I’m tired. It’s Deja Vu all over again. Didn’t we just do this last year? Will Kimbrough brought Brigitte DeMeyer along to The Northwest this time to promote her new album, Savannah Road. Will and Brigitte collaborated on this soulful collection of 13 songs. Will’s backing vocals and harmonies blend so well with her sultry voice.
The week before, they toured California with other gigs scheduled in Oregon and Washington; a cancellation sent them home to Nashville for a few days before resuming their tour in Portland and Seattle. Pat and I were tasked with driving them back up to Seattle after their Portland gig at The Doug Fir Lounge. Of course, when I say “task”, I mean it was truly our pleasure to transport our musical heroes around Portland and Seattle.
The audience at Doug Fir was supportive and enthusiastic. We were thankful that quite a few people showed up on this Wednesday night; the show didn’t start until 9:00.
Unfortunately, Brigitte caught a bug on her way over from Nashville and started to lose her voice. She sang a few beautiful songs from Savannah Road and Rose of Jericho, but yielded to Will to finish out the show. They usually take turns showcasing their own music and playing duets.
Will’s setlist included songs from Sideshow Love and Willie Sugarcapps as well as songs from older albums (not in order–I wanted to sit back and enjoy the show this time around and not scribble in my journal):
Sideshow Love / Mr. Lee / Mud Bottom / Trouble / Let The Big World Spin / I Want Too Much / Diamond in A Garbage Can / Goodnight Moon / Godsend / Another Train / Wash and Fold / Horseshoe Lake / Piece of Work
I’m sure there are some I missed, but that gives an idea of the liveliness of the set.
The next morning, we packed up the truck with gear and the five of us, including our friend Lori (whose birthday party Will played last year). We headed to Bellevue, Washington. They were scheduled to appear on a radio show 3:00 at Bellevue College. Traffic and a slow draw bridge increased our drive time by about a half hour. We barely made it, but the program directors quickly got them ready for broadcasting. Check out the audio here, about 26:40 min into the broadcast. http://kbcsweb.bellevuecollege.edu/playlist/player/?code=201502051500&hidesel=true
I am so impressed by the way they both can just go with the flow in these crazy, stressful situations. The whole trip seemed down to the minute everywhere we went. Will and Brigitte just sat right down, plugged in and started the show. Amazing. When they warmed up with a quick sound check, Will belted out “Trouble” and I watched the radio crew’s faces light up and their jaws drop to the floor. Yeah. We know.
Will was on point and played comic relief to Brigitte, whose voice was now a whisper. She spoke a little about her new album and let Will lead with three songs: Trouble, (Willie Sugarcapps), Mud Bottom (Willie Sugarcapps) and Emotion Sickness (Sideshow Love). They were going to end the show there, but had a little more time. Brigitte helped him as he read lyrics off his phone for Mud and Moss, his Birthday song for Lori last year. We had a blast watching them and trying to keep from laughing aloud in the studio’s living room (it was located in a small house). Ethan Anderson from Massy Ferguson is also an instructor at the college. He joined us briefly, but had to get back to class. We were happy he showed up to support this fantastic duo.
We then headed out across I-90 to Seattle where, after a snafu at the Hilton with reservations, we had about 15 minutes to stuff Will and Brigitte into a taxi and get them to the Royal Room in Columbia City for sound check. We finished getting ready while we waited for another friend, Kenny, to join us. We took Uber in to the Royal Room and were pleased to walk in and see lots of people we knew and a full dining room.
Brigitte allowed Will to run the show this night, as she needed to rest her voice. She did join him for a few songs and backed with her guitar and sang for a few minutes.
Will was the funny man tonight and kept us entertained with stories about his dad, growing up a Democrat in Alabama (he and his friends who moved away are lovingly referred to as escapees) and other anecdotes from his full and fascinating life.
But the music was foremost, and once again he blew us away. He uses a little Regal guitar from the 1930’s, which is small enough to take with him on the plane. He made that thing sing, and he raked over the frets with his copper slide to whoops and applause from the crowd.
Besides playing tunes from Willie Sugarcapps and Sideshow Love as he did the previous night, Will dove deep into his prolific catalog and tested some new songs for a future record:
Philadelphia, MS / Diamond in a Garbage Can / Goodnight Moon / Godsend / Horseshoe Lake / Glory Be / Big Sister / I Don’t Like It / Star / another about his dad called I Hear Your Voice, and an improvised Gotta Pee song for Lori and Kenny when they stepped out for a few minutes. He also made another attempt at a few verses of Mud and Moss which cracked everyone up. Here are the original lyrics to the version he played in Bellingham last year:
Will played for almost three hours to an elated audience. It was the best show I’ve ever seen him play.
We were honored to be a part of this short tour. Now, it’s time to rest and recover before heading out to another show.
I’m so happy to announce that Nashville singer/songwriter Will Kimbrough is coming back to The West Coast, for the third time in just over a year. Last time, he came in June with Rodney Crowell and Jedd Hughes. This time, he’ll bring Brigitte DeMeyer, another Nashville-based singer/songwriter whose sultry voice and genre-crossing Americana songs soothe the soul.
Take a listen:
Check the links above for tour dates–California end of January, Oregon and Washington early Feb.
I’ll see you in Portland on Feb 4 and Seattle Feb 5. California and Southern Oregon friends, please clear your calendars and hit a show or two.
It was one of those Yin-Yang, bittersweet days. Our Mexican-American friend Ralph passed away a few weeks earlier and we attended his memorial service on the afternoon before the Los Straitjackets show. He died in the midst of doing something he loved: selling his folk art at a local art shop on the weekend of Dia De Los Muertos. Not only did Ralph paint beautiful folk art, but painted several variations of ornate skulls and skeletons for Dia De Los Muertos that he was selling that day.
In such a perfect, almost supernatural coincidence, Los Straitjackets played The Tractor the evening after Ralph’s memorial service. We told his loving partner Nancy about LSJ, who wear Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling masks and play instrumental surf music. She was happy that we were going to do something so strangely appropriate after the service. Ralph would have joined us if he could. Maybe he did, in spirit. The happiness and revelry of the night balanced out the somber atmosphere of the day.
On with the show…
Although I had already claimed Southern Culture on The Skids as the best show of the year, I knew I’d probably eat my words when I heard Los Straitjackets were coming to town. The two bands even have their own collaborative album out entitled Mondo Zombie Boogaloo and toured together last year.
Los Straitjackets have been a favorite of mine ever since I saw them a few years ago in Stanwood’s Slow Foods Roots Music Festival. They are a part of my musical family tree–artists I have grown to love that have a common ancestry in roots rock, who have either collaborated together or branched out with various cousins of that genre. LSJ have also gained a huge following in Mexico, and played to 50,000 people in Mexico City last year, two nights in a row!
To give you an idea of their musical style, here’s a fun one from their album, Jet Set:
After the memorial service, we had just enough time to change and Uber down to Ballard. The traffic was reasonably light for a Friday, so we had plenty of time to grab some hearty food at Hattie’s Hat. We first paid homage to Ralph with a big shot of tequila and lime.
Our friend Dean arrived earlier and saved us a spot at our favorite table, right up front, stage right. Thanks, Dean! Soon after, the first band set up.
Miss Mamie Lavona The Exotic Mulatta and Her White Boy Band strutted out to the stage to hearty applause. I didn’t realize this was a local Seattle band. I’ve seen their name pop up a few times (pretty memorable!) and I believe they’ve played with LSJ in the past, but didn’t know the treat we were in for. The band this night consisted of Miss Mamie on sultry vocals, Hugh Jardo’hon aka Eric Ray Anderson on electric ukulele, with other members on trumpet, keys, drums, upright bass, and clarinet. Their jazzy, cabaret-style music took us way back to New Orleans. Miss Mamie’s downright sexy aura was mesmerizing. The band was excellent, with fabulous solos on trumpet and clarinet. They covered some old songs, but also included their own numbers, including a humorous one called “Flat Stanley”.
Los Straitjackets, in their self-aggrandizing fashion, took the stage to a capacity crowd of cheering, whooping fans. Everyone crushed forward as the band donned their matching instruments and egged on the audience with their arms raised in a plea for more noise and applause.
They wasted no time as they dove into “Pacifica”. Here’s a video from a show last year in NYC:
“Casbah” is one of my all-time favorites, with the boys lined up bopping their heads in unison, turning sideways.
Eddie and Greg’s solos were bloody scorching. It was so exhilarating to be that close and watch Eddie’s fingers at work.
Pete was also a kick on bass and had complex runs while mugging for my camera, as evidenced in the first picture, top.
Drummer Chris Sprague, aka Sugarballs, had furious solos, especially on “Sing Sing Sing” and also played to the audience’s applause by standing, waiting to hit the last beat, etc.
Deke Dickerson, in a straw cowboy hat and red jacket joined them, adding some super vocals to their instrumental music. They have an album out which is a collaboration with Deke on old instrumental favorites, such as the Hawaii Five-O theme song (actually sung by Sammy Davis, Jr. in the seventies) and to some of LSJ’s own instrumentals with new lyrics. The LSJ album, entitled Deke Dickerson Sings the Great Instrumental Hits is a hoot. I laughed my way through LSJ’s original first song, “Fury”, where Deke decided a big-time wrestler’s voice would be appropriate singing the lyrics. They played this one at the show, but first Deke asked the audience to clear a path down the middle. He growled the lyrics in his best wrestler voice, jumped off the stage and eventually picked up a hapless audience member and flung him around in his arms, wrestler-style. It was fantastic, and really got us going. Meanwhile, the band was onstage tearing it up, with a nasty solo by Eddie halfway through the crazy song.
He played several songs with them, also including the 50’s version of “Miserlou” with lyrics. He first started off playing in the familiar up-tempo version, made famous in the movie Pulp Fiction. He stopped after shredding a few seconds on his own sparkly DiPinto guitar (LSJ’s model with Deke’s name on it) and said he would do the earlier version–which we would like 50% less than the one we all knew. Ha
I’m just now learning more about Mr. Dickerson, and I must say he is truly a renaissance man. Along with Los Straitjackets, he is doing his part to preserve roots rock for future generations. Check out his website and learn more about this multi-talented fellow.
Deke left the stage to LSJ for several more songs.
Besides being expert instrumentalists, LSJ’s showmanship and faux bravado just added to the entire entertainment experience. We were completely immersed in their performance.
Los Straitjackets are now in the midst of touring with the great Nick Lowe for their Quality Holiday Review. In a twist of fate, Ian McLagan, famed for the band Faces, just passed away early December. He was supposed to join them. They will have a bittersweet tour, I’m sure; but nonetheless it will be the show to see if they play your town. Check out their tour dates and cities on Nick Lowe’s site here: http://nicklowe.com/
A few more pics:
Los Straitjackets are currently touring the West Coast and are making their way to Seattle this Friday, November 21, at The Tractor Tavern! Be there. It will be THE BEST SHOW of THE YEAR. Yes, I know I already said Southern Culture on The Skids was the best show, but I’m pretty sure Los Straitjackets will trump that show.
Not quite sure? Here’s a link to a previous show:
On Hallowe’en, we said goodbye to a beautiful little private club in grand style. It was one of those interesting, quirky venues that only a handful of people knew about. We only saw a couple of other shows here, but instantly fell in love with its rustic beauty and great acoustics. It was a bittersweet evening, knowing that the place was closing for good.
The Believers, an alt-country band originally from Seattle, now reside in Nashville. The duo (Craig Aspen and Cynthia Frazzini) opened the show and encouraged the costumed revelers to dance. Their music was definitely dance-worthy and their beautiful, soulful harmonies filled stable-like space.
Take a listen and a peep of “Gimme Some Love”:
Heavy on harmonica, Aspen adds a dark and bluesy touch to “Let It Be What It Is”:
Dancers twirled around the wooden floor in colorful costumes and masks. We felt out of place in our street clothes, but still felt welcome in the intimate club. We knew and recognized a few people and met some new friends by the end of the night.
I asked Pat, “Who is tending bar tonight?”
“No, Snoopy The Dog.”
I wished I’d taken a picture of him. You’ll just have to use your imagination.
A scary Swedish silent movie played on a wall next to the stage. A BBQ truck fed the hungry outside in the courtyard.
During the intermission, they entertained us by inviting people to whack a cowboy boot piñata, full of tiny booze bottles:
The unrecognizable Johnny 7 showed up as Frank ‘n’ Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show with his girlfriend Little Nell:
Next up was The Dusty 45’s, a Seattle treasure. Their claim to fame, besides rocking Seattle for the past decade, includes touring with Ms. Wanda Jackson in support of her revitalized career. Billy Joe Huels, founder and lead singer/guitarist/flaming trumpeteer, also hosts an annual fundraiser concert called Gimme Shelter to support DESC (Downtown Emergency Service Center). Other members of this amazing band have their own impressive resumes. See their stories here: http://www.dusty45s.com/about-the-band/
More revelers packed the dance floor as The Dusty 45’s entertained us for about two hours.
Here is a taste of their original roots rock “Chase Your Dreams” which showcases each member:
The big finish usually involves a flaming trumpet. I’m thankful Billy Joe only figuratively burned down the house!
I ran out of time to write a proper blog, but wanted to share some pics and videos from three terrific bands we saw on Oct. 24 at The Tractor Tavern. Common denominator of these bands: HARMONY!
Bordering on psychedelic rock, prog. rock, very edgy at times.
Kyle Henderson: Vocals, rhythm guitar
Patrick Boyer: Lead guitar
Tyler Osmond: Bass, vocal harmonies
Brennan Allen: Drums
Pop rock and soul, with a Shins vibe–mixed with some Nashville twang. Unfortunately, the blue stage lights washed out most of my pics and gave me a headache! Had to move to other side of the stage. Sorry, boys. I included a couple of fun videos below. One, “Katie Queen of Tennessee” won Nashville’s Best Video award for 2014. We really loved their unique sound.
The Wild Feathers : Ricky Young, Joel King, Taylor Burns, Preston Wimberly, and Ben Dumas
Vocal harmonies are king with this talented group. Genre-crossing rock, alt-country, Americana sounds.
We saw them for the first time last year when they opened for Willie Nelson. Instant LOVE. I was surprised to see them in such a small venue this time ’round. Their energy onstage is infectious, and almost too big for this little Tractor. They packed the house. Such a rare treat to see this band up close.
“Left My Woman” shows off the impressive vocal styles of each singer/guitarist:
Day 1: Friday, October 3
Massy Ferguson and Star Anna at The Sunset
It was an unusually warm October evening, with temperatures hovering around 70 degrees. We were excited to get down to Ballard on this first night of the Macefield Music Festival, a two-day celebration of northwest music, art and comedy. Check out their website for more information about the festival, venues, and artist lineup.
The first band on our schedule was Massy Ferguson, playing The Sunset at 7:00. The show time was a bit early, considering it was a Friday. Lots of people don’t get out of work until at least 6, so I knew the crowd would be a bit thin this first night of the festival. For us old peeps, though, it was like getting the Early Bird Special.
This is how Massy Ferguson got to Macefield:
The Sunset was in the midst of remodeling. I hardly recognized the place. Instead of the Chinese restaurant red velvet wall paper, the walls were adorned with shiny wood paneling. A new wall broke up the long, rectangular space, separating the future bar from the stage. A makeshift bar on a folding table held a bucket of bottles, ice and a few hard liquor choices.
The three members of Massy Ferguson (Ethan Anderson, Adam Monda, and Dave Goedde) loaded in while a paucity of people took their places around the stage. Tony Mann, keyboardist, was visibly absent; stage right, where he usually played, was left empty. Tony is currently hanging out in a Costa Rican cantina enjoying a tall cool one, most likely with a little umbrella in it and a wedge of tropical fruit attached to the rim.
Massy Ferguson opened with the rocker “Long Time No See” from Hard Water and hit two songs off their new EP, Backwoods, including the title track “90’s Darlin'” that has some cool Seattle references. They also included a couple of nameless new tunes, which was a pleasant surprise. More fans arrived as the band moved through the short, 45-minute time slot.
The trio was energized and really upbeat tonight, filling in that empty space with lots of great rock solos from Adam and blasting rock drum beats from Dave.
Ethan’s powerful vocals and bassline punched through the amps, encouraging more people to peek around the wall and join the fun. His borrowed Rickenbacker bass shone in the blue lights. Pat asked me if he could have one. “No.”
Check out the downsized Massy Ferguson at a venue near you and “Like” them on Facebook.
After the show we saw Jay Kardong, pedal steel player for a few local bands, including Massy Ferguson from time to time. We chatted with Jay, Adam and Ethan for a bit before going to dinner. Jay’s grandpa, Dr. Kardong, always comes up in conversation. Dr. K. brought Pat into this world and was their family doctor for years. Jay has made his own path in music and is famous for a couple of firsts: We are 99.99% certain he is the only person to ever do “The Worm” on the stage of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, original home of The Grand Ole Opry; He was also part of the first band to ever play the top of The Space Needle (Outside! On top!) with Sera Cahoone for SubPop’s anniversary special. Yes, Mudhoney played there, too, but Sera and Jay played before them. They also spoke of their adventures touring with their bands and going to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland during a big music festival there a few years ago. After hearing their stories, I will not be sticking one toe in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.
Jay also mentioned he’ll play with Ole Tinder Saturday, and things went downhill as we exchanged suggestions for what he might bring or wear to the event in order to really stand out, such as stilts (which would be a true challenge for any pedal steel player) and a kilt, or possibly a more unconventional kilt made of clear plastic wrap. It’s always a joy spending time chatting with them.
Pat and I walked back to The Sunset after briefly checking out The Sonics who were killing it on the KEXP mainstage to a packed crowd. Our friend Dean said they had the “same sound and raw energy that made them the Godfathers of Punk!”
Among the local music and Seattle scene celebs walking around was John Keister of The 206 and Almost Live fame. Pat introduced us and I told Mr. Keister a story of how we’re so old that I remember my grandma making a dry remark after seeing the first episode of Almost Live, back in the mid-80’s: “You know that show, Almost Live? Well, it’s almost funny!” I think Grandma coined the phrase. We loved that show, and it’s great to see The 206 back on TV with some of the original cast.
Here’s a sketch from The 206:
Jeff Fielder, guitarist extraordinaire walked by (check out this great interview by KEXP’s Jacob Uitti here). He played a set at Conor Byrne Friday. I wished we had time to see him. I recognized other artists, including Ryan Granger from The Grizzled Mighty, working the door at The Sunset.
Star Anna, whom we haven’t seen in quite some time, quietly took the stage to a growing crowd. She played a couple of songs from her recent album entitled I Hate You and others from The Sky Is Falling, a new download-only collection. Star thanked the audience for their hearty applause after each song. She is a little shy, but has such a powerful energy when she sings. It just crawls right into the soul and lingers well after her performance has ceased. She asked us if we like Robyn, the Swedish pop diva, who had the big hit “Call Your Girlfriend”. Although it was originally recorded as a pop/electronica song, Star said the lyrics are so sad; so Star took the pop song with sad lyrics and turned it into a sad song–with sad lyrics. The rest of her band stepped back and let her play it with just an acoustic guitar. Oh, Star’s voice gave me chills. The crowd hushed up as she pulled them in.
Here is a version of “Call Your Girlfriend” that she performed on KEXP–see what I mean?
Cheers and applause followed after a short pause, akin to a collective gasp. Her dark humor continued as she thanked the audience and said in a sing-songy voice, “This next song is about dying!”
It was getting hot; the packed room added to the stuffy atmosphere. I needed some fresh air and water. Star’s so amazing, though, I hated to leave. Check out her website for music, videos, and show dates and GO. She’s a local gem.
Day 2: Saturday, October 4
The Swearengens and Ole Tinder at Conor Byrne
Laff Hole Comedy at Hattie’s Back Room
We made the incorrect decision Saturday evening to drive to Ballard, park, and take Uber home at the end of the night. The festival started around noon this day, so we should have known that we would not find a place to park, as people arrived early and stayed for the duration of the festival. We circled around Ballard Avenue and extended our search several blocks away to no avail. It was approaching 7:00, and I knew The Swearengens were loading in.
Forfeiting the show because we couldn’t find a place to park was unacceptable. Pat sensed my growing anxiety and kicked me to the curb, festival wristband firmly intact. He would meet up with me much later, after parking about half a mile away. He knew he would never hear the end of it if I missed The Swearengens again. I love this band, but bad timing and Pat’s work/travel schedule prevented us from seeing them for almost two years. Here is a 2012 review I posted for Randomville of The Swearengens at The Tractor. We made an attempt in August, but the stars were crossed that night, as we already had plans to see Massy Ferguson (see Massy’s review and my run-in with The Swearengens here).
I entered Conor Byrne solo, which felt a little weird, but I immediately saw familiar faces in the audience. I grabbed a pint of red and snaked my way to the front where I ran into Moe Provencer, and noticed that her Jackrabbit partner Aimee Zoe was setting up her drums. Aimee was drumming for The Swearengens, and both would be playing with Ole Tinder after that. Fantastic! The pair can also be found jamming with Jealous Dogs: Seattle’s Only Pretenders Tribute Band.
Meanwhile, Fredd Luongo, lead singer/songwriter for The Swearengens was onstage plugging in his acoustic guitar. I pointed at him with both hands and exclaimed triumphantly, “I made it! I made it!”
Fredd smiled and said, “I better not f*ck up!”
He had nothing to fear. If they played air guitars, covered Swedish rap (yes, it’s a thing), or [reader: please insert optional colorful phrase here], I wouldn’t have cared. I was just happy I finally made it to the show.
Friday’s setlist included songs from their 2012 EP Devil Gets Her Way, their latest album Waiting on the Sunrise, and other songs that I hope will show up on a future album, including this song, “‘Merican Woman”:
Another orphan song,”You Pissed on My Heart” is one of my favorites. It got my attention the first time I saw them at The High Dive a few years ago. The bitter song flows with acidic lyrics and splashes of dark humor (groan–sorry, I couldn’t resist).
The Swearengens definitely rocked the country songs tonight and got back to basics with a streamlined, four-person band. Aimee Zoe was smiling and spirited on drums. Soren Godbersen had some searing country-rock guitar solos. Fredd backed him on acoustic and sang his heart out tonight. Bassist Kirsten Ballweg is a former member of The Black Crabs and the founding member of The Dee Dees, an all female Ramones cover band. Kirsten had her Ramones stance going all night. We need to get to a Dee Dees show one of these days. Check out their website for show times.
Lots of dancing ensued throughout the lively set, and the house was packed. They finished big with the blues-soaked rocker “Bleeding Blue” from Waiting on the Sunrise.
The Swearengens are back in the studio recording a new EP, due early next year. Catch them at The Green Frog in Bellingham November 8th, and at The Sunset with Massy Ferguson and Deception Past in Ballard November 15th.
Ole Tinder was up next. Aimee, Moe and Jay backed Mike Giacolino, who also played a solo set that afternoon. Ole Tinder has that classic country sound. People continued to dance as Ole Tinder wound through their set with a couple of songs from Loways and many new ones I hadn’t heard before. I hope a new album will be out soon. Here’s a review of Ole Tinder from 2012, the first time I saw them.
“Labor” was a great song with a powerful message. Mike Giacolino plays a solo version here:
Tony Fulgham, singer/songwriter for Jackrabbit and wife Daisy joined in on the fun. Wes Amundsen, bass player for The Black Crabs, also showed up and gave support to his musical compadres.
After the show, we said goodbye to the boys and girls and hugged it out, with hopes of seeing them again soon. It felt like a musical family reunion.
We hoofed it to Hattie’s Hat for the Laff Hole Comedy Night in Hattie’s Back Room. The lineup included comedy shorts on video screens by Black Daisy, several local comedians, a Last Comic Standing contestant, and headliner John Keister. About 30 people crammed in booths and tables around the makeshift stage (consisting of a piece of rug on the floor and a cardboard sign on the wall). We enjoyed hearty laughs, knowing smiles, and occasionally suffered a few eye-rolling groans. It was all good fun, though, and we definitely got our entertainment value this night.
I hope Macefield returns next year. The lineup was superb; the energy of the artists and crowd was truly invigorating. We enjoyed the two-day event, and only wish we had time to see more artists.
I know, I know. The year ain’t over yet. When the show ended Saturday, all I could say was, “That was the best show of the year!” I kept repeating it into the wee hours and into the next week. I guess I should say it was the best show of the year, so far, in a small venue.
The warm Ballard evening started with an interesting and delicious meal at Stoneburner, conveniently situated across the street from The Tractor. In the summer months, they offer outdoor seating and open-air window tables throughout the restaurant and bar, attracting the sidewalk strollers’ attention. We took the only little table left inside the bar. Inside, the wood-paneled walls and intricate details and furnishings harkened back to an earlier era. I ordered a cocktail that included suze, a French liqueur infused with a bitter root. It was…different–not sweet, but a little floral. We also shared a meat and cheese tray and managed to gobble down almost everything on it: piles of thinly sliced salami and prosciutto; a large strip of soft cheese; little mounds of pickled cucumbers, candied cherries, grapes and baby carrots. We also shared a nice salad with a champagne vinaigrette.
We took our time with dinner and still had a few minutes to stop by Hattie’s Hat for a gigantic, hot homemade brownie and ice cream for dessert. SO good. I felt like a hedonist.
Inside The Tractor, the crowd pushed forward. The first band, Johnny 7 and The Black Crabs was ready to go on stage. We eyed our favorite table stage right, but it was full. We meandered to the other side and found our friend Dean near the backstage gate that led to the loading dock. We re-introduced ourselves, as we hadn’t seen him since last December at The Big Sandy show. There was also a table on his side, which we found we liked even better this toasty evening because the outdoor breeze coming from the loading dock funneled its way toward us.
The re-invented Black Crabs have a few new members now. There is a lot of band member swapping and sharing in Seattle. Johnny Stuart, lead singer and guitarist, now works with a new bass player named Wesley Amundsen and drummer “Crazy Mikey” Daugherty, but occasionally brings in former members as guest musicians. Brigitt Rains, formerly of The Swearengens, now sings with Johnny on a few songs.
It was a treat to see The Black Crabs again. They played my favorites from their previous albums as well as several new ones. Their rockabilly sound is so appealing and authentic. The band performs mostly originals and a few covers, including the catchy opener, “Say Mama”. The trio blasted through 16 danceable numbers, but tonight the crowd was too packed to allow the space needed for two-stepping, Western Swing, or any other kind of twirling ’round.
The Black Crabs ended their show with “Blast Off” with Johnny edging closer to the crowd, holding guitar above their heads and rockin’ out while Wesley tilted his bass on one side and rode the thing while continuing to slap it and moved the audience into a frenzy.
Now the audience was well-primed for Southern Culture on the Skids.
We had not seen Southern Culture on The Skids (S.C.O.T.S.) before, but knew they played The Tractor and other venues in Seattle for several years. Originally from South Carolina, they have been going steady since 1983. They have also played with Los Straitjackets, including their big Halloween party/tour/album last year called Mondo Zombie Boogaloo. Our friend Dean told us before that this was a must-see band. We were just happy to have another free weekend and time to see some live music.
The week before the show, I checked their website and watched some of their crazy videos. The big wigs and go-go boots worn by bass player Mary Huff immediately reminded me of Kate and Cindy of The B-52’s. Some songs also reminded me of the silliness and party style of The B-52’s with titles like “Double Wide”, “Camel Walk”, and “Daddy Was a Preacher But Mama Was a Go-Go Girl”:
Their music, led by guitarist Rick Miller in a seersucker suit, was a quirky blend of surf, punk, blues, rockabilly, roots rock, and kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll. He had us completely mesmerized as his nimble fingers slid over his fret board delivering scorching solo runs. Drummer Dave Harman stood at the drum kit and pounded away, while keeping up a rapid-fire surf beat. He sported a nice bowling shirt at the beginning of the show. He quickly removed it as things heated up and exposed his wife-beater t-shirt with the screen-printed phrase, “Free Mustache Rides”. Even funnier was the fact that he had no mustache. Mary’s turn on bass was seemingly effortless as she thumped out fast, repetitive bass riffs and kept her cool, only showing the heat when powdering her nose and checking her giant bouffant wig on stage between songs.
Although the music stood alone and was entertaining in its own right, there are some hilarious traditions that happen at a S.C.O.T.S. show. One is, if you are dressed in appropriate attire (extravagant and colored wig, go-go boots, 60’s dress or possibly a light blue tux), you may be invited up on stage for a little dancing.
If you like fried chicken, you might be asked to serve (throw) it to audience members during their song “Eight Piece Box”.
When Rick played “Jack The Ripper” he shredded that guitar in an extended solo and went all Jimi Hendrix on us. He played his guitar behind his head, held it out over the audience, and eventually laid it down–not to light it afire, but to sit on it and make it scream. Bizarre, hilarious, and fantastic, but without losing the quality of the blazing solo.
We were so engaged in the entire evening, we didn’t realize that it was almost 1 am. Time had no meaning this night. After their outrageous performance, we thanked each member and asked them to sign a copy of their latest CD entitled Dig This. Each member was so appreciative and friendly. We’ll be sure to hit their show next time they come around. I listened to CD with the ragtop down that next week. I dug that.
Check out S.C.O.T.S. tour schedule–mostly Southeast dates the rest of the year.
Tom Petty hasn’t played The Gorge in four long years. Last time in 2010, we had a pretty negative experience which had nothing to do with Tom’s fantastic show. The disorganized crowd management system sent the entire ticket-holding population through a very narrow funnel of bag checks and scans which delayed entrance at least an hour; hundreds of people missed the opener, Joe Cocker, altogether. We arrived early and were fortunate to get to our seats partway through Cocker’s mind-blowing set. We also had trouble with drunks that walked on chair seats in front of us, and more than once fell into us. I literally caught guys falling so I didn’t get smashed underneath them. Our view of the stage was also partially obscured by a big curtain, although the ticket info never stated that when I purchased them online. After seeing Tom in such intimate spaces as The Troubadour and The Fonda Theatre, our expectations were low this time around. As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised.
Pat and I always “rough it” in The Gorge campground. We create a makeshift camp by taking a large tent fly and extend it off the back of our Explorer and set up a small table and camp chairs, protected by sun or rain.We bring a cooler and have snacks before and after the show. A double air mattress fits in the back. It’s fairly comfy, although sleep is minimal due to the loud campers surrounding us that stay up till the wee hours. Potty time means trudging several yards through rows of campers to the honey bucket zone. After the show, it doesn’t smell so great. That is to be expected, though, and we deal with it because it beats the nearly three-hour drive home at midnight.
This show, though, was our best experience so far, surprisingly due to a communication snafu with our friends’ VIP tickets. Our Bellingham buddies L and K had the fortune of staying at Cave B Inn, a beautiful hotel, restaurant and winery with additional cottages nestled into the basalt cliffs, like caves. As an added bonus, they purchased VIP tickets, which offered early access in a separate entrance and choice, third-row seating.
After we set up camp in the rain (it was predicted to clear up by concert time–rain was another first for us here in the desert), our friends picked us up early so we could grab tickets and head back to Cave B for wine tasting and dinner before the show. We were able to get our general sale Will-Call tickets (10th row) right away. They were not able to pick up their VIP tickets because of a print error between the marketing campaign email and the information received at the ticket window as to the ticket distribution time. K, who had arranged for the tickets, immediately called the customer service department and left a message after politely arguing with the ticket window agent who insisted they would not be able to pick up their tickets for another two hours, even though he showed the agent the email stating they could pick them up at three o’clock. The customer service rep called him back within a half hour and asked what it would take to remedy the situation. K said, “Four passes to the Cliffhouse Lounge should do it.”
After a luxurious time at Cave B where we enjoyed wine tasting and a delicious dinner, we received wristbands for the VIP Cliffhouse Lounge with air conditioning, flush toilets and a screamin’ view of The Gorge and purple sunset. We could only see the back and side of the stage, but the desert view and cool breeze made up for sitting on those metal chairs among the crowd of thousands of “commoners”. We missed opener Steve Winwood completely, but we saw him here in 2008. We could hear his music from our perch, though. We cooled off and watched the first half of the Seahawks game, too, before walking down to our assigned seats for Tom Petty’s show. I could get used to this. Thanks, L and K, for letting us tag along in style!
Tom’s Gorge show was a sing-along mix of Greatest Hits, threaded with some new songs from Hypnotic Eye, which hit #1 on The Billboard charts and received a 4-star review in Rolling Stone. He also threw in a few rare gems from the past: “Into The Great Wide Open”, “Hard to Find A Friend”, and “Yer So Bad”.
The light show was fantastic and colorful–I wondered if they purposely lit them in Seahawks colors. The lights were the best I’ve seen there with any band. Large viewing screens on each side flashed with lots of close-up shots or interesting graphics throughout the evening.
The boys were energetic and played to the audience. Each member of the band had their moment to shine. Mike and Tom moved around the whole stage and made sure we all got a good look at both of them. Tom’s vocals were top-notch and never faltered. His sneering lyrics on the new “American Dream Plan B” brought to mind earlier material from the 1970’s. His faithful disciples sang along on cue as he raised his arms in triumph. Tom toned it down a notch for “Rebels” and brought out a beautiful acoustic guitar. It’s such a lovely song to hear live. He apologized for not being so talkative this night because he said he had a lot of songs to play for us. Mike’s guitar solos were phenomenal, especially on Mojo’s bluesy “I Should Have Known It” and a favorite classic, “Refugee”. Also, Mike and Tom switched out guitars almost every song. We lost track of how many we saw! Some I recognized from previous shows, but there were quite a few new ones in the stack this time.
The Gorge crowd was also pleasant. The people in our row and surrounding us were polite, friendly, and not completely drunk. We all sang along with the boys and batted at balloons and beach balls, adding to the summer fun. As predicted, the sky cleared and the stars shone brightly above us.
Here’s a review from Todd Hamm of The Seattle Times and Tom’s setlist as it appears on his website:
So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n Roll Star (The Byrds cover)
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
American Dream Plan B
Into The Great Wide Open
I Won’t Back Down
Tweeter and The Monkey Man (Traveling Wilburys cover)
U Get Me High
Hard To Find A Friend
Yer So Bad
Learning to Fly
I Should Have Known It
Runnin’ Down A Dream
You Wreck Me
I always get a little misty-eyed during “American Girl”, knowing this is the last song of the evening. Tom and the band reserve a burst of energy for this song, making it a fantastic, explosive conclusion to the night. So bittersweet.
We said goodbye and trudged along the path for what seemed like an hour, back to our campsite. We had arrived in the afternoon to a fairly empty field, and now it was completely full. Walls of RV’s, trailers and tents surrounded us. Where the hell was our truck? We ended up walking another 20 minutes or so up and down the aisles of vehicles searching for our campsite. The campground needed some colored flags to mark the rows or something. Finally, Pat’s good sense of direction guided us to the right location. Exhausted, we slept for a few hours before heading home at sunrise.
Another beautiful summer sunset at Marymoor Park set the mood for the fans of Ray LaMontagne. A mixed crowd of young and youthful happily lazed on the grassy field, chatted in the food and drink lines and hung out in the reserved section. My friend and I were looking forward to a girls’ night out together; the setting and music made for a perfect evening.
We arrived a little late after enjoying a relaxing dinner in Redmond first. Our 6th-row seats were waiting for us when we strolled into the park and followed the path to the tree-lined venue.
The Belle Brigade were onstage playing their hearts out when we quietly took our seats. Most prominent was drummer/frontwoman Barbara Gruska, whom we really enjoyed watching. Her drum style reminded me of the enthusiastic Aimee Zoe of Jackrabbit. Her brother Ethan Gruska played electric guitar and both also backed Ray LaMontagne later that evening. They have a new album out called Just Because. Their poppy music is underscored with beautiful harmonies from the siblings.
Soon after, Ray LaMontagne entered the stage as the rest of the crew found their places. The crowd cheered, and stragglers quickly found their seats.
Ray dove right in and hardly spoke to audience during the first half of the set except to say a brief thank you here and there. He might have been quiet, but on this night, he was definitely the frontman. He gave it all to us, and seemed very focused and intense as he belted out one song after the next. By the end of the night, the sweat was pouring off him. That voice–so unusual and raspy, high and sensual, just rang out over the rest of the skilled band. His music was a mix of energetic, psychedelic pop and a few low-key beautiful folk songs and some old soul. Ray played just about every song off his new album, Supernova before exploring the rest of his catalog.
He finally warmed up to the crowd and asked if they felt alright tonight, and if they wanted to get up and dance. Loud cheers erupted, followed by a rush of mostly females to the foot of the stage. The lucky dozens (including my friend and I) that pushed to the front experienced a more intimate show. Lots of bouncing and dancing ensued. The faithful fans sang along and cheered. Ray’s searing vocals gave me goosebumps when he tilted his head back and hit the high notes of the chorus in “Trouble”. Oh, Lord! The audience went crazy during this, his signature song from a decade ago. Ahh, just perfect.
- Alan Rickman
- Ann Wilson
- Ayron Jones and The Way
- Benjamin Doerr
- Big Daddy's Place
- Big Sandy
- black crabs
- Bob Dylan
- Brent Amaker and the Rodeo
- Brigitte DeMeyer
- Chateau Ste Michelle
- Columbia City Theater
- Concert Season 2005
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- Conor Byrne
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- Darrell's Tavern
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- Dusty 45's
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- Emmylou Harris
- Ethan Anderson
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- Fremont Music Scene
- George Harrison
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- Old 97's
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- Randy Hansen Band
- Redhook Brewery
- Rod Stewart
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- Ryan Purcell and The Last Round
- Slim's San Francisco
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- southern culture on the skids
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- Steve Martin
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- Tagaris Winery
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- The David Wax Museum
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- Todd Snider
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- Vicci Martinez
- Weird Al Yankovic
- White River Amphitheatre
- Will Kimbrough
- Willie Nelson
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- Yellowstone Country Guardians