There is a geek inside me that prefers Times New Roman, 12 point font. If I could do anything professionally, I would be writing all day, every day. I wish to write well and to write often. This got me thinking about why I love writing for Grateful Web. By trade, I am a server, a lowly waitress. I once waited the table of a local musician and although I was probably too busy to engage in conversation, he is a really talented bass player. I couldn’t help it. I lollygagged about and eventually it came out.
“I saw your show last week and I’m really excited that you are at my table.”
Now this caught him off guard as he was obviously on a date and I was hoping that didn’t make things awkward. In fact, it was awkward enough that it made me realize, if I’m not writing about music I am going to talk music. If I can’t talk music, I hum. I am thoroughly addicted to music.
Grateful Web lets me write about the thing I love most: music. I’m not vain enough to believe that lots of people are reading what I write. I know that for the most part, if my photos are good or interesting, people may scroll through the review. I always find it fascinating that just when I think no one is reading, someone will approach me about what I said in my article. It’s almost embarrassing but reminds me that the words truly are the glue of the piece. I challenge myself to write about things that aren’t just play by play commentary. There is only so many times you can recount the band, “man, he was shredding.”
The challenge is the thing. With Grateful Web, I challenge myself because you couldn’t have a more supportive team behind you. My editor is more of a mentor that lets me bounce ideas off of him without any bumpers to guide me into doing or not doing what he would prefer. He is as open minded as the guys we are named for.
I can write what I like. If I don’t care for a particular band, the next show will be better. I can enrich my writing through these experiences because thankfully, there is always another show.
Unfortunately sometimes you have to wait. As is the case with my beloved Strange Arrangement. I still have not seen a show scheduled. They promised only a hiatus, but I’m still unsure and timid about that. I’ve heard that line before.
In the meantime, I have been searching for a new band to blow my mind and challenge me to write in innovative ways. Some of Rich Jameson’s best artwork was created for the Strange shows. Summer is around the corner, so I’ve been dipping my toes back in the water of the Midwest’s best bands, looking for that true love. I started with the 4/20 Eric Lambert & Friends (ELF) show at Two Brother’s Roundhouse in Aurora, IL. It was alright. The Henhouse Prowlers have played the Roundhouse a couple times before and I know Eric Lambert used to play with them. ELF lacks that polished image that the Prowlers have, but with that, ELF’s actual sound is more polished. I love the chrome plated grill of the old time style microphone the Prowlers use, but in a big old tavern, the sound just doesn’t translate well. The ELF show had crisp undeniable sound. Eric’s vibration both in playing and in stage presence is high. He transcends on stage, taking the traditional Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, or John Hartford style to the next level. You can tell he has a deep appreciation of his craft. On stage next to Dan Rogers and Pat Fiddle, his energy reminds me of Fareed Haque. They both have True Fire Media Instructional videos available for sale. Eric Lambert has an abundance of get-up-and-go that doesn’t necessarily lead them but enlightens them. I can tell why he had to break away from playing with the Henhouse Prowlers.
Dan Rogers’s bass playing takes the place of a drum kit. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch the members’ trade jams as intricately as they do. The blues blends with bluegrass as Pat Fiddle will break from mandolin to violin. Eric Lambert’s vocals are accentuated with his facial expressions that I find myself mimicking when I watch him play. He truly does resemble an ELF, bringing his brand of magic to the stage.
But alas, there isn’t that jazz that I see in other bands. I left that 4/20 show still in search of something to really write about. Perhaps as ELF’s style evolves I will find that desire to see every show. The following weekend locally, Old Shoe’s triumphant return from their Colorado tour came rolling through at The House Café, affectionately known as THC in DeKalb, IL.
Friday, April 26 - House Cafe - DeKalb
Set I: Running Through the Street, Mouth of the Lion, Money in the Middle, Sweet Melinda, Crazy Ride, Got Me Down, Beer, Fox on the Run, Loco Motive, How Mountain Girls Can Love*
Set II: Family, Let Yourself In, Mystery Train, Day Rains Night, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed!, Kush
E: Dust Bowl
Key: *with Erin Donovan of Under the Willow and Stephan Jude of Fresh Hops, ! with Joe Marcinek of Fresh Hops
Old Shoe brought it hard that night. Bringing home the high elevation, they continually surprise me. Each and every time I see them, they improve. Their original tunes fit flawlessly in between the jamming covers they do. How they pick their covers is a mystery to me because it’s not from any one genre or any one era. They just feel the crowd and let it ride.
The somewhat recent addition of Greg Fundis on the drums separates out the jams into tight units of Oh My Gawd. The skill of Paul Priest’s guitar matched with Matt Robinson & Dan Huber’s rich textiles of jam crescendo into Greg’s cut right through it style of drumming. Then comes the vocals rising from the dust of the ashes as if I had just witnessed the mythical phoenix rising. This particular show I was absolutely floored with Joe Day’s vocals. I’ve said it before but I believe with the tightness they are achieving it has opened up a floodgate of potential for the harmonies and for the superstar that is Joe “saves the” Day. For all the same warm fuzzy reasons that I love when Phish gets goofy and Trey will make good cover songs his own, I love the vocal tonality that comes shining through when Joe sings. Watching this band come up has truly been an honor. Even though I was expecting my favorite tune, “Welcome Home” I was not disappointed. I might have to jump on the Shoe train. I am even considering switching up from Stranger to Shoe wear-er. If they put more funk in the trunk and jazz it up with more obscure choices… they have me.
Now I feel bad. Nothing can replace Strange Arrangement. Old Shoe has my heart in a whole other way. When they visited my Alma matter’s town of Fort Collins, their Hodi’s Half Note show got cancelled. Colorado has had something crazy like 8 snowstorms since March and the flight carrying Paul Priest and Dan Huber was canceled. They couldn’t make the show on time. Here’s why I love them. They played their hotel lobby instead. Nothing can stop this band from doing what they came to do. If the crowd is one, one hundred, or one thousand, they give it to you from their heart. They will stay up all night still jamming even if it’s in a living room. Their intentions are pure and their direction is becoming clearer the more they just…. Keep playing.
That brought me to Duck, You Sucker. While I was unable to attend the show it has been my latest musical fixation. They compose music inspired by spaghetti westerns. Crazy as it sounds it is awe inspiring and only available live. Thankfully there is a bit of bootleg footage available. My music addiction grows. It is a symbiotic addiction. As I sit and listen to Duck, You Sucker I am inspired to write about Grateful Web. Haunting melodies that take me to new places in my mind and the pen is pushing itself across the paper. I ask myself, what came first, my love of music or my love of writing?