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Thursday, November 29, 2012

BOP (harvey) reunion at Rick's American Cafe in East Lansing Dec 1

Singer Steve Sarder recalls an era when selling an album bundled with a tee-shirt was a good day. Adding a new name to the mailing list was even better. For bands like East Lansing’s BOP (harvey)--in the pre-Internet world of music sales and marketing—those numbers meant everything. And BOP put up some solid numbers: approximately 150,000 records and 50,000 shirts sold. When they threw in the towel the first time in 1994, they had some 17,000 names on the mailing list. “The mailing list alone cost us hundreds of dollars to mail out each time,” Sarder said. The prevailing thought was if you have good sales and good loyalty among your fans, you’re on your way. Although they might not get a postcard in the mail this week, music lovers from all over Michigan are looking forward to this weekend. BOP (Harvey) plays a reunion show Saturday at Rick’s American Café in East Lansing.
Today the download has changed the music buying game. “Nowadays kids just want to buy the music by the song,” Sarder aka Word E Smith said. “Kids feel like they’re getting ripped off if they have to buy the whole album. They say ‘I don’t want all that music. I just want the one song.’” So it seems like a complete CD is too much to invest in these days. Longtime music lovers know you have to hear the whole album to get the full effect. “The idea of the concept album has been lost,” Sarder said. “Albums used to be made with a thought to flow. If you’re into a CD for only one or two songs you’re missing a lot of good music in between. BOP used to put a lot of time into segues and connections between songs.”
Music lovers from the 80s-90s and today know how BOP’s reggae-fueled soca rock makes them entirely dance floor-friendly. “We were definitely a hybrid,” Sarder aka Joe Six-Pack said. “We had strong reggae influence. But there were other influences too with so many people in the band; and with the band being a democracy and all we tended to venture into different areas. We’d have a reggae tune next to a calypso next to a ska tune. We’d experiment with all the Caribbean and African rhythms. We even got into some Nigerian juju-style songwriting.”
The popularity of the infectious grooves of the band allowed them to share the stage with just about every notable world music performer of the day: Steel Pulse, Yellowman, Eek-a Mouse, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, and Ziggy Marley. “Just about everybody and anybody that was known in the reggae world,” Sarder said. “We had come to work with all of them at one time or another; that was just terrific. Toots & the Maytals were one of my all time favorites.”

After 650,000 miles on the road (two cars, four vans, one motor home, and a Greyhound coach) BOP seemed poised to make a break-through. As burnout set in, nerves became brittle. The end was prolonged by the opportunity to play campaign rallies for then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. “We played rallies at MSU, Ann Arbor, and a pre-election night rally in an airport hangar in Romulus,” Sarder said. “On all three occasions we got to shake hands with the candidate. But on the last one, we got to go backstage, rub elbows and talk it up a little more and some photographs taken.” After Clinton won the election the band was invited to DC for the inaugural festivities. “We got to play in a tent on the Washington Mall with Blues Traveler, Taj Mahal, and Little Feat. For two days there was entertainment from 10am to 5pm. It was quite an experience. After we were done with our set we had passes to go all over. We got to meet a lot of professional musicians and see a lot of shows. We saw Fleetwood Mac from basically backstage.” They also played the Hard Rock Café that week which led to more shoulder rubbing with famous people.
BOP’s next big break—they had stopped touring by then--came when they appeared in the first season of the Conan O’Brien Show. Their bass player (Dan Stechow aka Danny St Echo) had been hired as an assistant on the program. And it didn’t hurt they were on Max Weinberg’s (The E-Street Band) label at the time. “We went on Conan the last week we were touring in April 1994,” Sarder said. “Having those two connections is what allowed us to get on there, particularly since we weren’t really a national phenomenon. We really ought to have stayed together a little longer and worked that first national exposure more. By then we knew we were packing it in; it was a bittersweet moment. Our last show was at the Majestic Theater in Detroit the same week we were on Conan.” BOP (harvey)’s music lives on still in the hearts of many. Ever familiar to hawking merch out of the trunk, Sarder says copies of  their Bread & Circuses CD will be available for purchase at the gig on Saturday. Among other things, BOP (harvey) promises to be in rich form; whooping it up in what may well be The End of the World Party--Mayan-style.“Rick’s American Café was our birthplace,” Sarder said. “We’ll play all our classic tunes there; the one’s that we’ve been playing the longest--like the more rootsy selections.”  
BOP (harvey) wsg Roland Remington, 9:30pm, Saturday at Rick's American Cafe in East Lansing. BOP shows at 10:30 and 12a.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jorma Kaukonen at Bell's Brewery (Eccentric Cafe) in Kalamazoo Nov 15

Don’t be surprised if Jorma Kaukonen’s solo act feels a teensy bit like Hot Tuna. Only a single constant remains, however, from the venerable Jefferson Airplane offshoot: Barry Mitterhoff and the kitchen sink. “People always wonder about this stuff,” Kaukonen said of the potential confusion over his solo shows. “Barry and I started playing together eleven years ago. In fact he played with me before we co-opted him into Hot Tuna.” Acclaimed finger-style blues guitarist Kaukonen plays a Nov 15 acoustic show at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo. Multi-instrumentalist Mitterhoff--octave mandolin, tenor banjo, tenor guitar--gives  Kaukonen the jump needed to cover all the elemental styles of American music. “Barry and I play a bunch of songs we don’t play with Hot Tuna” Kaukonen said. “He sings a little bit more and we do some of his songs." Kind of like Hot Tuna but not really. Clearly the omission of Tuna bassist Jack Casady gives into the latter. Kaukonen meanwhile sounds unfazed. “The good news is we do things a little bit differently when Jack’s not here—obviously--because Jack has such a huge musical presence.” When Kaukonen was getting ready to do River of Time, his most recent solo record, people asked him why he didn’t get Casady to play bass. Kaukonen replied, well, then it's just a Hot Tuna record. This sentiment carries over to Kaukonen’s solo tours. “When I do a solo show the emphasis is on my songwriting instead of the dynamic interaction between Jack and myself.” An integral part of the Kaukonen’s musical posse riding along this week to Kalamazoo is guitarist/lap steel player Steve Kimock. “Kimock is arguably one of the great living guitar players in the world today,” Kaukonen said. “The thing that makes him a great fit in almost any setting is that his musical sensibilities are really flawless. When he’s sitting in with us he does his own thing but it's within our context. Steve does a lot of different things. He plays everything so well it's as if that was his bag.” Sure he gets out and gigs around solo and with Hot Tuna but Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch music camp in southeastern Ohio is really his focus as of late. The camp teaches kids and adults of all ages on weekends March through November. Hot Tuna last week played the closing weekend for this year. Instructors and performers have included Roger McGuinn, John Hammond, and Mary Gauthier. Fur Peace even has its own NPR radio program on WOUB-FM. Kaukonen is taking Fur Peace on the road again to San Diego early next year. “We have something for everybody,” Kaukonen said of the learning experience. “A single person or a family can participate in the workshops; some can do the workshop and others hang on the beach or take a walk to SeaWorld.”

Jorma Kaukonen at Bell's Brewery on Nov 15 at 9:30pm.

Tickets available at Bell's website

Learn more about the Fur Peace Ranch at furpeaceranch.com 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Coming Soon: Interview with Jorma Kaukonen

Finger-picking blues guitarist Jorma Kaukonen is perhaps best known as a member of Jefferson Airplane (Woodstock) and founder of the group Hot Tuna. Kaukonen also operates the Fur Peace Ranch music and guitar camp in Ohio. Kaukonen performs at Bell's Brewery with Steve Kimock on Thursday Nov 15.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Scott Holt at the Tip Top Nov 8

You’re on stage and six-feet away from the most significant blues guitarist in the world. For guitarist Scott Holt, 10 years of musical lessons imparted nightly by Buddy Guy at that distance were pivotal. Sure there were other dayside life lessons with Guy that Holt found pertinent. Holt he learned how to be on time; what to do about two or three different wake up calls lined up when on the road; what to order for lunch. “I learned that if you’ve never been to a restaurant before you should always order the most expensive item on the menu because odds are that’s the best thing they’ll have,” Holt said with a laugh. “Buddy said ‘Man, order the most expensive thing because you know it’s got to be good if they got the nerve to charge that much.’” No truer words of wisdom spoken from Guy, a man with proud southern sharecropper lineage. Scott Holt appears at the Tip Top in Grand Rapids on Nov. 8. Holt is quick to point out that he’s not trying to take Buddy’s place. “I’m sure I learned a lot of of my stage mannerisms from him,” Holt said from Nashville. “He was such a profound influence. You can’t become that good of friends and not have it rub off on you.” Holt says he learned from Guy how to be an entertainer first. “The first time I saw Buddy he jumped off the stage and walked out in the street,” Holt said of Guy’s stage antics. But perhaps the most important thing Guy ever told Holt was that you have to win over a crowd--all over again--every time. “He taught me to be an entertainer; my job is to entertain people when in a live situation.” There are many blues purists who poo-poo the idea of a bluesman with the stature of Buddy Guy ever doing cover songs. But Guy had the answer for those critics. “A lot of times when an audience doesn’t know you as an artist they don’t know your material,” Holt said with a soft Tennessee drawl. “And when you try to hit them over the head with your original stuff you get blank looks. They don’t recognize that stuff anyway. So you got to shake ‘em up and play some stuff that they do know.” While that was largely Guy’s shtick, Holt admits to having a weird sense of humor of his own. “We’ll cover an Elmore James song or a Jimi Hendrix song but every once and a while a Sex Pistol or Elton John tune pops in there,” Holt said. Holt arrives in Grand Rapids as part of a trio featuring bassist Calvin Johnson, formerly of Anthony Gomes outfit. “I’ve got a great band. They can play anything.” What does that feel like anyway? “It’s like having a really nice race car,” Holt said with a chuckle. “It’ll do whatever you want to do and look good doing it.” For all his exposure to the big time world of blues, Scott Holt still sounds grounded. “I’m definitely not the guitar player Buddy is. I’m not the singer or entertainer he is. But I learned a lot of what I do from him.”
Scott Holt at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids tonight. Doors at 7.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Marti Brom & Rosie Flores at the Tip Top Nov 4

Photo by Rodney Bursiel
Renowned rockabilly vixen Rosie Flores only knows how to do things one way. “I like to do things right. I don’t like to do things half-ass,” Flores said. “I don’t let any recordings out until they are 100 percent Rosie approved.” This is just part of the reason Flores finds herself currently on tour promoting two new releases: her own Working Girls Guitar and the late Janis Martin's The Blanco Sessions. Marti Brom & Rosie Flores make a stop at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill on Nov 4. Flores recently wrapped up the Janis Martin project which had consumed her life for 4 years. In 2011 she finished the recordings she produced with rockabilly pioneer Martin in 2007. Of course, the process couldn't go smoothly. The disc idea had to be turned down by numerous labels at first. “Most record labels are resistant to taking the risk on an artist who has passed on and who didn't have a name since the 1950s," Flores said while waiting on last minute repairs to her touring van. She recounted how she worked tirelessly with no money and then had to raise more money to see it done. She said she had to get Cow Island Music involved so she could actually do things the right way. In the end, Flores friends were there to help. "A lot of people put their time in for free on this project," Flores said. "A lot of my good friends donated time and money because they saw how difficult it was because I had to do a lot of it by myself." She was able to get the recordings done with the help of Kickstarter. "I'm just glad this whole thing didn't kill me," Flores said wryly. "Now I can get out there and tour." Sticking together with the girls in her life is more than just a motto for Flores. She talks fondly of the friendship she shared with both the late Martin and Wanda Jackson. After all it was Flores who brought back Martin and Jackson from the brink of obscurity in the 90s. Now with the release of Martin's CD The Blanco Sessions she is able to spread the gospel word about Janis Martin, who died 4 months after the tapes rolled. "We’re promoting this record for her and getting her name out there,” Flores said. “Part of it is for her to have a voice on the radio now. It’s also for the Kickstarter people who pitched in to see the record completed. I just wish I could call Janis now and let her know how well we're doing." In between all this she recorded and produced Working Girls Guitar, the first one on which she plays all of the guitar parts. The Rockabilly Filly has a twang of her own and—among a crowded field of guitarists all chasing the same thing--that’s saying something. Her notable Texas vibrato comes courtesy of her latest custom turquoise guitar: a Telecaster body with a metal plate on top called a SteeltopCaster. "It looks like it's ready for battle," she said laughing. Ever modest she finds the whole experience a big privilege. “I get to play behind Marti who is a great singer," Flores said adding that she feels they're pretty unique. "There’s nothing like us out there at all." And with a finger on a dimple and one heel up, she might be right. "This ain’t the Judds," she said with a laugh."There's a little bit of naughtiness involved. It’s not clean country." Once a rockabilly kitten, always a rockabilly kitten; this wouldn't be true rockabilly if it didn't have a little dissenting attitude about it. "We’re bringing that rebellious flavor back," Flores said. "It’s rock n roll. It’s sexy. And it’s really great to dance to." Rosie Flores, a true American original, seems to have her heart in the right place. "We really just want to show how much we care about what Janis did in the past and what she did recently before she died," Flores said. "And to show what we have in our back pocket today.”

Marti Brom & Rosie Flores and band wsg Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill on Nov 4. Doors at 6 pm.

Ticket information: http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=4884305&pl=tiptop

Click here purchase and listen to samples of The Blanco Sessions at the Cow Island Music website: