“What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live? What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie? Are we meant to take more than we give or are we meant to be kind? And if only fools are kind, Alfie, then I guess it is wise to be cruel and if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie, what will you lend on an old golden rule?…”
By Burt Bacharach and Hal David, performed by Dionne Warwick, 1967.
What is this all about? I mean, this blog? Why do I keep doing this? Why does it take so long for me to roll one of these posts out?
The problem with maintaining a blog that lives up to the title “Mapping Happenings” is that you must write about the moment at hand…otherwise that moment is lost; the happenings become stale. For example, I attended one day of the Adams Avenue Street Fair the weekend of September 29 and I wrote down my observations and impressions immediately afterward, but then had to go back on the road for work before I could finish. I had finished the writing, but importing the photos (and hopefully this time videos) became an impossible task for my PC. Technology is advancing to the point that my 2013 PC is now unable to handle the tasks it once handled easily, let alone adding something new. My iPhone videos and photos do not transfer as quickly as they used to, and the PC slows to a near grinding halt. I had to sacrifice posting videos because I could not get them copied to the blog without getting the dreaded BSOD (blue screen of death).
Now I am back from Miami and will be home for two weeks. But it is now two weeks since the street fair. Despite the stale nature of this information I refuse to trash what I had written. Keep in mind I have been attending some wonderful and memorable performances throughout 2018 at various venues such as The Belly Up, Tio Leo’s, Riviera Supper Club, Covo La Jolla, and others, but I don’t want this read to turn into another book. The nature of my life right now is that I travel about 40-45 weeks of the year, and when I get home there are “home things” that require my attention. My blog is a lower priority as it is a hobby, and not a necessity. But when I can I do post. And here we are. So here is a rundown of the Saturday, September 29 events my wife and I attended.
Adams Avenue Street Fair
With all the craziness in the world I needed to get totally away from it all. Fortunately, we had the 37th annual Adams Avenue Street Fair. This was a great escape for me.
This year the street fair was confined to Normal Heights, with Adams Avenue closed-off only seven blocks for both Saturday and Sunday. In prior years it covered a two-mile stretch from University Heights to Kensington. Now the street fair has fewer stages. Not all the performances were at the one indoor (Lestat’s) and five major outdoor stages and the music schedule only listed artists on these stages. So, if it had not been that we knew Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez, we would not have known they were performing in the DeMille’s beer garden.
Nevertheless, there was some amazing music-making happening at this street fair. We only attended performances at four of the seven major stages. Cloning would have been necessary to see any more than we did. We saw eight artists and eight brilliant performances. The only big drawback was the parking. We parked over a mile away after searching for a space for about 20 minutes. This caused us to miss the first half of the set by the first band we wanted to see – Jake Najor & The Moment of Truth.
Najor is a Grammy nominated drummer who has worked with several nationally known artists, including De La Soul – one of my favorite hip hop groups. The group played a 70s style funky jazz reminiscent of The Crusaders, Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock, and early 70s Herbie Mann (the Push Push LP is a good example). Jake’s band consisted of Matt LaBarber groovin’ out on electric bass, David Carano on funky guitar (with a style somewhere between Larry Carlton and David Spinoza), Tito Frescas on fantastic keys, and Andy Geib who brilliantly played fluegelhorn, trombone, and flute (not at the same time) and of course Najor, with jaw dropping beats, on drums. We got spoiled from the beginning with this hot, tight, funky band.
We moved from the Groove Stage over to the Blues Stage to hear Karl and The Hornets. Karl is Karl Cabbage who has performed in other blues bands such as West of Memphis, The Smokin’ Knights, Red Lotus Revue and The Holla Pointe. This was straight-ahead greasy blues, heavy on the harp and soulful singing. This was a basic four-piece unit with drums, electric bass, guitar and Karl on harmonica/vocals. Impressive to say the least.
From there we moved on to the Roots Rock Stage to hear Jonny Wagon & The Tennessee Sons. I was not expecting anything like what we saw. I did not read the bio for this band before seeing them. This was a large band with drums, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, electric bass, keyboard, trumpet, baritone sax, and lead singer Jonny Wagon. Jonny reminded me a lot of Bruce Springsteen in vocal style, and surprisingly I could see comparisons between this band and the E Street Band. I enjoyed watching the trumpeter who sort of danced to the rhythm in a unique manner that I thought was cool. And then another surprise happened when they closed with Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and the band nearly did the Wings’ original recording note-for-note; quite good.
We then headed for food, but on the way, we took in Charlie Chavez y Su Afrotruko at the Groove Stage. This was another larger band with an Afro-Cuban style that reminded me of Mongo Santamaria’s early bands; lots of percussion and brass; excellent musicianship. It reminded me that I was going to be heading to Miami in a couple of weeks, but with little time to look for great music like this.
After lunch at DeMille’s we moved back to the Blues Stage to the watch award-winning band, The Fremonts; another basic line-up of drums (Al West), guitar & electric bass (Patrick Skog & Tony Tomlinson interchanging duties), and vocalist “Mighty” Joe Milsap, who played washboard, woodblocks, and a small djembe. There was a deep South – Gulf Coast swampy feel to this band’s blues. The band’s emphasis is on the lyrics, with straight forward playing and no “look at me do this” moments. At this point we noted many people dancing – more than with the other groups. Perhaps the beer was kicking in, but we also noted that about this time, late afternoon, the kooky and the crazy seemed to become visible both dancing and meandering through the crowd. I love to watch people and had to be mindful to pay attention to the great sounds coming from the stage.
We stayed at the Blues Stage for the set by Robin Henkel and Whitney Shay. Both individually are San Diego Music Awards winners. Now here they were together, once again, performing some old r&b and delta blues standards from Big Mama Thornton, Elmore James, Sun House, Etta James, and the like. Robin on guitars and vocals; Whitney with shakers and on vocals. Some great fun! Later we learned that Whitney performed with her band, Shay and The Hustle, earlier in the day at The Rabbit Hole, another Adams Avenue venue, that was not posted in the street fair schedule.
We broke free for a bit to head back to DeMille’s Beer Garden to see Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez perform some 60s British invasion rock and Humphries-penned songs of a similar style. Dave was on vocals and guitar and Mike was on electric cello and backing vocals. Unfortunately, we got to our destination mid-set, so we only heard less than a handful of songs.
Once Dave’s and Mike’s set ended, we headed toward the car, but not without stopping at the Casbah Rock Stage to hear The Schizophonics. This is a three-piece, with Pat Beers on guitar and vocals, Lety Beers on drums, and an electric bassist (name unknown to me). Pat is a crazy man on guitar – about 20% Hendrix, 20% Pete Townsend, 10% Jackie Wilson and 50% Iggy Pop. He jumped, twirled, did splits, somersaults, and raced from one side of the stage to the other, and occasionally he got to the mic to let out occasional yelps as well as lyrics…all while still playing guitar. The guitar pickups were at top volume, so his one-handed playing came through clearly. Strings were broken – luckily no necks were broken (neither his nor his guitar’s). He wrestled with the mic stand and sometimes the stand won, but he kept going. Lety is a fantastic drummer and she and the bassist kept things moving which only fed fuel to the fire of Pat’s guitar pyro techniques. We were exhausted watching him, but I just had to quietly sing along to “Red Planet”. Worn from a day in the sun, we did not stay for the second half of their performance and headed to the car which was a great distance away.
We had good intentions of heading to the Riviera Supper Club to hear Three Chord Justice but decided to go home to change first. Well, when we got in the door, we decided we had enough music for the day. Nancy had to volunteer at the blood bank the following day and I had to begin writing what you see here as well as get bills paid and other home-related activities before flying to San Antonio.
A Not-So-Stale Bit of Happening
Friend and super music supporter, poet, and former music promoter Molly Lynn McClendon had her birthday party on October 6 at Proud Mary’s. Performing that evening was Casey Hensley with her band. Casey put her heart into this, as she always does. She is the closest in style to Janis Joplin I have heard out of San Diego. The only thing missing was the Southern Comfort. Her power and vocal range are phenomenal. Her sense of the blues and emotive delivery are delectable. The way she can go from a low growl to a sensitive and sustained high is amazing. She is only in her mid-20s. If she keeps growing as a singer, she will easily become an international star. Casey was complimented with a wonderful backup band featuring Steve Wilcox on flame-throwing guitar. With Mark Campbell on electric bass and Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums holding things together in the rhythm department, Casey blew the roof off the building and Steve burnt it down.
Molly Lynn is known for doing live feeds online from her phone at music events over the past two or three years and here she is doing it again, even at her own birthday party while dancing with Casey who was taking a break while the band stretched out on some heavy blues.
In Other News
Some great acquisitions have been received this year. I’ve also been upgrading some of my CD collection that had been purchased prior to 24-bit remastering technology. So now, my Hatfield & The North, Matching Mole, Daevid Allen & Euterpe and other CDs are much clearer and crisper. Box sets arrived recently including The Turtles complete album collection, Small Faces box set with all three Immediate label albums, and Yardbirds 5-CD box set, Glimpses, which includes career-spanning musical selections and several short interviews by Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton of this ground-breaking band.
I have also been completing some vinyl holes in my Pittsburgh area collection: Groov-U, The Electrons, Napoleonic Wars, The Time Stoppers, and other rarities. I will have more to say about many of these as time permits but not here.
I am deeply saddened to report the demise of Hardy Fox, aka Chuck Bobuck, of The Residents/Cryptic Corp. Hardy was the musical genius behind The Residents music and performed in their live shows until 2015 when he decided to stay off the road for health reasons and simply compose the music. In 2017 he revealed himself as the group’s co-founder and primary composer. He also began releasing solo projects under the name Chuck Bobuck around 2012, and later under his real name, Hardy Fox. In early September, 2018 he posted a strange note of confusion on his Facebook page that nobody understood. Shortly after that he posted on his own Website the dates 1945 – 2018. He made comments about his impending death. Here is the quote “Yes got sick, making my pass out of this world, but it is “all” okay. I have something in my brain that will last to a brief end. I am 73 as you might know. Brains go down. But maybe here is my brain functioning as I’m almost a dead person just a bit of go yet. Doctors have put me on drugs, LOL, for right now. Anyway. Probably the last of seeing me. Thanks for checking in. Love you all.” He also later made the comment “Almost dead. So what.” This comment, as well as his goodbye statement and his entire Facebook account have been removed. At present, the dates of his birth and “death” have also been removed and it simply says he no longer writes music. This last entry was written by Rebecca Rothers on Hardy’s website. She refers to a novel, The Stone, written by Hardy which is available for free that perhaps reveals what is going on “by the end of the book.” On Facebook, his sister posted to correct those who presumed he died on October 1, that he was still alive at that time.
I had some email communication with Hardy in the early 2000s regarding advice on promotion of an iconoclastic artist from the late ‘60s I had worked with regarding a Terrastock event. A year later, Nancy and I attended the Demons Dance Alone performance by The Residents at the Anaheim House of Blues and we had a nice conversation with Hardy where he subtly let me know he was one of The Residents.
It appears that just as in life, Hardy continues in mystery, perhaps even in death. My belief is that he is not yet gone. He may be gone from being an active participant in the world of music but is still around. I do believe he is gravely ill, perhaps unable to communicate effectively and is simply waiting for the end to come. I have my doubts we will know when he really does pass on to the other side of this life. His long-time associate with The Residents, Homer Flynn, posted a photo of himself with the obviously ailing Hardy in late September. I have copied it here. R.I.P. in this and the next life, Hardy.
“I spoke to you in cautious tones. You answered me with no pretense. And still I feel I said too much. My silence is my self-defense. And every time I’ve held a rose, it seems I only felt the thorns. And so it goes, and so it goes. And so will you soon I suppose.” Billy Joel, from the album, Storm Front, 1989
If you haven’t noticed, I have been silent for nearly a year. It is not that I have had nothing to write about. I have been to several music events, and they were all uplifting and refreshing. I have also made some great purchases and acquisitions that I cannot wait to talk about. But in the first couple months after my last post, which was in January, there had been moments when I had an idea that could blossom into something to write, but the will was not there. Generally, I am not a person who suffers from depression. But the best way I can describe it is…depression. This began around November 8th of last year, and became increasingly worse after January 20th of this year. But I am slowly getting back to being my abnormal self.
When I finally gathered the motivation and presence of mind to write this, it was a cold and wet May day. There was nothing playing in the CD player. I heard the traffic in the distance, a few birds announcing their territorial boundaries, the hum of the fan in my PC, and the clicking of the keys as I typed. I heard my breath, sighing occasionally as I considered my words and avoided painful thoughts.
Then, just as I do now, I wanted to feel hope. I wanted to live hope. But it is difficult to hope. I think if I write, it will give me hope. But I am not so sure about that thought. I am not certain I can count on that to be true. But I must get on with it; buck up. Put one foot ahead of the other and lean forward. Press one key at a time, complete a word, hit that space bar and keep it moving. Hep, two, three, four! Hep, two, three, four!
I am thankful that there have been some awesome events to attend. And looking back I have attended quite a few. Here are some.
Music from ‘The Nutcracker’ – A Jazzy Exploration of a Holiday Classic, 2016
During the December holiday season, there was a jazzy musical event with violinist, Jamie Shadowlight, at Café Bar Europa in Pacific Beach including the usual suspects of Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Kevin Higuchi on drums, Will Lyle on bass, and PJ Ortiz (PacificYO) on beatbox. The highlight for me was hearing Grammy nominated jazz flutist, Lori Bell. Lori’s 2016 album, Brooklyn Dreaming, has won accolades from Downbeat Magazine, Huffington Post, and others. It was a great evening of holiday jazz, fine food, and hanging with friends.
Pre-Beatles Fair Promo Show at the Queen Bee, 2016
Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve there was a show at the Queen Bee to promote the upcoming Beatles Fair in March, 2017. The three mainstays, Dave Humphries Band, The Rollers, and The Baja Bugs performed, but in addition there were some duos and solo acts. The one that stands out for me was “Fast Heart Mart” Martin Stamper on banjo doing “Norwegian Wood”. Another great evening hanging with friends and hearing some great 60s music. That evening, the Dave Humphries Band was the expanded 5-piece consisting of Dave Humphries on guitar, Wolfgang Grasekamp on keys, Greg Gohde on electric bass, Make Alvarez on electric cello, and Todd Sander on drums.
Sometime in January we saw Cadillac Wreckers at Proud Mary’s doing many familiar songs plus some I had never heard them do before. Dana Duplan on guitar and Dane Terry on harmonica and vocals are the main Wreckers. I did not catch the names of the drummer and electric bassist. A tight bluesy band that are always enjoyable to hear.
We have made several excursions to the Riviera Supper Club on Thursday nights to hear Liz Grace and the Swing Thing duo, consisting of Liz and guitarist, Jon Garner. Great songs from a great era, and Liz is such a versatile singer. Jon is also an exceptional jazz guitarist.
One evening in February, we went to Rebecca’s Coffee to experience a rare performance of The Flip Side / The Pink Floyd Experience. They perform B-sides of hit songs from the 60s and early 70s. Todd Sander was on drums and vocals, Wolfgang Grasekamp was on rhythm guitar (used to seeing him on keys), Tom Quinn on lead guitar and vocals and Gus Beaudoin on bass and vocals. A strong unit handling songs from a variety of 60s bands and styles. Also, Dave Humphries Band played some songs as sort of a rehearsal for the Beatles Fair, where their set would concentrate on the songs of George Harrison, including his time with the Traveling Wilburys. Todd and Wolfgang (on keys this time) were part of the band along with Mike Alvarez on cello and Tom on lead guitar.
It was a thankfully rainy winter and the desert wildflowers were in magnificent bloom. We made it a point in March to experience this desert splendor, and coming back from Borrego Springs we stopped at Wynola Pizza to hear Plow and to get some great pizza. Dane Terry was not with them on harmonica, but recent addition, Alex Sharps, was with them on vocals and fiddle. They also had some young fiddlers, who have been students of Alex, show their stuff on what they have learned. A truly fun evening.
The Beatles Fair
Lineup at this year’s Beatles Fair at the Queen Bee in North Park included Francisco Gomez, The Phoenix Band, Mojo Working (featuring Scott Mathiasen), The Dave Humphries Band, The Baja Bugs, True Stories with a Ringo Starr tribute featuring Nico, and headliner Billy J. Kramer with Liberty DeVitto on drums on the Kaiserkeller Stage. There were three other stages, but we did not spend much time at these. All local acts did a fine job, but I was a bit partial to The Dave Humphries Band, who really knocked it out of the park with a George Harrison tribute, featuring songs “Isn’t It a Pity”, “All Things Must Pass” and “Beware of Darkness” from his first (3-LP) album and “Handle with Care” from Travelling Wilburys, including Mike Alvarez handling the Roy Orbison parts, among the highlights. They also did an assortment of 60s Beatles and British invasion tunes as well as some penned by Dave Humphries. This was an expanded band with Dave Humphries on guitar and lead vocals, Todd Sander on drums, Greg Gohde on bass, Wolfgang Grasekamp on keys, Mike Alvarez on cello and vocals, and Tom Quinn on lead guitar and lead/backing vocals. The Billy J. Kramer set started out promising, but he seemed to be having trouble with the monitor and he often moved off-key. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Billy J. Kramer, he toured with The Beatles on several occasions in the 60s and had a minor hit with “Little Children”. I got to meet him after his performance and secured an autographed copy of his recent CD. Liberty DeVitto was the drummer in Kramer’s band. He had been the tour drummer for many years backing Billy Joel, but now is touring with Kramer. My better half got a photo op with him. It was a fun evening, especially hanging with good friends.
Baja Bugs at Riviera Supper Club
I ventured out to see The Baja Bugs at the Riviera Supper Club sometime in March (or was it April?) with friend Randall Cornish. We also met up with George Rubsamen while there. The Bugs not only covered Beatles music, but also other 60s bands such as Rolling Stones, Kinks, Zombies, plus some self-penned songs. In great form, as usual.
Revival of the Singer-Songwriter
Produced by Ken Rexrode, March 26, at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. Hosted by Whitney Shay, with performances by Whitney Shay, Wish & The Well, The Moves Collective, Mimi Zulu, Karina Frost and the Banduvloons, and Taylor John Williams. This was a great show with a variety of music styles performed by amazing people. For me, the standouts were Whitney Shay, and The Moves Collective, both of whom were winners at the 2017 San Diego Music Awards.
Spring Harp Fest
This was my third or fourth time to attend the harp fest, at Harry Griffen Park in La Mesa, held this year on April 4. Performers were Phillip Fauquet with Chet Cannon and the Committee, Karl Dring (replacing Jeffrey Joe Moran, who could not make it due to an injury), Billy Watson, John Clifton, Eric Von Herzen, Harmonica John Frazer, TJ Klay, and headliner Kellie Rucker accompanied by Robin Henkel on guitar. The highlights for me were the Billy Watson and Kellie Rucker sets. Kellie used to reside in San Diego but now lives in Florida. It was a beautiful day for music in the outdoors.
Mundell Lowe 95th Birthday
Dizzy’s hosts the birthday performances for Mundell Lowe. This year, on April 21, Mundell was accompanied by Bob Magnusson and Rob Thorsen on bass, Jim Plank on drums, Bob Boss, Jaime Valle, Ron Eschete, and others on guitar. From New York City, jazz guitarist Tony DeCaprio did a solo set, and Mundell’s step-daughter, Alycia Previn, performed with him on violin. Mundell still had his chops, providing competition for all the other players. I was pleasantly surprised when Tony DeCaprio performed. I had not known about him prior to that evening and he totally knocked me out. This was an evening of jazz mastery from some of the finest players to be found anywhere on the planet.
NOTE: Mundell Lowe passed away on December 2. He was one of the greats, working with such major artists as Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Andre Previn, Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Ray, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Benny Goodman, the Everly Brothers…the list goes on. He was self-taught in guitar, and became a composer and arranger of movie and TV scores and a member of NBC’s staff orchestra, playing on the “Today Show” in the 50s and 60s. He appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in the 30s. He wrote music for shows such as “Hawaii Five-O”, “Starsky and Hutch”, “The Wild Wild West”, and even Woody Allen’s film “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)”. Adjectives used to describe him include “versatile”, “elegant”, “sophisticated”. I consider myself fortunate to meet and talk to him at his 93rd birthday performance at Dizzy’s and again to attend his 95th birthday performance.
Carlsbad Flower Fields Blues Day
This was held on April 23, at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. We had just missed Chickenbone Slim & The Biscuits, but got there in time to hear Robin Henkel with Whitney Shay, with Troy Jennings on sax, Caleb Furgatch on bass, and Marty Dodson on drums. We have seen this configuration of artists before, and they never disappoint. It was another enjoyable outdoor performance. And we got to talk to Larry Teves (Chickenbone Slim) even though we missed his set. We also spent time walking about the variety of beautiful flowers on display.
Adams Avenue Unplugged
This year at the Unplugged event on April 29, I finally got to see Marie Haddad perform, as well as Sven Eric Seaholm. Both are quite talented performers as well as capable songwriters. Marie is a very expressive quality singer and keyboardist. She did some self-penned songs as well as covers, leaving me wanting to hear much more. She will be releasing a new album later in the year and I will be in line to obtain one, for sure. Sven did an acoustic guitar set, but the environment was not conducive to a musical performance. The Adams Avenue Business Association needs to rethink using that noisy location with poor acoustics as a venue. However, we were up close to enjoy his covers of 60s and 70s songs, along with some self-penned songs. We ended the day at DiMilles’ Pizza to hear Robin Henkel doing a solo country blues set followed by the Dave Humphries Band, which was a three-piece consisting of Dave on vocals and guitar, Greg Gohde on bass, and Mike Alvarez on cello and backing vocals. I have written much about both in the past, and cannot add anything more regarding their prodigious talents. After the Dave Humphries set, we decided to leave the Unplugged event and headed over to the Riviera Supper Club to hear some twang with Three Chord Justice before calling it a night. This was the last time for me to hear the band with guitarist and long-time member, Jeff Houck. Jeff has since moved on to other ventures.
Six String Society – 27 Club
The Six String Society, at the Belly Up on April 30, presented a tribute to the artists who died at the age of 27. Among the members of the 27 Club covered in this production were Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Curt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Taylor John Williams did a brief set to warm up the crowd. Then the fun began. Beginning with a tribute to country blues legend, Robert Johnson, presented by local country blues legend, Robin Henkel, a slide presentation created a multi-media environment as Robin told the mysterious story of Robert Johnson, playing some of Johnson’s classic songs as well as other country blues songs. Following this informative set, Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer (with Steve Miller Band) guitarist Greg Douglass and singer Louis Patton performed a tribute to Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. Then Gregory Page did a musical introduction to guitarist Jimmy Patton with a tribute to Jim Morrison of The Doors. The next 27 Club member was Janis Joplin. For this set, the phenomenal Casey Hensley sang Janis’ songs accompanied by a band fronted by Greg Douglass on guitar and Johnny Viau on sax, with Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums and Mark Campbell on bass. I kept looking up to see if the Belly Up roof was still intact after hearing Casey tearing it up. Next was a tribute to Curt Cobain of Nirvana by Canadian/San Diegan alternative band, Sister Speak, fronted by Sherri Anne on vocals and acoustic guitar, Jacob (Cubby) Miranda on bass, and Zach Guglin on drums. Greg Douglass also joined in on electric guitar. I really liked their sound. Sister Speak is another San Diego Music Awards winner. They were also joined by Jimmy Patton and Taylor John Williams on their last Nirvana song. For the Amy Winehouse tribute, Whitney Shay literally was the incarnation of Amy, with her hair style, red flower in her hair, and voice. Whitney was backed by her band, The Hustle and accompanied again for some songs by Greg Douglass. This led into the final tribute, for Jimi Hendrix, with Greg Douglass doing some pyro techniques on guitar, accompanied by Mark Campbell on bass and Evan Caleb Yearsley on drums. Vocal duties for Jimi’s songs was handled by Louis Patton. And, of course, all performers gathered on stage for the last song. It was a tremendous night of legendary music and fantastic performers.
Mother’s Day at Urban Solace
We went to Urban Solace for their bluegrass brunch on Mother’s Day, May 13. Plow, represented by a trio of Doug Walker on bass, Jason Weiss on banjo and a guest guitarist/vocalist that I cannot recall – that’s what I get for not writing this as soon afterward as I should have. Chris Clarke, Mark Markowitz, Dane Terry and Alex Sharps were not available as they were celebrating Mother’s Day and if I recall correctly, Chris was also ill that day.
Joshua Tree Music Festival May 18-21
Prior to the music festival, Todo Mundo had mentioned via a Facebook post by Jamie Shadowlight that they were giving away two free tickets to the festival and all one had to do was to give the reasons why they thought they were deserving of the tickets. On a lark, I responded. Little did I know that I would win. I was not out of town but had not reserved those days as vacation days. I then got an email from Todo Mundo that they wanted additional information in case I won. I had not yet responded when Jamie told me I won the tickets and needed to get this info in ASAP. I had to quickly request the days off and then responded. The tickets would be at the front gate for the festival. I was amazed. These are $240 tickets each! I booked the hotel using my points. So, the only cost to us was food and gas, plus anything else we wanted to buy. It was an awesome experience with several performers from around the world. That first evening began with Canada’s Sasha Rose doing a DJ set followed by local artist, Chris Unck with his high desert band. Chris’ music reminded me of the German space rock of the 70s. It was an instrumental set, and they performed as the sun was setting. Todo Mundo, including Jamie Shadowlight, was the featured artist of the evening. This was my first time hearing them and they knocked me out of my socks! How do I explain them? World music including reggae, Caribbean, gypsy, and you name it, all with a Latin flavor; with guitars, percussion, drums, bass, sax, trombone, trumpet and violin; all this with the powerful and soulful vocals of band leader, Santiago Orozco. Their performance is high energy with a powerful message of world unity and love, and all players were dressed in white. We headed back to our hotel room musically sated but anticipating more the following day. We met up with Jamie, Santiago and his wife, and others, and relaxed to the sounds of local artist, Philip Rosenberg in the background. After checking out the merchants we settled into listening to a band from Wonder Valley, TheAdobe Collective, with a psychedelic Americana style, and La Inedita from Peru, with a Latin harder edged pop-rock style throwing in a bit of Spanish rap. For the sunset performance, Kraak and Smaak from Netherlands did a disco/pop-electronica set that would be suitable for a rave, complete with light show effects. Later in the evening we heard another local artist, Gene Evaro, Jr. with a funky yet folky style including roaring guitars on some songs. While there was one more performer to go that evening, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel; the desert heat had worn on us and I wanted to be ready for the next day. Our Saturday morning’s arrival was greeted by an acoustic set by Sasha Rose, who had DJed on Thursday evening. Later we heard the wonderful acapella harmonies of Sirens of Soul, who hail from all over – three female artists with beautiful voices and one guy on bass. Their music and stories were uplifting, affirming, and for us, a great way to end our time at the music festival. As we were leaving the Desert Rhythm Project was just beginning their set. We had things we had to accomplish on Sunday, so we needed to get home. Keep in mind that the music is just one (but central) aspect of the festival. There were a variety of artisans, healers, and a place for children’s activities. This will not be the last time at the festival for us. Next time, we will plan so that we can take in all four days’ music. We also learned that there was a hotel much closer where I could still use my hotel points instead of staying in Palm Springs and driving an hour each day from the hotel to the festival.
Art Around Adams
Art around Adams has been reduced now to one day, which this year was Saturday, June 7. First up was a performance by True Stories, including Bart Mendoza on guitar and vocals and Dave Fleminger on keys and guitar. We then walked across the street to see the tribute to Dick Van Ransom, owner of Mariposa Ice Cream, who passed away a year ago after a car accident. Dick was a huge promoter of the arts and all the street fairs on Adams Avenue. The first artist during the tribute was George Rubsamen on acoustic guitar and mandolin, who was accompanied in part of his set by Nico Peters on percussion. George’s set was primarily 60s pop and rock with an Irish flair. Next set was by The Baja Bugs doing primarily Beatles tunes but a few other 60s artists were covered. The tribute ended with The Dave Humphries Band performing more Beatles songs as well as songs by other British invasion artists and some self-penned tunes. A presentation was made by a local government official to Dick Van Ransom’s wife. We then headed back to the other stage for The Joyelles, consisting of bandleader, Normandie Wilson, on keys and vocals, Symea Solomon and Maggie Taylor on vocals, and backed by Dave Fleminger on guitar, Danny Cress on drums, and Martin Martiarena on bass. The group are well-steeped in 60s pop and soul, covering artists such as Petula Clark, Burt Bacharach, and Dionne Warwick, and more esoteric artists of the 60s, including some French ye-ye pop stars such as France Gall. There are also many songs penned by Normandie Wilson; songs that one would be surprised to find are recent and not from the 60s. Normandie, Symea, and Maggie take turns with lead vocals. This band has a vibrant sound which got a lot of people dancing at the Blindspot stage. I was surprised at the size of the crowd gathered for their music – it gives me hope that 60s pop still rules! We then ventured over to DiMille’s for some pizza with many of our friends. After dinner we moved over to the DiMille’s Beer Garden stage to hear Alvino & The Dwells with their supersonic surf music. This power trio consists of Dave Fleminger on guitar, Tony Suarez on bass and rhythm guitar, and Didier Suarez on drums. This band is reminiscent of the great surf bands of the 60s. We also ran into visual artist/drummer extraordinaire/instrument maker, Owen Burke, enjoying their set.
Bar Pink CD Release Party for The Joyelles & Alvino & The Dwells
I attended the CD release party for The Joyelles and Alvino & The Dwells at Bar Pink on June 9th. This was a well-attended show, with The Joyelles doing the first set and Alvino & The Dwells doing the second. All that was said about these fine bands regarding their performances at Art Around Adams can be repeated here. While enjoying the music I ran into many familiar faces. We all had a great time.
Other Shows Attended in June
Once again, we made our pilgrimage to Rebecca’s Coffee in South Park on Sunday morning, June 11, to hear The Dave Humphries Band. On Thursday, June 15, we celebrated Mark Markowitz’ birthday at the Riviera Supper Club listening to Mark play drums for Liz Grace & The Swing Thing, which was a four piece that evening with Mark on drums, Liz Grace on guitar and vocals, Jon Garner on electric guitar, and Doug Walker on bass. Later, on June 17, my son and his girlfriend accompanied us to Wynola Pizza to hear Three Chord Justice with an acoustic set, featuring their new lead guitarist, Alex Watts. Alex has played with the band on many occasions when Jeff Houck was not available, but since Jeff has left the band Alex has become a full member. Another fun evening with great music.
The Music Box
We had an opportunity to hear Todo Mundo at The Music Box on June 16. When we found out that The Moves Collective would also be playing we just had to go. We had dinner at Buon Appetito, just a few blocks away from The Music Box. While standing in line to get in we ran into Carmelia Toot Bell. Little did we know that Carmelia would be performing later that evening. Soul Brigade opened the show with some high energy electric blues and funk. They were followed by The Moves Collective performing some high voltage Americana. Todo Mundo, featuring Jamie Shadowlight on electric violin and on a few songs Carmelia Toot Bell on vocals. It was another uplifting evening, with Todo Mundo bringing it to a beautiful conclusion.
Revival of the Singer Songwriter
June 18 at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, Shay and The Hustle, Greg Douglass, Israel Maldonado with Dante, Patric Petrie and Jillian Calkins, Shane J Hall Trio, and Steph Johnson with Rob Thorsen put their talents out there to bring on another wonderful evening with a variety of music styles. Patric Petrie and Jillian Calkins have joined forces to present a world folk music duo with an emphasis on Irish and French styles and culture. Their voices blend beautifully. They are now going by the name, J’Adore. They are planning a musical tour of France sometime next year. Shay and the Hustle, with vocalist Whitney Shay, provided a set of funky electric blues that was truly invigorating. There were some great guitarists at this event: Greg Douglass, Israel Maldonado and Steph Johnson. Douglass presented more of a hard-edged blues rock style reminiscent of Clapton, Page, and Hendrix. Maldonado provided acoustic stylings with a Latin flair. Johnson played a funky jazz set of originals with an uplifting, socially conscious theme. Shane J Hall Trio was a new treat for me, with a bluesy Americana style. It was an enjoyable evening of music.
A bit about the Six String Society/Revival of the Singer Songwriter events at the Belly Up, and now the Wednesday night events at Tio Leo’s near Old Town as well as the long-standing Fallbrook open mic events. These are organized and produced by Ken Rexrode. Ken has put tons of time and energy into promoting and supporting music and musicians in San Diego County. I highly recommend any of these events as well worth your time to experience.
Cirque Du Soleil Beatles Love, June 22
The Beatles. The Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas. Cirque du Soleil. Breathtaking. The Beatles’ music and the wizardry of George Martin. Superior talent and skill. What more is there to say? We attended this for my wife, Nancy’s birthday, which was June 22. It was Love.
The Hollywood Project prerelease party at Rebecca’s Coffee, June 25
Representing The Hollywood Project were Dave Humphries, Greg Gohde, Mike Alvarez, and Wolfgang Grasekamp. This was the San Diego prerelease party for Olympic Boulevard, the second album by The Hollywood Project. If this appears to be an iteration of the Dave Humphries Band, you are correct. There were others involved in the production of this release, however, who were not available for this performance. Stephen Kalinich wrote the lyrics for many of the songs, Tom Quinn played guitar on many of the tracks, Sven Eric Seaholm played on the album as well as providing production and engineering along with Wolfgang. There are others I am probably missing, but these are the primary individuals responsible for this excellent release. After the performance, Dave Humphries and his wife Robbie Taylor, along with many of us regulars at Rebecca’s ventured down to The Station for lunch and tasty conversation.
The Garners at Riviera Supper Club, August 3
The Garners, formerly known as The Strivers, are Jon Garner and his wife, Lorelei Musique. Jon plays guitar and sings, and is an essential part of Liz Grace and The Swing Thing. Lorelei plays ukulele, guitalele, and sings. Together they dig into the music of the 20s through the 50s, with songs from Tin Pan Alley, classic pop and jazz, including a good dose of Django Reinhart and other early guitar greats. Lorelei is an accomplished vocalist with an expressive vocal style reminiscent of Billie Holiday, with a touch of Ella Fitzgerald. And, her work on ukulele and guitar compliments Jon’s playing nicely. I’ve written earlier about Jon’s excellent guitar work – he stays true to the early masters while adding his own unique twist to classic guitar jazz. It was another evening of great food and great sounds.
August through December
We visited the places we regularly frequent such as Wynola Pizza, the Alano Club in South Park, Riviera Supper Club, and Rebecca’s Coffee to see the bands we like to see such as Plow, Three Chord Justice, Liz Grace and The Swing Thing, and the Dave Humphries Band.
Dave Humphries at Rebecca’s
Dave Humphries at Rebecca’s
Dave Humphries & Mike Alvarez with friends Mike Evans (left circle) and Will LaFond (right circle), last time at Rebecca’s Coffee on Sunday morning before they close
Lestat’s West on Adams Avenue, October 13
We attended a performance by Marie Haddad at Lestat’s West where she played songs from her latest album, “Stories from Atlantis.” I consider this album to be an all-time favorite of mine. While over the years I have thought highly of many releases by many local artists, this year there were three that were in my opinion jaw-dropping excellent, and this is one of the three. I will have more to say about the three albums in a later post. Of course, the songs sounded different at Lestat’s because it was just Marie on her keyboard, but her beautifully emotive voice and the exceptional lyrics and songwriting made for an enjoyable performance. Following Marie was Isaac Cheong on solo voice and guitar. His self-deprecating humor and sensitive songwriting has left me wanting to hear more. Isaac was followed by a husband and wife duo from Tucson, Arizona (originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina) calling themselves Birds & Arrows. This was a guitar and drums performance with Pete Connolly on drums and backing vocals and Andrea Connolly on guitar and lead vocals. They wrote their own music, which was a mix of Americana and hard-edged alternative rock. Andrea was amazing how she held up the rhythm and lead to make this performance sound like a full band. In talking with them at the break, they said they really like playing in San Diego and plan more gigs here in the future. I surely hope so. We did not stay for the other two artists performing that evening, Lisa Sanders and Mary Scholz. I am sure they would have been worth our time, but it was getting late after a tiring day.
Rebecca’s Coffee Farewell Concert, December 16
On a sad note, after more than 25 years providing coffee, scones, and a venue for music and poetry as well as promotion for animal rescue, Rebecca’s Coffee is closing at the end of the year due to new ownership of the building and a doubling of the rent. A farewell concert was held at Rebecca’s on December 16. This featured several artists who had been regulars performing at the coffee shop over the years. Included were Dave Humphries accompanied by Mike Alvarez, and Tom Baird and Friends. A bittersweet evening.
San Diego Troubadour Holiday Party and Fundraiser 2017, Grassroots Oasis, December 17
While my better half suffered from the flu, I attended the Troubadour Holiday Party meeting up with friends and enjoying the music of Bayou Brothers, Tom Baird and Friends, Dave Humphries and Mike Alvarez (and featuring Owen Burke on drums, and with Liz Abbott on vocals on “Bluebird”), Robin Henkel with Whitney Shay, Asspocket of Whiskey, Nina Francis, among others too many to mention. All were in the holiday spirit and it was great seeing everyone and hearing some wonderful music.
The Nutcracker: A Jazz Exploration, Café Bar Europa, December 22
And here we are full circle. Performed by Jamie Shadowlight on electric violin, Mikan Zlatkovich on keys, Will Lyle on string bass, Monette Marino on percussion, Russell Bizzett on drums, with special guests PacificYO on beatbox, Carmelia Toot Bell on vocals, and Albert Lin throat singing. It is exactly as described, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker put into a jazz format with tons of wild improvisation and experimentation; much was done impromptu by super talents who can pull this off with ease. Plus, it is always a joyful event to be with Jamie. It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
Despite the flu and other infirmities, despite a government gone insane, despite a monstrous work load this past year, and despite fighting a downer regarding the uncertainty of our future and retirement under the current American leadership, this has been a good year for music and for experiencing music in San Diego. In fact, the music is what has kept me going. I have made many friends in the music community, and many of those friendships have grown deeper in the past year. As we look to 2018, I can know that despite what natural or human disasters occur in the next twelve months, and despite what calamities our government throws at us, we have the joy of music and of friendship, and that will get us through.
Before we leave 2017 I will be writing a second and hopefully shorter post regarding some recorded music discoveries during the year that I would like to share with everyone. In the meantime, try to avoid this nasty flu that is going around and value one another! Happy Holidays!