The Weeks | The Satellite | 2/21/14

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The last, and first, time I got to hang out with the fellas from The Weeks, I got drunk, rocked my face off and got late night taco-truck tacos with some of them after the gig. This time, I decided to take a more professional approach.

I had asked for permission to take some pictures during their sound check and show using a DSLR camera a buddy loaned me, and the day before the scheduled event, Alex “Admiral” Collier (the keyboardist), texted me letting me know that I was good to go. Making the hour and a half long drive in traffic, I thought that I had arrived too late for sound check, but luckily the band was still setting up. Upon retrospect, I’m glad that the band let me come early to snap some pics because the lighting during the show was extremely low. Even with a decent camera, you still need light.

A couple of the fellas seemed to have remembered me from their last L.A. gig, and that was a pleasant surprise. What was even more of a surprise was that they let me hang out with them and their friends after the sound check, before the show. Admiral got me an “all-access” sticker, presumably left over from their international touring dates with the Kings of Leon, and I slapped it on my chest with pride.

The guys treated me like one of the crew and it revealed to me how down to earth and gracious they were. They included me in their group conversations, lit my cigarettes and had me laughing with some of their observations about California living. While waiting in line for tacos at the taco-truck parked outside with Dee Bone (the bassist), I found out that my after-show taco excursion with them the last time out was not an anomaly, since Dee Bone truly loves tacos and gets them whenever he has the chance. I found out that Admiral’s hand was in a cast because of a car accident he was in (not his fault), and only recently joined the band on tour as he was recouperating. I wished Uel-Dee (the guitarist) a happy birthday as he autographed my vinyl copy of “Dear Bo Jackson” (their latest album) and I found out that Shelly Colvin was getting into town to perform with the band coming from a gig she had in San Diego the night before, making me giddy with the possibility that she’d perform her duet with the Weeks titled “Bad Enough”, which is one of my favorite cuts from the album.

By the time the band got on stage for their set, I was glad that I had staked out, and stood in, my spot up front. The packed crowd was tipsy with eager anticipation for the southern rockers to take the stage. A  girl, and her friend, squeezed in next to me, as she professed her love of the band’s music to me with her alcohol tinged, warm breath watering my eyes. The couple right behind me told me that they had travelled from Ohio to catch the band play in Los Angeles.

Most of their set came from “Dear Bo Jackson”, but they did include songs from their critically lauded album “Gutter Gaunt Gangster” and “Rumspringa”.

  1. Lawman’s Daughter
  2. King-Sized Death Bed
  3. The House We Grew Up In
  4. Gobi Blues
  5. Brother In The Night
  6. Bad Enough
  7. Slave To The South
  8. Ain’t My Stop
  9. Chickahominy
  10. Wo Is I
  11. White Ash
  12. Steamboat

The music rocked big and loud, with everyone in attendance throwing up their hands and dancing in what space they could find. The vocal mix could have been a little louder, at least from where I was standing, but it really didn’t matter all too much since the concert-goers around me seemed to know all the lyrics to the songs anyways, singing along when they could. Funky, steady and thumping, once again, like that night at the The Three Clubs, I was particularly impressed with Dee Bone’s bass playing. Equally impressive was Admiral’s playing on the keys with essentially one hand. His work on “Slave To The South” sounded superb.

After the set, I snagged a setlist from the stage, and shmoozed a bit with some of my friends that had attended the show. On my way out, I had the band members, and Shelly, sign the setlist. I had a long drive ahead of me, so I stepped outside to take off when I noticed that the taco-truck was still parked out front. I wasn’t drunk, so I wasn’t in the mood to eat, but I decided to buy an assorted plate of tacos for Dee Bone. When it was presented to him, his eyes widened with joy.

So I didn’t get taco’s with the band after show, but my parting words to them was, “Next time.” And I certainly hope there will be a next time sooner rather than later. The taco-trucks are waiting.

Unfortunately, the Flickr slideshow below is not currently available on mobile devices. If you are on a mobile device, please click THIS LINK to get redirected to the set of photos.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Though Song

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On January 15th, 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born. He was an American pastor, activist and humanitarian who helped advance the case of civil rights for all. I thought I would share with you a couple of my favorite songs that pay tribute to, or was inspired by, Dr. King. I hope you enjoy. In no particular order:

“Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)” by Nina Simone: This song was written, recorded and performed within three days after his murder.

“MLK” by U2: A haunting lullaby. My college a cappella group did a cover of this song, and it gave me chills each time we sang it.

“Up To The Mountain” by Solomon Burke. I love Patty Griffin’s original, but Solomon’s cover is more moving to me insofar as Solomon knew Dr. King.

I’ve included Patty’s version too.

“People Got To Be Free” by The Rascals: This song was written in reaction to the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. In a sad twist of fate, right before the single was released, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was The Rascal’s last top ten single.

“Shed A Little Light” by James Taylor: As James’ soft voice reminds us to “[l]et us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King”, the sound alone makes me feel the meaning of Mr. King’s nonviolent, civil disobedience.

“Pride In The Name Of Love” by U2: “Early morning, April 4/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride.”

“Like A King” by Ben Harper: If you don’t know about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, you should read up on it.

Finally: “Black Bird” by the Beatles: Though this song isn’t about Dr. King, it was inspired by the civil rights struggle for blacks, written by Paul McCartney after reading about race riots in the US.

 

Music That Means Something

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Today, January 15th, is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.  He was an prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement and is probably “best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience” (quoted from Wikipedia’s entry on Dr. King).  But even before the activism in the 50s and 60s, there were other forms of non-violent civil rights activism that was already stirring the flame, and that was through music.

The other day, I stepped into a second-hand book store to pass some time and I stumbled upon a copy of the “Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Cafe Society, and An Early  Cry For Civil Rights”.  It is a quick read, and gives a certain perspective on the origins and effect of the song made famous by the legendary singer Billie Holiday: “Strange Fruit”.  The lyrics of the composition are below for reference.

“Strange Fruit”

(Wiggins, Pearl, Allan)

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Strange Fruit lyrics (c) Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., EMI Music Publishing

The way we, the consumer, take in media and entertainment today is so different than it was in the past.  In the book, I read accounts of when Billie Holiday performed at the Cafe Society, how patrons would stop in their tracks in the middle of the smoke filled room, rendered silent, to listen to the songstress croon this painful song, and how the venue would be silent for minutes after the conclusion because of how powerful the music was.  For some reason, I simply can’t imagine a song having that kind of effect on today’s audience. I mean, a song that carries so much weight that it simultaneously scares, enrages and  educates people all at the same time.

Maybe “Strange Fruit” is one of the anomalies.  Maybe it was the perfect song for the perfect time and place… a song that hits the musical trifecta…. Now THAT must have been something.  That’s a feeling I’d love to soak in.  I don’t think I’ve ever personally experienced it … and truth be told, I doubt I ever will get to experience something like it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great songwriters out there, and I want to be in an audience one night, in an intimate venue, where the lights are low, and the singer blows my mind with powerful lyrics that shake up and stir a deep societal pain.  I want to be there when a singer is singing to me some truth that can’t be denied … some truth that makes it uneasy for me to listen, but I can’t not listen to it because it’s verity.  But I just don’t know if music can do what it did back in 1939.  Music is powerful, but I don’t know if music can hit that kind of nerve anymore.  And if it does, how can it rise up from the hundreds of thousands of other songs that flood the internet?  Cream used to rise to the top, but does it anymore?

I can hope.  There seems to be so many problems in society these days, maybe some songwriter can bring it on home for me … write some lyrics that could stand alone as poetry … write some lyrics whose essence is coaxed out through the melodic and rhythmic flow of the music.  I’m looking for music that means something and speaks to a greater evil in our society that needs fixing…. something that everybody can related to, and gets people to start talking about ways to get it right…

You got something for me?