Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Woodstock 41 - reflections a week later

I realize that my blogging output is way lower than other folks. Many people ramble on about all the events of their day, before, during and after they happen. Anyone reading this entry has probably seen enough of my posts to know that I don't roll that way. Nevertheless, it came to my attention that not only do I need to write an entry about the Love Letters show from this past Saturday, but I also never wrote anything about the Woodstock 41 show that happened at Howler's on Sunday, August 15. I participated in that show too, playing in Refried Boogie, a Canned Heat tribute band. There's a lot tell about that show, so I'm going to run out of time before I can get to the Love Letters.

The Woodstock show was put together by Brian Colleran (man of many local bands, including but not limited to Weird Paul and Thee Starry Eyes) and Read Connelly (also of Thee Starry Eyes, Beagle Brothers). Reed started the show around 6 pm with a Ritchie Havens set that was as much shtick as it was music - in a good way. When he played "Freedom," he walked offstage up to Brian and asked "Are any of the other bands here yet," just as Havens did 41 years ago. Mr. Connelly is a ham.

Next up was a duo credited as Elliott Sussman and Middle Children, although I saw Mr. Sussman perform one night later and he didn't quite look like the gent who was in this duo. Anyhow, they recast Jefferson Airplane with pre-programmed computer beats, which was a clever twist from the usual homages that the rest of us were doing. For yuks, they threw in Starship's "We Built This City," in which "rock and roll" was switched out for "cock and balls."

Alicia Fronczek from the Garment District also rearranged Janis Joplin in a slower, almost goth way by skipping drums, but having guitar, bass and keyboards/lap steel back her up. On guitar was my once-and-forever bandmate Mike Prosser, who knows all the Big Brother licks anyway. Sara K from the Garment District was in the tricky position of playing bass and holding the tempo together and she was like a rock. Solid, that is. Eric, the fourth guy, sometimes got a little drowned out, which was unfortunate especially when he whipped out the saw. And Alicia was great as Janis. This dame can sing!

El Grosso cranked up the amps and did a great job with Creedence Clearwater Revival. Those songs are so straight ahead that it's easy to play them without getting the subtleties down, but these guys clearly knew what they were doing and whipped up the energy level in the room.

Next up was Refried Boogie. Now, at the real Woodstock, Crosby, Stills and Nash started their set by saying, "This is only our second gig and we're scared shitless." With us, it was only our second time playing together as a full band, and the first at full volume. Prosser and I had been talking about playing Canned Heat for several months prior to the show. For awhile it looked like I might be the second guitar player, since I was filling the role of Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson in the singing department. Luckily that never happened because even with an open tuning, I'm not to be trusted with six strings. We got James Hart from the Harlan Twins, who belongs in this kind of band anyway. When a guy who looked the part of drummer Fito de la Parra couldn't make the gig, we recruited Harlans drummer Neal Kling. Jason "Underwater Culprit" Baldinger rounded out the band, filling the role of Bob "The Bear" Hite. Our only five-piece practice occurred in Mike's apartment with acoustic guitar, practice pad and low volume bass.

"Refried Boogie" is the name of a 40-minute live track on a Canned Heat album where each member of the band gets a long, indulgent solo, but we avoided that in favor of the band's more popular, accessible (i.e. good) material - "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Going Up the Country," "Let's Work Together," and "On the Road Again," the latter where we pulled a guy up from the audience to drone on the tamboura. Jules from the Harlans was supposed to play it - and it was his axe - but he disappeared during our set. Hence the special guest.

Mrs. Paintbrush - aka Jackson from Grand Buffet - did a tribute to folksinger Melanie next. What I like about this guy is he's a badass mc, all fiesty and rowdy onstage, ready to drop f-bombs, but he knows Melanie's music and his professed love of it didn't sound ironic at all. And you have to love a guy who likes Melanie in part because she reminds him of his mom.

Cactus Wheelhouse, something of local supergroup, did Mountain next. Dave Wheeler (guitar) and Jake Leger (drums, also of Karl Hendricks) have played together before but the aforementioned Jules Krishnamurti (Harlan Twins) filled in for their regular bass player. Ear drums were damned when these cats started. Dave can chew up the scenery as both a guitarist and a singer, and he made a great Leslie West, albeit a lot lighter in weight. The two electric fans were blowing his and Jules' hair which only added to the visual effect.

They were so loud that I had to listen to the Weird Paul Rock Band do Joe Cocker from outside. Surprisingly Paul handed the role of Joe over to his keyboard player Ben, who put on a great show.

By the time Prosser, Baldinger, Connelly, Colleran and whoever else was up doing Country Joe and the Fish, I felt kind of spent. A lot of music had gone down that night. It was great to see Prosser clearly in ecstasy onstage, churning out leads and making rocking-out moves. Baldinger also seemed to reach transcendence as he got into the sermonizing aspect of the set. He was really into it.

BUT THEIR SET WOULDN'T END. It was hard to tell if things were falling apart or if the songs had a lot of breakdowns in them. They did "Rock and Soul Music" which Prosser said was a pretty long piece. But he and JB kept talking over each other and it got a little frustrating, so I had to get some water and clear my head.

Honorable mention goes to DJ Stripey who spun during the sets and actually avoided his uber-obscure usual habits and plays some pretty popular (and good) '60s stuff.

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