Monday, February 21, 2011

Hymn For Her Live!, The Beatles For Boneheads and Instant Replay.....

I've seen a number of bands over the years and it is probably true that a lot of those performances caused a regurgitation of the dreaded "best show I ever saw" line, but I swear on a stack of Cargoe albums (I can never pass up a chance to plug one of my all-time favorites) that I've just seen one (actually, three) by a band I'd thought I would never see---  Philadelphia's Hymn For Her.  They passed through Oregon a little over a week ago, playing first at Diablo's Lounge in Eugene, a semi-downtown bar of reputable disrepute.  Typical dive in the daytime, it transforms itself into party central at night and, hell, it was Friday night and I had driven miles so I figured to get my money's worth (Have you seen the price of gas these days?).  I showed up close to show time and was pleased to see a good handful of people milling about and the crowd got bigger the closer it got.  Lucy and Wayne (formerly Maggi and Pierce of amazing trio Maggi, Pierce & EJ--- boy, don't get me started on them) were still setting up equipment, running plunks and grunks through the sound system to make sure everything was plugged in, after which Pierce exited, stage left, to track down the sound man and Maggi took to her computer to answer emails.  It was an odd setup--- two acoustic guitars, banjo, a strange looking square-bodied contraption which turned out to be a two-stringed cigar box guitar, percussion toys everywhere and a bass drum and hi-hat setup right in front of the chair which would ground Pierce.  Two people.  I mean, how much damage can two people do?

Well, one hell of a lot, it turns out.  That two-stringed cigar box guitar began the night by cranking out some of the damndest and fullest slide licks this side of the Pecos, Lucy strutting her stuff a la Jimmy Page (and, ahem, they did play a Led Zeppelin piece, slide cigar box and banjo trading licks, which was something else).  Wayne was strapped to the bass drum, working percussion with both feet while playing banjo/guitar, singing and, at times, spewing forth with mouth harp worthy of The Yardbirds during freakout time.  You heard me.  Freakout.  Psychotic ReactionTrain Kept A-Rollin'.  No, they didn't play them.  They didn't have to.  They came armed with their own arsenal of musical fodder and when they laid into it, they really laid into it!  Hell, here's a small inkling-----

Not bad, right?  Well, take out the Farfisa organ and crank the cigar box up a few million decibels and you are closer than you have any right to be.  Lucy is a monster on that damned thing and Pierce spends a lot energy pounding the beat into you whether you like it or not and when they get going, it is true freakout and not the controlled storm it is in the studio.

Friday night at Diablo's was maybe 45 minutes of really good and then it turned into Sunday at the Music Millennium in Portland and an hour of a sedated music for an instore.  Only a handful turned up but to be honest, it was scheduled quickly and off the cuff and the ones who showed were not disappointed.  First time I set foot in Music Millennium was the summer of '71 when I returned to Eugene after the Army, started hanging out at The House of Records there and caravaned to Portland and Music Millennium once a month with the HoR guys to buy imports.  Been a customer ever since.  Seeing Hymn For Her hitting the instore stage was a dream come true.

The real treat was the next night--- Monday.  Valentine's Day.  The Calapooia Brewing Company.  Albany.  It was a special night.  A special night, indeed.  The place was packed.  Hymn For Her and a special chef's offering made for one hell of a night for a lot of people.  When I walked in, I thought--- oh, no!  H4H will clear the room.  The average age was maybe 40 and most seemed to be there for the food (which received raves from the consumer, my friends) and you know how it is when you can't speak to your honey or the guy bumping into you at the next table and spilling ale on your pants.  I shouldn't have worried.  The crowd was primed and the food and brew worked itself right into the evening's entertainment and the more H4H played, the more the people wanted (even the Led Zeppelin slice, which brought the house down) and if it wasn't for the fact that I was sicker than shit (I really have to find out just how sick that is, I use the phrase that often), it would have been a night of nights.  Hell, it was a night of nights and I can't wait for next year.

I know few of you have heard of Maggi, Pierce & EJ, but mark the name in your heads because I can feel an MPE storm a-brewin'.  They released over ten albums.  I have them all.  I treasure each and every one.  They are the Gruppo Sportivo of the 21st Century.  What?!  Never heard of Gruppo Sportivo?!  Storm just got bigger.  Stay tuned.  And if you see Hymn For Her's name out there, check them out.  You won't regret it.


Seems like they handed out some kind of degree at some institution of higher learning, which drops their rating to merely an institution of learning. No doubt, The Beatles have had a huge impact on the boomers and if you believe the media, there are more boomers than anything on this sinking spaceship, but a degree in Beatles Studies?  Knee jerk?  No way.  Then again.....

I can think of no other group, musical or otherwise, which has created more untruths and altered realities.  If Beatles Studies is actually Beatles Studies and not just idolatry in textbook form, there is more than enough.  You could create an auditorium of classes---  Beatles 101:  A general overview of The Beatles and their music. Beatles 301:  Statistical studies which prove or disprove John Lennon's contention that The Beatles were, at the time of his statement, more popular than Jesus.  Beatles 210:  The films of The Beatles.  Beatles 401:  The media and The Beatles--- a study of how The Beatles changed media and vice-versa.  You could go on forever.

The real truth is that I find it a bit disconcerting.  The public attitude toward The Beatles moved way beyond reality before they even officially broke up. There is something about the fanatic loyalty that people have toward the band (and they were just a band, after all) that I find a bit creepy.  People get in fights over The Beatles, for chrissake, and yes, Led Zeppelin and The Who and a whole slew of other bands, but mostly The Beatles.  It seems a bit absurd and certainly extreme, but it happens.

Maybe what I find most disconcerting is the way The Beatles have gone public.  You want to experience political correctness, go into a yuppie tavern and tell everyone that The Beatles suck.  You'll become a social pariah in a matter of minutes and maybe even seconds.

No, sir.  Beatles Studies?  I don't like it.  I don't like it at all.  Then again. maybe it's time we opened the whole matter up for discussion.  Maybe we have reached that point at which it becomes a necessity to stop pretending and actually back our attitudes up with something beyond blind faith.  Maybe.  Yes, sir.  I like it.  I like it a lot.

What?  Me?  Listen to The Beatles?  No sense in it.  There are few Beatles' songs which are not genetically implanted in my brain at this point.  All it takes is a click in my left brain (or is it my right brain) and I can hear the music as if it was actually being played on the stereo.  That's right.  I said, stereo.  I have one.  And not one Beatles album to play on it.  Like I said, I don't even need it anymore.


It wasn't that long ago that I was handed an album by Ruth Moody titled The Garden.    I was so taken by the lyrical beauty and the clear, clean vocals that I became an instant fan.  Much to my surprise, although it shouldn't have been, I found that Moody recorded that album while on hiatus from her regular group, The Wailin' Jennys, a group I knew of but had yet to hear.  Well, the new Wailin' Jennys is finally here and I am happy to report that Bright Morning Stars is as good as expected.  Moody is joined by bandmates Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse and the three have come up with another (though I have yet to hear another) gem.  Time to listen in retrospect (read: go back to the earlier albums) and in the meantime, I leave you with this--- the official video of the making of the new album.  I love this kind of stuff.  Call it rockumentary or documentary or whatever you want, I seldom walk away from them without having gotten something good out of it.

Ever hear of Ken Carter, the daredevil?   The guy was crazier than Evil Knievel, but you can't say he wasn't goal-oriented.  Carter wanted to rocket across the St. Lawrence River--- that's right--- rocket!  Ever hear of Mark Haney?  He's almost as crazy as was Carter except his media are music and theater.  He dug up the Ken Carter story and pieced together a story (with music) which is as eerie as anything I've ever heard.  In Carter's own words, Haney recreates the buildup to the jump and tells the stories behind the story---  how things did not always go as planned, how Carter thought and felt, how the pressure built until he had isolated himself right out of reality.  It is fascinating and gripping even without the production, but Haney puts it together in a combination form of funeral and Twilight Zone.  It's called Aim For the Roses for a reason and Haney is crazy enough to have asked a medium to contact the now departed Ken Carter on the other side--- thus, the video.  This is a bizarre story presented in a very unique way.  Haney, by the way, is a member of Rick Maddocks' excellent band The Beige who completely knocked me off my chair with their excellent 2010 release, El Angel Exterminador.

Arborea's Buck Curran comes from the camp of the acoustic purists of old--- Robbie Basho, John Renbourn and the like--- and is one of a small handful keeping that music alive.  He and wife Shanti have just finished an album that has been long in the making and all the better for it.  Red Planet will be distributed by Strange Attractors Audio House and will be available on vinyl as well as CD, but in limited quantities.  This video will pretty much tell you all you need to know about them, to start.  If you're like me, you will want to delve a little deeper.  They inhabit a surreal world when it comes to their music.  Very surreal and downright beautiful.

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