10 June 2010

Weekend Report

Looking at June from about a month ago I had my sights on seeing music almost every night, but then my wallet and body had other ideas. Needless to say, in the first 3 days of the month I passed on the Avett Brothers, Les Claypool, Pretty Lights, and the Felice Brothers. Pained with each missed note. But then over the weekend I went 3 for 3.

Friday night I headed over to the German House for the triple bill of Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Surfer Blood, and Hooray for Earth. With minimal exposure to all 3 bands, I was looking forward to making some new favorites. First up, Hooray for Earth frankly bored me. It didn't help that they came on 45m late to play a 30m set, or that the sound in the venue was teetering above awful, but really, I just couldn't get into them. Video here, I won't bother embedding it, the sound is quite poor.
Next up, Surfer Blood. Their music was able to play well despite the sound issues. It helps in a bass-heavy mix if your bass lines are interesting and integral to the music. Also, rocking hard helps. Surfer Blood had everything you could ask for in a band, good songs, good musicians, tight playing, and an engaging stage persona bordering on painfully cheesy if they didn't totally own it, which they did. I'd love to see them again in a better venue. Video of Floating Vibes
Finally, Pains of Being Pure at Heart closed the night. Their music seriously suffered from the sound issues, lyrics were lost, melodies straining, if I was more familiar with them I could have filled in the blanks and enjoyed it more, but as a first exposure the set fell a little flat for me. It was very difficult to get into. It's also possible I just don't get it, because the crowd (which had thinned quite a bit after Surfer Blood) was certainly getting into it pretty heavily. Video

And then on a gorgeously sunny Saturday it was off to Highland Bowl with my almost 4 year old for Bluegrass in the Bowl. Perfect day for sitting in the grass listening to some 'grass. We got there in time for most of Larry Sparks' set. It was my first time seeing him, an alumnus of the Clinch Mountain Boys (up next). Dan Tyminski from Alison Krauss' band sat in for the whole set on mando, but unfortunately it was the only sit-in of the day. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys came on next. I saw them a few years ago at Newport and thought at the time that there was good chance I wouldn't get to see them again. But here they were, still going strong. When Ralph sings O Death, it is truly one of the more appropriate and chilling moments in music history. Not often a band has three generations in it, though I think maybe Del McCourry has got that in his current band too. Anyway, Tony Rice Unit took the stage next. Sometimes it just all clicks, and with Tony Rice and my ears, it clicks like no other. Musical perfection... it's just unfortunate he doesn't have a voice anymore. My Favorite Things, Ginseng Sullivan, Summertime, Nine Pound Hammer, the whole set was smoking, chock full of nothing but highlights. And closing out the night was Alison Krauss and Union Station... oh and of course, Mr. Jerry Douglas. How can you complain on a sunny Saturday afternoon when both Tony Rice and Jerry Douglas, two of my favorite musicians, will grace the same stage? I knew I wouldn't be able to stay for Krauss' whole set with my daughter so I was hoping for Jerry's solo segment to come somewhat early. Which it did. We stuck around for a bit more, saw an hour or so of her set before we headed off into the night.

Sunday evening I headed over to Record Archive for a free in-store performance by Baby Gramps. I won't even try to describe him to you when this, the most apt description of anything I have seen anywhere already exists: (via Wikipedia)
Writer Patrick Ferris said he has "a mass appeal in the sense that any audience between the age of 2 and 102 are captivated by his vaudeville antics, hilarious lyrics and animated guitar playing... His voice is a cross between Popeye the Sailor and a Didgeridoo and the plinkity plink of his VERY worn National steel guitar, sounds like a wind up jack in the box. If you listen closely and know anything about music, you'll realize Gramps is an absolutely incredible guitar player. Being a professional musician for over 40 years can't help but give you some sort of chops, but Gramps is a modern day Robert Johnson; a revolutionary guitarist that, like Thelonious Monk on piano, can play the notes 'between the cracks.
Seeing him up close in person, he looks a lot younger and more robust, in pics and videos he looks like a frail old man. His accompaniment was playing rhythm using paint brushes on a banana box. Hey, whatever works. There were a lot of local musicians on hand for what was quite a nice Sunday treat. The set included music from New Orleans, a pirate ditty, the oldest rap song ever, an old almost unrecognizable version of Turkey in the Straw and even Hawaii 5-0 played on a kazoo. They played for 30 or so minutes before taking a break. A break? They're coming back on? For a free in-store performance? Wow. I couldn't stick around unfortunately, but that is one dedicated musician there. Don't miss him.

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