Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Spring Tour

     The next few weeks have turned out to look really promising.  Hell my calendar is full of shows from next Thursday all the way till June 1st.  It is perfect timing since spring has arrived and it is time to fly the coup.  Just like the new birth of spring I am throwing myself into the rock n roll gauntlet and checking out some music that I do not know that well and have never seen.  This will be a new experience for me since I have been on a very strict outlaw country and jam band diet for the better part of thirteen years, if not longer.  Some these shows include some psychedelia, quasi hair pop metal,  a few indie giants,  one classic crooner and a touring machine.  Here are a few of the bands that are hopefully getting ready to rock my world.
      The first band on spring tour is the Black Angels.  A friend of mine in Denver got me into them a few years ago.  They are a hard rocking group from Austin, Texas.  They named themselves after the Velvet Underground song “The Black Angels Death Song.”  I figure any band that is that into the Velvet Underground are alright by me and should be pretty good.  They remind me of a modern sounding Iron Butterfly with some Jefferson Airplane influences.  The songs, “You on the Run”,” River of Blood”, and “Manipulation” I am really getting into recently.  I have only had these guys in a steady rotation for about six months now.  From what I know the Black Angels pack enough of a punch to keep me interested and wanting for more.  Hopefully a live dose at the Georgia Theatre will be enough.  I am expecting a lot of guitars, major strobe light action, and a constant wave of dope smoke.  This combination is a perfect recipe for a great show.  It will be an interesting night to say the least.
      There are people in my life that I respect deeply.  Some for their moral code, work ethic, faith, knowledge, well you get the point.  This holds true for people in my life that have a deep love and understanding for music.  The one thing these few people agree on is how amazing My Morning Jacket is.  Some of these people I went to high school with, some I have seen a plethora of shows with, and others are just those people that are there and I am not sure where they came from.  Fortunately for me they are playing a free show here next weekend.  This will hopefully give me the opportunity to see what everyone else sees and maybe decide to spend some money on a real show of theirs.  After all, I have been battling with My Morning Jacket for the last two years at least.  There are not many bands my friend Paige and I disagree on, shit I think this is the only one.  But since I hold her taste and love for rock n roll in such high esteem, I feel that I have to like them on principal.  Yet after several tries, listening to them just does not cut it. So, I will take Paige’s and everyone else’s advice and go see them live.  I really hope this show is the turning point in our relationship.  The love and hate is really starting to drive me nuts.
                I have really been working to branch out into the land of indie music these days.  I enjoyed so much what Dave Grohl had to say in his Key Note Speech at the SXSW festival this year.  Hearing him talking about being completely in charge of his career, having been down a different path with Nirvana, I am inspired to listen to more bands that take that same approach.  Why? Cause fuck the system, it’s my music.  I am not really one for festivals these days, but The Shaky Knees Festival is highlighting some if the bands that have this attitude towards their music.   A few such as Drive by Truckers and Lucero are a some of my favorites.  Bands like Frontier Ruckus, Murder by Death, Shovels and Rope, Road Kill Ghost Choir, and Death on Two Wheels are few on the lineup I am really excited about seeing.  All the way around this weekend will not be disappointing.  Early May in the south and a full weekend of great music outdoors will surely be amazing.
     Son Volt, Widespread Panic, Jerry Joseph, and Bloodkin will be rounding out the gaps of the spring tour.  Old faithful’s I would call them in a vast see of new music that I am seeing.  Lots of old friends, old favorite tunes, and great causes, will accompany these shows and leave me feeling satisfied as usual.  I cannot wait to see all the familiar faces and making new friends along the way.  My Spring Tour is looking like a beast. What about yours?   

In the words of Patterson Hood, “I’ll see you at the Rock Show.”


Monday, March 18, 2013

What Does Come After The Blues?

     Over the last few days I have been contemplating a few different topics to write about.  Nothing seemed to really grab my interest.  I hate forcing my writing.  It never sounds right when I do.  So I had decided to wait until something popped into my head that really grabbed a hold of me.  This sometimes takes a few days or a few weeks, but eventually it will happen.  Well this morning I put on some Blind Melon while I was writing my morning emails.   Almost immediately the music sucked me in and I was looking at pictures of the band, posting them on the Locomotive Facebook page.  Then, I got to thinking about Shannon Hoon’s passing and how tragic and preventable it was. Shannon was so talented with such a bright future.  To this day I believe Blind Melon’s self named debut album is one of the best debuts of all time and are completely underrated as a band.  Unfortunately I never had the chance to see them live.  I am sure they were fantastic.  Needless to say I eventually got back to work, still blaring the Blind Melon.  Shannon’s face was sort of etched into my brain for while.  Somewhere around 2:30 I checked my phone for the first time in a few hours and a buddy of mine had sent me a text saying that Jason Molina had died from alcoholism.  My heart sank.
     Jason Molina, was a musician somewhat new to my catalog.  He was the singer for Magnolia Electric Co. and Songs: Ohia.  My great friend and fellow music lover Paige turned me on to him a few years ago.  I have listened to the albums Sojourner, What Comes After The Blues, and Trials and Errors quite a bit over the last three years.  His haunting voice and painful lyrics have kept me company on many lonely and sad nights. I will admit while I read the articles about Jason’s passing this weekend, I shed a few tears.  His songs about love lost, mistrust, hurt, pain, death, and hope, have all matched up with some point in my life these last few years.  Lyrically, it is some of the best music I have ever heard.  North Star, Such Pretty Eyes for a Snake, and The Dark Don’t Hide It are brilliant songs beyond comprehension.  It is almost as if he was looking at the world through my eyes when he wrote those songs.  It is funny, I enjoy those albums so much, I have yet to venture past them.  Jason had an amazing career spanning 15 years and a huge lot of albums and EPs.  Many of which I have yet to listen too.   I better get busy.  I can only imagine the gems that lay hidden on that wax.
      Once I decided to write about this subject I pondered what I read about Jason Molina’s struggles with Alcoholism.  I thought about all the other amazing musicians that died from the terrible disease of addiction.  Addiction is something I understand well.  I have my own battles with substance abuse.  I spent a lot of time wondering why musicians are so different.  Why is their pain so much heavier than other artists?  Or is it the rock star image that pulls them in and never lets go. Andrew Wood, Brent Mydland, Danny Whitten, Jay Bennett, and Phil Lynott are a few musicians that you might not know that all died from addiction.  All of these guys are now ghosts in my music collection.  Hopefully one day fellow musicians will learn from the mistakes of their elders, so that the deaths of so many amazing artists will not have been in vain.  Maybe?
     I would have much rather come up with another topic than the very recent death of a musician that I loved.  I guess that is why we call it Rock N Roll.  Life is full of ups and downs; life and death are everywhere, even in music.  Shannon Hoon, Bradley Nowell, and Jason Molina all sang about their deaths and the possibility of it happening sooner than later.  I wonder how many other musicians that died from drugs or alcohol also sang about their untimely deaths before they happened.  This sounds like a perfectly good excuse to waste a Sunday and make some “mixed tapes”.  Jason Molina, thank you so very much for the amazing gifts you have given me in your music.  I will continue to cherish your work long into the sunset my friend. RIP!

“It’s your last chance, to forget me now and its done for good
you always said I’d make it out somehow darling, I knew I never would.”

Jason Molina

1973 - March 16, 2013 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Where is My Band? A Rock n Roll Tour

     I think I was 19 when I experienced my first Grateful Dead lot scene.  At that time in my life I was an avid music fan, but quite different than how I am today.  I had no idea of the “local music scene” in Atlanta at that age.  This is pretty weird since two of my favorite bands at the time, Follow for Now and Drivin and Cryin were both Atlanta bands.  Later on in my in that 19th year of life I moved to Athens, Ga.  It was not until then did I truly learn about the local music scene concept.  Twenty years have gone by now since the day I moved to Athens and how I feel about music is the same today, just with a lot more depth.  Today I have spent a good bit of time reflecting on how my love, obsession, understanding, and desire for rock n roll has grown and changed over the years.  The conclusion I came to after all the reflection was that my geographical locations over the years have played a huge part in the relationship I have with music.  This is a brief part of the story of where I have lived and how the music in those times and places have shaped this faithful relationship I have with my one true love.
     I had the wonderful experience of turning twenty one in the beautiful city of Athens, Ga.  I bought my first drink at DT’s Down Under.  This was also the same night I discovered the High Hat Jazz Club.  I can remember seeing bands like Squat and Day by the River there.  I remember Dave Schools use to sit at the door and keep the bouncer company.  This too, was about the same time I was getting into Widespread Panic.  I wish I could remember more of the bands that I use to love to see.  The nights at the Georgia Theatre seeing Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Bloodkin, Five Eight, along with several others were the beginning of my education. This was also my first live experience with Widespread Panic. I can still remember what the River Walk Amphitheater looks like to this day.  1995 was the year I saw the Grateful Dead.  It was the last show the Grateful Dead every played in Atlanta, Jerry died that August.  I even had the pleasure of seeing Merl Saunders play at the Theatre shortly after Jerry died.  Now I was really hooked.  There was no turning back.  I had crossed the line of no return. Side bar: My ex at the time ended up with the tickets to the first Panic show at the Classic Center.   I have yet to see my favorite band in Athens, Ga.
     A few years later after a short stint in the Coast Guard, if found myself working as a chef on Grand Cayman Island. For those of you that do not know, Grand Cayman sits right smack in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.  Surely, I thought to myself this will be a great opportunity to get my fill of the local music.  I was so excited about hearing the reggae, dance hall, and dub bands right on the beach.  Wow, was I sorely mistaken.  Somehow this little twenty seven mile long and nine mile wide island was passed over by such music.  Now to make things even worse, I was the only single person, the youngest person, and the only American at my restaurant.  This meant I was on my own.  No one I worked with was interested in showing me the ropes of the island and where to get what I needed.
      After a few weeks of going straight home after work, I found a little place called XTC.  The crowd was full of people in the service industry and the music that was playing in the bar was good enough.  Well it was not long before I was drinking here every night and learning the ways of Grand Cayman.  This consisted of three things.  There was no live music on the island, well at least not outside of the Hyatt.  The big thing was techno..  DJs!  This plays a very important part of this story I will get to in a minute.  To top it all off Monday nights was the big bar night and they stayed open to 1:00 AM.  I was very confused.  Now, I could have just gave in and gone home or get in where I fit in.  It is amazing what you can learn to love when you live in paradise.  Evidently Grand Cayman is a hot spot on the DJ circuit.  This meant a lot of private parties all over the island.  I have to admit this was pretty cool.  DJs flew in from all over the world to play these parties.  When in Rome is what I thought!  Trance and Techno is really not that bad on a private beach, surrounded by hot women with accents and a head full of Ecstasy.  I got to be a regular in this crowd and became friends with the owners of XTC, who were responsible for bringing in a lot of the talent on the island.  You see if you are white and are a Cayman citizen you are pretty freaking wealthy.  I came to find out later that one of the owners of the bar, Chris, had gone to Miami and ate the love drug once, and immediately came back and opened a bar called XTC a week later.  I will save the rest of this story for another time, but I eventually had enough and came back stateside.  I saw the first New Years Eve Widespread Panic shows at Phillips Arena two weeks later.  The year was 1999!
     Jump forward to 2008, and I have recently moved to Denver, Colorado.  The summer before I saw Widespread Panic on a three night run at Red Rocks and fell in love.  A year later I was where I wanted to be.  Once again, however, I was on my own in a new city, trying to find my way.  The only friend I had in Denver at the time was married with a young daughter and one on the way so she was no help.  I asked where I should go drink in an online Widespread Panic discussion forum.  Someone suggested that I belly up to the bar at the Highland Pacific, and I would be taken care of and find what I was looking for.  This could not be further from the truth.  Looking back, that first night was the spark that lit the fuse in my life with rock n roll.  Soon I was on a first name basis with some of the local Denver heroes.  These guys were not only fantastic musicians but genuine and kind.  They played in bands like Polytoxic, Bloodkin, and Henry Parsons Project.  Just to put things in a local music scene perspective, there are at least fifteen music venues in a ten mile radius.  In the three years I was there, I think I saw well over one hundred shows.  Bands like Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule, and the Drive by Truckers, to name a few were there several times a year.  This somehow influenced the local music scene. In 2010 I met a new friend from Nashville, and soon after started an online music magazine called Colfax Radio.  This was a game changer.  I guess the sun and moon were all aligned at that time.  I was working as a door man at Pete’s Monkey Bar, which opened a ton of doors for me and my business partner, Little Mikey Colfax.  Our little pod cast had the pleasure of interviewing musicians such as Tori Pater, Eric Martinez, Damon Wood, The Fox Street All Stars, Dorian Vibe, Eric Hood, Mark Brut, Whiskey Tango, The Longest Day of the Year, HOME and so many more.  There were open mic nights around the city were full of fantastic music on any given night.  The city is had everything from honky tonk, jam bands, metal bluegrass, and everything else under the sun.  Being able to be a part of such great music with so many great people is a time in my life I will never forget.  It is a warm memory that puts a smile on my face a year and a half later.
     Today, I am living back down south, licking my wounds and healing from all those late nights over the years.  When I work on my plan for the next step, I think about these three points in my life.  I think about what I want, what I need, and what I just cannot have, no matter how hard I try.  These past experiences have all played a part in my walk with rock n roll.  And today, I know I cannot be a part of it like I was in Denver, and I don’t ever want to go to see another DJ as long as I live, but I do know that I need my local music.  It is now a part of me and has shaped me forever.  Athens, Ga is starting to sound really good about right now.  Who knows, I will only be able to tell you when I get there.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Just read the back of this postcard.........................

by Courtney Wilson Long on Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 1:23pm ·

It was 4/26/2002 and I was pulling in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn to drop someone off because I was camping of course, who does an Oak Mtn. run and doesn't camp, and someone gave me what I thought was a flier. I put it on my dashboard and pulled away. I noticed the reflection in my window and it was a black & white picture of Mikey with the words "Don't Stop the Train." (I still have this picture) This picture would set the tone for the future of this band.

I was with many close friends and family but it was as if I was all alone. What had happened, why were we all here, was this really the end? My emotions were running rampant. I had to be alone in my mind to savor every minute of what would probably be the last 3 day run I would ever do with the band that I fell in love with, and Michael Houser's namesake, WIDESPREAD PANIC. There are no words that describe what this band means to me. Their music has allowed me to find myself to discover realities and truths about life that I would never have known had I not listened, really listened. Death is a part of life, and this weekend would tell an AMAZING story. Each night with a different plot!!

The energy surrounding Oak Mountain Amphitheatre during these 3 days was quite amazing, somewhat surreal. There was such a wide variety of people attending these shows. Some who were catching Widespread Panic for the first time, some who were just there for the party, and then those who knew the significance of what was about to take place: A TRUE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY. JB was my preacher, the venue was my church, the fans were the congregation, and the music was my sermon. It was like a revival.

4/26/02 is especially significant for me because I love full moons and Robert Randolph sat in on pedal steel. Aof D opener into Cream Puff War.............Are you kidding me? This was just the beginning of what would turn out to be one of the most special nights of my life. This was a first time for me – I heard the intro to Werewolves of London – WAHOOOOOOOOO- on a night when the sky was clear and the moon was full – it doesn't get any better than this. Dave had us all in the zone.

Then it turned "a little scared." Me & the devil blues with RR was unlike very little I have ever experienced because I truly felt like "me and the devil we were walking side by side". I was angry, sad, mad, happy, excited. Dammit, Why Lord WHY? You could feel the grief, sadness, and joy that encompassed this venue. But, we were all one people, in one place, experiencing this one very special time. The chemistry surrounding me was insanely intense. It was better than any drug I have ever done. "I didn't see you right next to me, but I'm so glad you could make it, with you by my side I might get back alive for my next vacation." You could feel JB's emotion if you listened to his voice and he was very emotional. It was such an inspiration for me to see these men handle such a vulnerable situation with such integrity. We needed them. They needed us. We were one big happy family trying to figure out where we were going next...... then I was "wasted and I can't find my way home." It was over. One of the best shows I have ever seen, emotion I have rarely experienced and a whole lot to process. But, who had time for that................"there's a party goin on and many spirits strong." Back to the campground for a celebration and we still had two nights to go. WOOHOO!!!

4/27/02 was great. Reality had set in and JB said it best "I'm not alone I'm just blue". The emotional journey continued and the spiritual ride just got better. I was so grateful to have experienced The Swing Low Sweet Chariot rap in the middle of Good Morning Little School Girl.............At this point in time, something way bigger than me had taken control and my soul was being fed. They could have "used me baby til you use me up". I could go all night long. I had so many questions and few of them answered. I was smiling, laughing, and crying all at the same time. It was time for the encore and everyone was anxiously waiting. "Help me Somebody......Please.........Help me Somebody". Every member of this band was singing this song in unison. They, in that very moment, exposed just how vulnerable there really were and JB starts singing "Amazing Grace how sweet the sound." I got chills going up and down my spine, on my arms, head, legs, and feet. It was truly an experience of a lifetime. I knew for sure I had just been to church and God was present. Then, "Pretty soon I met a friend; lord he played guitar; we'd sit on the steps at school and talk about bein a star; we STARTED A BAND................LORD WE PLAYED ALL NIGHT." THERE ARE NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE THIS MOMENT. What a phenomenal way to describe how they were feeling and in return telling us, the fans, "oh friends of mine don't be denied." It all had such incredible meaning. And, I didn't take a second of it for granted. I became enthralled by what I was experiencing. It was as if there was no one else around me. It was me, this band, and the spirit of what this band exudes. What a night!!!

Did it rain? I didn't even notice. God knew the hippies needed a bath.

4/28/2002 – I knew this was it. This was the final hoorah. This was my final show with Mikey and I was ready. I was ready to open my soul, my heart, and my mind or should I say HAVE MY MIND BLOWN! "Let's get down to business shall we". What a way to begin the last show of this run because I CAME TO GET DOWN!! WOW...........I just got chills!! .............."high, high, high how high can you go". You guys have no idea how high you have made me. "Trouble, trouble set me free, I have seen your face and you're too much too much for me." You have no idea how many times I have listened to this version of this song to help me in my own life and with my own problems. "You know it seems that I still don't know you well; so many faces I have seen." I've seen a lot of faces some good and some not. But, overall I would be nothing without this band. "and if you're wonderin what I think of it all................just read the back of THIS POSTCARD!!" Can't you hear Mikey's guitar!! What a memorable way to end the most special weekend in my life as a fan of WIDESPREAD PANIC!!!

I have experienced God in His truest form only 5 times in my life. The first two are the births of my two incredible daughters, Kayley and Carlan. The other 3, well – 4/26/02, 4/27/02, and 4/28/02. And, I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Other than my children, Widespread Panic has been the only constant in my life for over a decade and my first three shows I was pregnant with my first child. I was sober as a judge and my love affair began with Widespread Panic – 5/1/1998.

I know this is deep. I am a deep thinker. However, if you will recall the flier at the beginning -"Don't Stop the Train" - this train hasn't stopped. This band is still going strong 8 years later. They are still making music and drawing crowds in record numbers. They never stopped and for that we are incredibly grateful. Thank you Jimmy Herring for keeping alive such an AMAZING legacy.........Michael Nathan Houser – January 6, 1962 – August 10, 2002.

"And the band played on......................"

Bobby in Memphis

 There’s been a lot of recent talk about Further, the project of Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, which has me thinking about my one and only encounter with Bob Weir. Now, I am going to preface this with the fact that I’d only seen the Grateful Dead once.  It was the last show they played in Atlanta. Jerry died later that summer. Back in 1997, I was working at a restaurant in Athens, Ga., getting ready to leave for the Coast Guard in a few weeks. Rat Dog was playing the Georgia Theater and the crew had come in for dinner before the show on Saturday night.  My friend Janice waited on them.  I was working in the kitchen and had no idea of what was about to happen.  One of the girls from the group left her purse at the table, so Janice took it to the show after she got off work.  They were very kind and grateful as you would expect and gave her some back stage passes to the show in Memphis for the next night.  Sunday morning I come in for work and right around lunch time Janice asked me what time was I getting off.  I asked her why and she said she wanted to take me to Memphis to meet Bobby. Since my love for the Grateful Dead began around 1990 and had been steadily growing over the years, I was thrilled with the invitation. However, my boss, who was also my friend, was being difficult and after hours of begging to clock out early, he finally let me off. Ecstatic, I rushed home to clean up and get on the road. 
It was a seven hour drive from Athens to Memphis so we had to boogie if we wanted to make it in time.  I had recently finished reading 'Captain Trips', which blew me away and brought me to tears.  The best part of the book was spinning around and around in my head as we headed west.  Evidently there was a moment on the Canadian Train tour, the night before the last show, when Janice Joplin got the Dead drunk.  They stopped in some town and pooled all their money together, around $500, and spent it on booze.  What a party; The Band, Janice, The Dead, and other various musicians participating. Allegedly, Jerry never got drunk again after that night. So, all the way to Memphis I was hoping for a chance to ask Bobby about this moment in rock n’ roll history.
 We finally get to the venue around 11:30 that night and walk in to “Samson and Delilah”, the first song of the encore.  Today that song is still one of my favorites. The show ends and we head back stage.  The two friends I came with were beautiful women so naturally they were getting a ton of attention from the band. At one point I think we were even asked to ride on the bus to Jacksonville, Fl., eat mushrooms, and go from there.  As tempting as the offer was, it wasn’t a possibility for any of us.  I sat patiently, waiting for Bobby to appear. In the back stage area, there were two rows of seats facing each other. A young couple sat across from me, so high on ecstasy they could hardly see straight.  Finally, Bobby came in with a hand full of mail and sat down in the chair next to me.  Most of the envelopes he opened were filled with wedding invitations.  As he threw the invites in the trash, he said something to me about how ridiculous it was that people invite him to their weddings.  Bob proceeds to sign a few autographs for my friends and me while the couple tells him how he should have played at the Palladium.  They said this over and over again.  I thought, how weird, here you have a moment with a rock n’ roll icon and all you can say is, "Dude, you should have played the Palladium." 
 I could tell by the look on Bob's face how little he cared about what the wasted couple was talking about.  I thought this was the moment, so I looked at him and said, "I just finished reading Captain Trips, and…"  By his reaction, one would have thought I had just insulted the man’s mother.  He stood up, looked down at me, and said, "I am not Captain Trips," and walked off pissed! I’m still not sure what all that was about.  All I wanted was to hear about the night that Janice got the Dead drunk, a little piece of real Americana, but Bob wasn’t having any of it. 
 Within a few minutes we were back on the road, going the wrong way, trying to get back to Athens.  Maybe one day I’ll get to hear about that night on the train. Maybe I won’t.  Either way, I still got back stage to meet Bob Weir!  Short shorts and all!