Archive for September, 2012

boomslang 4

Saraya Brewer had two objectives in mind when the third annual Boomslang festival rolled around last year

The first was to delegate. Having overseen the weekend long celebration of indie and underground music since its inception, she wanted to farm out more of the organizational responsibilities for Boomslang No. 4. The second objective was to plan her wedding. But getting that in order pretty much meant making double sure Boomslang was in capable hands, as her nuptials follow this year’s festival by only two weeks.

“It’s just the way that the planning worked out,” Brewer said. “I kind of have the feeling that everything could implode at any minute. But so far, the stress has been really minimal.”

Brewer added that the operational word for the execution of this year’s Boomslang has been “smooth.” The event, which begins tonight and concludes  with a Sunday evening headline concert at Buster’s by the Scottish alt-rock brigade The Jesus and Mary Chain, will utilize nearly a dozen different Lexington venues. That sense of community reach has become standard operating procedure for Boomslang. But the participatory role of student staffers and volunteers at WRFL-FM, Boomslang’s primary sponsor, has steadily increased. This year, they have been involved in every facet of the festival’s organization – from booking concerts to formatting events to securing performance spaces. Their visibility and duties will only increase as the festival hits full speed this weekend.

“There has been a really big movement in getting the UK students involved,” Brewer said. “WRFL’s student directors now have Boomslang duties incorporated into their official responsibilities as employees of the University of Kentucky. Part of their job at WRFL has been to actually take on certain aspects of Boomslang. I think it’s a really valuable experience for any student to be involved in an event like this, to get professional experience at running a festival of this caliber.”

For Margot Wielgus, a graduate student in philosophy at UK who currently serves as general manager for WRFL, work on this year’s Boomslang began soon after last year’s festival  concluded.

“The booking committee began work at the end of last year,” she said. “It started simply as a matter of asking the general staff who they would want to see at Boomslang and then contacting agents and bands to find who was available. That went on through the summer. We confirmed all of the acts around the middle of the summer. So that was quite a process.”

It was a process, Brewer admitted, that didn’t look nearly as smooth at the beginning of the summer as it does now, with Boomslang 4 about to begin.

“I’m really, really proud of the whole festival and really excited about how this year is turning out,” Brewer said. “I will admit, though, there was a time about four months ago where we didn’t have these headliners locked in and weren’t sure how things were going to turn out or if we were going to be able to secure the acts that we were hoping to get. But once it all unfolded, all of us got really, really excited. We’ve probably received the best and most enthusiastic response from the community that we ever have.”

Some acts, like The Jesus and Mary Chain, were difficult to confirm for the festival. But others were already familiar with Boomslang and approached WRFL about performing. A case in point was the veteran West Coast experimental band Negativland, whose music has varied from pop-esque compositions to improvisational sound and noise sculptures performed in art galleries. Formed in 1979, Negativland seldom tours anymore. But co-founder Mark Hosler wanted to make Boomslang one of the group’s few concert stops this fall.

“Mark did a presentation the first year of Boomslang where he talked about his work,” Brewer said. “It was really well attended. We were surprised at how much of his cult following packed out Natasha’s for it. So he approached us out of the blue this year to see if we might be interested in a full blown Negativland show.

“This is a band that really works under the radar. They don’t go through an agent. But Mark approached us because he loved playing here before.”

“The festival is able to bring some really excellent musical artists to Lexington,” Wielgus said. “And this is a very special thing because sometimes these acts are only on tour around the area. But this is a really good way to concentrate all of that musical energy right here. Personally, I’m really excited about the diversity of all the different music we’re having. Hopefully, there will be something for everyone there.”

Boomslang runs from Sept. 20-23 at various downtown locations. Weekend passes are $40 (students) and $70 (public). Admission to specific performances varies. Call (859) 257-4636 or go to http://boomslangfest.com.

critic’s picks 246

Though they might initially seem to have sprouted from different family trees, there is an unmistakable cultural linkage bonding Patterson Hood and ZZ Top on their new albums. Their songs cut deep into the restless, rural South, converging into sounds fresh and familiar.

Hood’s Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance is set in Northern Alabama, an area slightly removed from of the Muscle Shoals region Hood usually works out of as co-founder of Drive-By Truckers. But on this stark, narrative heavy record, Hood tones down the DBT guitar attack to balance brittle songs of family with the usual lot of dark Southern parables.

The title tune sets the pace with a string-accented eulogy for a passing family elder and a cherished homestead in steady decay. “But the ghosts are a comfort to me,” Hood sings wistfully while seeking solace.

Other departures include (untold pretties), a spoken word montage where gray days and family funerals color another postscript to the past, and Come Back Little Star, a piano-led, Jayhawks-like duet with Kelly Hogan that internalizes the funeral feel somewhat.

And for those missing that truly dark Truckers mood, there is 12:01, a novel view of Southern socializing set during the few wee hours where liquor sales are permitted. Like several of the songs on Heat Lightning, the characters portrayed live off the main roads and, more often than not, out of broad daylight.

ZZ Top’s La Futura takes us deep into the nowhere of Texas, striding bordertown kitsch, ragged boogie and a sense of the blues that is regal but ghostly. It’s no wonder that Billy Gibson sounds like the boogeyman incarnate as he croaks out the first verse of the album-opening I Gotsta Get Paid over a guitar groove that sounds like its has been slow-baked in the desert sun.

The band’s first album in nine years, La Futura is also the trio’s first collaboration with producer Rick Rubin. But those details add up to nothing in determining the parched and rocking roads the album travels along. Unlike other late career comebacks overseen by Rubin, there is no revisionism at work here. In fact, La Futura is really an assemblage of parts Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard have pulled from their collective past.

Chartreuse and Consumption both recall the boogie charge of Tush while Big Shiny Nine so vividly conjures the hook-heavy Gimme All Your Lovin’ (minus the synths) that you would swear that old Eliminator from the MTV videos of yore was tearing down the two-lane in our direction. That’s the ZZ Top vision in a nutshell – a portrait of the future rooted forever in the past.

the amazing skerik

sherik’s bandalabra: drummer dvonne lewis, bassist evan flory-barnes, saxophonist skerik and guitarist andy coe.

It doesn’t exactly require masterful detective work to uncover the fondness saxophonist Skerik has for collaborations.

Take a look at the list of musical projects he has been a part of in the past – or, more to the point, scan his upcoming touring schedule for the different ensembles he will be performing with just within the period of a few months. In both instances, you will discover a musical spirit that thrives on teamwork.

The sound at hand could be the punk-flavored funk of The Dead Kenny G’s, jazzier collaborations with progressive instrumentalists like drummer Bobby Previte, guitarist Charlie Hunter or organist Wayne Horvitz or full rock/funk band situations with Garage-a-Trois and Critters Buggin. Regardless of the situation or musical environment, the Seattle saxophonist feels most at home when a band is about.

“I’ve never been into the whole solo career thing” Skerik said. “I like collaborating with people. Groups just have this wholeness that is more powerful than any individual. Sometimes a group will use my name just so it will help people recognize something about the music. Sometimes record labels or tours will use my name. But it doesn’t mean the project or the music I’m working on is mine in any sort of possessive sense. Everyone involved is usually writing the music together.”

Born Eric Walton, the artist now know as Skerik grew up in Seattle but spent much of the ‘80s globetrotting. While living in London, he was introduced to a variety of African music – including the sounds of Zaire and South Africa along with Congolese music. In ensuing years, he would go on to collaborate with composers from rock, jazz and funk fields. His many co-horts have included Galactic drummer Stanton Moore, New Orleans percussionist Mike Dillon, R.E.M. guitarists Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey and bass pioneer Les Claypool.

“Everything within a group is about different needs and different wants,” Skerik said. “It’s like they all have a different diet.”

But some of the African inspirations that came the saxophonist’s way decades ago are resurfacing on one of his current band projects, Skerik’s Bandalabra. The quartet, comprised exclusively of Seattle musicians, isn’t a world music ensemble. But fascination with both American and African grooves are at the heart of the group’s indie-released debut album, Live at the Royal Room.

Tunes like Freeborn and especially Simulacrum possess a bright, boppish tone that wouldn’t sound out of place on the ‘70s and ‘80s records of jazz giant Sonny Rollins. But on Beat Crusher and Charlie Don’t Like It, the sax locks into loop-like punctuation behind bass, drums and chattering guitar for a freer, funkier vibe that recalls vintage Afrobeat music from the ‘70s.

“That influence is there, for sure” Skerik said. “It’s always there. But I didn’t really study Afrobeat, in particular. There are a lot of other things in there that I’ve had more experience with like Congolese music. They are a lot more complex and a lot more difficult to learn. Not that I’ve learned to play it as well as I would like to, but I’ve spent more time with this stuff than specifically Afrobeat.”

But given that much of Skerik’s recent Lexington exposure has come through appearances with The Dead Kenny G’s, where the music was fueled by an almost brutal intensity and well as an arsenal of effects that affixed layers of distortion to his playing, the more organic grooves of Bandalabra might seem like the product of a different stylistic universe. Such genre jumping was one of the key reasons in starting the band in the first place.

“It got to where I was playing more in bands with a bunch of concepts and songs where everything was being arranged,” Skerik said. “These were more rock kinds of things, so I wanted to do something that was more funky and danceable. I loved (Afro Beat legend) Fela, different kinds of African music. But I also loved (veteran American soul stylists and James Brown alumni) Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis. So it’s fun to have something where you can do all of that music, too.

“All these projects can’t help but influence each other. It’s like ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’ right? So if you have some amount of one thing, it might be wanting something of another to create balance. For me, it’s always good to have a little bit of everything.”

Skerik’s Bandalabra performs at 10 tonight at Cosmic Charlies, 388 Woodland Ave. Admission is $10. Call (859) 309-9499 or go to www.cosmic-charlies.com.

in performance: california guitar trio

california guitar trio: hideyo moriya, paul richards, bert lams.

Half the fun of a concert by the California Guitar Trio comes from scanning the reactions of patrons witnessing the group for the first time. Last night’s convocation performance at Berea College’s Phelps Stokes Auditorium was full of rookie fans – students, primarily – and their enthusiasm magnified the already hearty sense of stylistic thrillseeking that distinguishes the CGT’s best music.

Don’t get us wrong. Guitarists Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya still ran the show with extraordinary technical command that was balanced by a thoroughly unassuming stage demeanor. Such a blend made the performance’s most daring and varied feats – including a Bach prelude played with a circulation technique, a dizzying, clap-a-long take on the surf classic Misirlou and a joyride of fuzzy, rockish guitar play that detoured into country cantina music during the CGT’s own Train to Lamy Suite – sound like parts of a singular language that served very much as a native tongue for the players.

Surf next to psychedelia? Classical next to Spaghetti Western themes? Pink Floyd next to Bach? You mean a guitar performance isn’t supposed to be like that?

The crowd almost seemed to think as much at first as it attentively but quietly greeted cyclical passages that recalled one of the CGT’s earliest influences, British guitarist Robert Fripp, during the show-opening original Yamanashi Blues. But Moriya’s assertive surf lead on Walk Don’t Run, Richards’ graceful slide work during Sleepwalk and Lams’ classical command of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor collectively seemed to open up the audience up to the trio’s almost giddy sense of genre jumping.

Perhaps the most obvious common ground shared by audience and artist materialized during the Queen classic Bohemian Rhapsody. The trio’s very faithful treatment of the tune has been part of its repertoire for well over a decade. And usually the inevitable (and encouraged) audience sing-a-long that ensues is measured by the level of alcohol consumed. Last night’s crowd reaction, though, was booze-free and beautifully pure. The student populace, which obviously embraced the 37 year old song as if it were a current radio hit, sang, cheered, laughed and broke into applause as the music hit its familiar mock-operatic crescendo. It was quite a moment.

What do you do to top that? Why, you send your crowd home with an encore of Happy Trails, performed as a warm and cordial coda for a performance that affectionately shattered stylistic expectations of what acoustic guitar concerts can and should approximate.

in performance: robert earl keen

robert earl keen

Spend some time with the music of Robert Earl Keen and you will likely feel you are on the road. His songs continually deal with travel – with journeys real, imaginary and purely metaphorical as well as inner flights that serve as confessionals for what Van Morrison once called “a soul in wander.”

That may make the veteran Texas songsmith’s performance last night at Frankfort’s Grand Theatre sound like a somewhat heady affair. And maybe in some ways, it was. While the 90 minute set made expert use of the touring band Keen has had by his side for close to 15 years – a unit that employs Lone Star roadhouse and honky tonk charm as its native tongue, Keen sometimes veered merrily off the Texas plains. That meant some songs traveled the dusty two-lane terrain of his homeland while others tunes sailed straight into the Twilight Zone or, better set, into one’s own psyche.

Expected road tunes like The Road Goes On Forever, Amarillo Highway and a spry cover of Todd Snider’s Play a Train Song were fun and literal travelogues that blended Keen’s bright, conversational singing and his band’s Texas country command. While the music itself wasn’t unduly humorous, Keen’s between-song banter was. For instance, he remarked about renaming one of his more sobering classics, Corpus Christi Bay, as The Ballad of Randy Travis.

Then came the wonderful moments where Keen’s road songs ran right off the map. Farm Fresh Onions, for starters, was a delightfully oddball bit of barnyard zen delivered with pumped up vocal gusto. But even that paled next to The Great Hank, a sort of existentialist parable of baseball and Hank Williams (in drag, no less) that winds up with the protagonist riding off into the sunset not on a horse but with a waitress in a VW bus. Oh yes, and the only Nirvana they reach are the outskirts of Philadelphia.

As with all great songwriters, Keen is perhaps at his best when his songs turn dark. The arguable high point in a performance filled with delights was Not a Drop of Rain, a stark and powerfully despondent reflection where the journey stops cold. But Keen’s delivery expressed the song’s sense of abandonment with an almost conversational sense of grace.

Keen left on a lighter note by closing the show with a cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s Live Forever that was performed, alongside his full band, without any amplification. It served as the last stop of a journey that traveled backroads and spaceways before coming to rest in land of pure affirmation.

critic’s pick 245

“Hear me holler, hear me moan,” wheezes Bob Dylan near the half way point of Tempest, his 35th studio album in a 50 year recording career “I pay in blood, but not my own.”

And, just as the movies have already informed us, there will be blood. Nearly all of Tempest’s 10 songs are consumed with death, from the submerged victims of the Titanic that take their deadly plunge over the course of 14 chorus-less minutes in the title song to the shark-skin suits circling for the kill over a Muddy Waters blues stomp in Early Roman Kings.

Of course, how Dylan frames the portraits in this Rogue’s Gallery is what makes Tempest so dazzling. As usual, there is nothing at all chic about a Dylan album. While noticeably more streamlined than 2009’s Together Through Life, there is something fittingly ghostly about the musical temperament of Tempest. There exists a parlor style elegance at times that recalls the more folkish avenues of 2006’s Modern Times. But it’s all askew. For instance, on the album opening Duquesne Whistle, a sunny, minstrel melody greets us as though it is being cranked up on some antique gramophone. But the melody is wobbly and woozy. Then it snuffs itself out so a more rugged roots-rock groove can ascend.

There are nods to musical tradition throughout the album. Scarlet Town presents a link to mountain music murder ballads (a curious choice, as the lyrics reference Quaker poetry). There is the aforementioned juke joint fray that all but slaps us in the face during Early Roman Kings. We even get to follow the bouncing musical ball once Soon After Midnight briefly lifts its cloak to reference a melody that sounds, for all the world, like the pop classic Sleepwalk.

Perhaps the most bewildering dance of death of all is Tempest’s title tune, where the toll of the Titanic is recounted over a jagged Irish fiddle melody. And it goes on – verse after sustained verse (over 40, in fact) without a single chorus or refrain. It’s like Highlands, the ambient epic that closed 1997’s career re-defining Time Out of Mind, reinvented as a violent sea chanty.

“They waited at the landing and they tried to understand,” croaks Dylan at the song’s conclusion as onlookers hope to make sense of a disaster that took 1,600 lives. “But there is no understanding for the judgment of God’s hand.”

It’s kind of ironic when you think about it. Here is Dylan singing about death and the dead – about real blood on the tracks, if you will – while his own career plows on. The half century mark now behind him, his records still have the power to enchant, fascinate and confound. That’s Hurricane Bob, for you.

in performance: peter brotzmann and jason adasiewicz

jason adasiewicz.

In the midst of a performance last night at the Embrace Church on North Limestone that was playful in the most unobvious sense of the word, Peter Brotzmann and Jason Adasiewicz performed like they had set up shop in the eye of a hurricane.

The moment at hand – which fell deep into the third of four extended, untitled improvisations – had Brotzmann, the veteran German avant garde pioneer, conjuring a hushed, husky moan on clarinet while Adasiewicz, an acclaimed new generation artist from a fruitful Chicago free jazz community – followed with bell-like colors on vibraphone. The music was like a dark lullaby, a momentary glimpse of solace in an evening of often stormy music. But it was a wonderfully uneasy calm because you knew at any moment that serenity was going to be punctured.

As so it went for an astonishing 70 minutes with this cross-generational duo exhibiting brute force physicality within lengthy, improvised torrents of sound that occasionally (but briefly) recoiled so fragments of melody and harmony could cut through the clouds.

peter brotzmann.

Lexington has come to expect such a performance tempest from Brotzmann. His acclaimed Chicago Tentet initiated the Outside the Spotlight Series 10 years ago this summer, and he has returned numerous times in duo and small combo configurations since then. True to form, he brought the music last night to a slow, uneasy boil on alto and tenor saxophone and clarinet. But when he took to the Hungarian-bred reed instrument known as the tarogato, you heard very loud and very clear the full force of his instrumental might. At the onset of the evening’s second improvisational piece, Brotzman blasted forth an introduction empowered by wake-the-dead level intensity.

Sometimes he rifled off a steady repetition of notes with machine gun intensity. In other instances, especially on tenor, his playing came in waves – jagged and confrontational one minute, contemplative and plotting the next. That OTS continues to offers live glimpses of Brotzmann’s tonal dynamics to Lexington audiences remains one of the series’ great triumphs.

Adasiewicz, in some ways, seemed an unlikely foil. After all, one might suppose an artist would have to work heartily to make the vibes sound even remotely dissonant. Not surprisingly, the instrument’s inherent sonic beauty held its own with Brotzmann’s rambunctious playing on alto early in the performance, making the evening’s first improv a curiously harmonic blend of the cool and the coarse.

But Adasiewicz proved a wildly physical and industrious player. At times, he would rear back so far with his body prior to attacking the vibes that it almost seemed like he would, literally, lose his footing. But with all the jackhammering his instrument endured, Adasiewicz created some extraordinary sounds, from the liberal use of foot pedals that created a reverb-like echo to stretches where he played the vibes not with mallets, but with bows, creating an ambience that sounded like it came from the cosmos.

But for all the thrillseeking, the performance sailed back to solid ground with almost pastoral like dialogue. It was a concentrated but calming finale that landed these two jazz renegades back in the eye of the storm.  

a jazz duo for the ages

peter brotzmann.

It was not the sort of a company one would expect a cross-generational jazz duo to keep.

In his list of the finest concert events of 2011, New York Times music critic Nate Chinen placed alongside performances by such marquee pop names as Radiohead, Paul Simon, My Morning Jacket and Beyonce, a completely improvised June performance by vanguard German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann and Chicago vibraphone innovator Jason Adasiewicz.

“Beginning in anxious clangor – alto saxophone blare, wood mallets jack-hammered sideways along metal bars – their duologue gradually softened and ripened, occasionally flirting with outright beauty,” wrote Chinen in a separate review published just after the festival.

Those kinds of accolades suggest Brotzmann and Adasiewicz are longtime performance mates. But their joint concert,  part of the acclaimed cutting edge jazz summit known as the Vision Festival (which is being released this fall as a limited edition recording titled Going All Fancy), was their first onstage meeting.

“That really is kind of weird,” Adasiewicz said by phone from Chicago. “But someone’s got to be on the list. There’s got to be a wildcard.”

Separately, the players represent two generations and two varied approaches to what many view as underground jazz. Brotzmann, 71, is a sometimes volcanic improviser that has been a champion of the European avant garde for over 45 years. Adasiewicz, 34, who often relies more on composition, has become one of the most critically acclaimed young players to emerge in recent years in Chicago, a city known for its creatively fertile jazz community.

Brotzmann knows the city well. He has regularly collaborated with some of its foremost players in ensembles like the mammoth Chicago Tentet. That ensemble initiated Lexington’s long-running Outside the Spotlight Series a decade ago. Since then, nearly all of the group’s members have performed here in separate shows by smaller spinoff groups. Among them: saxophonists Ken Vandermark, Joe McPhee and Mats Gustafsson, trombonist Jeb Bishop, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummers Paal Nilssen-Love and Michael Zerang.

While Brotzmann credits the Tentet for a new generational awareness of improvised music, smaller duo presentations like Monday’s OTS/WRFL-FM sponsored concert with Adasiewicz at the Embrace Church address more immediate logistical and economical concerns.

“The duo configuration follows the economics in your country,” Brotzmann said by phone from Berlin. “For this music, there is not very much money around. So if you want to travel in your country and want to play, you can’t do it with a big band or even a quartet. It’s difficult. So that is one reason for the duo concerts. But the other reason is a music reason.

“Not so long ago, I met Jason in Chicago, of course, where he was playing with a quite nice quartet. I liked him very much, the way he treated the instrument. It’s not one of my favorites, but I liked the way he played it. I liked the way he was really torturing this instrument. He really has a good understanding for rhythm.”

Curiously, Brotzmann wasn’t fully on Adasiewicz’s radar until relatively recently. He came across his music working at Chicago’s famed indie record store, the Jazz Record Mart, and then became fully fascinated with Brotzmann’s playing after witnessing one of his performances.

“I didn’t really know who Peter was until I was 24 or something,” Adasiewicz said. “So I can’t say that he influenced me when I was young. Seeing him play was what really blew me away. That’s what made me realize what this man has accomplished.

“I mean, Peter is a master. There is a love, admiration and respect you show to your elders. I’m still a kid, you know? To be onstage with somebody with that much energy   is incredible. My instrument and my approach come from energy. There is a lot of movement in it. It becomes very physical. It’s like playing a basketball game or running a marathon. To feed off that energy just increases my energy. I suppose I can say that about everybody that I play with. But to share a concert with Peter is just fantastic.”

Brotzmann said he finds a similar spark working with younger players, but doesn’t dwell overly on age or even generational differences.

“I must say I don’t look at it in this kind of sense. But I’m always curious to find what drives younger and older people. For example, one of the pleasures of my life was to play with (Chicago drummer) Walter Perkins, the old bebop player (they released a duo album of their own, The Ink is Gone, in 2003). But in the short time I had the chance to know him, I learned so much. So it’s always giving and taking. And I learn a lot from a guy like Jason as a human being and in the way he is playing this very difficult and dangerous instrument.”

Brotzmann also brushed aside any concern one might suspect he would have for undertaking an entire tour with a young musician he has only performed with twice.

“This will be our first real playing together, that’s true. But I am very confident. I think I have a good nose for this kind of thing.”

Peter Brotzmann and Jason Adasiewicz perform at 8 tonight at Embrace Church, 1015 N. Limestone. Admisson is free.

in performance: chuck mead and his grassy knoll boys

chuck mead

“This is like playing in the family room,” remarked Chuck Mead before a mere handful of patrons last night at Cosmic Charlie’s.

It wasn’t a disparaging remark, even though competition offered by the season’s first University of Kentucky home football game and Harrodsburg’s Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival undoubtedly contributed to this modest Saturday night turnout. But there was accuracy in Meade’s comment, too. When playing in one’s family room, a looseness and intimacy can’t help but develop. Add to that the encyclopedic command Mead still maintains in all things relating to country roots music (a trait prevalent since his radio days with the retro-minded BR5-49) and the effortlessly authoritative playing of his Grassy Knoll Boys, and such intimacy became very inviting.

Mead spent the better portion of the 90 minute set shifting between a jukebox-sized arsenal of country covers and fine original tunes so traditionally minded that the differences between the two were often indistinguishable.

A forgotten BR5-49 gem like She’s Talking to Someone (She Ain’t Talking to Me), for example, worked off a light, but very convincing shuffle propelled by Mead’s animated vocals, the spare percussive drive of drummer Martin Lynds (whose kit consisted only of a snare and hi-hat), the wildly complimentary color of pedal steel guitarist/electric mandolinist Carco Clave and the rubbery acoustic bass pops of Mark Miller.

All four, in fact, played in a straight line at the lip of the stage for the entire show, as if to enforce the kind of solidarity that allows this music to thrive.

Still, the bulk of the performance relied on covers, from the twang savvy reading of the 1961 Marty Robbins hit Don’t Worry to the instrumental encore of Apache that discreetly borrowed from surf rhythms to augment Clave’s ultra-tasteful leads.

As all of Mead’s new album, the fine Back to the Quonset Hut, is devoted to restorations of country staples, even the show’s “newer” songs were postscripts to the past. There were some beauts in there, too – like a swing-seasoned version of the Red Foley favorite Tennessee Border and a solemn take on the sterling Johnny Paycheck weeper Apartment #9. It all made for quite the party, even if most of the family was absent from the family room.

in performance: the dirty dozen brass band/ little feat

little feat: gabe ford, kenny gradney, fred tackett, paul barrere, sam clayton and bill payne.

A late summer evening laden with the clear, cool suggestion of autumn at Cincinnati’s PNC Pavilion was the backdrop for a mini-festival of blues and Americana-reared rock and soul. Because The Musical Box was determined to make it back to Lexington in time for Chuck Mead’s concert at Cosmic Charlie’s, we only caught two of the event’s three headline acts. Apologies to Delbert McClinton, who was preparing to take the stage as we left. We will catch you next time.

The sunshine was still plentiful as New Orleans’s Dirty Dozen Brass Band took the stage. As usual, the band created a spirited party mix out of brassy grooves, the occasional homage to vintage soul and even a few contemporary trappings like electric keyboards and wah-wah like effects for, of all things, sousaphone. Typical of the blend’s grander sweep was Tomorrow, a fun, revivialistic mash-up of soul, funk and gospel.

dirty dozen brass band

Utilizing a front line of two trumpeters (Efrem Towns and Gregory Davis) and double saxophonists (Roger Lewis and Kevin Harris), the Dirty Dozen also made its most well worn concert staples – including Charlie Dozen, My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now and even When the Saints Go Marching In – sound fit, fresh and suitably summery.

Little Feat, the evening’s obvious crowd favorite, followed with a 90 minute set still ripe with the kind of textured grooves and blues-jazz instinct that has distinguished it music for 40 years.

There were lots of expected joys – like an extended version of Dixie Chicken full of obligatory solos and a sing-a-long stoners folk medley of Willin’ and Don’t Bogart That Joint. But the less anticipated moments won out, like the new Fred Tackett tune One Breath at a Time that plugged the Feat’s two guitarists (Tackett and Paul Barrere) into a fearsome groove underscored by blasts of second line-style percussion from drummer Gabe Ford.

The ghost of Lowell George still plays a dominate role in today’s Little Feat, however. Two of the performance’s key moments centered around his songs. Percussionist Sam Clayton took the wheel on Spanish Moon while Barrere handled the vocal chores during Fat Man in the Bathtub. Neither matched George’s wily gusto and ingenuity when it came to singing, but the band as a whole simply exploded when taking on the music’s masterful, funkified jams. That’s when the years melted away and the smiles on the faces of Feat and audience members alike really began to beam.

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