Friday, June 23, 2017

Creekdogs Reunion At Indy Folk Fest!

When the Creekdogs split up in 2013, I was pretty sad about it.  Truthfully, I understated how sad I was.  But like the article says, you never know what the future will bring.  Gratefully, it has brought us back together for a short set on August 5th at the Indy Folk Fest (in addition to the previously announced gig at Apple Works).  We'll only be playing for thirty minutes at this family friendly event, so make sure you're on time. If you blink you might miss us!  We'll hit the stage at 6:45 PM.  Stick around for lots of great music, including music from my friends Amigo Fields.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Concert Review: Vulfpeck [With Links To The Show!]

Who:  Vulfpeck  (Opener was Joey Dosik)
When:  13 May 2017, 8:30 PM
Where:  The State Theater, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Short Take:  Unless super expensive light shows and over-the-top stage production are your thing, you will not see a better concert this year, period.  Feel your battered, cynical heart blossom into an organ of hope and life.  Feel your soul  inspire (and believe) the words that comprise stupid sentences like the previous one.  Smile and feel unsinkable like a junior high kid with a nasty crush and a great song in his head.  In these strange times, there's nothing more subversive than that.

The Set List:  All links are from the the very show reviewed in this blog entry - thank you, Internet.
(Major thanks to Paul Zink for tracking the set list and finding links to the show.)
Conscious Club
My First Car (w/ Jack Stratton drum solo)
The Speedwalker/Sky Mall
[Stratton father/son jam]
Aunt Leslie
[Stratton mom "Funky Duck" dancing lesson]
Funky Duck
Boogie On Reggae Woman
Wait For The Moment
[Jack Stratton flash fundraiser for school in Flint, MI]
Back Pocket (w/ a capella intro)
Animal Spirits
Beastly (bass solo #1, #2, and #3, with alternate view of solo #3)*
Cory Wong

Encore: Dean Town
* - A note from Paul:  "The guy on YouTube has them mislabeled.  His "solo #1" is technically #2; his "solo #2" is really #3.  Solo #1 is usually the shortest, so maybe people don't consider this a "solo".

More:  Pete, Paul and I trucked up to Ann Arbor, Michigan this past Saturday to go see Vulfpeck; though we were all familiar with their tunes, none of us had seen them live before.  Although we all expected it to be pretty good, we didn't know what we would be seeing at all.

The venue for it was great - seeing concerts in old, ornate theaters always give the show a sense of occasion in my mind.  Probably the worst thing about the venue was you had to be a part of some club or something to buy beer.  You can join the club on the spot, but it reeked of some sort of weird extortion scheme.  If you didn't join the club, you had to settle for watered down Maker's Mark.  As a result, I had only one whiskey. Which is probably just as well.  I don't see how booze would've enhanced my experience even a little.  In fact, my two runs to the bathroom had me miss precious opening seconds of both Joey Dosik and Vulfpeck.  Stupid small bladder.

Joey Dosik opened.  I had never even heard of the dude though if I was a hardcore Vulfpeck fan, I would have:  He collaborates with them often.  He stayed on a Fender Rhodes piano for his whole performance, adding drums on the second tune, guitar on the third, then gradually winding back down to just him on electric piano by the end of the set.  Joey has soul to spare.  He sang in this cool falsetto for most of it; sort of mind blowing for me because I never thought I'd see the words "cool" and "falsetto" in the same sentence.  He also pulled off the singing dialogue thing nicely ("I know times are really strange" he sang at one point, seemingly acknowledging the world is in a fucking shitty place right now, but in the most melodious way possible.) - something that usually annoys me more than charms me.  But his minimalist set was full of warmth and love, and just sounded effin' good.  In that sense, he does exactly what a warm up act is supposed to do:  get the crowd feeling alright, ready for the main event.

I forgot to mention he did a great version of the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down".

As for Vulfpeck?  There's a lot to say, and you don't have a lot of time.  Why don't I just list out why they were so dope?

  • Watching Vulfpeck is like watching a buncha clean cut, straight "A" students melt away all the dumb, pretentious ideas I had about music.  How is it that music like theirs can be fun without being campy?  How can it be positive without being preachy?  How can such extreme musicianship remain interesting without being ejaculatory?  How can a saxophone (Dosik joined Vulfpeck multiple times on vocal duties and sax duties) solo outside of jazz not hurt my ears?  I don't know, man.  But they did all that stuff.
  • With the exception of bassist Joe Dart and keyboardist Woody Goss, all the other band members switched instruments throughout the show.  Again, you'd think this would be a gimmick that would backfire; instead, each musician brought their own take to the instrument.  It was shockingly seamless.  At no point did the music lack because of the switching.
  • I often refer to Vulfpeck as a funk band, but that sorta doesn't work and this show drove that home.  They are probably the funkiest band I currently know about, but they bring a funk flavor to tunes that sound like one part lounge jazz, one part yacht rock, one part 80s pop with a dash of skank thrown in on the tone.  I know, I know - that sounds truly horrendous, but it's not.  It works.  No one else is doing it, probably because no one else can pull it off.  I like how their music references different types/sounds of music without ever actually doing a whole sale rip off of that music.
  • Cory Wong (guitarist) - his guitar tone is straight up 1983, but I've never seen it so perfectly executed live.  Cory Wong on the Vulfpeck studio recordings sounds identical to live Cory Wong.
  • Vulfpeck is hurting in the swag category.  They were selling these ugly ass posters for major money.  But even this is a positive:  I wasn't spending money on shit.  Just my luck they'll become collectible or something.  C'est la vie.
  • A one point, Jack Stratton did this dopey dance, only for a few moments.  If you liked it, you could go to Venmo and pledge $2 to help a school in Flint, Michigan.  Needless to say, they smashed their goal.  Hell, people were literally running up the aisle throwing cash at them.
  • And that crowd:  they were really, really great too.  Vulfpeck had us eating out of their hands, but the crowd was loud when it was appropriate, quiet when it was necessary.  There was some cell phones filming, but never a lot, and never distracting.  I was pretty surprised by that too.  Lots of dancing, lots of smiles to be had.  No one wanted the night to end.
  • Joe Dart.  It would've been worth it for him alone.  His playing is as tight, interesting and creative as it gets.  And it never.  Leaves.  The. Pocket.  I don't usually care much for bass solos (that'll be the topic of an upcoming blog entry), but Joe Dart is the glaring exception.  I could listen to him all damn day.
I'll probably think of some other praise to heap, but maybe I'll just leave it at that for now.  This is easily one of the best shows I've ever seen in my life, but you don't have to take my word for their greatness:  head over to their (lovely minimalist) website and see how many tickets are available for their upcoming shows.  Good luck if you want to go.  

MAJOR hat tip to Paul for supplying the set list and links for this post as well as to Pete, who drove to the show and was fun as hell to spend time with.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Gigs! I've Got Gigs! [UPDATED]

OMG you guys I finally have some gigs I can report on.  Though there are at least two others in the works, the ones I can confirm are below:

  • I'll be performing as half of a duet with Kevin Reynolds as a part of the Tuesday Farmer's Market here in Bloomington.  That's at the Bloomingfood's west location.  This is on Tuesday (duh) June 6th.  We'll be playing from 5 to 6:30 PM.  There's a slight chance that Dan Lodge-Rigal will join us - stay tuned.
  • The Creekdogs (another link, and still another) will be reuniting to play at Apple Works apple orchard in the fall. Mark you calendars - no excuses for missing this one - it is Saturday, October 21st.  We'll be on stage from 2:30 to 4:30.  We should be nice and tight by then, so check it out.
I can't tell you how excited I am to be playing with Dan and Kevin again.  I suspect we'll be gutting our old set list and getting mostly new stuff, so even if you've seen us in the past, I think we still have a few tricks up our sleeves.

Okay - that's all for now.  I hope to have some other big news to report, but I don't want to do that until a few things can be confirmed.  So stay tuned. . .

UPDATE:  Forgot to include a gig that promises to be very, very fun:  I'll be playing with Patrick McNaughton, Dan Lodge- Rigal and Dave Sharp at the 4th Street Arts Festival on Labor Day weekend.  We'll be playing on Saturday, September 2nd.  I'm not sure of the time slot we'll get - I'll repost when I know.  This time, I'll be putting my upright down and picking up one of my electrics.  Can't wait!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Make Everyday Sound Like Friday

You may or may not know that this blog's sister blog is The Cool Folder (viewer discretion is advised).  There's all kinds of fun stuff on there: pretty things, hilarious things, political things, stupid things - lots of things.  Check it out - it's a pretty fun little internet rabbit hole in which to lose yourself.  Anyway, I posted a buncha music last Friday that just sounds really good on a Friday.  The thing is, it actually sounds great everyday and there's something for everyone.  So Imma share.  In the search field for The Cool Folder, type "friday playlist" and all those selections will appear.  Better yet, just click here - I've already narrowed it down for you.  This isn't by any means the only dope music posted there, so look around.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Brain Flush

Here are some sonically related thoughts that have been bouncing around in my brain.  Maybe if I put them out here in the ether, they'll go away.

  • I listened to REM's "Fables of the Reconstruction" this AM.  While I understood the appeal they had for me in junior high, all I could think was "man, this sounds like every other band from 1982 to 1990."  Then I realized that every other band was trying to sound like REM at that time.  That's how you know  your band is influential - when everyone else is trying to rip you off.
  • Speaking of REM, someone help me:  When I went looking for my copy of "Fables of the Reconstruction", I was shocked because on the binding side of the CD is says "REM/The Reconstruction of Fables".  I thought man, how could I have gotten that wrong all these years?  I just Googled it, and it actually is "Fables of the Reconstruction".  What gives?
  • Upcoming topics that I will be writing about (even though I've been planning on writing about some of them for years):
    • The importance of silence in my life
    • The importance of white noise in my life
    • A sonic map of my house
    • Home made tape loops from Junior high (that is, if I can get my hands on the media and convert it)
    • Hate sounds:  chewing with your mouth open, burping, whining
    • Comfort sounds
    • A possible return of the Fat Friday Feature
    • Some more Songwriting 101 showcases
    • . . . and much, much more!
  • I did some simple recordings to help a friend of mine learn how to do somethings on her bass.  I used my Pandora's Box for this endeavor.  I love that device - it is indispensable to me - but there is too much choice.  I spend so much time clicking around, trying to find the right sound and not being totally jazzed about any of them.  I did find one setting that sort of approximates the high gain, slightly distorted sound that Chris Squire uses, but again: it's not quite there.  I have seen the metaphorical peak, but with that particular effects box, I will never reach the summit.  I have to address that issue one day.
  • I'm currently in possession of my brother Jim's 1990s Danelectro, (like this one, which actually has a much better bridge than Jim's, which would be one of the upgrades I'd make if it was my guitar) which with a few minor upgrades would be a truly great guitar.  Anyway, strumming around on it reminds me of how truly awful I am as a guitar player as well as how quickly I get bored playing guitar.
  • Please see "The Black Bachelor" video below.  Not only is it funny, but they have reality show music down cold.  I love how quickly the music changes too - funny stuff.

Friday, January 20, 2017


I've been up since 2 AM.  It's 7:48 AM; I'm at work, and I'm already goddamned tired.  It's going to be a long slog to 5 o'clock today.  The problem is that I fell asleep too early (again); and when I do that, I typically wake up at some ungodly hour and can't get back to sleep.  I could've gotten up and been productive or something, but I chose to waste time.  After reading some blogs, I started randomly Googling bass gear - I was looking at Japanese basses again, and man Tokais are cool basses - and I stumbled across a bass called a Toby Chennell Arco Acoustic Bassguitar.  Holy crap, you have to see and hear this thing.

There are many reasons I love this bass - beauty, build quality, original design; but I think my favorite thing is that it manages to be several types of bass that I fixate upon from time to time.  The portable upright.  The acoustic bass guitar.  The "head turner/rare bird".  It comes with an end pin so that it can be bowed, but I'd never use that.  I just think it's a phenomenal acoustic bass.  Although the video below has many stunning basses showcased in it, I've set it up to start with the Toby Chenell.  (If for some reason it doesn't, skip to 1:14 mark.)  Love that upright tone - deep, throaty, woody, just the right amount of "thunk" on the attack of the note; just the right amount of "mwah" on the decay of the note.  Truly, and amazing bass.

I haven't seen anything about pricing, but I feel confident I could probably get a good used car for what it would cost to get this beauty.  Plus, it's made by hand in the UK, so I'd probably have to wait forever to get it.  Maybe the Takamine TB-10 is a good option?  Oh yes, that would be a great sounding option. . . 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Should Music Of The Revolution Be "Fuck You" Or "We Shall Overcome"?

This morning in church, the remarks covered a lot of territory.  A couple of things spoke out to me (change happens when you nurture community and speak to your "enemy's" humanity), but the comments about music's role to sustain and foment revolutionary fervor has me feeling confused about what I'm feeling.  Let me see if I can explain.

The minister  told a story from his days as a seminarian when he rode a roller coaster with some seminarian friends of his.  He was terrified beyond reason and found himself singing the words from a spiritual hymn (can't remember the words or the song, sadly) to help him through the first drop of the ride.  His fellow seminarians teased him henceforth, and it became a running gag to sing these lines before even the most common trials, such as an exam.  I found myself amused by the story, but the point was driven home:  music can sustain us in tough times.  Indeed, I often tell people that the Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" was my life in the tumultuous times of junior high.  It was important for me to hear my thoughts and feelings so vividly expressed; it was important for me to know I wasn't alone.

Music, the minster posited, can acknowledge our pain and/or bolster revolutionary action.  Citing Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, the minister (rightly) pointed out that music can be the soundtrack for change.  Another minister talked about her time crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.  In talking to folks who had been there in 1965, one the things that the movie Selma got wrong was music.  There was music everywhere, carrying the group forward, helping them through dark times.

I felt like music was being pitched as something that can simultaneously be an instrument of sustenance, change AND reconciliation.  Music can meet you where you're at.  I agree; there's nothing objectionable about that, right?  It's true, I believe, especially with the examples cited during that service:  "We Shall Overcome" and "Amazing Grace".  So why did I feel uneasy about these sentiments?

I mean, hell:  I knew these songs in particular quite well.  My music teachers at St. Mary's in Anderson, Indiana might as well have been Wobblies, for it is there I learned not only of lefty politics, but these radical thoughts were put to music.  I can remember standing on a riser with my class singing "De Colores", "We Shall Overcome", "Abraham, Martin, and John" and "Ship Of Democracy" for people in nursing homes, for Christ's sake.  I took written tests on the likes of Woody Guthrie.  I can still remember the LP that Sister Melanie (or was it Mrs. Smith?) played of "Little Boxes" and "Rock Candy Mountain" - I fucking hated those songs, hated singing them in class.  It took me years to see them as brilliant masterpieces of social criticism. Given my intimacy with songs that inspired the movements of the past, why was I squirming in my seat?

I sorta alluded to it in a previous post.

I guess it was because what I was listening to at the time I was learning these songs:  the Minutemen, Black Flag, MDC, the Dead Kennedys - songs that gave voice to the anger I was feeling; if not in the lyrics (can't say I was harassed too much by the cops), definitely in the abrasive tone and energy.  These songs were ANGRY, these songs acknowledged futility and embraced uncertainty.  That's where I'm at - angry, unsure if my way of life is futile, but knowing no other way.  "Police Story" should be the anthem of the Trump Era.  (Fuck, it pains me to even capitalize that.)

This is where I'm at:  the U.S. is fucked.  It will be fucked long after Trump is gone.  It's time to channel my inner cockroach and scavenge to survive if it comes to that.  I am ready to take what comes next and embrace chaos as a tool, not a problem.  Disruption and discomfort will help to right the ship.  I do not believe violence will ever bring about long term, meaningful change; but I do not believe writing my congressman and singing "We Shall Overcome" will get any traction with those who write laws.  In 2017 I will seek to ally myself with the dispossessed, as any student of history knows that is where true change happens - from the bottom, not the top.  I have fantasies about destroying everything (a very punk sentiment) and rebuilding from there.  Reconciliation feels like something you do after you win the war; let reconciliation happen for me and mine in my life time.  Not to diminish its meaning, but "We Shall Overcome" is for generations before mine; it is not mine.

The question I'm left with today is this:  What, if any, is the role of anger and discontent in change?  I have this energy, this anger.  It doesn't feel like a liability to me.  Is it wrong?  Many folks who have the same values as me like that quote that goes "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."  I hate that fucking quote because it makes justice sound like a foregone conclusion.  You have to fight for justice even after it is achieved.  Do you agree?  If so, what is your soundtrack?