Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dave Keyes with Popa Chubby in Beverly


Good friend Dave has been playing great music his whole life, but I don't get much of a chance to see him.  So when I heard he was playing at 9 Allis in Beverly on 5/19 with Popa Chubby, I was very psyched.  His tracks with Popa Chubby are excellent.

W&L were able to get there also, though delayed by life and traffic.  This is one of the worst times of year for traffic around Boston and getting North on 128 can be difficult.  9 Allis is a nice, small room and Dave and Popa were joined by a bassist and drummer.  They played two great sets of electric blues with some great contributions from all the guys.

Dave came by the table when he could, and we had a nice chat with him at the merch table afterwards, then back into the night and home to our mostly demoed house.

Friday, May 19, 2017

DSO Take 5 at Wilbur

Dark Star Orchestra keeps coming around, and we keep going to see them.  As mentioned many times, seeing them is just incredible fun and is nowhere near getting old for me.  They announced another, all-over-the-country, year-long tour for 2017 (they've played more gigs than the original GD did, which is astounding), including of course a date (Thursday, 5/18) at Boston's Wilbur Theater.  We got tickets as soon as they went on sale, Sarah's and my 5th time seeing DSO at the Wilbur, 11th overall.

Traffic was beyond incomprehensibly bad going into the city.  We stopped dead on Soldiers Field in Allston and I could see the Turnpike was not a good option.  Got off at the BU Bridge and tried the Cambridge side, but that was the first in a sequence of bad decisions ... there was no good way to get anywhere in Boston on that suddenly hot, bright day.  I had to do some serious coaching of myself ("You've seen worse," "You might be a little late, but you'll see DSO tonight," "It's graduation season, this is good for Boston") to stay calmed down and finally was able to bust through and crawl over the Longfellow Bridge into Boston and then quickly up to Beacon Hill.  Met Sarah and Dave and we walked over to Jacob Wirths, where we had a rookie waiter with no clue, but we refused to be hassled.  This was quite a challenging day in some ways, but we were going to see DSO at the Wilbur (which was surrounded by construction, we had to cross Tremont multiple times).

Oh well, we got there and ended up entering just in time to get spots belly-up to the stage in the "Skip Zone."  Geez did we breathe sighs of relief.  And the evening was just as much fun as ever!  One great thing was that as we were leaving Wirth's, Tom from HTR Construction was at the next table and stood up to talk with us.  Tom's a great guy and in a different world we'd be working with him now.  Great to talk with him and to meet his friend Louise.

And another fun thing was that when we got up to the rail, naturally we fanatics up there introduced ourselves, and the guy next to me (a famous R&B artist and spectacular dancer in his own right from Southern Vermont) and I recognized each other.  We both stroked our chins trying to remember where we'd met before, and compared all kinds of notes about what concerts we'd been to, what our impressions had been, and where we normally stood.  As it turned out, we couldn't have met at this concert, and were standing in different places at that one, etc.  We were stymied.

Then I mentioned how we liked to go to P&F concerts in Port Chester, we touched on the madness of traffic in the NYC area (traffic!), and I mentioned how you could sneak up to Port Chester by dropping down through CT and staying in Armonk,  "Armonk?" he said, "We stay at the Quality Inn in Armonk."  Lightning hit me, "We stay at the Quality Inn in Armonk too, that's where I recognize you from!"  The lighting spread to him and he concurred, and we cracked up.  We both thought we'd been sly and discovered an unknown spot!  Now hordes of Deadheads will be descending on Armonk.

Anyway, there we were at the front of the stage and we were all (well, those of us who obsess about these things) anticipating an early seventies show from the stage setup.  Someone pointed out that the GD had only played twice on 5/18, and that one of those concerts had been in 1972, on the Europe Tour.  And that's what we got, a stellar re-creation of the Dead's stop at the KongreƟsaal Deutsches Museum in Munich on 5/18/1972,  Here's the setlist:

Set 1:
Truckin'
Sugaree
Mr. Charlie
Jack Straw
Tennessee Jed
Chinatown Shuffle
Black-Throated Wind
China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
El Paso
It Hurts Me Too
You Win Again
Playing In The Band
Good Lovin'
Casey Jones

Set 2:
Sittin' On Top Of The World
Me And My Uncle
Ramble On Rose
Beat It On Down The Line
Dark Star > Morning Dew > Drums > Sugar Magnolia

Encore:
Sing Me Back Home
One More Saturday Night

The show was sold out, and Dino got the day off, along with it being an easy day for Lisa, just playing harp on It Hurts Me Too and singing harmony on Playing, Sugar Mags, and the encore.

So there we were, in front of Skip with RobB and keyboard on our right, RobE 15 feet or so away in the center of the stage, and Jeff off over on the left.  The under-stage speakers were rippling our pants and we were back with the guys in Europe in 1972 with an amazing first set of adventurous rock and roll that just went on and on and on.

Jeff seemed a bit tired, as he has at times lately, and was perhaps the weakest player that night, though he sure ramped it up for Dew.  But RobK was as spot-on as ever, RobE was brilliant as always, and RobB played beautiful keyboards all night, over and over.  We did not want him to stop.  Always true to the canon however, he did not sing and RobE was as literal as ever, apparently forgetting lyrics in the same spots Bobby had.

And as with the other 10 times we'd seen DSO, this was such fun!  We were rocking like it was 1972 and the music was excellent.  We were dancing at the edge of the stage, and we'd turn around and see a PACKED Wilbur Theater, all full of people writhing and reeling.  Everyone knew all the words, all the phrases, all the emotion, and we were all sharing it together.

As mentioned, Lisa finally made an appearance towards the end of the first set and she looked at me like a stone when I held up 10 fingers to her, quizzically.  She played some rockin' harp on It Hurts Me Too.  Then she moseyed up to her mike next to RobE and this time when I held up 10 fingers to her she grinned at me and nodded.  Time for Playing, and then time for the 1972 Good Lovin' and a perfunctory Casey Jones to close the set.  Yay!!!

Milled around, saved seats (well, places) for each other, grabbed bathroom breaks and another beer, and then it was time for the second set.  Dave wasn't looking at his phone and we were left thinking it was 1972 sometime (I favored pre-Europe), but then they started up again and it was time for more excellence.

A long second set with Dark Star into Dew and an encore of Sing Me Back Home?  Yes please.  Don't blame me for abbreviating the second set, I'd just be repetitive describing how great RobB was, how authentic RobE was, and how much this stuff means to us.  I wasn't yet listening the the Dead in 1972, but they were out there shaping my world.

Finally time to trickle out of the Wilbur, and we got going.  Lots of stuff going on out in the theater district that night, but we got up to the Common, over to Beacon Hill, and back home in short order.  Well perhaps short, but I didn't get to bed until 1:30 or so.  As RobK had said when he talked about the show they were re-creating, it was a long night!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Justin Townes Earle and The Sadies at Sinclair

We're trying to cut down on concerts a bit, but the tracks I've heard from Justin Townes Earle's soon-to-be-released record (Kids In the Street) are just fantastic.  And when I recently saw some things by him on YouTube, including the video of one of the great new tracks (Maybe a Moment), and his recent turn on PBS's Tiny Desk Concert series, I realized that I'd be a fool to miss him at The Sinclair on Saturday, May 13.  So we got tickets,

Had plenty to do at home that Saturday, and after a quick dinner we headed into Cambridge on another cold and rainy evening in a long, cold, and rainy Spring.  We scored a great parking place at the Cambridge Common and got into the club in time to grab spots right in front of the soundboard and hear most of Sammy Brue's opening set.  He's a bit of a bluesy singer-songwriter with powerful guitar technique, good opener.

The the next opener came on, The Sadies, who are also backing up Justin on this tour.  Dallas (guitar, keyboards, and harmonicas) and Travis (guitar, fiddle, and mandolin) Good from Toronto are excellent multi-instrumentalists, and Sean Dean (bass) and Mike Belitsky (drums) are a fine rhythm section.  They've been around for a while and have backed up musicians like Neko Case, John Doe, Neil Young, and many others.  They played a great, rock with a tinge of country, set.  At times they were reminiscent of Los Straitjackets and at times the Bottle Rockets.  Some great guitar runs, some great songs, and one of the spookiest covers of Pretty Polly you'll ever hear.  They also sported some fine duds.

Then another short break and Justin came out, in a stylish sport coat himself, as well as his trademark Coke-bottle glasses.  Justin's long-time accompanist Paul Niehaus joined them on lead guitar, while Dallas moved to piano/organ.  They did not disappoint!  The subtle brilliance that I'd heard on record over the years (also seen him twice before) and recently on YouTube was on display.  If you've never heard Justin's voice, very slightly off-beat style, and Hank Williams-honest guitar, you need to go see him right away.  Or watch this.

Justin had his tenor guitar, and The Sadies and Niehaus were a beat-perfect back-up band.  When we'd seen him before, Justin was all over the place, changing his mind about what song he was going to do in the middle of the intro, etc.  It's amazing Niehaus hasn't walked out on him yet.  But this time he was very much the professional musician and took pains to make sure the band was with him, and they sure were.

They covered a large number of the tracks from the new record (which was at the merch table), but also played some of the incredible opus Justin has already compiled at age 35.  It was another case of him taking the entire audience to a different planet where we all grooved on his every note and swayed to his band.  The Sinclair was sold-out and Sarah reported lots of very disappointed people being turned away at the box office when she stepped out for a smoke.

The middle-aged guys next to us knew Justin's work as well as I did, and though the crowd besides us was predominately young, it was apparently another case of them wanting to hear Justin T.F. Earle rather than just go out for a rock act on a Saturday night.  Very actively listening crowd during the songs and very rowdy crowd between songs, while Justin looked a little embarrassed but devilish ("You liked that? Try this!") in his charming way.

Here's the setlist:
Champagne Corolla
Maybe a Moment
One More Night in Brooklyn
What's She Crying For
Move Over Mama
Black Eyed Suzy
Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now
15-25
They Killed John Henry
Mama's Eyes
Gold Watch and Chain
Christchurch Woman
Trouble Is
Farther From Me
Ain't Waitin'
White Gardenias
What Do You Do When You're Lonesome
Short Hair Woman

Encore:
Faded Valentine
Harlem River Blues

He opened with two of the most killer tracks from the new record, did some classics, did a mini-solo/acoustic set (John Henry, Mama's Eyes, and the Carter's Gold Watch and Chain), and finished with another string of great new songs mixed with stuff like Ain't Waitin'.

After Mama's Eyes, someone shouted out, "That's great, 'cause tomorrow's Mothers Day you know!"  I think Justin knew that.  And when he hit the first chords of Ain't Waitin', someone else yelled out, "Fried chicken!," which cracked him up so much he almost lost where he was.  And when he introduced White Gardenias with, "This is for Billy Holiday," we and the guys next to us melted.

Fantastic stuff, very short break between the set and the encore, and then he closed it with the singalong Harlem River Blues.  I think Justin had a good, mellow night, and we all did too.  He's really, really, good.

Still spitting a bit when we got out, helped a lost but well-dressed older Chinese couple find their bearings on Cambridge Common, and then a short drive back home.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Lucinda Williams at Berklee

We've somehow managed to miss Lucinda Williams the last few times she's been in town, but being on a Berklee Performance Center mailing list finally paid off when we heard she'd be coming back one more time.  We got pretty good seats and everyone I talked to was shocked to hear about the appearance ... it was not well publicized, though the hall was finally filled from what I could tell.

Did the BPC thing of parking in the Dalton Street Garage and meeting up at Bukowski's ... as empty after work (Wednesday May 10th) as I've ever seen it.  We had a few beers at the bar and then checked out the Boston Burger Company on Boylston for dinner ... pretty good!  Got to our seats about 15 minutes before the show, and it started right on time.

Lucinda had a minimal band (for her) this time: Stuart Mathis on guitar and harmonica (with a rack of 8(?) guitars, including what looked and sounded like a 12-string Stratocaster(!)), Butch Norton on drums, and David Sutton on bass.  They were great, but the real story of course was Lucinda's incredible songs and her brilliant ability to emote.  She had us all in the palm of her hand from the get-go and the crowd reaction throughout the show was pretty rowdy.  People started whooping, whistling, and jumping to their feet and shouting early on, and there were a whole lot of people doing it.  I think Lucinda was ready to wind down on the last date of her tour and thought that a college hall in staid Boston would afford her the chance to do it.  But we all showed our love and appreciation early and she responded with a great show.

The setlist was just fantastic.  Not only did she do some of her stellar recent songs, she dug way back in her catalog and pulled out some things I thought I'd never see her play.  Can't remember the order, but she did:

Passionate Kisses
Pineola
Can't Let Go
Prove My Love
Drunken Angel
Side Of the Road
Sweet Old World
West Memphis
Lake Charles
Bitter Memory
Essence
Righteously
Get Right With God
Unsuffer Me
Joy
... and lots more.

My jaw was on the floor!  I think Side Of the Road is one of the best songs ever and I couldn't believe she pulled it out of her bag (complete with the mysterious fourth verse ... what does she mean by that?).  And to have her cover both Passionate Kisses and Sweet Old World, that were so successfully covered (by Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris respectively) was another unexpected treat.

But the most amazing, show-stopping, emotional, riotous moments, were when she just killed Essence and finished her encore with Joy.  The BPC staff probably were on the verge of getting out a firehose to try to calm down the people who were reacting wildly, jumping up and down, to Lucinda's dialog with fate, sexuality, and recalcitrant lovers.

As delighted as we were, Lucinda was apparently just as delighted.  Bless her heart, she grabbed the mike and tried to tell us (even more about) how she felt.  She said, "I'm 64 years old and so thrilled that people are still loving my songs and that I can go out and perform them."  Or something like that ... it was hard to hear her over the shouting crowd.

Wow!  Another great concert and then a pretty uneventful drive home down a Wednesday-night Boylston Street, over Berkeley to Storrow Drive, and then home on the highway.  We saw no ghosts on the highway ... they were probably all listening to Lucinda.