancy could be clearly seen through the window behind Cindy…she was out in the yard, frantically chasing a wascally wabbit out of her garden.
 
Toward the end of the second set, the party atmosphere stole a little of the focus away from the music (I guess you can’t blame the families of the assorted graduates who were happy to see each other), but Cindy understood the situation and was very gracious about it.  Somewhere in there, Jessie stepped up to the mic and gave a heartfelt, teary-eyed “thank you” to all of her friends and (especially) family.  Toward the end, Cindy granted Walt’s request for “Saturday In June”. 
 
As the party wound down, we got lots of words of thanks and praise from people (lots of Jessie’s friends and their families whom we had just met) as they filed out- the families to their hotels and the grads off to close down the bars downtown.  By house concert standards, this was a relatively easy party to host and recover from…we had the place cleaned up by 11:30.  That’s about when Nancy headed off to bed and I headed over to Dave and Angela’s place…
 
…which is where the nuclear family group (Jessie, her mom and sister; Angela, her mom and brother, among others) were hanging out around the kitchen table.  Cindy was also on hand, perched on a barstool with a guitar.  In between scattered conversations, she played a handful of covers and originals.  Her voice is so strong and pure that it projected loud and clear in this intimate setting.  Songs I remember from this casual, late-night session were Dylan’s “Peggy Day”, Johnny & June’s “Jackson” (Cindy was a good sport, as I sang Johnny’s lines).  When someone asked her to play her favorite song, she responded with a heartfelt rendition of Lucinda’s “Side Of The Road”. 
 
Eventually, everyone else headed off to bed or to their hotel rooms and the “audience” just was me and Walt.  I got Cindy to sing “Cloudy Head” one more time (even more evocative in this quieter setting) and she played through the choruses of a couple of “works-in-progress” songs.  One song, in particular was impressive for its lyrical hook; something like, “my heart can only be touched by you…or you…or you”.  Right around 3AM, Dave showed up from his Wash U reunion with three old buddies in tow.  It was almost as though another log had been thrown on the fire when Dave pulled out his stand-up bass and he and Cindy perked things up with reprise versions of “Down On The Corner Of Love” and “I Told Them All About You”.  I could have easily hung with this crew until sunrise, but I politely excused myself and went on home around 4AM.
 
5/21/09 Dale Watson And The Lone Stars, Deluxe.  I got there around 10:30 or eleven.  The room was more crowded than I’ve ever seen before as the The Dock Ellis Band finished up their opening set.  I’m more impressed by this local country band each time I see them.  The keyboards and both vocalists (Jesse and Justin) are especially confident and accomplished.  After their set I said “hi” to a few people before running over to the bar next door to watch Derek Fisher miss a three-point attempt at the buzzer…Nuggets win game two to even their semi-final series at one game apiece. 
 
Back over to Deluxe for a bit more socializing before Beatle Bob’s animated testimonial/intro of Dale Watson and The Lone Stars.  This time around, the band was a four-piece…no fiddle player, so the smooth trading of leads was just a two-way exchange between Dale on guitar and Don-Don on steel.  Scattered standards I remember include “Cowboy Lloyd Cross”, “Where Do You Want It?”, “Truck Stop In La Grange”, “Cheatin’ Heart Attack”, “Exit 109” (w/ drum solo), “Nashville Rash” , “Honky Tonk Wizard Of Oz”, Merle’s “Okie From Muskogee”, Buck’s “Girl Made In Japan” and “Country, My Ass”.  The latter is the closest thing Dale has to a trademark song- it’s all about the wimpification of today’s country music. 
 
It was really nice to see that Dale drew a significantly bigger crowd than when he played here in January.  I’d love for this club to catch on and present more shows by nationally-known touring acts.  By the time things wound down and I said “goodbye” to friends and band it was way late. Driving home from this venue often involves a detour to the drive-thru at the White Castle at Big Bend and Manchester, and tonight was no exception. I got home just before 2 AM.
 
6/5/09 Kevin Gordon, Ranch House Concert.  Nancy and I squeezed in a little time at an art opening in the early evening and showed up just before show time.  There were 40 or 50 people on hand, lots of the usual suspects. The band (b, d and KG on vocals and an assortment of guitars) started up around 8:30.  All of my previous observations about Kevin held for tonight as well…relaxed, bluesy groove songs which, along with Kevin’s vocal delivery, reminded me of John Hiatt.  Set one included “Casino Road”, as well as a few new songs.
 
Somewhere in the between-set break, we took a peek at the TV, as the Cardinals turned a close game into a blowout by allowing nine runs in the seventh inning.  On the plus side, my attention was no longer divided and I found a seat near the front for most of the second set.  Dave Melson (tonight’s host) took over on bass for a couple of songs, including Hank’s “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It”.  Later, Kevin granted Angela’s request for “Lucy & Andy Drive to Arkansas”.  True to his pattern, Kevin saved “24 Diamonds” for the end, the band adding additional punch and urgency.
 
I usually like to hang out and catch up with people after these house concerts, but my eight-year-old was ready to roll, so we both took off shortly after the two-song encore.
 
6/7/09 RFT Music Showcase, Delmar Loop.  Game two of the NBA finals went into overtime, so I didn’t leave the house until around 10:30.  Delmar was hopping- it looked more like Saturday night than Sunday night.  I started off by poking my head into a handful of bars, just to size up the scene and see if I knew anyone in any of the clubs.  I was in The Delmar Lounge when Target Market started up. I had never heard (or even heard of) them before, but was pleasantly surprised.  This local three-piece play hard, and passionately.  A reference point might be early Buffalo Tom.  The guitar was somewhat blurry/jagged, maybe like early U2.  Most importantly, the songs were hard-hitting, crisp and succinct.
 
I then made it over to Riddle’s to catch a few songs by Fred Friction.  He was singing “Little Baby Dreams” in his typically sloppy, distorted style…probably appropriate for a room full of drunks, but I’ve been spoiled by hearing him do this song in a more quiet, intimate and articulate setting.  For his next song, Fred shed his acoustic guitar and whipped out the spoons to do “I Wanna Go To Jail” (I think).  This is when one particularly wound-up drunk decided to pound an empty plastic beer pitcher on the table as hard as he could, for the duration of the song.  This is about when Roy and I headed back over to…
 
…The Delmar, where Bunnygrunt was about to close things out.  They opened with some slow, sludgey stoner-metal, before playing actual songs.  This band has evolved so much from what I once knew them to be (Matt and two girls doing cute, innocent, playful, simplistic pop songs) that it’s hard to consider this the same band.  Tonight’s incarnation- Matt and a bunch of guys laying on the rock was fun enough, but I’m kind of at a loss for much to say about it…I’m officially out of touch.  At just about every between-song break, there were remarks from the stage about the absence of Karen; the tongue-in-cheek implication was that she was dead.  They closed things out with a coda of the plodding stoner sludge they opened with.

   

 

 

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