Sunday, August 25, 2013

Today Was a Good Day

Today, being yesterday, which was Saturday, was a great day.  It was the second day of Jay Rodger’s birthday celebration at the Max Canada.  The music was both Friday and Saturday nights with proceeds going to support the Athens Human Rights Festival.  Perfectly, this coincided with my own birthday on Friday.  Jay managed to pick the right bands for the weekend.  It was a perfect mix of roots rock, Americana, southern soul, and ska/punk/reggae, and hip-hop party music.   The crowd was great, new friends were made, and we all did our part to help further the Human Rights fight, all with the mighty sword of rock n roll.
I am a little bit of a late bloomer when it comes to the punk, ska, and reggae scene.  Although Sublime was a large part of my early twenties, bands such as Social Distortion, the Clash and Danzig are fairly recent additions to my musical rotations.  The Mighty Mighty Bosstones pop in and out from time to time, but for the most part ska and reggae are not part of my regular intake.  However, with the rebirth of my workout routine, these genres have been added to the play lists to help get this old man through a few hours of painful exercise every day.  Now that my love affair with the jam band scene is quickly coming to an end, I am realizing how much fantastic music I have been missing out on.  Last night’s Lowdive show, reinforced the fact that I need to get off that sad, whiskey soaked, alt country train and put some more fun, upbeat, happy music into my diet. 
Looking at the words lists as synonyms for fun to find the right description for Lowdive, I think I will go with boisterous, diverting, merry, and witty.  The word fun does not touch the tip of the iceberg for the performance these guys put out on Saturday night.  The song selection was wonderful.  Songs about booze, mouth tumors, tits and Liz Taylor are all originals; some reggae, some ska, some punk, all fantastic.  These guys are high energy all the way and had the crowd rocking.  An old friend told me once you can never go wrong with a three guitar attack.  After watching Lowdive’s show, if I did not agree with my friend before, I do now.  Josh Perkins, Dede Giddens, and Colin Hatmaker, all on guitars, brought the heat, mashing it all up with Jay’s bass, Scotty Nichols’ keys, and that beast of a drummer, Tanka, hammering that shit down my ear hole to the point of a rock n roll orgasm. Top all that off with the balls to cover songs by the Police, Prince, the Who and Ice Cube, and they nailed all of them in their own funky kind of way.  Lowdive blew me away and sent me home satisfied with a huge smile on my face.  I cannot wait to see them again
Every time I hear Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day”, it always puts my life in a better perspective.  It reminds me of how truly blessed I am.  I am one lucky son of a gun to live this amazing life full of fantastic music and celebration.  Maybe one day we can convince Lowdive to put out their own version of this song from the early 90’s that we can all sing along to happy and guilt free.

Happy Birthday Jay Rodgers!

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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Right Place at the Right Time

            Through out rock n roll history there have been cities and places in time where the music carved its own path.  Memphis, New York, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Detroit, Muscle Shoals, and even little Athens, Ga have all been cities to have that have made their mark on the rock n roll timeline.  And like all good things they must come to an end.  Some places, however, might be lucky enough to see lightening strike twice.  Well the rock n roll Gods are at it again and a storm is brewing here in Athens, Georgia and that lightening that struck here years ago is on the horizon one more time. 
            Saturday night I set out for a full night of rock n roll satisfaction and headed to the Caledonia Lounge for Adam Payne’s birthday celebration.  I had caught Danglfy, Adam’s band, during Athfest and was excited to see them in a small dark room.  Some bands just belong on those stages.  Street Rhythm and Rhyme got the night started.  A young four piece, born in Athens, seemed to have all the right moves.  Despite my current fascination with dark, sad, whiskey driven music, the rhythm and the rhyme put a huge grin on my face.  The music was loud, happy and full of smiles.  The young kid on the lead guitar ripped his parts to shreds with vigorous enthusiasm.  These guys were tight and happy, plus, any band that gets the cute girls out and gets them dancing gets a in my book any day.  This little nerdy kid next to me was getting down and having the time of his life, and it felt good to watch him.  I found myself laughing and smiling through the whole set, enjoying the brighter side of rock n roll for a change.
            Dangfly! I have seen my fair share of music since my first show in 1990.  Without a doubt Dangfly is the real fucking deal.  I was right about seeing these guys in a small dark room.  The sound was right, just loud enough to hurt a little.  At a loss for words to truly describe the essence of this amazing band, my new friend Josh Perkins of Lowdive, said true Americana with balls.  I could not agree more, especially with the balls part.  Right smack in the middle of the set these guys break into Journey’s Separate Ways and nail it note for freaking note.  First of all, this song will always hold a place in my heart from my youth in the 80’s.  Second, it is a bad ass freaking song that to this day I have never heard anyone else play.  This took balls, even if it is for a small room.  Dangfly went on to play She Makes the Rain, Pledge, and Bangin', all off the new album to name a few.  It was loud, rowdy, and full of rage, pain, happiness, and full of love.  These guys hit on every emotion while melting faces along the way.  As I listen to Thick and Thin now, off the debut; Good Luck, Curiosity, there is no doubt these guys have earned their way to the top of my playlist. Dangfly!
            Earlier in the night I had the pleasure of meeting local Athens singer, songwriter, guitar player, Josh Perkins. Right out the gate we were into it, local music, who was good, who was great, and how much we both loved what is happening here. Josh said it best.  “There is something happening here in Athens, Georgia right now.”  I could not agree more.  There is so much great music here; Athens is bursting at the seams.  We went on throughout the night discussing the thoughts of pod casting, a Guns n Roses Blue Grass Review, and one hundred other things revolving all around Athens music.  It looks like I have landed in the right place at the right time. I will do my part to make sure the world hears about all this fantastic music happening in Athens, Ga, The lighting is coming get ready.

Happy Birthday Adam Payne

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Write Words to Say

A while back I wrote a piece about breaking the rules of “southern rock”.   Looking back, I used the word rules as method of definition.  There are certain aspects of rock n roll that might define a sound to this or that genre.  However, those rules are by no means confining.  Where would Led Zeppelin be if they “followed” the rules of traditional blues music?  They took a simple format, twisted it, and tortured it until what came out, came out and is now legendary.  Now that I am entering the realm of writing for a profession, I too am faced with the same rules or expectations for my art.  Here I stand at the same crossroads as my artistic predecessors.  Do I conform to the rules of traditional writing or journalistic law just to get paid?  Would I then be a sell out or would I be fulfilling my dream as a paid writer?  Which road is the wisest for my career?
The other night as I was paying the cover charge to see a few local Athens bands, the promoter caught me at the door and said that if I was going to write about the show, I did not need to pay.  I insisted, ultimately, I was there to support the bands.  And I had not decided at that point whether I was going to write about the evening or not.  Rarely, does that decision ever occur before the music plays.  It is never a moment with much forethought.  I either write or I don’t.  I never force it.  I am neither a critic nor a journalist.  I am a fan that chooses to write about music.  Some music moves me and some doesn’t.  Some live performances inspire me to write, others do not.  Neither are ever representative of the quality of music or the performance given.  More often than not, the music I choose to write about is often just a catalyst for some other part of my emotional being that needs to come out in this artistic form I have chosen.  This is my own need for expression. 
Over the last few months I have sent some pieces I have written to several publications in the music arena.  Most of which I have not received any response.  The responses I have received from submissions where all about the rules.  More details about the facts and less about my thoughts or emotion.  And most of all stay away from writing in the first person.  Literally not twenty minutes ago I was discussing this with two well known Athens musicians in my living room.  I described trying to write about rock n roll in the third person is like trying to describe what an LSD trip is like to someone that has never experienced it.  Often, my rock n roll experiences are heavy and can be quite spiritual in a sense.  Sure, I could write about these experiences in the third person, but who wants to read that shit. I don’t.  I write words that I like to read.  I like to read about a true and honest firsthand experience and I know I am not alone here.  Sure I could keep the emotion out of it and keep it just to the facts.  But who really gives a fuck about just the facts?

A while back I caught Dave Grohl’s key note speech from this year’s SXSW music festival.  This was right around the time I started writing about music.  It was powerful, moving, and inspiring.  What I took away from his speech was, do it your way.  Make the art you make your own. Never compromise it for anyone or anything.  So I am going to do what so many others have done before me.  I will follow in the footsteps of the Iggy Pops, the Nirvanas and the Led Zeppelins of the world.  I am going to do it my way, writing how I want to write, and fuck the rest.  And if I happen to get paid along the way, I will be the luckiest guy alive.  Until then, I am just a rock n roll fan writing about what I love.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

This Town is Nuts!

I had a very specific purpose in moving the Locomotive operations to Athens, Ga.  Much different from the first time I moved here, chasing a woman at 19. One of the main reasons I moved back was to submerse myself and my writing into some roots rock n roll.  Well let me tell you folks, Athens knew I was coming and I got exactly what I asked for and so much more.  The first night in Athens went something like this; 4 great bands, 2 amazing female vocalists, and a whole lot of fun.
The night started with an amazing performance from Austin Darnell of the Darnell Boys.  Now, I am not much of a blues guy.  Some of it is ok, but for the most part it is not my thing and I have no idea why.  Yesterday afternoon I spent some time listening to a local Blues radio show and was bored after a short while.  Austin Darnell very well, single handedly, completely changed my dislike for the Blues.  With his brand new custom made acoustic guitar with lightening bolds cut into it, Austin belted out some tunes that knocked his Braves ball cap sideways. I can imagine it is quite difficult to stand up on stage and project a sound armed only with an acoustic guitar.  And project Austin did.  His sound is strong and powerful, southern grown and cultivated.  Darnell wrapped up his set with a vocals only song and the crowd keeping time that blew me away.  I will be keeping an eye on this guy and his band the Darnell Boys for a while.  There is no doubt in my mind they will be around for quite a while.
Next up was Darkwater Rising from Robeson County, North Carolina.  Now, I have no idea where Robeson County is, but according to their Facebook page it is right in the middle of the swamp.  What I was expecting with a name like Darkwater Rising, was something dark and haunting.  Well, I got the haunting just not the dark.  The entire band a full on southern draw, and the lead singer, Charly Lowry, uses it to her advantage.  The stage at the World Famous is small so Darkwater skipped the drum kit and opted for hand drum with a deep, rich sound, and I loved it.  There songs were full of soul, deep in subject matter, but light in sound.  With four out of the five members all singing at some point, these guys put out a sweet yet powerful sound that reminds me of happy, sunny days, where everything goes my way.  It was great to hear that they had just finished a showcase in NYC for some record label guys.  They definitely deserve a shot to play with the big boys.  Can’t wait to see how it goes and we will be supporting this band any way we can.
The Burning Angels rounded out the night at the World Famous.  Mark Cunningham knows exactly what I like to listen to and proceeded to play songs about the south, pills, whiskey, the devil, women, and even shitty little cities in Alabama. The quartet consists of two guitars, one acoustic, one electric and acoustic bass, and a mandolin, dobro playing, pedal steel player.  This is all a perfect match for Mark’s scratchy voice.  Andrew, the mandolin, dobro playing, pedal steel player, kept my ears attention for most of their set.  The sound that resonates from the dobro and pedal steel are some of my favorites, and Andrew does a great job of incorporating them into the Burning Angels songs, seemingly with plenty of ease.  After speaking with these guys on a couple of occasions recently, I know they are working hard on a new album.  It will be fantastic to hear the finished project.
After all the music ended at the World Famous, we headed over to the Green Room on the suggestion of Radiolucent’s manager to check out Thomas Wynn and the Believers.  My friend and I decided that we were going to listen outside for a minute to see if we liked the music enough to pay to get in since it was already close to 1 AM.  From the Globe to the door of the Green Room which is only about twenty to thirty feet, we heard enough and gladly paid the 10 bucks to get in.  The lesson to be learned here is when management for another band who you love recommends a band, listen and go.  I don’t know what rock I have been living under to not know about Thomas Wynn and the Believers, but I am sure glad I climbed out and got on board.  This band is freaking amazing.  First there is the obvious uniqueness of having a tattooed, smoking hot woman on vocals, and an Alice Cooper/Ronnie James Dio look alike on the harmonica, which puts them into a whole different playing field.  But the badassness does not stop there.  Thomas has this metal, bluesy, gospel; I don’t know what the fuck to call it thing going on that is so real.   With Dave Wagner on Bass guitar and Ryan Miranda on drums, Chris Bell on harmonica, and Olivia Wynn on vocals, Thomas has a tight night crew and it is a perfect mix.  From love songs full of pain and anger to J.J. Cale, and a metal sound that I just don’t want to shake has me convinced this is my new favorite band.  Good enough to consider travelling to see without a doubt. If you are a roots rock guy like me then the idea of travelling to see Thomas Wynn and the Believers is a surely something to consider.  I will not be missing these guys ever again when they are in town and Locomotive will be keeping up with them as much as possible.
The best part about my first night living in Athens, Ga after twenty years was getting to meet all of these musicians.  They were all so humble and gracious without any of that rock star attitude. My hat goes off to those musicians who take pleasure in talking to the folks that just watched them play.  There are not many places in the rock n roll world where you can spend an entire night seeing music and mingling with amazing musicians like it was everyday’s business. Thanks for the huge welcome home Athens, Ga. 
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