Run Out of Gift Ideas?

I was holidaying in Queensland a couple of weeks ago (for Americans, Queensland = Florida) and stumbled upon a market selling the usual crafty nick nacks.  Shining like a beacon among all the embroidered tissue box holders were these little critters:

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Day # 2

First up, i have to say that we may have found just about the best coffee on the trip which has now extended for almost a month.


Stanza Coffee 1673 Haight St.

One thing led to another.


We certainly weren’t going to walk it today so Richard and I strolled a few blocks to Fulton St and caught the number 5 bus to just near a side entrance to the Rooster Stage.

I was keen to watch Tim O’Brien particularly after seeing him interviewed at Americanafest a little while ago.  He was on the Banjo Stage but I couldn’t get close enough to give him justice so I doubled back and decided to get a good and hopefully shady spot in advance of Dave Alvin with Greg Leisz at the Star Stage.

Mission accomplished with a cement seat for a friend for the thirty-minute wait.


Some of the crowd at the Star Stage – note man in tree

I’m pretty familiar with Alvin’s post-Blasters material.  I have seen him only once live – at the Rock ‘n’ Bowl in New Orleans with The Guilty Women.  I recall there were microphone problems that seemed to distract him a little but a good night nonetheless – seeing Cindy Cashdollar on pedal steel was a bonus.

Speaking on pedal players, Greg Leisz is on the bill with Alvin and he is one of the very best.  He has played with Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, Eric Clapton and Wilco, to name a few.  He is also an accomplished producer and long-time collaborator with Alvin.  Originally announced as part of Buddy Miller’s super house band at this year’s Americana Awards, however for some reason he wasn’t in attendance.

In the festival program, Dave Alvin is quoted “There are two kinds of folk music – quiet folk music and loud folk music. I play both”. He is a Grammy Award winning singer songwriter and his Every Night About This Time was the first CD I bought.

My vantage spot were perfect, standing right behind a large, slightly elevated concrete drain cover – an uninterruptible view. The acoustics were nice as well.

Alvin’s voice, acoustic guitar and the slide of Leisz were a perfect complement, together with  Christy McWilson on support vocals.  She has a strong voice, a little reminiscent of June Carter.


Dave Alvin with McWilson and Leisz


Alvin and Leisz

I then made my way to the Banjo Stage where there was a Hardly Strictly Tribute to the Masters, followed by the Jerry Douglas Band.  But again there was little or no shade, so my weary legs took me to the Rooster Stage where Loudon Wainwright III was doing his drug, youth and rebellious schtick – not really my thing.


Loudon Wainwright III

It was at this point that I started to focus on being in good shape for Chuck Prophet tonight, an early gig, on stage at 7.30 pm.  I was tossing up whether to see part of the Jerry Douglas or Patty Griffin set (both on at the same time) and then rush back to the apartment and try and find dinner before Chuck comes on.

Ultimately, I decided on beating a strategic withdrawal and head back early.  In the words of one Mr Rogers – you have to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.

I managed to catch the bus and get off at about the correct stop before trundling up the 8 or blocks to home base.


Late evening view from our front porch

The Make-Out Room was our destination for the chuck Prophet gig. A cab ride was necessary on this occasion. The cabbie put us on to a restaurant around the corner – Foreign Cinema which proved to be an excellent choice.

Ten minutes before the gig was due to start, we arrived to get a great spot on the side. Bazz and I had a quick chat with the great Chuck Prophet himself.

What a great performance we saw that night. Chuck was in brilliant form – his band the Mission Express was on fire. After some pretty mellow music over the past two days, it was thrilling to get some high-octane rock show and even more so for me from an artist that I have followed for many years but never had the opportunity to see live. A privilege to be there. Another customer there told me he had seen Prophet about twenty times and this was the pinnacle performance. Peter Case was a special guest.

A contender of gig of the year.

My Ultimate Festival Line-Up: A Dream By Me

This is a stupid post really and I apologise.

I’ve just heard (a little disbelievingly) that Alice Cooper is headlining Fairport’s Cropredy Convention in 2013 and seeing the conservative headliners in this year’s New Orleans Jazz Fest schedule…it makes me wonder. If I could choose, who would I have at my preferred event. If I build it, would they come?

The dream list is largely based on performers I haven’t see much of, if anything.

So here goes, I would like to see (in no particular order):

Peter Gabriel
Alison Krauss and Union Station
Jerry Douglas outside of Union Station
Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings
Guy Clark
Archie Roach
Fats Domino
The Band of Heathens
The Cash Brothers
Kathleen Edwards
Renee Geyer
Howe Gelb
Sarah Jarosz
Great Lake Swimmers
Kutcha Edwards
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
Chuck Prophet
Rodney Crowell
The Unthanks
Iris Dement
Robert Ellis
Jack Howard
Jerry Jeff Walker
Alabama Shakes
Dave Alvin
The Black Lillies
Gordon Lightfoot
The Jayhawks
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale
Mumford and Sons
Dan Penn
Pink Floyd (I know I know that’s hopeful!)
Merle Haggard
Gretchen Peters
Shovels and Rope
Paul Thorne
The Steeldrivers
Steve Wynn and Chris Cacavas

Hmm, I’d better stop …this is not working out…but it is a dream I guess.

Happy New Music Year

Hope you are having a great start to the New Year.

I have decided not to overdo the resolutions this time around. Maybe not look too far ahead. A wise man I met last year told me that we should be forgiving to ourselves (thanks Geoffrey J) so I’ll think I’ll make that number one for 2013. Followed by more CDs, more gigs and learn how to play the resonator guitar without causing the pets at home to start wailing.

Anyhow, first gig tonight – The First Aid Kit.

I’m starting the new year with the following playlist:

  • Iris Dement – Sing The Delta
  • Various – Transatlantic Sessions 4 Volume 3
  • JD McPherson – Signs and Signifiers
  • Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean Blue
  • Neil Young – Psychedelic Pill
  • Various – That’s Proper Folk!!
  • The Black Lillies – 100 Miles Of Wreckage
  • Various – This One’s For Him: A Tribute To Guy Clark

Damn good company.

Enjoy the year.

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Who The Hell Does Chris Altmann Think He Is?

I’ve seen Chris Altmann perform five times now.

The first occasion was in September 2010 at Basement Disks in Melbourne where he launched his Que Paso album. I can’t recalled what instrument he played then but subsequently I’ve seen him play :

  • piano supporting Joe Pugg,
  • guitar, banjo and mandolin in Suzannah Espie’s band at her recent Sea of Lights album launch and
  • lead and rhythm guitar at Basement Disks again at his own new release launch.

Last Saturday night (1 December) there was the “Chris Altmann Revue” at the wonderful Caravan Music Club in Oakleigh. Chris was playing drums all night this time and showcasing his second album Nothing But Nice Things.  He had a wonderfully loose band that suited the music brilliantly. Singing drummers do it pretty tough – keeping the rhythm engine going while trying to find that extra emotion and rawness in voice is not an easy combo. My friend Ken reckoned that his vocals were a bit diminished by his drumming duties that night and he’s probably right.

BUT… the guy can play and seemingly play whatever takes his fancy. Oh and he can really belt it out vocally with a rich deep baritone and then let go with a sustained tuneful holler when he needs to. I love the effortless joy that he conveys on stage as well. And he can write. “Other Side of the Mountain”, a track from Que Paso is one of those songs that is so good, you swear that you’ve heard it before, that’s it’s a cover of a classic alt. country standard. Suzannah Espie does it beautifully on her aforementioned release and if there’s justice in this hill-of-beans world, maybe someone will cover it and provide Chris with the deserved cudos and, better still, a constant income stream. I’ve been thinking that none other than Mavis Staples would do the job on this one! In a songwriting sense, the new album is full of observations and insights, a little twist here and there so you’re not quite sure whether he’s being serious or sardonic. Nothing But Nice Things is an impressive and confident statement and a welcome addition to anyone’s CD collection.

He told Denise Hyland on her “Twang” show on Triple R last week that music was all that he could do. Well he doesn’t need to do anything else. Catch him if you can before he returns to Canada.

Who the hell does Chris Altmann think he is? Not sure but a lot of people like me think he’s the real deal.