The great jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis died recently. He was 87. I can't say that I know much of his music, but I do know that he and his band did an amazing version of Hang On Sloopy. Remember that track? Remember the McCoys version (featuring Rick Derringer)? Here they are, back to back. Great song regardless of who is playing it.
It's nonstop fun here at BRP!
Holy crap, I am so far behind on my live music reviews that they are threatening to withhold my paycheck here at BRP. I better get on with getting 'em done, right?
Anyway, months ago the Old 97's rolled into town at the Ardmore Music Hall. To put this band into BRP perspective, I was at one time in danger of becoming a groupie of these guys. Seriously, I think I've seen the Old 97's or Rhett Miller, their frontman, about 9 or 10 times. It got to the point where we were exchanging Christmas cards and such (well, not quite that bad, but I think that Rhett recognized me one time).
However, I then went into an Old 97's hiatus and didn't catch them for a few years. And then of course, came the lockdowns [on that point, aren't you sick of the lockdowns being called "the pandemic?" Hey, politicians, it wasn't the pandemic that locked us down, it was YOU! Now, back to our normal scheduled programming.] When I saw that the Old 97's were coming to AMH, which is just so convenient, I jumped at the chance to catch them live again.
Before I quickly comment on the band, let me say this about AMH. Unlike a number of other venues out there, the owners of this fine establishment took the opportunity presented by the lockdowns to improve the facility. They spent about $500k to update it. I was looking forward to a better concert experience. I must say that the bathrooms are better, and they were in desperate need of improvement (and they still lack the immaculate cleanliness of Union Transfer - no joke, UT could be in Japan given how clean their restrooms are - two massive thumbs up to those guys). And the acoustics are improved, which is fantastic. Other than that, I didn't really notice anything. But kudos all around anyway!
The Old 97's had Cliff Hillis open for them, and I was kind of enthused about that. I've heard some of Cliff's tunes and thought he might be good. But when he showed up alone and with an acoustic guitar, the "uh oh" dread of the lonesome troubadour swept through the crowd. And true to form, it was exactly what you would expect. Boring and lackluster? Yes, and more than that, but the verbage escapes me at the moment (I guess that's adjectives not verbs, right? Who cares, this isn't school). Anyway, it was completely forgettable and made me lose interest in Hillis or his career. Oops, I guess that's the downside of being an opener.
On to the Old 97's!
First things first - what's up with Rhett Miller's hair? This guy used to cause the girls to swoon, but that doesn't mean he has to adopt their hair styles, right? It was weird. And he's no spring chicken anymore - 52 years old - so he should know better from life experience if nothing else.
But the guy can still sing, and he still has stage charisma. Not only that, he's been at the game for a long time now and he has the ability to draw from a deep catalog of great tunes. Thankfully, Rhett did just that, and the band put on a rollicking 2 hour set that had the gremmies fired up and wanting more. Don't believe me? How about this tune from waaaay back that still gets everyone going, Barrier Reef:
That was just one of the oldies but goodies that the boys played at AMH. It made the Kid nostalgic for all of those shows that I had seen before. Here's another one that is a keeper and always played, Big Brown Eyes:
The band was in good form - tight on the rhythms, laughing and playing with the audience, and going from great track to great track in crowd-pleasing manner. They played Rollerskate Skinny, Murder or a Heart Attack, Oppenheimer and many more that had me lose my blogger cool and cheer like mad just like in the old days. It was fun and rewarding to be enjoying this band once again.
I think I got some good, but not great, pictures that night. I'm a bit rusty with the iPhone, and the lighting always determines whether it's a keeper or not. Anyway, I hope you like them. One nice thing about AMH is that I know a great place to stand that is not too hot and crowded but that has good sight lines (of course, it wouldn't be good if there was a fire or I had to use the restroom, but life is full of these compromises).
The one beef is that the band didn't play Champaign, Illinois. It's one of their great tunes, and it was conspicuous by its absence. But that is a small complaint. The rest of the show was terrific and made up for the lack of one song. But did it make up for Cliff Hillis? Hmmmm, let's just say that the boys need some stronger openers.
Here's a couple more pics and then I'm outta here. See you soon.
One last comment - if you look at the pics, you can see some people wearing masks at the show. Hahahahahahaha! You'll be happy to know that your humble blogger took his off and went "mask commando" that night! Rock on, BRP readers.
It's the end of summer! No more lazy, long days of sunshine and warmth. No more laying around by the pool or at the beach "working remote." No more summer shandy drinks, er, lemonade. Bummer.
But alas, BRP knows that the end of summer isn't all bad because, well, football is back. And it will be with us through February. Go Hokies! So there's that.
And the end of summer means some great songs, too. Here are a couple tracks to tide you over as you enjoy that last languid and bittersweet weekend. Let's start with the ultimate summer band, The Beach Boys. I've got more coming up on Brian Wilson, so use this to wet your appetite.
Happy Labor Day!
Hey, me again - how good is that cover of The Boys of Summer? The Ataris! It's fantastic, maybe even better than the original. And the update: dumping "Dead head sticker on a Cadillac" with "Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac"! Now, that's BRP worthy.
Gotta run - the grill is hot.
I'm not sure why I wanted to drag these photos up from 2019, but for some reason they just seem to make sense right now. They're funny and they're from Memphis - in fact, from right outside Sun Studios.
Yes, we have truly become a nation of leeches.
Hey, here's a great one:
Now that's a sign of true love.
How about this bizarre album cover:
Did the word "assclown" just go through your head? I wonder what he did for Volume Two? Dress up like a donkey?
And does this one make you think of Joan Jett and her bad reputation?
How funny is that video? Her little sneers, hahahahaha. But it's a good song.
Are you thirsty? Would you drink these sodas?
I know those soda pictures are silly. I'll bet whoever came up with those drinks worked hard, and they probably had a team developing them. You know what they say about teams, right?
Now we call "teamwork" something like "collaboration." And I think the only reason they changed it is because of that last picture. Some elitist honcho consultant who comes up with all these idiotic corporate buzzwards saw that picture and thought "ooohh, teamwork is like Joan Jett and has developed a bad reputation. I better come up with something else to shill to corporate America." Voila! Collaboration!
Those are your truly trivial thoughts for today.
Hey, don't say it too loud, but Christmas is just around the corner. I mean, it's only 4 months away, and with all the supply chain issues, maybe you ought to start thinking about what you want to get for your favorite music blogger. Suggestions? You betcha!
And with that, I bid you a good day.
What is it about Texas troubadours? You know the type – Joe Ely, Dale Watkins, Townes Van Zandt – they just write great songs that ramble around your head and make you want to go down to Austin or Houston and eat some Tex-Mex and go see some live tunes and be happy. Well, this story is about one of that group, but it’s not all happy.
Steve Earle and the Dukes were in Ft. Lauderdale at the Broward Performing Arts Center, and we were front and center. I had seen Steve previously, and knew that it would be a great show, but I also knew that Steve’s son, the great Justin Townes Earle, had died during the lockdowns from a drug overdose. I wasn’t sure what impact this would have on Steve as a performer, but I’m certain that as a father, the impact was massive and unending.
Justin was fantastic in his own right, and I did not get the opportunity to see him perform live. It’s a loss to the world that he passed on. If you get the chance and feel so inclined, tune the Spotify to JTE and give it a listen. I think you’ll like what you hear – good song craftsmanship and lyrics that make you remember why artists have an uncanny ability to make you remember your humanity, good and bad. He was a keeper, and his loss is large. Give a listen:
But Steve is not Justin. Nope, not at all. Steve has had a life of struggles all on his own, but he has emerged as an authentic musical juggernaut. He brought along a version of the Dukes that was well-rehearsed and ready for action. Included in that were the opening act, the Mastersons. Now, I don’t know what to think of this husband-and-wife duo. Their opening act was a 30 minute painful folk music experience that even I was struggling with. And then they come out with Steve, and they play his songs along with the band, and they simply make those songs infinitely better. While I wasn’t very happy to see their opening set, I was thrilled to see them with the Dukes.
Steve came out and frankly looked a little old and beaten down. He must have some knee trouble as a lot of us older folks do because he wasn’t moving fluidly around the stage. But he still brought it, and his voice was in good stead. And he went through the songs that you would want to hear, and played them with aplomb. And then, about halfway through the show, he acknowledge Justin’s untimely death, and then played about 4 or 5 JTE songs as a tribute. He didn’t cry or act distraught, but rather played them as a tribute to a fallen fellow troubadour who was talented and worthy of the honor. It was heartfelt, endearing, and heck, entertaining. I really enjoyed it.
Steve then finished up with another strong set of his own songs before bidding adieu to the crowd. It was a fine show, one that made me miss Texas, and forced me to grapple with how I myself handle grief and loss. The show was not a downer at all, but rather a celebration of what you would want to remember of a life well-lived, and a tribute to a fallen comrade. Damn good stuff from Mr. Steve Earle.
I had seen Steve play at the Ardmore Music Hall, but the Ft. Lauderdale venue was a real theater with a large stage. His band had room to spread out and play, and they did just that. He gave great renditions of some signature tracks, like Guitar Town and Galway Girl.
How fun is that second video? Just fabulous stuff.
Anyway, back to Steve Earle. The guy has clearly put on years and pounds, and he doesn't move like the old days. But isn't that true of all of us? No violations from my point of view. But Steve still has his great tunes, and he plays them with enthusiasm and with a solid backup band. We had a really good time, and enjoyed being in a crowd of wannabe Texans on this warm Florida night.
Oh, and hey, I forgot to mention what a beautiful theater they have in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. Yes, it’s newer without the tradition and frescoes, but it has lots of natural wood, great seats and sightlines, and heavenly acoustics. It was a pleasure to see a great show in a worthy space.
I've got more shows to review and I promise to get back to you soon.
I haven't posted much of the summer and I have no excuse. I've just been lazy, I guess. Worse, I'm still way behind on a bunch of fun posts. There's no better way to rectify this bad situation than by jumping in and getting back to it.
Anyway, I was in Boca Raton recently, and we were in a candy store. I came across this box of goodies and was wondering if you would eat something called a Dinglebeary:
I get that the name is clever (well, maybe). But a dinglebeary? I don't know, it just made me think of college for some reason.
How about these shots of Ancient Rome? Pretty cool, right? They're actually painted background scenes used for plays and movies. I guess a lot of the backgrounds now use photos, but I liked these and thought they were cool.
Ever been to Weeki Wachi? Me, neither. Until August that is! And what do they have there? Mermaids! Real ones! Swimming in the water and performing a show! Cheesy Florida roadside attraction? Yeah, but it's been going on for decades and is now a state park. And it is, bar none, the best live mermaid show that I have ever seen in my entire life!
How about some Pennsylvania? There are lots of parks, natural land trusts, and other nature preserves close to my house. And when you go hiking in SE PA, you're going to see some lovely countryside. Here are some examples:
Oops, how did that last one get in here? If you're saying "hey, that's not PA countryside," you would be right. That is from Florida! Can you caption it? How about something like Rising Moon? Moon Over Miami? Crack of Don? I don't know, but something should come to mind.
On a more serious note, how about a great song by a band that I had no idea even existed until recently? It's Hard-Fi, and they are really good. Unfortunately, they aren't touring the US in 2022, but when they do, I'll let you know and we can go see them. Square deal, right? Anyway, here they are:
Don't you love a beach cruiser bike? Me, too. Classic style even if they aren't made for serious riding. But if you're reading BRP, you aren't a serious person anyway, so beach cruisers are made for you! Here's a lovely one (mine) outside of Target in Deerfield Beach. Check out that snazzy basket, too. All that's missing is the surfboard carrier!
I don't know if you saw that the FDA recently approved over-the-counter hearing aids. I guess they've now decided that they're safe? I don't know what those people are thinking, but it's been a long time coming. Why do I mention this? Because this site is supposed to be about music, and if you're a regular reader, you know that means rock music. And rock music is best when played at volume, am I right? Of course I am! So here we go with a true rocker slogan:
Gotta run for now, but I'll be back soon. In the meantime, I'll be watching you.
Here's a couple of newer tracks. First up is Geese with Fantasies/Survival. These guys are XPN pets right now. I like them, don't love them, but this song is a winner. Enjoy it. As an aside, Geese was in Philly a few weeks back, and they were playing on the same night as another band named Goose. Man, you got to keep your ducks in a row to show up at the right venue!
How about a few by Shame? I can't say that I know much about this band except that these two tracks are really good.
OK, and here's one last tune that isn't at all new, but it's new to me and I'm loving it. Yeah, I'm in a Delbert McClinton jag right now, and this track just makes me want to laugh and dance. Here's One of the Fortunate Few.
Are you not entertained?
Hey, keep strong and carry on. I'll be back with more - I still have a few shows to review and post about, and other stuff that's been on my pea brain lately. Hang in there and don't look at your 401(k) account for now.
Hey rockers, I'm working on some substantive posts that are taking me a while to complete. In the meantime, I'll give you some tunes to tide you over. Sound like a deal? Cool!
Let's get going. How about we start with some ancient history, ok? Sometimes it's only the old stuff that will satisfy that itch. Here's a guy who came out of the British pub rocker scene with the band Ducks Deluxe. He want on to be an influence on the entire Stiff Records crew. He also played lead guitar with Graham Parker's band, the Rumour. Oh, yeah, that was a clue and a half. Anyway, it's Brinsley Schwartz and this track is called Surrender to the Rhythm:
That was a three-fer: great song, creepy weirdo introducing Schwartz, and the incredible electric socket hairdo, too. Gotta love it.
Do you remember the Pixies? Of course you do because as a loyal BRP reader, you've read my live review of them a few years back. Anyway, Black Francis or Frank Black (take your pick for whichever you like better as he uses both) was one of the band's leaders and later had a decent solo career. I've always loved this track from the first time I heard it. Here is Headache from the album Teenager of the Year - and who knew that the Maytag repairman knew how to sing!
I know you like Texas music. Me, too. It's not all created equal, but there is something about the Lone Star State that brings out the best in a number of musicians. I don't think I've ever focused on this next artist, but that's an issue with me and not him. Anyway, Delbert McClinton has been doing his thing for many, many years, and this track is a BRP favorite. Enjoy!
Have you ever been to San Angelo, Texas? Hey, it's NOT TO BE MISSED. Well, maybe that's not true and I'm just trying to mess with you so that you make the mistake of driving 4 hours from Dallas to see ... a dusty mess of a West Texas town. Good Tex-Mex, but you don't have to drive all that way to eat, even in Texas.
Here's another oldie for you. Remember Steve Forbert? Little Stevie Orbit? He's still kicking around. Sometimes he shows up in Philly to play some little place. It's got to be tough to be an aging troubadour who never really made it all that big. But hey, he's got a Wiki! Anyway, this song should have made the man a star, but alas, life ain't fair.
Wait, wait, come back! Yes, I know that last track makes it seem like BRP is going soft on you. What's next, Leonard Cohen or something? No, never! Here's a redemption song, but sticking with the oldies theme. Remember that guy Tom Petty? You know, one of America's best songwriters ever? Man, he had some great tunes that we all know and love, and he also had many that slipped under the radio wire but are still worth a listen. Here's one of the latter, a great song from Wildflowers that we should all know:
I'm watching the Super Bowl last night, and some lame promo for a "Peacock" show comes on. But in the background is this tune, and I'm thinking "I know that song." And then it struck me: it's Ty Segall! Ty is one prolific artist, and I might have already put you into his orbit, but if I did, well, it is an orbit and it's hard to break out of one of those. Here's the song that I heard last night - it's been kicking around in my head all day!
One more oldie? How about this: Kelly Slater, at 50 years old, winning the Billabong Pipeline Master's contest! Sure, Brady played until he was 44, and Jordan won 6 titles with the Bulls. But for my money, the real GOAT is a guy still getting the biggest victory in surfing at 50! And check out how deep in the barrel he goes here - that's scary as crap given that about 2 feet below him is a gnarly reef that eats surfers and boards with regularity. Truly incredible stuff here.
One more song, and then I'm gone, baby. Have I ever linked to X, the LA punk band? I did? Well, I think they were the best of the LA punkers even if that's not the top of a huge pile of bands. Nonetheless, this song has always been a great BRP rave-up favorite, and even features The Doors Ray Manzarek on keyboards. Keyboards in a punk song? Yup. But also plenty of Billy Zoom's guitar, too. If this song doesn't move your tush, then there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with you!
Don't you love it when your fearless blogger calls you out for a song that he loves but you might not? Hey, I'm sorry about that! If you didn't like that track by X, that's cool. But if you didn't like it, and you didn't like the Steve Forbert song either, then I'm beginning to wonder about you. Nonetheless, you still are welcome here at BRP. We're not picky at all and we have a big tent that welcomes both of you!!
Anyway, always fun to hang out with the BRP locals. Enjoy the day, and pray for summer. Hang loose!
Low Cut Connie remains the bomb. Yes, indeed, Adam Weiner is still an amazing live performer, Will Donnelly still cuts a fantastic stylistic lead guitar pose, and LCC remains the best bar band in the land. The backup band is constantly changing, and while they are still good, I’m partial to the first iteration of the band that I saw. I still remember being at the Yards Brawler Fest in Philly, all by my lonesome, and watching wide-eyed as LCC blew my rock-saturated mind. At one point, three different people had climbed on top of the piano known as Shaundra, and there was just well-rehearsed and wild mayhem going on up on the stage.
Those days are not quite over, but the band is different now. Adam is more of a star, having become a lockdown phenom with his Tough Cookies performances. I watched a couple of those episodes, and they were a worthy introduction of his unique style to a homebound audience fooled into giving up their lives by the evil Fauci. They weren’t a substitute for the real thing, mind you, but more of a holdover to keep you interested until the “all clear” was issued (I think a sizeable minority of people are still waiting for the all clear, but not me – I went to the Free State of Florida and LIVED).
Anyway, we were in Asbury Park at the Stone Pony and LCC was up on the stage blasting through a terrific set and going through all the routines. Remember Adam playing the piano in crazy positions? He still does it. Remember the backup band ripping and tearing up the raucous songs like Rio and Shake It Little Tina? Will Donnelly posing and prancing on stage while never missing a note? It’s all still there. The only thing missing was Will doing his end-of-show signature jump from Shaundra. I don’t know if he didn’t do it because, well, we’re all getting older, or if he didn’t do it because the ceiling above the Pony’s stage is pretty low. But Adam still tore off his undershirt, got out into the crowd and slimed some people with his sweaty body. And Adam was still clamoring for the crowd to come along for a wild ride but only if they got louder!
Stop, I almost forgot. LCC always brings an interesting opener, and they haven’t forgotten that part. This night, it was Susu out of NYC. Susu is a punk band fronted by two scantily clad young black women up front. Why mention their skin color? Because there are hardly ANY black punk bands anywhere, and to have a white punk band with two black chicks up front is different in anyone’s world.
Susu has it all: looks, style, showmanship, charisma, stage presence. The only thing missing? Good songs. Now, they did have the sense to cover the Ramones Beat on the Brat a truly great piece of tongue-in-cheek punk nihilism. I hadn’t seen that song played live since the last time I had seen the Ramones, so I was all smiles while they blasted through that track. Other than that, the songs were average, mediocre or forgettable. Sometimes, all three. But not to worry! I’ve seen other bands that had the look and style before they had the sound (anyone remember the Bravery?), and the songs are out there to be had if Susu takes the time to find them.
Here's an interesting tidbit. The two women who front Susu ended up singing backup for LCC. I remember that kind of thing happening before with Car Seat Headrest bringing the opening band into the second set, too. But for Susu, those two women were ACTIVE on the stage. I mean all over the place. Those girls must have been tired after being up on stage for a few hours of very hard work. They knew enough to let Adam be the star, but they weren’t shy about making their presence felt. All in all, it was an entertaining combination.
LCC has a lot more songs now, too. And the crowd has matured. In fact, when they played their older songs (I remember this, in particular, for when they played Say Yes) a lot of the crowd didn’t know the tunes. I found that very interesting. That means one of two things. The original LCC crowd is now gone. Or LCC has found a much bigger audience, and most of them derive their LCC knowledge from the Tough Cookies era. It’s probably a bit of both. I may be one of the few people who have seen LCC many times and who still spend their hard-earned money to see the band over and over.
There is also no question that the band is changing. Adam is trying to write different tunes than the rave-ups of his more youthful days. As anyone at BRP knows, going away from rave-ups is not a good idea in my book. And while his more recent albums are getting some critical acclaim, I still like the bar band zaniness of the early stuff. I don’t really want to see Adam by himself at the piano doing a ballad. Yuck, that’s so Elton John without the sausage-sized fingers. I want to see movement, silliness, people moving and grooving. And sure, there is still plenty of that, but it’s not the same as the earlier days.
But did I come away satisfied? Oh, hells yes! And the value proposition remains outstanding – you can barely go to the movies these days without dropping $20 a ticket, but to see a full band of crazies giving you their all for about 2 hours for $20? Man, what a great deal! I love it. And even without the value, it’s still a great night of pure rock ‘n’ roll energy, with some fun campiness thrown in to keep you entertained.
As always, if you get a chance to see LCC, do yourself the favor and go see them. I never guarantee that people will enjoy a show because of the vagaries of people’s tastes in music. But I have taken dozens of people to see LCC, and they have all come away satisfied. As Dick Vitale would say, it’s a guarantee, baby! You’ll love it. And some day, you’ll be able to tell all your friends that, yeah, you saw LCC back in some tiny club before they became big stars. And you know that there is nothing like lording your good fortune over the deniers and unbelievers who later become converts – not that that’s why you go to see LCC, mind you, but it’s yet another in the long list of benefits of seeing them perform live.
With that, it’s time to move on to yet another adventure in the BRP world. If there is one place where the value proposition is even better than an LCC show, it’s BRP. Free! How much better could it be? Well, it might be better if I wrote better, but hey, that’s a nitpick. Tell your Ma, tell your Pa, everything’s going to be alright when you’re in BRP land. Hang in there, winter won’t last forever, and soon you’ll be outside in shorts and flip-flops with the grill going, a cold beverage in you hand, and the tunes playing as a warm breeze wafts down on you. Take care, my friends.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.