back                                                                   FEBRUARY 2010

  John Prine: Feb 20th @ Count Basie Theater (Red Bank, NJ)

You'd be hard pressed to come up with a half dozen songs that better represent quintessential American songwriting than Angel From Montgomery, Lake Marie, Grandpa Was a Carpenter, Sam Stone, Hello In There and That's The Way The World Goes Round.  John Prine is an iconic figure in American music who I've never seen in concert before so it was a thrill to finally see these classics performed live. (Angel From Montgomery)

He played most of the evening as a trio but included a little solo segment in the middle of the set. His voice is a little frayed at the edges which was more noticeable during the solo performances, but he's never really had a great voice and it's never really mattered. With John Prine it's all about the stories in the songs.

Sara Watkins, of the bluegrass trio Nickel Creek, opened the show with a handful of songs from her debut self titled solo CD playing acoustic guitar, ukulele and fiddle and singing beautifully. It was a great short set and included a cover of the 60's hit Different Drum by and The Stone Ponies. (Linda Ronstadt) (Different Drum)

 

The Doughboys: Feb 20th @ Vintage Vinyl (Fords, NJ)

The Doughboys were one of New Jersey's most popular "garage rock" bands back in the sixties and actually got a recording contract by winning a battle of the bands on Zacherle's Disc-O-Teen TV show. They released a couple of singles, became the house band at the legendary Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village and by the end of the decade parted ways before realizing any real fame.

About a decade ago they reunited for some random gigs which eventually started to become less random and finally led to releasing Is It Now in 2007 which got some attention from Little Steven on his radio show. That led to some great opening act gigs followed by their recent release Act Your Rage which is also getting some radio attention. This is all very rare and seems like good material for a movie or at least a rockumentary.

The one hour set included songs from Act Your Rage including Turn Your Love on Me and a surprising cover of the Moody Blue's Tuesday Afternoon. Of course they did Black Sheep from the first release, which is the song that brought them to Little Steven's attention, and a cover of the Stones Paint It Black, which, if you imagine a really good garage rock band doing Paint It Black, you've got The Doughboys. (Turn Your Love On Me)

After the Doughboys set we were treated to a surprise set from Maura Kennedy (1/2 of The Kennedys) who played a handful of songs from her new solo release Parade Of Echos. Here's a look at her performance of the single New Way To Live: (New Way To Live)

 

  Pete Fornatale "Back To The Garden" lecture: Feb 18th @ The Barron Arts Center

We just recently passed the fortieth anniversary of the original Woodstock festival, so it seems appropriate that Pete Fornatale, who over the years has interviewed just about every single person involved with the festival in any way, would chose now to collate his notes and write a book on the subject. The lecture, complete with audio and video aids, was informative (as expected) and entertaining (as expected) but was so much funnier than I had anticipated.

We're all familiar with the details of Woodstock but this lecture, and the book, deal with some of the lesser known facts and goes about trying to prove or debunk some of the myths. Questions like what were John Wayne's, Roy Rodgers and Merv Griffiths connection to Woodstock, what acts were invited but didn't play and what exactly was Joe Cocker actually singing during A Little Help From My Friends, were just a few that were answered. (I won't answer them here, read the book)

One example of a funny moment was when Pete showed us the telegram that the promoters sent to Iron Butterfly after receiving a telegram from them demanding to be picked up at the airport by helicopter. The response was written in a very polite manner except that the first sentence began with an F, the second sentence a U and so on. We all had a good laugh together except for one person who laughed about 20 seconds after the rest of us, giving everybody another good laugh.

This event filled up far in advance and quite a few people were turned away but there's talk of doing the lecture again in the nice weather, outdoors with a live band. I'd go! 

 

Ben Harper and Relentless 7: February 3rd @ St Anne's Warehouse (Brooklyn)

I don't get over to Brooklyn much, and this was my first time at this venue, but when WFUV offered freebies to Ben Harper being recorded for a future broadcast on the PBS music show Soundstage, Brooklyn suddenly seemed easily accessible. The set featured mostly songs from his most recent release White Lies For Dark Times including Shimmer and Shine, Up To You Now, Number With No Name and The Word Suicide. (Shimmer & Shine)

He alternated between his lap steel guitar and electric guitar and occasionally picked up his acoustic like for the beautiful ballad Skin Thin. One of the highlights of the set, which had quite a few highlights, was his cover of Led Zeppelin's Good Times Bad Times which blew the roof off. Another highlight was a new power ballad called I Will Not Be Broken. I believe it's destined to be a mega hit. I love that he can rock as hard as anybody in the free world and then can be as gentle as Cat Stevens. This was a great show and if you don't believe me you can see for yourself when it's broadcast on Soundstage. I'll certainly be watching.

  I've often noticed that they book lots of great acts at this venue but never got over here because the Brooklyn/ New Jersey commute is not easy from either perspective. But ultimately, this place is easy to find and "not too bad" to get to from out west in New Jersey. I think I'll keep them on my radar and pay another visit at some point.