Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Concert Report - Cowboy Junkies @ Tupelo Music Hall

Patti and I saw the Cowboy Junkies at the Tupelo Music Hall on Sunday night, July 28. We had great seats - second row, not more than 20 feet from Margo Timmins in her center stage spot.

I whine about how much I miss the old Muse at the Grey Goose, the venue that became the Tupelo Music Hall when Meredith retired and sold the business to Scott Hayward. I miss Meredith. I miss the charm of the old Muse. But I have to give Scott credit. Being able to see bands like the Cowboy Junkies (and Bruce Cockburn, and Suzanne Vega, and Arlo Guthrie, and and and...) at the intimate listening room is a special and wonderful thing. Last night was no exception. You can tell how artists are appreciative of being able to play in such a small place, with fantastic acoustics, and with an attentive audience.

I cannot believe that I have NEVER seen the Cowboy Junkies before! Patti saw them play Tupelo last year, but I didn't go that night because I was sick and feeling horrible. I mean REALLY sick and horrible. For me to miss a concert, that's big time hurting.

To this day I can remember the moment the Cowboy Junkies came to my attention. They were interviewed on NPR by, I believe, Scott Simon, shortly after their landmark Trinity Session album was released. Stopped me dead in my tracks. If I remember correctly, Trinity Session was the very first compact disc album I ever bought! That had to be, what, 1988. And I didn't even own my own CD player at the time! I still have that very same CD too. Played it last night.

The concert was wonderful and intimate, and I was entranced by Margo's voice. Patti thought it was too loud, but it was just this side of too loud for me. But Patti says I'm deaf. (What? Can't hear ya.) The set was a good mix of songs from their latest album, At The End of Paths Taken, and old favorites - especially from Trinity Session. They played Richie Havens' Handouts in the Rain in preparation for next weeks Newport Folk Festival, as they will be sharing the stage with Richie. Margo is particularly nervous over that.

They also played three new songs in a row, Confessions of Georgia E, The Girl Behind the Man Behind the Gun, and Angels in the Wilderness. Margo remarked that it was unusual to play so many new songs in one set, and she blamed it on Michael for making the set list.

The set lasted for just about two hours:

Brand New World
Lay It Down
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Those Final Feet
I Don't Get It
Handouts In The Rain (Richie Havens)
Confessions of Georgia E
The Girl Behind the Man Behind the Gun
Angels in the Wilderness
Bread and Wine
Someday Soon
My Wild Child
To Love Is To Bury
Highway Kind
Follower 2
Misguided Angel
Working on a Building

The opening act was spoken word artist Tim Mason. Well known in New England folk circles as the booking agent for the legendary Club Passim (and prior to that, The Old Vienna Kaffeehaus in Westboro, MA) Tim's poetry was a refreshing change for an opening act. His voice and delivery and humor and storytelling were spellbinding.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Concert Report - Ollabelle in Manchester, NH

Yikes, before too much time elapses, I need to do a quick write up of the Ollabelle concert on July 17th. It's been over a week now since I made that quick post on the night of the concert.

Ollabelle first came to our attention when they opened for Nanci Griffith in Boston a couple of years ago (note to self: go find that ticket stub). They were still relatively unknown at that point, with just their self-produced debut CD. They were still green and nervous and star-struck. Although they didn't realize it, they had the entire audience in the palm of their hands from the moment they started singing. During intermission I bought their CD and had Fiona sign the cover. When she looked at me she remarked, "I remember you. You're in the front row, right? I was so relieved to see someone enjoying us!" She signed the CD cover with "thank you for listening!"

They've come a long way since then.

Ollabelle is part roots music, part rock, part gospel, part urban. They take their name from Ola Belle Reed (1916-2002), a North Carolina folk/gospel/bluegrass singer and musician best known for the song High on a Mountain. Ollabelle is a collaborative partnership of five very talented musicians.

From left to right in the photo above:
Glenn Patscha - vocals, keyboards, accordion
Amy Helm - vocals, mandola
Fiona McBain - vocals, acoustic and electric guitars
Byron Isaacs - vocals, bass, dobro
Tony Leone - vocals, drums, percussion

On some songs you can close your eyes and swear that Ollabelle is channeling The Band, and I'm sure that's due in no small part to Amy. Note her last name. Yes, she is Levon Helm's daughter. A new mom, Amy was particularly attentive to babies and little kids in the audience. Here she is watching a grandmother strolling her grand kid:

Amy Helm
Amy Helm
Likewise, little girls in the family-oriented crowd seemed fascinated to see two women front and center on the stage:

This pic didn't come out as well as I'd like, but still I just love Fiona's smile:

Fiona McBain
Fiona McBain
Every single member of the band has a great voice. Fiona, though, has the ability to send shivers up my spine:

Fiona McBain
Fiona McBain

Their set was a mixture of songs from their first two albums, and some new (to me) covers. The traditional Ain't No More Cane was done in The Band's style. Fiona gave me chills on her vocal cover of Garcia and Hunter's Ripple, as well as on Elijah Rock.

Like every band nowadays, there's plenty to sample on YouTube. Here are some recommendations:
  • If you only have time to watch one video, watch this one of the rousing Before This Time. This showcases Amy's lead vocals, lots of hand clapping, and the entire band singing the chorus.
  • Wanna see what I mean by Fiona's ability to send chills? Then watch her sing Elijah Rock.
  • Does Ollabelle's's ability to channel The Band grab your attention? If so, then listen to Ain't No More Cane.
  • Like what you have heard so far? Then you must watch Get Back Temptation.
Ollabelle's set:

July 17, 2008
Veterans Park, Manchester, NH

Gone Today (Bryon Isaacs/Fiona McBain/Ollabelle)
John The Revelator (Traditional)
High on a Mountain (Olla Belle Reed)
Ripple (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter)
You're Gonna Miss Me (?)
Ain't No More Cane on the Brazos (Traditional)
Brotherly Love
Northern Star (Amy Helm/Byron Isaacs/Ollabelle)
Elijah Rock (Traditional)
Get Back Temptation (Glenn Patscha/Ollabelle)
Corrina (Taj Mahal/Jesse Ed Davis)
Riverside (Traditional)
Before This Time (Bessie Jones/Alan Lomax)
Encore: Brokedown Palace (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter)

The opening act was Mike Morris, and we quite enjoyed him. At times reminiscent of Ellis Paul, at other times his innovative guitar playing made us think of Michael Hedges. We will keep our eye out for him again.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Ollabelle played a free concert (free!) tonight courtesy of Intown Manchester. This was the second in a series of four shows in their Thursday Night Live series. Each concert is held outdoors in Veterans Park. It was a beautiful night tonight, and several hundred people gathered in the park for the show.
Patti and I think this was the fourth time we have seen Ollabelle. We simply LOVE this band.

I brought along my camera and took a few shots early in the night. Here's just one of 'em. I'll post more pics, plus a concert review, in a day or two...


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Live Aid - July 13, 1985

Live Aid concert ticket, July 13, 1985
Live Aid concert ticket, July 13, 1985
Twenty-three years ago today I was in Philadelphia for the Live Aid concert. Live Aid continues to hold a very high position on my personal list of musical highlights. How could it not? There was a palpable excitement that hazy, hot, humid Saturday. For many of us, this was our generation's Woodstock. And we were doing it on a global basis, for an important cause, and with the entire fricking world watching live on TV. They say that there were some 1.5 billion people in 100 countries watching on TV.

We had to be there. For me and my friends, there was no question - we had to be at a musical event of this size, particularly since the U.S. portion of it was right here on the east coast. I'm pretty sure my friend, Scott, scored the tickets. I don't know how he did it, and I don't know how many he got. However it happened, we managed to gather a large circle of friends at Scott's house in Atlantic City on Friday, July 12th. There must have been twenty of us. Don't ask me how we kept the multi-car caravan together all the way from Atlantic City to the parking lots surrounding JFK Stadium. We managed. Somehow.

Ninety thousand of us gathered in JFK Stadium that day, and another 80 thousand at Wembley in London. The opening of the Philly show at something like eight o'clock in the morning is perfectly representative of the day: legendary promoter Bill Graham introducing actor Jack Nicholson, who in turn introduced Joan Baez. When's the last time you saw Bill Graham, Jack Nicholson, and Joan Baez in a single sentence? Joan started us off with Amazing Grace.

From there it was a full day of music. The concert in Philly didn't end until something like 11pm that night. There were so many acts, so many highlights. Crosby, Stills, and Nash fairly early in the day, and then later a Neil Young solo set, and then even later Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young! The Beach Boys. Santana. Clapton. The Led Zeppelin reunion, with Phil Collins playing drums. Mick Jagger and Tina Turner burning it up. Ron Wood and Keith Richards backup up Bob Dylan. Those are just a few of my personal highlights, but there was so much more - Black Sabbath, Run-DMC, REO Speedwagon, Judas Priest, George Thorogood, David Bowie, The Pretenders, The Cars, Madonna, Tom Petty, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, and more.

Wow. I'm so glad I was there.