Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


1. When Van Halen hit, I was a rock-punk-jazz-classical Kalamazoo teenager who thought they were too Vegas. Nice guitar playing & drumming, but that singer, No. When David Lee Roth later had a hit with a very close cover -- an homage -- of Louis Prima’s hit medley of “Just a Gigolo / I Ain’t Got Nobody” (for which Prima should have received arranger’s royalties), I felt vindicated -- here he was, totally Vegas. I’ve long since grown to like Vegas, and the Vegas in Halen & Roth, and was happy to hear DLR’s homage to Prima on the old-people’s-great-memory-pre-rock-pop station yesterday.

2. What the jam band taught me: Virtuosity isn’t about ego, it’s about ecstasy. Railroad Earth, whom I saw Saturday night, are a hippie-bluegrass-jam band featuring OK songs and hot, wild picking. And bowing. Fiddler Tim Carbone gets out there, and the other soloists are solid. On the bluegrass numbers, singer/songwriter Todd Sheaffer stands happily, strumming his guitar a little, and watches the pickers pick. He plays a nice electric lead on his acoustic guitar, through guitar effects to make it sound electric. They played two sets -- more than a four hour show, counting the opening band and two intermissions. I loved it -- great show.

3. In a live setting, songs are an occasion for making music, lyrics are an occasion for voice. Only a couple of Railroad Earth’s originals moved me me as songs on first listen, but I still loved them in performance.

4. Kalamazoo hippie-jam-bluegrass band Greensky Bluegrass opened for Railroad Earth. My brother is friends with them and he got me the ticket as a birthday present. More trad. than Railroad Earth, without drums or special effects, they were hot pickers with some jam-hippie elements, long segues and tempo changes between songs which totally worked for me, and pop-folk originals that seemed fine. Terrific set. All through the set, a man standing in the shadows (I never did see who it was), would shout, “Kalamazoo!”

5. Before going to the show, I was at my childhood friend Emily’s party. She lives in the ‘burbs with her family -- she and her husband work in the ‘burbs. Some 12-year-old piano students were playing nice classical pieces, so I sat down and vamped for a while over a simple riff. Nice to play a nice piano! (Emily’s a much, much better player than me.) Partly I wanted to play to keep my streak going -- six weekends in a row playing music at a party or a show, but it was nice to play a nice piano.

6. Off to Chicago in a couple of days, to see my high school acquaintance and later, college pal Mickle Maher’s play The Strangerer. And then off to Kalamazoo to see all my relatives.

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