Monday, April 2, 2012

Joe Krown Trio, Pittsburgh, PA

Joe Krown is a New Orleans fixture specializing in the stride style piano technique along with more recent adventures on the B3 organ. Joining Krown on this tour is Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Russell Batiste, Jr. recreating a trio that has been playing the Maple Leaf  Bar on Frenchman Street for the last few years.
This video clip from their show at the Thunderbird Cafe gives you an example of some excellent B3 organ playing in the Richard "Groove" Holmes tradition.

Before I checked out Joe Krown I stopped by the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy and saw some early evening jazz from The Curtis Johnson Quartet. Surprisingly, the Speakeasy was packed.  Perhaps Pittsburgh will be able to keep its jazz tradition alive after all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Joe Barth Jazz Band, Slippery Rock, PA

I have been off the music blogging trail for awhile but I thought Fat Tuesday deserved at least a little attention. I couldn't be in NOLA for Fat Tuesday so the best alternative I could find locally was at North Country Brewery in Slippery Rock, PA. I got there early to get a seat and eat some horrible gumbo (I should learn never to eat cajun food prepared in PA). The band on this night was the Joe Barth band and they did a nice job performing some Dixieland jazz. It wasn't NOLA but it was alright.

The Joe Barth band at North Country Brewery. 
By the way, would it kill them to buy some flats so the bands that play there are elevated a little bit.

The people of Slippery Rock did their best to dress up for Fat Tuesday.

Joe Harry and Mark Tarcy have a deep and meaningful discussion while drinking beer.

 The bar at North Country Brewing.

The excitement never ends on Fat Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Barnstormer 5 at Chaseland barn. New Wilmington, PA

       I guess it makes sense that the Barnstormer tour takes place in rural barns but it still seemed like an odd place for a concert to me. But as it turns out the Chaseland barn turned out to be the perfect venue for a great night of alternative rock/ alt country music. I was truly surprised by the quality of all the bands on the tour and the unique setting just added to the experience.

I missed the first band (Hacienda) to play but got there in time to catch most of Doug Paisley's set. Paisley is an alt-country singer from Toronto and this was his first night on the Barnstormer tour. Paisley has a warm voice and a folk/country sound that recalls fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot.

Princeton was a little too '80s for me with their multiple keyboard setup but I did like their dry ice effects although I initially thought the barn was on fire. Later in the night the lead singer got trashed and began screaming and yelling and running around the Chase pool until someone dumped him into it. Rock and Roll.

Wildfire was my favorite band of the night. Their raw power and vocal harmonizing reminded me of Arcade Fire. The lead singer did the whole show in some kind of medical boot because apparently he had broke his foot recently.  I had about a 30 minute chat with the band after the show. Like Doug Paisley they are from Toronto and were completely mystified about how people can bear to live in rural Pennsylvania.

I have a soft spot for White Rabbits since the band was initially formed in Columbia, Missouri although they are based out of Brooklyn now. I liked their sound although the plunky keyboard playing of the lead singer reminded me too much of  Coldplay.

Christopher Paul Stelling finished off the night with a strong acoustic set. His best moments were when he harmonized with his girlfriend (?) and her hippie hat. I enjoyed their take on this Hank Williams classic.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lyle Lovett, Stage AE, Pittsburgh PA

     On a whim I decided to check out my old friend Lyle Lovett at Stage AE in downtown Pittsburgh last Tuesday and was pleasantly surprised by both. I have been a fan of Lovett since his great album Pontiac and saw him about 8 years ago over in Station Square. Back in those days Lyle traveled with his "big" band which was composed of an entire horn section for his ventures into big band type jazz and rhythm and blues. These days he travels with his "large" band which is still quite extensive with multiple vocalists but no horn section. The sound wasn't quite as rich but the band still sounded great.
    This was my first trip to Stage AE, the new mid-sized venue in downtown Pittsburgh and for the most part, I found it to be a great venue. It was much smaller than I had imagined it (this show was set up outside, they can turn the stage around for indoor shows as well) but the stage was large and there were lots of of drink vendors and nearby bathrooms, always important. One complaint about the venue is that it bumps up against Heinz Field and you could literally hear the sound bouncing off the stadium and creating an echo effect. Lovett even commented on how annoying it was during the show. This probably isn't a big deal with heavy metal or rap acts but for music like Lovett's it created a distracting reverb sound. I got one not great video of Lovett and part of the band and I will include it because it is my favorite song of his: If I Had A Boat.

If I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat

If I were Roy Rogers
I'd sure enough be single
I couldn't bring myself to marrying old Dale
It'd just be me and Trigger
We'd go riding through them movies
Then we'd buy a boat and on the sea we'd sail

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Frenchman Street and the French Quarter, New Orleans, LA

This was my second trip to New Orleans in less than a year and as usual, it didn't disappoint. On this particular trip I tried to spend more time in the sophisticated Frenchman Street area of the Quarter because eminent music critic Colin McGuire of PopMatters and The Frederick News-Post fame met me to check out the musical scene. But as is my habit I wandered the whole Quarter and found some of the best music on the sidewalks but we also managed to see well known NOLA personalities like Kermit Ruffin and John Boutté.

This first video was taken on Frenchman Street outside of d.b.a.'s. It is an excellent clip featuring a street brass band of two generations. The man in the white shirt playing trumpet is the father of four of the boys playing although he informed us that they all have different mothers. It is a long clip but watch the whole thing as it gets better as it goes along.

This a clip of John Boutté of Treme fame at d.b.a's. He gave a great performance and was one of the highlights of the trip. He did sing the Treme theme song at the end of the show but the crowd was too thick by then to get a video.

Another street band--this time a drum corp. 

Okay, I included this video even though the visuals aren't very good because it features Kermit Ruffins playing at his home base Vaughn's. The video quality is bad because they have no stage lights in this place and it turns into a dark swamp after about an hour. We talked to Kermit for about 15 minutes before the show which was a thrill.

I included this clip because this is a good example of a Cajun band singing in their traditional French slang dialect.

A nice little jazz combo on Bourbon Street of all places.

Dwayne Dopsie and the Hellraisers are always fun to watch. This clip is interesting because it was taken in the middle of the Red Dress Run for charity which is why there are so many men in the bar in red dresses. In case you were wondering.

Nice funk band upstairs at The Blue Nile on Frenchman Street.

More Dixieland oriented jazz--again on Bourbon Street of all places.

This jazz combo was recorded in the early evening at The Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street. It was a nice club that I had never been to before.

As always I end most days at NOLA with a visit to the Bonoffs--a long time zydeco favorite of mine.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bob Dylan and Leon Russell, Nautica Pavilion, Cleveland Ohio

Bob Dylan  and his band perform at Nautica Pavilion on the West Flats of Cleveland.
      Bob Dylan and Leon Russell both gave great performances last Saturday on a hot and muggy night in Cleveland. The show took place at the Nautica Pavilion on the West Flats (I know it has some new corporate name attached to it but I long ago stopped trying to keep track of such things),  The first that I noticed is what a great facility Nautica is and how much more impressive it is visually and acoustically than any similar sized venue in Pittsburgh..  I dare to say it is even better than AE Stage which I have not been to yet. I assume this simply because AE Stage is  an example of the new "black box" style of mid-sized arenas--functional but uncomfortable. At least from an aesthetic point of view there can be no comparison.
   The night began with an energetic set by Leon Russell. After clearing out a few frogs in his voice his singing was up excellent and his band was obviously enjoying playing in a larger venue than they are probably accustomed to playing. As always Leon's piano playing was superior but the one unnerving thing about his performance was that for some reason he took off his sunglasses for the last few songs. I can't remember any picture taken in the last 30 years that actually showed Leon's eyes so it was an eerie experience (I was in the second row so I could see them clearly). He looked a little like a large hairy Yoda.
   After an efficient break down and set up Bob Dylan's band took the stage about 30 minutes after Russell finished. The first thing that was unique about this show was that the entire band was dressed in beige suits although  Dylan maintained the same look he has had for the last few years with his porkpie hat and dark suit. Amazingly, I recognized the first five songs Dylan played and I even understood a vast majority of the lyrics. Unlike the charging blues band sound of the last few time I have seen Dylan, this time the band seemed to be going for a rockabilly, almost country sound. This allowed Dylan to focus less on his crummy keyboard and guitar playing and more on his singing which was typically croaky but almost melodic in spots. The most interesting thing about Dylan's performance was that he seemed almost jauntily happy, dancing at the  keyboard and smiling through several of the songs. I have seen him  when  he seemed visibly annoyed at the proceedings but on this night, he obviously was enjoying the crowd and the band. At one point he and the entire band burst into  laughter at what I suspect was a blown conclusion  to one of the longer songs. All in all a great night for music and as always at a Dylan show, an intriguing and unique crowd to watch during lulls in the music. No videos this time. The intellectual property police were working overtime. They wouldn't even  let me text during the concert. I did manage to sneak the pirate photo you see above.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

U2, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA

Last night I had the opportunity to see the roving U2 extravaganza due to the benevolence of the ubiquitous Dr. Mark Chase. I was also accompanied on this journey by Dr. Joseph Harry and designated driver extraordinaire Jeremy Saylor. I don't have much to say about the show other than it was a competent arena rock show with the requisite flashing lights, giant TV screens, and pompous posturing. I have to say I have gotten spoiled over the last few years because most of the shows I see are in smaller venues so watching a concert on giant TV screens leaves me a little cold. Below is a brief clip of the concert that will at least give you an idea of their immense stage set up for the show.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ft. Myers Beach, Florida

Ft. Myers Beach at sunset.
I recently took a quick trip to Florida and spent most of my time on Sanibel Island. Sanibel Island is a pleasant place but not terribly exciting so I did manage to make a side-trip to Ft. Myers Beach on my last night in Florida. Ft. Myers Beach has a nice assortment of beach bars and I enjoyed walking the "Times Square" area bar-hopping and people-watching. All of the bars I went into had some form of music although most of the places featured one-man band set ups, not full bands. I did find two clubs that featured full bands and I a brief video of each of the bands. The first band was in a nice outside venue called Top O' The Mast.  I thought the  band had a nice contemporary sound although they did some classic rock as well. They had a very dedicated female fan club as well.

The second band video was, I believe, taken at The Beached Whale although I admit things were getting a bit fuzzy at this point. As you can see in the video everyone was having a good time at this point in the evening.

All in all I enjoyed my visit to Ft. Myers Beach and next time I'm in Western Florida I'll spend more time checking out the local clubs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Sauce Boss, Quaker Steak and Lube, Sharon, PA

The Sauce Boss (Bill Wharton) returned to Sharon, PA last Monday night to provide his usual mix of music, hucksterism and gumbo. I've seen Wharton four or five times over the last few years and his schtick is always the same. He plays a little blues, works the audience into a fever with some rants while simultaneously cooking a big pot of gumbo for the audience to eat at the end of the show. Monday night's show was interesting because the crowd was relatively small and not very interested in participating or dancing. Wharton even exclaimed at some point that this must be a "listening" crowd and perhaps the bikers and  party people were waiting for his appearance Wednesday night at a Biker and BBQ event at this same venue.  In any event, Wharton put up a good fight and provided some entertaining moments as always. The clip below is of a particularly good guitar solo of Wharton 's. I include it because with all the rants and comedy bits it is easy to forget he is a pretty good blues guitarist.

This next clip is more typical of Wharton's act. He is behind the bar giving a rant about relations between men and women while drumming a couple of beer bottles into a state of excitement. You'll see what I mean. I didn't include any clips of Wharton singing because frankly, that is the weakest part of his performance. By the way, his gumbo isn't that great either. To be fair, you can't cook a great gumbo in three hours so it is pretty good for the time he has available. I wish he would start cooking the gumbo in the afternoon and let the crowd eat it during the show but I guess that would disrupt the structure of his act. Oh well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

St. Louis, St. Joseph, Kansas City, MO

Last week I went on a road-trip to visit the city of my birth St. Joseph, Missouri. On the way I stopped in St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City and found a few musical experiences. There are actually three excellent music clubs across the street from the baseball stadium in St. Louis. My main goal was to see Kim Massie at Beale on Broadway but typical of my luck, the club picked this night to close unexpectedly (I assume because it was the night after the 4th of July). Instead I checked out the club across the street called BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups and saw a great blues band fronted by Miz Shay. She is a superior blues belter and does a great version of Let The Good Times Roll on this video clip.

I then ventured to the Broadway Oyster Bar across the street. They had a fill-in band there and I didn't catch their name but they are what I would call a Missouri hillbilly band. They were great instrumentalists and put on a nice demonstration of this genre of music.

A statue to Coleman Hawkins.
Later in the week I was staying in downtown St. Joseph when I discovered that the town sponsors musical concerts in the Coleman Hawkins Park in the center of town (this despite the fact that the town is rotting around this little oasis).According to our good friends at Wikipedia Coleman Randolph Hawkins (November 21, 1904 – May 19, 1969) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist born in St. Joseph.  Hawkins was one of the first prominent jazz musicians on his instrument. As Joachim E. Berendt explained, "there were some tenor players before him, but the instrument was not an acknowledged jazz horn". While Hawkins is most strongly associated with the swing music and big band era, he had a role in the development of bebop in the 1940s Phil Vandel was the act on this night and he proved to be a competent country-rock band and the crowd seemed to enjoy him. Sorry, I forgot my flip cam so I took this video on my phone.

Tiffany Miller
After St. Joseph I moved on to Kansas City and found myself in a piano bar. Tiffany Miller was the official talent this evening although she had several guest pianists guesting during her show. Tiffany is not a great pianist or singer but she knows her job as an entertainer and worked the crowd effectively. The club was dark as tar so none of my videos or photos were of an acceptable quality so I stole a photo of Tiffany from her website. Let's hope she doesn't sue me.