“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.