Monday, May 23, 2016

Rascal Flatts, Purple Rain and a Comedian

NOTE: Written on Thursday night after the show, finished Sunday night, posted Monday morning.

I have no pictures of tonight's show in downtown Greenville, SC, so I'll try to get near 1000 words.

Drove down from Durham yesterday afternoon, and I got an automated calendar reminder that said rehearsal was at 6. I got in touch with music director and Hootie bandmate Mark Bryan who cooled my jets and told me it was nine, as I'd originally thought. So the rest of the drive was all about playlists on repeat and water bottles.

The show was part of the entertainment for the BMW Charity Pro-Am golf tournament held in the city. Mark and Dean Felber, Hootie's bassist, were among the celebrities playing golf and Mark has provided the entertainment for the tourney for several years. This was my first time, joining my adjunct Hootie percussion buddy, Gary Greene, Mark and Dean as the house band.

We were rehearsing and staying at the Westin Poinsett Hotel which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The Poinsett was built in 1925 but was most recently rehabilitated in 2000, and it's been the top-rated hotel in Greenville since. With staircases that evoked M.C. Escher and Hogwarts, I got turned around a few times getting between parking deck, the front door, the Poinsett Ballroom where we rehearsed and my commodious room, significantly numbered 219 (my birthday). Stairs delivered you to mezzanines and ballrooms at each level. The first few times, I turned once too many and ended up in front of the same wall again and again. I'm not a very good lab rat, I don't learn from my mistakes.

Drew Copeland
Javier Colon
House band practice was running songs with Wendy Bryan, Andrew Copeland and Javier, all folks we've worked with in the past and whose tunes we have arranged in the past. Wendy and Mark have a duo called Sittin' in a Tree and we worked up two songs from their EP to start the show. Got to rock on my twangin' dual Pro Jr. rig and break out the mandolin.  Drew plays with Sister Hazel, a very cool band who are contemporaries and friends with the Hooties. He’s also an excruciatingly funny guy to be around, and we laughed so hard between going through his tunes. Javier Colon has come and sung at so many Monday After The Masters shows I’ve lost count. He always turns in an exceptional, emotional performance, and his songs for this gig were very cool, especially his new single “Gravity.” which has a sweeping and luxurious sound we aimed to make as well. (We even had a guest apparition of Doug Jones, lead singer for Cravin Melon, another long-time friend band for whom Gary is drummer. I wrote a couple songs with them once upon a time, too.) 

Absent were the two members of Rascal Flatts who were to join us on Thursday, guitarist Joe Don Rooney and bassist/pianist Jay DeMarcus. We weren't absolutely sure how they wanted to do one of their hits, and I prayed I wouldn't have to play the piano on it. It's good they didn't come because we couldn't plug in our piano anyway. All rehearsal on keyboards was done on my trusty NORD with the not-great piano sound; the RF song would have also required a larger range of keys than the NORD offered.

When we were done, I was pretty well beat from an early morning, but we hauled our gear (Gary and I brought our own hand trucks!) to a vacant ballroom in the hotel that we were told was not in use. But not five minutes after we were finished, hotel security informed us that THAT ballroom had a breakfast in it at 8. So we moved to another ballroom that was absolutely, positively uninhabited for the foreseeable future and called it a night after that.

This morning, I slept in, having remembered to turn off my regular 5:30am alarm. Gary took me down to Greenville's stunning Falls Park on the Reedy.

While you could feel the bridge wobble a bit when joggers ran past, the compelling view was just unreal. Gary said that the area had been in bad shape until all this was built. The waterfalls were loud! A pair of teenagers had sat on a sloped boulder with a 20-foot drop, and my inner parent cringed.  I had wanted to return after the gig to see it all lit up, but did not. For another trip to Greenville, I guess!) 

Soundcheck was made lively by the realization that a piano had not been acquired. But the production company was able to bring one in, right in time for the show. Crisis averted.

My Les Paul Jr.
The rain was really a mist most of the afternoon, but it was steady. My Les Paul Jr. had a thin sheen of water on its yellow face by the end of the night. I didn't have to use it. The Telecaster was at its best, staying in tune and allowing me to sound good on all the guitar parts I did. 

How was the show, you ask? Pretty good, I would say. After a long, tight set from a Spartanburg horn band whose name I managed to forget, we took the stage and went pretty much straight through all the tunes we'd rehearsed, mostly sounding great. We even did some Hootie songs, with Mark taking the lead vocal. Wendy, Drew and Javier's tunes were all played fairly impeccably, considering there wasn't a lot of time in rehearsal (read: I didn't screw up Javier's songs after slogging through them the night before, yay me!)

Joe Don and Jay
Then we had Joe Don and Jay join us. Jay went to the bass, and they started out with Dan Baird's Georgia Satellites classic "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." We've played that song a lot over the years so no surprises there. Then I crouched behind my amps as Jay sang the RF hit "Bless the Broken Road" from the piano. Everyone in the crowd knew the song--in fact, I may well have been the only person present who was unfamiliar with it. I did, however, develop a theory about the subject matter as I crouched, but I think I may keep my theory to myself.

Then I was behind the NORD once again for the RF cover of Tom Cochrane's "Life Is a Highway." (It took all my restraint not to grab the Fender and do the repeating triplet guitar octaves that are in the original, but RF left that hook out of their version and substituted a lot of rote three-part harmonies in the chorus. I guess that the band's marketing department felt the triplets might confuse their audience.)

TV's Gary Valentine
Not TV's Gary Valentine
At the end of the show, everyone was on stage for a well-meaning version of "Purple Rain" as the mist became more prominent to the assembled crowd. "Everyone" included television comedian Gary Valentine who is also a long-time MAM participant and who took a verse of the song as lead singer. (He is not to be confused with the former Blondie bassist/The Know frontman/author Gary Valentine who has nothing to do with this show or the comedian.) 

Then the RF guys beat a hasty retreat to their tour bus which was parked behind the stage. Never saw them again. Mark did some tv interviews at side stage, and I went to retrieve my van from the hotel parking deck. With my hand truck loaded up with damp gear, I rolled down past the tour bus where the party was rockin' apparently and popped everything into the van, ready to return to Durham, the family and general normalcy in the morning. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

From the Old Tapes - Where'd You Get That Thing - 1992

My bungalow was at the end of the drive on the right.
In 1992, I was living in a bungalow complex on Blix Street in North Hollywood CA. Located conveniently behind a Mexican restaurant with loud live bands on the weekends and a chop shop, it was an adorable little bohemian love pad, with a Tijuana-bought hammock strung between an olive and a magnolia tree and cheap beer in the fridge. 

Tascam 388 (not actual size)
In my tiny residence, I had a Tascam 388 set up, a bulky combination of 8-track reel-to-reel and mixer that took up considerable real estate in the tiny front room. But having it there, in proximity and at the ready for inspirational moments, I felt prompted to record all the time, any hour of the day or night (similar to those carefree days living in the practice space at the Music Building in mid-Manhattan in the decade before, but more on that in future posts). 

I had joined forces with the Continental Drifters who had a regular Tuesday night residency at Raji's on Hollywood Boulevard--they're a topic for posts to come, too. 

Susan and Peter
This brief tune is one I did with the gracious cooperation of my partner and Drifter bandmate at the time, Susan Cowsill. Susan is among the most versatile of vocalists ever to stalk the Earth, and she added her force-of-nature personality to the song. We laughed all the way through recording it. I think it was Susan who also came up with "why don't you give it to Ray" in the lyrics, referring to our fellow Drifter Ray Ganucheau, who may have never actually heard this heartfelt-if-vague miniature tribute.

It's the tip of a tiny iceberg, what with these ancient reels of tape transferred to digital awaiting reconsideration, and the first of several archival blasts to come. Hope you like it!

Where'd You Get That Thing - Peter Holsapple (with Susan Cowsill)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Revolution of the Mind - The dB's at Haw River Ballroom May 15, 2016

Photo by Rod Abernethy

On Sunday, The dB's took the stage at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw NC as part of Stand Against HB2 - North Carolina Musicians United for EqualityNC and QORDS. Because there were so many musicians participating, short sets were the order of the day. 

1. That Time Is Gone
2. Amplifier 
--going directly into
3. Before We Were Born
4. Big Brown Eyes
5. Love Is For Lovers
6. Happenstance 
--going directly into
7. Revolution of the Mind (with revised NC-centric lyrics)

It was the classic line-up of Chris Stamey, Gene Holder, Will Rigby and me, aided and abetted by Brett Harris. Gene flew in for the gig and returned to New Jersey later that day.

We were introduced by Senator Mike Woodard, Durham's state senator in the NC Legislature and a staunch opponent of House Bill 2. 
Photo by Diana C. Keever
Here's a picture from after the show of Will and me with Senator Woodard and his wife, Rev. Sarah Woodard.

I wasn't able to stay for the entire show, but I did get to hear:

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers - high energy country with great songs, and John Howie Jr. on drums (always a treat) and former dB's lead guitarist Eric Peterson.

Tres Chicas - a family favorite with gorgeous harmonies and general happiness radiating from the stage.

Skylar Gudasz - another friend with a glorious voice and songwriting chops whose Oleander album is in steady rotation around the house. 

John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff - stone country with that deep, DEEP vocal, and a surprise version of "When You Were Mine" by Prince.

I also got to join in with Jon Heames' Secret Surprise directly after our set, where I shared the mic with Howie, the Chicas, Chip Robinson, Robert Kirkland and a host of others, all singing "All You Need is Love" with the cats from Yeaux Cats providing the backing.

It was a fine and beautiful day, and a good time was had by all. Mike Allen, Heather LaGarde, Rod Abernethy, Phil Venable, Angie Santiago and everyone else put so much effort into making the day run smoothly and help this worthwhile effort to raise awareness of the injustices in HB2. The dB's were proud to participate.

Photo by Jelisa Castrodale

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Stand Against HB2 - North Carolina Musicians United For EqualityNC and QORDS - Haw River Ballroom May 15

Tomorrow's a big day for North Carolina musicians as we raise our voices against HB2 and in support of EqualityNC and QORDS at Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw. 100% of ticket sales will go to these important organizations to help their fight against this harmful and hateful law and their direct work with queer youth and music. 

Here is the vast list of performers and their approximate times. 

12:00 Opening Remarks
12:15 Brett Harris
12:40 Members of MIPSO
1:05 Johnny Folsom 4
1:30 Joe Newberry & Laurelyn Dossett
1:55 OG Merge
2:20 Jeffrey Dean Foster
2:45 Sarah Shook and the Disarmers
3:10 Tres Chicas
3:50 John Howie, Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff
4:20 The dB's
4:45 Jon Heames & His Secret Surprise
5:05 Yeaux Katz
5:30 The Love Language
5:55 Robert Kirkland & Rod Abernethy
6:30 Henbrain
6:55 Someone's Sister
7:25 shirlette ammons
7:50 The Backsliders
8:15 The Veldt
8:40 The Connells
9:05 Jon Lindsay
9:30 Southern Culture on the Skids

Please come and support this effort. Despite the show being sold out, there will be opportunities for people coming later in the day to purchase wristbands that have been turned in by attendees who are departing early.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Postcard from Carrboro - The Well Respected Men at The Station Friday May 6

The debut gig for the Well Respected Men was a lot of fun. My bandmates Jefferson Hart, Andrew Snee, Jody Maxwell and Glenn Jones did a remarkable job with the two sets of Kinks klassiks we took on. I think we all felt a certain degree of reverence toward the material, balanced with a youthful exuberance just getting to play these incredible songs that informed our own varied musical careers. Add in varying degrees of first-night jitters, and the energy at The Station was evident onstage. The crowd (and it was actually a crowd!) were singing along and cutting loose, which certainly bodes well for future gigs. We have shows in Winston-Salem and Chapel Hill during the next two months, so come dancing with us soon! 

Larry Tucker posted this on SoundCloud, if you'd care for a taste. Also, these photos are by Laura Hart.