Unsolved Minor Mysteries

“You live your life in the songs you hear

On the rock and roll radio

And when a young girl doesn’t have any friends

That’s a really nice place to go

Folks hoping you’d turn out cool

But they had to take you out of school

You’re a little touched you know, Angie baby…

…Angie girl, are you all right?

Tell the radio good-night

All alone once more, Angie baby”

Lyrics excerpted from “Angie Baby”, Written by Alan O’Day, performed by Helen Reddy

From the Helen Reddy LP, Free and Easy, 1974

 

I grew up “out in the sticks” of Southwestern Pennsylvania. A pre-teen kid growing up in the country has no stores within walking distance. My major stimulus was nature. For me, media was confined to my parents’ Life Magazine subscription, our radio and television, and a stack of 45s with music primarily from the 1940s. My family did not own a stereo until I was in junior high. Before that, all we had was a record player designed for 45 rpm singles. I played their 45s to death, and unfortunately ended up ruining many. Our television was black and white and there was no such thing as cable TV. Our station selection was limited to the six local stations in the tri-state area that our roof-installed antenna could capture on our 13-channel Motorola set. Our radios had AM but not FM. The only musical instruments in the house were my older brothers’ trombone and clarinet that they played in the high school band, and after they grew up the instruments left with them. I was only nine years old when the youngest of my brothers graduated from college and moved out. Until my teenage years, my resources for contemporary music and art were quite limited.

There were not many kids on the unpaved road where I lived, and houses were far apart. Farms bordered our 1.6 acres on three sides. Radio became my friend. Sometime in my junior high years I became interested in hearing radio stations outside our local area. I became excited that during the day I could hear the hit songs that were playing on WKYC in Cleveland, Ohio, and that some of these songs were different than what was playing on local Pittsburgh stations. In the evening I was amazed that I could hear stations as far away as KMOX, St. Louis, Missouri, or WRVA, Richmond, Virginia. I began writing down what I was hearing, by location on the radio dial. Soon, I was hearing stations further and further away from my rural home outside Washington, Pennsylvania. There was XEG in Monterrey, Mexico, CBJ in Chicoutimi, Quebec, and CBA in Moncton, New Brunswick. At that time, I had no idea there were others like me all around the world who were interested in hearing distant stations as a hobby. But there actually is such a hobby and it covers the entire radio and television spectrums. I soon learned about this hobby when in 9th grade my parents bought me a radio that covered AM, FM, and shortwave, coupled with a subscription to the now-defunct magazine, Radio-TV Experimenter which included White’s Radio Log. Soon I was listening to stations around the world, including Radio Ghana, Radio Brasilia, Radio Moscow, Radio Australia; I logged stations on every continent, including Antarctica. Listening to radio provided exposure to regional differences within our country as well as cultural differences throughout the world. I heard different perspectives on world and local news as well as different music.

I have written before about my attraction to music that is strange, obscure, or rare. That attraction seems to be hotwired into my DNA and affects more than music. It affects all my interests, including radio. I was not just interested in hearing the huge powerhouses across the globe like the BBC, Radio Moscow or Voice of America. I wanted to hear the flea powered stations in obscure locations like Radio Saint Helena from that tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What really excited me was the obscure, and the mysterious; stations not only of low power in remote locations, but stations that are on the air but a fleeting moment – enter pirate radio.

The first time I heard a pirate radio station, I had no idea what was going on. The station announced as “The Voice of the Purple Pumpkin”. I heard it on shortwave in 1970. It was a countercultural station playing cuts from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”, and it used the famous intro to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in their station identification. They had a risqué comedy skit about “the establishment” and they spoke against the Vietnam war, claiming they were broadcasting from Hanoi, then capitol of North Vietnam. I later learned that they had originated in Maryland and were closed-down in 1973 by the FCC. My next pirate station was from a ship far across the pond, in the North Sea, named “Radio Nordsee International.” This was soon followed by another ship station off the coast of the UK, “Radio Caroline.” This was in the early ‘70s. A decade later I was hearing several more pirate stations, both from Europe and North America. While difficult to hear due to distance and signal weakness, the European stations were quite regular in their broadcast schedules. What made the American pirates interesting was that you had no idea on what frequency they would appear, or at what time they would appear. To avoid detection from the FCC they would only appear for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. One had to be familiar with propagational characteristics and sunspot patterns to know where and when to listen. Stations began to announce “mail drops” (an address of a third party) to communicate with listeners. They would reward verified listeners with what ham operators call a “QSL-card” verifying reception. At one brief point in the early 1990s I held the international record for verified pirate radio stations. But my interest in such stations waned in the late-1990s when the US pirate radio scene began to be increasingly populated by people with a right-wing extremist political agenda and with little interest in quality content but more interest in hatred and vulgarity. It also waned because much of the “mystery” had been removed when I began to discover who the real operators of these stations were. In some cases, one person could be responsible for as many as 10 very different but well-produced “stations” at a time. Some pirate operators were DJs of legitimate stations where they felt stifled from exercising their creative juices in their real jobs. Pirate radio gave them that creative outlet that was lost when most US stations began airing nothing but network affiliated programs. Of course, these DJs also had to have a knowledge of radio electronics or have a friend who had such knowledge to be able to set up their own broadcast station. It is surprising how with only some low cost used amateur radio equipment, a mixer, microphone, and some tape, one could produce and broadcast a professional-sounding show. But the mystery was gone for me.

But, the mystery is never gone in music. From my ongoing research I am constantly being rewarded with new and exciting sounds from rare and unusual music. Once one mystery is resolved there seems to be a never-ending source of new mysteries to discover. That is because I haven’t heard all the old music and new music is constantly being created.

My interest in radio and music intertwined. And the mysteries of both were mixed together in some unexplainable way. Of course, being exposed to the latest and greatest top 40 hits I eventually succumbed to enjoying them all. In fact, due to the sense of nostalgia, I think I appreciate some of them more today than I did when I first heard them – not that some have withstood the test of time, but because they provide flashbacks to the early stages of my life’s development. They have become forever attached to fond memories.

I turned 13 in February 1966. Officially I was a teenager. Around that time my parents purchased our first stereo that played LPs. Of course, their first LPs were things like Al Caiola, Herb Alpert, and Percy Faith. But, I found myself gravitating more to rock than to my parents’ musical interests. It was also the beginning of the psychedelic era, and the experimentation found in psychedelic rock. I immediately found a kinship with these psychedelic rock pioneers. At first it was the hit-makers like The Beatles, Spanky & Our Gang, Count 5, and Blues Magoos; just their hits. My parents continued to purchase music gifts for me from Herb Alpert, Baja Marimba Band, and Pete Fountain. Finally, for my 15th birthday, they relented to giving me the “Incense and Peppermints” album by Strawberry Alarm Clock; my first rock album. While my interest in this album originally was their title track hit, I soon became fascinated with the myriad textures of their more “psychedelicized” songs on the LP.  This opened the door to more explorations. I remember going to K-Mart with my folks and while they shopped for other things I hung out at the LP racks, staring at the album covers of “Freak Out!” by The Mothers of Invention, “Tenderness Junction” by The Fugs, “After Bathing at Baxter’s” by Jefferson Airplane, and the eponymous albums by Silver Apples and Ultimate Spinach. The thing that really drew me in was that none of these albums listed song titles on the outside jacket, neither front nor back. I thought “How could this be? How do I know what is in these interesting and weird looking albums?” It was just too much mystery for my teenage mind to bear. I had to hear them. So, with the little money I received from chores and gifts I began to accumulate a small collection of this psychedelic music. I purchased that Ultimate Spinach album and loved it to death! I also bought “The Beat Goes On” by Vanilla Fudge, which is considered by some critics to be the worst rock album in history. But I still loved it at the time. Of course, I still liked many of the hits in both the rock and pop world, so I was still getting music by Richard Harris, Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, as well as Steppenwolf, Cream, Jefferson Airplane and the like.

Yet I seemed to be hotwired into gravitating to that which is unusual, obscure, or challenging more than the hit sounds. At first, I rationalized that some of the lesser known artists I loved were as good as, if not better than, the hit makers. But in all honesty, while this is true for some, it is not true of others. I know quality when I hear it, for sure. But for some artists, it isn’t quality or virtuosity that draws me in; it is something nebulous and hard to describe. If you have ever heard “Hungry Freaks, Daddy” by The Mothers of Invention, or “White Light/White Heat” by The Velvet Underground you will note that the vocal harmonies are intentionally dissonant, seemingly executed poorly, but on purpose. Now, I didn’t laugh at this, but it clearly caught my attention and it worked to draw me further into the music of these artists. By the way, there were less than a handful of 45s issued by these two groups combined, and only at the insistence of their managers at Verve Records. Their singles never hit the charts. At my most rebellious time, not having hits was a badge of honor in my book. I have since seen the flaw in this thinking, but also recognize that having hits does not guarantee the music is worthy of interest.

I am by nature also a collector. This is something that I share with my brothers.  Some of our interests are the same, such as collecting Native American prehistoric artifacts and the salt-glazed pottery made by our ancestors’ businesses back in the 1800s. But we also collect many different things. Vinyl and CDs have become a big item for me. Adding to the music, itself, I find that rarity is a factor in my interests. This has led me to an interest in private press LPs from the 60s and 70s.

We often talk about the hit makers, and sometimes we talk about the ones who came close but never became well known. For example, let’s look at the San Francisco scene of the 60s. You had the big guns like Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & The Fish, and Big Brother & The Holding Company. Those are the bands that people often think of when you mention the music scene in San Francisco during the “Summer of Love”. So, let’s call them first tier groups. You had a second tier, which included some hit makers. Some of these bands were formed elsewhere but made the Bay their home and became quite popular. Santana, Steve Miller Band, Moby Grape, Beau Brummels, Sopwith Camel, and even Blue Cheer would fit the tier two category; there were quite a few.  Then, there were third tier groups who were considered interesting due to the quality of their work. These would be The Great Society, The Charlatans, It’s a Beautiful Day, Mystery Trend, The Vejtables, and Sons of Champlin. Digging deeper you find a fourth tier including Indian Puddin’ & Pipe, West Coast Natural Gas, Tripsichord Music Box, Frumious Bandersnatch, and Ace of Cups. You can continue peeling the onion into fifth and sixth tier groups as well. Keep going and you will eventually get to the private press recordings of groups so obscure that nobody remembers, nor wants to remember. Here you will find The Ethix, which later evolved into the fourth-tier San Francisco group, Fifty Foot Hose. Another would be Christian Yoga Church’s only LP, with some of the artists moving from San Francisco to Tennessee to form the longest active commune in the US, The Farm, and subsequently forming The Farm Band. These private press albums were usually only issued in pressings of 1,000 or less, many in the 100 to 500 pressing range. There are even some with as few as 50 or even 25 pressings. From Pittsburgh there is the band, Fresh Blueberry Pancake, that only had 25 of their only LP, Heavy, pressed. Thankfully, within the past two decades, Shadoks, a record label in Germany, located a clean copy of their album (master tapes for such rarities are usually never found) and reissued it on both CD and LP. They also gave it artwork that somewhat fits the band name and the heavy, guitar-laden music within.

Then there are recordings from more famous artists that were never intended for public consumption. Or, they were released before the artist became popular. Perhaps there is an acetate, a test pressing, or a cassette that has been duplicated and circulated to appreciative listeners and collectors. Many of the recipients of these rarities are other artists who find inspiration from them. Some have been withheld by the artists because they do not feel they are worthy examples of their work. I have been privy to some of these and can tell you that perhaps where the artist did not think it worthy, I found it to be a gem. There are a couple recordings that I possess where the artists insisted that the music they shared with me was only to be enjoyed by me and never to be shared with anyone else. I’ve honored their wishes and will continue to do so.  Unfortunately, some of this work is worthy of mass consumption by those who would appreciate their talent, but by restricting my ability to share, it robs me of the joy I get from sharing. For sharing is the other side of the coin to collecting rare and interesting music.

So now that I have laid the ground work, please entertain my efforts and the joy I receive from sharing some of my “finds” of the past few years. Note that photos were taken by the author, and not from stock photos. Please excuse the lack of centering on some.

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Cardinali Brothers – More Than Luck (1971)

I had been on the lookout for this southwest country rock album for years. The music is like early Eagles, or more like Glen Frey’s earlier band, Longbranch Pennywhistle. There is a folky flavor with beautiful vocal harmonies and top-notch songwriting. Last year, on a lark, I did a Google search and found the brothers have a music store in Ojai, California. After making contact, they offered to send me a digitized copy if I provided them the CD-R. I now have in my possession a CD version of their album, in great sound.

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Dick Watson Five – Baker Street (1966)

I had lusted after a copy of this rarely seen album for well over a decade. It never appears on eBay, Discogs, or any of the other Internet music sites. This was an album of pre-psychedelic, British invasion influenced rock by a bunch of New Jersey teenagers. It is based on a Broadway musical about Sherlock Holmes, hence the name of the band, “Dick Watson Five.” They had taken the music from this show and put it into a rock format, with somewhat convincing success, albeit their fake British accents. The band also can boast that one of their members, guitarist Jim McCarthy, went to a Fugs concert in 1966 and as a result he decided to quit the Dick Watson Five and form underground NYC band, The Godz with some of his work buddies from Sam Goody’s. Well, I located the drummer for the Dick Watson Five, Carmen Deligatti, who had moved on to bigger and better things. When I found him via the Internet, he had sold his only copy of the Baker Street album, but he had made a digital recording before selling it. This digital recording was made early in the development of mp3s, so it is not of the digital quality which can be achieved today. However, it is obvious he had kept his LP in pristine condition based on the digitized version that I received. Whoever was the lucky person to purchase the original LP, I sure hope they some day contact one of the labels releasing rarities such as this. It deserves a wider release, even if only for historical purposes.

The Music of the Santa Cruz Mountains (1974)

Another seldom seen album, with four artists (J.J. Johnson, Kai Moore, Bruce Frye, and Bahia) from the Santa Cruz mountains in the early 70s. I found someone who had an original copy for sale in excellent condition. The front cover has an attractive painting of a forest scene, but it is glued onto the album jacket and has some ripple effect to it. This only adds to the private press aspects and the rural hippie vibe of the music. This has a very enjoyable, laid back ambiance with some Laurel Canyon influences; a very professional sound without getting commercial.

Dennis the Fox – Mother Trucker (1972)

Dennis Caldirola (aka Dennis the Fox) is a crooner. But Dennis wants to be a rocker. He does not succeed at either, but is somewhere between the two, or perhaps just out there somewhere. He is not at all a bad singer. And his descriptive and colorful songwriting, emotive vocal delivery, along with excellent studio musicianship carries the album. These qualities are somewhat convincing that Dennis the Fox has been around and knows things. But it is not enough to make him a star in any respect. Like Mistress Mary, who I discussed in a previous blog post, he gives the appearance of someone with unbridled talent that has not been reigned in enough to become a top shelf artist. Despite it all, I love this private pressed album and was very happy to see it reissued on the Modern Harmonic label. Originals, like the others above, command big bucks (unless you are lucky like I was with the Santa Cruz LP). The reissue has been remastered from the original tapes and is well worth the listen.

Hawaiian Spotlighters – Mauna Kea Breeze (1965)

This was an LA based family affair, producing a Hawaiian-based recording that is perhaps one of the rarest exotica albums ever pressed to vinyl. Their origins are Hilo, Hawaii, when they were known as Al’s Spotlighters; Al being Al Pabilona. He and his family moved to Hayward, California and recorded this album in the family garage in 1964. Only 200 copies were pressed, and few exist today. Using top of the line restoration, the album has been reissued on Bacchus Archives. Placing this LP on the turntable one needs to sit back on the recliner, sip a mai tai, and let the Mauna Kea breeze float by.

Canaries – Flying High with The Canaries (1970)

Who would name a rock band after a small yellow bird? Well, someone from the Canary Islands, of course! In their home base, they were known as Los Canarios. The album was recorded and released in the United States while they were on tour, trying to strike it big in the States. Unfortunately, that did not happen for them. But we have this lasting recording of teen beat sounds to enjoy. Originals were on the BT Puppy label but mine is a 1982 reissue on Spanish label, Cocodrilo.

The Minister and The Nuns – When the Heart Sings (1966)

Imagine a Presbyterian minister from South Charleston, West Virginia doing missionary work in Brazil, teaming up with a group of Brazilian Roman Catholic nuns to record an album of eclectic sounds to minister to “who knows”. This is what you have with this very limited released album. Musical style varies from late 50s easy listening to bossa nova to a very tame rock sound. They all sing, and the nuns provide the instrumentation. There is simply nothing like this unclassifiable sound, but it is interesting and pleasant and the religious message in inobtrusive. The album is quite scarce, yet I was able to find a copy, autographed by Rev. David Wayne Smith, in near mint condition. Before acquiring this LP, I was able to find and download a recording of the minister talking about his missionary work and how it came about that he recorded with the nuns.

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Minette – Come to Me at Tea Time (1968)

Another album that brings four-digit figures when it even appears on the market is Come to Me at Tea Time by real people female impersonator, Jacques Minette. Usually such albums are full of sexual innuendo and nothing more. But this album is full of social commentary about the Vietnam war, overthrowing the government, and even psychedelic drugs. The cover has Minette encircled by marijuana leaves. Maybe the title’s reference to “tea” means tea of a euphoric nature? I will leave the other double entendre in the title alone. The slightly out-of-tune piano fits perfectly with Minette’s unusual vocals. I was very fortunate to locate a download from a near mint copy.

In Other News

I wanted to mention that in 2017, there were three album releases from artists living in San Diego County, that in my opinion deserve recognition.

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The Hollywood Project – Olympic Boulevard

The Hollywood Project is a collaboration between Dave Humphries, who wrote the music and some of the lyrics, and Stephen Kalinich, who wrote most of the lyrics, and was produced by Wolfgang Grasekamp. The music is performed by Humphries, Grasekamp, Tom Quinn, Todd Sander, Mike Alvarez, Gus Beaudoin, Sven-Eric Seaholm, and Jacques Mees. The style is in the category of post-Beatles Harrison, Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson…well you get the idea. Beautiful melodies, pensive lyrics, and impeccable performance. They bring to the table subjects we don’t like to talk about but leave you hopeful and optimistic at the end. A touching, beautiful bouquet of songs.

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Cindy Lee Berryhill – The Adventurist

This is Cindy Lee’s first offering since the death of her husband, Paul Williams, who had founded Crawdaddy magazine. In this she writes of her loss and her life in poignant, emotive lyrics that at one moment can bring you to tears and the next get you laughing. The album is a musical painting, skillfully crafted, sung, and performed by top shelf musicians. The music can be challenging, quirky, and yet beautiful. It kept me on the edge of my seat upon my first listen. This is an album you want to really sit quietly and listen to, as you would an intense classical piece. The Adventurist was nominated for album of the year by the San Diego Music Awards in 2018, and has received enthusiastic national attention, including from Rolling Stone.

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Marie Haddad – Stories from Atlantis

This is an amazing album. Marie’s vocals have never been more intensely emotive. The music is exquisite. There is a mystical element to the music, perhaps due to the Middle Eastern element in her writing, both lyrically and musically. With the collection of eastern European instruments mixed with typical pop instrumentation, there are a variety of styles going on, and they are all neatly woven together to make it an experience full of wonderment. It was no surprise to see long time recording artist, Jeff Pekarek contributing on bass and bouzouki – his 1982 album To Each Their Own, has always been a favorite of mine when I am in the mood for Asian-influenced cosmic musical travels. I am tempted to write about each song on Marie’s album and how it affected me, but it would make this post go far too long. Just let me say I LOVE THIS ALBUM! I was so happy when it won the 2018 San Diego Music Award for best pop album.

And so, I will end it here. There have been many music events and new artists I have heard since the beginning of 2018. Maybe I will write about them next time. But, I’ve been promising to get this out the door for far too long. Stay safe. Blessings!

And So It Goes

“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.

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L to R: Lori Bell, Kevin Higuchi, Jamie Shadowlight, Will Lyle, Mikan Zlatkovich

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.

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Dave Humphries Band

 

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The Rollers
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The Baja Bugs

Other Performances

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.

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Cadillac Wreckers

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.

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Liz Grace & Jon Garner

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.

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The Flip Side
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Dave Humphries Band

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.

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Plow

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.

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The Phoenix Band
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Mojo Working featuring Scott Mathiasen
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Dave Humphries Band
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Billy J. Kramer featuring Liberty DeVitto on drums
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True Stories featuring Symea Solomon and Normandie Wilson
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True Stories featuring Nico as Ringo Starr

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.

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Wish & The Well
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Taylor John Williams
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Whitney Shay
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Karina Frost and The Banduvloons
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Mimi Zulu
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The Moves Collective

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.

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Phillip Fauquet with Chet Cannon and the Committee
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Karl Dring
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Harmonica John Frazer
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John Clifton
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Billy Watson
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Eric Von Herzen
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Kellie Rucker accompanied by Robin Henkel

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.

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Tony DeCaprio with Bob Magnusson and Jim Plank
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Mundell Lowe
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With step-daughter Claudia Previn Stasny
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With step-daughter Alycia Previn

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.

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L to R: Marty Dodson, Whitney Shay, Caleb Furgatch, Robin Henkel, Troy Jennings

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.

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Marie Haddad
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Sven Eric Seaholm
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Robin Henkel
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L to R: Dave Humphries, Greg Gohde, Mike Alvarez
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Three Chord Justice

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.

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Taylor John Williams
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Robin Henkel: tribute to Robert Johnson
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Greg Douglass and Louis Patton: tribute to Brian Jones
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Gregory Page
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Jimmy Patton: tribute to Jim Morrison
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Casey Hensley with Greg Douglass (guitar), Johnny Viau (sax), Evan Caleb Yearsley (drums), Mark Campbell (bass): tribute to Janis Joplin
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Sister Speak with Greg Douglass: tribute to Curt Cobain
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Shay and The Hustle, featuring Whitney Shay performing a tribute to Amy Winehouse

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, The Adobe 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.

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Sasha Rose, as opening DJ
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Chris Unck and his High Desert Band
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Todo Mundo
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Todo Mundo, featuring Jamie Shadowlight
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Philip Rosenberg
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A rare photo of the Popeswami seen with Nancy Provance, Jamie Shadowlight, and another friend
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Mt. San Jacinto as seen from the Joshua Tree Music Festival
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The Adobe Collective
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Visual arts at Joshua Tree Music Festival
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Kraak and Smaak
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Gene Evaro, Jr.
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Sasha Rose with acoustic set
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Sirens of Soul
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Sirens of Soul

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.

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True Stories
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George Rubsamen (mandolin) and Nico Peters (bongos)
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The Baja Bugs
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Dave Humphries Band
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The Joyelles
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Alvino & The Dwells

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.

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The Joyelles
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Alvino and The Dwells

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.

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Liz Grace & The Swing Thing

 

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True Stories
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Plow
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Three Chord Justice

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.

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Soul Brigade
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The Moves Collective
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Todo Mundo

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.

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Greg Douglass
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Patric Petrie (l) and Jillian Calkins (r), aka J’Adore
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Israel Maldonado (l) with Dante (r)
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Steph Johnson and Rob Thorsen
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Shane J. Hall Trio
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Shay and The Hustle

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.20170622_232151490_iOS

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.

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The Hollywood Project/Dave Humphries Band
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L to R: Mike Alvarez, Wolfgang Grasekamp, Dave Humphries, Greg Gohde
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At The Station, l to r: Randall Cornish, Popeswami, Nancy, Katy Allen, Robbie Taylor, Dave Humphries, Molly Lynn McClendon

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.

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The Garners: Lorelei Musique and Jon Garner

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.

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Cadillac Wreckers at Proud Mary’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

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Plow at Wynola Pizza: Doug Walker, Jason Weiss, Alex Sharps, Chris Clarke, Dane Terry

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.

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Marie Haddad
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Isaac Cheong
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Birds & Arrows

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.

 

 

In Conclusion

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!

 

Moon in June

20160620_070112921_iOS“On a dilemma between what I need and what I just want…

… She sees you in her place, just as if it’s a race

And you’re winning, and you’re winning

She just can’t understand that for me everything’s just beginning…

… So before this feeling dies, remember how distance tells us lies”

By Robert Wyatt, “Moon in June” from the Soft Machine LP “Third”, 1970

Is there really anything that is truly merely coincidence? This month is June, 2016. And earlier this week we experienced something that had not occurred since the Summer of Love, 1967: the full moon appearing on the northern hemisphere’s Summer solstice. And I awoke the morning after with Soft Machine’s, “Moon in June”, becoming that day’s earworm. This 19-minute song has reverberated in my mind since the night before Thanksgiving, 1971, when it ran constantly in my head while tripping at a party. And it has been quite relevant “in my life now and then”; or now as well as then. It is a strange thing, this interplay between self and sound. And we can learn from these experiences. Perhaps earworms provide a means for our subconscious to elucidate something that we need to learn. After all, if we look around us we can see that everything and everyone are potential teachers – people, animals, plants (especially plants), inanimate objects, chemicals, coacervate molecules, music, aleatoric sounds, time, space, dreams, free range thoughts.

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Now, I am not going to expound upon “Moon In June” although it is tempting to do so. It is not the only song that has grabbed my attention during an altered state, or has become an earworm.

There have been evenings,

and a few days,

where somehow

out of the bewildering haze,

I associated altered moments

with specific waves,

of songs,

whether it be “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, “The Rain, The Park, and Everything” by The Cowsills, “Dark Star” by The Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service album “Happy Trails,” or even more recently the album “Hello Nasty” by The Beastie Boys. This raises an issue that used to be discussed among my college buddies back in the early 70s:

“What is psychedelic music?”

The late Paul Kantner once said psychedelic music is simply any music listened to while tripping. Although I respect Kantner as an artist and political catalyst, I am not so sure that I agree with his definition. For me, there is music that takes me outside the realm of the time and space packet I exist within (typically called reality), and this is what I would call psychedelic. It is something that takes me out of this reality and into other realities, or non-realities. And the same song may do this on one occasion and not on another, depending upon the ambiance, my approach, and the conditions existing at that moment. So, for me, no one music genre or style is psychedelic but any can be. Yet, there are some compositions that when I hear them, I know they are psychedelic, hands down. It is sort of like the definition of pornography offered by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 in Jacobellis v. Ohio: “I know it when I see it.”

But that is a personal definition. In the attempt to find a definition that would be workable for anyone, I believe psychedelic music can be described in different categories:

  • Overt psychedelia: this music is either created under the influence of psychedelics, or is an attempt to describe within a musical context the composer’s or performer’s psychedelic experience. A good example of overt psychedelia would be the album, “Electric Music for the Mind and Body” by Country Joe and The Fish, from 1967. The highlight and most exemplary selection from this album would be the song “Bass Strings”, with the lyrics “Just one more trip now, you know I’ll stay high all the time.” What is interesting about this song is that it ends with Country Joe McDonald whispering repeatedly “L-S-D” over very trippy music. This leaves no doubt as to what the band was attempting to convey. Sometimes it is not the words, but the musical sounds that directly convey that what you are hearing is a re-creation of a psychedelic experience, such as in Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”. These are just two examples, but I am sure the reader can come up with many more.

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  • Discreet or subtle psychedelia: here neither the music nor the lyrics can be interpreted just one way, but one of the ways would be to describe a psychedelic experience. Examples can be found going back as far as 1830 with Hector Berlioz’ “Symphonie Fantastique,” or perhaps even earlier. Berlioz may have been writing to describe his passion for a particular woman, or he could have been describing his experiences under the influence of opiates, or both. In the 1960s, The Byrds recorded “Eight Miles High” which generally describes the band’s first Atlantic flight to and arrival in the United Kingdom to perform for their British fans. Upon its release in 1965 the song was banned by several US radio stations because it sounded like the “trip” described in the song was actually a chemically induced trip. The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” may have been an intentional reference to LSD, or it could simply be what John Lennon said it represented: a drawing by his then four-year-old son, Julian, and tapping into “Alice in Wonderland” imagery. Of course, Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson), the author of “Alice in Wonderland,” has often been associated with psychedelics, but there is no indication he ever indulged in any mind-altering substances, while there is evidence that he suffered with a form of epilepsy.

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  • Inferred (or designated) psychedelia: could be considered a cop-out definition, I suppose. Basically it is any music that an individual considers psychedelic. In this sense, Paul Kantner’s definition works, since a person could be listening to anything while tripping and from that point onward associate the composition with a psychedelic experience. I could also apply this to my experience with “Moon In June”. I have found Jim DeRogatis’ book, “Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock” to be quite an enlightening guide on modern psychedelic rock. At first, I questioned some of his choices, but then I realized that psychedelia “is in the eye of the beholder.” In other ways, I think he limited himself too much, for there are recordings that fall under the genres of classical, country, folk, exotica, and jazz that I consider to have psychedelic elements. In classical, I consider Richard thIBUU3PSYWagner’s “Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg Music” as well as the electronic composition “Time’s Encomium” by Charles Wuorinen, to be very psychedelic. Under country, I would say David Allan Coe’s album, “Requiem for a Harlequin,” is a fine example. In folk, Dylan’s song, “Visions of Johanna,” would qualify as well as Jake Holmes’ “Dazed and Confused.” As for jazz, Herbie Hancock’s album “Sextant” as well as Miles Davis’ “Bitches’ Brew” have psychedelic elements. Ethel Azama’s “Exotic Dreams” LP would be an example of exotic psychedelia. I could cite many more examples in all genres.

 

  • There would also be a category I would call “pseudo-psychedelia”, which masquerades as overt psychedelia but is simply a fake. Pseudo-psychedelic music often has similar characteristics but instead of reflecting an authentic psychedelic The-First-Edition-Just-Dropped-Inexperience, it often overstates sounds and lyrics, since it is not based on real experience. An example, from 1967, would be the song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” written by Mickey Newbury and popularized by The First Edition. Interestingly, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version of this song prior to the more popular version. While the intention of this song was to describe a scary trip in order to discourage the use of LSD, it ended up being derided as phony and treated as a humorous parody. A sub-category of pseudo-psychedelic music that found its way to the late 60s bargain bins and grocery store check-out stands would be exploito-psychedelic albums such as The Animated Egg’s untitled album from 1967. This recording was created by a collection of studio musicians under the leadership of surf guitar ace, Jerry Cole. In fact, it is suspected that many releases on the Alshire, Somerset, Custom, and related labels with various animatedegg“band” names contained Jerry Cole compositions, and often the same recordings appeared on different albums under different titles, including on albums by The Id, “The Inner Sounds of The Id”; The Generation Gap, “Up Up and Away”; and The Projection Company, “Give Me Some Lovin’.” There are several others. Even Muzak specialists, 101 Strings, got in the game with their album “Astro-Sounds”. None of these supposed bands ever performed anywhere except in the studio to create fake psychedelic music.
  • But in some instances, pseudo-psychedelia can be psychedelic, but not based upon the innate characteristics of the music, but based upon environment and other variables. Those that come to mind include Fire & Ice, Ltd. “The Happening”, from 1966, excerpts of which appear on the 1966 documentary LP “LSD” on Capitol Records. Two more with similar names include The Fire Escape’s LP, “Psychotic Reaction”, and The Firebirds’ LP, “Light My Fire”. The latter has a sister release, “Hair,” by the band, The 31 Flavors but it really sounds like additional music from the th2PMT1QGKsame recording sessions. One of the most humorous of such recordings is from a band named The Unfolding, with an outrageous LP title, “How To Blow Your Mind & Have A Freak-Out Party” complete with printed instructions for your very own freak-out party. The California Poppy Pickers (another outrageous band name) actually released four country rock LPs, all in 1969. While they never performed publicly and were merely a collective of studio musicians, the label hired an actual performing band to record their last album “Honky Tonk Women”. The band was in reality an early Christian rock band, Wilson McKinley, that used the proceeds from this album to fund their Christian music endeavors.

So, to conclude this discussion of psychedelic music, perhaps we should simply leave it to each person to decide the definition that works best for them. Then again, how many really think about such things when they listen to music? Probably a fewer number than those who think about the moon in June.

In Other News

Well now, let me come back from the world of LSD to the present and what I have been seeing in San Diego. The month began with the Art Around Adams 2016 music and art walk. There seemed to be more stages and more artists packed into this one-day event (Saturday, June 4) than I can recall in previous years. I probably saw less than a tenth of the artists performing. But what I did see was very impressive. All were excellent, and all very different.

I started at the Kensington Library Park stage, enjoying the music of singer/songwriter Kimm Rogers, who was accompanied by Beezie Gerber. Many of the songs were from her excellent recent album “Where the Pavement Grows” but some dipped back to her two albums on Island Records from the early 90s, “Soundtrack of My Life” and “Two Sides.” It was a great way to begin the day.

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Kimm Rogers with Beezie Gerber

Next, I moved to the Blindspot Records stage by Smitty’s Garage to see The Elements, a new four-member band started by Bart Mendoza with another familiar face on keyboards, David Fleminger. These guys were tight, and on fire with excellent self-penned modern pop-rock as well as 60s standards. You would think all of them had been playing together for years.

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The Elements

I then paid a visit to Rosie O’Grady’s to hear Zach Cole with Eric Freeman performing some basic country blues with Eric on acoustic guitar and Zachary on blues harp. This reminded me of Tomcat Courtney’s performances I enjoy from time-to-time on Thursdays at Proud Mary’s.

Left photo: Zach Cole with Eric Freeman  Right photo: NST

At the Integrative Health Stage I caught part of the performance by jazz group, NST, reading poetry accompanied by drums, sax and bass. Quite interesting, but it was super-hot with no shade available. So, I moved on to DeMille’s to have lunch, rehydrate, and prepare for harpO, followed by Alvino & The Dwells at the DeMille’s Beer Garden stage. This was the first time seeing harpO, a tight blues-rock band. I would not mind seeing them again. When Alvino & The Dwells plugged-in, they blew the sky open with cosmic surf music that was at once fresh and new, as well as taking me back to the 60s. They always provide a great show.

Left: harpO      Right: Alvino & The Dwells

I then moved back to the Blindspot Records stage to see The Cherry Bluestorms, followed by The Schizophonics, then Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters, and finally Hills Like Elephants. These four bands are so different from one another that it is quite surprising they were performing on the same stage. And yet the audience stayed for most of it. The Cherry Bluestorms were very mod/pop-rock with original tunes, and quite accomplished playing. They piqued my interest enough to pick up their latest CD, “Bad Penny Opera,” which by-the-way, is excellent.

Left: Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters

Top Right: The Cherry Bluestorms   Bottom Right: Hills Like Elephants

Schizophonics were, well, schizoid. My gawd! Guitarist Pat Beers is simply unbelievable to watch. I actually was hoping he had a spare guitar waiting in the wings because I was certain the one he was playing was going to be destroyed when he jumped, fell, sprung-back, and rolled-over, while never missing a note. Wait, were they notes? It was all such a blur. He is explosive! Guitar sounds of Jimi Hendrix, visuals a mix of Pete Townshend and Iggy Pop, and a band sound similar to MC5 from their live “Kick Out the Jams” album. I do want to know if Lety Beers took drum lessons from Mitch Mitchell. Sure sounded like it. I did not catch the bass player’s name but God bless him, he kept up with it all and successfully improvised when Pat experienced audio problems with the equipment. Their performance was the highlight of the day for me.

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Schizophonics

Next came a huge band, Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters; I mean like, a 10-piece unit, including two go-go dancers. We were suddenly transported to 1964 and the reign of the Tijuana Brass on pop radio. With backing sax, trombone, and trumpet plus bass, guitar, drums, marimba, and a lead singer/trumpeter, they went through a repertoire that would make Herb Alpert proud, including the TJB hit, “Spanish Flea”. What a fun bunch!

What followed was modern alternative jangle rock by Hills Like Elephants with expressive lyrics and fine playing – but it was getting late and so I left before the end of their set. It was another great Adams Avenue event put to rest.

Thursday night, June 16, found us at Riviera Supper Club’s Turquoise Room in La Mesa. Performing was Liz Grace and the Swing Thing. That evening the band consisted of Liz Grace on vocals and Jon Garner on guitar. Jon is an excellent jazz player and is always fun to watch – things I never learned to do he can make look so easy. Listening to Liz sing is pure joy as she performed popular songs from the 40s through the 60s. Liz’ other band, Three Chord Justice, does all country, yet she seems comfortable in both genres. I do think she is one of the most versatile and accomplished local singers I’ve heard in San Diego. Later Liz’ husband, Mark Markowitz, stopped in and visited with us as we listened to the band. It was an enjoyable evening.

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Liz Grace and The Swing Thing

On Friday, June 17, I began the weekend at Java Joe’s. Performers that evening included Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez, followed by Sara Petite, and ending with Jacques Mees. This was an evening of varied styles that seemed to fit nicely side-by-side. With Dave Humphries on guitar and lead vocals, and Mike Alvarez on cello and backing vocals we were treated to a collection of 60s British invasion pop/rock standards as well as recent songs penned by Dave Humphries and The Hollywood Project. I never get tired of his performances.

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Top: Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez   Middle: Sara Petite   Bottom: Jacques Mees

I had heard a lot about Sara Petite but had never heard her perform. What a pleasant surprise! With a beautiful voice straight out of Nashville, she performed all originals providing stories of personal experiences leading into her songs. I could tell I was witnessing a truly old soul inhabiting a younger body. Sara pulled no punches with her honest and revealing stories. Beautiful.

Jacques Mees’ performance was the highlight of the evening, which is really saying something. Again performing several personally penned songs, as well as tapping into such modern folk venerables as Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Susanna Clark. He is another storyteller who shared his wisdom in song. When it was over I walked back to the car with a contact high.

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Well that does it. If I am to get this out I have to end it here. I do want to dedicate this to jazz singer Shelley Moore, who lost her battle with cancer this week. She was the mother of my good friend, the late Bryna Golden, founding member of goth-psych band Babylonian Tiles. I got to know Shelley through Bryna. She was a warm and giving person, and thanks to Bryna I had the great fortune of seeing her perform in Santa Ana a few times about 10 years ago. R.I.P. Shelley.