(back) SEPTEMBER 2009
Lydia Baylis: Sept 26th @ Norwood Artists Club
I'm occasionally asked how I find the many talented but often obscure artists that I go to see. It's usually somehow related to the music venues I frequent, the radio stations I listen to, the papers or magazines I read, networking with other music buffs or the e-mail lists I'm on. It's actually pretty rare that an artist writes to me to introduce themselves. But that's how I became aware of Lydia Baylis.
She said she'd been surfing youtube and a video led her to my web site, which she loved, and she was wondering if I'd be interested in attending her little private concert where she'd be premiering material from her upcoming EP titled Those Green Flowers.
I went to her web site, gave a listen and was so impressed that I had to call Judy into the room for her to hear as well. There were hints of assorted British folk and folk/rock artists from Nick Drake and Donovan to Linda Thompson and Annie Haslam, but not so much as to be directly compared to any of them. We loved it.
I wrote back and had us added to the list (and our friend Mabelle too) and looked forward to this show as much as the three other shows I was seeing this week... Roseanne Cash, Norah Jones and Gordon Gano. (Yes, that's quite a few even for me, and stiff competition)
We showed up at a very old and very beautiful brownstone on W. 14th Street, worked our way up to a third floor lounge and then eventually to a tiny fourth floor screening room. We squeezed ten pounds of people into a five pound room, couldn't see the band (I think she was accompanied by 5 musicians) but that didn't matter because we could hear and what we heard was beautiful.
The Lotus Song and Echo were hauntingly beautiful, especially the acoustic guitar, and the slow ska beat of Summer In The City (no relation to the famous song) was infectious and easily imagined as a summer hit. Kiss Me is a catchy pop tune which I originally didn't care for when I listened on line, but hearing it live I changed my mind, it was catchy and energetic. (Echo video)
My final evaluation of an artist can be directly measured against the level my desire to see, or not see, them again. I can't wait to see Lydia Baylis again.
Gordon Gano & The Ryans: Sept 25th @ Le Poisson Rouge
Depending on how well you know me, it might seem surprising that The Violent Femmes are one of my "all-time" favorite bands. I'm still amused when I think back to seeing them at The State Theater in New Brunswick about 15 years ago with an audience that was predominantly high school and college aged kids (the State Theater is around the corner from Rutgers University). Judy and I were among the first to exit the show and as we walked out into the evening air and bunch of parents, some younger than us, were waiting outside to pick up their kids. I don't know if I've ever had a moment when I felt more cool.
The Femmes were one of the most influential and highly regarded folk/punk or post/punk bands, but it was their eclectic approach to music which included country, folk, gospel, pop and rock, as well as their overall musicality set them apart from most other "punk" bands. Gordon Gano was the creative force in the Femmes, so when I heard that he was releasing a new CD with The Ryan Brothers, known for their band The Bogmen and for scoring several well known films, I was curious.
This set featured songs from the CD except for the encore, Blister in The Sun which was a Femmes hit, and was filled with the eclectic mix that is Gano's trademark. There were so many musical influences but the funky guitar and blaring horns on Wave and Water brought The Talking Heads to mind and was all I needed to buy the CD. (Wave and Water)
The title cut,Under The Sun, and Here As a Guest were just two others that stayed with me long after the show. I had more audience issues with people paying money to ignore that artist and I'm wondering if I'll go to this venue again. At one point Gano sat at the piano at the back of the stage and asked "Who can't see me now?" and followed that with "It's OK, it's only the people who weren't listening anyway".
After the show we walked into Washington Square Park and saw a young group called The Dead River Company who really impressed. Usually an 8 member band they had only acoustic guitar, mandolin, french horn and cello but their original music was fun and had compelling lead and harmony vocals.
Norah Jones: Sept 24th @ Le Poisson Rouge
Norah's new CD The Fall, which will be out in November, was produced by Jaquire King, most recently noted for producing The Kings Of Leon, and from what I gathered from various sources, including her introduction at this show, was intended to appeal to a younger audience. Whether it accomplished this goal remains to be seen, but from my perspective I didn't hear anything that jumped out and made me say "Wow!".
I had some issues with the venue and the crowd (an "industry" crowd many of whom were not there to hear music) so this may not be my definitive opinion on the material, but for this evening I was not moved. I have all of Norah's CD's and have seen her numerous times but did not stay for the full set. Her cover of Wilco's Jesus etc. was the high point of my evening but even her cover of Johnny Cash's Cry Cry Cry seemed uninspired. (Jesus etc.)
Considering all the peripheral distractions this could be a case of "Norah, it's not you it's me" but that remains to be seen as well. I still love her music, it just didn't do it for me this time. It happens.
Roseanne Cash: Sept 23rd WNYC "Soundcheck" (plus Bebel Gilberto in conversation)
I had the great pleasure to be in the small audience for John Schaeffer's "Soundcheck" radio show when he welcomed Roseanne Cash, Bebel Gilberto and author Tom Moon (1000 Recordings to Hear before You Die) to discuss, and in Roseanne's case perform, the topic of musical legacies.
Considering that the parents of Roseanne and Bebel are musical icons, the topic would always be relevant, but it was particularly relevant at this time because Roseanne is about to release her new CD The List, which features songs culled from the list of essential country songs that her dad, Johnny Cash, gave to her when she was a teenager. He felt that if she was going to pursue a career in music that she needed to know these songs.
Roseanne and band performed I'm Movin' On (Hank Snow), I Miss The Mississippi and You (Jimmie Rodgers), Long Black Veil (Lefty Frissell) and Sea Of Heartbreak (Don Gibson). The CD includes some guest appearances like Jeff Tweedy on Long Black Veil and Bruce Springsteen on Sea Of Heartbreak, whose parts were taken by Roseanne's husband/producer, John Leventhal, for this performance. (Sea Of Heartbreak)
In between songs, John Schaeffer asked assorted relevant questions including if she had a list for her children. She said she's still deciding if her list should be only American songs or be more inclusive. She said if she includes the Beatles it'll become an entirely different list. I'd want to see the inclusive list.
Some audience members were also allowed to talk about the songs that they'd like to see live on in their children's lives. The Beatles Let It Be and Led Zeppelins Stairway To Heaven were two, and author Tom Moon added John Lennon's Imagine.
Moon and Bebel were featured in the first half of the show discussing how the generational music highway is now a two way street. Bebel talked about how she rebelled against the music of her father and began listening to The Beatles, which was not on the parental approved list, but as she became more musically aware she was drawn back to that music by her father's guitar. Tom Moon added the story of how a dad sharing Led Zeppelin with his son, was introduced to The White Stripes by his son.
It was about as fascinating an hour as a music fan could spend. (see show)
Guy Davis w/Samuel James opening: Sept 16th @ Music On Main Street (Woodbridge, NJ)
In case you didn't know, I'm the booking agent for this series. When I booked acoustic blues man Guy Davis, I told his agent I wanted to book another act with Guy to help fill the room because we're new, on Wednesdays and these type of acts were not yet drawing well. It's a challenge. He suggested I take a look at one of his young artists, Samuel James. I told him I really needed a known commodity that would draw some fans but that I'd take a look at his guy.
The next morning I e-mailed the agent and said something interesting had happened since the night before.... I had become a big Samuel James fan. I decided to trade some drawing power for some reduced expense and book an unknown who I felt would blow the roof off the place. Good call!!
Both of these artists cover early blues artists like Robert Johnson, Skip James and Son House, write original material, mostly in early blues styles, and do an occasional contemporary tune. Guy Davis did the title cut from his new CD, Bob Dylan's Sweetheart Like You, and Samuel covered Leonard Cohen, although I would not have known if he hadn't said so. (Guy & Samuel)
Rather than tell you what I felt about the show and have you suspect that maybe I'm not completely unbiased, I'll tell you what other people said. First out of the church was Tim who comes to many of our shows. He shook my hand and said "It'll be tough to top that show!" Jazz singer Karen Egert said "Absolutely fantastic! I loved it". My friend Chilly called me the next day and went on for 20 minutes saying he can't remember the last time he enjoyed a show so much, he could not pick which artist he enjoyed more because they were both so great; but if I booked them again, he'd come and bring a bunch of friends. I have 20 other similar reactions and I now have a new appreciation for the term "back by popular demand"!
Union County Music Fest: Sept 11/12 Clark, NJ
This years Music fest was moved to Ashbrook Park which is just over ten minutes from my house. The lineup included Tommy James and The Shondells (think of one of their hits...they did it), Third Eye Blind, The Alarm, Gin Blossoms, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Pete Yorn and many more. It a fantastic two day event with lots of family activities, food and an over abundance of free music. They get a good chunk of sponsorship money and pick up the balance with taxpayer funds which does expose them to some criticism, but it's very well run and if I could vote in Union county, I'd support the festival. (Kenny Wayne Shepard)
I should add that the music is narrow in scope and designed to appeal to white "classic rock" baby boomers and younger white alternative rock fans. I know there are black and Latin folk in Union County, I've seen them, so what's up with that? Actually, with the amount of money and effort put into this festival, it could be way cooler with some musical diversity. Look around this site if you need some ideas.
I didn't see all the acts, including Third Eye Blind (just got too tired), but my wow moments were Kenny Wayne Shepards rockin' blues set and when the Gin Blossoms covered Elton John's Rocket Man. Really Beautiful. I've seen Pete Yorn before and loved him, but he didn't move so much me this time. There were some sound issues which didn't help. The Alarm and Glenn Tilbrook both sounded really good. Below: The Alarm - Peter Buck
John Fogerty: Sept 2 @ South Street Seaport
John Fogerty's new CD, The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again, is a collection of American classics by an artist who has penned more than his share of classics himself. Backed by an 8 piece band this free show at the Seaport included many selections from the release including Garden Party (Rick Nelson), When Will I Be Loved (Phil Everly), Back Home Again (John Denver) and Haunted House, an older tune made popular by Jumpin' Gene Simmons.
Since it was a free show I suspected he might only promote the new CD, but he did a full set which also including many of his own classics including Proud Mary, Born On The Bayou, Fortunate Son and Bad Moon Rising. He amusingly slipped in the lyric "there's a bathroom on the right" which has been a common and long standing mis-interpretation of the lyric "there's a bad moon on the rise". (Born On The Bayou)
Considering that 18,000 people will pay for tickets to see him at MSG, it was surprising that only 2 to 3 thousand showed up for this free show. Maybe lack of promotion or maybe people thought it would be like a 3 song "in-store" performance, but regardless, it was 2 to 3 thousand very satisfied fans.