Marcia Ball ~ Iron Horse ~ Sat, 20 Feb 16

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As soon as I walked into the ‘Horse tonight, I thought I’d caught a split whiff of Texas and Louisiana- like, a wisp of dry in the vocal, and a whole lotta swampy depth to the music.  It’s full and thick, even in its straightforward substance and delivery; the foundation of Texas Blues is constantly complimented and compounded by the thick, rich, almost ‘gooey’ (musically speaking, of course) layers of New Orleans Boogie-Woogie.  This is the stuff that marches on irrepressibly through the decades and centuries, after the saints have all marched out.  It is new and yet clearly sprung from tradition.  The next thought to cross my mind, or the next flavor across my palette, was one not very familiar to me: Professor Longhair- no, really!  Imagine my surprise when I launched a quick web-net research mission and found the ol’ guy mentioned as this lady’s first big influence.

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Maria Ball is an entirely new name to me.  This is a testament to my own limited awareness only; upon first mention of her name, pretty much everybody was enthusiastic in their response and excited for me to have this chance to catch her show  The lady, or “her tallness,” has a good dozen-and-half albums in her catalog, starting a solo career in the late seventies, after one earlier album under her belt with a band, and recording fairly regularly for Rounder and then Alligator Records.

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This is high-energy “swamp rock” for sure; the band plays with enthusiasm bursting from their constant grins, all very tight and good-time r&b- rocking.  The band leader conveys all the same energy and then some, even as she stays seated at her modern-day, honky-tonk piano, leading the troupe through their paces to the unanimous and vociferous delight of the packed house.  Her l8ng-time bassist, it turns out, is recuperation from medical stuff while fellow Austinian Sarah Brown lays it down for this run.  Stalwart Guitarist Mike Shermer, a recording artist in his own right, shows no lack of chops, skills, tones and dexterity as he delivers a demstration of just how versatile -and powerful- the Telecaster can be.  Drummer Damien Llanes looks to be a bit younger than the others; go8d thing, too, if he’s gonna keep up with them elder folk.  And a chat with the sax-man, Eric Bernhardt, proves him to be as nice a guy, intelligent and soft-spoken, as ya might hope one o’ them creative types would be, and with the refreshing strain of ‘genteel-ity’ that often comes with the package of a midwestern fellow supplanted down to delta country. 

My host for the evening, a professional old-school Hammond-&-Leslie player with roots deep in the blues, had hissef a nice, long shop-and-trade talk with the tall, thin, fairly-young-ster.  And it is just that fellow, Bob Toriani, who I absolutely must thank for his hospitality this evening (and in general, really)- most emphatically and ebulliently, thanks to Mr. O’T!!!

Sax Eric Bernahardt
Drm Damien Llanes
Gtr Mike Shermer
Bas Sarah Brown
   [Don Bennett]

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

Marchia Gamache ~ Steppin’ Up

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Marcia Gamache has a band nowadays…  Daryl on bass, right back at his ol’ turf at Patti’s 410, where he used to hang with the house band…  in fact, Ken and Phyllis, or Special K, are over at PACC tonight (right down the road- next stop?)…  We gots a regular drummer too- Bryant Galloway, lookin’ like one o’ them cool-as-a-cucumber types in his jaunty cap.  And the fourth slot here is filled with the key clue that this is indeed a blues-based outfit: no keys, please, we got us a harp player: PJ Kane; and he seems to have a ‘feel,’ an intuitive sense of when, how much, and how loud to put-in his in-put.

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Marcia’s been bangin’ around the scene, establishing herself as good people and worthy of respect; now she’s getting herself going with a regular band- I reckon we’ll pay ‘tention here.  Comparisons with have to be endured, to Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi for starters, but what we have here is an idividual with the good-natured patience to travel her own path regardless of such hubbub, and a sweet and strong vouce to carry her through.  And her chops?  Even now- like, right at this moment, as I look for a nice way to wrap this up- she rips out some riffs on a rolling blues, a 50’s-ish soc-hop kinda number, and the licks are sweet and stinging, with a sound and an ease that seems to surpass the comfort level she shows on some other numbers.  It seems like this is a song she knows well, so that the whole thing is in fact more familiar, and so the guitarist can relax, which means loosen up in a good way- muscle memory moves in, and a mighty fine indication is given of the coming direction for this rising band-leader and lead-player.

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She looks good, too- like, as a woman, yes; and a woman in charge, sure; but the visual that’s presented by the wood-tone Strat and the tawny blonde hair… that would be a pleasing asthetic for any artist of either gender, but in this case it just ‘works’ that much better.

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Gamache goes Hendrix…  while Daryl sings “All Along the Watchtower,” as he likes to do, Marcia resigns herself to the daunting task of copping some Jimi riffs.  Now, ya might know the lady sings real nice, and shows a preference and penchant for the blues, but playing lead on that purty Strat is the newer of her skills and interests.  That being so, ain’tcha just impressed as hell and indubitably in favor of pretty much ANYone who has the… umm… ‘stuff’ to take on Hendrix- and to head up a band sans ringer to play lead?  Just a minute ago, she took on Stevie (Wonder, that is) with “Superstition” … and I coulda sworn I heard a crunchy Clav coming from the same speaker as her Stratocaster- we love that kinda ingenuity!

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seems t’me when I first started using this WP blog, I could adjust and re-position the pics, or line ’em up, say, three aside each other…  lemme guess…  from a PC at home, sure; but from a mobile or Android device… not so much…  Oi!

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

Kontrolled Khaos ~ Perfect Name!

So, what’s the difference between Bruce Korona’s open mic on Thursday and his band-gig the next night?  Location!
Well, that and the number of guests maybe- like, almost more here than at the jam-formatted, sign-up sheet event…

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And maybe he’s up on his feet more here at a performance-gig (although he has only lately regained that ability, after recent knee-replacement surgery).  Otherwise, -oh, and with a different rhythm section too, as this is a reunion of sorts for a band called Kontrolled Kaos, with front-man Kevin Crane- which marks familiar turf for PACC-goers, as KC shows up and stays up for the latter portion of the Thursday night open mic… so, otherwise we’re in similar territory here.  It’s a summit of sorts between a couple of longtime greats in the local rock scene, veterans of the Axe Wars as it were, with each complimenting or offsetting the other’s strengths and preferences with just the right balance that the two of ’em end up enjoying the show while providing ample opportunity for a few friends and a few dozen audients as well, to do the same- which they do, if the hoots and cheers are taken as indicators.

It’s kinda like a variety show here at Gibson’s, except that all the skits are musical- too, they are frequently not without the component of comedy, and a dose of drama comes with the deal as well; or drama in the form of showmanship and good-natured acting-up.  Even between sets, f’rinstance, friends and neighbors -and their talented off-springs too- will keep the music alive, sparing us all the need for any of that oft-dreaded ‘house music.’  And with Mr.Crane in the house, there’s never a lack of willing accompaniment- even if not just by way of presence and company and acoustic guitar, then also all can rest assured that a capable vocalist is ever at the ready.  The guy sings with the kinda pipes that morph, at least adequately and many might say expertly, so as to wrap them vocal chords around pretty much any song that pops up in pretty much anyone’s mind or fancy.  In other words, the voice is versatile and the repertoire is encyclopedic- amazingly, even mind-bogglingly so on both counts.

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And isn’t that just as much the case, in the case of BJ’s guitar-playing?  He might have a preference for hard rock and a tendency to play for two (or three), but he leaves room and plays well with others, too.  And, once you’ve seen him around enough, in enough different situations, it doesn’t take long to take note of his versatility, too.  The two of ’em together, they can cross-over and span genres, and then when the hour grows late and wits dim in most cases, these guys get sharper- tighter, maybe, even as they loosen up.  The medleys that march out of their memories in those last sets… hmm, did we already say ‘mind-boggling’ and fun?  Umm-hmm… and if they don’t quite remember all the lyrics to all the songs all the time, no matter- they have hand-held ‘lectronical devices to remind ’em what the words wuz s’ posed to be.  The music is managed by muscle-memory, it seems, and the catalog is embedded in the cortex at varying depths or states of immediate accessibility, so all that’s needed from the ‘tab or the ‘pad or whatever, is a bit of quick-reference.  Or so it seems.

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Only thing remaining to fill the mixed bag, or complete the package, is a rhythm section capable of keeping up.  John Philbin, or ‘JP, bass-man for various of these guys’ many bands over the years (but never together), now with much less hair than back in the day, well…  he knows the material, he knows the players, he knows the vibe and the level and the need- no doubt, no question, no sweat!  And the gent stationed at the drum kit, Tim Curtin, seems to be the Steve Savaria of the rock scene in Rocky Hill.  Having hailed from previous involvements with both the singer and the bassist, he’s the natural and well-oiled (not to mention, hard-hitting) component to complete the composite that is Kontrolled Kaos.  It’s all loud, skilled, energetic, and a whole lotta fun.

note:  I’d-a took more pics, but weren’t planning to need more than the three I use for a regular Facebook post… oops!

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

Building Up Steam ~ Brickdrop and Stratton ~ Sat 30 Jan 16

It’s hard for me to separate which subject to talk about and how to ‘weight’ the mix.  We have two really exciting (and not just to me, I am quite sure) things going on here at Grizzly’s Pub atop the base lodge at Stratton Mountain.

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One, of course, is strictly musical, as in great music and listening greatly; the other is more about the business end of the music business.  In both cases, the positive words (and vibes) to follow will be muchly about growth and building a brand.

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Brickdrop, the up-and-coming “smooth funk” band from Burlington, is playing an afternoon set here at Stratton, which (in my ever-so-humble opinion/assessment) is an up-and-coming music venue.  Credit where it’s due, and right quick: Andy McQuerry came on here as a Food & Beverage Manager a year and a half ago or so, and within a couple-few months he began constructing and executing a brilliant scheme.  Judging by how well it’s going so far, we can only hope that he doesn’t go for world domination as his end game- or that he does, maybe.  Last year and the year or two before, we came here a bunch of times to see Twiddle on some weekend nights; these shows were a pretty big deal and pretty much exceptions to the rule for this situation.  Successful they were, though, and packed to bursting, with waiting lines at the foot (feet?) of the stairs all through the night.  The resort also did a few music things throughout the year, as many of ’em do to bring in some traffic in the ‘other’ seasons.  Such activity was pretty well capped-off and maxed-out at its level, though.  We can guess that the balance of budget, effort and return was about at the threshold of ‘just enough’ to justify the moderate, perhaps ‘obligatory’ point of saturation to keep sufficient prescence in the marketplace, and we might further surmise that the ‘system’ as it then stood had become customary and sufficient.  As such, without reach or growth, the usual course will become one of status quo and stagnancy- not to mention, the ‘establishment’ mentality and ‘entrenchment’ dynamic that settles in, locking the whole thing in to a complacent state of dormancy, thinly-veiled frustration, and a feigned appearance of satisfaction.  Just spitballing, here- all none of our business, anyway.

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And so, along comes Andy- a young chap with vision, energy, and such pleasant disposition that he brings just the right mix to the mix.  Somehow, the guy manages to work from a regular Manager’s job, and then communicate his ideas and convey his enthusiasm so that the powers-that-be were sufficiently swayed to give him some reign, whereupon he began building the concept of this location as an actual music venue, one to compete in a whole ‘nother segment beyond just off-season resorts.  No alpine slides, waterparks, or mountain-biking camps are necessary here- although, top management can certainly still conduct and combine such ventures.  And the golf school here at Stratton (tennis, too, right?) has been a matter of well-repute for a good long while now, anyway.

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I’m talking too much.  You get the idea.  The thing is growing, and Burlington-based Brickdrop is charting a parallel course as they track their way along the rungs of exposure and name-recognition that any aspiring artist must, and they have such a talented musicality going for them that we can observe this development with no qualms or questions.  This is a band that warrants and deserves good things, even if only as a matter of Reward for their artistic integrity.  Anybody remember a certain humble scribe describing their then-nascent sound and style, and singing their praises numerously- and not least for playing according to their own calling?  This is cool stuff, and most folks dig it once they hear it (how can they not?), but there ain’t a whole lotta phat-city radio-bands playing the kind of almost entirely instrumental, highly listenable and decidedly danceable ‘smooth funk’ that follows in a wispy and barely-discernable ‘tradition’ that might be said to descend from the adventurous roots of early ‘cool’ and through the paths of Miles Davis, as further explored by the likes of Herbie Hancock, stepping aside of the voluminous ‘fusion’ genre (with perhaps a nod to Weather Report, f’rinstance) before arriving at a place of stimulating and entertaing balance. 

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This ‘balance’ is more juxtaposition really, as the elements or ‘threads’ that are wound together are a surprising (but not at all shocking) combination.  The whole, sonic and conceptual outcome of it all is at once exciting and listenable.  This latter term, ‘listenable’ will usually carry a connotation something like ‘pleasant’ – like elevator music.  Not so here!  Take that pleasantness, that smoothness, weave in a distinct and phat thread of groove and the further punch of solid funk, and add in an occasional atmospheric waft and tie it all together with a group of musicians that respect their art, take some risks, and follow their Muse- then, consider that all of this shows through in the element of Composition.  We almost can’t quite parse out which of their songs are versions- it’s all so uniformly characteristic, without the dreaded aspect of ‘sameness’ that might plague a less skilled and creative group. It’s one of those sum-as-greater-than-its-parts things.

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So, it looks to this observer like this band and this venue are on just about parallel paths, with each building up steam at similar rates. Grizzly’s has actually opened up the ‘wings’ on its upstairs floor, and they took out the extra-huge stairs that took up the whole middle of the space; plus, they moved the stage. Even so, the place is purt-near packed. And likewise, Brickdrop has consolidated or maybe focused their personnel and their sound, swapping-out the keyboards for a second sax. Two, being one more than one, constitutes a ‘section,’ as in “horn section,” and thusly are they now qualified to call themselves a Funk Band. If they want to. Cuz they are, for sure. But they’re a whole lot more, and other, too. Kinda like a ski resort/lodge that turns into a bona-fide live music venue- that’d be ‘more,’ certainly!

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One more thing- and I already said it in person, so… we’re good! Couple o’ times now, we’ve seen/heard Megan sing. This would have been at Mahattan Pizza in Burlington- fun place, but packed to the gills like sardines, with the band stuffed into the corner, literally- poor Rob, all walled in and hardly no elbow room; it’s always the drummer suffers most. So, under this less-than-ideal sonic setup, and maybe fighting for amperage with the keyboards at the time, her voice -or rather her singing, at any rate- was at least adequate and perfectly pleasant; nothing at all to complain about for the occasional departure from strictly instrumentals. This time, however… we got a new attitude! The lady sings with soul, like she has a soulful spin to her vocalizations, and it’s a similar sound to what’s real popular on the charts these days. So, just in case if these young ‘uns wanna put that kinda swang in their thang… it’s a could-be!

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And, once again, my speech exceeds my swath…  or, my reach my grasp…  I’m the last one out, even after the band-  except for Andy!

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable

Higher Calling @ Higher Ground

There are times when the Muse descends. We’ve talked about this before.  It occurs to me, though, that there may be times when the Muse has no need to descend, or to move much at all. Some artists might dwell within the spirit of their craft, so much so that the Muse is familiar to them. The condition of being “in the zone”is so readily accessible that it’s like meditation- a state of centered-ness, being fully present in the moment, can be always within easy reach. And when this knowledge, this understanding-at-depth, is shared among multiple individuals, a common link can be formed. A common name for this spiritual connection would be ‘community,’but in some cases it exceeds or transcends mere conversance or convergence. At times this rapport can reach a level of intuition, so finely tuned and yet broadly shared that the group becomes an organism- a gestalt is formed, a single artist with multiple aspects and outlets. With music and musicians, this gestalt being can come into existence, change form, swap components, and always uphold and draw from the overarching spirit of music. The Muse is accessible and ever-present, without the need for particular visitation or occasional accession.

Not that I’ve ever thought about this before- well, maybe… a little, here and there. Probably when observing, like an outsider -a welcome one- looking in, or a wide-eyed child witnessing a thing of beauty as it unfolds into reality; I have probably pondered the possibility that a transcendent state of Muse-musicianship might be available and accessible to a few like-minded and similarly-spirited individuals at such times as they open themselves to it with intention, even seeking it out, and not just as a matter of arbitrary occasion or circumstantial happenstance.

Brickdrop ~ Elephant ~ Monsta’ Party   ~   Higher Ground ~ Burlington ~ 160123

 

Twiddle-ish Trifecta, 2 of 3

We haven’t talked yet about the first of three Twiddle-related events, almost in a row.  Saturday night at Higher Ground was pretty near “off the hook-” so much so, in fact, that I really want to sit down and address myself to giving it a good go.

Tonight, Monday, Gubbilidis is at Outback Pizza in Killington (not Ludlow, I discovered en route).  Now, do we really need to go through the connections and lineage again?  I suspect so, as I’ve been missing the parental unit a whole lot for a while now, so many might not have it all clear.  Fact is, they’ve really burst out this last year, just as the poster and the campaign suggested last winter or spring, and just as the growing body of Frends knew and predicted.  So they’re playing bigger venues and touring farther from home.  Especially with the recent release of Plump, their third and newest studio album (fourth overall, counting the preceding Live at Nectar’s double-disc), the guys are working pretty hard.
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So… we got us a fairly full house here in the Outback, at least out here in the back of the place- the joint is quite a bit bigger than the other, formerly connected restaurant just down Route 100.  Since taking over and doing some work on the rearmost area, they have created a homey little music hall.
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From the glass doors on the left (back wall) to Mohawk Bob on the right, a hundred people, maybe two, can eat, drink, dance and dig. The band at hand is starting to reach a level similar to where the four-piece was at a couple of years ago, and other related projects are gaining momentum as well. Mickey Solo draws ’em in as well.
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So, for the uninitiated: Gibbilidis is a duo, though they really do sound much bigger, made up of Zdenek Gubb and Mihali (Mickey) Souvaladis.  Mihali’s acoustic six-string and Zdenek’s five-string, with the skill and techmology available to the former and the skill and technique at the hands of the latter, especially with his “highly percussive bass” stylings, as the promo info says, all combine to fill up and round out the sound and the house.

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As often happens at one of these shows, guests abound. Chas Kanney looks to be staying up with his sax and trumpet for most of the second set, while a few others come and go. Isaac French, f’rinstance, intonates on one number and sings another; Honeycomb beat-boxes on a couple here and there; and the Largish One even handed over his axe to be wielded for a bit by another feller.  I half-expected the guy to drop that bass to the floor, unable to lift it- you know, like Thor’s hammer.

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These guys are going a good ways over-time. There’s energy in the room; how could they not follow the muse and continue to deliver on the promise of positivity that comes with all things Twiddle-ish? Really! There is a grateful and lively spirit wherever these guys play, as this duo or otherwise. And it’s fun when they pull out a set-list loaded with a bunch of Twiddle songs, to see them get a different spin- in fact, this is where Mickey will first debut a lot of his stuff, playing it in and working it out for a smaller audience. A few covers come out as well, so as to pave the way for guests as well as entertain the fans. This is something that cannot escape notice: there is no disappointing these frends- whatever the band(s) does, they love it. They cheer, they dance, they sing along regardless of a song’s origin- if these guys are doin’ it, them fans are lovin’ it.

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This holds true over a wide range and eclectic mix of material, too; and most of it happens on the fly, or off the cuff (or hook)- spontaneity and improvisation are the predominant principles here. While the stuff is plenty familiar to them all, and much might be made into muscle memory, jamming is the preferred method of expression and enjoyment, and this also holds true for each of the players, however they come together in their several permutations.

Gubbilidis was the first Twiddle offshoot (besides Mihali solo) to be named and billed and played out, so it makes sense that they should play as well and as smoothly as they do. Though, of course, that’s always how they do it. They are just such fine, skilled, sensitive and intuitive musicians; if they weren’t so damn young, we might call ’em consummate.

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Mary, the Monday Music Manager, oughtta get a prize, by the way. These offshoot bands are not always the easiest to track down and pin down for a date.  And, for those not necessarily in the know, these gigs can be risky ventures.  Every now and then, though, the show goes so obviously well that it seems a safe bet the house is happy. In some cases, it’s a safe bet that it’s a safe bet- like, around central Vermont and a growing region, and with all things Twiddle-ish.

Jimm O’D ~ The Dusty Turntable