Moon in June

20160620_070112921_iOS“On a dilemma between what I need and what I just want…

… She sees you in her place, just as if it’s a race

And you’re winning, and you’re winning

She just can’t understand that for me everything’s just beginning…

… So before this feeling dies, remember how distance tells us lies”

By Robert Wyatt, “Moon in June” from the Soft Machine LP “Third”, 1970

Is there really anything that is truly merely coincidence? This month is June, 2016. And earlier this week we experienced something that had not occurred since the Summer of Love, 1967: the full moon appearing on the northern hemisphere’s Summer solstice. And I awoke the morning after with Soft Machine’s, “Moon in June”, becoming that day’s earworm. This 19-minute song has reverberated in my mind since the night before Thanksgiving, 1971, when it ran constantly in my head while tripping at a party. And it has been quite relevant “in my life now and then”; or now as well as then. It is a strange thing, this interplay between self and sound. And we can learn from these experiences. Perhaps earworms provide a means for our subconscious to elucidate something that we need to learn. After all, if we look around us we can see that everything and everyone are potential teachers – people, animals, plants (especially plants), inanimate objects, chemicals, coacervate molecules, music, aleatoric sounds, time, space, dreams, free range thoughts.

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Now, I am not going to expound upon “Moon In June” although it is tempting to do so. It is not the only song that has grabbed my attention during an altered state, or has become an earworm.

There have been evenings,

and a few days,

where somehow

out of the bewildering haze,

I associated altered moments

with specific waves,

of songs,

whether it be “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, “The Rain, The Park, and Everything” by The Cowsills, “Dark Star” by The Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service album “Happy Trails,” or even more recently the album “Hello Nasty” by The Beastie Boys. This raises an issue that used to be discussed among my college buddies back in the early 70s:

“What is psychedelic music?”

The late Paul Kantner once said psychedelic music is simply any music listened to while tripping. Although I respect Kantner as an artist and political catalyst, I am not so sure that I agree with his definition. For me, there is music that takes me outside the realm of the time and space packet I exist within (typically called reality), and this is what I would call psychedelic. It is something that takes me out of this reality and into other realities, or non-realities. And the same song may do this on one occasion and not on another, depending upon the ambiance, my approach, and the conditions existing at that moment. So, for me, no one music genre or style is psychedelic but any can be. Yet, there are some compositions that when I hear them, I know they are psychedelic, hands down. It is sort of like the definition of pornography offered by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 in Jacobellis v. Ohio: “I know it when I see it.”

But that is a personal definition. In the attempt to find a definition that would be workable for anyone, I believe psychedelic music can be described in different categories:

  • Overt psychedelia: this music is either created under the influence of psychedelics, or is an attempt to describe within a musical context the composer’s or performer’s psychedelic experience. A good example of overt psychedelia would be the album, “Electric Music for the Mind and Body” by Country Joe and The Fish, from 1967. The highlight and most exemplary selection from this album would be the song “Bass Strings”, with the lyrics “Just one more trip now, you know I’ll stay high all the time.” What is interesting about this song is that it ends with Country Joe McDonald whispering repeatedly “L-S-D” over very trippy music. This leaves no doubt as to what the band was attempting to convey. Sometimes it is not the words, but the musical sounds that directly convey that what you are hearing is a re-creation of a psychedelic experience, such as in Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”. These are just two examples, but I am sure the reader can come up with many more.

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  • Discreet or subtle psychedelia: here neither the music nor the lyrics can be interpreted just one way, but one of the ways would be to describe a psychedelic experience. Examples can be found going back as far as 1830 with Hector Berlioz’ “Symphonie Fantastique,” or perhaps even earlier. Berlioz may have been writing to describe his passion for a particular woman, or he could have been describing his experiences under the influence of opiates, or both. In the 1960s, The Byrds recorded “Eight Miles High” which generally describes the band’s first Atlantic flight to and arrival in the United Kingdom to perform for their British fans. Upon its release in 1965 the song was banned by several US radio stations because it sounded like the “trip” described in the song was actually a chemically induced trip. The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” may have been an intentional reference to LSD, or it could simply be what John Lennon said it represented: a drawing by his then four-year-old son, Julian, and tapping into “Alice in Wonderland” imagery. Of course, Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson), the author of “Alice in Wonderland,” has often been associated with psychedelics, but there is no indication he ever indulged in any mind-altering substances, while there is evidence that he suffered with a form of epilepsy.

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  • Inferred (or designated) psychedelia: could be considered a cop-out definition, I suppose. Basically it is any music that an individual considers psychedelic. In this sense, Paul Kantner’s definition works, since a person could be listening to anything while tripping and from that point onward associate the composition with a psychedelic experience. I could also apply this to my experience with “Moon In June”. I have found Jim DeRogatis’ book, “Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock” to be quite an enlightening guide on modern psychedelic rock. At first, I questioned some of his choices, but then I realized that psychedelia “is in the eye of the beholder.” In other ways, I think he limited himself too much, for there are recordings that fall under the genres of classical, country, folk, exotica, and jazz that I consider to have psychedelic elements. In classical, I consider Richard thIBUU3PSYWagner’s “Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg Music” as well as the electronic composition “Time’s Encomium” by Charles Wuorinen, to be very psychedelic. Under country, I would say David Allan Coe’s album, “Requiem for a Harlequin,” is a fine example. In folk, Dylan’s song, “Visions of Johanna,” would qualify as well as Jake Holmes’ “Dazed and Confused.” As for jazz, Herbie Hancock’s album “Sextant” as well as Miles Davis’ “Bitches’ Brew” have psychedelic elements. Ethel Azama’s “Exotic Dreams” LP would be an example of exotic psychedelia. I could cite many more examples in all genres.

 

  • There would also be a category I would call “pseudo-psychedelia”, which masquerades as overt psychedelia but is simply a fake. Pseudo-psychedelic music often has similar characteristics but instead of reflecting an authentic psychedelic The-First-Edition-Just-Dropped-Inexperience, it often overstates sounds and lyrics, since it is not based on real experience. An example, from 1967, would be the song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” written by Mickey Newbury and popularized by The First Edition. Interestingly, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version of this song prior to the more popular version. While the intention of this song was to describe a scary trip in order to discourage the use of LSD, it ended up being derided as phony and treated as a humorous parody. A sub-category of pseudo-psychedelic music that found its way to the late 60s bargain bins and grocery store check-out stands would be exploito-psychedelic albums such as The Animated Egg’s untitled album from 1967. This recording was created by a collection of studio musicians under the leadership of surf guitar ace, Jerry Cole. In fact, it is suspected that many releases on the Alshire, Somerset, Custom, and related labels with various animatedegg“band” names contained Jerry Cole compositions, and often the same recordings appeared on different albums under different titles, including on albums by The Id, “The Inner Sounds of The Id”; The Generation Gap, “Up Up and Away”; and The Projection Company, “Give Me Some Lovin’.” There are several others. Even Muzak specialists, 101 Strings, got in the game with their album “Astro-Sounds”. None of these supposed bands ever performed anywhere except in the studio to create fake psychedelic music.
  • But in some instances, pseudo-psychedelia can be psychedelic, but not based upon the innate characteristics of the music, but based upon environment and other variables. Those that come to mind include Fire & Ice, Ltd. “The Happening”, from 1966, excerpts of which appear on the 1966 documentary LP “LSD” on Capitol Records. Two more with similar names include The Fire Escape’s LP, “Psychotic Reaction”, and The Firebirds’ LP, “Light My Fire”. The latter has a sister release, “Hair,” by the band, The 31 Flavors but it really sounds like additional music from the th2PMT1QGKsame recording sessions. One of the most humorous of such recordings is from a band named The Unfolding, with an outrageous LP title, “How To Blow Your Mind & Have A Freak-Out Party” complete with printed instructions for your very own freak-out party. The California Poppy Pickers (another outrageous band name) actually released four country rock LPs, all in 1969. While they never performed publicly and were merely a collective of studio musicians, the label hired an actual performing band to record their last album “Honky Tonk Women”. The band was in reality an early Christian rock band, Wilson McKinley, that used the proceeds from this album to fund their Christian music endeavors.

So, to conclude this discussion of psychedelic music, perhaps we should simply leave it to each person to decide the definition that works best for them. Then again, how many really think about such things when they listen to music? Probably a fewer number than those who think about the moon in June.

In Other News

Well now, let me come back from the world of LSD to the present and what I have been seeing in San Diego. The month began with the Art Around Adams 2016 music and art walk. There seemed to be more stages and more artists packed into this one-day event (Saturday, June 4) than I can recall in previous years. I probably saw less than a tenth of the artists performing. But what I did see was very impressive. All were excellent, and all very different.

I started at the Kensington Library Park stage, enjoying the music of singer/songwriter Kimm Rogers, who was accompanied by Beezie Gerber. Many of the songs were from her excellent recent album “Where the Pavement Grows” but some dipped back to her two albums on Island Records from the early 90s, “Soundtrack of My Life” and “Two Sides.” It was a great way to begin the day.

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Kimm Rogers with Beezie Gerber

Next, I moved to the Blindspot Records stage by Smitty’s Garage to see The Elements, a new four-member band started by Bart Mendoza with another familiar face on keyboards, David Fleminger. These guys were tight, and on fire with excellent self-penned modern pop-rock as well as 60s standards. You would think all of them had been playing together for years.

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The Elements

I then paid a visit to Rosie O’Grady’s to hear Zach Cole with Eric Freeman performing some basic country blues with Eric on acoustic guitar and Zachary on blues harp. This reminded me of Tomcat Courtney’s performances I enjoy from time-to-time on Thursdays at Proud Mary’s.

Left photo: Zach Cole with Eric Freeman  Right photo: NST

At the Integrative Health Stage I caught part of the performance by jazz group, NST, reading poetry accompanied by drums, sax and bass. Quite interesting, but it was super-hot with no shade available. So, I moved on to DeMille’s to have lunch, rehydrate, and prepare for harpO, followed by Alvino & The Dwells at the DeMille’s Beer Garden stage. This was the first time seeing harpO, a tight blues-rock band. I would not mind seeing them again. When Alvino & The Dwells plugged-in, they blew the sky open with cosmic surf music that was at once fresh and new, as well as taking me back to the 60s. They always provide a great show.

Left: harpO      Right: Alvino & The Dwells

I then moved back to the Blindspot Records stage to see The Cherry Bluestorms, followed by The Schizophonics, then Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters, and finally Hills Like Elephants. These four bands are so different from one another that it is quite surprising they were performing on the same stage. And yet the audience stayed for most of it. The Cherry Bluestorms were very mod/pop-rock with original tunes, and quite accomplished playing. They piqued my interest enough to pick up their latest CD, “Bad Penny Opera,” which by-the-way, is excellent.

Left: Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters

Top Right: The Cherry Bluestorms   Bottom Right: Hills Like Elephants

Schizophonics were, well, schizoid. My gawd! Guitarist Pat Beers is simply unbelievable to watch. I actually was hoping he had a spare guitar waiting in the wings because I was certain the one he was playing was going to be destroyed when he jumped, fell, sprung-back, and rolled-over, while never missing a note. Wait, were they notes? It was all such a blur. He is explosive! Guitar sounds of Jimi Hendrix, visuals a mix of Pete Townshend and Iggy Pop, and a band sound similar to MC5 from their live “Kick Out the Jams” album. I do want to know if Lety Beers took drum lessons from Mitch Mitchell. Sure sounded like it. I did not catch the bass player’s name but God bless him, he kept up with it all and successfully improvised when Pat experienced audio problems with the equipment. Their performance was the highlight of the day for me.

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Schizophonics

Next came a huge band, Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters; I mean like, a 10-piece unit, including two go-go dancers. We were suddenly transported to 1964 and the reign of the Tijuana Brass on pop radio. With backing sax, trombone, and trumpet plus bass, guitar, drums, marimba, and a lead singer/trumpeter, they went through a repertoire that would make Herb Alpert proud, including the TJB hit, “Spanish Flea”. What a fun bunch!

What followed was modern alternative jangle rock by Hills Like Elephants with expressive lyrics and fine playing – but it was getting late and so I left before the end of their set. It was another great Adams Avenue event put to rest.

Thursday night, June 16, found us at Riviera Supper Club’s Turquoise Room in La Mesa. Performing was Liz Grace and the Swing Thing. That evening the band consisted of Liz Grace on vocals and Jon Garner on guitar. Jon is an excellent jazz player and is always fun to watch – things I never learned to do he can make look so easy. Listening to Liz sing is pure joy as she performed popular songs from the 40s through the 60s. Liz’ other band, Three Chord Justice, does all country, yet she seems comfortable in both genres. I do think she is one of the most versatile and accomplished local singers I’ve heard in San Diego. Later Liz’ husband, Mark Markowitz, stopped in and visited with us as we listened to the band. It was an enjoyable evening.

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Liz Grace and The Swing Thing

On Friday, June 17, I began the weekend at Java Joe’s. Performers that evening included Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez, followed by Sara Petite, and ending with Jacques Mees. This was an evening of varied styles that seemed to fit nicely side-by-side. With Dave Humphries on guitar and lead vocals, and Mike Alvarez on cello and backing vocals we were treated to a collection of 60s British invasion pop/rock standards as well as recent songs penned by Dave Humphries and The Hollywood Project. I never get tired of his performances.

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Top: Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez   Middle: Sara Petite   Bottom: Jacques Mees

I had heard a lot about Sara Petite but had never heard her perform. What a pleasant surprise! With a beautiful voice straight out of Nashville, she performed all originals providing stories of personal experiences leading into her songs. I could tell I was witnessing a truly old soul inhabiting a younger body. Sara pulled no punches with her honest and revealing stories. Beautiful.

Jacques Mees’ performance was the highlight of the evening, which is really saying something. Again performing several personally penned songs, as well as tapping into such modern folk venerables as Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Susanna Clark. He is another storyteller who shared his wisdom in song. When it was over I walked back to the car with a contact high.

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Well that does it. If I am to get this out I have to end it here. I do want to dedicate this to jazz singer Shelley Moore, who lost her battle with cancer this week. She was the mother of my good friend, the late Bryna Golden, founding member of goth-psych band Babylonian Tiles. I got to know Shelley through Bryna. She was a warm and giving person, and thanks to Bryna I had the great fortune of seeing her perform in Santa Ana a few times about 10 years ago. R.I.P. Shelley.

 

Odzenendz

IMG_3239“You’re walking meadows in my mind,

Making waves across my time,

Oh no, oh no.

I get a strange magic,

Oh, what a strange magic…”

Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra, from Face the Music LP, 1975

 

Well, it is time.

I have been absent since early January for many reasons. First, I have been freakin’ busy with work, out of the area nearly every week after January and so busy that there was no time to seek out venues while on the road. In fact, some of the locations were small towns where the word “art” has been forgotten. January was a slow work month, with all scheduled trips getting cancelled. I took advantage of this situation and used my time to see some amazing performances by local artists. This continued through February and March although I was on the road a great deal of the time. When I could, I got out there. However, since my time was limited I did not get a chance to write anything except for brief comments on Facebook.

And then a horrible thing happened. While I was in Oklahoma my better half was tripped by our blind dog going down the stairs in our home. She fractured her shoulder and wrist, eventually having to undergo surgery on both breaks. So when I was home, I was mostly helping her with things she could not do with just one hand. Hence, there were even more delays to get what you are reading now out the door.

Now that the healing process is underway, and I am off the road for a few days, I have some time to report to you what has been going on in the music world of the Popeswami. Allow me to summarize these dignified proceedings. New Years’ Day, we had breakfast at Urban Solace while taking in a performance of the innovative old-time/bluesy folkies, Plow. I talked about this in my last post. On January 15 we made the trek to O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Carlsbad to see the Irish band, Brogue Wave, including our friend and Irish fiddler supreme/vocalist, Patric Petrie. They were a trio that evening with David Lally on guitar and vocals, and Jordan McKinley on drums. BTW, the Pub’s chicken boxty is simply amazing. The following day I paid a visit to Record City in Hillcrest to see legendary mod/power pop band, Manual Scan, in a rare instore performance. The band features friends, Bart Mendoza on vocals/guitar and David Fleminger on keys, as well as Kevin Donaker-Ring on lead guitar, Jarrod Lucas on drums, and Tim Blankenship on bass. The following evening found us at Lestat’s in Normal Heights to see Robin Henkel with Horns, featuring Robin Henkel on guitars, Jodie Hill on bass, Al Schneider on drums, and Troy Jennings on saxes. This may have been one of the best of this unit’s performances I have seen so far. Totally awesome American blues and jazz with informative stories by Robin.

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Plow at Urban Solace in North Park, January 1, 2016

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Brogue Wave at O’Sullivan’s in Carlsbad, January 15, 2016

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Manual Scan at Record City in Hillcrest, January 16, 2016

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Robin Henkel with Horns at Lestat’s in Normal Heights, January 17, 2016

The evening of January 22 was a magical night with Jamie Shadowlight and company at 98 Bottles. The theme of this show was Electric Ladyland. With Jamie was the JazzMikan Trio consisting of Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Antar Martin on bass, and Russell Bizett on drums. The show also included Arnessa Rickett and Carmelia “Toot” Bell on vocals and the opening number “Paint It Black” included sitarist, Ignacio Hernandez. That version of “Paint It Black” set the tone with a mystical drone improvisational style – Jamie on electric violin fed through various pedals and wah wah to give a surrealistic feel. I thought this show was the highlight of the month for me. But the following night we were at Dizzy’s to hear the Daniel Jackson tribute. Included were some budding new artists from Idyllwild Arts Academy and the International Academy of Jazz, San Diego, plus Marshall Hawkins on bass and piano, Jamie Shadowlight on violin, Bob Boss on guitar, Charles Owens on sax, Brett Sanders on drums, and special guest, spoon player Leland “Spoonful” Collins. Another night to fly high with the music.

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Electric Ladyland at 98 Bottles in Little Italy, January 22, 2016

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Daniel Jackson Tribute Concert at Dizzy’s in Pacific Beach, January 23, 2016

January 24, Sunday morning, we stopped by Rebecca’s Coffee Shop to see Dave Humphries on guitar/vocal, Wolfgang Grasekamp on keys, and Mike Alvarez on electric cello. A special treat was to hear Mike Alvarez doing some solo work, introducing some new songs he had written, and singing! Lots of 60s British invasion classics as well as songs by Dave Humphries and Tony Sheridan. Mahvelous!

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Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez and Wolfgang Grasekamp at Rebecca’s Coffee, in South Park, January 24, 2016

We were not yet musically sated for the month of January. On the 28th we were at Java Joe’s to see once again Robin Henkel Horn Band, with the incomparable Whitney Shay. This configuration included Robin on guitars and vocals, Jodie Hill (bass), David Castel de Oro (sax, clarinet), Troy Jennings (saxes), Al Schneider (drums), and of course, Whitney on vocals and whatever she could grab and shake (thankfully not me). And, following that, Robin Henkel and Billy Watson (harmonica/vocals) plus Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums were performing at Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook on January 31. We had been looking for a performance to take my nephew, Aaron, to see when he was in town for a medical conference and this was perfect. It was also a chance for another nephew, Craig, as well as great nephew & niece, Jereck and Devon, to experience our local talent. It was a fun way to end the month.

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Robin Henkel Horn Band with Whitney Shay at Java Joe’s in Normal Heights, January 28, 2016

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Billy Watson with Robin Henkel at Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook , January 31, 2016

There were fewer times out in February, but they were memorable times. First, on February 12, at Lestat’s there was a round robin performance by Caitlin Evanson (touring violinist for Taylor Swift and beautiful vocalist), Tim Connolly (keyboards, vocals, songwriter), and Kennady Tracy (guitar, vocals, and songwriter). Each took the lead in performing with the others either accompanying or standing by. Caitlin did a superb cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”, accompanied by Pedro Telarico on guitar, that was the highlight of the evening for me. The following evening, we went to Proud Mary’s in Kearny Mesa for some New Orleans cuisine while we enjoyed Chickenbone Slim and The Biscuits. This turned out to be a special evening. Former Biscuit, Mike Chiricuzio, joined them on bass and sang one with the band. And then it got even better when 87-year-old blues singer/guitarist, Tomcat Courtney, joined in to do a few songs, including “Hootchie Cootchie Man”.  The following week on the 17th I noted that HM3 (Harley Magsino Trio) with DJ Teelyn was performing at The Studio Door art gallery. The theme of the art displays was “crows”. The music was in the style of Mwandishi/Hancock funk-jazz from the 70s mixed with techno, dubstep, trip hop, and a bit of the avant-garde. The players: Harley Magsino (bass), Joshua White (keys), Charles Weller (drums), with Trish Nolan (aka DJ Teelyn) on turntables. The music: awesome. On my birthday, February 27, it was Chickenbone Slim & The Biscuits again, this time at Hooley’s in La Mesa. Mike Chiricuzio was still in town so he joined them again. Also on both occasions, Bruce Stewart of Little Kings was the drummer and Nick “Chowda” Walsh the harmonica player. The next morning, we made our pilgrimage to Rebecca’s Coffee Shop to see Dave Humphries, Wolfgang Grasekamp and Mike Alvarez. And that evening, we once again headed to Lestat’s to see Robin Henkel (guitars & vocals) with Whitney Shay (vocals), Jodie Hill (bass), and Toby Ahrens (drums).

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Kennady Tracy, Caitlin Evanson, and Tim Connolly at Lestat’s in Normal Heights, February 12, 2016

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Chickenbone Slim & The Biscuits with Mike Chiricuzio and Tomcat Courtney, at Proud Mary’s in Kearney Mesa, February 13, 2016

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HM3 (Harley Magsino Trio) with DJ Teelyn at The Studio Door in North Park, February 17, 2016

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Chickenbone Slim & The Biscuits (with ex-Biscuit Mike Chiricuzio) at Hooley’s in Grossmont Center, La Mesa on February 27, 2016

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Dave Humphries with Wolfgang Grasekamp and Mike Alvarez at Rebecca’s Coffee in South Park, February 28, 2016

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Robin Henkel with Whitney Shay at Lestat’s in Normal Heights, February 28, 2016

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Acoustic Ladyland at 98 Bottles in Little Italy, March 4, 2016

March began with another Jamie Shadowlight event at 98 Bottles. On March 4, the event this time was titled “Acoustic Ladyland”. The performers: Jamie Shadowlight (violin), Caitlin Elizabeth Evanson (violin & vocals), Mikan Zlatkovich (keys), Ken Dow (bass), Richard Sellers (drums), Pedro Telarico (guitar), and Anita Weedmark (piano), Pacifico “PJ” Ortiz Luis (beatbox), Debbie Beacham (dulcimer). The players were awesome, as usual. March was starting out to be pretty cool musically. Next up, on March 12, was The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Choir San Diego, presenting “All ‘Bout the Blues – A Musical Celebration” at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre in San Diego. The show was produced, directed and choreographed by Arnessa Rickett, and the musical director was Carmelia Bell. Band director was Grammy award winning Kevin Cooper. The band consisted of Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Kevin Cooper on bass, Walter Gentry on sax, Ignacio Sobers on percussion, Michael Sanders on organ and Tim “Flagg” Newton on drums. Kenneth Anderson was also on piano. The cast was huge, including the MKLCCSD Choir. The theme was the story of the development of the blues from the beginning of the country in the 1700s all the way through modern times, including gospel, jazz, r&b, and the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. An excellent production with singing, dancing, and instrumental performances tied together with the story of the blues.  March 20 we headed to Hooley’s in Rancho San Diego to hear some blues fireworks on guitar by Charles Burton, accompanied by Larry Teves (aka Chickenbone Slim) on bass and Becky Russell on drums. Burton is a rapid-fire blues player similar to Rick Derringer or the late great Johnny Winter with a bit of jazz embellishments – a unique and accomplished player.

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All ‘Bout The Blues – MKLCCSD Choir, Arnessa Rickett, Carmelia “Toot” Bell, Kevin Cooper at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre in San Diego on March 12, 2016

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Charles Burton with Becky Russell and Larry Teves at Hooley’s in Rancho San Diego, March 20, 2016

March 26 provided the musical highlight of the month in the form of the Beatles Fair at the Queen Bee in North Park. Outside, we saw Madame Nina Leilani on keys and vocals, and Rhythm Rose Turner on drums and featuring Jamie Shadowlight on violin doing some Beatles material as well as some originals. This was an unexpected surprise, but there were even bigger surprises inside the Queen Bee. First, we got to see True Stories with a surprise appearance of Ringo Starr, er-um, a Ringo lookalike in the form of Baja Bugs drummer, Nick “Nico” Peters. Nico had all the looks, moves, and singing down perfectly and with a tight band like True Stories backing him it was a lot of fun; and excellent tribute to The Beatles drummer. True Stories were followed by The Dave Humphries Band, with original music, including a tune Dave Humphries wrote with Tony Sheridan, as well as a tune co-penned by Tony Sheridan and Paul McCartney plus other Beatles and British Invasion tunes.  The Rollers were next and did a set of early Beatles tunes. This is a young band and they are very promising. Following The Rollers came The Baja Bugs, who knocked it out of the park. If I closed my eyes, The Baja Bugs really were The Beatles and I was at the Indra Club in Hamburg. Amazing energy and tight playing, both from The Baja Bugs and The Rollers. On the Queen Bee patio was an open mic stage. During breaks we ventured out to the patio and listened to some of the hidden talent of San Diego. There were vendors inside and outside of the Queen Bee, as well as food trucks. We got to talk with John Borack, author of “John Lennon: Life is What Happens”. John autographed a copy for us. And it kept getting better. The headliner of the Beatles Fair was Denny Laine, who had been with the Moody Blues and sang their hit “Go Now”, plus was the guitarist for Paul McCartney & Wings for the full duration of Wings. First there was an interview with Denny onstage, and then he made himself available for autographs and photo ops. I took full advantage of this, and in the process found that he was particularly fond of Wings’ first album “Wildlife” which has always been my favorite. He then performed a solo guitar and vocal set of many of the songs he performed over the years, from “Go Now” with the Moody Blues on through “Mull of Kintyre” which he co-wrote with Paul McCartney and performed with Wings. He told stories between songs, and brought a quirky sense of humor to the stage.

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Beatles Fair 2016 – in order: Madame Nina Leilani (outside); True Stories with Nico (Ringo Tribute); Dave Humphries Band; The Rollers; Denny Laine & moi; The Baja Bugs; The Baja Bugs, Dave Humphries & others; Denny Laine – at Queen Bee in North Park, March 26, 2016

Due to injuries mentioned earlier, and a heavy work schedule, the Beatles Fair was the last performance I attended until Memorial Day weekend. We were taking a little ride on Saturday and noticed the time. We figured we could be at Wynola Pizza, near Julian, by the time Three Chord Justice would begin performing. We arrived shortly after they began. In this more acoustic configuration they were a four piece, with Alex Watts featured on lead guitar, and the three mainstays of Mark Markowitz on drums, Dave Preston on bass, and Liz Grace on rhythm guitar and vocals. The band was great, cranking out some enjoyable country standards, a Dylan tune, and many songs penned by Dave and by Liz. Alex was quite a picker, with some slick lead work that I especially appreciated. Mark got a variety of sounds out of a single snare, throwing in an assortment of rhythmic tricks while keeping everything on course. Dave kept a consistent bottom end, making sure the band was tightly together. Liz’s beautiful voice danced over all the instruments weaving stories with emotion and poise. This is an exceptional band. Every time I’ve seen them I have considered my time well spent and came away very gratified.

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Three Chord Justice at Wynola Pizza in Julian, May 28, 2016

The following morning Dave Humphries, with Mike Alvarez and Wolfgang Grasekamp were performing at Rebecca’s Coffee in South Park. As usual, Dave was on guitar and vocals, with Mike on electric cello and Wolfgang on amazing keyboards. New were the vocal harmonies Mike added to some songs. They introduced some new songs that will be on a new Hollywood Project release sometime in the future, as well as performing a number of their standard 60s pop and rock tunes and more recent originals.

And that brings us to this moment in time, and to the end of this entry. I had planned this to be shorter on the live happenings and longer on other esoteric concerns, but due to being 3-4 months overdue, I am keeping it to the happenings. Stay tuned for my other concerns in another post that will be soon to follow.

Before I go I wanted to mention the passing of San Diego’s Godfather of Jazz, Joe Marillo. Joe founded the non-profit San Diego Society for the Preservation of Jazz, hosted a jazz radio show, gave saxophone lessons and mentored many young jazz musicians. He had quite a history, working with Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, and Sonny Stitt before settling in San Diego. Before a performance at The Haven Pizzeria during one of the Adams Avenue events, Joe spotted me and came over to visit me and my wife while we were waiting for our order to arrive. We talked about jazz, MSNBC and Rachel Maddow, as well as Deepak Chopra and philosophy. He was a terrific guy, kind-hearted but with an ascerbic wit as well as being a tremendous sax player. Joe lost his battle with cancer on March 25, at the age of 83. There was a tribute jazz concert at Dizzy’s on May 24 but I was on the road and could not attend. R.I.P, Joe.

thF47HHXVA

Under Construction

I thought that since I have not posted anything since early January it was time to do so even if just to say “stay tuned”.

Well, I decided to purchase a classier package from Word Press. This comes with my own domain, which although unnecessary, I intend to take full advantage of it. There is much to learn and you already know how much I travel if you have been following me. That means I won’t have much time to experiment. My learning will be restricted to perhaps an hour per week. Once I get the appearance and features the way I want them, I will begin to communicate on a more frequent basis. In the meantime, keep your head down and your powder dry. BTW, the new domain is mappinghappenings.com.

Popeswami

It Is Complicated

Well I woke up this morning with a pain in my neck,
A pain in my heart and a pain in my chest,
I went to the good doctor and the good doctor said,
You gotta slow down your life or you’re gonna be dead,
Cut out the struggle and strife,
It only complicates your life.
Ray Davies, “Complicated Life” from The Kinks LP, Muswell Hillbillies, 1971

Intro

Well, I did not wake up with a pain in my neck, heart, or chest. I didn’t have to see a doctor. I do have a pain in the heel of my left foot, probably a mild fracture or bruise from over use or from…never mind…it’s complicated.

People are complicated. Sometimes it is difficult to predict the response you get from them. I think that makes life interesting. But when the response is unexpected, perhaps unconsciously, it is a way for the other person to say “don’t seek a response from me!” Make sense? As social, communicating creatures we spend too much time trying to elicit a response from others, whether it be verbal or nonverbal. The reason I say this is because I think too often what we are doing is seeking self-affirmation from the other’s response. By nature, we desire control and predictability in our environment, and that includes our interactions with the people around us. When thrown off balance by not getting what we expect or want, we often become frustrated. To complicate matters even further, there are some who expect the unexpected in their quest for self-affirmation. And, since we often assume a person we are communicating with is like-minded, we give them what we desire to get back. Perhaps unconsciously we assume everyone is just like us, or in some cases, not like us. See how complicated this gets?

It is the same with music. I do believe that people, including myself, play certain music, or certain styles of music, over and over again because we are seeking self-affirmation in its predictability. For some people, when I put on an unfamiliar piece of music, especially if that music is unconventional, or as some describe “too far out,” they become frustrated; maybe even upset. Then there are those who love the unconventional, and for them when I put on a commercially successful piece of music, something that is overplayed in the media, they become bored and that brings frustration. For them unpredictability has become self-affirming. People are complicated. They think they like what they like and that is all that they like. For many, there are no strange familiars. There is just black and white, sacred and profane, good and bad, yin and yang. In reality it is all gray; all a blur. The big paradox for me is that the more you try to drill down and focus, seeking clarity, the more things blur. This is a crudely simple example of the application of the uncertainty principle.

But for me what keeps life fresh and exciting is opening myself up to something new; new sounds, new people, new places, new ideas, new sensations, new ways of doing something. When there is too much sameness in my life I become restless. Yet there are times I seek refuge in the familiar and the conventional. It is complicated.

When I was just five years old, I liked putting dissonant and discordant sounds together. The abrupt and unfamiliar excited me. I’ve never changed. When I was five, I was not seeking a response from anybody else in these aural explorations. I was simply entertaining myself. At that age, I remember hearing a certain song on the radio that I fell in love with. I have since found that we call the style of that song “exotica” and I later found out that that particular song was “Quiet Village” by Martin Denny. It was interesting to me because of the incorporation of frog and bird calls into the music. Yet there were other songs that were quite conventional that I have continued to enjoy such as Percy Faith’s “A Summer Place”. A few years later, on Pittsburgh radio station WRYT, there was a classical music program, which often played selections of modern 12-tone classical composers such as Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. That was exciting for me because it was different and very much what I imagined in my head when I was just five years old – had I been a composer when I was five, I would have written similar music. But yet I also was very much at home with Brahms’ Fourth “Tragic” Symphony.

When I was in grade school, in the evenings I would play with the knobs on our AM radios and pull in distant stations (none of our radios had FM until my freshman year in high school.) Living in southwestern Pennsylvania, we were in the skip zone for many Canadian radio stations, from Ontario (CJBC, 860 AM from Toronto) and Quebec (CBF, 690 AM from Montreal). A characteristic of the French service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was that they had an evening jazz program that played a lot of free jazz, such as Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Pharaoh Sanders, and John Coltrane. Being broadcast in French I did not understand what was said, or which artists were being played. I just knew I really loved these wild sounds. It was only later that I was able to put names to the artists I had heard.

When I was in junior high psychedelic rock began to affect contemporary rock music. This was a welcome treat for me with all the mixes of instruments from the Near East, Middle Eastern scales, odd time signatures, found sounds, swirling Farfisa organs and fuzz drenched guitars.

This is not to say that I never listened to or enjoyed popular and conventional music styles. But I would not say that I had a preference for any particular style. It was unavoidable that I would be subjected to traditional classical music, big band swing, cool jazz, and Dixieland from my family, plus the top contemporary hits in country, pop, rockabilly, and early 60s rock ‘n’ roll found on the radio and TV. By my freshman year in high school, my tastes ranged from Glen Miller, Burt Bacharach, Herb Alpert, Dionne Warwick, The Beatles, and The Association, to Krystof Penderecki, Albert Ayler, Ultimate Spinach, The Fugs, and The Mothers of Invention.

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band

In my freshman year in college I remember hearing a lot about Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band being even more far out than Frank Zappa’s Mothers. My only exposure to “The Good Captain” before that was on the title track to Zappa’s Hot Rats LP where his Howlin’ Wolf-styled vocals were put to good use. So, without hearing the first note from the double LP, Trout Mask Replica, I just had to buy it. Man, that cover with the trout masked Captain in his top hat and coat, and the red-to-hot-pink background was such an irresistible attraction! When I got it home during break and put it on the turntable, I have to say that there was just nothing like it I had heard before. Abrupt time changes, odd mutated blues patterns, free jazz style horn blowing with a wild multi-octave Captain all over the map, sometimes not even able to fit in his obscure lyrics before the end of the song. There was a familiarity with the styles incorporated into his music, but the way they were pasted together came off like a quilt designed by the blind. The drumming was executed by the most capable John “Drumbo” French, who sounded like he was on some sort of maligned Motorific Torture Track. It took some time to warm up to this. The big lesson here was that there was music out there that could still challenge me. Another lesson was that if you listen enough, it becomes familiar; you begin to anticipate what is next, and then it does not sound so weird. You begin to hum his odd tunes and sing his oddball lyrics and it suddenly makes sense. However, in doing so I instilled fear and trepidation in all but my closest friends. I feel sorry for those who do not have the desire to take the time to push the envelope.

The Residents

The multimedia performance and recording artists known as The Residents pushed the envelope much further than Beefheart. The Residents were very experimental and absurdist at first but things changed over time, just as The Beatles changed over time. Their thematic works became much darker and their music less unconventional. I first heard The Residents’ “Constantinople” on the Doctor Demento Show. This prompted me to seek out their music. The first LP I purchased was Not Available, shortly after it was released in 1978. I immediately fell in love with this, and still consider it one of their greatest achievements. It is true psychedelia in my book; conventionality slightly bent to put you a bit off kilter. The lyrics and the monophonic delivery is haunting. The spoken word portions sound mentally damaged. It is gripping in a waltz-through-a-slowed-down-world manner. After this I had to find everything they ever did. What I found was that each release was extremely different from the others until perhaps the last 10 years. I kept my collection complete up until the past three years when I decided the music was becoming a parody of itself. Hardy and Homer, if you are reading this, I am sorry.

The Mentally Ill and Developmentally Disabled

In recent years I have taken an interest in “outsider” artists who appear to march to a different drum or to no drum at all. The obvious ones that first come to mind are the supposed “acid casualties”: Pink Floyd’s Roger “Syd” Barrett; Moby Grape’s Alexander “Skip” Spence; Penny Arkade’s Craig Smith (aka Satya Sai Maitreya Kali); The 13th Floor Elevators’ Roky Erickson; and The Seeds’ Sky Saxon. All were already accomplished musical talents when they were diagnosed with schizophrenia (with the exception of Sky Saxon and perhaps Craig Smith) that manifested itself following years of hallucinogenic drug experimentation. In Craig Smith’s case it may have also been due to brain damage caused by a severe beating he experienced while exploring remote areas of Afghanistan in the early 70s. My feeling is that had it not been for the drugs the underlying mental illness for most of these artists may have been kept in check but then again, we will never know for sure.

I feel a bit guilty about my interest in those who may have been victims of developmental disabilities or mental illness who found an avenue to record and express their musical talents. One such recording I acquired was by the Hi Hopes, from the Hope School in Anaheim, CA. This was a school for the developmentally disabled and it must have had a music program as several albums were pressed in the 1970s of performances by the students. Other recordings I have stumbled upon include those of Daniel Johnston, a singer-songwriter who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He produced several cassette tapes in the 1980s and marketed them himself. His earliest have been put onto a double CD titled “Songs of Pain”. There is a melancholy delicateness and childlike naivety, not dissimilar to that of Brian Wilson, to his songwriting and singing that draws me in. Another artist who is much different in style and is credited to founding the musical genre “psychobilly” is Norman Odam, aka The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. I am not sure what to make of him but his music is full of childlike enthusiasm, in the same manner as Jad Fair of Half Japanese. However, Jad is true to rock and is a bit more in touch with the rest of the world. The Cowboy, fondly referred to as “The Ledge” by some, recorded the song “Paralyzed” in 1968 and unbelievably it was released as a single on the Mercury label. The song is total vocal insanity with backup instrumentation that is nearly lost in the cacophony of sounds emitted from this man’s mouth. Every human sound imaginable by mouth can be heard in total free-form abandon. While Odam never achieves the extremes of “Paralyzed” on his subsequent numerous recordings, he relentlessly tries to find new vocal sounds for self-expression, but sometimes he transitions into a more normal baritone singing style and uses real words! Larry “Wild Man” Fischer is another victim of schizophrenia who was first recorded on the album, Bedlam, attributed to a band named The Crazy People back in 1967. The album was produced by a supposed DJ from Vancouver, BC who went by the name Johnny Kitchen. Kitchen’s real name is Jack Millman, an accomplished jazz trumpeter whose career began in 1948! Later in 1967 Frank Zappa “discovered” Fischer singing on the streets of L.A. and brought him into the studio to record “An Evening with Wild Man Fischer”. In the mid-70s Fischer signed a contract with Rhino Records and recorded four more albums which have been collected in a 3-CD box set titled “The Fischer King”. Fischer was known for his ability to create a song on-the-spot, and primarily sang unaccompanied. Many of his songs were autobiographical and presented a picture of a family that did not know how to handle a child with mental illness who primarily communicated with song. Wesley Willis was a Chicago street singer who also suffered from schizophrenia. He accompanied himself on keyboard and amazingly had a punk rock band, The Wesley Willis Fiasco. Most of his songs were quite funny as well as being grossly vulgar, but repetitive in style and lyrical structure. His most famous songs were “Kurt Cobain”, “I Whupped Batman’s Ass”, and “Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonalds”. Willis was also a compelling visual artist and much of his artwork appears on his album covers. He died from complications following surgery at the age of 40.

Wesley Willis

Drawing by Wesley Willis

A few more artists who were either “touched” or “damaged” that come to mind, whose albums I own include the following:

Jerry Rayson – The Weird Thing in Town (1969)
Kit Ream – All That I Am (1978)
Randy Rice – To Anyone Who’s Ever Laughed at Someone Else (1974)
Alter Ego and Friends – Obsessional Schizophrenia (1972)
Gary Wilson – You Think You Really Know Me (1977)

The five artists listed immediately above only recorded in limited pressings, and are not widely known outside the world of collectors. Each is quite different from the other but for all of them their problems are quite evident after a few minutes into these recordings.

I am not sure of the reason for my interest in such music. I certainly do not listen with the intention to make fun of their disabilities. I simply find them to be curious and interesting. Perhaps it is due to my psychology background. But my fascination for such things began long before I took my first psychology course, so I just don’t know. It is too complicated. I will end this entry here but I am far from done with this subject.

In my next entry I will discuss other outsider artists who are simply eccentric, or determined and accomplished experimenters.

A Final Note

This morning I woke up to the sad news that David Bowie had passed away. I guess you never expect this to happen, yet it is inevitable with all of us. Bowie was one of those artists for whom I feel a great loss. He was continuously creating and reinventing himself right up to the end. His contributions were enormous. I really cannot say any more than what has been said these hours since his demise. But I will just end by stating my favorite Bowie albums: The Man Who Sold the World, Heroes, and The Singles. My favorite song was a collaboration between Bowie and John Lennon, “Fame”. And then there was “Let’s Dance”. The Tin Machine era was really challenging and I thoroughly enjoyed that band. He was a true star, a true rock pioneer. I will miss him.

The Yend of the Ear

“He had been walking for a long time, ever since dark in fact, and dark falls soon in December.”
Charlotte Riddell, aka Mrs. J.H. Riddell (1832 – 1906), “The Old House in Vauxhall Walk,” 1882

Endings

This is now the last day of December. I have not posted anything since early November. Yes, I have been quite busy, as I usually am, however there have been stretches of time where I could have been writing but had no inspiration to do so.

The holiday season is seldom cooperative with my plans. Due to this fact, I find myself making fewer and fewer plans every year. I simply “go with it”. Many unexpected delays due to home repairs, auto repairs, and computer repairs have consumed my time and money like voracious aardvarks gobbling up baskets of garbanzos.

But let me move out of the self-pity department and into the musical high points of the past year. I will put these into a series of lists – which is something I seem to do with many things.

The Listings Begin

Three artists of renown I met this year but did not get to hear perform were:

1. Buddy Guy – blues guitar legend and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer, at his 79th birthday celebration and CD release party
2. KC and The Sunshine Band – 70s disco hit makers, on an American Airlines jet from San Diego to Charlotte
3. Johnny “V” Vernazza – Blues and slide guitar great and gold record legend at the Blindspot Records anniversary party

There were other famous artists I had the good fortune to hear and meet this year:

1. Kawehi – loop artist, singer, guitarist, keyboards
2. Kenny Blake – jazz saxophonist with two Billboard top 20 albums
3. Roger Humphries – legendary jazz drummer who has played with all the greats
4. Mundell Lowe – internationally known jazz guitar maestro, at his 93rd birthday performance
5. Larry Mitchell – Grammy award winning producer and guitarist
6. Cindy Lee Berryhill – recording artist with roots in the early L.A. punk rock scene.
7. Kimm Rogers – singer songwriter and recording artist
8. Patric Petrie – internationally known Celtic fiddle player and vocalist
9. Dave Humphries – singer songwriter originally from Durham, UK
10. Gregory Page – American and Irish singer songwriter
11. Steph Johnson –jazz/funk guitarist
12. Allison Adams Tucker – jazz and pop singer
13. Ellen Weller –jazz and experimental flute, saxes

I also had the great fortune to add the following bands to the list of I’ve seen perform:

1. Manual Scan – five-piece mod rock style I had the pleasure of hearing for the first time at the Casbah just a week ago. Manual Scan began its existence in 1980 and became inactive in 1991, reuniting only occasionally in recent years. They had just come back from a tour in Spain a few weeks ago, and the Casbah event was also a release party for their new EP/CD, “The Pyles Sessions”. The tour and Casbah event reunited Bart Mendoza and David Fleminger with Kevin Ring, Tim Blankenship and Jarrod Lucas. Two other bands performed at the Casbah event, The Bassics and Alvino & The Dwells.
2. Alvino & The Dwells – Due to my work schedule I kept missing their performances over and over again, but finally got to hear them for the first time at Demille’s during an Adams Avenue event and then again at the Casbah, as mentioned above. This band is an instrumental surf/power trio consisting of Manual Scan alumni Didier Suarez and David Fleminger, and Tony Suarez. If you love surf music in the style of Dick Dale and the Del Tones, The Ventures, or Jerry Cole, this is a must-hear band.
3. The Bassics – They are an exciting young mod rock band with a punkish flair, who won the Best New Artist award at the San Diego Music Awards this year. Their drummer, Juan Carlos Mendez, is a total animal on the skins. And frontman/rhythm guitarist Sam Martinez is full of raw, yet controlled power. Vino Martinez on bass consistently augments the “bassic” rhythm. They have an accomplished lead guitarist but I did not catch his name and a search of the band online did not help.
4. Liz Grace and The Swing Thing – Liz is a great singer, fronting Three Chord Justice in a country vein, and using The Swing Thing as a platform for performing classic swing, pop, and torch songs. Jon Garner is a stand-out guitarist in this unit.
5. HM3 – This is the Harley Magsino Trio, featuring the incredible jazz keyboardist Joshua White, Charles Weller on drums, and Harley on bass. I saw them on the sidewalk outside Folk Arts Rare Records. They were joined by DJ Teelynn and Nina. This was a great performance, and I certainly want to hear more of them in 2016.
6. Missy Andersen – Excellent, excellent blues vocalist with a backing band that includes her amazing guitarist husband, Heine Andersen. This was an evening of soulful blues at Proud Mary’s. We totally enjoyed that evening.
7. Chet Cannon & The Committee – Chet is one of the great blues harpists in San Diego and was a founder of the annual Spring Harp Fest, where I met him. He is a powerful singer as well as a harmonica genius.
8. True Stories – This is another band that is currently lead by Bart Mendoza and includes David Fleminger on keyboards and guitar, Danny Cress on drums, and Orrick Smith on bass. Occasionally Normandie Wilson joins them on keys and vocals. I first saw them at the Air Conditioned Lounge, and then again at another Adams Avenue event. They played some of Bart’s originals as well as 60s mod and British invasion rock standards.
9. Plow – This is a quasi-blue grass and Americana band lead by Chris Clarke, who perform at Urban Solace every second Sunday of the month. Always an enjoyable treat while enjoying a great breakfast.
10. Podunk Nowhere – They are another country/folk/Americana band that we saw at an Adams Avenue event and want to see again in the coming year
11. Whitney Shay Trio – Had heard Whitney many times with Robin Henkel but never with her own trio, singing pop and jazz standards from the swing era.
12. The Zicas – Brazilian folk performed at Java Joes during the Adams Avenue Street Fair.

Standout Live Events of 2015 Mentioned in Previous Posts

1. A Jazz Exploration of The Beatles – Jamie Shadowlight, violin; Mikan Zlatkovich, keyboards; Mackenzie Leighton, contrabass; Richard Sellers, drums; Carmelia “Toot” Bell, vocals; Arnessa Rickett, vocals – at 98 Bottles
2. Songs of the Seeker: A Journey into Wonder – Shadowlight and !ZeuqsaV! – this was a multimedia experimental performance with Jamie Shadowlight on electric violin, Xavier Vasquez on visual projection and laptop with assistance from Mikan Zlatkovich. At the Moxie Theatre.
3. 6th Annual Women in Jazz – Allison Adams Tucker, vocals; Steph Johnson, vocals and guitar; Ellen Weller, flute and saxes; Melonie Grinnell, piano; Jodie Hill, string bass; Laurel Grinnell, drums – at 98 Bottles.
4. Mundell Lowe’s 93rd Birthday Celebration – Mundell Lowe, guitar; Bob Magnussen, string bass; Jim Plank, drums; Jaime Valle, guitar; Bob Boss, guitar; Alicia Previn, violin. At Dizzy’s.
5. Kawehi – at The Loft. Opening acts were: Tojou, On Fifth, and Zoya Music.
6. Across the Street at Mueller College, May 1, 2015 – with Connor Correll and Q Ortiz, Red Willow Waltz, and Jamie Shadowlight
7. Randi Driscoll and Friends at Java Joes – Including Noah Heldman, Randi Driscoll, Larry Mitchell, Jamie Shadowlight, Shawn Rohlf, Monette Marino, and the John Martin Davis Band.
8. Blindspot Records Anniversary Party – at the home of Patric Petrie, with performances by Casino Royale, Patric Petrie with David Lally, Tim Foley, and Ron Wild, and a solo performance by Sierra West. After we left, Marie Haddad performed a set. We will have to catch Marie in 2016.
9. Pulse of Life: Melodies and Rhythms – featuring Nacho Arimany and Monette Marino on percussion and Jamie Shadowlight on violin and singing bowl
10. Jamie Shadowlight and Naganuma Dance: (sub)merge – featuring Jamie Shadowlight on violin, maracas, and singing bowl, Anita Weedmark on piano, Erdis Maxhelaku on cello and djembe, and John Noble on modular synth. Dancers were Darcy Naganuma and Aurora Lagattuta.
11. An Evening with Songwriters – at Java Joes, featuring Bart Mendoza, Dave Humphries, and Kimm Rogers as well as Mike Alvarez, Mark DeCerbo, Samuel Martinez, Patric Petrie, and Beezie Gerber.
12. Cindy Lee Berryhill and Kimm Rogers – at Grassroots Oasis. Kimm performed a solo set, followed by Cindy Lee’s set and then they teamed up to do some additional songs, ending with Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale”. Beyond cool!
13. Manual Scan Reunion and EP/CD Release Party – at the Casbah, the evening began with The Bassics, followed by Alvino & The Dwells, followed by Manual Scan. The was an amazing evening of mod rock and surf. Kind of reminds me of surf and turf.
14. A JazzMikan Christmas – at 98 Bottles featuring Mikan Zlatkovich on keyboards, Jamie Shadowlight on violin, Katie Thiroux on string bass, Matt Witek on drums, and Carmelia ‘Toot’ Bell and Arnessa Rickett on vocals.

If anything jumps out at you in the list above, it should be the name Jamie Shadowlight. She seemed to be everywhere this past year with the most interesting groups of performers in every conceivable musical style and beyond. And I left some of her performances we saw this year off the above lists!

So, it was a very musically rewarding year in live performance for me.

Music Acquisitions

I have to say that this year has been very fortuitous and very propitious based upon the department of redundancy department. Some highlights include:

1. The Velvet Underground – Re-Loaded, 45th Anniversary Edition with 5 CDs and 1 DVD.
2. Bob Dylan – The Mono Box with 9 CDs spanning his first 8 albums
3. John Gilbert / Meade River – s/t – rarity pressed as a memorial to 17-year-old rocker – super rare
4. Your Navy Presents: The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Dick Clark, M.C. Only one known copy remains and I now own it.
5. The Thunderbirds – Introducing the Fabulous Thunderbirds – not the more recent band but a group of Native American teen rockers from New Mexico in 1965
6. Mistress Mary, Housewife – weird self-penned country rock rumored to include Roger McGuinn’s assistance as well as other members of The Byrds. Limited quantity LP vanity press from the late 1960s.
7. Royalaires – a mid-60s prep rock rarity
8. Johnny’s World – a rare recording from the St. John Catholic Youth Organization in the late 60s.
9. Aeron – Paltareon: The Far Memory of Elves – psychedelic avant-garde
10. Jimmy Carter & Dallas County Green – Summer Brings the Sunshine
11. Jaim – Prophecy Fulfilled
12. Steve Drake – Cold Sweat
13. The B. Toff Band – Golden Greats
14. Butch – The Bitch of Rock and Roll
15. J. Teal Band – Cooks
16. 15-60-75 (The Numbers Band)
17. Tripping Out – Drug Education – scare tactic record that is hilarious, from the early 70s.
18. The Pied Piper – of drugs; another scare tactic drug education album. I love these old albums of weird misinformation about drug abuse.
19. Easy Chair – reissue of recordings by Jeff Simmons old band from the late 60s
20. Arcesia – this is a weird early 70s crooner in a rock format – a private press vanity album
21. Walkenhorst Brothers – a great 70s rock group gone totally unnoticed
22. T Kail – another early 70s rock band that went unnoticed.
23. The Toads – another prep school classic from the mid-60s
24. Sage and Seer – folk rock in Simon & Garfunkel style but very rare
25. The Mam’selles – Bubble Gum World – this is a lounge act, another soft spot with me, from late 60s.
26. Mississippi – Velvet Sandpaper – weird real people crooner from the 70s
27. Michael Angelo – finally, his Guinn album was redone right and now I own everything he has recorded and released.
28. Cincinnati Joe and Mad Lydia – soul/r&b in a weird mix – completely crazy. Mid 70s
29. The Ali Baba Revue – with classic “Rats in My Room” lounge rock act from the late 60s.
30. Steve Kaczorokowski – What Time Are You. This is ultra-rare from the first person (unintentionally) to record karaoke fashion. Actually not bad, since the music was stolen from recordings of other artists.
31. McKinney – rare folk rock album from mid-70s with a Johnathan Edwards connection.
32. The Grapes of Rathe – Glory. Not a religious album, as you might be led to believe from the LP title. This was a late 60s pop rock band with a killer psychedelic opening track.

I am sure there are others I am missing, but this just gives you some stand-outs for me, especially in the rarities department from decades ago.

And with that, I will close out the year’s blogging. I will be back next year, perhaps with expanded features.

Due to prior computer problems this is going out quick and I may post photos, etc. next time with regard to what I am posting here.

What Does Love Have To Do With It?

“I think love lyrics have contributed to the general aura of bad mental health in America. Love lyrics create expectations which can never be met in real life, and so the kid who hears these tunes doesn’t realize that that kind of love doesn’t exist. If he goes out looking for it, he’s going to be a kind of love loser all his life…The singer-songwriters who write these lyrics earn their living by pretending to reveal their innermost personal turmoil over the way love has hurt them, which creates a false standard that people use as a guideline on how to behave in interpersonal relationships.”
Frank Zappa, interviewed by John Winokur, 1992

Whether you agree or disagree with Zappa’s take on the love song, you have to admit that love songs have had a significant impact on interpersonal relationships and vice versa, and this has been true probably going back to before the first written lyrics ever existed. Now, let me clarify here. I am talking about, and it is obvious that Zappa was referring to, romantic love.

For the sake of not getting too dense in describing the concept of love, let me just state that we all know there are various types of love; the ancient Greeks divided it into four basic types – Eros, Philia, Storge, and Agape. And to me there seem to be shades and blendings of these types to create a huge quilt of love varieties. Romance falls primarily into the domain of Eros, but there are still so many mixes. Now we could go deeper with distinctions between the noun “love”, and the verb “love”. But, let’s not. Suffice it to say that several concepts can be thrown into the mix involving romantic love for good measure: eroticism, sexuality, sensuality, spirituality, intimacy, physical attraction, truth, Platonism, affection…why don’t I just use a Thesaurus?

I am stating the obvious when I say there are few topics not covered by music and lyrics, but when it comes to selling music as a product in a capitalist society, sex and romance sell the best. Right? They are powerful driving forces in human relationships and people can go from extreme highs to extreme lows when expressing their feelings about them – and this is always great material for the songwriter. But because of the millions of songs about this topic, it would become rather bland to just write about the love song. Rather, I am interested in the more unique observations, stand-out lyrics that reflect real emotions and situations people experience, or the mixing of unlikely ideas with the idea of love. So here are some stand-outs that I have had the pleasure of meeting.

Animal Collective – Applesauce For the past 30 years, music has taken advantage of the video to get a point across, and this music video stands out for me in a quasi-erotic and yet philosophical way. As with many other Animal Collective compositions, lyrics are vague yet clear enough to take them on several different trips. This music video features a silhouette of a woman eating some type of fruit – a peach, maybe, but definitely not an apple – with lyrics that make reference to people going away. The erotic aspect of the video is that she eats the fruit very s-l-o-w-l-y, getting it all over her face. All you see is her face around her mouth and nose along with the disappearing fruit. To me, this perhaps portrays a lover that is leaving; or perhaps that the singer is being consumed by his lover until his own identity disappears. Or could it be that the song is about people dying or otherwise leaving our lives just like rotting or eaten fruit? Could it really be that simple? It is a very thoughtful composition, and lyrically intriguing, but for me, musically, it falls flat without the video. The video is exquisite in my book. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIbtYzjLuMo

Joni Mitchell – A Case of You Few artists are as gifted as Joni Mitchell in writing about real human relationships, usually drawn from her own experiences. Taylor Swift has a long way to go to get to this level. Few love songs have captured passion in such a simplistic way as how Joni does here. The Appalachian dulcimer and solo voice balance the intensity of the lyrics in describing her declarations of ambivalence, surrender, and devotion to her lover. Frank Zappa be damned, this is a hot song! From the Joni Mitchell album, “Blue”. The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YuaZcylk_o

Gary Numan – Cars; Queen – I’m In Love With My Car; Steve Miller Band – Mercury Blues; The Dead Milkmen – Bitchin’ Camaro; Autosalvage – Auto Salvage There is a certain fascination with cars in Western culture. In my choices here I try to remain familiar to the reader but there are literally hundreds of songs that could replace these. Gary Numan’s song could be considered a Zen-like experience of becoming one with his car. I can identify with his sentiments when I drive long distances by myself. My mind races with a variety of thoughts while another part of my brain is on autopilot, almost one with the car in that sense. Could it be a form of love? On the other hand, this song could be using the car as a metaphor for isolation, where he is asking if you will visit him if he opens his door so that he does not feel so isolated. In this sense, there seems to be a longing for a loving, trustful relationship where he can avoid the eventual demise that isolation brings. It has been said that Numan suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and knowing this makes it more likely that this is about isolation, but for me it could work either way. Queen takes it a step further as the writer openly declares his love for his car. Or is it all double entendre? It could be, or it could be that Roger Taylor was expressing his carsexual tendencies. Objects, such as cars, do not talk back, so it could be he was expressing his preference for a powerful four-wheeled machine over a human love relationship. Or it could simply be a healthy enjoyment of vehicles and driving fast. Steve Miller was not the first person to record “Mercury Blues” but he may be the first to bring it to the general public. It was written by K.C. Douglas and Robert Geddins in the late 40s, originally known as “Mercury Boogie”. Several major artists have recorded and popularized the song since the Steve Miller Band’s 1976 release. The song expresses a love for Mercury vehicles as a means to “getting the girl”. It also expresses a love for cruising but let’s not get too deep here. This song means just exactly what it says. I used to love my Saturn vehicles. Still have one. I was very sad when that line was terminated by GM. The Dead Milkmen get even further away from the concept of love with their comedic song, “Bitchin’ Camaro”. But it is not that far off from “Mercury Blues” so I included it here. There is a reference to The Doors’ “Love Me Two Times” in the song, but then they get silly with sick humor, associating it with AIDS. Again, there is no intended deep meaning here; just fun in a mock-adolescent, braggadocios manner. Autosalvage is the only obscure group I mention here. They had only one LP, issued in 1968, but it did not go anywhere and the band folded a year later. The band name actually came after the song. Zappa heard them rehearsing and suggested they name their band after their song, “Auto Salvage”. They took his advice. The song pays homage to all the variety of vehicles on the road at that time, but it goes further. No matter which one you think is the best, they are all equal in the auto salvage yard. Could this be a reference to life? Such a variety of people and personalities but in death we have the ultimate equalizer. So, whoever you love or admire, we all come to the same end, and all that love and admiration is done at that point. And I am done discussing love and cars. Links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6YMAvfwTFo ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaEM4JYFPfw ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJJvyPXPssg ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v3CzvQ9e_w ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GY6KVmx4E8U

Susan Christie – I Love Onions A novelty song from 1966 in a vaudeville/jug band style, this was Susan Christie’s only charting release. The song speaks for itself. And I love onions, too. Just a side note – in 1969 Susan recorded a rather dark album of songs for Columbia but they did not release it due to a lacking of commercial potential, so they thought. It is now available on CD. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM-lEhhsLQw

The Captain & Tennille – Muskrat Love Introducing Susie and Sam; two fornicating muskrats. This was written and recorded by Willis Alan Ramsey as “Muskrat Candlelight” but then America changed the title and had a hit with it. The Captain & Tennille took it to # 30 in 1976. No-one knows why. Later a parody was created entitled “Hamster Love” by Big Daddy, where the little critters frizzled and sizzled on the stove and a boy is heard to exclaim that the hamster sandwiches are delicious. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjqeNoi6EmM ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSt2RoZ8Ek4

So let’s deviate some more by looking at some deviations to the concept of sexual/mental love.

The Velvet Underground – Venus in Furs Most people reading this are familiar with this song, composed by Lou Reed. Recorded in 1966 by VU, it has been covered by many artists. But few are familiar with the cover of this ode to sadomasochism by Prydwyn recorded on solo acoustic guitar with male/female voices in a very dark medieval complexion. I like both versions, depending on my mood. The concept of the song was inspired by a novella of the same name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch as part of his “Love” series. The references to a character named Severin in the song come directly from the novel’s character, Severin von Kusiemski. Alternative sexual themes are common in the music of The Velvet Underground, but this was one of their first and most striking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfN1-YeBnA8

Jefferson Airplane – Triad This is a David Crosby composition, and was recorded and performed by The Byrds in 1967, but was left off “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” LP because Roger McGuinn thought it was too risqué for public release. The in-fighting regarding release of the song was one of the things that led to Crosby being fired from The Byrds in late 1967. But Crosby found an outlet with the Jefferson Airplane, who included it on their “Crown of Creation” LP in 1968. Sung beautifully by Grace Slick, with a lush chord progression, it is a story of a ménage à trois. This is not an uncommon theme in today’s music, but in the 60’s it was unheard of. Decades later, The Byrds’ version was released on compilation albums and as a bonus track on The Notorious Byrd Brothers CD. There are also cover versions, most recently by Tina Dico in 2008. Here is the link to Jefferson Airplane’s version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKV9WFxDSfg

King Crimson – Cadence and Cascade The song is an allegory regarding dualism, cleverly cloaked in sensual innuendo on the surface. This was released on the King Crimson “In the Wake of Poseidon” LP in 1970 with lyrics by Peter Sinfield. The song is an essential piece to the album’s theme of Eros and strife. The characters of the song are Cadence, Cascade, and Jade. Cadence represents the formal structure of Logos, thinking, consciousness, ordered rhythm, or the Yang. Cascade represents uncontrolled energy, chaos, Eros, and Yin. Jade is balancing, grounding, and strengthening. The words are breathtakingly exquisite, hitting on both a sensual and spiritual level. The music is gentle and melodic, yet pensive. Highly recommended. Sinfield proves himself to be an erudite masterful lyricist here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpZqSg6U53E

The Fugs – The Garden Is Open This is a cleverly disguised mating ritual with lyrics by Tuli Kupferberg. The Fugs pushed the envelope in the 1960’s, even further than Frank Zappa, regarding sex and profanity in music, thus staying vastly unpopular commercially, but revered in the underground music scene. From the Tenderness Junction LP of 1967, this song is one of their best with regard to musical and lyrical aesthetics, and it has a menacing electric violin solo reminiscent of John Cale’s viola on Velvet Underground’s recordings. There is a very experimental cover of this song by Valinger/ZeBB/Runolf floating around on the Internet.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C9omgNzAAU

There are many songs about loving dogs or being loved like a dog. Salty Dog Blues first comes to mind. This song has been recorded by several country and bluegrass artists over the years (I first heard it performed by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos) and has become quite sanitized from its original sexually suggestive beginnings in the early 1900’s. Cat Stevens – I Love My Dog is a harmless song about a man’s affection for his dog. But Patti Page – How Much Is That Doggie In The Window smacks of dog prostitution if you ask me. Is Lobo – Me and You and a Dog Named Boo about a bestial ménage à trois? The Beatles – Martha My Dear sounds even more to the point. Who would have known McCartney was having a yiffing good time with his dog, Martha? For me I will stick with The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog which at least keeps things on the human level; perhaps a bit furrie, but still human. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U9mdVn0jSQ ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qcqk_SEsLPU ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=safoNysTrbE ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TFQeJ-pQJ4 ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK5jy5rYeYg ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJIqnXTqg8I

One of the worst uses of the concept of love in music happens with what is called Contemporary Christian Music. In the past 30 years, I have heard some really bizarre songs where female and male vocalists sound like they are longing for a physical romantic relationship with Jesus. One could be forgiving of this if it was more obvious they were using a creative metaphor. However, either due to the lyrical limitations of the writers, or the shallow, sappy slobbering of the singers, this never is convincing and just leaves me feeling uncomfortable and undesirous of such a closer walk with Thee. Here are some stand-outs: Paul Baloche – Falling; Kirk Whalum – Falling In Love With Jesus. There are many more artists, and the female singers make me even more squeamish. Pick any of them on Internet sources such as Amazon and you will see what I mean.

Getting away from all that, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my all-time favorite love songs, Like a Lover, written by Alan Bergman, Dorival Caymmi, Marilyn Bergman and Nelson Motta. It was first released by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 in 1968 with Lani Hall as the lead vocalist. This is my favorite version. It captures the longing one feels when apart from a new lover. The lyrics are beautiful and the melody is a perfect fit. Check it out online. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF4pN19mXws

The Mothers of Invention – How Could I Be Such a Fool This brings us full circle. From their 1966 “Freak Out!” LP, this is a Frank Zappa-penned…song of rejection in love! Oh my! Was Zappa trying to contribute to mental illness in society? When he said what he said in 1992, I wonder if he thought about what he wrote in the 60’s. This is actually a very well-constructed song that starts out in a ¾ waltz style, and the lyrics sound like they are grounded in experience. Unusual time changes occur to produce a sense of drama. One of his best. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpYmHNicnkQ

I hope this whets your appetite to hear some of the selections mentioned above. I stayed largely, but not totally, with the era of the late 60s to early 70s, simply because that is the era that interests me the most. This is an inexhaustible topic and one I might find myself coming back to in future blog posts.

ON THE LOCAL SCENE

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L to R: Billy Watson, Whitney Shay, Robin Henkel

I have been on the road a large portion of the past month and a half, so it has been limited pickings as far as getting out to hear what is going on in the local music scene. And sometimes when I could go out, I had too much to do at home to get out, or I was simply too jet lagged. I did get out to see Robin Henkel (guitars, vocals), Whitney Shay (vocals), and Billy Watson (harmonica, vocals) at Proud Mary’s on October 8. While hearing all three artists in the past, I had never heard the three of them together until now. It was a nice fit. Robin had just had his birthday a few days before, so Whitney surprised him with a little birthday celebration during their performance. A couple days later Robin Henkel & his Horn Band were at Lestat’s. The advertised time was an hour early, so we hung out at the coffee shop until it was time to go over. With Robin was Jodie Hill on bass, Troy Jennings on saxes, and Gary Nieves on drums. Another fun evening. I have written about all of these artists in the past. Take my word for it, if you are in San Diego, you need to see them. You will not be disappointed.

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L to R: Robin Henkel, Jodie Hill, Troy Jennings, Gary Nieves

On November 6, we attended the “Evening with Songwriters” at Java Joe’s hosted by Bart Mendoza, and also featuring Dave Humphries and Kimm Rogers. Supporting these fine songwriters and performers were Mike Alvarez, Mark DeCerbo, Samuel Martinez, Patric Petrie, and Beezie Gerber. The evening started out with Bart and Patric doing a number, followed by Bart and Samuel (of the Bassics). Then Bart and Mark did several songs, with Dave helping out on harmony on one song, and Patric joining in for a couple songs. Next up was Kimm and Beezie with several of Kimm’s songs. I had never heard Kimm Rogers before and I am now sold on her. She is not only a wonderful singer, but her lyrics are well crafted vignettes of real life situations, full of power and emotion. Finally, we had Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez, with some 60s UK pop tunes along with many of Dave’s own songs. Dave, who hails from Durham, UK, weaves anecdotes of his time with Tony Sheridan (of Tony Sheridan and the Silver Beetles fame) and with Badfinger’s Joey Molland into his song intros, subtly letting us know he was there when it all started in the 60s. This was a fine evening of great music performed by some of the best.

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Bart Mendoza and Samuel Martinez

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L to R: Patric Petrie, Bart Mendoza, Mark DeCerbo

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Kimm Rogers and Beezie Gerber

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L to R: Bart Mendoza, Dave Humphries, Mike Alvarez

November 7, we noted that the Robin Henkel Band was appearing at Proud Mary’s. This configuration had Caleb Furgatch on string bass, Troy Jennings and David Castel de Oro on saxes, Big Al Schneider on drums, and of course, Robin on super-collider guitars and vocals. The band was exceptionally “on” with some great solo work from everyone. Wonderful Americana in the form of blues and jazz with many penned by Robin as well.

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L to R: Robin Henkel, Caleb Furgatch, Al Schneider, Troy Jennings, David Castel de Oro

November 8 is the second Sunday in the month, which means Plow is at the Urban Solace restaurant and bar for the bluegrass brunch. Since I have been flying most Sundays in the past several months, we could not miss this opportunity. They were all there: Chris Clarke, Jason Weiss, Doug Walker, Joe Pomianek, Mark Markowitz, and Dane Terry. This was their 8th anniversary playing the Bluegrass Brunch at Urban Solace. And we got to witness it.

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L to R: Jason Weiss, Mark Markowitz, Chris Clarke, Doug Walker, Dane Terry, unknown, Joe Pomianek

And so we come to the end of another entry from out of the mind of the Popeswami to the eyes and brains of all 2 or 3 readers of my blog posts. May you all sleep well tonight.

The Friendship Communication Church (FCC)

“And the voice said ‘Daddy, there’s a million pigeons
Ready to be hooked on new religions.
Hit the road, Daddy.
Leave your common law wife,
Spread the religion of the rhythm of life.’”
      From the musical, Sweet Charity, song “The Rhythm of Life”
      Music by Cy Coleman, Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

Someone once said (I think it was me) that when you think you are “playing the system”, the system is actually playing you. Essentially we are all playing each other. In 1969, Timothy Leary said, “You can be anyone this time around.” In the same year Firesign Theatre said “How can you be two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all.” They were also known to say “We are all bozos on this bus.” I’m not afraid to admit my bozoness. So what does that have to do with anything? Well, to begin with, we are not who we think we are. We are a weird (or unique; take your pick) conglomeration of experiences we have had with our environment, and especially the people with whom we have associated over our lifetime. I am you; you are me; and there we be… musical tastes included. The music I have grown to love and appreciate is to a degree the result of people in my life sharing music they love to listen to. Radio and television have also been contributors – again, the result of disc jockeys, program directors, and others who decided what to air. But not all of it comes from these interactions. In the past 2 decades I have become obsessive about surfing the Internet, in search of the lost chord. I search out music to satisfy my curiosity. I read books about music and then search it out – testing the waters to see if it is something I want to add to my library. But again, some person had to write that book or post that article. On a local level, I search out artists to watch and hear perform, and out of this have sprung friendships as well as opportunities to experience even more music. As a matter of fact, this blog is the result of my sharing ideas about doing this with a local artist who enthusiastically encouraged me to get started. I bet she regrets encouraging me!!!

So let me share with you some of my most recent experiences regarding the local music scene….roll the film.

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September 18, at 98 Bottles, Jamie Shadowlight and Naganuma Dance: (sub)merge
We had no idea what to expect but knew this performance was going to be a combination of music and dance, and would be profoundly unique. I will try my best to objectively describe what took place. Performing musically: Jamie Shadowlight on violin, maracas, and singing bowl, Anita Weedmark on piano, Erdis Maxhelaku on cello and djembe, and John Noble on modular synth. Primary dancers were Darcy Naganuma and Aurora Lagattuta. Sometimes they, too, contributed to the sound with maracas and other items. Plus, Darcy read a few paragraphs from what appeared to be a dairy or biography. Many in the audience were from Naganuma Dance and Aurora’s classes. At one point Darcy and Aurora went into the audience, gave a light kiss and whispered something to certain people (from their classes), and then brought them onto the stage area to participate in a free-form dance. But I am getting ahead of myself; let me begin at the beginning. Right before the performance began Jamie, Darcy, and Aurora brought pen and paper to each table instructing us to write ideas that come to mind as the performance progressed. It was a way for the audience to participate. Instructions were intentionally vague to leave open any inspiration that we experienced. Then it began, with Jamie shaking a maraca and Erdis on djembe while Anita created a rumbling, rolling sound with the piano. The performers were yelling and stomping their feet and encouraged the audience to do likewise. Then come the dancers, marching in like little toy soldiers with limited movement. From there they evolved into puppet-like movements, and then broke free of the strings. By this time Jamie had transitioned to violin and Erdis to cello, part droning, part improvisational jamming, playing off the dancers and the dancers playing off the musicians. The dancing and music seemed to flow in patterns like ocean waves and it was impossible to anticipate the next thing to hit the senses. The performance continued in this manner, with the audience never knowing what to expect. Once it was over, they collected the papers. Only two people (I was one of them) had written anything. Aurora read what we wrote for the audience to hear. It was explained that everything we experienced was improvised, in-the-moment, feeding off each other. This included what we, the audience, wrote…or didn’t write. Silence can speak volumes. This stream-of-consciousness expression of self, artistry, and love was nearly overwhelming and left us a bit lighter as we found our way back to the car. As we walked past the Casbah and the sound of loud, raucous rock, I smiled and considered even that and the sound of the traffic to be part of the experience. We were all, indeed, submerged in ourselves and each other that evening and it was spellbinding.

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L to R: Erdis Maxhelaku, Aurora Lagattuta, Jamie Shadowlight, Darcy Naganuma, Anita Weedmark, and John Noble

Adams Avenue 34th Street Fair – September 26 & 27
The turnout at this event was huge considering the unbearable heat. Walking about the Street Fair I felt like I was being microwaved. I quickly turned my attention away from the heat, kept hydrated with water, and focused on the music. First up, on Saturday, we headed for Java Joe’s where The Zicas were performing. The Zicas play the music of Brazil. Three performers played percussion, guitar, and cavaquinho (a small Brazilian/Portuguese guitar-like instrument). They were great players and fun to watch, with their little antics. They reaffirm my love of the Brazilian culture and music.

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Next up we ventured over to the Hawley Blues Stage to hear The BlueFrog Band. While rooted in Chicago electric blues, there is a definite mix of r&b and 70s rock for good measure. Blue Frog is Patrick Ellis, who sings, plays a mean blues harp and electric guitar. Dave Keefer was on lead guitar and took lead vocals on some songs. There was also a bass player and drummer but I didn’t catch their names. The big surprise was that Sue Palmer was on keyboards. Sue has her own band (Motel Swing Orchestra) and is quite renowned in San Diego as a great jazz keyboardist. The mix was heaven. Sue added a boogie woogie element to some songs that worked perfectly.

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We returned to Java Joe’s to hear Shawn Rohlf & The 7th Day Buskers, with the added treat of Joey Harris from Beat Farmers/Farmers fame playing guitar and doing backing vocals. This is an Americana/old time music band with string bass, drums (consisting of snare, high hat and a suitcase replacing bass drum), and two guitarists – Shawn Rohlf and Joey Harris. Songs were all written by Shawn. They are a fun group to watch; great showmen all. The expressions on Joey’s face are priceless.

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We took a break to eat lunch at Demille’s and caught the end of Steve Poltz’ performance at the Demilles Stage. Then back to Java Joe’s, where we have another entertaining and talented performer. Gregory Page presented an impeccable performance of music both from and in a style of a bygone era, when old hand-cranked Victrolas were all the rage. He also read some of his poems. Gregory has such a peaceful and warm aura about him. I always walk away with a sublime feeling after seeing him perform. Owen Burke joined Gregory on homemade percussion for some songs.

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We ended the day at the Demilles Stage with Bass Clef Experiment, consisting of Greg Gohde on bass, Mike Alvarez on electric cello, and Owen Burke on drums. They did some of their own music as well as popular 60s tunes like “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and an impressive version of The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”. Half way through their set, Dave Humphries joined them on guitar and vocals, performing some of his own songs as well as many 60s hits, ending the set with a totally mind-blowing version of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Dave told some stories about working with Tony Sheridan as well as the surviving member of Badfinger, Joey Mulland. He performed the Badfinger hit “Day After Day”. We are lucky to have Dave living and performing in San Diego.

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Sunday we arrived later due to the heat. Late afternoon we saw Gregory Page again, followed by country/Americana band, Podunk Nowhere. Great songwriting, guitar picking, and singing from Heather and Johnny Janiga who performed with a bass player (who also played high hat) but I did not catch his name. Heather has to be from Texas or somewhere in the south with her subtle twang – something that is not native to San Diego, but charming. She has a beautifully expressive delivery. Johnny is very laid back but a very articulate player and even added a little dissonance to the chord arrangements to wise effect on one of the songs.

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Closing out the Street Fair at the Adams Park Groove, we saw Tori Roze and The Hot Mess with a funky, jazz/rock set. Tori’s singing will knock you right out of your shoes! She can go from gentle and angelic to powerful and gutsy in a matter of seconds. Her mother was on flute and backing vocals. I can tell where Tori’s angelic vocals come from. Bass and drums held down the funky rhythms while the trombone and guitar took things off into a jazz universe. Tori occasionally played trumpet, augmenting the jazzier side of things. They are fun to watch and even more enjoyable to listen to. What a great band to close out the Street Fair.

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We missed many bands we would have liked to have heard, such as Blue Largo (with special guest Taryn Donath), The Rugburns, 22 Kings, Lion Cut, Billy Watson & The Submariners, Robin Henkel. But strategic decisions had to be made. The Popeswami consulted the stars and I-Ching to decide on the perfect solution to a perfect weekend.Travelling home we witnessed the beginning of a full moon lunar eclipse, and continued watching from our back deck at home. It will probably be the last one in my lifetime.
In my next installment, I will not be discussing local bands. Let’s just say it will be interesting and keep it at that for the moment. Happy October!

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Pretzel Selections and Presque Isle Logic

Newfound cash soon begs to smash a state of mind
Close inspection fast revealed his favorite kind
Poor kid, he overdid, embraced the spreading haze
And while he sighed his body died in fifteen ways
      From “Charlie Freak” on the LP, Pretzel Logic, by Steely Dan
      Music and lyrics by Walter Becker & Donald Fagen

There are many Presque Isles. First there is the State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, right on Lake Erie. That is the first one I became aware of as a small child in training for my Popeswami representation. There is Presque Isle, Maine, which is a land locked city – I’m very curious as to how it got its name. Then there is the Presque Isle at the Northern tip of Wisconsin, on Lake Superior. Yet another is a park in Marquette, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, again, on Lake Superior and close to the site of the original broadcasts of shortwave pirate radio station Radio Morania. The name, Presque Isle, is French for “almost an island.” And of course, “no man is an island,” to quote John Donne from “Meditation XVII.” Or am I referring to “No Man Is an Island,” the song by The Van Dykes from 1964? Or is it the phrase, “No man is an island. He is a peninsula,” shouted out in the song “A Small Package of Value Will Come to You Shortly” on the After Bathing at Baxter’s LP by Jefferson Airplane? This is enough to make any Popeswami’s head spin. This is huge. Besides being huge, this is relevant (or is it relative?) to the topic at hand. No…the other hand.

When you surf the Web you will find many postings of “top ten deserted island albums” or similar listings. While I find these listings interesting, there is something rather myopic about it all. Who would be satisfied with just 10, or even 20 for that matter, albums they would find essential if there were no other means to hear music for the rest of their lives? Personally I would go freakin’ nuts (just like Charlie) if I was stuck with just 10 or so albums. I could never create such a list. On the other hand, no – this hand! – not only do I have different fingers but I also would discover that I had access to other music. If I had a radio I could hear plenty of music unless the only stations I could hear on the island were reactionary talkers or religious hucksters. But having a radio would not satisfy me since most of the music I like is not heard on the radio. Of course you could make your own music. But that is a non-starter, since there would be no need for any list if you were satisfied with your own music – the imagination is limitless. To be a total realist, the albums would be useless on a deserted island, since there would be no electricity. A radio would also be useless, even if on battery since batteries do not last. But then, a total realist would never provide such a list, simply by principle.

So, in keeping with my “almost an island” imagery, I intend to pose a revolving list (just as an LP or CD needs to revolve to hear the music) of albums, songs, or postage stamps (if one wants to order more music from off the island). The list consists of selections I have considered essential to my own human being. Maybe most would think that is too “off the island”; sort of like Ken Kesey’s “off/on the bus” imagery. Personally, I am “on the bus” but what difference does that make? What matters is that I determine my list with sound judgment. Keep in mynde that this list will change and fluctuate as I post it from tyme to time keeping everyone’s mynde in mind. So on that blue note hear goes….(hear here!!!) in no particular h’orderve:

7.1   Blue Cheer – Outsideinside, released 1968 (especially the first song, “Feathers from Your Tree” and the second song, “Sun Cycle.” The second song is where Leigh Stephens really shows his chops and is a far cry from the glossolalia guitar stlylings on their first album, “Vincebus Eruptum”. Also dig the far out album cover!)

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88.3   Ornette Coleman – “Lonely Woman” from The Shape of Jazz to Come, released 1959. (First time I heard this was on the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz box set, in 1975, which resulted in my purchase of the album, which is also a great listen.)

1.   The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour, released 1967 (The entire album is great and trippy, but the highlight for me is the song, “I Am the Walrus” – thus sayeth The Crooked Man.)

1.   The Residents – Not Available, recorded 1974 and released 1978 (This album hooked me as a Residents fan. 60+ albums later they are still going strong, but I still consider this to be their greatest album.)

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01.   Ultimate Spinach – s/t, recorded 1967, released 1968. (The work of composer, arranger, lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Ian Bruce-Douglas with supporting band he named Ultimate Spinach, was short-lived but highly influential in the psychedelic music scene of the late 60s, despite attacks on “The Bosstown Sound” which hyped the Boston bands as competition for the San Francisco music scene, and was a concept invented by their producer, Alan Lorber. Lorber’s efforts backfired and effectively ruined the careers of the original bands who unfortunately signed on with him.)

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003.   Ultimate Spinach – Behold and See, released 1968. (The second Ultimate Spinach album, and the last with Ian Bruce-Douglas at the helm. The almost over-the-edge insanity lyrics by Ian scared me at first and I almost expected this would be Ian’s last with the band. “Mind Flowers” and “Fragmentary March of Green” are the high points.)

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.5   The Mothers of Invention – Uncle Meat, recorded 1967-68, released 1969. This recording I found to be totally mind-blowing at the time it came out. The brilliance of Frank Zappa is something to behold here.

3.   Various Artists – Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians, recorded 1956, released 1976. (This LP helped me regain my appreciation of folk music. Contains essential performances by Hobart Smith (fiddle & 5-string fretless banjo), Etta Baker (guitar), Richard Chase (harmonica), Edd Presnell (dulcimer), Lacey Phillips & Boone Reid (5-string banjo)).

15.   Phil Keaggy – What A Day, released 1973. (I needed this album at the time it came out. It spoke to me immensely.)

7.2    Ram Dass – Love Serve Remember, released 1973. (I discovered this 6-LP set in 1976 and still consider it essential. Besides Ram Dass taking listener’s calls on various radio stations, it has music by Krishna Das, Bhagavan Das, Amazing Grace (their version of Paramuhansa Yogananda’s “Listen Listen” is fantastic), The Brothers of Mount Savior Monastery, Guru Blanket, The Sufi Choir, Sarada and Rabindranath, Mirabai, Berkeley Community Theatre, and a chant from an unknown source, but probably Buddhist monks, of “gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bhodi swaha” that was exceptionally moving.)

11.   Anonymous – Inside the Shadow, released 1977. (Only discovered this a decade ago, but it is fantastic. This group from Indiana is a mix of Byrds folk rock sound and San Francisco bands like Quicksilver Messenger Service and Tripsichord Music Box but just a decade too late.)

.13   Entheogenic – s/t, released 2002 (a modern psybient group with a fantastic debut album)

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97. Spirit – The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, released 1970 (an amazing album)

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103.  The Beatles – Abbey Road, released 1969 (need I say more?)

18.   The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle, released 1968 (essential in any 60s collection)

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47.7   Blood Sweat and Tears – s/t, released 1968 (tugged at my heart with big band sounds)

1.111   The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat, released 1968 (proto-punk, musical deconstruction, raw and primitive – it appealed to my anti-social side)

2/   The Fugs – Tenderness Junction, released 1968 (the best they ever did)

5.2   Big Brother & The Holding Company – Cheap Thrills, released 1968 (what is not to love about Janice?)

3.  The Doors – Perception, released 2006 (this box set has all their albums with Jim Morrison. I can’t decide which album moved me the most, so here they all are. But as I ponder this, the first three LPs always seem to come out on top.)

19.  Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn, released 1968 (Tremendous album, and this is before they became heavy metal kings in the 70s! This was their second LP. Their first, “Shades of Deep Purple,” ain’t too shabby either.)

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23:27  Jandek – Telegraph Melts, released 1986. (Outsider artist, Jandek – his 12th album. Highlight is the song “You Painted Your Teeth.” This album takes patience and several listens to finally appreciate. All his albums are like that.)

Other Listings

I think I will list some songs here that were standouts in my pre-adult years:

1. The Hollies – Bus Stop
2. Dave Clark Five – Because
3. Percy Faith – A Summer Place
4. Tom Jones – Delilah
5. Frank D’Rone – Make Me Rainbows
6. Henry Mancini – The Great Imposter
7. Al Caiola – Experiment in Terror (written by Mancini)
8. The Fontaine Sisters – Daddy-O
9. The Orlons – Don’t Hang Up
10. Marty Robbins – A White Sport Coat, And a Pink Carnation
11. Marty Robbins – El Paso
12. Nat King Cole – Ramblin’ Rose
13. Ray Charles – I Can’t Stop Loving You
14. Ray Charles – You Don’t Know Me
15. Dusty Springfield – You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
16. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – A Taste of Honey
17. Dodie Stevens – Pink Shoe Laces

I am just scratching the surface! I didn’t want to stop with either list. I should have made it my top 500. Or maybe top 5000. Just on the past 17 songs I could write a book. There will be more lists later on down the road.  My next post will be soon – and will discuss my recent attendance at another amazing collaboration involving Jamie Shadowlight. And perhaps some additional lists or a featured slice of music. And I might use that concert as a springboard for a discussion of experimental music in general. Stay tuned.

Popeswami Returns!

“Well, I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But before I could get to the station in the pickup truck
She got runned over by a damned old train”

David Allen Coe, from the song, “You Never Even Call Me by My Name”, on the Once Upon a Rhyme LP, released 1975

Well, Popeswami followers, I have been conspicuously absent as of late, all because I have been on the road (except Saturdays) for six of the past seven weeks. But I was not able to work on the blog that one week I was home because I had so many other things to do. I did get to see a couple of performances locally that week (more on those later). Now that we are past Labor Day weekend, and it is the following weekend, I have a little extra time to play “ketchup”. The highlight of the past several weeks goes back to July 30, in Chicago, and it has nothing to do with David Allen Coe. So let’s get write tuit. Ahem…

Buddy Guy’s 79th Birthday Bash – Legends in Chicago

While in Chicago I noted that I was staying only a block away from Buddy Guy’s Legends blues bar and restaurant. I was going to be free Thursday night and was looking to see who was performing at Legends that evening. To my surprise, it was a special evening as it was Buddy Guy’s 79th birthday, and also a CD release party for his latest release “Born to Play Guitar”. Here are some photos of Buddy Guy’s Legends Blues Bar and Restaurant:

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Some Cigar Box Guitars Under Glass

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Tributes to Famous Bluesmen

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Autographed Guitars from Some of the Greats

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More Autographed Guitars from the Greats

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Souvenir Beer Glass and CD – later autographed by Buddy

I immediately booked to go. Class was not over until 5 pm and then I had a study session that lasted about another hour. This gave me very little time to get over to Legends and get a good seat and some dinner. When I arrived every table was taken. I asked perhaps a half-dozen parties or so if I could join them with the extra seat at their table and each said “no”, until the last one (obviously) – three women who were celebrating a birthday. They thought it was cool that the one shared a birthday with Buddy Guy. It was the best table in the house, as it was in the center and close to the front of the stage. The women I was dining with were a lot of fun as well. I had a great New Orleans blackened catfish with crawfish etouffee, black-eyed peas and collard greens, and listened to some blues from Matt Hendricks with an acoustic set.

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Matt Hendricks (guitar, seated) with group

Then began the evening show with The NuBlu Band, consisting of Buddy’s kids and some friends. While they were performing, Buddy arrived. Then there was a break in the music for everyone to participate in wishing Buddy a happy 79th. They had a cake rolled onto the stage, and a few gifts were presented to Buddy. Buddy announced that he would not be performing since it was his birthday and he had to leave at 5 AM for a flight to his next gig. Quite understandable, and the music was top rate as it was. Following the birthday wishes, they announced that Buddy would be autographing CDs if anyone was interested. I was, but I had to use the restroom first. While in the restroom, I turned around to see none other than Buddy right behind me! I took the opportunity to shake hands, wish him a happy birthday, and joked with him and some other guys that we could all say that we peed with Buddy Guy. I asked about the autographing and Buddy told me to follow him out, which I did, only to have one of his bouncer/body guards get between us as I followed to the front counter. I was third to have my CD autographed (as we walked past my table I quickly picked up my CD). While he was signing my CD, another dude in line was rambling on to Buddy about how he had seen him and some other artists in concert somewhere and Buddy said “That’s nice”, without looking up. After expressing that I was honored to meet him and have him sign the CD, he looked at me and said “Thank you, sir.”

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The NuBlu Band – singers and guitarist are his children

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More family and friends join the stage with The NuBlu Band

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Buddy’s Birthday Cake

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Family & close friends join Buddy on stage for birthday celebration

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Buddy Guy

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Buddy with birthday gift

Buddy is a true legend. When people rave about Jimi Hendrix and some of the crazy antics he did with guitar, like playing it behind his back and with his teeth – well, he got those ideas from watching Buddy Guy. A lot of Jimi’s style was grounded in Buddy’s style. Buddy Guy has won six Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 by Eric Clapton and the late B.B. King. Buddy had worked with Muddy Waters for years and on his latest CD he paid tribute to his friend, Muddy, on the last song – quite touching and actually brought a tear to my eye.

Well, the music continued that evening with Mike Wheeler and his band. They also introduced a young fellow from the UK who had been a student of Buddy’s since he was 14. I have to say, Chicago surely is home to some of the finest electric blues artists in the country.

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Mike Wheeler Band

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Young Buddy Guy prodigy from the UK who he tours with

Flight from San Diego to Charlotte, NC

The following Sunday, August 2, I was traveling to Rock Hill, SC via Charlotte, NC. As I was boarding in San Diego, I noted there were several musicians coming on board with their instruments…all except one guy with a guitar that was told he would have to check it. Immediately the woman next to me spoke up and said there was an agreement between the musician’s union and all the airlines that artists can carry their instruments on board. She said there were 21 people in the band and only a few had carry-on instruments. The flight attendant asked who they were. It was KC and The Sunshine Band! Amazing. Still coming down from the Buddy Guy high, and here I am surrounded with members of KC and The Sunshine Band. Harry Casey (KC), himself, was in first class and went out to talk to the attendant at the gate. He came back and placed the guitar right above a bass in the overhead – both fit nicely, and he commented that they belong together, rather jokingly. Then he went back to his seat. The woman beside me was Maria de Crescenzo, one of the singers. They had come from a private party in Carlsbad and were heading home to Miami, via Charlotte. Later I found out from Jamie Shadowlight that local jazz pianist, Mikan Zlatkovich, had performed with them at this party. Ironically, I was headed for Rock Hill, SC and the following week they were going to be playing in Rock Hill! Small world.

On the Local Scene

The week of August 17 I was home. Casino Royale, consisting of Normandie Wilson on keyboards and vocals, David Fleminger on guitar and vocals, and Bart Mendoza on guitar and vocals, and accompanied by Danny Cress on drums, performed at The Lafayette Hotel on Thursday evening. Another fine set from a great group of artists. Normandie, by the way, was just nominated (second year in a row) by the San Diego Music Awards, for her latest album “Normandie Wilson is Tired of Being Nice”.

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Casino Royale: L to R, David Fleminger, Normandie Wilson, Danny Cress, Bart Mendoza

Friday night was something special: at 98 Bottles, Nacho Arimany, Monette Marino, and Jamie Shadowlight performed “Pulse of Life: Melodies and Rhythms”. This was an exciting show. Arimany is a leading flamenco percussionist from Spain, living in New York City. Monette Marino is local, and is another wonderful percussionist with a 30 year history studying with masters in Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Caribbean, Korean, and West African drumming. Jamie Shadowlight is a violinist who seems to not have any boundaries when it comes to musical styles, playing everything from country, folk, jazz, Latin, and rock. During this performance she also performed on singing bowl. Together, these three artists produced a mesmerizing, hypnotic, happy, intense, fun, and inspiring evening of literally “the pulse of life”. The amazing thing is that they only had a few days of rehearsal before this performance and much of what they did was improvisational. This just blows me away.

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L to R: Monette Marino, Nacho Arimany, Jamie Shadowlight

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L to R: Monette Marino, Nacho Arimany, Jamie Shadowlight

Monday Night Open Mic at Lestat’s – Labor Day

This was the first time I had been to an open mic event in San Diego. The reason for going was that a friend, Molly Lynn McClendon, had planned to do a poetry reading at the open mic. Luckily her name was picked early, and so she was able to perform early. We visited with Molly and Patric Petrie before the event, and watched the other performers prior to her reading. Some were dreadful. There was a 13-year-old singer songwriter who was quite impressive. The highlight for us was Molly’s readings of witty and sardonic poems she had written in recent years. We stayed after she finished for the next act, who was a stand-up comic, or so he tried to be. We left on that note before any further acts brought down the high from Molly’s readings.

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Molly Lynn McClendon

In Other News

I recently spotted the John Gilbert/Meade River LP up for auction on eBay. This is a rare LP, with a pressing of 100 or less, as a memorial to John Gilbert, who lost his life in an auto accident at the age of 17, in 1971. The pressing was in 1972 by his family. Meade River was his band, named after a military operation in the Vietnam War. One side of the LP is John with solo guitar and vocals. The other side is his band, Meade River, consisting of Gilbert, Brett Barker, and John Whalen. None of these recordings had originally been intended for public release, and were simply recorded by the artists, for themselves. Well, the buy-it-now auction price was $699. But I decided to write the seller regarding the possibility of obtaining a digital copy. He was quick to oblige for a reasonable fee. So now I am in possession of an ultra-rare recording, sans original physical LP.

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Following this, I hit the jackpot of rare vinyl being posted to the Internet. One person has been putting entire albums on You Tube of some of the rarest recordings/artists you will ever find. I have managed to obtain some of these: Mistress Mary, Housewife; Mississippi; Arcesia; Walkenhorst Brothers; Al Manfredi; Children of One…the list goes on and on. There are over 500 LPs, 45s, and EPs posted by this person, which will keep me busy exploring for quite some time.
I think I will cut this post short right here. Next post will discuss some of my favorite albums/songs pre-1980. My selections might surprise you.

Out of the Woods and Into the Weeds

“Once the music leaves your head, it’s already compromised.” Jack Brewer, from liner notes to Sonic Youth’s 1994 album, “Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star”

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Anybody here see what happened to the past month? Can you tell me where it’s gone? A lot of major things happened but I can’t seem to recall right now. I just looked around and it was gone. My apologies to songwriter, Dick Holler and performer, Dion DiMucci.

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In late June/early July I took two weeks’ vacation to get together with family and friends in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. We did a lot of travelling and eating. It seems that visiting loved ones always involves food. As a matter of fact, it seems that music and food often go together. Before vacation, we saw Plow during the Bluegrass Brunch at Urban Solace on Flag Day, June 14, and again after vacation at the July 12, Bluegrass Brunch.

Bluegrass Brunch at Urban Solace, June 14 (Flag Day), and July 12, 2015

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Plow – L to R: Mark Markowitz (mostly hidden), Jason Weiss, Doug Walker, Chris Clarke, Joe Pomianek, and Dane Terry

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Plow, L to R: Chris Clarke, Mark Markowitz, Doug Walker, and Dane Terry

First, Urban Solace has wonderfully tasty modern, uniquely prepared American comfort food! But be forewarned, a steady diet of this could result in morbid obesity. First time there, pig out! On following visits try to be more discriminating, with the understanding that it is all good. On both occasions we saw the band, Plow. Every second Sunday, Plow performs during the brunch. The players were band leader, Chris Clarke: guitar, mandolin and lead vocals; Doug Walker: string bass; Jason Weiss: banjo; Joe Pomianek: guitar/mandolin; and also Mark Markowitz: percussion, and Dane Terry: harmonica and vocals. At the July show Weiss and Pomianek were absent. Although a bluegrass brunch, not all the music was truly bluegrass – some was a modernized bluegrass/old-time and Americana style. Mark Markowitz is the drummer for country band Three Chord Justice and Liz Grace & The Swing Thing. Dane Terry is part of electric jump blues band, Cadillac Wreckers. But they are “unofficial” players with Plow. Chris is an excellent songwriter, singer, and picker. They played some of Chris’ self-penned songs along with many popular and obscure traditional pieces. They create a pleasant atmosphere to enjoy a fantastic brunch all the while providing some quality pickin’ ‘n singin’; you provide the grinnin’.

Just a side note – while on vacation, I visited the area where my dad’s parents started out – the New Geneva and Greensboro, PA area. We have lots of history in that region, going back to colonial America. Some of the early glassworks and potteries were owned by my ancestors. Now all that is just a footnote in history, but it is fun to see a road named “Provance Hill Road” on the way to Masontown, PA, which also was laid-out by one of my ancestors. While in Greensboro, the mayor, Keith McManus, spotted my brother (who he knew) and we had a conversation about the artistic development in this small Pennsylvania village. Keith is a bluegrass player in The Woodticks (fiddle, banjo, and vocals) and is also a player in Stewed Mulligan, plus a professional story teller, and is instrumental in providing a music and visual art haven in Greensboro, besides being mayor. Immediately he and I struck up a conversation about music and he introduced me to another member of The Woodticks, Jeff Bush (banjo, fiddle sticks and vocals). Jeff used to live in La Mesa, and Keith also lived in San Diego (where they met). I mentioned some San Diego bands and when I said “Plow” they both acknowledged they had heard of the band. While at the July Bluegrass Brunch, I mentioned Keith McManus and The Woodticks to Dane Terry, and he said the names sounded familiar. It’s a small world. Oh yes – I left Greensboro with a free Woodticks CD! One song, penned by Keith, “Mannington #9”, is about the coal mining tragedy near Farmington and Mannington, WV back in 1968. It is quite a touching tribute to the miners lost in that tragedy.

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Blindspot Records 24th Anniversary Party – June 20, 2015 at the home of Patric Petrie

We attended the 24th anniversary party of Blindspot Records, founded by Bart Mendoza. Performing that evening were Casino Royale (Bart Mendoza, Normandie Wilson, David Fleminger), followed by Patric Petrie with friends & associates Tim Foley (both of world renowned World Beat Irish band, Skelpin) and David Lally (of Brogue Wave with Tim Foley) and accomplished violinist Ron Wild, followed by singer/songwriter Sierra West. Later, after we left, we understand that Marie Haddad performed (wish we could have stayed). The evening provided a much needed relaxed vibe. The music was awesome. Food was tasty. Drinks were abundant. More San Diego musicians in one house than you can imagine. Met and had a great time talking to Johnny “V” Vernazza, who has played with several notable national bands, but most prominently as a lead guitarist in the Elvin Bishop Group (he performed lead guitar in their 70s hit, “I Fooled Around and Fell In Love”). Also got to talk for a bit with Ron Wild as well as Normandie Wilson and David Fleminger of Casino Royale. Got to know a wonderful person, Molly Lynn McClendon, plus lots more people. Lots of centered, loving, artistic folks! The highlight was Casino Royale playing a series of Beatles tunes and we all sang along. Oh, wait, another highlight was hearing Patric Petrie and her friends perform some wonderful Irish music. Oh, and also hearing SD Music Awards winner Sierra West perform some of her intimate, touching song stories. Oh hell, the whole night was a highlight.

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Casino Royale, L to R: David Fleminger, Normandie Wilson, Bart Mendoza

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Moi with Johnny “V” Vernazza and his wife

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L to R: David Lally, Tim Foley, Patric Petrie, and Ron Wild

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Sierra West

July 11, 2015 – Liz Grace & The Swing Thing at Wynola Pizza, Wynola, CA

We decided to lease a 2016 Kia Rio and tested it out on some mountain roads headed to Julian. Stopped on the way at Wynola Pizza (in Wynola, of course) and listened to Liz Grace & The Swing Thing. Liz had a stripped-down band that evening consisting of husband Mark Markowitz on percussion and John Garner on acoustic guitar. John’s playing always amazes me. What a great player! And Liz is such a beautiful singer; doing standards from the 30s and 40s primarily. However, all that time I was thinking about the Sounds Like San Diego VII event at the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad we were missing. I totally regret the fact that I missed this. Tough decisions, but the car won this time.

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L to R: Liz Grace, Mark Markowitz, John Garner

July 15, 2015 – two events: Normandie Wilson at Lafayette Hotel and Lance Dieckmann at the Jazz 88.3 Blues Jam at Proud Mary’s

Stopped by to hear Normandie tickle the ivories in the lobby of the Lafayette Hotel after work. I always enjoy hearing her sing and play. She did mostly her own songs this time, but one instrumental she did was a favorite of mine, “Dreamland” by Henry Mancini. It brought back many childhood memories.

After getting home, we decided to eat out at Proud Mary’s where the KSDS Jazz 88.3 Blues Jam was taking place, featuring Lance Dieckmann. This guy is a hard blowin’ harp player with a powerful singing voice to boot – one of the best players in San Diego. I’ve only seen him at the Spring Harp Fest in the past, but now I want to hear him with his own band the next time he plays close to us – he often performs at Hooley’s at Grossmont Centre and in Rancho San Diego. During the jam, Harmonica John Frazer stepped up and blew the roof off the joint. Of course, Lance had already loosened the ceiling bolts. Two great players in one evening. Plus, an 11 year old guitar player joined with Mark Augustin and company and amazed everyone with his skills. I noted that Mark brought his cherry red Gibson SG Standard with him and it brought back sad memories of letting my old Gibson SG go (exact same color) at a ridiculous price back in the early 80s. I’ve never seriously played since.

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L to R: Mark Augustin, Lance Dieckmann, didn’t catch drummer’s name

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The other players with Lance Dieckmann

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Mark Augustin with his Gibson SG Standard

July 17, 2015 – Whitney Shay Trio, Sheraton Hotel, Harbor Island, San Diego

I have heard Whitney on many occasions with Robin Henkel, singing old blues and R&B songs and have always appreciated her grasp and feel for that style of music. Now I wanted to hear her in a jazz format, and let me tell you – she is gooooood! She was accompanied by the amazing Rob Whitlock on piano and Jodie Hill on string bass. Fun to watch, exciting to listen to; what talent these three bring to the table! But again, tough choices – the local International Pop Overthow was happening at the Chico Club that evening. We decided not to go because those whom we especially wanted to see (True Stories and Normandie Wilson) were not playing until after 11 pm, and I had to prepare to get to bed early tonight so that I would be rested traveling to Macon, Georgia on Sunday morning. So last night I made a quick post to Facebook and then was in bed by the time my friends would be hitting the stage. But that’s okay. Whitney was a real treat to hear and visit with.

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L to R: Jodie Hill, Whitney Shay, Ron Whitlock

So Hear We Arrrrrgh!

It rained a little today. A little is better than nothing, but we really need a good, steady course of rain on a weekly basis for the next three years to get back to where we need to be in Southern California. Then I can sail my pirate ship across the seven seas, “going from this land here to that, in a sailor suit and cap, away from the big city where a man cannot be free of all the evils of this town and everybody putting everybody else down, and all the politicians making hissy sounds and all the dead bodies piled up in mounds, oh and you can’t help me not you guys and all you girls with all your sweet talk, you can just go and take a walk and I guess that I just don’t know. And I guess that I just don’t know.” Did I get that right, Lou? Sorry – got carried away. That was from “Heroin” by Lou Reed, recorded by Velvet Underground on The Velvet Underground and Nico album (the banana album) released in 1967, recorded in early 1966 and performed as early as 1965; produced by Andy Warhol. That song, as it appears on the album, is mandatory listening for anyone who wants to understand the underbelly of mid- to late 60’s American rock and the decadent social atmosphere of the impoverished areas of the inner cities that still remains barely unchanged in 2015. That song was a reminder that all was not peace and love and freedom in the late 60s. The Age of Aquarius never arrived for many. But for me, living in rural Southwestern Pennsylvania, armed with Life magazine and commercial television, I was able to see only the glamorized side of the world outside my local environs. Every perception was distorted as I could only imagine the realities based upon what I was exposed to in the media and in my personal, sheltered rural life. Ah, yes, it was sweet being 16 in 1969; living with the imaginary visions of wearing flowers in my hair in San Francisco. But then there was “The Underground” program on WAMO-FM in Pittsburgh, hosted by Brother Love (Ken Reeth), and thankfully, they were playing Lou Reed, who was telling a different story of alternative sex, drug addiction, and poverty. While it was so far from my experience, at least I had an inkling of what many go through daily. This was very formative for me. While I love the pop music of the 60s and the fond memories it triggers, I am glad for the exposure to the music “the bubblegums never played” as Ken Reeth would say.

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What’s Next?

Tomorrow morning I fly to Georgia. For the next four weeks I will only be home on Saturdays as I travel to Chicago, South Carolina, and Biloxi, Mississippi for a week each. Perhaps I’ll have some music happenings to report, but if I don’t, my next post will be about some of my favorite songs of all time. These could span every genre and every era of recorded music. But perhaps you will find something that is a favorite of yours as well. And if what I mention is unfamiliar to you, I encourage you to go to YouTube, or Spotify, or wherever else you can find it, and give it a listen. The world is full of wonderful sounds.