Owen Temple has been a favorite of mine since I met him long ago on a Tuesday night at Mickey's shortly after he moved to Madison. He moved back to Texas several years ago but continues to return to Madison. He's played at the house several times, but this time through he teamed up with local honky tonkers Brown Derby for a night of like minded music. Always great to see you Owen!
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Thursday, July 24, 2014
My friend Nate put together a pretty impressive slate of music for his first summer series on the lake. Unfortunately they were on Thursdays which is also my yoga night. This week I skipped class to see this impressive trio of bands, anchored by a terrific opening set from Dietrich Gosser and Dan Kuemmel. It was a lovely evening, the music was beautiful and there were $2 Point beers. I love this town.
Sunday, July 06, 2014
This also has the makings of a tradition. Jon Dee and the band played a free afternoon show at the brewery which brought us Big Sweet Life MaiBock. Even the threat of rain didn't keep people away, who might have come for the free six pack, but stayed for the awesome show. I even got an ice cold MaiBock straight out of the vat. It's a big sweet life indeed.
Saturday, July 05, 2014
It’s become tradition each year around the Fourth of July for Jon Dee Graham and his backing band the Fighting Cocks to play the basement on either side of their appearance at Fitzgerald’s American Music Festival. It’s also become a tradition that we never get the same pair of Cocks twice. Bassist Andrew Duplantis has been there three of the last four years, but with Joey Sheffield the first time and George Duron the second. George played two years in a row, but with a different bass player the second time. Tonight we were in for a treat, OC John Chipman was back in the drummer’s seat. “OC” as Jon Dee explained it, stands for “original Cock.” His band name used to change on a nightly basis, the Enemies of Progress and the Hill Country Blues Boys was some examples, but after a night with Fred Friction and a bottle of Fighting Cock whiskey at Fred’s Music Lounge in St Louis, they had a name that stuck. I hadn’t seen Chipman since a Resentments gig in Austin the last year I went to ACL, a million years ago, so it was great to have him in the basement. Even better was watching how much fun he was having playing the basement. The six foot four dude looked like a kid behind the drum kit, his smile was so wide. And it was infectious, this might have been the best Jon Dee show yet. I know I say that every time, but I also think it’s true.
From the opening number “A Place in the Shade” it was apparent that this was going to be a great show. The rhythm section settled into a relaxed groove while Jon Dee strummed the sweet melody and his lullaby growl of a voice echoed how comfortable he felt. After the song he turned to the audience with a big grin. “Here’s how often I play here, I took my picks out of my pocket to put on the window ledge where they’re handy,” his smile got bigger, “and there’s already a pile of my picks there.” It’s true, his Madison audience has grown steadily over the years, as has the regularity of his appearances, propelled almost exclusively by word of mouth. Most notably from the mouth of brewmaster Kirby Nelson, who named a beer after one of his songs. Big Sweet Life, naturally in Nelson’s favorite style a maibock, debuted a few weeks earlier to great reviews. It got a few more rave reviews tonight as Nelson brought a cooler full in with him. The irony being of course that Jon Dee doesn’t drink, he lets his band do the drinking for him. Halfway through the show they got their first taste of the BSL, and gave it impressively eloquent reviews.
Most memorable of the new songs was “The Ballad of Barbara and Steve,” an ode to the owners of a classic enchilada joint/music venue in San Antonio. The restaurant and its owners are gone now, but they will never be forgotten thanks to Graham’s sweet tribute. He tested Chipman later in the set by springing one he hadn’t played before on him. It had been awhile since I’d heard “Fifty Cents a Day,“ one of the songs from the Hobart Brothers CD. In fact, it hadn’t been played in the basement since the Hobart trio of Jon Dee, Freedy Johnston and Susan Cowsill played it several years ago. He not only nailed that one, but also Jon Dee’s fake-out on the end of the show-stopping rocker “October,” where he stops just short of cuing the final beat several times before following through with a satisfied smile. And like he always does in the basement, he played a heart-breaking version of “Airplane” and its lead in “I’ll Wait” that brought tears to my eyes.
Yep, best show yet.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
When drummer George Duron played the basement with Jon Dee Graham last summer, he suggested power pop icon Tommy Keene as a potential house concert performer. I’d seen Keene a couple times, though it was years ago, and enjoyed him, but the thing that I really remembered was how loud it was. It was hard to imagine Keene in the basement with a full band, but when he contacted me this spring about playing I didn’t hesitate for a second. I cautioned folks to bring earplugs, but as it turned out it wasn’t too loud at all. In fact, it was just right, you know, considering it was a power pop show in a basement. Sadly, it was too much for the microphone of my video camera, reducing his catchy tunes to a staticy mess. He had a terrific group behind him. Drummer John Richardson has played with another pop legend Shoes, as well as a new project the Dream Fakers with Paul Chastain of Matthew Sweet’s band, while the guitarist plays with a number of Chicago area bands. There was a fair amount of freaking out and geeking out in the sold out crowd about Keene playing at the house, and he put on a show worthy of the attention.
He had just released his first all covers record earlier this year, and he opened with an Echo & the Bunnymen song. It’s a great record, with songs ranging from new wave to classic rock. He also went way back in his career for some of the earlier hits. He was charming and modest, enjoying the intimacy of the basement setting. And it was pretty adorable the way he would hike up his pants in preparation for the next song. He did seem a little confused by Marco Pogo. A familiar face on the local music scene, Pogo can be seen pogoing up and down in front of the stage or pacing back and forth at many shows around Madison. There wasn’t really room for that in the basement, but he tried anyway. When he started dancing as soon as Keene announced the name of the song, Keene looked bewildered, “How can you be dancing already? We haven’t started playing.” “I know the song,” Pogo replied.
The main reason Pogo was there was to see opener Jimmy Murn. Murn used to play out frequently with his band the Heymakers, but he’s kept a low profile of late. When I invited him to play I said solo would be just fine. He played a great set which included a lot of covers, claiming he was sick of his own songs. One of the best of these was a Beulah song that I hadn’t thought about in years. He won over an audience that for the most part hadn’t heard of him, and sold quite a few CDs after the show. Apparently, according to Facebook the next day, the whole thing renewed his interest in music and he had direction again. I’m not taking any credit for that, I’m just glad he could come play.