Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tommy Keene & Ivan Julian at Club Cafe

This past week wasn't as much of a whirlwind of shows and crazy deadlines as the week before. I had a talk with Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on Monday afternoon. He was calling from the road and I was worried that the signal was going to die at any moment. It had that feeble high whine on the line that I hear on calls right before the dreaded "click" of hang-up or disconnect. Lucklily, the connection held for the duration of our talk.

When City Paper came out on Wednesday, more people seemed to notice my Back Page column, titled "My Life as a Supervillain," than they ever do for my previews. Of course my photo appeared in it too, so that helped. If you read this in time, come out to Row House Cinemas tonight to see the first four chapters of Heroineburgh. 

Tuesday night, my good pal John Young and his compadre Steve Morrison (who's also a friend - though JDY is my proxy-brother) opened for Tommy Keene and Ivan Julian at Club Cafe. I didn't get any photos of John and Steve but enjoyed their set. They're playing together electrically in the Optimists, but tonight it was just them and acoustic guitars (well, Steve had pedals so he might have been electric). Their set included some songs that dated back to when John and I were roommates, which were good to hear. They still hold up as solid tunes. Plus the new ones are strong too because those two are both good for lyrics that set a scene or tell a story.

I've blown the minds of a couple this week of people who didn't know about Ivan Julian's past. Most people know him as the guitarist with Richard Hell & the Voidoids that wasn't Robert Quine. But few, it seems, know that he was in the Foundations, the '60s band that had a hit with "Build Me Up Butttercup." I think he might have been a teenager at that point. In 2011, he released the album The Naked Flame which, among other things, indicated that Quine was not responsible for all the wild guitar noise on Blank Generation. 

He opened his set with (early) Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" which showed off his guitar chops (and made me wonder how he was tuned) and also made me wonder what direction he'd take in his set. They consisted pretty much of originals after that, and included a guest appearance by Pittsburgh drummer Dave Klug (also of the Optimists) on djembe when Julian asked for a drummer from the audience. For that one, he switched to an instrument which was kind of like a lap steel with buttons to hold down chords. He finished up with "Hardwired," which includes the immortal line, "It's going to be my day/just to piss it away." A quick look around the internet seems to want to put Julian in league with Jimi Hendrix, but in the end he came off more like a combination of his friend Richard Hell with a little bit of Arthur Lee of Love.

Tommy Keene is one of those guys who's been around forever. John Young profiled him in Discourse, the zine that we did together in the '90s. But I've never gotten around to fully investigate Keene's music. Going into his music virtually cold on Tuesday, though, there was plenty to latch onto. With that 12-string guitar and strong voice, and lyrics that went somewhere, he had me and the whole audience in rapt attention. For an encore, Julian joined him onstage and the duo traded verses on the Rolling Stones "Mother's Little Helper."

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