Monday, April 20, 2015

My Name is Ringo and I Play Drums

It's like my record collection is actually sitting in this room. Billie Joe Armstrong ~ Greenday

I thought it would be hard to make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction better than 2014 ... not true. Saturday night in Cleveland, I witnessed amazing music, inspirational speeches, hilarious candor, and a love of music that makes every inductee and fan a part of one big family. Here is a recap of the 30th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction from Cleveland.

The evening started with a  rocking beginning when Joan Jett and the Blackhearts took the stage to sing Bad Reputation, Cherry Bomb with Dave Grohl (a sweet payback from her shredding with Nirvana last year), and Crimson and Clover complete with songwriter Tommy James.

And say what you will about Miley Cyrus, she's got spunk and a love and respect for Joan Jett. Her speech was filled with smoking pot in a bathroom paid for my Oprah, an almost international incident, and a true outpouring of respect from one female musician to another.

And a very appreciative Joan choked back tears and gave the first of many moving speeches of the night. I come from a place where rock and roll means something. It means more than music, more than fashion, more than a good pose. It's a language of a subculture that makes eternal teenagers out of all who follow it.

The first of the blues inductions followed with stirring rendition of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band hit Born in Chicago. While members Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield have since passed, their surviving members each talked about being a part of such a unique, multi cultural group that transcended the music bounds. The surviving members, many of us questioning what a band that hasn't played for over 40 years would bring to the stage - but we were all pleasantly blown away.
I sometimes think he's on tour and is going to come back soon, he said. Then I remember that I'm never going to be able to see him again. ~Jimmie Vaughan
And finally, the reason why I took a spontaneous pilgrimage to Cleveland: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. John Mayer spoke from the heart about Stevie. He spoke about Stevie the musician:

He was the ultimate guitarist...It’s a rage without the anger; it’s devotional; it’s religious, Mayer said. It was as otherworldly as Hendrix, but where Hendrix was coming down from outer space, Stevie came up from below the ground. He was the ultimate guitar hero, and heroes live forever.

Double Trouble members Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon, and Reese Wynans remembered meeting Stevie and echoed their love for Stevie and his dedication to his craft.

And finally it was big brother Jimmie Vaughan's turn. Hi I'm Jimmie Vaughan and Stevie Ray was my little brother. Jimmie shared the stories of his little brother, sneaking into his room and playing his guitar when he had told him not to. But what Jimmie didn't capture was how much his little brother looked up to him. How proud he was and how he wanted to be like him. What would happen through Stevie's sobriety was the, in Jimmie's words: Every day, I wake up clean and sober and I think of my brother. In the end, little brother taught big brother.

Gary Clark Jr, Doyle Bramhall, Double Trouble and Jimmie Vaughan (c) PCarlson 2015
In a fitting tribute, Doyle Bramhall, Gary Clark, Jr, Double Trouble, and Jimmie Vaughan played Stevie's hits Pride and Joy and Texas Flood, before Jimmie played his own tribute to Stevie, Six Strings Down.

The moment many a fan was waiting for had arrived: Green Day. While, like some, I questioned why they were being inducted so early, it became extremely obvious the influence Green Day has on so many. Punk scene newcomers, Fall Out Boy introduced Green Day:

Billie Joe’s signature snarl and strong, sarcastic lyrics, that eternally youthful voice, those bright, open chord structures. The way a silhouette of him playing guitar would be as recognizable a posture to any punk rock kid as Michael Jordan's mid-air dunk is to sports fans. Mike Dirnt! And those bass lines…up there with the likes of James Jamerson and Jaco Pastorius as one of the most identifiable bass players since the invention of the instrument. Tré Cool…you have a drummer named Tré fucking Cool. That is the coolest thing ever.
And even before they played one note from the album we all had to get in 1994, the speeches from aforementioned members relayed to me the same exact sentiment of why we were all in the Cleveland Hall to begin with, concluding with Billie Joe Armstrong's moving speech:  
I'm truly fortunate. You know, I've always loved rock & roll music. I always have. Soon as I opened my eyes and took my first breath, I'm a fan. And that's the one thing that I'm going to close with is that I love rock & roll.

We were then treated with three Green Day classics, American Idiot, When I Come Around, and Basket Case.

Most didn't think they knew who the next inductees were, until they saw Leon Bridges soar into Dedicated to the One I Love and  When a Man Loves a Woman. The 5 Royals were never considered superstars even in the 1950's, but over time, their influence to rhythm and blues cannot be denied.

And for the most moving moment of the night, Patti Smith and Laurie Anderson speaking about legend Lou Reed. It was fittingly poetic in only a way Patti Smith could be when she recalled how she was in Rockaway when she was told her dear friend Lou Reed had died. She talked about Lou's friendship, his own questioning of self, and the value and art he brought into this world:
His consciousness infiltrated and illuminated our cultural voice. Lou was a poet, able to fold his poetry within his music in the most poignant and plainspoken manner. Oh, such a perfect day. Sorry. [Crying] Such a perfect day. I’m glad I spent it with you. You made me forget myself. I thought I was someone else. Someone good. You were good, Lou. You are good.

Next, Lou's wife, the artists Laurie Anderson spoke lovingly about Lou her love and Lou the artist. She keeps his spirit alive and his memory will always be close.
Lou really knew the difference between himself as a writer and himself a person and as a rock & roll star. He’d shift between his roles with such skill. He could take his fame off like one of his leather jackets, or, he could just decide to use it. The fame, itself, was heavily important. Lou’s genuinely proud of what he’d done and could really appreciate his own work. And, tonight, he would have been so immensely proud to be a part of this.
Karen O and Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeahs joined by Beck gave us great versions of Satellite of Love and Vicious.
What would be one of the funniest and semi-historical moments of the night was up next.
Stevie Wonder introduced 1970's star Bill Withers, a man who simply walked away from a career because he felt he deserved better - and he did. The man gave us some of beautiful hits such as Harlem, Ain't No Sunshine, Lovely Day, and Lean on Me. But he had not performed for over 25 years.
His speech was laced with wit, references to the Big Bang Theory, and Judge Judy. Possibly my favorite line of the night came from Withers himself, when referencing many of the sobriety speeches and rehab references that occurred during the night, when he said This has got to be the biggest AA meeting in the Western Hemisphere.

Withers escorted his friend Stevie Wonder to the stage and sat close to him as Wonder sang a powerful Ain't No Sunshine, as we waited to see if Bill would sing. Alas, he sat next to the background singers when John Legend came on stage to sing Use Me. However, we all got our music wishes granted, when three-quarters of the way through Lean on Me, Bill Withers joined John Legend and Stevie Wonder and sang a few words.

And to cap the already spectacular night, we got the Beatles. Paul McCartney spoke highly of the drummer would replaced Pete Best, saying, sharing how he regarded Ringo upon first meeting him, as a grown up musician:

And Ringo was like a professional musician. We were just like, slamming around and doing stuff, but he had a beard — that's professional. He had the suit. Very professional. And he would sit at the bar drinking bourbon and seven. We'd never seen anyone like this. This was like, a grown-up musician.

Thank you. My name is Ringo and I play drums. His speech was filled with memories of joining the band and mention of Paul and George. After playing the Shirelles hit, Boys with Green Day and his hit, It Don't Come Easy,  we got our Beatle reunion and superjam moment when everyone joined Ringo and Paul onstage for With a Little Help From My Friends.

But that wasn't the end. While everyone was walking off stage, Paul grabbed Ringo's hand, and just like they did in 1964, they raised their hands up and bowed deep. We go the infamous Beatle bow and life, for many music fanatics, was complete.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

I Got Eyes on You

When I first heard this Indiana band, I was relieved to hear an old, familiar, rockabilly, 50's sound. When I found their 2015 release, Little Neon Limelight, I was even more relieved to hear that their sound was more than what their current hit, Sedona, offered.
Their uniquely classic sound is made up by band members Matt Meyers on guitar, Zak Appleby on bass, Katie Topin on vocals and keyboards, and drummer Shane Cody. This band that has one LP from 2012 Houndmouth and 2013's freshman release From the Hills Below the City, is finding itself in high demand and constant rotation.  Their songs are thoughtful, clever, and brilliant.  
Let's take a look at Little Neon Limelight

Sedona was the first song I had heard from the band. It has that 50's guitar echo and at the end of the song, I am expecting to hear a Supreme's surprise guest appearance. It's reference is to Sedona Arizona's hey day as a mini-Hollywood.

Otis is the first solo by Katie on the album. It's a song you'd expect from The Band (a comparison many have made to the band in general). Their Indiana roots can be heard in this semi-country ballad

15 Years, has that funky 50's 60's rock sound with a modern studio sound. It also offers up bassist Zak Appleby on vocals. It slows and speeds with organ and guitar solos.

For No One is mellow and haunting, especially with the very distant sounds in the background and almost stream of conscience lyrics:
All the notables in their spine wives
Three hipsters, two merchants, and Kon-Tiki.
They saw the black down off in the midnight skies.
Man, you should've seen 'em they were so down in the dumps that evening.

Old man and the sea,
Doin what you were born to.
Shrapnel in my knee,
I can't walk and I don't care to.

I'd do it all for you,
but I do it for no one.
I'd sing a song for you,
but I sing for no one.

Matt Meyers has a Simon Felice sound to him on this song, that has been compared to a Dylan tune. What's it about? Acid, shrapnel in your knee, being a singer ...

Black Gold If this whole album sounded like this, song, I would be disinterested. It's good, but not unique like the rest. 

Honey Slider reminds me of a song that I cannot identify, but will, don't worry. Don't let its slow pace deceive you, it's filled with heartbreak and soul. Again, their harmony is perfection.

My Cousin Greg is something I could hear Jerry Reed sing. It's an anthem to a good life and a crazy cousin.
If you wanna live the good life, you better stay away from the limelight.

Gasoline is one of my favorites on the album.
Katie owns this song about relationships and not settling.

By God is a full song of hopelessness - this guys doesn't seem to have much go right for him.

Say It is full of energy and more soul and is a true pleading begging song - asking a woman to lower her standards for the man. It's got a church feel to it - Say it like you mean it!!!

Darlin’ is like the cool down after a long run. It's bluesy, 70's Van Morrison, and a lyrical gift.
Houndmouth is unique. They capture an old soul sound of Dylan, Van Morrison, and The Band but still remain a band of their own identity. I look forward to hearing them live and seeing what they offer us in the future.