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

The Believers Play Oak Harbor Music Festival Sept 3, 2016

The Believers, featuring Craig Aspen and Cynthia Frazzini, are playing Oak Harbor Music Festival this Saturday, September 3 at 7pm. Originally from Seattle, they currently reside in Nashville and are coming back this week for the festival. They’ll join the rest of the original band, including: Dan Tyack, Stevie Adamek, and Garey Shelton.

The free, three-day festival begins Friday, September 2. The motto of the festival: “Inspire Our Community With The Power of Music”. Thirty bands of various genres are scheduled to play, and all ages are welcome. Food, beer, and arts and crafts booths will be available, too.

I’m looking forward to seeing The Believers play with a full band. Aspen and Frazzini played a beautiful set in Fremont in 2014 at private club. Check the review of that wonderful night here and see another video from The Believers: https://aplscruf.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/dusty-45s-and-the-believers-at-a-private-club-in-fremont-wa/

 

August 28, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Oak Harbor Music Festival, The Believers | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Massy Ferguson: Chasing Anti-Heroes and Hitting The Mark at The Triple Door

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Massy Ferguson at The Triple Door June 17, 2016. L-R: Tony Mann-keys; Ethan Anderson-vocs, bass; Dave Goedde-drums; Adam Monda-vocs, guitar (not pictured: Fred Slater-keys). Photo Credit: Jacob Knight

A Massy Ferguson show always turns into one big audience-participation party, but this night was even more festive because each guest received a copy of their new album, Run It Right Into The Wall with the purchase of their ticket. Hence the official name for the evening: The “Everyone Gets An Album” Release Party.

A few weeks before the show, Massy Ferguson hyped it up online, blasting us with Facebook and Twitter posts, videos, teasers, pictures, and album review links. Paul Kerr, prolific writer of the music blog Blabber ‘n’ Smoke recently gave a thumbs up to Massy’s new album, calling it a “solid slice of gritty roots rock”. Check out his lively review here: https://paulkerr.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/massy-ferguson-run-it-right-into-the-wall-at-the-helm-records/

By showtime, The Triple Door was nearly sold out, with only a few empty seats scattered about the venue. People who purchased VIP tickets (a mere $16 more than regular admission) were also treated to a pre-show party and meet ‘n’ greet in The Green Room which included food, signed CD’s, and a cassette (yes, an actual audio cassette) of the new album. Dig out the boom boxes and find a pencil!

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Ethan Anderson: Chasing anti-heroes. Photo Credit: Jacob Knight

Ethan Anderson, bassist and frontman for MF, officially kicked off the night by reading a heartfelt speech about the conception of this album, calling it the record Massy Ferguson was born to write. He spoke of all of the steps it took to get to this point in the life of the band. He spoke of his anti-heroes–those bands who were on the fringe, who didn’t swim in the main stream, such as The Replacements, Wilco, Son Volt, and The Boss himself, back in his Nebraska days. They were his mentors, his idols–just out of reach. Some he literally just missed in a green room or on a stage. Their latest album sonically touches these anti-heroes, but as more of an homage–never an imitation. They have a signature sound, and this one hits all the marks that make them Massy Ferguson. Maybe it’s a little more rockin’ than their previous albums; but as Ethan said, “They always were at their best with rock first, twang after.”

Keeping a band together for ten years is quite a feat these days, especially when one is on the left side of the dial, trying to make ends meet–trying to make it. Roll the video…

Following the speech and video, Nick Foster Band, a seven-piece Americana ensemble, primed the audience for party time. Foster, on acoustic guitar and vocals, shared beautiful harmonies with Jazmarae Beebe. The rest of the band was equally impressive on soulful folk songs and full-bodied jams.

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Nick Foster Band. Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography

DJ Indica Jones kept the festivities going between sets with some great spins from 80’s and 90’s pop, rock, and hip-hop. He involved the audience in sing-alongs and let them finish choruses with songs like Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”. He danced along, grooving to his own beat.

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DJ Indica Jones doing his thang. Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography.

The curtain rose and Massy Ferguson started their long set with five new tracks from Run It Right Into The Wall. All songs on the album except one were written by Massy Ferguson. The exception is “Firewater”, written by UK rocker Dave Woodcock (Dave Woodcock and the Dead Comedians). This up-tempo, jangling rocker fired up the audience as Adam Monda fueled them with his trusty #5 Fender. A makeshift dance floor started in the aisle.

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Ethan Anderson, Adam Monda, and Fred Slater. Photo Credit: Jacob Knight

They continued with some favorites, including “Renegade” and “Backwoods”, the latter receiving help from the audience as they clapped along to the beat.

Another new one, “Dogbone” includes a Creedence-inspired riff. During the song, Rainier tallboys magically appeared on the stage. While Adam dove into a psychedelic solo, Ethan rolled over onto the stage (with his bass, which is quite a feat), grabbed a beer, took a sip, and popped back up. The stage lighting matched the colors of their new album. Bonus.

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Ethan grabbing a Rainier and saving the bass. Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography.

Ethan interrupted the show to mention they have two new t-shirts designed by drummer Dave Goedde in the merch booth. Dave also designed the album’s cool cover. Ethan then threw two shirts out to the cheering audience before raising his Rainier for his traditional toast, in several languages.

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Dave Goedde kept a steady beat all night. Photo Credit: Jacob Knight

“Every time I say Hello, you answer…Hello!” Ethan yelled to the crowd, and they happily shouted along to this poppy tune from Victory & Ruins.

Ethan later dedicated “Set The Sun” to a friend in the crowd who was having a birthday this evening.What a perfect way to celebrate.

“Lagrande” from the EP Damaged Goods featured Tony Mann on keys, filling in for Fred Slater. Tony just recently moved back to the US from Costa Rica, and was a member of Massy Ferguson from its inception. It was great to see Tony play with the band again.

“Atlantic City”, a cover by Bruce Springsteen, reminded Ethan of driving home with Adam after a late night in Roslyn, a tiny resort town east of the mountains. The audience sang along to the somber, repetitive chorus.

Massy Ferguson blasted back from “Atlantic City” with “Front Page News”, an angry rocker, and the dance floor spread into the aisles. They kept the momentum going with “Powder Blue” –always a great song to do near the end when everyone is primed to yell “Powder Blue!” at the top of their lungs on Ethan’s cue.

The last song,  “Into The Wall” allowed the crowd to breathe briefly while nodding their heads to the pensive title track.

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The Almighty Flute! Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography.

Ethan then invited the entire audience onstage, and soon the stage was packed with happy revelers and dancers. He handed his bass to another capable musician while he brought out his almighty flute, a bittersweet sign that the rowdy night was coming to an end. They finished their high-energy set with a cover of “Can’t You See”, but the flute malfunctioned. It was missing an end piece. A roadie tried to do an emergency repair, but it didn’t hold. Ethan tore that thing apart as the dancers and revelers continued on, not caring or noticing that the flute solo was abandoned.

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Big Finish! Photo Credit: Rich Zollner Photography.

Ethan Anderson might have missed his anti-heroes, but tonight, he and the band hit their mark.”They exceeded the hype!” said a friend when the party was over.

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Ethan Anderson, Fred Slater, Adam Monda, and Dave Goedde somewhere in England. Photo Credit: Ethan Anderson

A few days later, Massy Ferguson revived the party and ran it right into The UK the rest of June and into the first week of July. The tour included shows in Bath, Brighton, London, and Scheffield, among others, culminating with a grand finale at Maverick Festival in Suffolk where they shared the stage with the brilliant UK-Americana artist Peter Bruntnell.

See their website for news, merch, and upcoming shows here: http://massyfergusonband.com/

Support the independent artists who venture to your city and play small clubs and venues.  Support quality music.

 

 

 

 

 

July 9, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Massy Ferguson, Rock, Seattle Rock, The Triple Door | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Past Shows, Future Shows, and Cool Projects

I can’t keep up with the shows we’ve attended, nor do I have time to write full reviews, so I thought I’d do a brief summary of some artists to keep in your radar.

Vaudeville Etiquette, psych-Americana sweethearts from Seattle, threw a helluva CD release party on Saturday, May 7, at Neumos. What an absolute party it was. Their sophomore album, entitled Aura Vista Motel represents the polished versions of songs they’ve been playing live for months now.

Although I’ve seen them play several times, the energy they brought to the party was palpable. Their five-person band, co-fronted by Bradley Laina and Tayler Lynn, expanded to eight and exploded with sonic and visual delights.

Check tour dates for tons of shows coming up in June and July here: http://www.vaudevilleetiquette.com/#!tour/ck0q

 

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Last weekend, we saw Ted Leo (sans The Pharmacists) in a solo show at Barboza, the intimate space in the basement of Neumos.

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Aimee Mann and Ted Leo of The Both

It was fantastic to see Ted Leo in such a small venue. We saw the full band at The Showbox back in 2007,  but due to events beyond our control, we had to leave early. It was super loud, too, almost unbearably so. At this solo event, he politely asked the audience if he should turn down the amp on his electric guitar. It was a Greatest Hits Night, but he also showcased a recent project called The Both with Aimee Mann, who was also a surprise guest on a few songs. Their harmonies were gorgeous. In between songs, and even during some, Ted kept us in stitches with little anecdotes and forgotten lines. Afterward, he graciously allowed us to have a few words, even going as far as telling us to tell our college-aged son to do well on his finals and stay in school. Sweet!

Coming up this Thursday, June 9, is a show at Hotel Albatross in Ballard with Portland’s Fernando, Austin Lucas and Adam Faucett . Looking forward to their unique styles, blending alt-country, folk, and Americana.

Next week: Newlyweds Ian McFeron and Alisa Milner will play an outdoor set of their lovely Americana music on the grounds of McMenamins/Anderson School in Bothell on Thursday, June 16.

 

On June 17 we will attend Massy Ferguson’s release party! Super excited for this show. They always bring the fun. See my previous links or their website for more info. Also, their June UK tour dates are up!

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Tom Petty and his band Mudcrutch play The Fillmore in San Francisco Sunday and Monday, celebrating their second album in 8 years, properly titled, 2. No Seattle dates, unfortunately.

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We saw Mudcrutch in 2008 at The Troubadour in Hollywood: https://aplscruf.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/tom-petty-with-mudcrutch-at-the-troubadour-05-02-2008/

More fun at the end of June when John Doe, Jesse Dayton, DJ Bonebrake, and Cindy Wasserman “Brang It” to The Tractor Tavern June 29! This one should sell out.

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Thee John Doe. Photo by Jim Herrington

See my review of John Doe’s show at The Triple Door here: https://aplscruf.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/john-doe-reigns-at-the-triple-door-seattle-june-19-2015/

In July, a few shows to start off the Independence Day weekend with a Bang, including The Paperboys , the MexiCanadiAmericanaIrishFolk band, who will play The Tractor July 1.

The Swearengens, another Ballard Americana staple, will also play The Sunset July 1. If you time it right, you might see both the same night. Just hoof it up or down Ballard Ave.

On Sunday, July 3, those La Lucha-wearing surf rockers, Los Straitjackets will sell out The Tractor.

Down South and other far away lands, more great news:

Austin darling Jeremy Nail’s tour hits Nashville and NYC, among other cities. Fantastic Press keeps rolling in for this talented singer-songwriter.

Jeff Finlin’s new book of prose, The Seduction of Radha is now available. Check his website often for more good news, including new albums, books, and his new organization, Recover.Yoga.

Willie Sugarcapps keeps moving up the Americana charts and is getting great press for their new release, Paradise Right Here.

Dean Owens recently recorded a haunting song called “Cotton Snow”,  about The Battle of Franklin. See Paul Kerr’s Blabber ‘n’ Smoke review which includes more information about Dean’s previous and current projects here: https://paulkerr.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/dean-owens-with-dave-coleman-cotton-snow-single-release-drumfire-records/

He also paid a heartfelt tribute to Muhammad Ali in the audio below. Watch his site or follow him on FB for upcoming projects.

https://soundcloud.com/search?q=scary%20biscuit/louisville-lip-rf

 

Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it all. More fun is on the way, so it’s time to re-charge.

June 8, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Rock, Roots Rock, Seattle Rock | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Makin’ It with Massy Ferguson

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Congratulations go out to Seattle’s own Massy Ferguson, for recently acquiring a UK label, At The Helm Records, to support their upcoming album, Run It Right Into The Wall.

Frontman Ethan Anderson and the boys will host a CD release party here at The Triple Door on Friday, June 17th. The show is nearly sold out, with only a few seats left at this writing.

Soon after, they’re heading across The Pond to continue the festivities.

The UK tour is from June 22nd through July 3rd, and includes a CD launch party. Other show announcements will pop up soon, so check their website or Facebook often for updates.

Their first official video from the album is aptly called “Makin’ It”, and was recently featured on Huffington Post. Read it here (scroll down a bit):http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/chats-with-barenaked-ladies-ed-robertson-wpremiere_us_573a8399e4b07a3866046392

See you at the party!

May 28, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Massy Ferguson, Rock, Seattle Rock | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter Bruntnell’s Nos Da Comrade – Five Stars

Nos Da Comrade - Peter Bruntnell

I wrote a short, five-star Amazon review of Peter Bruntnell’s latest album, Nos Da Comrade (2016). It’s a must-buy for Americana/pop/rock fans.

Check out a detailed, glowing review from Paul Kerr of Blabber ‘n’ Smoke here: https://paulkerr.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/peter-bruntnell-nos-da-comrade-domestico-records/

Purchase his merch through Amazon or directly from Peter here: http://peterbruntnell.net/store.php

Watch the video of the first song  on the album, “Mr. Sunshine”:

 

 

May 26, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Peter Bruntnell, Pop / Rock | , , , , | 2 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.

____________

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

Todd Snider Sells Out

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Aladdin Theater  Portland, OR

4/30/2016

Todd Snider sometimes tells the tale of when he almost sold out to Garth Brooks who wanted to change the lyrics to one of Todd’s songs, “Alright Guy” and record it on his rock album as alter ego Chris Gaines. The lyrics include the phrase, “maybe I smoke a little dope”, but Todd claims, “not that I do, it just rhymes with Pope.” Garth wanted to change the lyrics to something less, uh, damaging to his career. Todd’s friends told him he shouldn’t sell out, but he was “…already thinking about what kind of car I’d trade that fuckin’ van in for!”

Todd is the king of the yarn, a raggedy raconteur. On this particular evening, he told another Brooks tale about how one of Garth’s writers stole Todd’s song, “Beer Run”, claiming that if you change enough words and the melody, it’s not exactly stealing. So Todd, not wanting to have to get dressed up and go downtown and sit through meetings, had a brilliant idea and came up with his own song entitled, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and made sure to follow the writer’s advice. Now, Todd can tell the story in much more detail, followed by a rollicking version of the song in question. Fans lined up in front of The Aladdin Theater in Portland know that. All three shows sold out.

Saturday morning rolled around, and I wasn’t in the mood to drive three hours to Portland in heavy traffic. My weekends are piling up, and I was longing for quiet time at home. P purchased tickets weeks ago, though, so that was that. Also, I feared Todd Snider’s solo show wouldn’t hold up to the ones we’ve seen in the past where he was animated and engaged—and so funny. There were rumors circling about his health and how he’s not the same ol’ Todd when he’s in Hard Working Americans, even though the supergroup rocks. I heard he was feeling better, and ready to take on these three nights in his home state.

When we were about to head out the door, I received a call from our friend C who was headed back home after seeing Todd’s second show. He absolutely raved about how Todd was dialed in, was engaged with the crowd, had the audience in stitches with his stories in between songs, and was musically in fine form. Suddenly, I was ready to take on Todd Snider again. Let’s hit the road!

Off we went, running into snags of traffic in Tacoma and near the border, crossing the great bridge that spans The Columbia and into Portland. We inched our way downtown and relied on GPS to find our hotel. After meeting our friend L at Hair of The Dog Brewery (the best brewery in Portland in our not-so-humble opinions), we headed to the show.

We stopped by The Lamp next door to The Aladdin  first and met a few more friends for a bite to eat. I love the Todd Snider culture. Everyone there in the group met at either a Todd show or some other related show, like Widespread Panic, Phish or Grateful Dead, etc. We actually met our friend L in 2009 at a Todd show in Reno.

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We found seats stage right and settled in. The show started after 8 with Rorey Carroll, a beautiful female folk singer with a sultry, ethereal voice and a sailor’s mouth. Todd came out and introduced her, and mentioned he is producing her album. She had a lanky awkwardness about her that was endearing to the audience, who cheered her on throughout her short set. We enjoyed her set, drawn in by her vocals and ballads as she lightly strummed her acoustic guitar. In between songs, she bantered with the crowd. There were many people who attended all three shows, and they were calling for songs near the end and she argued about which ones she was going to play. “Not the murder song!”

After a brief intermission, Todd Snider came out to hearty cheers and started his long set with “In Between Jobs”.

He spoke of his problems with his back and his arthritis, and how he got to the point where he could only sit down to play. He took a couple months to rest and recover and feels better now. It showed in his performance. He was on point–dialed in, as our friend C said. He was chatty and engaging, honest and self-deprecating. He deftly plowed through song after song, with heart and humor. I only heard one bobble with lyrics, and we must give him credit. In one of the first shows I ever saw him play, he’d forgotten the lines to one of his songs and had to stop and back up. “I forgot the words. But think of how many I remembered!” Classic.

Setlist (as listed on Todd Snider’s Facebook Page) with my notes to the right:

In Between Jobs
Happy New Year
[18 Minutes Into]
[Final Night]
In The Beginning
[HWA Church] – Todd spoke of his time as frontman with Hard Working Americans. He said he enjoyed playing with HWA because he could sing a few lines and step away from the mic as they went into some long jam session. He could nod his head and spin around a little, just 10 feet away from what he used to do in the audience anyway, so why not do it on stage?  But fans of his solo work would knock on the tour bus after the show, confused, offended, and upset that he wasn’t up on stage spinnin’ yarns and playing his acoustic guitar: “Is this what you’re doing from now on?” And Todd would respond, “No, this is what I did tonight.”
Greencastle Blues
[The Last Three Nights]
Too Soon To Tell
[The Last Verse…]
Beer Run
[Garth Brooks Story]
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Is This Thing Working
The Last Laugh
Carla
The Devil You Know – After the song was finished, he raised in arms in triumph like a prize fighter and exclaimed, “That song had a lot of words, too!”
Looking For A Job
[Jewett Sucks]
Doublewide Blues – with one of the lyrics changed to “I don’t get out much anymore since terrorism…”
Vinyl Records
Alright Guy – An audience singalong of the chorus ensued
D.B. Cooper – the ballad of the local hero/villain who jumped out of an airplane with a bag of stolen money, never to be seen again
Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues – one of the songs which put Todd on the musical map in the 90’s
[Drive-Thru Story]
Stuck On The Corner >
Johnny B. Goode – “Most of my songs are based on this song’s melody…”
[Grateful]
[Jerry Jeff Walker Story] which stretched out to a coked-up evening decades ago where Todd was flopping like a fish outta water on Jerry Jeff’s dining room table. The next morning, Jerry Jeff was standing naked over Todd as he lay on the couch, exclaiming, “Never again, boy, never again.”
Mr. Bojangles -Mr. Bojangles in Santa Fe at 3 am – One of those once-in-a-lifetime magical moments when Todd and Jerry Jeff are out in the middle of nowhere, on a deserted street in Santa Fe, and here’s this kid playing “Mr. Bojangles” on guitar, with a hat on the ground, busking for tips. And here’s Jerry Jeff, the author of the song, soaking it all in. Todd thought twice about telling the kid he’s playing the song that was written by the man standing in front of him. When the busker was finished, Jerry Jeff unloaded his wallet into his hat (well, Todd embellished, I believe, when he said his change, his bills, his credit cards, his car keys…), and they walked away. Of course, Todd then played a tender version of “Mr. Bojangles” in honor of his friend and mentor, Jerry Jeff Walker.
e:
Big Finish
Good News Blues
Freebird – Freebird. Yes, he actually played “Freebird”, without irony, and with heart, to finish the evening. A final prize fighter stance, a smile, and a wave goodbye.

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May 3, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, Folk, Rorey Carroll, Todd Snider | , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Corley’s New EP and Tour

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Cover art and design by Kari Auerbach

David Corley, whose triumphant story is now legendary among the world of independent music, has come back from the dead (literally) to produce a new 2016 EP entitled, appropriately, Lights Out. This EP, again produced by Hugh Christopher Brown, is a follow-up to Available Light, his debut album released near the end of 2014.

Where Available Light was quiet and introspective Americana with a couple of rockers, this new EP rocks and rolls, circa 1970. Corley doesn’t hold back on sing-talking his way through each song, with powerful, shaggy vocals in the forefront. There is such a great, up-tempo 70’s groove throughout the whole album. It’s heavy on guitar, organ (with a serious nod to early Petty), and drums, but still as lyrical and poetic as Available Light. He does slow down a bit and sings a country-blues tale of bad timing and missed opportunities on “Blind Man”, which includes the mournful whine of a harmonica, reminiscent of a Willie Nelson song.

Please check out Cara Gibney’s heartfelt article and interview with David, which includes the real-life story behind “Blind Man”, working with Sherman Holmes, and partner-love Kari Auerbach’s artistic interpretation of the album cover: http://nodepression.com/interview/lights-out-david-corley

Listen to and purchase the entire EP here: David Corley – Lights Out on Bandcamp

David is touring Europe starting this week in The Netherlands and moving to Ireland for Kilkenny Roots Festival over the weekend, starting May 1. Check out the incredible lineup here: http://kilkennyroots.com/

Check out David’s full tour here: http://davidcorleymusic.com/shows/

More articles on David Corley:

http://nodepression.com/interview/david-corley-wishes-right-star-and-debut-album-soars

http://nodepression.com/interview/david-corleys-irish-odyssey-moving-past-new-album

Official Video of “Easy Mistake” from Available Light:

 

 

April 26, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Americana, David Corley, Music, Rock | , , , , , | 1 Comment