What Everybody's Reading Lately
Homecoming of Bluegrass jam-band Grasshoppah on Friday: West Michigan favorite reunites for Eastown show with original line up. Guitarist...
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Bands with horn sections used to be all the rage from local guys Newt & the Salamanders to national touring act Roomful of Blues and every manner of crazy ska/reggae band in between ( bop Harvey, Daddy Long Legs). Although those days seem long ago, newer bands like JJ Grey & MOFRO carry at least two horns. But the bottom line is that when the economy goes raspberries the horns are the first to go. But for Phil Marsh's local horn-enriched 10 piece band Hip Pocket the lack of competition has its advantages. "Not having those bands around is good for us in a way," says Marsh during a break from his end-of-semester chores as adjunct professor of jazz guitar at Grand Valley State University. "There are a couple of reasons why there aren't too many around anymore. For instance, if you have more than one horn in a band you need a horn arrangement. And while it may seem basic it needs to be legible so the players can actually read it. Some people don't like to the put time into that. The arrangement has to include the rhythm section as well. Everybody has to be on the same page, making sure particular solos are a certain length every time. The more complex the arrangement the more critical it is for a good rhythm section be on board." Hip Pocket strives for the crisp brass & reeds of Tower of Power, the soul of Earth, Wind & Fire, the funk of James Brown, Motown, and the Dave Matthews jazzy sound. Dave Matthews, you say? "Dave Matthews is music unto itself and stylistically his own in that you know who it is right away when you hear it," explains Marsh. "We fatten up the voicings for the horns on those songs. From the rhythmic standpoint Dave Matthews is challenging and that's what we like about them," says Marsh noting that the HP set includes DMB songs Stay (Wasting Time) and Too Much plus some of his earlier work. "Certain jam bands could use an arrangement or two but it takes a lot of discipline. I feel you lose a certain necessary edge in not having an arrangement and that the sound gets dull night after night because it's not the same. They start to play a lot of 'fill' as a result." The Hip Pocket must be doing something right; they stay busy year round with fund-raising event shows (Gilda's Club) and corporate gigs (GR Hoops event pictured), both of which affords HP the luxury of repeat customers year after year. "Corporate gigs can be lucrative. We're there to create a specific vibe and to exhibit a certain amount of professionalism," notes Marsh. "They will compensate us well to make the whole thing successful and we're definitely into that."
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The unearthly opening song for The Concussions most recent release, Magic Fingers (the name reminds me of a great but weird mechanic I once knew), sounds like the theme music from some late night, 1960s Abbie-normal sci-fi television series. The Invasion of the Closed-Head Injury Guys comes to mind. "Think Pink" sounds like what would be on the turntable during a game of naked Twister beach bingo on 'shrooms back in the day. "All Skate" takes us back to the more innocent days of roller skating on Friday nights. You know, the song that came on for the couples skate which found the girl you asked looking like she'd rather enjoy sharp shards of glass in her fountain drink than skate alone with your geeky ass (she only gives in because her Mom is giving her the eyeball from the sidelines). Yeah, thanks for the memories. Bill Vits drumming is spot on and, more importantly, never too loud. Great example of ensemble playing by everyone. Danny Barber on trumpet is heard on "Stiletto" which is instrumentally reminiscent of Dick Dale & the Del-Tones "Miserlou" (which the C-HIG's do rousingly in performance). The Concussions have established themselves as one of the U.S. prominent surf bands alongside the esteemed likes of The Volcanoes, The Trashmen, and Los Straightjackets (whose members sometimes appear locally with part of The Concussions crew as The b/sides and The Neanderthals). A warm fuzzy sound quality permeates Fingers courtesy of the analog production at Goon Lagoon Studios. So come on in, take off your skin and rattle around in your bones with The Concussions. Next time you too will wish you'd worn a helmet. Magic Fingers is available at http://theconcussions.com/