Bully at Underground Arts
Here we go again. I’ve now been to about half of my pre-Covid Philly clubs. The latest was Underground Arts, that down-in-the-basement club that has the feel of a frat house. I was there to see the punk band Bully, and it was great to be back. I’ve seen a number of memorable shows at UA, including some of my favorite bands: Marah, the Weeks, the Strypes, the English Beat, Protomartyr, Stiff Little Fingers. It felt comforting to be back within friendly confines with many great memories.
But it’s amazing what an absence will do to the old memory hole. For instance, I knew that UA had big concrete support pillars in the space, but I had forgotten just how big they are. And while I remembered the smallish stage, I had not recalled how the stage is hemmed in by the concrete pillars. If you’re in that front space, you are golden, but there are limited sight lines if you venture too far back. Hence, I never venture too far back. In fact, I can remember being right up front for Still Little Fingers and pumping my arm along with everyone else in the space while they just killed Suspect Device. My memory makes it seem like a much bigger crowd than my reality now understands that it was not that big.
One of the things I really like about UA is that they get great bands. I don’t know who their booking agent is, but I’m telling you, they bring in some of the best talent. And they remember you. Prior to the idiotic lockdowns, I had been going to a bunch of shows there, and then one night I show up to see the Strypes. They go “hey, you come here a lot, here are some free tickets to another show.” I thought it would be some crap event featuring a band that everyone hated, but no, it was for Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. You know, the kick ass blues-based band headed by Stevie Van Zandt of E Street Band and Sopranos fame. It was a “Norm!” moment for me, and like Norm, I liked it.
Back to the present. I have liked Bully since they first came on the scene, and I’ve been itching to see them. But first, we had to check out two warm up bands. Now, I had been to see Low Cut Connie the night before, and wasn’t looking to stay up all night, so I wasn’t too thrilled about having to listen to two openers. However, as is often the case in such a situation, the two openers were worth it, particularly the second act, the Graham Hunt Band. Ryan and I liked every single one of the songs they played in their 30 minute set – not a bad tune in the bunch. Graham himself looks and dresses like a guy who could have sold Craftsman tools at Sears in the 60s, but so what? Better than some smelly hippie, right? Here are a few pics:
Anyway, I was psyched that I had discovered a new band. In fact, I wrote down their name and put them on the Spotify for the drive home. And then, a WTF moment. Graham may have a good vibe when playing live, but the recorded stuff was over-produced spam that didn’t come close to matching their live performance. What am I supposed to do with that? Well, for loyal BRP readers, my recommendation is go see them live if you get the chance, but otherwise, skip ‘em. It’s not like my Houston find of the band Sloane, who are really good both live and on record.
Back to Bully. Well, not quite yet. Let me describe the crowd. Lots of tattoos, and lots of lesbians. Hmmm, that’s interesting. It wasn’t all lesbians, but it was noticeable, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it made me think I was missing something about the band. Oh, and one more thing about the crowd: pretty heavy drinking for a Sunday night. At least that’s what I thought until Ryan pointed out that a bunch of the cans they were pounding down were actually some kind of water that is packaged to look like beer. That made me chuckle. I don’t drink anymore, but I used to seriously pound. I don’t really care what people think of me when they see me getting a Diet Coke at a show. To each his own, right? I mean, when I was drinking, I used to like people who didn’t want to drink. My mind thought “cool, more for me,” not “you’re so uncool.” Hahaha, what a world!
Bully. That’s the reason I was in UA checking out these other bands, scoping the venue and examining the lesbian drink of choice. Bully is a Nashville based punk band that is fronted by Alicia Bognanno. They have a new album out which sports a number of solid tracks. I had been listening to it while driving back and forth to work (yup, I’m in my office a lot now you lazy sods), and there was one song that I kept putting on repeat. So Bully comes out, plugs in, and kicks into Where to Start (my song of choice) and we were off and running. Give it a listen:
Great way to start a show, right? And they didn’t let up the whole night. They tore through about 5 or 6 tracks before saying “hi Philly.” [Quick sidebar on that. How come every band says “how are you doing Philly” or DC or wherever you are seeing the show. My name isn’t Philly, and I oftentimes see shows when I’m out of my hometown. Isn’t it kind of a weird thing? Why not just say “how ya’ll doing tonight?” Or “what brings you to Philly tonight?” You know what I mean? Or am I just a jerk on this point?] Bully goes through a hard and fast-paced show, plays all of their best songs, and then comes out and does a cover as an encore. Apparently, it’s their trademark way to end a show. I kind of like it. Longtime readers of BRP know that I think the encore is a tired rock tradition, but if you feel the need to engage in the tradition, doing a different cover every night is kind of different and cool. This night, it was some goofy pop song that I can’t remember, and they did a fun and credible job with a song that they were a little embarrassed to play. One thing for sure: it wasn't this track, which just rips.
I came away thinking it was a really good show. I said that to Ryan, who came back with a less-than-enthusiastic response. I was intrigued, and he said that after seeing the show, he didn’t care that much for their tunes. I know what he means – I saw The Wonder Years in Houston, and I liked them better before I saw them live. It wasn’t that the show was bad or a misrepresentation of their body of work. It was more of the realization that all of their songs were a bit too formulaic for me, and that most of them sounded like versions on the exact same theme. In other words, they all sounded alike. Unfortunately, that, too, is a long-time rock tradition. Remember the Romantics? Red leather suits and new-wavish pop tunes with edge? I saw them at the Disco Depot in Radford, VA, and they played their two biggest hits back-to-back. What I Like About You and When I Look In Your Eyes. Both are great songs, but after hearing them played one right after the other, my buddy and I said that it was the exact same song with different lyrics. Here they are – you decide:
I found the Bully show to be highly satisfying and a good way to finish a great weekend of live music. It was fun to be back in UA, and to recognize that it survived the horrendous lockdowns. It was fun to see a crowd of people that I don’t usually hang out with (and I hope they felt the same about seeing my buttoned-down ass at their show). And it was good to be back in the groove of feeling tired but satisfied after two nights and five bands. I’m back in the saddle.
Do you think Alicia could benefit from the purchase of a hairbrush? Yeah, I thought so, too.
I found the Bully show to be highly satisfying and a good way to finish a great weekend of live music. It was fun to be back in UA, and to recognize that it survived the idiotic lockdowns. It was fun to see a crowd of people that I don’t usually hang out with (and I hope they felt the same about seeing my buttoned-down ass at their show). And it was good to be back in the groove of feeling tired but satisfied after two nights and five bands. I’m back in the saddle.
Until next time, you keep your thoughts swirling around “what will BRP bring next?” Because you never know. And I have some good stuff – a few more shows, a BRP goes to a high society function review, and just some fun in a world that hasn’t been a lot of fun lately. Ready, steady, go – check back often.
I haven't done tidbits in, what, a few years? Yeah, probably true. Remember that 2020 doesn't really count even though it was a big year for the Kid. But I apologize for not sending something along before this time.
OK, I'm done apologizing for my break. I'm back and rolling now, and it's onward and upward! Let's start tidbits with a little bit of something I saw rolling up I-95 in December. I was probably in South Carolina when I came across this baby moving down the road. I wasn't driving and took some pictures. Here ya go:
Seriously, the Ghostbusters mobile? Driving on I-95? I don't know what you think, but it makes me think this is a great country full of a bunch of crazy nutjobs who do whatever the heck they want to do. And I love it! I still remember seeing a pickup truck in St. Augustine with a big "F*ck Carole Bascomb" sticker on the back of it. Hahaha, who does that? An American!
Near the end of summer, I went to an Italian-American festival in the Philly 'burbs. It was fun, and the roasted pork sandwiches were to die for. But I came across this icon and wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Yup, it's covered in money. But it's a saint, right? St. Francis maybe? I was raised Catholic and I still had never seen this before. Check it out:
I better get back to rock. I saw this group of rock 'n' roll patches while I was out in the sticks of Colorado and I was in some thrift store. I swear that I did not touch them at all - they were laying like this when I came upon them - I just saw them and took the picture. How interesting the group of bands, right, especially for me?
Later on during the same trip, I'm in the ready market of a gas station to get a drink. And I come across the perfect country meal! Check it out - all the food groups are represented. Diet soda, check. Spam, check. Vienna sausages, check. Potted meat, check. Chips, check. Hungry? Hells yes!
On another trip out west this past year, this time to California, I was in Santa Cruz and saw a poster for an upcoming live all-female rock show. Here's the picture and it's funny. Again, that American wit. Oh, and the second shot is from the Del Mar Theater right along the main drag of this fun beach town. Wild Stallions music rules! I don't know what it is, but California still has a lot of these old theaters - keep preserving them because they are cool.
Now, this next one is a bit weird. Again, from California, the land of fruits and nuts. I saw this sticker along a lamppost, and well, you know, I just had to take it. If I ever had a tattoo parlor, I think I would name it Wild Bill's. And how do you get a celebrity endorsement like this one? That's probably why I don't have a tattoo parlor.
I better get back to the East Coast. I'm in Savannah, Georgia in December and came across this doormat. It's exactly what me and most of my friends need. Funny? You bet. Oh, and Savannah is crazy fun - better than Charleston in my humble, but correct, opinion.
It was December 2020. Most of the country was locked down. But I had had Covid already and was in Asheville, NC, and well, the south was being free. I hadn't seen live music since February. We stumbled across a bar where this guy was playing. He was a one-man band, and he had all the gadgets to record sounds, rhythms, etc, and then he would play it back and sing and play lead guitar to it. It was entertaining, if a bit goofy. But even more so, it was a huge reminder that the world did not end with Covid, and that people were going to come back together to see live music again. I didn't catch his name, but he made my YEAR! Rockers, keep on rockin'!
In Delray Beach, Florida, there is a fantastic man-made wetland that is home to tons of aquatic birds, freshwater turtles, lizards, and alligators. There's an elevated boardwalk and you just stroll around and see this huge abundance of nature. It's called Wakodahatchee Wetlands, and we pretty much see a gator every time we go. Check this guy out - he's huge, probably about 9 feet, and he clearly is feeling relaxed and good on this fine day.
I can't decide which one of these houses to buy. What do you think? On second thought, maybe I'll just hold out for that townhouse.
Houston, Texas is deep in the heart. And what do they do in Texas? They celebrate everything Texas! Check out the shape of this large lazy river pool in downtown Houston. It's fun and that pool area gets crazy on the weekends. Even during Covid. And well before vaccines. I love that.
And now here we are. It's January in Philly. It's cold. It's dark. There's snow on the ground. And you know what I'm thinking of? SUMMER!
I better get rolling. I know I've got more tidbits stuff to post, and I'll dig it up and share it with you. In the meantime, you keep doing what you're doing and remember: summer always comes back. Love you guys, see you on the flip side.
Want to hear some good tracks? Well, they aren't not new, but some of them are new to me, and so here in BRP world that qualifies as something that should be shared. I’ve been on a Built to Spill jag lately, and was listening to Built to Spill Radio on Spotify when I came across a couple of these tracks. But let’s start with Built to Spill itself, ok? I’m going to see them in May with Ryan, and here’s one of the reasons I bought tickets 6 months out – Carry the Zero:
Ever heard of the Olivia Tremor Control? Me, neither, but this song is a keeper. It’s called Jumping Fences, and it’s now got the little “like” sign next to it on my Spotify account. Did you say Beatles-esque? Yeah, probably not a word, but hey I call 'em like I see 'em, and this one pays a clear debt to the Fab Four. The only problem with this song is that it's too short - c'mon, give us another verse or something!
Web in Front by Archers of Loaf is another really good tune by a band of whom I was previously unaware. Goofy video for sure. But I used to be pretty good at the pogo stick.
I know I’ve linked to Okkervil River before. I’m not completely sold on this band as I’ve given a listen to some of their complete albums. But when they hit a track right, they’re damn good. Lost Coastlines is one of those songs. Listen and understand:
I can't tell if I like or hate this next song. Well, that's not true. I love the music. It's just great. But the vocals? Hmmm, maybe they're an acquired taste. I keep listening to it just to see. I'll let you make up your own mind. Here's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah with The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth.
One last song and then I'm on to something else, ok? Here we go with another older tune, but still a great one that I haven't linked to before. The Breeders! This song is catchy and I'll bet you've heard it a bunch of times. Ready? Blast off!
What? You want one more? As Gordon Gecko said, greed is good. And I'm going to reward your greed with one more good track. The Strokes, that amazing 90s band, did this great track many years ago, but I still love it. It's 12 51 somewhere, right?
Later you greedy bastards.
Let’s suppose that you haven’t been to the Jersey shore before. I don’t necessarily blame you – it’s not a national destination, but rather a series of beach towns that serve local metropolises like New York and Philadelphia. But some of these towns are somewhat famous: Atlantic City is known by many because of its history and due to it being the host city of the Miss America pageant forever. And if you’re a rock fan, you’ve probably heard of Asbury Park because of Bruce Springsteen.
Springsteen grew up in the greater Asbury Park area, and made it famous with his very first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ. I had never been there as its more to the north of where most Philly people go “down the shore.” But one of our friends said that we needed to go, and more specifically, that we needed to go to the Stone Pony and see a show.
The Stone Pony is the rock bar venue that gave birth to Springsteen, Southside Johnny, and the entire Jersey Shore sound. It’s a bit legendary, and one of those venues that are on the rock pilgrimage tour. You know, if you’re a Catholic you did the pilgrimage in Europe, hitting all the local cathedrals and sites where miracles occurred. If you’re a rocker, you go and hit the venues and famous places that made rock ‘n’ roll history. The US is full of these sites: Memphis is a good example with that city housing Sun Studios, Stax Records, Beale Street, and of course, Graceland. It’s a cool place to go and see the historical rock sites. And many other cities boast similar attractions. Nashville with the Ryman, South Broadway, the Grand Ole Opry, and the like. Austin with Antone’s, 6th Street and the Continental. New Orleans with Tipitina’s, Bourbon Street and Jazzfest.
But if you’re further north, you need to find other sites that can fit the bill. And that’s where Asbury Park and the Stone Pony come in. The town is about an hour and a half from Philly, and there are enough hotels that you can come here even during the non-high season months when the shore is hopping. And the Stone Pony is open year-round, with shows going all the time.
We decided to go to the Stone Pony after an extended delay due to the Covid stuff. Our friend saw that Low Cut Connie was playing the Pony (that review is upcoming) on a Saturday night in December, and we bought tickets. We stayed at an old hotel that had allegedly been refurbished call the Berkeley. It was about a 3-block walk from the hotel to the Pony, so we were set. And the hotel and the venue are both just off the boardwalk.
After arriving and seeing a big group of people in the lobby getting ready to attend a wedding (from all appearances, Tony Soprano still lives in NJ), we took a stroll on the boards. It wasn’t too cold, and some restaurants and bars were open, making for a somewhat lively walk. If you haven’t been to the mid-Atlantic coast in winter before, here’s a quick description: windy, cloudy, spitting rain half the time, and ultimately giving way to a feeling of “let’s get the hell out of here.” There was an interesting old casino building that covered the boardwalk and has some shops and restaurants inside, but like all of Asbury Park, it could use a scrub and refresh.
And that’s my overall impression of Asbury Park. While there are some impressive renovations and new construction underway, overall the place has seen better times. Like Atlantic City further south, it’s an odd amalgamation of high living and rundown. I’ve heard Atlantic City described as Camden by the Ocean, and while that’s not really fair, it does render enough truth to make the moniker stick. Asbury Park is a lot like Atlantic City absent the casinos. Clearly, it had a big heyday, but it’s also mostly living on borrowed time. In a world of unlimited time, I don’t think I would go back there again, and in a world of limited time, I can pretty much guarantee it unless, of course, there is a great act playing at the Stone Pony.
Anyway, we get on the boards and within a block we stumble upon Madam Marie’s! You should know about Madam Marie from the Springsteen song, 4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy), but if not, listen and you shall learn:
We didn’t see Marie herself, nor did we venture inside. Like all astrologists, I’m sure that there is good theater inside, but if they could really predict the future, they wouldn’t be holed up in some chintzy little shop on the boardwalk in Asbury Park since 1932. Anyway, she got a cool paintjob for her place, and I wish her well.
We kept on rolling and ended up heading over to the Pony to catch a glimpse during the daylight hours. LCC was in there doing their sound-check, so we couldn’t go inside, but we got a view of the outside and I took a few pics.
Later on, we did head in, of course. A couple of things struck me about the venue. It was the first show that I’ve seen post-Covid that didn’t require either a mask or a vax card. In Phil Murphy’s New Jersey! Rant and rave about Florida (and don’t do it around me, because I’ll tell you that Florida is the most free of all the states in the union right now), but Phil Murphy was Mr. Lockdown. How did that happen? I don’t know, but a sold-out show at the Pony was done completely pre-Covid style. In fact, it was done pre-Paris style as there wasn’t even a metal detector to check for weapons. Hoo boy!
The Pony is a rectangular space, and the stage is centered on one of the long walls. The stage is small, and the ceiling above it is low – more on that in the LCC review. And there doesn’t appear to be a dressing room for the artists as they came in through a side door from outside of the bar. Speaking of bars, the Pony has 3 of them. That’s a huge plus, and not just for my imbibing friends. It helps to spread out the crowd, and allows people some well-deserved space. The Ardmore Music Hall could use some help in this regard, and that’s not the only venue that falls prey to the one-bar only concept.
The other interesting thing about the Pony is that two of the bars are basically in adjunct rooms that are a bit separated from the main entertainment space. That’s another good thing for those who want to hear the music as opposed to hearing their neighbors talking about some inane thing going on in their life. Finally, there is one elevated section a little back from the stage that allows part of the crowd to see the stage from further back. While I don’t usually gravitate to those kinds of spots, I do when my buddies all think it’s a great idea.
How about the sound? All in all, pretty damn good. It’s about what you would expect from a rectangular venue, which usually have the best sound (check out the theaters and philharmonic concert halls that have amazing acoustics, and then tell me I’m wrong). It also has a lot of guitars and memorabilia hanging on the walls, which gives you something to talk about and check out prior to the show. And it has this big painting inside in case you forgot where you were or who made this bar famous:
One last thing: we grabbed a space on the rail and pretty quickly, a guy who was standing up behind us got a bit into my face. I had 20 years and a lot less tattoos on me than this guy, and so I said, hey, no problem, if this is your spot, we’re good hanging behind you. Anyway, we got to talking and this dude and his girlfriend were very cool. They see a ton of shows, and were headed to Athens, Georgia to see Driver-By Truckers in January. In fact, they were so gung-ho on Athens that they’ve got me thinking about the next stop in my non-stop rock pilgrimage, and that means we’re headed to the home of the Dawgs.
Alrighty, enough on Asbury Park and the Pony. Let’s get back to some music, shall we?
Hey sports fans, what's happening on this Friday? I was monkeying around and took a look at some of the BRP archives when I was supposed to be working. I noticed a couple of things.
First, I have been to a lot of live music over the last 5 years. COVID notwithstanding, it's been a lot of shows. I took years off while raising kids, and I'm making up for it now. Oh, and I would take many years off again to raise kids - best thing ever in this whole world!
Another thing I noticed is that a lot of links to songs from YouTube are no longer there. WTF? They're on YouTube so they're FREE to anyone and I drive huge traffic to the songs (well, that's an overstatement, but sometimes one person might visit). I don't get it. But I don't get the social media giants in any way - yes, they have a lot of useful stuff, but if you merely scratch the surface, they are evil, bad entities. And no, I am not joking. I'll give them a little sympathy anyway.
No one was like Jagger. If that guy didn't sell his soul to the devil, I don't know who did. Robert Johnson? Maybe.
I also noticed that I've seen a number of bands on more than one occasion. Is that weird? I don't think so. But it does show a limited track. But, hey, I'm always up for seeing new acts, and if you send me some tickets, I'll be there! I've got an upcoming review of a band that I've seen 6 or 7 times now, and they're still great, but not as great as they used to be. Isn't that always the way? No, it's not, but many times it is, right?
I think that song sucks - what about you? This is what the millennials moved to rather than sticking with rock 'n' roll? Hahahaha, losers! Here's a better "do it again" track. How about that groove? And that guitar solo? Yup, much better.
The last thing that I thought was that I used to post a lot. And hey, I'm getting back into the groove, you hear me? If you've been tracking, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's BRP 2.0, and it's better than ever! More cool stuff is coming, so just keep checking back every few days or so. And tell your friends - time to get this ship righted and back into smooth open seas.
See you on the flipside.
BOC! I had never seen them live before and wasn't quite sure what to expect. After all, they're old, and it was post-Covid, and who knows. I am still smarting from seeing Jethro Tull a few years back and being extremely disappointed that Ian Anderson had lost his voice. It just ruined all my Tull memories. And the show was not inexpensive, either, which, recognizing how much of a value guy I am, made it even harder on me.
But it was the Cult!
The show was at the Keswick, and before I get into the concert itself, I need to speak a little on the venue. I'm telling you, that theater needs a refresh badly. The seats move and either you are at a 90-degree angle or slumped at about 45 degrees. And the seat covers are dirty and soiled, making it a little squalid when wearing shorts. It could also use another bathroom or two. But it's in the charming town of Glenside, and parking is generally free even if you have to walk a few blocks. The Keswick didn't take the opportunity to refresh during the ill-fated lockdowns, and that was an opportunity missed. I won't go out of my way to see a show there in the future, but if it's a band I care about, I'll still hazard the venue deficiencies in order to see the band.
So what about BOC? One thing that surprised me is that they are a lot more "jam band" than I thought they would be. Each song had an extended jam by one of the players. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it was unexpected. There was one exception to this rule:
Don't Fear The Reaper, a great Covid song, was played note for note like the single. I guess the band had taken grief in the past for messing around with it, and hey, it's their signature song and probably has payed for all of their bills as adults, so I guess you don't mess with success. But while I expected that the crowd would overreact to that tune, I was mistaken. It was warmly received, no doubt, but it wasn't over-the-top and people didn't leave after hearing it. BOC also did it justice by playing it near the end of the show, but not as the last song or the encore. Thus, it was given a place of honor, but it wasn't the focal point of the show.
That video is pretty old - these guys have aged somewhat - probably because that song came out in the late 70s. I still remember a guy I worked with during a summer job saying it was the best tune of the summer, and I would tend to agree with that. In fact, it's one of those songs that I can hear over and over and never really get tired of. And that's a short list of songs, let me tell you.
I didn't buy the tickets to the show, so we were further back than I would have liked. Sorry, no close-up pictures for this one. But we had good sight lines. The band mostly came out and played without too much stagecraft, but they had one campy tune allowing for some on-stage silliness - see the picture at left for proof.
You get a band with three guitars (one guy shifted between keys and a third axe) and a catalog of strong songs, and you're going to end up with quite a good evening. Remember this one?
I love that song. I don't love the low-budget video, but the song is really good. It was radio ready when released, and helped BOC to achieve commercial success outside of the Reaper. They played two of my other favorite BOC tracks, with the second one being their final song:
Now, THAT'S a video, right? And if you grew up when I did, you remember all those lip-synced Japanese monster movies and TV shows (remember Ultraman?). And the final line is a classic: "History shows again and again/how nature points out the folly of man." Covid, anyone? Or climate change?
Here's the other track:
That guitar riff is an earworm, but of the good kind. You'll be humming it over and over for a few days, and it won't bother you one bit.
All told, it was a fine show. Oh, I forgot to add that they had no opening act, so we were out of there by 10:30 and home in time to drag our ragged butts to work the next day on time.
Would I go see BOC again? Nope. Was I sorry to have seen this show? Nope. It was a solid concert played by a professional band who are good at their craft. Playing a strong set with all the classics made it fun for me. It wasn't the last show that I saw, either. I have a few more to write up in my long list of things I need to get off of my chest.
Hey, tell your friends that BRP is back and that they should check in every now and again. I'm tanned, rested and ready for 2022 and thus ready to get the BRP machine cranking again. See you back here real soon....
Remembering The Clash
I was listening to Spotify, and went to find a song from The Clash's Sandinista album. I hadn't heard the song in ages, and when I put it on, it bolted through me. The song? Lose This Skin.
That's not Joe Strummer or Mick Jones singing. Nope, it's Tymon Dogg, an old buddy of Strummer's from when JS was a squatter. It's a chilling, incredible song. The electric violin drives the pace, and Dogg's vocals are haunting. It made me think that I had neglected this album for a long time.
When it first came out, I had Sandinista within a couple of hours. It's a complex, sprawling album that goes across 3 discs. Too long? Yes, for sure. But there is at least two albums of fantastic music, and the range and scope of the styles is incredible. It's a brilliant album when skinnied up a bit, but still great even with all the experimental tracks thrown in.
I miss The Clash. With Strummer dead, there is no way that a reunion could ever happen. Luckily, I was able to see the band before its demise, and I was able to see Strummer a couple of times, too.
How good is that track? Which makes me ask, why did the millennials abandon rock 'n' roll for hip hop and other inanities? I don't get it. That track rips you out of your seat, grabs you by your throat, and makes you want to run from the police, right?
Anyway, I think this band left a body of work of which they should be very proud. The Beatles went from pop love songs to go all sorts of places with their music. The Clash went from punk rock to venture forth in a similar vein. They weren't The Beatles, but they sure were great. RIP Clash.
Hey guys, the fact that BRP is back in a big way is getting around. And in Pennsylvania, that is generating some over the top support. Don't believe me? Check this out!
Oh, hells yes that's one proud supporter right there! I don't expect everyone to go the distance, but know that I certainly appreciate all the support.
Here's a little something to whet your appetite and to make your clicking on BRP truly worth your while.
If you grew up in the DC area in the 80s, you know Trouble Funk, the great Go Go band. Combining funk, infectious non-stop grooves, and call-and-response vocals, TF brought it. Let's Get Small is one earworm that you'll enjoy throughout the holiday season.
Oh, send in your BRP pictures, and I'll make you an internet legend.
If you're a regular reader of BRP, you know that I love Motown. And in the Motown world, there is no bigger or better star than Smokey Robinson. Yes, yes, I know that the Motown galaxy includes a lot of stars like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and many others. But when you look at who made Motown into Motown, there are two guys that are primarily responsible: Barry Gordy and Smokey Robinson.
When the opportunity to see Smokey live popped up, I was both intrigued and a little wary. I've seen a number of aging stars in the last 5 years or so, and some have been good and some not so much. Stevie Wonder? Yes, very good, although when I saw him at JazzFest, he talked way too much. Hmmmm. Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull? Oh, no, Ian has completely lost his voice and an icon of my youth quashed my good memories of concerts of yore. NRBQ? It's the Terry Adams show, and none of the great non-Adams songs are played. Yes, he's still goofy and fun, but I would never recommend going to see him. Frankie Valli? A good one! He doesn't have his full range, but he can still perform and he brings along new "Four Seasons" who can bring it. To sum it up, it's a mixed bag of experiences.
But it was Smokey!
What's so great about Smokey? How about the best Motown song ever, Tracks of My Tears? Or perhaps the greatest response song ever - remember Mary Wells singing My Guy? Smokey wrote it, and then he comes back with My Girl, one of the all-time great songs (I've got sunshine/on a cloudy day!).
The Tears of a Clown!
I Second That Emotion!
Ooh Baby Baby!
Going to a Go Go!
The Way You Do The Things You Do!
You Really Got A Hold of Me!
The list goes on and on, many of them performed by others in the Motown world like the Miracles, the Temptations, The Marvelletes, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and of course, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
If you haven't figured out that I'm a fan of Smokey by now, you need to stop taking whatever it is you're taking. Nonetheless, I was wary. He was playing at a casino in Coconut Creek, always a red flag. And the dude is 81. 81! How good can he be?
Well, how about VERY good! I mean, the guy's voice is the same silky smooth easy-on-the-ears voice that we've known for all these years. It's uncanny that there is no loss of range. Moreover, look at those pictures. He is still slim, can move like a man 20 years younger than he can, and he's still a great performer. Smokey knows how to work a crowd, and that knowledge and experience make him the consummate professional. Motown trained their acts to bring it every night, and Smokey still does.
He played the best of the best. Here's one that all the women loved:
Smokey was smokin'. I will say that the one drawback was that he didn't play very long. In fact, it was only about one hour 15 minutes in total, which is pretty short. And it was sort of a weird set-up at the casino. It was Florida in November, so the show was outside. That's fine, it was a beautiful night. The show was general admission, and that was fine, particularly when they had plenty of chairs set up. Yeah, seats! But guess where they were? In a parking lot. Well, that's different, right? Still, they had multiple bars, a good stage with great lighting, and the sound was much better than I expected it to be. And the backup band was tight, hot and didn't miss a note. All in all, a very good experience, but not your average concert.
I really like that I got the experience of seeing Smokey. No one is immortal, and there will be a day for him just like for all of us. But to see him perform those songs that will live forever, well, it was a special time for me.
Onward and upward. I've got more shows to cover, including some other dinosaurs and some up-and-coming youngsters. Don't you love live music in all of its iterations? Yeah, me, too.
Catch you on the flipside.
TTB in WPB
Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks jointly front and run the incredible Tedeschi Trucks Band. The post-pandemic version of TTB rolled into West Palm Beach in November, and we caught them at the beautiful Kravis Center. Jonathan and Sarah flew in, and we had a great night of food, friends and music.
It was Florida in November, and there is no better place to be. We met up with J and S and had a fun dinner, catching up on all the things that were going on in our respective worlds. We then strolled to the theater from dinner - downtown WPB is compact and things are close. We had been to the Kravis Center before to see a Second City comedy show, but had never seen live music there. The theater is comparatively new, and doesn't have the history or decorative elements of the Beacon, Warner or other older venues. But it's really beautiful, with lots of polished wood, and the acoustics are top-flight. It's nice.
TTB has made a career of playing theaters, and I totally get what they're doing. These venues have large stages and backstages that allow for big touring acts. They also allow for larger crowds than small clubs. Most of them are really beautiful, too, something that no basketball or hockey arena can approach. And while they are somewhat large, they are still intimate and there usually isn't a bad seat in the house. Did I say seats? Yes, and for a band like TTB that attracts a multi-aged crowd, seats can be important. Helen loves getting a seat (even if she doesn't like always sitting in it when the band is playing). I still prefer clubs that are SRO, but must admit that they can be tiring if there are multiple acts performing. Regardless, we've seen TTB in multiple theaters (Ryman, Warner, Met, and now Kravis), and I've enjoyed both the band and the theater experience every time. It's a keeper.
So who is TTB? In 2008, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks both had successful solo careers, but decided to throw in together and form TTB in 2010. The married couple gathered a really strong backup band that, right from the start, featured a double drummer lineup that allows the band to be a super powerful live act. They added keys, backup singers, bass, and a full horn section. It's a 12-person band that packs a huge punch, and ventures into blues-based music, gospel, and jazz. If you think they're the righteous heirs to the Allman Brothers Band, you are partially correct, but it's also a different sound due to the horns and backup singers. Regardless, they have become relentless on the road playing about 200 shows per year and have also put out 5 studio albums. If you want more, check out their website for the "official" bio:
I'm a fan, but Jonathan is a superfan. He's seen them a ton of times, and I swear they know him. It's great going to a show with someone who can identify all of their cover songs (and TTB does a ton of great covers), fill you in on the band members and their histories, knows the best places to sit - you know, the front row - and otherwise has genuine enthusiasm that manifests itself by bringing everyone into it in a big way.
The band was cooking this night. Susan came out in a sharp red dress and got right down to business. She has a great blues voice, and her emotional command of the songs is a huge attribute to the delivery by the band. Derek still has the pulled back ponytail, and was sporting the latest fashion looks from Bass Pro Shops. But man, can that dude play a guitar! Susan is quite capable on the guitar, too, and she gets her solos, but Derek is a virtuoso. And unlike many guitar heroes, he isn't constantly switching instruments. He plays a Gibson SG. Jonathan said he switches his guitar for just one song, but otherwise, he sticks to the SG. Whatever, it works for him. He rips and slides and has an amazing sense of when to let it ride and when to kick it in the ass.
And the rest of the band is fine-tuned, too. When you have a 12 person band playing every night, you have to gather an ensemble that can listen to each other, rehearse and jam well together, and compensate for each other's strengths and weaknesses. Heck, it's just difficult keeping that many personalities in line, let alone doing it night-after-night and achieving musical success.
Want a taste? I love this track, it rocks, but it also features just about everything great about the band - a sassy Susan vocal, a great Derek solo, and the power of the backing band in all respects.
Did they play that song? Funny you should ask. I don't need to link to setlist.fm this time. We had the setlist and you can see it all in its glory:
To Sarah's dismay, they did play Midnight in Harlem. It's a good track, but I guess when you hear it over and over live, you yearn for something different. Nonetheless, you can see that it was a strong set.
I got some pretty good pictures this night, too. Here are a couple that you might like:
Can someone please explain to me why lighting guys love red lights so much? I think they muddy the stage, they're terrible for pictures, and they give off a weird glow on people's skins. Alas, I guess we're stuck with them, but I really prefer the blues and whites.
Getting back to TTB, they played a lengthy set (oftentimes, they will play 2 sets), and the crowd came away satiated. And even though it was performed in the Free State of Florida, people had to show vax cards to get in. There was also supposed to be a mask requirement, but what's the point if everyone is vaxed? Anyway, no one was hassling people about the masks, and that was a step in the right direction IMO.
I've got a couple more pics to share, and then I'm outta here. If you get a chance to see TTB, I think you'll come away impressed. They jam frequently, but it's not a Phish concert where each song takes 25 minutes. The band's jams are used to highlight the power and musicality of the band, and to enhance the strength of the songs. It's the right mix.
Hey rockers, in the words of Weezer, it's time I got back to the good life, and that means more postings on BRP. Tell your friends to check in every now and again. I've got a slew of shows to write about, and I've been collecting other things over the pandemic to share with you. Get out there and go for it!
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.