Friday, March 31, 2023

Quasi Came Back to Pittsburgh

Quasi hasn't been to Pittsburgh in about 20 years. I forget the exact year but it very likely might have been 2003. What I do remember is that I had been waiting to see them live since first hearing them in the late '90s and on the night that they finally made it town (aside from an appearance at the hard-to-get-to amphitheatre outside town), I was playing a show that same night. After finishing our set, I hightailed over the hills and through a tunnel, managing to catch about three songs. One was an encore of the Who's "Amazing Journey." I was not about to miss another opportunity to catch them. My wish finally came true this past Tuesday night at Club Cafe. (As a sidenote, Quasi's Sam Coomes had been to Pittsburgh just a few months prior as a member of Jon Spencer and the HITmakers.) 

Bat Fangs opened the show, having been Quasi's tourmates for a few weeks, with Pittsburgh being their final night together. The trio (duo on record) describes themselves as "picking up where Roky [Erickson] and the Aliens left out - cranking acid-soaked '80s hard rock." Roky might not have been the first person that springs to mind but the band played a solid set of distorted pop that was full of layers. 

Guitarist Betsy Wright churned out chords while singing but she kick on the pedals during verses and unleashed some spot-on leads. She even did some hammering during one solo that wasn't ironic or cheesy; it elevated the song. One song later in the set inspired a howling, deep blue lead break which served as a reminder that she was playing a Gibson SG - perfect for this brand of rock.

Her bandmates also helped lift the songs. Drummer Laura King flew over her kit as if she had eight arms and she still found ample time for strong harmonies. Bassist Chrissy Tashjian, who is also in the band Thin Lips, also contributed a great deal to the strong vocal hooks, along with some solid low-end foundation. 

There was a time that Sam Coomes' lyrical outlook started to feel a little too bleak to these ears, and the comic feel of his work with the awesome Donner Party seemed to be gone. It reached a boiling point on When The Going Gets Dark (2006) in a song where listed the names of members of the then-current administration, following each name with "fuck you." 

Nowadays, Coomes still seems bleak, but the world around him has justified such feelings and the insight in his lyrics almost acts like a relief, letting the listener know that they're not alone in the muck and mire. The band's recent album, Breaking the Ball of History (if you think about it, it's not a bad idea) comes chockful of astute observations about social media, the moguls who control it and life in general. 

Quasi is still a duo - Coomes on one side of the stage with his Roxichord, or some variation thereof, and Janet Weiss (the founding drummer of Sleater-Kinney) on stage left. Put them together and their still make a powerfully loud noise and they can sustain it for upwards of 75 minutes, going from one song into the next with no break for nearly half of the set. 

The power of the music frequently inspired Coomes to lift off of his stool while he was holding down a chord. Occasionally his right knee wound up on the keys, adding a noisy drone. Half the time, he seemed to be tempting fate by shaking his instrument with the amount of force he used to strike the keys. Though it shook, it never teetered off the stand. On top of the keyboard sat some sort of red device (see the first picture) that worked like both a theremin and a Drum Buddy, the noisy instrument created by another eccentric keys man, Quintron. A hand above the device added some electronic yowls. His bank of pedals also added some disemboided tremolo guitar noise during "Queen of Ears."

Janet Weiss in action is a sight to behold. Her propulsive playing never gets excessive, but it drives the music with the perfect amount of fury. At one point during the set, she and Coomes went off into what almost sounded like a duel between Cecil Taylor and John Bonham, with a little Sun Ra thrown in. Weiss flew all over her kit, eventually leading the duo back from space into "The Rhino."

In spite of all the heaviness, Quasi is still a pop band underneath it all. Coomes knows how to write the hooks and even while she's flailing away, Weiss still has time and energy for spot-on harmonies. A band that can write a song called "Shitty Is Pretty" that leaves you humming it hours later has something going for them. The set naturally leaned heavily on the new album, kicking off with "Last Long Laugh" (with the beautiful opening line, "I was a teenage porcupine/ a bed of nails running down my spine"). "Gravity" and the observant "Doomscrollers" were also highlights on the evening. 

But they duo also pulled out some songs that went back to the late '90s albums with "California," (which required a re-start) "Under a Cloud" and the jaded "All the Same," which was anything but. Since they came this far for the first time in a while, it probably wouldn't have been a full night without a song like "You Fucked Yourself." 

Towards the end of the set, Coomes said he hoped the audience was experiencing a meltdown,  not in a bad way but more of a "psychedelic meltdown." He then apologized for his communication skills. "They're not terrible. They're more on the absurd side." He went on to say how the band usually doesn't do encores anymore, but as he tried to explain themselves, Weiss said, "We might as well just play an encore now." Whether or not the proper set was done by then, they gave us another five or six songs to make sure we had our fill. 

Everyone left happy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Steve Nelson Quartet Hit Pittsburgh

The wind was fierce last Saturday, March 25. Throughout Pittsburgh, garbage cans tumbled over. Stray tree branches came down. Leaves in old dirty piles blew in circles, fascinating my cat. 

That evening, right as Gail Austin of Kente Arts Alliance was getting ready to introduce Steve Nelson, the lights in the New Hazlett Theater went out. Luckily, no one panicked and the back-up generator kicked in after less than a minute so the evening continued.

Vibraphonist Steve Nelson hails from these parts, Wilkinsburg specifically. Dr. Nelson Harrison -  the esteemed local trombonist, educator and historian of Pittsburgh jazz - recalled hearing about him when the vibes player was only 16 years old. "He is the representation of the Pittsburgh jazz legacy," the great doctor said.

Nelson's quartet included Rick Germanson (piano), Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass) and Charles Goold (drums). Although he has proven himself adept at playing in Dave Holland's unusual time signatures, Nelson's quartet kept it straight and swinging on Saturday, mixing originals in with some well-trod standards. But even the old familiar works still had plenty of inspiration to mine. 

Opening with "Surrey With The Fringe On Top," Nelson was already taking liberties before the opening theme was complete. Germanson blended single-note lines with groovy chords in this one while Kitagawa dug into some singing melodies on the bass. His original "Song for Tina" had some drive to it, as did "A Path That We Are Searching On," which was marked by stops and accents that helped inspire Germanson to get a bit aggressive on the piano. 

Throughout both sets - which each seemed to go beyond the originally described 45-minute length (not that anyone cared) - Nelson displayed a melodic sense that could happen at rapid or subdued tempos, which he combined with the sense of knowing when to simply let the bars of the vibes ring for a moment. His instrument is one that can become a little overbearing or maudlin in the wrong hands, but he manipulated the sustain pedal for variety, to the extent that he had to tighten the pedal during the second set, as it had come loose. Nelson also avoided any instance of the heavy vibrato that can turn the instrument into a lounge act.

Set number two started on familiar ground but not before Nelson delivered an unaccompanied interlude. The transition from that flowing opening to "Lady Be Good" recalled the same way Errol Garner often gave a number an improvised opening flourish before getting to the head. He occasionally pulled out a third mallet to add some harmony in the right hand, often while the other players soloed. For "Body And Soul," he brought out a fourth one, which he used to create a rich sound. A few tunes later, Kitagawa and Goold (on brushes) made sure that "Embraceable You" maintained a drive rather than simply becoming a sentimental reflection. 

There were instances where it felt like Germanson might have been quoting a little too often from jazz classics during his solos, but his use of insertion can't be dismissed. Kitagawa and Goold both proved to be solid rhythm section mates, with a sharp skill at holding back or pushing forward as needed. Dr. Harrison mentioned in his opening remarks about seeing live streams of this band playing in New York  and when they hit, it was clear the rapport was there with all four of them during both sets. 

Thank God the power stayed on.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Pitt Jazz Composers Concert - A Recap

If last Friday night's double bill of the James Brandon Lewis Trio and the Messthetics (see previous post) wasn't enough to satiate people for a few days, the weekend offered a wealth of other shows in town too. Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science came to town on Saturday to the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Guitarist/vocalist Camila Meza performed the following evening at City of Asylum.

Sandwiched between both of those shows were two matinee performances within a few blocks of each other. Pianist Deanna Witkowski appeared at the Carnegie Library in Oakland and the 2023 Pitt Jazz Composers Concert took place at Bellefield Hall. If I was ambitious, I might have been able to check out a little of both shows. As much as I wanted to see Deanna Witkowski again, having caught a set at Kingfly Spirits a few weeks ago, I opted to check out the afternoon of works by alumni, students and faculty at Pitt's music school.

Dr. Aaron Johnson, seen above holding a conch shell, serves as Interim Director of Jazz Studies at Pitt as well as Assistant Professor of Music. He acted as emcee of the afternoon, and contributed one of the event's strongest pieces.

The band performing each work consisted of many established Pittsburgh musicians, including Paul Thompson (bass), Rick Matt (alto saxophone), Reggie Watkins (trombone) and James Johnson III (drums). 

The music covered a wide range, starting with: a straightforward blend of bop-flavored blues and funk (Rick Nowlin's "Blue Funk"); reworked Charlie Parker (John Lagnese's "Donna Lee In Indiana"); as well as "Thieves" a piece by PhD Candidate Samuel Boateng, which blended music from Ghana with the swing of the ensemble, adding vocals in two languages. 

Departed Jazz Department head Nicole Mitchell was saluted in an arrangement of her "Africa Rising." The piece's 6/4 ostinato led to a solo by tenor saxophonist Eric DeFade (below) that almost featured a Mingus-style vamp. Trumpeter Alex Perez also helped build on the feel of the piece. The late Geri Allen, who preceded Mitchell in the department, was also recognized with a version of her "Unconditional Love," arranged by Pitt's Ralph Guzzi.  

Of the more modern-sounding compositions, Johnson said that Juwon Adenuga's "Water" proved a bit too challenging for students in a jazz arrangement class, hence this ensemble was given the piece, inspired by Fela Kuti and combining a steady rhythm with shifting harmonies. Jason Belcher's "Moderniity" got its "somewhat mindless title" from a Modernism class he took during his undergraduate years. Equally inspired by George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept while maintaining a focused structure, it was involving in ways that I'm still trying to unwrap. (Sometimes it's hard to figure out pieces like this after one live listen.)

The reason Dr. Johnson held a conch onstage is due to a two-note phrase he blew on the shell, which inspired a line in "Red Summer," from his "1919 Suite." A meditation on the racial attacks experienced by African-Americans following the end of World War I, the piece was one of the strongest works of the afternoon, shifting from melodies driven by vibes and baritone sax to a driving canon section and a slow bump and grind groove with a bass break by Thompson. Johnson also lead the group through "Cannonball" a piece that "starts and ends with [church] and in between there's some sinning going on," according to the composer.

Mark Micchelli's "Stop Requested" closed the set. Although it was inspired by a bus ride, it avoided any novelty that might come with that type of muse, save for the use of two or three trick endings before the final blast. Prior to that, it created tension with minor chords and something of a four-on-the-floor beat from drummer Johnson. In that regard, it accurately evoked the feeling a Pittsburgher might have when waiting for a bus that's long overdue.

As I finish typing these words, alto saxophonist Caroline Davis, whose music I've followed for a few years (and have written about on this blog) is performing at Pitt, supposedly with some of the people who played at the Composers Concert. I would have loved to see her in town but alas, I only heard about the show yesterday, through an email from a friend who stumbled across it by accident. 

In looking through Davis' Instagram account, which I followed but hadn't seen in my feed for awhile, there was mention of Pittsburgh about a month ago. But would it have killed anyone at the Sunday show to mention, "Oh by the way, Caroline Davis is going to be here on Wednesday"? I can think of at least four people who would like to see her. And I know one who might have changed their schedule around to check it out. (I'm a fanatic that way.) 

Point is: Let people about shows IN ADVANCE. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

James Brandon Lewis Trio and the Messthetics At Club Cafe or Can You Top That?

On Friday, March 17, Club Cafe hosted one of the biggest bills of the year so far, with both the James Brandon Lewis Trio and the Messthetics sharing the stage on the same night. The Messthetics feature half the members of Fugazi, bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brandon Canty, with guitarist Anthony Pirog completing the lineup. James Brandon Lewis, as I've said in the space before with no sense of hyperbole, is simply in the top tier of modern tenor saxophonists and should never be missed. Twice, I've missed the Messthetics on their visits to Pittsburgh, so that wasn't going to happen again.

Although Lewis posted some teaser videos on Instagram prior to this show,  it wasn't clear to this fan that Chad Taylor was going to be seated behind the drums on Friday night. Sure enough, there he was, with Josh Werner playing bass. They hit the stage without a word and launched into a set that was heavy on more than one level. 

Werner served as something of an anchor during a lot of the set, giving his bandmates the liberty to stretch out while he kept one foot on the ground. His solid double-stops fueled the trio's version of the Donny Hathaway song "Someday We'll All Be Free." Lewis started off playing long tones but before long he started wailing in the way that blew the lid off the song, making it sound righteous. Taylor threw complex fills in behind him,, crossing his arms and moving the sticks across the kit with ease. 

"Within You Are Answers" started delicately like a ballad, with just tenor and bass. Before long, the trio couldn't contain themselves. Rather than simply wailing, they made things feel like a spiritual. Nothing was excessive. Lewis surprised us when a song with a groove like a Meters lick turned out to actually be a tune by a forefather of big tenor sound - Gene Ammons' "Shop Around." One song later, he went into the opening phrase of "My One And Only Love" and immediately followed with a line that sounded like a backwards recording, as if he was taking that old standard back and starting over. Then he did it with two or three more standards, before launching into the actual tune.

There were a few times during the set when Lewis seemed like he might have mined the same low overtone or high wail to drive home the power of his solo. But if those materials did the job, the results seemed fresh and appropriate each time. The sheer energy of these three gentlemen onstage was astounding, part visceral, part technical. It proved that Lewis is still the tenor saxophonist that everyone should be listening to closely. 

He's also a tough act to follow.

Before the Messthetics started their set, drummer Brandon Canty took the mike and gave a warm introduction to the crowd. Throughout the set, he felt like the driving force behind the band, steering the sound with his fills and accents, occasionally hitting a hanging bell for extra emphasis. Lally, his longtime rhythm section companion, was completely in sync, keeping things simple but engaging. That gave Anthony Pirog free reign to groove along with them or throw in a tangle of arhythmical chicken scratch, cobbled out of two - count 'em - banks of effects pedals, which he utilized with ease (see the last photo below). 

"Touch Earth Touch Sky," the second song in the set, offered a landscape-wide glimpse of the band's approach. At times the slow, heavy tune felt like spaghetti western music, creating a high lonesome sound. At other times, it felt slow and metallic. You might not consider the Messthetics a jazz group but at this point in the night, it didn't matter what label suited them best. They were doing their own thing and taking us with them.

"Pay Dirt" kicked off with some sly, jerky funk and even took a turn into Ornette Coleman's "Dancing In Your Head." During this one, most notably, Canty was doing a lot of smiling, clearly digging the music as much as it was being enjoyed by the mix of punk rock elders, jazz nuts and the hard-to-categorize. Pirog might have been relying heavily on his pedals for leverage, but during "The Bear" [if my set list picture is accurate], he threw in all manner of technique, from tapping to long, bent notes. A long-time fan in the audience later told me the only thing missing with the stereo effect that can be experienced on their albums.

As good as the trio sounded, they got even better when Lewis joined them onstage for a couple tunes, including "Fear Not," the anthemic closer from the saxophonist's new Eye of I album, which came out on Anti- last month. For the first couple four-person songs, it was a little hard to hear the tenor over the guitar - at least right in front of the stage - but you could definitely feel it. Pirog and Lewis worked well together. In one piece, the rhythm section got into some deep funk, inspiring the guitarist to take off and wail. That was quickly followed by Lewis, who took things even higher.  They couldn't gone on for another half hour, if you ask me.

Never let it be said that punks don't swing. Or that jazz cats can't shred.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Ivo Perelman - Reed Rapture In Brooklyn, Parts 11 and 12 - With Vinny Golia and Dave Liebman

Ivo Perelman
Reed Rapture In Brooklyn 

Part 11 - With Vinny Golia
Part 12 - With Dave Liebman

As mentioned in my last post, I made the executive decision to include the last two sessions of Reed Rapture In Brooklyn together in one post. This has been going on for quite some time, and while I'm committed to seeing this journey through, this blog is often easily interrupted and put on the backburner. So I want to get it done and move on to the next thing. 

These last two session go well together because they reveal how much of an influence one musician can have on a duet partner, and what comes out in the process. Vinny Golia - who plays myriad reed instruments big and small and has written some fascinating pieces for large ensembles - shows up with the most unique set of instruments in this set: soprillo saxophone (one octave higher than soprano, and tinier), B-flat clarinet, alto clarinet and basset horn (the latter another member of the clarinet family, pitched a bit lower than alto clarinet, with what's been described as a darker sound).   

Sometimes Golia brings out the intense side of Perelman, much like Tim Berne did in the second session. "3" contains a lot of high and whiney notes, especially during the first four minutes, with both players matching wits. By the end, a listener's ears can be numb. Two later tracks also get pretty shrill, one lasting just 36 seconds. On "4," however, with Golia on B-flat clarinet, they interact deeply, echoing each other before splitting into different but complementary parts. Perelman ends the track as it started, with low, gentle tones. A similar smoky-toned Perelman establishes a more pensive mood in "2." 

The most intriguing track is saved for last, and it digresses from the entire collection. "11" begins with the sound of a tone arm dropping onto a record and adding surface noise.  Golia's instrument sounds like the soprillo, although the timbre almost approximates a mellotron. On his end, Perelman creates some far out vibrato to keep up. 

Dave Liebman might be the most "in" guest on this set, aside from Joe Lovano, who happened to open the set. Yet Liebman has a diverse past. (In a recent conversation with this writer, bassist Steve Tintweiss recalled his early days at Queens College, playing free music each week with Liebman and keyboardist Martin Reverby, who would later drop the last four letters of his surname and become half of the pre-punk duo Suicide.) The saxophonist can also command your undivided attention within just a few notes of his musical entrance. Seeing him live in Detroit several years ago resulting in one of those "woah" experiences.

Liebman also penned the liner notes for Reed Rapture, something at which he is particularly skilled, a rarity among musicians who have tried their hand at note writing. (He won me over with his finely detailed notes for Mosaic's Elvin Jones set back in 2000.) His words on this album betray a strong understanding of what all of these saxophonists are doing, so it only makes sense that his soprano would join with Perelman's tenor. 

Maybe Liebman came into the studio thinking that he was going to bring out another side of Perelman or maybe it just naturally happened that way. This session feels much more subdued than the others. Several tracks last around two  or three minutes each, the first two presenting quick moments where they feel each other out. Pretty soon, they're moving together, Liebman responding immediately to Perelman's ideas like they were written down or pre-planned. Their differences in their approaches to their horn become obvious after awhile - Liebman getting more melodically complex and flying high, while Perelman gets more visceral. 

Regardless of any difference in chops, they work well together. By the end, they're volleying quick sprays of notes back and forth between one another. Liebman proves that he can shriek dynamically as well as anyone else on this set, but the strongest parts of this section come in the softer moments like "7" and "8." For those listeners who have stuck with the entire Reed Rapture In Brooklyn program, Perelman has made sure that the order keeps the surprises coming. For that reason, when the end comes without a climactic bang or wail, the sonic shifts it has delivered ensure that it has a strong close.

When I started writing about this set back in December - jeez, oh Pete - I quipped that Perelman would probably have a few more albums out by the time I was done. At that time, I didn't think spring would be around the corner as I finished it. But sure enough, I think there have been about three new releases from the prolific tenor saxophonist in the past few months. 

I might listen to them but someone else can write about them for the moment. 

And if anyone else has opinions on Reed Rapture, I'd love to hear your thoughts too in the comments. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Requiem for Jazz Journalist, Who Gets Resurrected By Live Shows

I do plan on finishing my long, drawn out deep dive into Ivo Perelman's Reed Rapture In Brooklyn. In fact, I'm almost done and I'm thinking about wrapping up the last two sessions in one entry within the next couple of days. (Presumably, Vinny Golia and Dave Liebman won't be hurt if they don't separate entries for each of their sessions with Ivo.) 

But since it's been a month since I last posted here, and due to some dour news that hit the street last week, I needed to go off-track a bit, ending with a more upbeat note with a little bit of musical activity I witnessed this week.

First the bad news. Word had quietly gone out on social media a few weeks ago that JazzTimes, the monthly magazine for which I've written for two decades now, had been sold. Rather, it's parent company, Madavor Media, had been sold. No email announcement had been made to the magazine's writers as of yet, so, as ominous as that news could be, I kept plugging away. Around that time, I filed a feature for the magazine, which was the first one in several months that had been assigned to me. And I had my usual two CD reviews to do for the new issue. (I usually get two a month, which is cool with me.) 

Last weekend, a rather alarming post appeared on the Jazz Journalist Association's Facebook page announcing not only the sale, but that all staff, freelancers and all, were being let go. It was hard to tell exactly how to take it. Speculation? Fact? My feature story had already been filed and the reviews were due on Tuesday. Having just received the music about a week prior, I planned to listen to the music more, take notes and file by Monday night. Early that morning, I got confirmation that the reviews were still expected.

Then by mid-afternoon on Monday, an email came through saying that assignments for the May issue had been cancelled. So that was it. My longest freelance gig ever. Gone. 

For a couple hours, I sat at my laptop and my mind wandered. 

Should I still write the reviews? 

Maybe they do still want them. 

Maybe I should just write them for the blog. 

Yeah, that's a good idea. I think.

I haven't finished the Ivo set.

But this is current. Write the two things you were going to do for JazzTimes. At least you'll have them done. 

Should I really still write the reviews? .Repeat series of questions and answers.

This is how I mourn. I stay in one place and walk in circles. 

But that's not the end of a story. Not at all.

The news about JazzTimes came within days of the death of saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The tradition has always been for the magazine to publish an obituary as soon as possible. (I once heard a former editor say his greatest fear was that some Christmas Eve, amidst holiday revelry, the news would hit that some colossal jazz legend had died, meaning the ED. would have to spring into action.) 

The magazine did indeed publish a piece about Mr. Shorter, but an obit it was not. It was written by someone who had never written for the magazine previously, though the person was listed as a senior editor. Rather than go through Shorter's life either chronologically or touch upon his artistic high points (time with the Jazz Messengers, the Second Great Miles Davis Quintet, Weather Report, his unique later period productivity) and temper that with the late saxophonist's sage-like thoughts, the writer instead brushed over just a few of these accomplishments, resorted to cliched descriptions of jazz musicians smoking cigarettes and wearing berets and - worst of all - the excessive use of unnecessary quotation marks around words that don't need them ("pace-setting") and unnecessary capitalizations. Last time I checked bebop was one word, with a lower case B. Unless of course it appears at the start of a sentence. It reminds me of the story another former editor told me about when a trippy (literally) writer submitted an article full of words used incorrectly. "That doesn't make sense," he told her. "I know," she said,  "but I liked the way it looked." 

It did not provide any hope for the future of the magazine, nor did the JT tweet that padded the magazine and the writer on the back - describing the Shorter piece as "very beautiful" - do anything to improve things.

I haven't written a freelance article for a Pittsburgh paper in about two years. Now I don't have any freelance writing gigs at all. Oh well, I have a record coming out next month so there will be no time for me to talk about other people's music anymore. (That's sarcasm, to clarify, though the record is coming out.)

On a more positive note, after such dark news, I caught an early set by guitarist Mila Shadel last Friday at Con Alma, at their Shadyside location. Shadel first popped up on my radar a few months ago after she played one of the Experimental Guitar Nights that my friend/bandmate Erik Cirelli helps to curate. Her set that night was really just a sample and I wanted to hear Shadel stretch out, but kept missing shows. I couldn't spend the whole night at Con Alma but at least I'd catch a set. 

Her trio was rounded out by bassist Anton DeFade (above, with Shadel) and drummer Jason Washington, Jr. I had just seen DeFade recently, playing with pianist Deanna Witkowski a few weeks ago at Kingfly Spirits. Last Friday gave a chance to check out the trio up close, with only a small bit of audience conversation going on mid-set this time.

The trio kicked off the evening with Horace Silver's "Strollin'" which, in going back to the original, is a bold choice for a trio since the melody relies a lot on the horn harmonies, and a response from the piano. But these three dug into it. I regretted the seat I chose because I couldn't see Shadel's left hand, and it would have been cool to check out how she was doing what she did. 

After another number to warm up, Shadel announced Emily Remler's "Firefly" as the next tune. By this point, the trio was  ready to move into high gear. Shadel in particular was really flying. That was followed by a tune whose name I missed but which had a groove that was a little Latin and funky. DeFade left a strong impression in the next selection, understated but really coming across with some solid lines, both as an anchor and a solo instrument. Washington did the same in "Sonnymoon For Two," ramping up the energy in one chorus. Watching him play, he added a lot of complex accents but made it look simple.

I wish I could have stayed but I had dinner plans. Hopefully I'll see these three again soon.

I must have been crazy, having a couple drinks at Con Alma, going home and having pizza, filling the coffee travel mug and heading out to Government Center for another show, but I did it.

St. Dude was playing on a bill with two other acts. That band includes two-thirds of Action Camp - guitarist/vocalist Bengt Alexsander and drummer Joe Tarowsky. They're pictured above, with bassist Aaron Crothers. (I think they prefer more anonymous stage names but oh well.) It was heavy stuff, with low tunings, baritone guitars and a solid attack. Maybe a bit much for my ears after Mila Shadel but a good time nonetheless. 

From there, things get foggier. There was a reception for photo exhibition in the coffee shop and/or bar attached to Government Center so there were plenty of people milling around. I tried to have some conversations with people and succeeded for the most part, but I felt like I was missing a lot of it. So there was a lot of "What was that?" going on. 

Bitter Coast played some jagged guitar rock that sounded cool but I was having trouble keeping focus by then. Probably should have packed a bottle of water to go with the coffee. Ceiling Stares, the solo moniker for Steve Patchan, began with a blaring recording of "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" playing at high volume, drowning out his voice. The volume and the early day I would have the next morning were pointing me towards the door so I slipped out. 

One byproduct of not having the local writing gig is that I'm really out of the loop regarding the local indie rock scene. While I didn't get to check everyone out to the extent that I'd like, at least it put more folks on my radar, for future explorations.

And I'm still a member of....