Tripping, and Stumbling, in the Dim Light Fantastic

“There are only forty people in the world and five of them are hamburgers.”
Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet), from Rolling Stone interview by Langdon Winner, May 14, 1970

There has been a ton of activity in the 7stones uni-verse lately and it has been hard for this Popeswami to keep up. Going back the past couple months, there have been two tremendous music events we have attended. And, there is other important stuff to talk about as well, so let me get right down “tuit”.

Women in Jazz

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The 6th annual Women in Jazz performance occurred at 98 Bottles, Saturday evening, March 28. The objective of this event is to highlight Women’s History Month and the music of female composers. The local all-female jazz players included: Allison Adams Tucker, voice; Steph Johnson, voice & guitar; Ellen Weller, flute & saxes; Melonie Grinnell, piano; Jodie Hill, bass; and Laurel Grinnell, drums.
Let me just say that this was mind blowing! Such talent! Melonie Grinnell, while a very shy personality, was very vocal and articulate through the ivories, with some jaw-dropping solo work as well as supportive ensemble playing. Steph Johnson just has to be one of the most soulful guitarist/singers I’ve seen locally, with a style all her own. Her gregarious personality shows through her playing and singing. She is really fun to watch. Ellen Weller brought a more academic, music conservatory approach, often veering into the avant-garde in her arrangements. One of her compositions reminded me of Cecil Taylor’s jazz experiments – a brilliant, calculating, free/modal jazz number, and the other players were right with her. Allison Adams Tucker has a beautiful voice, and her version of Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story got me really emotional… or was it her in combination with the band’s impeccable interpretation? Allison’s sweet, pure voice was a nice balance to Steph’s more bluesy singing style. Drummer Laurel Grinnell is very young – I would guess early 20s, but her time on the drum stool sounds like decades of experience. The amazing thing about this ensemble is that other than rehearsing for this show, they had never played together! You would never know if they had not said it. We left the event totally blissed-out!

Spring Harp Fest

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Cadillac Wreckers

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Lance Dieckmann & Bayou Brothers

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Bubba McCoy

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Zachary Cole

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Chet Cannon & The Committee

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Billy Watson

The 16th Annual Spring Harp Fest was held at Harry Griffen Regional Park on Saturday, April 4. It was a beautiful day, bright and sunny but with mild temperatures – perfect for an outdoor festival. We got there early, and had to leave late in the afternoon to take care of other responsibilities, but at least we got to see most of the local acts we came to see. The festival opened with Cadillac Wreckers, featuring Dane Terry on blues harp. As expected, they were tight with great harp playing by Dane. Dana Duplan, on guitar, was excellent as ever, and the rhythm section was tight. Next up was Lance Dieckmann with the Bayou Brothers. This was a powerful set with a mix of blues and zydeco, which worked nicely together. Lance is one of the most powerful blues harpists I’ve ever heard, and a powerful blues singer as well. Next up was Bubba McCoy, featuring Big Jon Atkinson on guitar, who would later front his own band, The Nationals, on blues harp. Bubba did some excellent harp work as well as some gutsy singing. As his own promo says, “Bubba has a square head and sounds like it!”. The last set before noon was Zachary Cole, another powerful harpist with a great rhythm section and a singer who put his heart and soul into it.
After lunch and the unknown players jam, Chet Cannon and The Committee provided another great set. Chet is another great blues harpist who is also a powerful vocalist. For whatever the reason, he reminds me of Burl Ives, if Burl had let it all hang out and got into the blues big time. And finally, we saw Billy Watson’s set. Billy is another great harpist – and with a great sense of humor! He is a very animated player with a tremendous band, The International Silver String Submarine Band.
That’s where we had to leave it, missing locals Troy Sandow, Big Jon Atkinson & the Nationals, featured star player – nationally known Kim Wilson, and more locals Steve Bulger & 145th Street, and Harmonica John Frazer. Maybe next year.
I would be hard pressed to pick a best of the day, but the most enjoyable set for me was Lance Dieckmann and Bayou Brothers. But there was something about every set that was exciting for me.

Other Happenings

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Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse

I have been into the weeds at work, flying all over the country, training, auditing, writing, revising – all so that I can bring home the Pork Soda.
I also entertained a friend and old colleague I used to work with in Ohio over 15 years ago. Since then we both left the Buckeye State – he to owning a resort on Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and me to California. Had a great time last Saturday. Sunday, however, is something else. We took a road trip to the mountains – another gloriously beautiful day. However, our lunch on the road brought me food poisoning, causing me to miss 2½ days of work and cram a week’s worth of work into a half week, with many near-perfect storms, including technical malfunctions during the Webcast I hosted on Friday. I saved up my energy by not going anywhere after work (still wiped out after the food poisoning) and missing some great performances by some of my friends for the El Cajon Boulevard celebration at the Lafayette Hotel. Missing this and conserving energy was all so that we could enjoy the big Adams Avenue Unplugged event this weekend. I will write more on this in a future post.
In the meantime I picked up some amazing music in the form of CDs. My biggest find was a totally trippy album, “Wondrous Bughouse”, by Youth Lagoon, recorded in 2013. I heard Youth Lagoon on a community radio station in Brooklyn last week and just had to pick up a copy. Youth Lagoon is Trevor Powers, a San Diego native who now lives in Idaho. I don’t know what kind of mushrooms they grow in Idaho, but Trevor obviously has overdosed on them. This other-worldly swirling, dizzying recording will make you high without organics or chemicals. His voice is filtered through a vocoder with lyrics half-recognizable that speak of things metaphysical, when you can figure it out. I love this CD. Strongest similarity is the album “Start a People” by Black Moth Super Rainbow, which is another killer album that is essential in any modern psychedelic music collection. Other acquisitions include “The Making of Freak Out!”, a 4-CD collection of Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s first album from 1966. This is the first time the original vinyl recording has been accurately transferred to CD, plus you get 3 cd’s worth of outtakes, interviews, and other goodies. Also purchased were restorations of The Mothers of Invention albums “Absolutely Free”, “Lumpy Gravy” & “We’re Only In It For The Money” (in a 3-CD set called “Lumpy Money”), and “Greasy Love Songs” – which is actually the original LP version of “Cruising with Ruben & The Jets” with several extra goodies. And, then there are a couple CDs of one of my favorite alternative folk/bluegrass bands, Crooked Still, “Hop High” and “Shaken by a Low Sound”. Both are excellent and reflect some of the darker sides of Americana and folk/bluegrass, with excellent use of cello and the beautiful voice of Aoife O’Donovan.
Coming soon to my mailbox is the first authorized re-release of the late psych-pop private press eponymous LP of Michael Angelo (that’s actually Michael Angelo Nigro). The original master tapes were long lost and the Guinn label is no longer in existence. There were only 500 LPs issued in 1977. Void Records in Germany had done a horrible noise-reduction-remastering from an original LP about 10 years ago and it sounded like it was recorded under water. Beatbox in Korea did a CD release that was hopeful, but I discovered they used the Void LP to make the CD, which did nothing to help matters. This time Mexican Summer found a mint copy of the original Guinn LP and they promise that it will sound much improved over the Void & Beatbox versions. Let’s hope so. The music is so beautiful in a McCartney-esque manner that it deserves a decent reissue. I have ordered both the LP and CD, and they are on their way. I can’t wait!
And this catches up the past month’s worth of experiences and happenings – well almost all experiences. There was that time while playing Beastie Boys‘ “Hello Nasty” CD, but some things a Popeswami cannot reveal to those who have not undergone initiation.

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