Showing posts with label Concert Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Concert Reviews. Show all posts

May 4, 2018

Show Review / Delta Rae / Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis

by Scott Colvin

Delta Rae cannot be pigeonholed into a specific genre. They are unapologetically country, gospel and pop and have created a sound all of their own without compromise.

What makes Delta Rae special is the vocal diversity among the principle singers (Liz Hopkins and siblings Brittany, Eric and Ian Hölljes) and their impeccable ability to adhere and advance each other’s preferred style, whether it being Hopkins’ spirited country sensibilities, Brittany’s powerful gospel vocals and the singer/song-writer leanings of Ian and Eric. 

Regardless of whose song it is, the close-knit Delta Rae “family” (which includes Mike McKee on drums and Grant Emerson on bass), is a singular unit working together to spread their collective love – Music. And they certainly have a good time spreading that love.

Upon hitting the stage at Annapolis’ Rams Head On Stage (one of the finest under 300-seat listening rooms in the country) they dove right into a groove–laden version of their popular single “Long And Happy Life” featuring Hopkins’ dynamic vocals and the band’s trademarked four-part harmonies; perfectly setting the tone for a night of joyous music.

Throughout the night each singer took their turn to invigorate the sold-out audience. Brittany took the crowd to church with gospel-infused songs such as “Seven Bridges Road,” and “No Dry Eye in the Chapel” (the latter featured fantastic stage interactions between her and Hopkins). On the empowering new song, “Hands Dirty” Brittany channeled her inner Beyonce on a soulful piano-driven tune. The night’s most powerful and poignant moment came when she introduced “All Good People,” inspired by the Charleston, SC church shootings. Before playing the haunting song with a thundering bass drum (played by Emerson) Brittany proclaimed “Raise your voices…it’s not about politics…it’s about right and wrong.” Later in the set Brittany played what she called the “southern gothic folk tale” “Bottom of the River” which employed well-placed call and response vocals, ominous bass drums and theatrical lighting.

Besides the ebullient “Long and Happy Life” Hopkins delivered the goods on the effervescent “I Moved South,” the intense “Chasing Twisters” which found her voice soaring, the high energy “Ain’t Love,” which she explained is about how love is awesome, but pretty scary, and a tremendous version of Chris Stapleton’s “Broken Halos.” The entire vocal contingent surrounded Hopkins on the stunning “No Peace in Quiet” written by Eric who explained that the crushing post break-up song was too hard for him to sing, “So he asked his good friend Liz to sing it” and Liz replied “And I said yes.” You can hear the story behind the song on the music video here. 

Before playing their first break-out song “If I Loved You” Brittany asked, “Hey Liz, can you sing us an upbeat breakup song?” And sing it she did. It’s still one of the finest bittersweet, yet, glorious songs. 

Not to be outdone, the Hölljes brothers Ian and Eric had their moments in the sun with a new song by Ian, “Only in America,” a spirited and catchy mid-tempo song. Eric’s song of California wanderlust despite knowing North Carolina is home “The Wrong Ocean,” and “Morning Comes” reigned as  celebrations of hope. Ian closed out the night and had the appreciative crowd on their feet (typically a no-no at this particular venue, but the rules at Rams Head go often go out the door as the night progresses) with the invigorating “Dance in the Graveyard” which turned into an 80s party as Hopkins danced with crowd members singing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

In the end, Delta Rae are a celebration of hope, joy and love with brilliant lead vocals, harmonies and music that warms and invigorates the soul. Even the most cynical person cannot deny their music and message. If you never have a chance to see them perform do so and be healed. 

(Not Scott's video, but from the show he attended)

May 3, 2018

Show Review: Austin's Night With The Distillers

Photo by Holly Jee
by Robert Dean

Typically, when people think of punk rock, and its legacy, it’s mostly a male-driven narrative. Women tend to be an afterthought in the annals of the history of the music. Sure, there’s a little slice laid out for Wendy O Williams and the notorious Nancy Spungen, but by and large, women are forgotten in the long game of the music.

When Brody Dalle announced she was getting The Distillers back together, the Internet immediately rejoiced with fans from far and wide hoping the band would make their way through their neck of the woods. But, like all things on the web, how real were all those comments, how much weight was on the bands first tour in over a decade?

Having sold out almost every show of the band’s first run, it’s clear that The Distillers still have a place in the public’s heart, considering most of the ticket buyers are now in their 30’s who’ve aged right along with Brody, as many wear her lyrics as their reality, as a badge of courage all these years later.

What happened tonight (May 1) at the Austin, Texas stop on tour was hopefully a moment for the band to take stock of their legacy to know that what they did, what they now do again - matters. Tonight, as I stood in the back a sold-out Mohawk, I watched a palate of people cry out, rejoice and scream words that were more than just liner notes, they were a personal mantra.

Photo by Holly Jee
Tonight’s Distillers show didn’t belong to the men. We were nothing more than a set decoration, a band of extras in the hundreds sipping our Lonestar tallboys, watching as everyone’s punk rock crush slammed her way through hit after hit of the band’s catalog. No, tonight was about marginalized voices, about women, about queer punks, about punks of color and everyone in between who felt like the change between the car seats.

The mosh pit wasn’t a dude-dominated sweat lodge of bros slamming into one another, but instead as a percolating, roving circle of exorcism lead and owned by the women in the audience. For them, the things they’ve bottled up for so long, the emotions of being female in a world as fucked up like this, everything spilled out.

The band cruised through a greatest hits setlist any fan would love to hear including “The Hunger,” “City of Angels” and “I Am Revenant” to name a few of the fist-pumping crowd pleasers. Despite Brody’s evident agony of losing her voice, she soldiered through and made the show happen, despite relying on the crowd to do their fair share of the singing, which none seemed upset about in the least.

As I stood in the back, I watched gay punks bob and weave, howling along, I saw women scream along, pointing their fists in the air, chanting each word to songs like “Die On A Rope” or “Oh Serena” with a refreshed meaning and purpose all these years later. 

May 1, 2013

Festival Rundown: Moonrunners, Chicago, IL

By Jeremy Harris
(Non-editor's note: This is so long and interesting, I'm not going to bother editing. Blame any mistakes on Jeremy's intake at Moonrunners! -Trailer)

Before any details were even released for the Moon Runners Fest I was already full of excitement just imagining who I thought would probably be there. Many of the acts I was hoping for ended up being announced as time passed on. Many others I never would've thought of along with several I had previously overlooked also helped round out an overpacked one day lineup of some of the finest underground and quickly rising talent out today. The event took place at Reggie's in beautiful downtown Chicago. Reggie's is actually made up of several places (rock club, merchandise shop, record store, rock club, rooftop bar, and music joint) that are separated just enough to prevent sound from mixing from one stage to the other. The biggest downfall of MRF was the fact that some acts overlapped each other and you couldn't catch it all. I did however hear enough music to appease me for some time to come and of course I'm only going to provide commentary on the acts that I could get enough of a show to get a proper feel for. The following are my thoughts on these bands in the order I was able to watch them.

Carmen Lee
Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two
These talented folks were the perfect band to get things started at 11:00 am. Carmen has a strong voice and look that instantly takes you back to the days of the 50's rockabilly queens of the past. Her fast pace and varied vocal range along with the old timey sound and aura provided by her bandmates got all those lucky enough to arrive early in the move around and drink beer mode. Instantly I knew I had made a wise decision to drive 6-1/2 hours one way.

The Dirty Generals
If you like a strong sounding edge of country with good rock beats mixed in kind of band, you'll dig The Dirty Generals. They have a very strong sound that doesn't sound like anyone else but has influences from southern rock of the past that really filled up the smaller music joint stage quite well and had most people at least tapping a toe. While the overall sound was great, there wasn't any one lyric or song that grabbed me but unfamiliarity is probably the most to blame for that.

Lonewolf OMB
I had some past experience of Lonewolf in the form of two tracks in my iTunes library and knowing he was a one man band. It didn't take long to be impressed by him and realize the recordings I have don't do a bit of justice to his talent. His growling voice and exceptional guitar and banjo playing are really something to marvel at. His voice lends itself to the blues as well as anyone else you'll ever find while his overall stage presence and energy would be hard to rival. In the end you're left with a feeling of amazement and thrill for what just took place.

Aran Buzzas
One man and his guitar laying it all out for everyone to enjoy. Ranging from low down classic sound to catchy tunes that are on the verge of comedy. Aran had the ability to have at least one song everyone could relate to in one way or another. I probably heard at least 3 people say "I think that song is about me" throughout his performance. I was lucky enough to talk to Aran before and after his show and he comes off as a genuine guy that's very happy just to be doing what he loves. He seemed to appreciate every person that said hello and every merchandise sale he made. I was lucky to purchase Aran's album that became available that very day at the festival. I've yet to listen to it but my hopes are high.

Ol' Red Shed (changed name to Coondog & The Stumpjumpers at some point between the schedule printing and their performance)
This is the band you've never heard of that could make an impact on FM county radio. The first thing I noticed was a superb country music voice mixed with superb instrumentation. The second thing was some of the country cliches we all know so well. While it wasn't overbearing, it was there. Fortunately I don't remember a single truck mention but there were a few name drops and this is how country I am moments. Overall they have the sound and hopefully get a shot at growing with their careers. Catch a show if they get close to you.

Pearls Mahone
Pearls was on the smaller music joint stage and also recording an album live at the festival of her set. As soon as I heard and saw her I was reminded of the movie Crybaby and some of the female characters in the movie. A super strong and classic voice that kept me entertained as I had my first of many run-ins with the Reggie's $10 all you can eat buffet while sitting at the bar. The crowd response was awesome and I'm sure that will help make the live recording that much better.

Robert Dean
I was lucky enough to talk to Robert a few times before he jumped on stage for his spoken word set. A great guy that was pretty nervous leading up to his first performance ever. After talking to him, there was no way I wouldn't be in the front for this. Robert came out and hit it out of the park all the way through his set. My opinion may be influenced some by the fact that I agreed with nearly all his rants and raves but I do believe even if you didn't agree, you would've been entertained by his numerous stories and life experiences that occupied the gaps between the rants and raves. I came away from MRF with two things from Robert Dean: an autographed novel for my wife and an appreciation for anyone who can speak their mind in front of drunk strangers and make them into his friends.

Last False Hope
Last False Hope
I'm going to be honest. I have probably heard every Last False Hope song that has been released to the public. I wasn't a fan of most of it but had a feeling they would be special live but I had no idea of what was about to take place. I like to think I have a pretty broad taste in music and have been to countless shows and festivals at arenas, bars, amphitheaters, state parks, houses, schools, stadiums, garages and bowling alleys to see everything from (heavy metal band) Lamb of God to the crappiest pop acts available and everything in between. Take all of that into consideration and then add this newly discovered fact. Last False Hope is THE GREATEST LIVE ACT I'VE EVER ENCOUNTERED. You don't expect a band that is being led by a mandolin player and contains a banjo and fiddle to kick your ass quite so hard but it sneaks upon you quickly. What are these guys anyways? Bluegrass/metal, country/punk or just alt country? Who cares! It is real music that is coming from the heart and not trying to fit some stupid corporate mold. I probably asked 20 people after the festival was over who their favorite act was and all but one said Last False Hope without hesitation. If you've never been lucky enough to catch a show you need to change that as soon as possible. From the moment the band takes the stage to the very end, they throw down like they will never have another chance. My damn neck still hurt from thrashing my brains around like a maniac. One of the cooler moments of the whole festival may have been when Nellie Wilson joined Last False Hope on stage for a song that will be on their upcoming album and blowed everyone away. Good lord this woman can sing. Damn do I wish her solo performance on the Record Breakers (this is the name of the record store that is a part of Reggie's that was home to some of the smaller acts) floor didn't overlap Fifth on the Floor so I could have caught her show.

Owen Mays & The 80 Proof Boys
It would be hard to find a better group of musicians than the individuals assembled on the stage during this performance. Owen traveled the road between county and bluegrass with violent swerves in both directions. My only complaint from this particular show would be that the group's energy doesn't always match their talent but very few acts would be able to achieve the level of energy that would require.

T. Junior
T. Junior
I was lucky enough to meet T. Junior before his show and he is such a nice guy. He also was probably the third or fourth person to recognize me from my twitter profile picture. I'm still uncertain what this says about my looks but I have a pretty good idea that it's not a good thing. Once "The Man In Gray" was on the stage his talent was overwhelming. A great guitar player with a soft yet powerful voice whom had the ability to mimic his album sound nearly perfectly while interacting with the crowd between every song and maintain a very strong stage presence, especially for an acoustic guitar act with no backing band.

Fifth on the Floor
My award for greatest moment of the entire night goes to Fifth on the Floor and lead singer Justin Wells for a special tribute to Mr. George Jones. Justin walked onto the stage along with his acoustic guitar and softly stated. "Yesterday my favorite country singer of all time passed away. Let's all take a moment of silence for George Jones." Then something magical happened. Justin sang a song I've heard him do several times, (although never quite like this) "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes" by Mr. Jones and bring countless individuals to tear including myself and Wells. This was definitely the most powerful and heartfelt cover version I've heard of any song in a long time. As soon as the song ended, the band joined him on stage for a very powerful performance of their song "Burning Nashville Down" which ended with lead guitarist Matt Rodgers rendering his slide guitar useless for the night with a broken string. Overall this was the best of several FOTF shows I have attended. I could tell the band knew this was a very important show for them and everyone in the building. One guy standing near me had traveled from Georgia mainly to see FOTF for the first time and I overheard a few others say they had never heard of them before but were buying every album at their merch table after the show.

CW Ayon
Due to an overlapping schedule I was unable to catch much of this show but what I did take away was the fact that this man has a great blues voice and can play the guitar as well as any other you'll find. Several people were raving about his performance afterwards and throughout the night.

Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band
You would really have to dig deep to find a group of performers that could all just stand shoulder to shoulder on a stage and deliver kickass music any better than this fine group of individuals. From the very beginning it was a take no prisoners approach that never wore down. Unfortunately this was also the point in the night where the $10 buffet started rearing its ugly head. Through this, I also found out there was a larger amount of people between me and the restroom than expected. After resting my legs in Reggie's restroom that has some crappy black lights in all the fixtures, I realized there was no chance of me returning to my spot at the front of the stage for this show but I had enough of an encounter to know I'll try to catch another show of their's as soon as I can.

The Calamity Cubes
The bathroom trip wasn't a waste of time after all since the Music Joint Stage had just welcomed the Calamity Cubes and also offered a place to sit without a hole in the middle of the seat. I could quickly tell that these guys love music and hate their instruments. Man did they abuse those things with a violent display of energy that fit the smaller performing area perfectly and had the crowd jumping. They also weren't far from that damn buffet table that was calling my name again. I call that a win/win situation.

Hellbound Glory
Somehow I was able to make my way back to the front of the stage at this point just in time for T. Junior to find me and ask for directions to the buffet and an overly hydrated female to attempt to lick my eyeballs. (Yep, people like her make it to every festival) The crowd quickly made their way back to the stage with little time to spare before the band took the stage. Leroy Virgil and the band played nearly every song a fan would want to hear. (Unless you were that one drunk asshole that kept yelling "Malt Liquor" like a stuck record) The most amazing thing about the band's time on stage was probably the fact that they had just met their bassist for the show that day and he kept up quite well. My only complaint is that they all seemed a little tired and were lacking proper energy but Leroy's songwriting skills compensate for a lot in my opinion.

Banjer Dan
"Banjer" Dan Mazer made the most of his night. Not only was he one of the 80 Proof Boys joining Owen Mays on stage but he also used his time on the Record Breakers floor as a performance/banjo course with Q & A between songs. Dan is a superb banjo player and comes off as a very nice individual as well. He also kind of looks like Cecil from that Adam Sandler movie "Mr Deeds".

Scott H. Biram
If you ever need proof that stage presence and energy do not require moving around or even standing look no further than the "Dirty One Man Band from Texas". The power that comes from this man and his equipment is nothing short of amazing. The crowd was absolutely nuts during his whole show. At one point  a (I'm sure she's just lovely) fine young lady tossed a beer onto the stage near Scott and his equipment. He made a slight remark during the song and then afterwards simply stated "Throw a beer at my $10,000 music equipment again and I'll kick your ass you big tittied bitch". Ok, maybe that wasn't so simple after all. Security quickly rushed the stage to grab the woman but Scott lied and said he had taken care of it and she had left while she continued to stand in the front row but held her drink a little tighter. Mr. Biram continued to amaze everyone as he jumped from song to song and guitar to guitar while not missing a single beat and making the best of his time. The show ended with Scott flipping a switch that caused a repeat of a mid range frequency that pounded the crowd. One last middle finger and exit stage right.

Shooter Jennings
11:00 says the schedule. Kiss my ass schedule says Shooter. Oh well, I've been standing for 12 hours so what's another 47 minutes waiting and leaning on the barricade separating me and the stage. Shooter and his current band entered the stage to a massive roar of the packed crowd and kicked the night off with "Hard Lesson To Learn" from his latest album before running though some of the songs off of his older albums and keeping a great mix of songs throughout the night.

The amount of energy Shooter maintained through his set (after he had walked around in the crowd most the night) was only rivaled by the extremely drunk lady that was screaming his name the whole time while trying to offer him a drink. God am I glad he didn't give in and take it unless that would've shut her up. In that case, damn you Shooter for not shutting her up. Just as you would think it can't get any cooler than this Shooter starts in on "The White Trash Song" and is joined by Scott H. Biram just in time for Scott's verse in the song. Then just like that they were gone. No Scott, Shooter or a band. All gone! It's over. Oh wait, I almost forgot I'm up front and can see the setlist which has five more songs listed. And........ they are back. Shooter takes his place at the keyboard and does a great performance of "Wake Up" from the Black Ribbons album which included every last sound effect played live by mostly Shooter himself and rolled right into "Sweet Savannah". A few more great songs and then, POW! "The Gunslinger" is blasting in my face. Live! This song sounds so cool live and really picks up at the end with Shooter at one time playing his guitar, keyboard and some sort of synthesizer type thing all at once. The bass was hitting so hard the building was shaking and my entire body was pounding as the entire crowd joined me in a frenzy. After leaving the stage the crowd exited the room quite quickly and I was lucky enough to get invited backstage to meet Shooter and talk for a short time. Shooter is 100% a super nice guy and luckily has a good sense of humor. (making fun of him on FTM through several postings is what got me invited back to begin with.) He was nice enough to introduce me to his wife and tattoo artist friend and show me the awesome tattoo he's in the process of on his back (Trailer, start photo shopping your guesses now).

A few things I gathered from the show:
While the debate over whether rock is dead or not will go on, one thing that is evident is the fact that the soul of the punk rock fan was alive and well in Chicago on this day. No matter what genre terminology you would like to use to classify these artist as, one thing is certain: There was definitely a youthful angst amongst most the acts and fans no matter the age or geographical place of dwelling. While the types of music displayed at the event differed greatly in sound from each other they all share a common bond of being real and from the heart. I doubt we have witnessed the last of not only the festival, but also several of the acts performing at this great display of quality over commercialism. Countless times I heard the phrase "We will all be bragging about being here for year one at Moon Runners Festivals for years to come." According to Robert Dean, this will cause us all to be hipsters in a few years. And to the dude from Georgia with the backpack, we all know it was you farting all night up front at the Rock Club Stage.

While some memories of MRF1 (as us hipsters to be call it) may fade, some things I'll never forget are the friends I have gained, the soreness of my feet after being on them for 14 hours and $10 for a 14 hour buffet is a good idea that night but not so much the next morning.

My apologies to:
Lou Shields, Nellie Wilson, Jake Cox, Possessed by Paul James, Rachel Brooke and James Hunnicutt for missing your performances this time but I hope to see you down the road.

Photos by Jeremy Harris
Videos by various Moonrunners attendees

Apr 3, 2013

Live Review: Ronnie Fauss, D.C.

Ronnie Fauss - 3/24/13 - Hill Country BBQ, Washington D.C.

By Matthew Martin

If you read my review for Ronnie Fauss's album I Am The Man You Know I'm Not, you probably gathered that I wasn't a huge fan of the album.  If you didn't read it, you can check it out here.  I have since changed my mind on the album, but if you want context, you should finish reading this review.

Around February or so I noticed Ronnie would be coming up to D.C. to play at Hill Country BBQ.  I figured the songs were growing on me and if nothing else, it's great to get to hear live interpretations.  To be honest, I was concerned that Ronnie would be a bit sour after the review, but that couldn't have been further from the truth.  He was very friendly and was open to the criticism I may have had with the album.

This was somewhat of a showcase, so there were no openers, just Ronnie playing a solo set with only his guitar and harmonica.  In this setting, his lyrics were able to take center stage and, for the most part, they really shined.

He played every song from his full length, as well as most of the songs from his 2 EPs.  I hadn't heard either of the EPs, but purchased both immediately.  One song that I really liked from his 2010 EP Mulligan was "Just Another Tuesday."  I really loved the bare bones version that he played compared to the souped up version on the EP.  He stated that he plans to record another version for an upcoming album.  It will be great to hear what he has in mind for the re-recording.

Halfway through the set, a group of children got up and began dancing to a lot of his songs which included "Pistols in the Air."  It was pretty neat to see these kids really liking a lot of the music. And, furthermore, Ronnie was more than happy to see them dancing along to songs he mentioned were written with his kid in mind.

By the end of the evening, Ronnie had played a slew of songs including my favorites: "The Night Before the War," "I Don't See You," "Just Another Tuesday," and "I Can't Remember (What You Can't Forget)."  Alongside these tunes, he played some covers of John Prine, Slobberbone, and Merle Haggard.

As I mentioned earlier, I have really grown to like the album I Am The Man You Know I'm Not.  Likewise, hearing the songs in person solidified that these are great songs sung by a genuine and nice guy.  As a lot of Texas musicians are prone to do, it seems like Ronnie does not play outside of Texas too often.  I am hoping that will change.  But, until then, if you see that he's coming around you, you should go see him.  Also, go support him and buy some music here.

Oct 17, 2012

Concert Review: The Mountain Goats - Baltimore 10-10-12

by Matthew Martin

I know that The Mountain Goats aren't typical of a lot of the music discussed here on Farce the Music.  However, I don't think that makes them any less relevant.  The lyrics are poignant, the music compelling, and the delivery heartfelt - The Mountain Goats deserve your attention.

After watching the Nats' crushing defeat to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, a friend and I drove up to Baltimore to witness the great John Darnielle, aka The Mountain Goats, perform in a small bar called Ottobar.  Opening was Matthew E White. 

Matthew E. White was perhaps a bit too ambitious for my tastes.  On stage there was a horn section of three, a percusionist, a drummer, a steel guitar player, a keyboardist, a bassist, and White.  So, with 8 players filling the tiny stage, they proceeded to play a mix of progressive and jam-band rock.  It was fairly good until they would go off on tangents that just weren't my tastes.  Doesn't mean they weren't talented, because they were.  Just feel that maybe they could take some of the filler out in order to create a more concise sound.  I'll let you judge for yourself here

The Mountain Goats came on next and were a relief with only 3 members.  It was a stripped-down (comparatively) set with lots of banter and "hits" from the MGs catalog.  The thing about the MGs is that if you are willing to work past his nasally and sometimes hard-to-deal-with voice, you will be rewarded.  The songs are some of the best short stories you will hear.  If you don't believe me, just look at some of the lyrics.  Just Google them.  Some will floor you.  

After you get past how good the lyrics are, there is the complete satisfaction of seeing them perform these songs live.  John Darnielle plays and sings with complete and utter joy.  It is akin to seeing Craig Finn perform.  Where every word is sung with conviction and every phrase ends with a smile on Darnielle's face.

Then, you have the other members of the MGs- Peter Hughes on bass and Jon Wurster on drums.  Peter Hughes creates great bass lines that are simple, but perfect for the songs that he accompanies.  And, Jon Wurster (also the drummer for Superchunk) is like an "indie rock" behind-the-scenes guru.  These two create a great backdrop for the character studies coming from John Darnielle.

They performed songs from the new album Transcendental Youth (you can get it here for cheap), Tallahassee, The Sunset Tree, All Hail West Texas, and more.  Darnielle, as always, looked comfortable and elated on stage where he could share his songs one more night to a group of approving and adoring fans. 

The final 2 songs of the evening were "This Year" and "No Children."   Never have two very heavy songs come off so triumphant.  The former pertaining to years of abuse from his step-father and the latter about the final unfolding of a marriage.  The crowd sang every word in a joyous and raucous manner, leaving no one standing still.  The 2 songs are, in my opinion, the only way to end any Mountain Goats set. 

It took me over a year to finally "get" the MGs.  That is one of the most annoying things people say, right?  You shouldn't have to "get" an artist.  However, if you put in the time to the MGs, the rewards are plenty.  My challenge to you is this: listen to Tallahassee.  It's a song-cycle revolving around the dissolution of a marriage.  Listen to it once more.  Then, if the MGs come around your neck of the woods, go see them.  Many bands love to be playing, and they show it.  But, there are very few bands that give off more elation and more happy-to-be-alive joy than the MGs.  The Hold Steady may be their only equal.

Sep 4, 2012

Concert Review: Shovels and Rope, Washington D.C., 8-22

Shovels & Rope At The Hamilton in D.C. 8/22/2012

Shovels & Rope don't suck.  In fact, they do the opposite of suck.  They prove as much with each song on their first two albums.  And, they prove it even more in a live setting.

Why would I start it this way?  Well, to be honest, there have been a glut of guy/girl duos recently (She & Him, Honeyhoney, The Civil Wars, and even The White Stripes).  Don't get me wrong, I really like The Civil Wars.  But, there is something refreshing about what Shovels & Rope is doing.  

Blending countless genres, Shovels & Rope deliver a talented, raucous live show.  Michael Trent (formerly of The Films) and Cary Ann Hearst switch up duties on guitar, drums, vocals, harmonica, and keyboard.

I showed up to The Hamilton in D.C. right around the time the opener was about to end.  I had a prior engagement, so I can't really vouch one way or the other for this guy- much less remember his name!  Around the time of the show, Shovels & Rope tweeted that around 100 tickets were left for the 450 capacity venue.  I'd say it was even fewer than that by the time they went on stage.  It was pretty impressive considering they had opened up for Jonny Fritz at the same venue a few months ago and there were maybe 75 people total.  

Not sure where the recent fans have come from, but it was a welcome sight for such a hardworking band.  

They opened up with the song that I generally use to convince people to listen to Shovels & Rope-"Gasoline."    What always impresses me about bands like theirs is the amount of sound being cohesively created by two people.  It seems there must be one more hand on stage creating one of the many sounds being heard.  However, you look on stage and see that it is only Trent and Hearst switching up/blending instruments and vocals.

By the time the first 5 songs are done, both are dripping in sweat from the amount of work they are putting into a Wednesday night show.  It was also around this time that those sitting down migrated to the front of the stage.  Every driving, rock and roll song was met with dancing and swaying.  Each slow song was met with relative silence and attention.  Fortunately for those mover-and-shaker types, Shovels & Rope have more quick-paced songs up their sleeves.  Throughout the night they played most of the songs in their 2 album catalog, including what is quickly becoming my new favorite Shovels & Rope song- "Birmingham."

So the show went, with Trent and Hearst playing every instrument.  The chemistry between the two was insurmountable and each word not sung out to the crowd was sung directly into each other's eyes.  While this could be a distraction at times, Shovels & Rope pull it off.  It is a "show" after all.  You are there not only for the music.  You are there for the stage act.  

I'm not implying they are acting out their affection for each other.  I merely mean to say- remember that while the music is the most important thing, pay attention to all facets at a show.  It's easy to see those loving what they do and those trying to love what they do.  Shovels & Rope clearly love what they do and they love who they are doing it with: themselves.  

Get all of their albums here.

Aug 15, 2012

Concert Review: Jonny Fritz (The Artist Formerly Known as Jonny Corndawg)

Jonny Fritz at Red Palace in Washington, D.C. 08/07/2012

Seeing Jonny play is something of a spectacle.  Is it serious music?  Is he laughing at the characters in his songs?  Or, merely relaying mundane stories his characters go through in the most sincere way possible?  It would be hard to argue with the last ponder.  I mean, when you hear the character in "Chevy Beretta" you know that you have met that guy.  You have hated that cocky SOB.  But, there was also something about him that endeared you to him.  And it's that precise feelings-at-odds sensation that makes Jonny's music so memorable.

This was the 3rd time in the past year I had seen Jonny.  While I could sense a little road weariness in Jonny's demeanor and banter, I still thought he put on a better show than many musicians- i.e., as much as I love James McMurtry, his frontman skills are slightly lacking.

The show began with a D.C. native Jonny Grave and the Tombstones. Jonny Grave played loud, raucous blues in the style of R.L. Burnside meets Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (think Ass Pocket of Whiskey).  It's very difficult to play this style of music and not have the audience pretty enthralled and dancing.  That's exactly what was happening as the set progressed.  Also, Jonny Grave is quite the front man playing with a chip on his shoulder.  If you don't know Jonny Grave already, I think it's worth your time to look him up and see what you think (here).  

Next was Jonny Corndawg (for the time being).  Bringing with him his backing band (The Almond Brothers Band), Jonny played all of the crowd favorites including "Exercise," "Middle Brother," "Shut Up," and "Silver Panty Liners" just to name a few.  Every song, however comical it may be, was played with utter seriousness and sincerity.  Is that to say that Jonny takes himself too seriously?  No, not at all.  But, he believes in the songs that he writes and the characters they portray.

Half way through the set, he made an announcement.  That announcement being that he would no longer be going by the name "Jonny Corndawg" but would instead be going by his real name, "Jonny Fritz."  I believe this is probably a smart move towards gaining more serious attention.  His songwriting is top notch and this change will likely get him more attention from those who might be put off by a country singer named Jonny Corndawg with an album titled "Down on the Bikini Line."  

As I said earlier, Jonny seemed a little road weary, but it did not detract from the show much at all.  It's hard to go into one of his shows and not come out in a very good mood.  It's fun to see musicians have fun and engage the crowd.  The band had fun.  They are a tight-knit country band and I'm excited for future shows and albums.

Go see Jonny Fritz when he comes through your town.  Go buy his albums.  Give them a listen.  Laugh if you want, that's alright.  There's a lot of humor in the absurd situations that go on day in and day out of our lives.  You have to laugh at them.  As the old Leadbelly lyric goes, "you see me laughin', Lord I'm laughin' just to keep from cryin'." 

I have to think that Jonny's characters might feel the same way.  Or, they don't.  And, I guess that's the beauty of interpretation.

May 25, 2012

Lucero Family Picnic: To the Best of My Recollection

I can't give an entirely accurate or journalistic report of my trip to the Lucero Family Picnic this past weekend. I went as a fan, not a blogger, so I didn't bother taking note of every song each band played or how well they played it. Also, some beverages (drank from an Arkansas Razorbacks tumbler because it's a dry county and a long story…) may have come between me and clear memories of the evening. What I can say that it was a lot of fun and an experience I'll never forget.


First of all, I got to hang out with Shooter Jennings. I don't just mean that I got to meet him for a few minutes or shake his hand after the show. My buddy Chad and I got to spend basically the entire evening with Shooter and his band. To the man, they were all extremely cool and friendly. Shooter was a gracious host, despite FTM's history of general unpleasantness towards him (up until recently). I'm guessing Brantley Gilbert wouldn't be as welcoming.

Austin Lucas backed by Glossary
We talked music for the vast majority of the night. Shooter is very knowledgable about both the past and present of the career he's chosen. I heard some great tales about Jamey Johnson, Hank Jr and Toby Keith. He played me some of the new Fifth on the Floor album he's producing and some rough cuts of the new Hellbound Glory he's working on. Great stuff. 

The tour bus was a busy place. Band members came and went, bringing back boiled shrimp and autographed pics with "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart who was announcing some wrestling matches across the park. Somebody brought Shooter a cool "Outlaw Country" cake for his 33rd birthday and then worked on him to get him to do an upcoming show. Alcohol and music flowed. Members of other bands strolled around nearby. It was all very surreal, to be honest. Chad and I both felt like the experience was somewhere between being on a reality show and the movie Almost Famous.

We watched the first act, John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives from backstage. He put on a great show for the small early crowd. His rockabilly meets roots-rock sound should bring him and his band a bigger name in coming years.

Hanging out w/Lee Bains III
Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires were up next. They tore up their short set with their ragged brand of southern rock/punk/soul. I wish there'd been a larger crowd to hear them play tunes like "Dirt Track," "Ain't No Stranger" and "Everything You Took," but this was a late arriving audience. Still, the band played like they were in front of 20,000. I got to meet Lee and a couple of the other members after their show. They were all good guys. Lee came off as a regular guy (with a killer voice) who's thankful to be doing what he loves and eager to get his music out there. You can't help but root for folks like that.

Austin Lucas took the stage after Bains, with Glossary in tow as his backing band. I finally took my lazy self to the front of the stage so I could hear better and wasn't disappointed. Austin sounds great live. His voice is so unique and powerful. There's no doubt about authenticity when you're listening to him. The highlight of his set for me was the charging "Thunder Rail," but it was all excellent. I got to meet Austin and talked with him for quite a while. While the tattoos and on-stage fire might make one think he'd be a forceful, aggressive personality, he was such a laid back dude. We talked music, touring, Brantley Gilbert and Lee Brice (whom he toured with on the Willie Nelson tour last year) and he was more than happy to talk my ear off. I didn't mind it a bit. Such a cool, nice guy… I'd love to hang out with him any time.

I caught 90% of Glossary's show from the front of the stage next. They were bad ass. I've heard that you have to hear Glossary live to truly appreciate them, and it's true. They were intense. I talked to a few people who'd come to the picnic just to see them. They played tunes like "Little Caney" and "Save Your Money for the Weekend" and generally just blew me away. Happily, the picnic grounds had filled up with people a good deal by now.

Photo by Jamie Darling
Shooter Jennings came on next and played for an hour and a half. It was a great performance, with his Brooklyn-ite band sounding every bit like they were born and raised in the town where they stood. Shooter and the boys played old favorites like "Fourth of July" and "Some Rowdy Women" along with some Waylon covers and tunes from Family Man. He also played 2 new songs from his Fall '12 album The Other Side that sounded as good or better than anything on Family Man. If I hadn't already been converted to a Shooter fan, this show probably would have done the job. 

Farce the Music's unofficial house band, Lucero, finished the night with a blazing 2 hour+ set that had the entire crowd singing along. There's really no point in saying how good they were; I've never seen them play a bad show, or even heard of it …and this felt like a particularly passionate performance. Their current album Women & Work along with the album Tennessee got the most action, but they played a little something from their entire catalogue. Even if we'd only driven through the boonies of Arkansas just to see them, it would have been worth it.

Lucero rocks the Lucero Family Picnic
After the final note played, we hung out a while longer with the bands. I met Joey Kneiser of Glossary, but I think I unnerved him a bit for some reason - I can be a bit socially awkward at times so that's probably it. Also met John C. and Roy of Lucero and they were both very cool, and very drunk. Glossary pulled out their mascot fake skeleton for some jokes and pictures. I believe Shooter shared a passionate kiss with it (don't tell Drea!). Shortly later, I met Lucero lead singer Ben Nichols. I'm a man-fan and probably acted as such, but he took it in stride and was funny and friendly.

All in all, the Lucero Family Picnic was a winning experience. Saw some great bands, heard some awesome tunes, met some really good folks. I couldn't have asked for a better time. A special thanks goes out to Shooter Jennings for welcoming us with open arms and being such a cool guy to hang out with!

That's not very nice, Shooter.


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