Aplscruf's Music Blog

Diary of a Married Groupie

Latest Happenings…

Lots of great music happening all over the world right now and an the near future! Here are just a few picks…

Will Kimbrough and Brigitte DeMeyer’s tour moves across The Pond. Paul Kerr of Blabber ‘n’ Smoke added his two cents to the stack of glowing reviews on this duo: https://paulkerr.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/brigitte-demeyer-will-kimbrough-mockingbird-soul/ See Tour Dates for a show near you.

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Japandroids

Japandroids, a Vancouver-based punk band, invaded the West Coast, including a stop in Seattle this past weekend. They’ll head to Europe mid-April with a gig at Melkweg in Amsterdam before continuing the tour in UK into the first week of May. They return to Europe in June to play a few more gigs including Spain and Italy.

Oliver Gray , Americana music promoter (I hereby dub him Americana’s Duke of Winchester), is visiting SXSW.  I’m looking forward to his take on the scene. Here is last year’s post: http://olivergray.com/south-by-south-west-festival-2016/

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Jesse Dayton is heading West after SXSW to Seattle’s Tractor Tavern. The man is a beast on guitar and puts on an incredible, entertaining show. Jesse has a new album out called The Revealer. Here’s my review of his show with John Doe a few years ago: http://nodepression.com/live-review/john-doe-reigns-triple-door-seattle-wa. Dayton was featured in No Depression in October: http://nodepression.com/article/unsung-heroes-americana-music-jesse-dayton-real-country-music

John Doe will also tour this summer with a few stops up north.

Jeremy Nail was also featured in ND this month: http://nodepression.com/article/jeremy-nail%E2%80%99s-new-album-climbs-above-health-struggles

Jenny Whiteley, Canadian folk artist, was recently nominated for a  JUNO award, Canada’s version of The Grammys for her latest album, The Original Jenny Whiteley. Awards ceremony is in April.

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Dean Owens, a man from Leith–a Celtic Americana  artist via Nashville–has a new album, a movie in the works, and a new single called “Julie’s Moon” on iTunes with a chance to donate through Marie Curie.Check  Dean’s Facebook Page for more info and make a purchase to support this favorite Americana artist.

Kilkenny Roots Festival  happens 28 April – 1 May in Kilkenny, Ireland. Always a quality lineup, many artists from America. Western Centuries, a top-notch country band from Seattle, will attend this year.

Massy Ferguson’s April show at The Triple Door in Seattle will be a sell-out event. The annual show is a must-see for Ferguson fans. We just saw them play a lively set in a suburban venue called Capps Club, just blocks from home. It’s nice to finally have some quality  music venues outside of the city limits.

Speaking of suburban venues, McMenamins offers a variety of music throughout its Oregon and Washington properties. We are lucky to be minutes away from Anderson School where Fernando, McDougal, Jesse Dayton, Massy Ferguson, Ian McFeron, Sean Rowe, and Aaron Lee Tasjan have played–just to name a few artists since its grand opening over a year ago.

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Jeff Finlin’s brilliant new album The Guru in the Girl is due in May, and I’m giddy with anticipation for the rest of the world to hear it. The album is a perfect balance of darkness and light; of regeneration; of love and loss. It embodies poppy folk songs to naked, soul-baring blues. The haunting title track stirs and elevates the soul.

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Flight to Mars

Flight To Mars is landing at The Showbox May 12-13 for two RAWK shows with Mike McCready. Proceeds support Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

March 20, 2017 Posted by | 2017, Alt-Country, Americana, aplscruf, Brigitte DeMeyer, Canadiana, Flight to Mars, Folk, Japandroids, Jeff Finlin, Jenny Whiteley, Jeremy Nail, Jesse Dayton, John Doe, Kilkenny Roots Festival, Massy Ferguson, McDougall, McMenamins, Music, No Depression, Oliver Gray, Seattle Rock, The Tractor Tavern, The Triple Door, Western Centuries, Will Kimbrough | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Aaron Lee Tasjan was Smokin’ at Anderson School

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Brian Wright and Aaron Lee Tasjan

It was another one of those nights where we looked around and wondered where the hell everybody was. Why wasn’t the entire city stuffed in this old gym watching this talented band from East Nashville? It was a free show! Just walk in, that’s all they had to do! It was a Wednesday in Bothell, for one thing.

McMenamins, an Oregon-based hotel, brewery, and restaurant chain, recently opened another fine facility here in Bothell, a neighboring town about 30 minutes northeast of downtown Seattle. The old Anderson School property has been transformed into a beautiful hotel, a large restaurant, several intimate bars and outdoor spaces, a pool with a tiki bar perched above it, a movie theater, and music venues. One venue is in a classroom-sized space; another, an outdoor stage in the courtyard; and the main venue is located in the old gym–or maybe it was the old cafeteria. Regardless, you know the look: a big box with high ceilings. It’s a good space for wedding receptions or class reunions, but an awkward space when you, as a band, have to play in front of a paltry crowd of 25, seated ’round a few round tables. Unfortunately, this is where Aaron Lee Tasjan and his band The Stoned Faces were set to play.

It was a beautiful evening, and there were lots of people milling around outside, sitting near the wood fire pits and propane heaters, eating and drinking. Inside, the bars, booths, and tables were fairly full for a Wednesday. We ate dinner outside first, and made it just in time to see the band load in on the low stage at the front of the gaping venue.

The two-set show started around 7:00.

Aaron Lee briefly introduced himself and explained how he is from East Nashville, not that Other Nashville…and dove into the first set with E.N.S.A.A.T.: “East Nashville Song About A Train”. Here’s a similar version he played at Red Clay Music Foundry:

“Junk Food and Drugs” shows off ALT’s guitar pickin’ prowess:

“12 Bar Blues” not to be confused with George Harrison’s lil’ ditty, “For Your Blues”–This humorous song had to do with the twelve bars the narrator in the song frequented. Watch below as he sing-talks his way through each bar.

One cannot help but make comparisons to Todd Snider, his East Nashvillian neighbor and occasional stage partner. Influences are found in his humorous anecdotes, drug-saturated characters, and even in a few of the melodies. More than once, I leaned over to husband Pat and whispered, “This could be a Todd song!” But Aaron Lee has a voice and a skill on guitar that goes unmatched. His upper register has a clarity to it that gave me chills, and at times, reminding me of Rodney Crowell. His nasty garage riffs and blues-laced jams were dazzling–techniques likely honed from his days with New York Dolls and Drivin’ and Cryin’. This was a rock band at times, under the heavy influence of East Nashville.

During the short intermission, both Brian and Aaron Lee greeted their fans and seemed appreciative to those who did make it to the show. More people trickled in by the time they jumped back on the stage.

“In My Life” the Beatles cover, was the first song of the mostly acoustic second set. It was a sweet rendition–just Aaron Lee, his beautiful tenor voice, and his acoustic guitar.

The spotlight then shifted to Brian Wright, a singer-songwriter and skillful guitarist in his own right. His voice surprised me. It had a rich, deeper tone that evoked emotion.

Just like Nashville needs a train song, they also require a murder ballad. Brian’s ballad is called “Maria Sugarcane”:

Brian also gave a shout-out to the late great Guy Clark and covered a moving rendition of his song, “El Coyote”.

Brian stopped to take a sip of his drink. Someone yelled out “Whiskey?” He turned, with a comedic pause and said, “It’s almost summer. It’s tequila–I’m not a savage!”

Meanwhile, Aaron happily picked along in support, adding harmonies where required. Wright had a fan in the sparse audience who knew all of his songs and requested one he hadn’t played in a while. He obliged, and told her that when the song is over, she’ll either thank him, or he’ll have to apologize. He donned his harmonica and played seemingly without any foul-ups, since she let out a whoop and applause at the end, along with the rest of the crowd.

During this second set, more people wandered in and took their places at back tables or stood along the sides by the bar. Maybe a total 50 people attended. It was so surprising, considering there was no admission fee. The double doors were propped open, letting their bluesy, twangy sound flow into the courtyard.

“$66.00 Blues” was part of the Big Finish of the evening. They brought up the rest of the talented band and jammed their way into Tom Petty’s “Refugee” and back, topping off the the fine set with a big ol’ cherry.

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ALT and The Stoned Faces: Brian Wright (guitar, vox), Jordan Solly Levine (drums), Aaron Lee Tasjan (guitar, vox), and Keith Christopher (bass)

Check ALT’s website for current merch, more information and updates regarding a new album dropping in October, and other tour news.

Check Brian Wright’s website for more info and purchase his new album, Rattle Their Chains.

Read more about Aaron Lee Tasjan and his band here:

http://nodepression.com/album-review/aaron-lee-tasjan-heads-east-nashville%E2%80%99s-songwriting-new-wave

 

June 3, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Alt-Country, Americana, Brian Wright, East Nashville, McMenamins | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Richmond Fontaine’s Swan Song in Seattle

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Richmond Fontaine played a final show in Seattle at The Sunset on May 14, 2016. L-R: Dan Eccles (guitar), Willy Vlautin (vocals, guitar), Freddy Trujillo (bass), Sean Oldham (drums). Photo Credit: Alicia Rose

It was a night full of contradictions. I’d never heard of Richmond Fontaine until just a few months ago. The Portland band have been around over 20 years. Last Saturday, they played a final show in Seattle. I’m now a new fan of a band that is breaking up. Great. I’m late to the party–er, funeral once again.

I witnessed a band’s wake before–Seattle’s North Twin, who delivered their own coup de grace just down the street at The Tractor about six years ago. I prefer it that way; at least there’s some closure. The death of Richmond Fontaine will be prolonged a few more months; but here in Seattle, they celebrated their long life surrounded by friends and musical family. There will be at least one more show in Oregon, and an Ireland/UK farewell tour in October before they pull the plug. They’re ending amicably and leaving us with a parting gift: a fantastic new album fittingly titled You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To.

I binge-listened to RF’s albums over the last few weeks, trying to catch up before we hit the show. Frontman and acclaimed author Willy Vlautin‘s lyrics paint desolate pictures of the downtrodden, lonely, broke, the unlucky, the abandoned–the outcasts of society. Tales of addiction, break-ups, desperation, and downward spirals are common themes throughout the ten albums. Some characters are likable losers who were dealt a bad hand in life or have paid dearly for their bad choices. But there is also a feeling, just a glimmer, a hint, that once in a while, one of those effed-up kids he writes and sings about is going to be alright. Each day that I listened, I always circled back to their latest  release, the thirteen songs on You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To. It’s depressing as hell at times, and yet I wanted to hear it again and again. I connected and empathized with the characters. The up-tempo melodies of some of the songs offset the melancholy lyrics. Balance.

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Willy Vlautin – Illustration by Nate Beaty

I also read Willy Vlautin’s first of four books called The Motel Life. Although the heartbreaking story and sympathetic characters absolutely gutted me, I wanted to read more and was sad that it had to end. I plan on purchasing the rest of his books. Feel free to do the same here: http://willyvlautin.com/store/ Rumor has it, his fifth book is in the works. According to Willy, when his personal life is falling apart, he writes songs. When he’s healthy, out jogging, he’s probably writing a book. Strangely, I had his name and the book’s title in my phone under “Books to Read” for a year–a strong recommendation from my friend Kari, artist and loving partner of David Corley, who also spent time with Willy and Co. in Ireland. I never made the connection until just recently.

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Be sure to purchase their merch!

I also was told by a friend, Oliver Gray (who is mentioned in the liner notes of at least one of RF’s albums), that Willy’s books must be read in order of publication. Oliver is not only a superfan, but a venue owner, promoter, music critic, and author. He has hosted RF shows in England for many years (RF has a huge cult following in The UK and Ireland) and befriended the band in the process. I just met Oliver in person while we were on holiday near London in April, just days before I found out about RF’s show date in Seattle.

One thing I love about live music is how it brings strangers together, bonding over the common love of a band. I made another new friend after I announced on Facebook I was attending this show. Allison, a superfan from Canada, traveled to Seattle with her husband Tony, and we met up at Hattie’s Hat for a chat beforehand. We have several mutual, music-loving friends, so it was only natural that we should eventually meet and instantly bond (while our patient husbands sat idly by). Although she’s been a fan for years, she had never seen RF in person, so she was thrilled to experience this final show.

The day of the show was dark, gloomy, and rainy–so contradictory to the blue-sky day before, which sizzled Seattle with record-breaking temperatures.

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We made our way to the very front of the stage, right after the doors opened. There is nothing like standing in the front row of an intimate venue. I love watching the band, up close and personal. I like catching their nuances: the onstage banter and inside jokes; a grimace while hitting a big chord; a tapping foot; a sly, knowing smile when a rare wrong note is hit; nimble fingers finding the frets; glances and nods when things are going well. RF was no exception. One could tell they have a healthy, brotherly bond with each other, even though their band was on its way out.

If they love each other so much, why are they breaking up? Read and listen to Willy Vlautin’s answers here:

Willy Vlautin was interviewed recently by Casey Jarman of Portland Monthly : http://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2016/4/15/willy-vlautin-on-richmond-fontaine-s-farewell-and-the-price-of-living-hard

While in Ireland, Willy also spoke with Martin Bridgeman on a radio broadcast regarding the breakup, the new album, and the crafting of his songs and stories: http://kclr96fm.com/folkroots-interview-willy-vlautin-152016/

The mature audience knew their band and were there to give them a final sendoff with support and love. Although I was a newbie here, I still felt accepted and comfortable among them. It was fun to watch the crowd, too, as many sang along with Willy or nodded their heads in acknowledgement to a song, and loudly clapped and whooped after each one.

Richmond Fontaine began the set with my favorite song off their new album called “Wake Up Ray”. Here is a live version from Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Willy’s lyrics tear at my heart:

Wake Up Ray

It ain’t no use, ain’t no use
Maybe some guys just ain’t meant to
I was living in Montana once and I was married
For a while it rolled so easy
But she got to where she couldn’t stand our place
She got to where she cringed at the way I slept and ate
I bought her a bird, a finch she called little Joe
And then one night she blew into a rage
In a snowstorm she ran outside and opened up the cage

Wake up Ray let’s get out of here
This town’s done nothing it’s clear but try to do us in

Wake up Ray, the sun’s coming up and still I can’t stop thinking
How can someone you love so much grow against you so?
All I did, all I did was try to toe that line
The same line you see everyone else toe
Now all I remember is running through the snow
Looking for Little Joe as the wind blowed

Wake up Ray, I need a cup of coffee in a bad way
Let’s get out of here this town ain’t done nothing
It’s clear but try to do us in

The Seattle show included most songs from their latest album and also dove into tracks from the last two decades.There were some last-minute changes to the original list, too. Their stage performance was tight, energized and faster-paced than some of their recorded songs–fueled, I’m sure, by the enthusiastic audience. Early on, longtime fans shouted out song requests, and Willy acknowledged a few with a wide-eyed nod, or laughed at their persistence.

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Willy would stop once in a while and explain the origin of a song, such as the dark and ominous “Hallway” from 2003’s Post to Wire. He said he used to meet a friend for breakfast at a cafe, and one day he didn’t show up. Willy went to his house and found the friend in his tighty-whities, hiding in the hall with a gun. Apparently, he was on a coke binge and had been up for three days. “He almost shot me that day. I never met him for breakfast after that.”

“Let’s Hit One More Place” from the new album was dedicated to Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5, who headlined this night. Willy said he’s been a fan of The Minus 5 for 20 years, and channeled Scott when he wrote this song.

“Two Friends Lost At Sea” was based on another true story. One of Willy’s favorite Portland punk bands was Dead Moon. When people are excited about a band, they like to tell their friends. Sometimes, that leads to a wonderful shared experience. Other times, like in Willy’s case, it ruins the band for them. He made the mistake of introducing a girlfriend to the band. Later, she broke up with him. The next time he saw her was at Dead Moon’s show. She was making out with some new guy in the front row. Ruined.

Although he seemed a little shy onstage and mostly sang with his eyes closed, he was very personable, friendly, and humble in the merch line before and after the show. He greeted each fan, listened intently to their stories, and seemed grateful to them for showing up. There’s a self-deprecating charm about him, as if he is genuinely surprised by his fame and the fact that his books and music are treasured by so many people around the world.

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Freddy Trujillo and Willy Vlautin

Dan Eccles on lead guitar, just rocked. He was so entertaining to watch as he grimaced and head-banged through the set, his long hair trying to keep up with the beat. His nimble fingers delicately found each chord on the slower folk songs, but slammed the power chords with a full-body gyration. He had a minimal amount of pedals, but made excellent use of them to alter the sound to match a pedal steel guitar, add some serious fuzz, or the emphasize the twang in his Telecaster.

One of the last rocking songs of the evening, “Lost in The Trees” is from 2011’s The High Country. They also played this song at Kilkenny Roots Festival in early May, and are favorite performers there. Below, you can hear Freddy’s thumping bass, watch Dan shred that Tele, and be amazed at how seemingly effortless Sean is at holding the steady, commanding beat on drums. Willy’s grim lyrics and monotone vocals on this song give it a punk edge.

Near the end, a fan threw a Winner’s Casino (an actual casino and a song from 2002’s Winnemucca) satin baseball-style jacket, up on stage as they played their final song. Willy sported a big grin as he played. They later posed for a photo with the jacket, all smiles. It was a great way to close the night and to find closure with this beloved band.

Like some of Willy Vlautin’s characters in his songs and stories, the band mates are probably going to be alright after the breakup.Willy, Sean Oldham, and Freddy Trujillo are already members of another band called The Delines. Willy is planning to spend some time working on his next book. Dan Eccles also plays in a band with Portland legend Fernando Viciconte.

We can’t go back, but we can look ahead. They’re still with us, just transformed and scattered into new entities.

Bitter and sweet.

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Check out Richmond Fontaine’s tour updates for the rest of the year here:  http://richmondfontaine.com/dates

Listen and purchase their music through Bandcamp here: http://richmondfontaine.bandcamp.com/

I also posted a version of this piece to No Depression here: http://nodepression.com/live-review/richmond-fontaines-swan-song-seattle

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 18, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Alt-Country, Americana, Richmond Fontaine, The Sunset Tavern, Willy Vlautin | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment