Aplscruf's Music Blog

Best Show of the Year: Southern Culture On The Skids at The Tractor Tavern 08.30.14

Southern Culture on The Skids

Southern Culture on The Skids

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 Black Crabs: Johnny 7 Stuart, Brigitt Rains and Wesley Amundsen

The Black Crabs: Johnny 7 Stuart, Brigitt Rains and Wesley Amundsen

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.

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Johnny and Brigitt

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.

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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.

Johnny teasing the audience

Johnny teasing the audience

Now the audience was well-primed for Southern Culture on the Skids.

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S.C.O.T.S.

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.

Mary Huff

Mary Huff

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.

Rick Miller

Rick Miller

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.

Guest Dancers

Guest Dancers

If you like fried chicken, you might be asked to serve (throw) it to audience members during their song “Eight Piece Box”.

Chicken Throwers

Chicken Throwers


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.

Butt Solo

Butt 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.

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Check out S.C.O.T.S. tour schedule–mostly Southeast dates the rest of the year.

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September 28, 2014 Posted by | aplscruf, Big Sandy, black crabs, Concert Season 2014, southern culture on the skids, The Tractor Tavern | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys at The Sunset 12.21.13

Big Sandy with Kevin Stewart on Bass

Big Sandy with Kevin Stewart on Bass

I couldn’t stop smiling tonight.  Big Sandy and the boys brought their top-notch show to the intimate Sunset Tavern.  I only wished I knew how to dance.

We began our fantastic weekend by checking in to the very swanky Hotel Ballard, directly across the street to our ol’ stompin’ grounds, Hattie’s Hat and The Tractor.  The boutique hotel just recently opened, and it is fabulous.  Although the nightly rates are a little steep and garage parking is $15, it’s a steal for attending any shows in Ballard.  We could not come close to matching their rates by staying in downtown Seattle and paying over $30 for parking plus taking a taxi to Ballard.  We’ll be sure to stay here again.  Our room was spotless and tastefully decorated, too, with an iron balcony overlooking “our” street.

We got in to town around 5:30 and got settled in.  We decided to go grab a bite at Bastille, a French restaurant just a few steps up the street.  Being the last weekend before Christmas, we wondered if the crowds would be crazy, or if the neighborhood would be quiet.  Actually, the crowds were manageable.  We bellied up to the beautiful bar and ordered a shared meal from a bartender who looked like he came from some glamorous Parisian bar that served Oscar Wilde.  His hair was slicked back and buzzed and he had a respectable beard.  I think I remember his friendly and polite manner from the last time we ate there.  He brought us some wonderful drinks and took our order for chicken and baguettes.  There was a sea salt sprinkle on the baguettes that made them irresistible.  The half chicken was delicately fried and crispy.  A few tiny Brussels sprouts and some rustic potatoes surrounded the moist chicken.  After saying adieu to our genteel bartender, we continued down the street to find dessert.

First, we stopped by The Sunset to see if the crowds were forming, but it was dead.  We checked in and got stamped so we could come back later.

We noticed most of the smaller restaurants and cafes were packed.  We stopped by the very crowded Hot Cakes and picked up a delicious peanut butter cookie that we devoured in minutes.  I think we waited longer in line than the time it took to eat that cookie!

Back to our room.  We cleaned up, donned our western apparel, and headed back up the street to The Sunset.  The audience grew exponentially once we entered.  I could not believe it, but once again, we were able to get two bar stools at the end of the bar.  We get so lucky scamming seats!  We happily scooted in next to a pair of rockabilly girls dressed in leopard prints and beautiful up-do’s.  Next to them was someone I recognized from our first Big Sandy show.  He had a large, colorful neck tattoo and a perfectly coiffed ducktail.  His tweed jacket completed the dapper package.  I took a pic of him at the first show because he got on stage with Big S and sang a rockabilly tune in a death metal pig squeal while Big S laughed. It was so hilarious!  Here is the link of that show: http://randomville.com/live-review-big-sandy-and-his-fly-rite-boys/.  I felt shy when we first got there, and was not ready to introduce myself quite yet.  I did bring my business cards this time, so at least I was a little more prepared to pass around the cards.

We also saw some other people we knew.  We are starting to feel like regulars.  I guess we are, since we have been hitting the Ballard clubs regularly since 2007.  Big Sandy came out of the backstage room and ordered a soft drink at the opposite end of the bar.  He looked our way, and we smiled and raised our glasses to him.  He smiled and did the same.  I should have walked over and talked to him, but the growing crowd surrounded us.   Johnny 7 Stuart showed up.  He opened for Big S in Portland a couple of days before.  Johnny said the Portland show was cool, in the old  and elegant Crystal Ballroom. He also managed to catch X and Blasters at El Corazon the night before.  We had another function that night, so I was bummed I missed that show.  I enjoyed talking with Johnny, and miss seeing him play on stage.  It’s been a while.  We’ll make an effort to see his show in 2014.  Gaby, our Bothell friend showed up with her husband, Marc, too.  Dean, an acquaintance we met at Hattie’s before the first Big Sandy show, also arrived.  Pat recognized him and brought him over.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers

Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers

The crowd pushed forward, and we realized we were right in the middle of a giant group of Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers!  They looked like college students, all buff and beautiful, but with hideous red and green sweaters!  It was fantastic to see the variety and creativity.  I’m sure some were lovingly made by a grandparent.  I took a few pics.

Snowman Vest

Snowman Vest

Country Dave Harmonson was there, too, and was going to play with the opening band, Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer.  Cahalen and crew loaded in while we ordered drinks and a pizza slice.  I didn’t think I could eat a bite, but it was so good!  Cahalen Morrison’s band filled the stage with guitars, steel, drums and violin.  They had a tight country sound and the dancers appreciated their lively tunes.

Cahalen Morrison

Cahalen Morrison

I said hello to Gaby and told her I was glad she made it.  P saw her earlier, and she said she was trying to get off work asap to get to the show.  She knew it would be packed.  Actually, after the pub crawlers dissipated (they were only on the 2nd pub of the night), the crowd became pretty reasonable.  It was probably only ¾ full, and by the end of the night only about ¼ stuck around.  We were perfectly comfortable on our stools and took turns getting up and moving through the crowd.  I also said hello to Country Dave after his show, and again congratulated him on his superb skills on pedal steel.  He’s really a master.  I also told him that Pat saw him at the airport playing his gig, but he didn’t want to interrupt his playing.  Dave said, “PLEASE” stop by and say hi, because he gets bored sometimes sitting in the airport with no one to talk to!  So if you ever see a man picking a guitar or pedal steel at SeaTac Airport, please stop by and pay Country Dave Harmonson a visit.  He’ll appreciate your support.

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Big Sandy loaded in and we prepared for his rollicking show.  I just love his energy.  Here’s a review from last August: https://aplscruf.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/two-big-nights-big-sandy-willie-nelson-and-the-gourds-8-22-8-23-13/ We took our seats and meanwhile, I asked Pat to look up my first Big Sandy review from 2012, because I was pretty sure there was a picture of our tattooed neighbor in my review.  There he was, up on stage squealing away!

Clark, the Death Metal Pig Squealer!

Clark, the Death Metal Pig Squealer!

I zoomed in on the pic to fill the phone’s screen, and slowly moved it in front of him.  He stopped, looked at the pic, looked at me, and laughed!  “Hey, that was a fun night!  Did you take that picture?”  Yes, I did, and I wrote the review, too! “So, did you coin the phrase, ‘Death Metal Pig Squeal?’”  Well, yes, yes I did! Ha! That cracked me up.  I coined a phrase! He shook my hand and introduced himself as Clark.  We spoke for a while about the whole rockabilly culture.  I am so enamored with the scene.  I love the coiffed hair, the beautiful dresses and tattoos.  I took a few pics of the dancers.  I envy their cool looks.  I wanted to dress up after my first rockabilly show, but just didn’t seem to have the nerve—or the tattoos! I love connecting with people at these shows, too.  We’re finally branching out a bit.  We used to just sit there by ourselves and not interact with anyone, and it can tend to get boring in between sets.

Guitar extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and drummer Joe Perez

Guitar extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and drummer Joe Perez

Big Sandy, drummer Joe Perez (aka Lil’ Sandy), guitarist extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and bassist Kevin Stewart were ready to go.  He had a massive setlist, and I think he hit most of the songs on it.  He must have played for about an hour and a half, maybe 2 hours.  I lost track of time once they got started.  The dancers were out en force.  I had fun watching them twirl around.  The girls had such pretty dresses and ta-tas to fill them.  I don’t think I could “fill” those dresses properly! I really wanted to get out there and dance, though.  It was a swing style, with lots of twirling and fancy footwork.

Dancers tearing up the floor!

Dancers tearing up the floor!

He played many of my favorites, including “Miss Tracy”, “Jumping From 6 to 6”,  and “Chalk it Up to the Blues”.  His energized set kept the dancers moving.  He played a couple of acoustics off the latest album, What A Dream It’s Been too, and the audience adjusted accordingly to some slow dances.  Ashley  Kingman rocked his electric guitar again, in his unassuming style.  He’s an expert, and never has to add gimmicky moves to get his musical point across.  I love the explosion of sound. Big Sandy delivers his smooth lyrics through the intro, and then he turns to the boys and lets them go, go, go!

I was disappointed in how few people stayed around till the end.  He’s such a class act, and should fill a larger venue.  It was getting late, though, and I think people like to hit the road before midnight.  We didn’t have far to go, so we were in no rush.  We were glad we stayed, glad we got to talk to some more friends, glad we had a free weekend to get out and let loose!

We talked to Big Sandy (aka Robert Williams) after his show.  He sweat right through his suit, and rightly so, after such a long and electric set.  He noticed we came early and stayed late.  I again told him I wrote about his show a while back and gave him my card this time. We took some pics with him and wished him well.  I also bought a cool t-shirt from Ashley, who also remembered reading my previous review, so that was rewarding.

The boys were headed to Eugene next before returning to California.

It was a perfect birthday weekend getaway.  Thank you, P!

December 28, 2013 Posted by | aplscruf, Big Sandy, Concert Season 2013, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Season 2013 Wrap-up

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Concert Season 2013 is winding down.  I thought I’d get a head start and list some highlights of the year in music.  I still have a few shows I’m hoping to see before the year is up, but my busy schedule might prevent me from posting anything until 2014.  I went to a few shows in the spring and summer that I never blogged about but deserve some mention here.  There are also a few bands mentioned below that I didn’t get to see this year, but I’m hoping will show up in 2014.  Some have new albums out, too.  I’ll keep it short and will give you the basic information.  It will be up to you, dear reader, to click on the links and look up these terrific bands, explore their music and purchase some CD’s for the gift-giving season.  Most importantly, GET OUT THERE AND SEE A SHOW!

Local Seattle-Area Bands: (Mind you, this is an incomplete list of the enormously talented bands in Seattle)

Jackrabbit – One of our favorite little bands in Seattle. We kicked off the year seeing them at The Tractor in January.  The threesome kicks ass on stage.  Never a disappointment. They add new songs to the setlist quite frequently.

Massy Ferguson – A Seattle Rock-n-Roll/Country Rock Darling.  We went to their CD Release Party for Victory and Ruins at The Triple Door.  My Plus 1 and I had a fantastic time sitting in the front row for this performance which was also broadcast live for kids struggling with various illnesses in a local hospital.  Frontman Ethan Anderson gave his all, as usual.  It was the best performance by the band so far, in my opinion, and I’ve seen them play many shows over the years.  We also saw them on a rainy summer evening in Duvall at an outdoor performance.  They jinxed our perfect rain-free summer! A hearty group of fans braved the showers and were treated with another fine show by the boys.  We picked up a cool t-shirt after the show.  Massy Ferguson also frequent some of the wineries in Eastern Washington, so check ’em out in Wenatchee, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla sometime.  Here’s a blog I wrote last year for No Depression.

The Swearengens – Their motto is “The Seattle alt-country band your mama warned you about.”  We try to see this band as often as possible.  I love their big sound.  You never know what will happen at one of their shows: dancing, drinking, special guests and lots of friends joining in on the fun. Oh, and never have a whiskey drinkin’ contest with frontman Fredd Luongo.  You will lose. Their latest album, Waiting on the Sunrise is a treat.  Check out their link and listen or purchase some merch.

Davidson Hart Kingsbery – His self-titled new album is getting some positive, nation-wide press.  We saw part of his show in January, and dug it.

The Rainieros – Another tight country band with a Western swing kicker. Their latest album, Last Call received critical acclaim and was one of the top Americana albums of 2012. We saw them open for Big Sandy in August.

The Ganges River Band – We saw them for the first time at The Sunset this summer.  They opened for Shinyribs and blasted through a clean set of country.  Country Dave Harmonson helped out on pedal steel and electric guitar.  Always a treat.

Ole Tinder – Ole timey country.  We saw them open for Massy Ferguson at Barboza and at The Tractor with Jackrabbit.  Mike Giacolino also has a solo project while Nils Peterson plays in another band called Rose Windows.  JB Kardong also sits in with other bands including Jackrabbit and Sera Cahoone.

The Dusty 45’s – I’ll try to finish up a blog I started of this energetic show.  Billy Joe Huels is THE Frontman.  No one can light a trumpet ablaze, stand on a bass and blow the way he can! We went to a benefit concert supporting the DESC and were thoroughly entertained.

Star Anna  – Opened solo for The Dusty 45’s.  We’ve seen her shows several times.  Her voice will grab your heart and rip it out.  She has a new album out right now called Go To Hell, so pick it up and prepare to be mesmerized by her haunting vocals.

Not-So-Local Bands:

Tom Petty (DUH.) And here’s the latest, if you didn’t check out our trip to Hollywood earlier this year. BEST SHOW OF THE YEAR.

The Gourds – If Tom Petty is my musical Jesus, then The Gourds are my Church.  Always a religious experience.  My soul runneth over at every show, including the latest in August at The Tractor.  One of my Best Weekends Ever.

Shinyribs – Kevin Russell’s solo project.  He has so much creative energy that one band (The Gourds) isn’t enough for him.  If you’re lucky, he’ll open for The Gourds and you’ll get double the fun.  Check out his bandcamp site for a little booty shakin’ music.  We saw him again just two weeks after his stint at The Tractor.  He came back and played at The Sunset!

Willie Nelson – Hurry up if you haven’t seen him already.  He’s 80, but can still put on a class act for 90 solid minutes.  We saw him in August at Marymoor Park.  Tears in eyes.

The Wild Feathers – This big band opened for Willie Nelson at Marymoor and we fell in love with them.  Besides their original tunes, they managed to cover Tom Petty’s “Listen To Her Heart” with my approval.

Big Sandy – Roots rock, rockabilly and Western swing.  Big Sandy’s a ball of energy and the king of smooth.  He plays in Southern Cal most of the year, but tours around the country and Europe, too.  If he shows up with Los Straitjackets (see below), it’s a Must-See show.  We saw him in August at The Tractor.

Los Straitjackets – Eddie Angel’s lucha libre mask-wearing band of psycho surf musicians and one of Marshall Chapman’s (see Marshall below) favorite bands.  Angel was actually the guitarist in Marshall’s band back in the 80’s.  They’re known world-wide for their onstage antics and surf guitar mastery.  I had the pleasure of meeting them at a local show a couple of years ago.  They’re currently touring the East Coast.  Hoping to see them again in 2014.

Greg Townson – Solo artist, Hi-Riser (Meet the Hi-Risers Here!) and Gregorio El Grande of Los Straitjackets.  He can sing a swoon-worthy love song (buy his latest album, On Your Side) or perform a face-melting guitar solo.  Check him out in Rochester, NY or on the current Los Straitjackets tour.  He also joins the bands overseas to Italy, Spain and other countries.

Marshall Chapman – A Nashville treasure and my musical hero.  Rodney Crowell calls her “The Goddess of Tall”.  The first time I saw her was in 2011 at The Station Inn , a Nashville mecca for  singer/songwriters of country, Americana and bluegrass.  All my preconceived notions of Nashville flew out the window that night.  She was REAL.  She was CANDID.  She had bare feet.  And she wore basketball shorts to the performance.  I liked her before she ever sang a note.  Here is my blog of that show (scroll down a bit to find the Nashville section).  She has a new album and a couple of books that are Must-Reads for music lovers.  Check her website for more info and purchase some merch!

My husband, who travels to the Nashville area often, had a chance to see her play again this year at The Bluebird Cafe, another very famous yet tiny Nashville hangout.  Will Kimbrough (see below) accompanied her on guitar once again to promote her new album, Blaze of Glory, which is getting rave reviews.  I was so jealous that my husband attended the show without me, but I knew he would return with her signed CD.  What I missed most were the stories that accompanied the songs.  My husband recounted a few stories to me when he returned.  She also told the audience that this album is meant to be shared with the one you love. Play it in the bedroom with the curtains drawn and the lights low.  By the fifth song, you should be ripping each other’s clothes off.

My sweet husband did bring home a signed copy of Marshall’s CD.  Throughout the album, the instruments stay firmly put in the background, allowing Marshall’s vocals and lyrics to shine.  Occasionally, Mr. Mike Utley, one of  Jimmy Buffet’s cohorts and co-producer of this album, drops in for a visit with an organ accompaniment.  The first two songs offer some good ol’ rock and roll, and one includes The Reverend Todd Snider on vocals.   After that, she pulls in for a sexy slow dance.  A new genre is born, says Marshall: “Torch-song Americana”.  Hear some tunes here.

Will Kimbrough – Another Nashville hero whom I found through Jimmy Buffett.  We’ve seen him perform several times in various locations solo, with Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Todd Snider and with Marshall Chapman in Nashville.  He just released a solo album, Sideshow Love, and will perform in the Seattle-Bellingham area in early January 2014!  More info soon!! A MUST-SEE EVENT!!!

Willie Sugarcapps – An Americana supergroup starring Will Kimbrough- also with new album out this year.  They are getting outstanding press and are currently enjoying a Gulf Shores Shrimp Fest weekend in Alabama.

Todd Snider – Now, The Reverend Todd Snider.  He received his license to officiate in support of gay marriage.  Part folk/Americana, part country, and part rock-n-roll.  He can make a political statement in a song before you know what hit you.  His live shows are a stand-up comedy act with some music thrown in.  He makes you think, laugh and generally just have fun.  He said he isn’t trying to preach to you, either.  He tells these stories because they rhyme.  We also saw him at The Triple Door last year, and I wrote a review for Randomvile.  We saw him at The Zoo this summer on a perfect Sunday evening.  He brought along Hayes Carll, whom I coined Todd Jr. by the end of his set.  He was also a storyteller, and had funny songs that accompanied the backstories.  His voice was a little more country than Todd’s, more akin to Jack Ingraham.  Carll also had some inappropriate songs that he couldn’t sing because of “the children” in attendance.  On his website, he had a ton of videos.  Shawn Mullins, , of the notorious talk-sing “Rockabye” song, was a very pleasant surprise.  His guitar playing was superb, and his other songs rich and interesting.  Sarah Jarosz opened Todd’s show.  I really enjoyed her clear folk vocals accompanied by a fiddler and a cellist, who plucked his instrument like a bass.  She did a Bob Dylan cover of “Ring Them Bells” and it was wonderful.  She only played about a half-hour set, but kept the audience’s attention the entire time.

Tommy Womack – Another favorite Nashville/Kentucky solo artist, a Daddy with Will Kimbrough, and collaborator with many others including Todd Snider.  He has an album out (several, actually), and plays regularly at The Station Inn with Will and Marshall.  He also wrote a humorous and heartbreaking tell-all about his life in the band Government Cheese called Cheese Chronicles.  A very entertaining read.  Visit with him on YouTube every Monday Morning for a cup of coffee (see his website or FB for more info) and pick up your own coffee mug on his website.  “Don’t let the bastards get you down!” I have yet to meet Tommy, but P got to meet him at The Station Inn last year.  I’m hoping to make it back to Nashville in 2014.

Have I missed anyone here?  I’m sure I have.  It’s been a tough year to find time to get out there, so we’ve been very picky about our show dates.  We try to see our regulars first and foremost.  Once in a blue moon we see a new band or enjoy an opening set;  it’s always a nice surprise to add one to our “favorite band” list,

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Barboza, Big Sandy, Concert Season 2013, Davidson Hart Kingsbery, Dusty 45's, Gimme Shelter, Jackrabbit, Los Straitjackets, Marshall Chapman, Marymoor Park, Massy Ferguson, Music, Ole Tinder, Randomville, Roots Rock, Seattle, Shinyribs, Star Anna, Tagaris Winery, The Fonda Theatre, The Gourds, The Hi-Risers, The Rainieros, The Sunset Tavern, The Swearengens, The Tractor Tavern, The Triple Door, The Wild Feathers, Todd Snider, Tom Petty, Will Kimbrough, Willie Nelson | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Two Big Nights: Big Sandy, Willie Nelson and The Gourds 8.22-8.23.13

The Holy Trinity: Roots Rock with Big Sandy, Country with Willie Nelson and Americana with The Gourds.  Two glorious, consecutive nights of live music rank in my Top 5 Best Weekends of All Time.  I’m not sure where they rank in the Top 5; I am sure I’ll post it when I figure that out.

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys

On Thursday the 22nd I came home from a hot and brutal workout, and P was grilling two beautiful salmon tails along with bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden. YUM.  We ate leisurely at the table, and then P asked me a very important question.  Did I want to go to Big Sandy tonight?  DID I want to go to Big Sandy?? WELL!  I’d been thinking about that show all week.  I knew we were going to Willie Nelson on Friday, but we purposely took Friday off to relax and not feel rushed to get to the show.  Thursday evening would be optional for relaxing or going out.  I did not take long to decide; I got ready in record time.

We arrived at The Tractor early enough to get our favorite table (really, we should have our names etched in brass and attached to that little table), right up front, Stage Right.  I recognized some of my FB musician buddies wandering around, but I felt shy.  I wasn’t planning to write an official review this time, so it was hard for me to approach them without a business card or direct questions about the upcoming show.  Then I recognized a woman named Gaby in the audience.  She happens to work at our local grocery store.  I mentioned to her that I have a pic of her from last year’s show and that I wrote a blog.  She then went on to say she is also in a country/western band and gave me her card.  Not only that, but she is German, and we then had more to talk about because our boy was on an exchange trip in Hamburg at that moment.  I enjoyed getting to know her “other self” beyond her job at the grocery store.  I love to learn about people’s passions.  We’ll be sure to check out their show sometime, too.

Before the show began, I worked my way over to Big S to say hello, and see if he remembered my writing about his show last year (check out the link for a more detailed review of his show!).  He said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, thank you for spreading the word about us!” Or something like that.  I had a feeling he really didn’t remember me or my review.  That was ok, I was just happy to be there again, because I knew he would tear it up on stage.

The Rainieros with Liam Fitzgerald and Nickolas Streeter

The Rainieros with Liam Fitzgerald and Nickolas Streeter

The Rainieros (check out their link for a taste of their awesome honky tonk sound!) opened the show and played a nice set of Country/Western Swing, and the crowd filled in.  They left a semi-circle of dance space where a handful of two-steppers twirled around.  We enjoyed their country twang fronted by Liam Fitzgerald and tight sound with Nick Streeter on guitar.  I was so glad I decided to go and that P offered in the first place.  My place is in the audience.  My soul is only satisfied there, looking up at that stage.

Big Sandy was on next and the crowd once again crushed in around us.  I only wished I had my good camera, but knew it was in our boy’s capable hands as he toured as an exchange student in Germany this month.  My old camera worked, but the pics were grainy and blurry, unless I took flash pics; I hated to do that too often.

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Big Sandy had new Fly-Rite Boys along for the ride.  He had his left-hand man Ashley Kingman on guitar, a 20-yr vet, but the drummer and bass player, Kevin Stewart were new to us.  Big Sandy brings such a keyed-up set of in-your-face roots rock.  I just love it.  His smooth voice never falters.  I was in heaven!  I love the energy on the stage and in the crowd.  We share the yin and the yang.  In electrical terms, think of it as completing a circuit–the electrons flow in a circular motion (stage to audience, back to stage, etc.) until the circuit is broken (the music stops and the fans disperse).

Ashley Kingman

Ashley Kingman

Just as I remembered from last year, Big Sandy and his band poured their souls into each song.  Some songs started out with a quieter tone, showcasing Big Sandy’s buttery voice; but then he’d raise a hand, snap his arm out, and  the rest of the band would jump in and explode on the chorus.  My favorite song of the night was one I remembered from last year called “Jumping From Six to Six” which just rocked in that old Bill Haley style. 

He has a new album out now, celebrating 25 years of Big Sandy and Co. called What A Dream It’s Been, an all-acoustic record.  The album includes remixes, remakes and original tunes.  He’s currently touring the Northeast, and will make his way down the East Coast.  Check out his tour dates on his website and go, go, go!

We were starving by the time the show ended, so we drove to Dick’s for a late-night burger.  Always a mistake; I came home with a gut-bomb in the belly and had a rough time getting to sleep.  P wanted to stay up and watch a Seahawks football game, too; so when we finally went out, it was after 2:30.  Ugh.  At six am, the cats were up.  I finally crawled out about 8:00, not being able to fall back to sleep.

At least we had most of Friday to recover.  I stayed horizontal most of the day and just tried to relax.  We had to get ready around 4 or so for Willie Nelson and make sure we had time to eat before the big show.

We got to Marymoor about 6:00, found our seats (4th Row, Stage Right!), dropped off our sweatshirt bag and headed back to the food trucks.  We settled on the “Off the Rez” food truck for tacos and frybread.  The tacos were so delicious, made with a frybread base.  The seasoned meat, light sauce and cabbage rested on it like a tostada.  The frybread dessert included a cinnamon/sugar topping.  That hit the SPOT.

We saw our Bellingham friend L and her family atop the grassy knoll, with blankets, lawn chairs and lots of goodies.  It was great to see her again.  Her high energy and love for living every moment to its fullest is infectious.

I read that Marymoor can accommodate up to 5,000 people.  The venue filled up quickly as we finished the tacos and drinks.  I was glad we paid extra for seats so close to the stage; I wanted to absorb the band’s energy and soak in Willie’s vibe.

The Wild Feathers

The Wild Feathers

The opener was The Wild Feathers, a Nashville quintuplet.  Their country music rocked with three electric guitars, bass and drums.  The four guitarists lined up across the stage and nailed beautiful harmonies, akin to the old country boy bands, only with much more rock.   They seemed honored to open for Willie, too, and thanked him many times during their performance.  Pat purchased their debut album after the show, and we listened to it the rest of the week.  Their clear harmonies shone throughout the CD.  A cool marketing tool they used was to perforate the CD jacket and duplicate the CD on the other side. The song list and liner notes were the same on each side, except at the top left, it said “To Keep”, and on the top right, “To Share”.  After I got home, I carefully tore the jacket in half and shared the other CD with my friend.

After a relatively short break, the canned music stopped abruptly; I knew Willie Nelson was about to come out.  He walked on stage from a back curtain and I jumped up.  “Willie’s here!” I yelled.  He was joined by his “little sister”, 82-year-old Bobbie on piano, his buddy Paul on drums, Paul’s brother helping on other percussion, a bass player and the same harmonica player he had when Mom and I saw him at Puyallup Fair a few years ago, named Mickey Raphael.

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I cannot believe I was lucky enough to see Willie for the 3rd time in the last 6 years.  Although his vocals were more of a low, sing/talk style (I’m guessing he is preserving his vocal chords from the constant touring), his guitar playing was pure brilliance.  He played ninety solid minutes, non-stop, except to let his sister Bobbie play one song on piano.  Willie still stayed on stage during her song, and gently strummed his guitar after getting a sip of water.  He switched out his bandannas throughout the show and threw the sweaty ones into the audience.  I was just two rows back from catching a bandanna and a fan’s hat that Willie wore during one song near the end.  He played his classics: “Georgia”, “Crazy”, “On The Road Again”, a Hank song, “Of All The Girls…”, “Angel Falling Too Close to the Ground”, and a few newer ones—a funny one about not being Superman anymore, and his latest “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die”.  He finished the night with some gospel numbers and brought The Wild Feathers back along with his daughter to round out the chorus.

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Throughout the night, he pointed and smiled directly at people in the audience, blew a kiss (my way, but I think it was meant for the girl in front of me recording a song on her phone), waved, pointed to the sky, and just connected with us.  The man still has it.  I’m afraid if he ever stops touring, he’ll die.  Keep touring, Willie!  What a night. Gene Stout, Seattle Times music journalist, had nothing but love to share about Willie: http://blogs.seattletimes.com/soundposts/2013/08/24/willie-nelson-still-showing-brilliance-late-in-career/

Willie's Big Finish

Willie’s Big Finish

BUT, the night was still young.  Pat wanted to leave a little early to beat the horrendous traffic out of the Marymoor parking lot, but I insisted we stay to the very end.  Who knows if I’d see Willie again, and I wanted to remember him walking off the stage for the last time.

Well, I felt badly when we finally found the car and had to sit there parked for almost a half hour before people finally started moving out toward the road.  What a mess.  There are only two exits out, so the cars just pile up.  I apologized profusely to P, who absolutely hates sitting in traffic, especially since we wanted to try to make The Gourds show at The Tractor.

Once we got on the road, though, the traffic cleared out.  We made it across the bridge and to Ballard in less than ½ hour.  It was now about 10:45, and I knew The Gourds were on stage.   We found easy parking and quickly walked to the Tractor, after changing from flip-flops to cowboy boots and putting on my new Willie “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” T-shirt.   I threw my arms up in triumph when we reached the ticket table and The Gourds were playing their hearts out on stage.  We did it!  Two shows in one night!!  Pat quickly withdrew some more cash while I told our story to the ticket guy who was very impressed that we got to see Willie and THEN came to The Gourds show.  I felt more accomplished than after finishing a triathlon, I swear!  The triathlon of music!  Three shows in two days!  The Holy Trinity of Roots Rock, Country, and Americana!

Blurry Kevin Russell of The Gourds on Mandolin

Blurry Kevin Russell of The Gourds on Mandolin

We tried to move to our little table next to the stage, but alas, it was taken.  We got the evil eye from a girl (my double for the evening) when I tried to stay grounded near the table.  We gave up and worked our way to the other side of the stage by the brick wall.  They added a new sturdy bench along the wall, so we were able to stand on that and look over the crowd.  No one complained, so we stayed put.  We had a great view of the whole band, but my camera just could not capture the view that far away.  Blurry.  The flash did not reach that far, either.  That was ok, I just decided to enjoy the music.

Mr. Kevin Russell and Mr. Jimmy Smith played lots of covers and new stuff from their latest album, Old Mad Joy, but also played their greatest hits, including “Mr. Betty”, “Ants on The Melon”, “Shake the Chandelier”, “Burn the Honeysuckle” and finished the night with “Gin and Juice” on crazy mandolin while Max made the rosin fly off his fiddle.  Their accordion player Claude played a few, too, including lead vocals and keys for “Werewolves of London” during the encore.  Every Gourds show is a frenzied, religious experience.  Even though we couldn’t be up front with the sweat and glory, we still felt those musical electrons flow through us.

The Gourds: Max Johnston, Kevin Russell, Jimmy Smith, Keith Langford, and Claude Bernard

The Gourds: Max Johnston, Kevin Russell, Jimmy Smith, Keith Langford, and Claude Bernard

After the show we got to meet the drummer Keith for the first time.  Keith was very nice and personable.  I told him they sounded fantastic, but he said they were sloppy.  Of course, that’s what I like about them.  They’re REAL. They’re only sloppy because they are so caught up in the moment, improvising, picking, shouting, gyrating, and spilling their souls all over that stage.   Minimally processed.  All Natural.  Organic.  Their latest album is entitled Old Mad Joy and their music is exactly that.  Keith also told us about opening a couple of times for Willie Nelson, and how Willie told him a story of Paul and a drumming incident.  Keith already knew the story, but he felt honored to hear it from Willie himself.   We then briefly spoke with Kevin while P took a pic.  Kev’s such a sweetheart, although the pic of us scared my mom.  They have a busy touring schedule ahead of them.  They were headed to Oregon the next day for a festival in Helix.

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Here’s The Gourds setlist, reprinted from D Three Gourds’ FB Page:

The Gourds
Tractor Tavern
Seattle, WA
8/23/13

01. Trampled by the Sun
02. I Want it so Bad
03. Mister Betty
04. Right in the Head
05. Jesus Christ with Signs Following
06. Stab
07. Honduras >
08. Ringing Dark & True
09. Shake the Chandelier
10. Illegal Oyster
11. County Orange
12. Everybody’s Missing the Sun (Nils Lofgren)
13. Ants on the Melon
14. I Like Drinking > Lady (Little River Band) > ILD
15. Grievin’ & Smokin’ > When the Saints Go Marching In (trad.) > If 6 was 9 (Jimi Hendrix) > I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink (Merle Haggard)
16. “Smoke a little dope, do a little laundry” (???) > LGO
17. Burn the Honeysuckle > Black Water (Doobie Bros)
18. Gin & Juice (Snoop/Dre) > Cupid (Sam Cooke) > Surrender (Cheap Trick) > Up on Cripple Creek (The Band)
E:
19. All the Labor tease
20. Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
21. All the Labor > You ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

Kevin Shinyribs Russell will be playing a solo show with Keith supporting on drums Sept. 5 for $10 at The Sunset, so we’re GOING.  We’re taking the 6th off to recover.  Check out the Shinyribs Bandcamp site here: http://shinyribs.bandcamp.com/ to listen to both albums and make a purchase or two. [Since this writing, we DID go to the Shinyribs show!  I will blog about that show asap.  Another fantastic night!]

After the show, we went to Hatties Hat next door.  It was ten till one, and we begged for food.  We quickly ordered the best BLT I’ve ever had, with buttered, toasted bread, fresh lettuce and tomato, thick-cut bacon and avocado.  We scarfed it down with some water and headed home.  In bed by 2:00.

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Big Sandy, Concert Season 2013, Marymoor Park, Music, Shinyribs, The Gourds, The Rainieros, The Tractor Tavern, The Wild Feathers, Willie Nelson | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys at The Tractor 6.15.12

Big Sandy

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys delivered that rockabilly beat to The Tractor Tavern Friday night.  Big Sandy is another branch on my musical family tree.  He occasionally sings and tours with Los Straitjackets, and I happened across a few videos on LSJ’s website that featured him.  Of course, when I saw that he was bringing the Fly-Rite Boys to The Tractor, I couldn’t miss it.

SEE MY REVIEW ON RANDOMVILLE!

I’ll try to post some more pictures here when time allows.  I posted the best ones on Randomville.

June 22, 2012 Posted by | Big Sandy, Concert Season 2012, Los Straitjackets, Music, Randomville, The Tractor Tavern | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coming Up: Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys!

Big Sandy is coming to Seattle’s Tractor Tavern on Friday, June 15.  I just purchased tickets yesterday, and I’m looking forward to the big show!  Check ’em out:

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Big Sandy, Concert Season 2012, Music, The Tractor Tavern | , , , , | Leave a comment