Here it is, Earth Day 2023. Here it is, Dystopia 2023. When you look around and see what is happening sometimes you just want to cry. We are pushed each day in so many directions. Do we “stick our heads into the sand, just preachin’ that all is grand, and hope that everything turns out okay”? or do we speak out, or turn inward, or put on our tunnel vision glasses? What do we do?
There is nothing like a major life event, whether it be in your own life or in a loved one’s life, to shake you up and reevaluate what is important. As I look back in time, what has proven to be important keeps shifting like the mental shape shifters we all are.
I began to get away from my writing here shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I was working, making money and had little time for much else as I threw myself into work, spending many days away from home and many hours of overtime. With the pandemic came major changes. I began working from home as travel pre-vaccine could be lethal. There were some brave souls who continued but with my age and health situation I could not afford to do so. I lost my sister during the summer of 2020. I almost lost my oldest brother, his wife, and his oldest son to COVID in January 2021. Two long time family friends did lose their lives due to their trust in lies about the virus, as did a prominent member of my high school graduating class. Additionally I lost my sister-in-law (the one mentioned above) to cancer in December 2022.
In March 2020. after returning from a work engagement in New York City I became very ill with respiratory symptoms. I checked with my medical HMO and they said it did not sound like COVID but tests were limited and therefore I could not be tested. Later I understood that the symptoms I had could very well have been evidence of COVID but at that point in time the world medical community did not know enough to say for sure. But after recovering from the worst flu symptoms I have ever experienced in March, 2020, I began to have symptoms of significant weakness and occasional chest pains that would come and go.
Thankfully in February 2021 we were able to receive our first Moderna vaccines with the second in March. I discussed with my pulmonary specialist the chest pain I had been experiencing, especially when driving to higher elevations at Mt. Laguna. With telephone medical visits in April they sent me a heart collar to wear for several days and send back. It revealed that my heart stopped a couple times for just a second or two but it was significant enough to necessitate an emergency surgery to implant a pacemaker in my chest in late April. While the surgery is simple enough, this was a physical and mental life changing event for me. I can no longer look under the hood of the car when it is running. I have to go through a security screening at airports and other offices using electronic screening in a way different from others. I can no longer operate an amateur radio nor a radiotelephone device so I have let my amateur and radiotelephone licenses lapse. And, mentally this has taken it’s toll on someone who enjoyed hiking and at one time bicycled across Wisconsin – from Kenosha to La Cross and back.
Due to the pandemic, conducting trainings via Webcast instead of face-to-face, I was doing more sitting than standing. I fell at home injuring my right knee in May, 2020 and could not get in to see a doctor for nearly 2 years. Finally as things began to open up, I was able to get into physical therapy in early 2022. With that and the help of a masterful masseuse I am now rid of the pain I experienced when I walk. However lately I have begun to have severe pain on the other side which sent me to the ER just over a week ago with spasms so severe I could not walk, sit or stand without severe pain. That is subsiding now, but it all points to my physical limitations.
I only traveled for work twice in 2021. I traveled three times in 2022 and one was a state conference in February that year. The mask orders were still in effect except where I presented at a state conference in a Southern state. Nobody was masked except me and one other presenter from another company. A week after I returned home I was diagnosed with COVID despite keeping up all my booster vaccines. Extreme weakness was the result with minor respiratory symptoms.
I have only been to a few music events since the pandemic. None in 2020. A couple outdoor events in 2021 and 2022. I did attend the Adams Avenue street fair in 2022 but did not make a day of it due to painfull walking for both me and my wife. So while I will be discussing music events locally here as I begin to use this blog more and Facebook less for reporting on such events, I will be discussing my music collection more.
So here it is April, 2023. Two very tragic events have already occurred locally. First, I lost a friend in February – one of the best harmonica players I’ve ever met, Dane Terry. Dane was in two different groups locally – Cadillac Wreckers, which was a jump blues band, and Plow, which is an old-time and bluegrass band. Dane was on his way to work one morning in February on his motorcycle. A driver ran a red light, striking and killing Dane. I did not hear the news until a couple days later when the leader of Plow, Chris Clarke, reported it on Facebook. It stunned me. My last conversation with Dane was in January when he and I were talking about how we never know when we will be taken from this life, so make each day count. There was a memorial for Dane at Heroes Wood-Fired Pizza in Wynola, coordinated by Chris Clarke with both Plow members and Dana Duplan of Cadillac Wreckers performing, and some of us told some stories about our time with Dane over the years. It was very moving.
Dane Terry in the photo by tip jar, Chris Clarke mandolin, Dana Duplan guitar
The other tragic event was reading a Facebook post from our dear friend and phenomenal violinist and human, Jamie Shadowlight, who was writing from the hospital in what sounded very desperate. I had no idea what was happening but could not do anything at that time due to my own severe pain and limited movement. I so badly wanted to visit her in the hospital. Then her friend Monette Marino posted what was going on. Jamie had stage 4 cervical cancer that had spread to all the lower abdominal organs. It was inoperable. It had stopped the flow from her kidneys to her bladder and she had to go through emergency surgery, putting tubes in her kidneys to drain off the urine and bring her kidneys back to health. The surgery worked, eventually she was released from the hospital and in the meantime Monette had helped to start a GoFundMe page for Jamie, since she was without health insurance. Jamies’ musical skills defy genre categorization. We have seen her perform with a variety of jazz artists such as guitarist Robin Henkel, keyboardist Mikan Zlatkovitch, flutist Lori Bell, percussionists Monette Marino and Nacho Arimany, her old Americana band Western Collective, Grammy winner guitarist Larry Mitchell, and a host of experimental artists in multimedia “happenings”. She was also part of Strings of Thought with former Ringo Starr and Taylor Swift touring violinist Caitlin Evanson, Pedro Talarico, and Nico Hueso who were noted for doing impromptu performances of various famous songs from all eras and genres. She has toured in South Africa and elsewhere and most recently experimenting with sound vibrations using violin, electronics, and its effect on water and light to create an ambient healing experience. Jamie performed with the Latin-World music group Todo Mundo touring all over the country.
In 2016, while I was in Oklahoma, my wife Nancy tripped over our blind dog going down the steps and broke bones in her shoulder and wrist. While I was on the road and Nancy was in a cast Jamie came over to our house to play a mini concert for Nancy. The next year Jamie was scheduled to perform with Todo Mundo at the Joshua Tree Music Festival. Todo Mundo’s band leader, Santiago Orozco, was offering free tickets if someone could answer some music questions (which I cannot recall at the moment) and I won the contest. He paid for Nancy and I to attend the 3 day music event. This was our first time seeing them perform and it was amazing. The other bands present from all over the globe were also wonderful to experience. We saw Todo Mundo one more time at The Music Box later that year. Unfortunately Todo Mundo disbanded about a year later and Santiago began a new music venture with WITHN, and Jamie was part of that on some of the WITHN releases.
Knowing Jamie’s situation, Santiago reformed Todo Mundo with what former members were available and put on a fundraising performance at Winstons in Ocean Beach earlier this month. When Jamie was released from the hospital she said she would be there for a couple songs. Well, a couple songs turned into the whole concert! Before everybody arrived I had caught a free moment to say hello to Santiago. I had not had a chance to talk to him since going to Joshua Tree. While talking to Santiago we heard someone beating on a drum and turned to see Jamie beating a medicine drum as she greeted everyone. We got to talk briefly with her. Since everyone wanted to talk to her the meeting was brief. Once the performance started it was like magic. The sound was as if they had never broken up. Truly professional artists. Besides Santiago on acoustic guitar and lead vocals there was an electric guitarist with a bit of flamenco flair to his playing and an electric lead guitarist producing some of the wildest sounds this side of Hendrix. I recognized the fellow on electric bass from seeing Todo Mundo in the past. And there was their old trombonist, hair a bit longer and just as wild whose gargantuan sassy sounds echoed the gregarious nature of this musical unit. Then there was the drummer who sounded like he had just walked off the stage performing with Shakira. The overall Todo Mundo sound was a bit like Carlos Vives but definitely unique to Santiago. There is a definite Vallenato sound, cumbia and even reggae. I only know a few words of Spanish so it was difficult to understand what Santiago was singing but it was from the heart and that was clearly communicated. Monette Marino was there and joined the band for a few songs. After the first, she was ready to leave the stage and Santiago said “where are you going?”. Laughingly she stayed for a few more. Jamie was there from the first note. She first played medicine drum and after the first song switched to violin which she played for the remainder of the concert. She also sang background or with Santiago on some songs.
My heart was lifted when we saw Jamie perform that evening. She is a remarkably strong person with a gentle and loving heart, and is inseparable from her music. She is convinced she is going to defeat the cancer in her own way. I am dedicating this blog post to Jamie Shadowlight, who continues to teach me how to be a better person and to be my own light. BTW, if you would like to donate to Jamie’s GoFundMe it is at: https://gofund.me/df7f2de1
Todo Mundo featuring Jamie Shadowlight (center right)
Santiago Orozco and Jamie Shadowlight
Update: Finally figured out how to insert photos in the updated version of Word Press.
In the meantime, peace, light and love to all. Enjoy Earth Day 2023!
“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!
“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”
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.
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
Plow – L to R: Mark Markowitz (mostly hidden), Jason Weiss, Doug Walker, Chris Clarke, Joe Pomianek, and Dane Terry
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.
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.
Casino Royale, L to R: David Fleminger, Normandie Wilson, Bart Mendoza
Moi with Johnny “V” Vernazza and his wife
L to R: David Lally, Tim Foley, Patric Petrie, and Ron Wild
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.
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.
L to R: Mark Augustin, Lance Dieckmann, didn’t catch drummer’s name
The other players with Lance Dieckmann
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.
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.
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.