Concert review + setlist: Chris Mills and Magnolia Summer prove you can go home again at Off Broadway, Thursday, June 23

Chris Mills

Last night at Off Broadway, if you leaned over to the next person to ask the traditional St. Louis get-to-know-you question — “Where did you go to high school?” — the overwhelming response would have been “Collinsville.”

Taking the stage at 10:40 p.m., Chris Mills jokingly welcomed everyone to the “Collinsville High School Class of 1992 reunion,” a reference to a group of his former classmates making up the majority of the audience. Never leaving his dry, self-effacing style behind, Mills played to the mostly 30 to 40-year-old audience full of friends, family and well-wishers fully enjoying the comfort of the tables and chairs set out for the evening.

Lapping the field with his beard, Mills, shaggy appearance aside, took the economical approach to this tour bringing only bassist Ryan Hembrey and drummer Dave Bryson along for the ride down his songwriting memory lane. Making few pauses between songs for sake of the late starting time, he blasted through 14 numbers in nearly an hour, with an intense focus on his new retrospective Heavy Years: 2000-2010. Though he left behind the dense pop arrangements (and witty stage banter for that matter) of his last two albums, The Wall to Wall Sessions and Living In the Aftermath, the songwriting brightly shone as a testament to how good these songs are in any arrangement.

Without deviating much from this new compilation, Mills kicked off the show with the first few tracks from the compilation in succession. New song “All Our Days and Nights” led off the evening before giving way to the upbeat, power-pop, two-and-a-half-minute burst of “Atom Smashers,” a song so infectious that listeners found their heads bobbing and feet tapping. Missing the familiar horn and string parts, the flair of orchestral pop in “A Farewell to Arms” was stripped bare. If you looked closely enough, however, you could see Hembrey mouthing the melody as he plucked along on bass. Yep, we heard the parts in our heads and missed them too.

Mills briefly mentioned the current tour from the stage stating that compared to playing the small venues of the Mid Atlantic and South that “this feels like we’re playing Giants Stadium.” Life on the road can be hard and isolating. Getting a homecoming reception of sorts can boost the spirits of any weary musician. Hanging out at the merch table before the show, Mills chatted with and thanked his old friends for coming out to the concert one by one. During the set, Mills gratefully thanked his parents for the band’s meal earlier in the day and the chance to utilize their free laundry facilities asking aloud, “Why did I bring all these quarters with me?”

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Thursday Morning Music News: Farewell Clarence and Arnie, hello Songkick and welcome back Best Coast

Clarence Clemons

RIP Clarence Clemons. May you join Gabriel and blow all night, forever.

Pitchfork Music Festival announces schedule.

EMI is looking for a buyer with deep pockets. Paging Shazam.

Patti Smith gets a cameo on Law & Order.

Longtime KDHX volunteer Arnie Kriemelman passed away. He was partner for over ten years with Fred Gumaer on Mid-Day Jamboree.

Amy Winehouse cancels current tour while Adele reschedules.

Leslie West, classic rock legend and Mountain guitarist, makes it through a leg amputation. May you burn again soon, dude.

Hear a new song from Tom Russell at Paste. And stream the forthcoming Jolie Holland album as well.

Consequence of Sound has a cool remix by David Sitek of TV on the Radio of a, wait for it, Dinah Washington song.

50 Cent is writing a novel. Topic is bullying. He has the material.

Stay tuned for an expanded reissue of Nirvana’s Nevermind.

The Songkick app reaches 100K activations.

Superchunk is hitting the road this summer.

St. Louis concert announcements include Bon Iver, Mountain Man and more. A to Z Blog has the details.

Best Coast returns with a new album in the fall.

Forbes ranks U2 and Bon Jovi at the top of the music-earner heap.

Like using your iPhone to record video at concerts? Apple doesn’t.

“Music y Sabor,” an exhibit on the history of Latin music, opened at the Hollywood Bowl Museum. Muy rico. Wish we could go.

RIP Arnie Kriemelman, KDHX volunteer and country musician

Arnie Kriemelman at KDHX

Sara Finke

Arnold Kriemelman Jr., known to friends, family and country music fans across St. Louis as simply “Arnie,” passed away at the age of 73 on June 20. Everyone at KDHX will miss him.

A long-time 88.1 KDHX volunteer and on-air partner of Fred Gumaer during the Mid-Day Jamboree, Arnie lived a life full of music. His passion for and knowledge of traditional country, especially the “singing cowboy” style, was infectious both on air and off. Arnie was a musician, who played guitar and sang with Gumaer, Thayne Bradford and Bobby Caldwell, among others, regularly performing as part of T-Wayne and the Swamptones at cajun dances around town and at other country music gatherings. He was employed for years with Ford Motor Company, work that took him from Missouri to Michigan, but he ultimately returned to his native St. Louis.

Arnie is remembered as a kind soul, who loved and rode horses for much of his life, and who also enjoyed entertaining at nursing homes in St. Louis. It was through those performances that Gumaer first met him. The two built up a friendship that led to Arnie joining him on 88.1 KDHX for Gumaer’s popular classic country program. “He would come down every week to help answer the phones and hunt down requests. And it just grew from there,” Gumaer says. “He was just a great guy. He loved what he did and he was a great help to me. He was always there, and he’d go out to shows and meet people. He really enjoyed that.”

Arnie is survived by his wife Ursula, son Michael and daughter Michelle, and a number of grandchildren. A visitation will be held at Kutis Funeral Home in Affton, Mo. on Friday, June 24, 4 p.m.-9 p.m. The funeral service will take place at the same location at noon on Saturday, June 25.

Concert review + setlist: Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt swap masterful songs and stories at the Fabulous Fox, Tuesday, June 21

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt at the Fabulous Fox

Kris Embry

With two legendary songwriters on a bill expectations can run pretty high, but Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt easily exceeded those expectations with an evening of acoustic music Tuesday night at the Fabulous Fox Theatre.

As they took the stage, Hiatt in jacket and jeans and Lovett in a suit, it was Mr. Lovett’s attire that offered the best clue to the casual nature of the evening to come. He wore no tie. Lovett declared that the Fox Theatre had been built “by the Egyptians,” before handing the microphone over to John Hiatt, who opened the show with a new song, “Detroit Made,” from his forthcoming album, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns.

Lovett then continued the show, playing “Don’t Touch My Hat,” from the 1996 album Road to Ensenada. This led to an amusing discussion on Hiatt’s supposed affinity for wearing hats, “around the house,” even when he’s “by himself,” followed by a great rendition of “Perfectly Good Guitar.” Hiatt admitted that he himself has been guilty of smashing a guitar, but he insisted that it was a long, long time ago, and he regrets it. He’s sorry. And he’s a changed man.

The evening continued, tunes alternating back-and-forth between performers. For the most part they played their songs separately, until Hiatt joined in on guitar for Lovett’s “Private Conversations.” Lovett also sang with Hiatt on “Cry Love,” and on “Fiona,” Hiatt both played and sang back up. That these men, with just two acoustic guitars, can hold an audience’s attention for a two-hour show attests to the strength of their songwriting. Each artist highlighted his respective catalog. Lovett played great versions of “Her First Mistake” and “In My Own Mind,” while Hiatt ran through many of his best known songs, including “Cry Love” and “Have a Little Faith in Me.”

Both artists come from completely different backgrounds, with Lovett hailing from Texas, and bringing a country perspective to the show. Hiatt, on the other hand, brings more of a rock sensibility to the stage, having been born in Indianapolis and playing in Ry Cooder’s backing band in the early ’80s. But somehow it all met somewhere in the beautiful folky middle. The evening proceeded as if it were simply two old friends hanging out, just sitting around with a couple of guitars, sharing songs and stories. And what would a folk show be without the stories between songs? The performance of “L.A. County,” for example, from Lovett’s classic album Pontiac led to an amusing discourse on the upbeat murder ballad. Further conversation throughout the evening illuminated the nature of their songs and themes of the road, cars and guitars. A lot of songs about inanimate objects, as Lovett himself pointed out.

The final song of the set was the Lovett staple, “If I Had a Boat.” After leaving the stage for that first obligatory “good night,” the artists then came back out for two more songs. Hiatt played “Through Your Hands,” from his 1990 record Stolen Moments and then together they closed the show with Lovett’s “My Baby Don’t Tolerate.”

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Concert review + setlist: Katie Herzig and Sara Swenson seduce the Old Rock House, Saturday, June 18

Katie Herzig

Last night, Sara Swenson and Katie Herzig proved that there is no difference between a solo singer-songwriter and one backed by a band if the artist is performing from the heart.

Taking the stage at the Old Rock House armed only with her guitars, Kansas City native Sara Swenson began the evening with a solo performance that was a wonder to behold. Following in the tradition of folk musicians from the past, she writes songs from the heart on topics such as her nieces and nephews, in “O, My Babies,” for example, and conveys thoughts of other road-weary travelers in “Passing Cars, Passing Time.” Like a true musical storyteller, Swenson weaved fantastic stories of love, happiness, melancholy, loss and renewed strength while filling the space between songs conversing with the audience and telling us anecdotes of how her songs came to be and tales of encounters with fans.

Whether she was fingerpicking her acoustic guitar or laying down a lush blanket of notes from her electric, Swenson’s guitar playing was very muted and uncomplicated, keeping the focus on her rich and soulful vocals that ranged from a smooth and smoky contralto to a soprano voice that somehow managed to sound full and breathy at the same time. The emotion and energy she put into her performance was inspiring, all while maintaining a sweet, down-to-earth demeanor. Despite being one woman with a guitar, she managed to fill the room with as much presence as the five-piece ensemble that followed her set. Sara mentioned to me after the show that she’s looking to come back to play in St. Louis again soon. Given her performance tonight, I’ll be the first in line when tickets go on sale.

Shortly after Sara departed, Katie Herzig and her band took the stage. The final stop on a three-night trial run, Katie and crew ran through an 18-song set comprised of fan favorites and new material from her upcoming album The Waking Sleep, which is scheduled to hit stores in September. Her sound was wide and varied, jumping from indie-rock of “Make A Noise” to the spaghetti western soundtrack country vibe of “Sumatra” and jumping to the heartache inducing ballad “I Hurt Too” and the bouncy pop of “Forevermore” while making stops at any and all genres in between.

Her backing band is one exceptionally talented group of musicians. Katie herself mainly stayed with her acoustic guitar, occasionally jumping on the keyboards and ukulele. Will Sayles put on a stellar performance at the drums, displaying an impressive control of the dynamics and volume of his kit. Cason Cooley created an excellent foundation for the rest of the group, mainly focusing on bass and synth. Claire Indie displayed her mastery of the cello, coaxing more sound out of her instrument than I thought possible. Watching Jordan Hamlin seamlessly change between guitar, accordion, clarinet, keyboards, bass, ukulele and xylophone was incredible. Watching the band members moving around from spot to spot, playing multiple instruments at once and even trading instruments mid-song added a great visual to the music they were playing.

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Robert Plant and Band of Joy breathe new life into old Zeppelin tunes at the Fabulous Fox, Wednesday, June 15

Robert Plant and Band of Joy at the Fabulous Fox

Nate Burrell

Rock legend and Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant returned to the Fabulous Fox last night with his Grammy-nominated Band of Joy, featuring a powerhouse lineup of American roots musicians including award-winning vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Patty Griffin, bassist Byron House, guitarist/vocalist Buddy Miller, multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott and drummer Marco Giovino.

Plant re-formed Band of Joy (a resurrection of his first band in England prior to Zeppelin) following his successful collaboration and tour with country/bluegrass star Alison Krauss. The new band’s sound and feel is reminiscent of Plant and Krauss’ hit album Raising Sand and Band of Joy’s self-titled release last year earned them a 2011 Grammy nom for Best Americana Album.

The late addition of blues/rock outfit North Mississippi Allstars as show openers made for an even more interesting bill, and their unique Hill Country sound was a perfect fit with Band of Joy. Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson warmed up the nearly packed house with selections from their latest album Keys to the Kingdom, a tribute to their late father, legendary Memphis music producer Jim Dickinson, as well as older tunes and covers. These boys have music in their blood and both are multi-instrumentalists. Cody killed on the drums, but also wowed the audience with a solo on his own invention, the electric washboard. Luther meanwhile played five or six different guitars, including a cigar box guitar. Their set was well received by an audience appreciative of fine musicianship.

After a brief intermission, Plant and the band emerged and gave resident Zeppelin fans a true delight by opening the show with a reworked version of the Zep classic “Black Dog,” with a slow and almost psychedelic feel in direct opposition to the heavy guitar and screaming vocals of the original. Yet even in his 63-year-old, slow-groove mode, Plant is still every bit the Golden God. His signature curly blonde locks frame his face, beautiful even with a few more lines. He still has that swagger, that connection to his audience, and can still rock a pair of tight jeans (though thankfully no longer bell-bottoms) as he did in his Led Zeppelin glory days.

In fact, Plant’s set was comprised of nearly half Led Zeppelin songs, all given new life through Band of Joy’s Americana style. “What is and What Should Never Be” was slow and dreamy, highlighting Plant’s voice, more rich and full with age (dare I say better?) than the high-pitched wails of his rock and roll youth. “Black Country Woman,” a twangy tune from Physical Graffiti was an ideal duet for Plant and Griffin, a country/folk legend in her own right. “Misty Mountain Hop” still felt heavy, but in a different and more slowly deliberate way.

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Thursday Morning Music News: Nick Lowe and Lindsey Buckingham announce new albums, Clarence Clemons suffers stroke and Bonnaroo ends with tragedy

Lindsey Buckingham / Matt Becker

The Big Man suffered a stroke; his condition is serious but stable.

Consequence of Sound reviews Bonnaroo 2011. AP reports on the two festival-goers who died at the event.

Stereogum collects some cool Bat For Lashes cover songs.

Twangfest 15 was a blast — even when nearly drowning. Get all the coverage here.

John Vanderslice talks to the SF Weekly.

A new album by Nick Lowe is coming soon.

SoundCloud gets some cash from Ashton Kutcher and tops 5 million users.

The BBC reports on the darkness lurking behind South Korean pop.

The Smoking Gun aims at the Foo Fighters and their bonkers tour rider.

Arcade Fire, Justin Bieber and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem win big at the Webby Awards.

Need some summer listening recommendations? PopMatters has you covered.

The Tallest Man On Earth gives away an MP3, but you have to make a video for it.

Neil Young talks lawsuits, new albums and as-yet-unreleased tracks from the vaults.

Aquarium Drunkard talks to Will Johnson of Centro-matic.

One of the great rock & roll voices, Carl Gardner of the Coasters, has died at age 83.

Pop & Hiss gets Wayne Coyne to discuss the method behind the gummy skull madness.

Lindsey Buckingham announces new solo album and tour.

The Guardian runs down key moments in rock history.

EMI is set to restart legendary label IRS Records.

eMusic is headed for the clouds.

NPR streams the new Jill Scott album.

Hear three new Morrissey songs at Consequence of Sound.

Concert review: Peter Bradley Adams (with Clare Burson) wins over Off Broadway, Tuesday, June 14

Peter Bradley Adams at Off Broadway

Jarred Gastreich

Last night, Off Broadway was seen in rare and formal form, set up with chairs and tables like a ritzy New York nightclub. The only thing missing were flickering jazz-club candles in glass jars.

The local band, Dots Not Feathers opened the evening with a gorgeous set replete with a host of loud and friendly young fans. Clare Burson took to the stage next and played for her parents and a large group of 50-somethings who adored her every perfectly executed chord and folk-filled vocal harmonies. Lead guitarist, Hans Holzen, sat in with Clare and backed her with delicious tonal accents and solos all the while maintaining a tempered electric edge on his brown Fender Jazz Master.

After Clare Burson left the stage, many of her fans stood up, visited and began filing out of the venue. Peter Bradley Adams set up his guitars, performed a quick sound check and dove into the first song of the night, the ornate and touching, “Katy,” with Hans Holzen supporting him on electric.

The din emanating from the audience was a bit of a distraction for both Adams’ fans and Adams, who stood with restraint and understanding at the socially preoccupied audience. Adams hurtled forward into “Darkening Sky,” a dark and swirling folk tune from 2009′s Traces, which featured the bard’s signature incendiary picking style. The seated, front-row audience gazed up at Adams with mouths agape. “I May Not Let Go,” offered an arresting romantic sentiment, “Just a little bit worn out, just a little bit bitter, gotta let my guard down, gotta loosen my grip.”

Peter Bradley Adams informed the audience that “Full Moon Song” concerned itself with his arrest in Calhoun county Georgia for a broken taillight that revealed a suspended license charge. Interestingly, the judge, who was an ex-musician from Nashville, thankfully understood and exonerated Peter of all charges, except the broken taillight ticket. The audience enjoyed the anecdote as much as the song, which was sincerely carefree and showcased Peter’s whisper-smooth voice, “I wana live like a kid with holes in his boots…I wana love like the man with nothing to lose and die with my heart on my sleeve.” Peter’s lyrical, doleful idealism and ultimate optimism lent the tune a thumping heart-felt center.

“My Love is My Love,” whose recorded version predominantly features piano, was wonderfully fleshed out live by Hans’ electric guitar thrum. Adams’ soothing declarations rang true as the song ebbed and flowed before the eyes of the now quiet, respectful and dialed-in audience.

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