A birthday party, a sold-out show, another Saturday in the life of Harvest Sessions and a few of those good ‘ol live shows, this week in photos features The Dead Kenny G’s, Tom Hall, T-Model Ford, the Rum Drum Ramblers and Over the Rhine.
Be sure to check back next Monday for this weeks photos! You can also check out the full galleries at KDHX.org
Robbie Fulks follows his own path. Trying for years to break into the country music scene in Nashville, Fulks eventually gave up, striking out on his own and releasing Country Love Songs in 1996. Never looking back, the twists and turns of his career have been as unconventional as his songwriting.
Demonstrating his wit and sense of musical adventure, he’s released a “best of” album filled with original songs never previously released, a live album containing his well known songs plus new material and an album of Michael Jackson songs. I recently talked with Fulks by phone from his home in Chicago as he “trained” for his upcoming Twangfest 15 show at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room on June 10.
Scott Allen: You’ve played St. Louis quite often in your career. What’s your favorite memory of a past gig here?
Robbie Fulks: My favorite memory of St. Louis is probably the Hi-Pointe back in the day. Those are real good memories. Kind of a difficult load in and a real filthy club filled with smoke and strange people. But, it was always a good punk rockingly good time over there.
Unfortunately, the Hi-Pointe is no longer functioning as a music venue at this point.
I think I’ve closed down a lot of places there. The Side Door isn’t there and like five other places I’ve played aren’t there either.
You’re playing your Twangfest date with Nora O’Connor. How did you two first meet and begin a musical collaboration?
Well, we met probably 20 years ago. You know, Chicago is kind of a small town in certain ways. In country music ways it’s a real small town so we’ve known each other for a long time. We didn’t really start singing together as an “act” till about two years ago. I have a little residency here in Chicago and she came and did a night and we kinda clicked and went from there. We don’t play together every week, but we play pretty regularly — probably a gig a month somewhere.
What’s the best part of doing shows with Nora? What does she bring to your music?
It’s different when we play just as a duo. That kind of show is real quiet and we draw from her records and mine. We also do various songs that we’ve recently fallen in love with and arrange for duo. What we’re doing in St. Louis (for the upcoming Twangfest date) is I’m bringing my band and she’s backing up a lot of my songs. Then, maybe she’ll sing a song or two on her own. It’s kind of like me-centered. She sings a lot all over everything, dances and plays tambourine and looks real good.
Your songwriting and the writing that you do for your website both seem quite cerebral. Can you tell me a little bit about your educational background?
Oh, I thought you were going to say surreal. (Chuckles) Yeah, that too. (Laughs) Almost zero! I think I was M.I.A. through a lot of high school and college until I dropped out of college. I think I had two years of post-high school and then have been banging away at music ever since. But, I love words and I love books and so partly autodidact and partly whatever osmotically crept in through high school lessons when I was otherwise gone on marijuana or idle daydreams.
What are some of your earliest memories of music and what type of music influenced you growing up?
I would have to say Doc Watson was probably the first thing to make a huge impression on me. My dad had his first couple of records on giant reel-to-reel tapes. Doc is such a strong stylist and continues to impress me over the years. I would say people like him, John Hartford, the Country Gentlemen, and a little bit later Bob Dylan and the Beatles. All those people came from different points of view, but impressed me with individual style and not being afraid to follow their muse all over the musical map.
One of my favorite songs of yours is “Let’s Kill Saturday Night.” Can you tell me a little about your inspiration for the song?
Yeah, it probably wouldn’t make any sense, but the inspiration for that song was really kind of…I was at a show that Harlan Howard, the songwriter, used to put on in the parking lot of the BMI building just off of Music Row. Every year he’d throw this birthday party and different people would sing. Nanci Griffith got up and sang “Outbound Plane” by Tom Russell. That was kind of the germ of it. It didn’t come out sounding anything like that in the end. It took about nine months of twists and turns before that ultimate product. Oft times I find that I start from a different point than I end up at.
Opening the show was the Dead Kenny G’s, a three-piece outfit based out of Seattle. The trio consists of Garage-A-Trois and Les Claypool’s Fancy Band alumni Skerik (tenor sax and keyboards) and Mike Dillon (drums, percussion, tabla and vibraphone), joined by former New Bohemian Brad Houser on bass and baritone sax. Taking the stage in teased out Kenny G wigs, the band played a raucous set that started out strange and became increasingly more bizarre as the clock ticked away.
The group started out sounding like the music box for a broken merry-go-round inside a haunted house that abruptly gave way to a bombastic Led Zeppelin-style rocker. Over the course of its 45 minutes on stage, the band mashed elements of free jazz, punk rock, lounge, Middle Eastern and classic rock into a series of songs that were more performance art than music. Its set is best described as a wild, sometimes violent roller coaster ride with a soundtrack provided by Morphine and Captain Beefheart.
Mike Dillon really stole the show with the varied parts he played. Slamming out drum licks harder than John Bonham one second and jumping to calypso the next, playing the drum kit and vibraphone simultaneously and busting out the wildest vibraphone solo I’ve ever seen, Dillon was at the top of his game tonight. Brad Houser was stellar as well, throwing down bass riffs that would make Jaco Pastorius weep and blending with Skerik so well in the horn duets that it was hard to tell who was playing what. Skerik was in excellent form as always, honking and squealing all through the night and playing his sax and keys simultaneously at times.
The highlight of the set was the band’s rendition of the Dead Kennedy’s classic “Kill the Poor,” with Skerik covering East Bay Ray’s guitar parts with equal parts precision and disregard for style. It felt as if the band had played a lot longer than 45 minutes when it finally finished its last song, and that is most definitely a good thing.
Primus took the stage shortly after nine to a recording of the theme from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and immediately jumped into “Sailing the Seas of Cheese” and “Here Come the Bastards” from the 1991 release Sailing the Seas of Cheese. Throughout the evening, the band played a roughly 50/50 mix of fan favorites and new tunes, which caught me off guard. With Jay Lane returning to the group, I was expecting to hear more of the classic songs from Suck on This and Frizzle Fry but the older tunes covered were primarily from Sailing the Seas of Cheese and Pork Soda.
I try to be gracious when folks thank me for helping to organize these KDHX benefit and tribute nights. But it’s mostly selfish on my part. There’s nothing more purely fun and gratifying than being in a packed club, surrounded by friends and fans of KDHX, and hearing a slate of terrific St. Louis bands sing the songs of my heroes.
Friday night, May 27, 12 bands/artists played the songs of Bob Dylan for nearly five hours. They only scratched the surface of such a catalogue, but the scratches were deep and lasting all the same.
My highlights from Shot of Love, in chronological order.
Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine (aka Beth Bombara) singing “Corinna, Corinna” early in the evening. No, Bob didn’t write that one, but it’s a song that still demonstrates the not-so-secret origins of his music. Morgan captured the tone beautifully.
Elly Herget and Evan O’Neal of the Skekses tackling the little known “Billy,” an outtake from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Emcee Cat Pick noted that the melody is identical to Neil Young’s “Powderfinger.”
Ryan Spearman filled in at the last minute for an injured Riley James. And he did so with a sweet and serious version of “The Times They Are a Changin’.”
Joe Stickley and Sean Canan turning in an elevated and swinging “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”
Rough Shop tackling the rarely covered “Isis” and Anne Tkach really getting into the vocal delivery.
Cumberland Gap doing the wonderful waltz “Wallflower.” Greg Silsby is one of the best singers in St. Louis.
The return of Rebecca Ryan to the stage in St. Louis as lead singer of the Sparrows. To say the band’s version of “I Want You” was sexy is to somewhat understate matters.
Magnolia Summer getting all the rock lead out for an angry and loud “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”
Dave Grelle of the Feed owning “Simple Twist of Fate” with a precise and beautiful piano melody.
Pretty Little Empire rocking “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” as hard as it’s ever been rocked. Video evidence below.
Karate Bikini rising to the occasion with a loud, thrilling “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Bothers Lazaroff swinging all the way through “Summer Days” and then leading everyone in “I Shall Be Released” and an unsanctioned but delightful “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.”
If you missed the party, fear not. We’ll have video and photography for you soon, and who knows, perhaps we’ll do it again in a few years. Happy birthday, Bob.
“…you’re the one that’s been causing all them riots over in vietnam. immediately turns t a bunch of people an says if elected, he’ll have me electrocuted publicly on the next fourth of july. i look around an all these people he’s talking to are carry blowtorches / needless t say, i split fast go back t the nice quiet country…”(2)
during the second song last night at off broadway, “Corrina, Corrina” played by Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine, i leaned over to my friend and said, “I really like this song.” i could have said that all night. over beers, over anything. Shot of Love — a 12-band, five-hour marathon tribute concert celebrating Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday — a testament to the diversity and ability in our local music scene to cover the range and depth of Dylan’s lengthy career. “70, f**k you Keith Richards,” Roy [Kasten] joked, and the FCC-fill-the-blank joke. we associate icons with iconic symbols, or so I thought when i eyeballed the Skekses beginning “Boots of Spanish Leather” with the harmonica cage, or the even the whistle in “Highway 61 Revisited” which produced a healthy group giggle. Ryan Spearman, he played “The Times They Are A-Changing” — “played it pitch perfect,” i’m told outside and i’m sad i wasn’t there. Joe Stickley and Sean Canan offered an upbeat hullabaloo “Buckets of Rain” when i returned but not before going to the bathroom.
Rough Shop joked, “We’re going to play an extended version of ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.’ We’ve got 30 minutes, right?” I might have misquoted by a word or two or four but ya get the idea. oh, and Cat [Pick], i heard ya say it was going t b your first MC on last monday drive time “and you do it well.”(3) A beautiful “Wallflower” bounced from the warm strings of Cumberland Gap, and i overheard someone say, “don’t be ridiculous. the best Dylan is ’66, no need to differentiate. royal albert hall, that’s the best Dylan,” to which, a woman responded, “i like his ’80s stuff.” “christian Dylan?” “what do you mean?” and i stopped caring when the Sparrows lead singer, Rebecca Ryan, delicately tapped her left fingers on her left blue jean thigh to a sexy, slowed-down, bass-heavy rendition of “I Want You” and an electric “Oxford Town” — an exercise in “tonal breath control.”(4)
writing a Bob Dylan tribute article is about as difficult as a Mark Twain look-a-like contest if you’re a twelve-year-old boy who can’t grow a mustache or fit properly into a white suit. and your mother won’t let ya smoke a cheap cigar. current events come an go don’t you know and i don’t like my picture taken. Magnolia Summer, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” yep, “i’m going back to South City, i do believe i’ve had enough!” and who was that on the moving piano on “Simple Twist of Fate.” “The Feed,” you answer. [Dave Grelle, to be specific.] “why allen ginsberg was not chosen t read poetry at the inauguration boggles my mind.”(5) i could hear Pretty Little Empire outside. again regret except i met nine beautiful strangers / consuming meat an cigarettes an sitting. Karate Bikini pleased with “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and “Like a Rolling Stone,”
[end of pause]
while Brothers Lazaroff delivered a tender “Most of the Time” and the brothers invited all musicians to return t the stage. when I first saw that electric Sleepy Kitty poster, I wondered who and what and how it would all end and i was surprisingly shocked at the obvious an beautiful choice — “I Shall Be Released.” unison is funny bird with serious wings.
and then Brothers Lazaroff mischievously ignored the scheduled — i’m guessing by body gestures & apologies — an rolled into an impromptu “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” good fun. where were you “i have no arguments an i never drink milk.”(6) when you see a band, any band from last night, tell em’ I said hello…they brought their own voice t a tribute which wasn’t easy to pull off.
i’ve heard Dylan recently call this era his middle years. he released his first album in ’62. as a different birthday approaches, i reflect not only upon how Dylan influenced her but for how long — roughly 50 years, or 21% of american history!
(1) This article is a tribute to the mad and beautiful notes inscribed on the back of multiple Bob Dylan albums.
(2) Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
(3) Buckets of Rain
(4) Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
(5) Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
(6) Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
Thursday Morning Music News: Ozzy reissues and teases, Beck and Malkmus get busy and Apple’s cloud closes in
The Rapture didn’t come to pass but it does have a new album.
Apple is working out kinks in label deals as its “comprehensive” cloud music service comes together.
Scott McCreery owns American Idol’s tenth season.
Sean “Napster” Parker thinks the record industry has a chance.
BBC Music Blog gives its two pence on albums that should be nominated for the Mercury Prize.
Dylan biographer Dave Yaffe ranks the septuagenarian’s oeuvre, worst album to best.
NPR is streaming new releases from Eddie Vedder, My Morning Jacket, Death Cab For Cutie and Cults.
Ladytron’s Helen Marnie chats with the Skinny.
Liam Gallagher and the Vaccines. Fight!
The Guardian reports on (with pictures) some pricey vintage concert posters.
Beck and Stephen Malkmus are teaming up for a new album.
Professor, Liquideep, Thandiswa Mazwai, Locnville top the South African Music Awards.
Robert Plant, Buddy Miller and Elizabeth Cook garner Americana Music Award nominations.
Connie Smith hasn’t made an album in 13 years, but she comes back with Long Line of Heartaches in August.
The RIAA is catching some serious flack for the earnings of its head honchos.
Lady Gaga promotion is officially out of control.
Ozzy fans rejoice. Metal’s most charming maniac has a bunch of teasers for a reissue blitz.
Watch a previously unknown video of a collaboration between Michael Jackson and Barry Gibb.
Georgia’s Music Hall of Fame is closing.
Daryl Hall talks about his new album.
The Country Music Hall of Fame inducts Bobby Braddock, Reba McEntire and Jean Sheppard.
Concert review: David Lowery and Johnny Hickman spin stories beyond Cracker at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room, Tuesday, May 24
Performing his own take on the VH1 storytellers model last night, David Lowery and fellow Cracker compatriot Johnny Hickman played solo acoustic sets to an appreciative group of “crumbs” at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room.
With a dry, cerebral wit, Lowery, the Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front man, discussed stories behind the songs and bantered with the knowledgeable, yet subdued, St. Louis crowd of roughly 125 “Cracker Soul” devotees. Helping to create the scene, the Duck Room set an array of small tables and chairs with longer rows of chairs filling in the gaps close to the stage. This arrangement and the mostly acoustic music seemed to keep the mostly 35 to 50-year-old crowd quiet throughout the show as conversations had to be kept low as to not disturb others.
Billed as the headliner, Lowery, the self-described “more bookish of the two,” looked older and wiser in his plaid button-down shirt than Hickman. Armed with a parlor-sized acoustic guitar and MacBook, Lowery sat on a bar stool and played the first half of his set solo acoustic later being joined onstage by Hickman. Mostly he stuck to his new solo songs and more recent Cracker material into a mix of alternating stories and songs.
Beginning his set, Lowery spoke for ten minutes about his set opener “I Sold the Arabs the Moon” from his 2011 release, The Palace Guards. Lowery told the story of Cracker traveling to Iraq to play for the troops and traveling with soldiers from place to place, even traveling through the dangerous Sadr City when the unit got lost. The tale wove in the solemn humor of the U.S. troops joking about bombs on the radio to a veteran of the unit later coming to see the band backstage at a music festival in the United States exclaiming, “I can get this shit in Iraq!”
Not to leave his original musical project out, Lowery slipped in a song from the most recent Camper Van Beethoven release New Roman Times as he told the back story of the track “The Long Plastic Hallway,” a tale of Lowery’s college band Box O’ Laffs playing as opener for the Talking Heads on a spaceship.
A sure highlight of the evening, Lowery treated the crowd to a solo acoustic version of Cracker’s “I Want Everything” from the Kerosene Hat. With its five-minute-plus length, this deep track seems to rarely fit into a typically more raucous Cracker show much more than the hit song “Euro-Trash Girl” that constantly receives inclusion. The urge to belt out the chorus with Lowery as he sang must have been hard for some to contain.
Hickman joined Lowery for the second half of the set coloring the songs with his stellar guitar playing on his vintage Gibson Les Paul and fine harmonica work. A masterful guitar solo on “Been around the World” and harmonica work “Euro-Trash Girl” highlighted the second half of Lowery’s performance.
Take a break from your train of thought to find out about Nick Cowan’s show on 88.1 KDHX. Train of Thought airs Thursday night / Friday morning (depending on your lifestyle) from 3 a.m. – 5 a.m. Central.
Nick was born and raised in St. Louis. He grew up in North County, Jennings and Florissant, and moved out to Manchester with roommates in the ’90s. He also lived for a short while in the city. He’s a family man whose children are more familiar with Ozzy than Barney (he had to explain to his seven-year-old why “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” wasn’t appropriate for the Saturday morning KDHX show Musical Merry-Go-Round).
Try to follow us as we jump a train of thought — boxcar to boxcar, covering the classic rock station KSHE, how to handle intoxicated radio listeners and the realization that you don’t know as much as you thought did about music until you undergo the humbling experience of having your own radio show on KDHX.
Nick Cowan: I’ve got a blog that’s been neglected for the past two years. There’s a lot of stuff on there about bacon.
Erin Chapman: Have you ever had chocolate-covered bacon?
It’s so good. I don’t care where it comes from. It’s perfect, sweet, salty. One of the other best things in the world besides beer, and, you know, and my family.
What is your earliest memory involving the enjoyment of music?
My mom was pretty young when she had me, 19, I think. She listened to KSHE, like 1970s KSHE….
I’m not from St. Louis.
Where are you from?
De-troit. KSHE 95 was like the rock station. My mom listened to all that classic rock stuff. My first memories of enjoying music involve listening to that station. I listened to the cool heavy guitars, but then it seemed like at night the mellow stuff I remember Diana Ross for some reason and then John Lennon.
So you would listen to KSHE in the house, in the car?
It was always on. Radio was my beginning. Also a record club. There was one record I would have to defend now, I think it was Christopher Cross’s first album. My mom asked me, “Do you want this one?” I was like, all right. Gimme that Christopher Cross record.
Did you have your own record player?
Yeah, one of those little blue ones, with the little case on it. My dad always made sure I had stereos with equalizers and stuff, that helped.
Tell me about your show, Train of Thought.
This is my second show. I got my first show, which was called “It’s Late” named after the Queen song from the album News of the World. I started that in 1999 with a friend when the station first did a huge reorganization I think Bev Hacker first came on board and opened up a whole new slot of shows. I had been volunteering there for three years at that point.