A Slice of My Life Working Backwards

“If the doors of perception were cleansed
Every thing would appear to man as it is,
Infinite.”
William Blake

“There are things known
and there are things unknown,
and in between are the doors.”
Jim Morrison

“Between thought and expression
lies a lifetime.”
Lou Reed

We keep going to music events and I then get caught up in the weeds and do not have time to write about them, let alone all the other things I’ve planned to write about. But there’s a lot swimming about in this old head that needs to come out. I will dispense with recent events and then move on to other important matters.

Across the Street at Mueller College – May 1, 2015

Friday night we went to the Across the Street music event at Mueller College to see Connor Correll with Q Ortiz, Red Willow Waltz, and Jamie Shadowlight. It was an evening of peaceful, spiritually uplifting, and thought provoking acoustic music. And it was the first time I had seen Jamie play guitar and sing! In fact, seeing her play guitar and sing her songs was my original motivation for going.

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Jamie Shadowlight with Mandi Griggs and Jasmine Commerce

Jamie was up first. For the first few songs she had a friend, Jasmine Commerce, accompanying her on violin, and Mandi Griggs (a member of Red Willow Waltz) kept rhythm on cajon, while Jamie played acoustic guitar and sang. Then Jamie went solo voice and guitar for the remainder of her set. While Jamie is noted for her artistry on violin I don’t understand why she has not done more with vocals. She has a breathy, ethereal, sensual alto vocal style. The lyrics to her songs are pensive, a bit metaphysical, and observant. While she claimed to be just learning guitar, she is obviously a quick learner. The mood was relaxed, with a room full of loving friends, so everything built upon everything else to create a resplendent ambiance.

Connor Correll with Q Ortiz

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After Jamie’s set, Connor Correll with Q Rich Ortiz was up. Connor played guitar and sang while Q played cajon. Connor continued the mood with songs of a spiritual nature, some of which pondered our purpose in life, some bearing much soul searching, and some full of joy. They were beautifully written, and beautifully sung. Q’s rhythm patterns complimented the rhythm guitar; a very enjoyable duo.

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Red Willow Waltz with Jamie Shadowlight

The final set was Red Willow Waltz, consisting of Vanessa Contopulos on vocals, guitar, and ukulele, Mandi Griggs on cajon, and Laura Rose Anderson on vocals, ukulele, guitar, and harmonium. Jamie joined them on violin. This set was of a lighter, more exuberant nature. Vanessa’s clear, sweet vocals blended perfectly with Laura’s robust, emotive singing style. Both did solo vocals that were outstanding. I noted a bit of country twang to some of Laura’s vocals, especially when she played guitar. It made me wonder whether she had ever fronted a country band at some point. Vanessa and Laura switched back and forth from guitar to ukulele, depending on the song. For the final two songs Laura played harmonium and Vanessa played guitar. All songs were originals, penned by either Laura or Vanessa, with one dedicated to what was happening in Baltimore this past week. Vanessa and Laura are music therapists by profession and some of their songs tapped into that experience.

This was an uplifting way to spend Friday evening after a hectic work week.

Adams Avenue Unplugged

Going back a week, we had planned to spend the entire weekend of April 25 and 26 at Adams Avenue Unplugged. As fate would have it, our first destination was to the veterinarian’s office where we unexpectedly had to drop off our little doggie for observation and treatment. Once that was taken care of we headed to the event. With 25 stages and over 170 performances it was hard to decide who to see, but prior to the event I had planned to see HarpO first, and that was nixed because of our dog’s situation. (Due to HIPPA laws I cannot reveal her illness, … or is that just for people?). The day was unseasonably cool and windy. It was overcast and it tried to rain for a few seconds here and there throughout the day.

MohaviSoul

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So next on the agenda was the bluegrass band, MohaviSoul. This was our first time seeing this group. It was a very enjoyable set with a mix of covers and originals. I really liked their cover of “Midnight Train” but unfortunately it is not on either of their CDs. Talking with the band afterward I found that the fiddle player, Dan Sankey, is from Connellsville, PA, which is close to where my ancestors settled before my grandfather moved to the Washington, PA area. And, the guitarist, Mark Miller, was originally from Wheeling, WV, where my oldest brother now lives and within minutes of where I grew up in PA. Small world. Other members include Randy Hanson, Jason Weiss, Orion Boucher, and Will Jaffe.
During the MohaviSoul performance, we got a call from the vet that our dog, Sandy, was ready to go home. So, we rushed to the vet’s, then home, and then back to Adams Avenue. We parked close to where we had parked earlier. We were so lucky to find this space!

Joe Marillo

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We were hungry, so we headed to the end of the block from Kensington Park where MohaviSoul had played, to The Haven Pizzeria for lunch, where Joe Marillo would be performing. After getting seated, Joe spotted us and came over to talk. He will be celebrating his 82nd birthday in late May. We chatted about aging, keeping a positive perspective, and some of the books he was reading. Somehow we got on to the subject of MSNBC and the fact that we both loved to watch the Rachel Maddow Show. Joe is known as “the Godfather of the jazz scene in San Diego”. He has won several awards, including one for lifetime achievement and another from the NAACP for his efforts in hiring African-American musicians. In the 60s he worked with Stan Getz among others. I am told that in the 50s he once bought Charlie Parker a drink at a bar next to Birdland.
Joe was performing solo tenor sax and flute that day, with a backing tape of a variety of standards including a few by one of his favorites, Antonio Carlos Jobim. His improvisational skills on tenor sax are without equal. He did not play his flute until the end of his set when he realized he had not played it, and so he did one more song with flute. There will be a musical birthday celebration featuring Joe at Dizzy’s later in May and we hope to attend.

Dead Rock West

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We then headed down to Java Joe’s to catch Dead Rock West. It was packed but we were lucky to find a couple seats together. We got there in the middle of their set. They were an acoustic duo for this performance, consisting of Frank Lee Drennen on vocals and guitar and Cindy Wasserman on vocals. All songs we heard were originals. Frank has a dynamic presence and plays his acoustic guitar hard, and loud! Both Frank and Cindy are commanding vocalists and their harmonies are awesome. I would love to hear their full band some time.

Gregory Page

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We stayed at Java Joe’s for the next performer, Gregory Page. I found it curious when this sharply dressed gentleman set up a gramophone and placed a 78 rpm on the spindle. Gregory played guitar, “gramophone”, sang, read poetry and told stories. Smooth is a word that keeps coming up in my mind when I try to find words to describe his performance. Although many of the songs were penned by Gregory, they were done in styles from before WWII. He played the gramophone while reading his poetry, and on one song he segued to the gramophone, incorporating it into the song – all seamlessly done. He told stories about his family, about his visit to the hinterlands of Australia, and tied them in with his music. He was accompanied by a drummer, with only a snare and high hat. Musically, the style moved from early 1900s to more modern folk and pop styles. His guitar playing was subtle and refined, and he actually did some slide work on one song, all with masterful execution.
I had planned to see Joey Harris after this, but we had to get home to take care of the dog, so this was the last set for us that day.

The Western Collective

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We returned Sunday to a much warmer and sunnier day. And our dog appeared to be much better. Western Collective was first on the list, at Adams Park at 35th Street. I have written about Western Collective before. They are: “Fast Heart” Martin Stamper on guitar, banjo, and vocals; Justin Werner on guitar, harmonica, and vocals; Trent Hancock on bass and vocals; Chad Farran on cajon; and Jamie Shadowlight on violin. To call them simply a bluegrass band would be myopic. The group embraces a variety of styles, penned by several of the band’s members who bring with them their own unique musical and life experiences. There was one cover, which also happens to be the only cover song on their CD, Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”. There is always a happy, relaxed vibe when they play.

Caitlin Ashley

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After hearing The Western Collective, we dived into El Zarape for some tasty Mexican cuisine. They were packed, so it took a bit longer than we expected. However, the next group on our agenda was Robin Henkel and Whitney Shay, and Lestat’s was running a little off-schedule, so when we arrived there Robin, Whitney, and Caleb were still outside, taking selfies. It was another packed house, listening to Caitlin Ashley. Just as we did at Java Joe’s we watched for someone to leave and then snatched-up their seats. So, we got a chance to hear this young and relatively new singer, with a distinct style and interesting lyrics. I was glad to see so many in the packed room being supportive. Caitlin was accompanied by Mason James on acoustic guitar, and three unknown persons on electric bass, cajon, and ukulele. She sang and occasionally accompanied herself on ukulele. She has a very nice stage presence, great song writing and a pleasant vocal style. I think this event was a terrific boost to her ego. She appeared to be authentically amazed at the positive response to her songs. Sorry for the horrible photos of Caitlin Ashley and  Robin Henkel & Whitney Shay – just haven’t got the hang of taking them at Lestat’s.

Robin Henkel with Whitney Shay

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We stayed right where we were to hear the next group …someone who we have seen and enjoyed on a multitude of occasions…the peerless Robin Henkel with the lovely and dynamic Whitney Shay, accompanied on double bass by the entertaining Caleb Furgatch. Either I have a very short memory or this was the best performance I have seen by these three. While a lot of the songs we have heard them do before, there was something about them that sounded fresh and new. Perhaps subtly different arrangements or maybe it was just the improvisation was exceptionally hot? All I can say is that this was an exciting performance. Caleb is so much fun to watch on bass as he closes his eyes and gets deep into the music and keeps everything moving in the right direction. Robin continues to convince me that he is thee authority on Delta/country blues guitar. And how Whitney can make gutsy, gritty blues and r&b singing sound pretty and nasty all at once is inspiring. We walked out at the end, totally energized.

Blue Frog Trio

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Left to right: Dave Keefer, Patrick “Blue Frog” Ellis, Jackson Patrick

Next stop was the Air Conditioned Lounge. I love names like this. At one time I considered writing a novella titled “My Generic World”, and the Air Conditioned Lounge would fit right in. However, what we heard there was not generic. I had first heard Blue Frog Ellis in an electric blues band at the 2014 Spring Harp Fest. He is a dynamite blues harpist. What I didn’t realize is that he is just as good on guitar. Since Lestat’s schedule was running late and it was a bit of a walk to the AC Lounge, we did not see the beginning of the set. But what we saw confirmed my memory from the Harp Fest. What we had was Patrick “Blue Frog” Ellis on vocals, guitar and harmonica, Dave Keefer on vocals, acoustic guitar and resonator, and Jackson Patrick on bass and vocals. They played a mix of 70s rock standards such as the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rambler” and “Melissa”, as well as some originals and blues standards. All three sang, and Dave and Blue Frog took turns with rhythm and lead – both being accomplished players. After their set we got to talk to the guys. I know that Patrick “Blue Frog” Ellis and Jackson Patrick are US Navy Vets; Blue Frog was a Seal. Not sure if Dave Keefer is a Vet, but the band was promoting their work with the Wounded Warriors Project, in helping to teach music to disabled Vets. Some great guys, there. The Blue Frog Band will be performing at “Gator by the Bay” at Spanish Landing Park in San Diego later this month.

Bart Mendoza & True Stories

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I have wanted to see True Stories for a long time, but it never seemed to work out with my crazy work schedule taking me out of San Diego whenever they were playing. Finally, I got to see what I have been missing – staying in our spot at the AC Lounge. True Stories’ lineup consists of: Bart Mendoza on vocals and guitar; David Fleminger on vocals, guitar, and keyboard; Danny Cress on drums; Orrick Smith on bass; and latest addition Normandie Wilson on vocals and keyboard. Now, I have seen Normandie, Bart, and David in Casino Royale and in other musical arrangements, but I had never realized that they could rock out like they did! This was such a pleasant surprise. They covered many songs from great 60s bands like The Beatles, The Byrds, The Yardbirds, The Zombies, The Who, and others. They also did some originals that were arranged in a style much like the mid-60s rockers. In fact, I tried wracking my brain to figure out who they were covering only to find they were covering themselves. I never realized David played keyboards, and could play in such a wicked 60s psychedelic style, akin to Ian Bruce-Douglas of Ultimate Spinach. His guitar lead work was also quite impressive. Bart took most of the lead singing parts and was right at home whether covering The Who, The Beatles, or anyone else.

Blue Frog Ellis stuck around to hear them. He was quite impressed, also. They really kicked some ass and got people dancing! Suddenly I was transported to The Aftermath coffee house near Claysville, PA circa 1969 and my teenage years.
Now, I understand this event is titled “unplugged” and with the exception of some amplification for electric bass and vocals, most of the acts we saw complied with the “unplugged” concept. So how did True Stories sneak onto the roster with a fully electric band? In my mind it is exactly what 60s rock was all about – defying the rules! So if I was asked about this, my response would be, “The kids are alright”.

Other Thoughts – Bits and Pieces

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To balance out my musical experience, I have obtained a couple new prog metal releases on the Sensory CD label, Iris Divine – “Karma Sown” and Jaded Star – “Memories from the Future”. Iris Divine is from northern Virginia, playing in a metal style similar to Pantera, Alice in Chains, and even a hint of Dream Theater. They seem to reach beyond just heavy metal to more of a progressive synth-based metal style that is edgy and exciting with a fantastic male vocalist who actually sings. Jaded Star is a Swedish prog metal band with an amazing female vocalist, Maxi Nil, and virtuoso guitarist, Kosta Vreto. This is a strong debut album with lots of power and emotion.

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I also landed a near mint copy of Nat Freedland’s double LP documentary “The Occult Explosion” from 1973. It will fit nicely with my other LPs in the same genre by Barbara the Gray Witch, Louise Huebner, Anton LaVey, Coven, Jacula, Antonius Rex, Abiogenesi, Paul Chain, Aleister Crowley, Charles Manson, The Manson Family Jams, and Lucifer/Black Mass (Mort Garson). I guess Will Jima also fits into this category with his two spoken word albums about “the UFO people” and the end times, with electronic sounds as background. All make for a lovely trip into the dark side of human imagination. Nothing you would want to have as a steady diet. Some of these are definitely not for the faint of heart. Others are as funny as Hell (no pun intended). Note that these recordings are not in any way like the death metal and black metal groups that flourished in the late 80s and continue to spread a very depressing or destructive message, often tied to various hate groups.
This leads nicely as an introduction, or advertisement, for the future blog entry I have planned to do for several months on “The World of Wyrd”. I plan to discuss the area of pagan folk, wyrd folk, and perhaps some other musical phenomena that are related tangentially.

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