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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Music to Calm Your Inner Beast: Barrence Whitfield & the Savages Nov 14 at the Tip Top Deluxe

A good preacher tells you two things in church every Sunday: this is where it’s at and this is where you should be.

Barrence Whitfield is a Boston-based rock and soul singer whose spirit and legendary performances are somehow in line with the weekend service. They both count on the power of their uplifting message to reach audiences;  hoping somehow through the faith-based energy some affirmation returns. Only the best practitioners are considered true entertainers and performers for the Lord. In similar manner, by virtue of his gospel-truth hard rockabilly shuffle, Whitfield lays bare each night his passion for all things otherworldly.

“The energy comes from being in church and watching the people react every time the preacher would say ‘Raise your hand,’ or ‘Go down to your knees,’ or ‘Do you feel it! Do you feel it!’” Whitfield exclaimed during a recent interview.

So far the spirit has moved Whitfield in mysterious ways. It has hastened him into jumping off the stage onto unsuspecting people and swinging from a chandelier at a college party while the movie Scarface showed behind him. His R & B shouter-styled songs often lead him to convulsing in a writhing fit on the floor, but not before true believers of the truth drop down and really join him. 

“I think with what we do there’s more conviction than most these days,” Whitfield said of his high-octane presentation. “It’s more real and more to the soul. I think the energy in music today is lacking. It has to lack when you’re listening to melodies that go Bing, bong, Bing, beep-beep-beep-beep-beep (pinball machine sounds). How much can move to that other than to jump up and down and smile.”

With Barrence Whitfield & the Savages you’ve got a preacher’s presence and garage rock-n-roll going full-bore at one time. The edgy punk vibe comes courtesy of guitarist Peter Greenburg and bass player Phil Lenker. Greenburg and Lenker go back to 1983 with the Savages and then legendary first-wave Boston outfits DMZ and The Lyres. Whitfield says these crucial influences are held together like a lit candle that starts melting immediately until finally the wax is all over the table.   

“We just go out there and play our butts off until the sweat is pouring off our brows,” Whitfield said with a laugh. “By the end of the night it looks like we’ve taken three showers and a sauna. That’s the look, the energy you get. You see it, you’re enthralled with it, and you become part of it.”

Whitfield and company arrive November 14 in Grand Rapids at the Tip Top in support of their latest CD Dig Thy Savage Soul (Bloodshot).

“The new CD has been in people’s minds and ears,” Whitfield said. “It’s been accepted and doing well for the time it’s been out. We’re very pleased about that.”

If you’re ever in the market for a singer with a preacher’s good energy you could probably find someone. But if you’re looking for one with all that plus a little star power to keep things interesting, you turn to someone like Barrence Whitfield.

“We just get out there and play our music and take care of business,” Whitfield said. “We aim to grab hearts, minds, and ears.” 

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages wsg The Boss Mustangs, 7 pm doors, November 14, Tip Top Deluxe, GR

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mato Nanji & Indigenous at the Kalamazoo State Theatre Nov 9

Photo by Bruce Haley
In 15 years of playing professionally Mato Nanji of the band Indigenous has shared the stage with some of the finest musicians in the world. In other instances this timeworn phrase might ring hollow. But for Nanji (which means “horse” in the Nakota (Sioux) language) it’s pretty much the truth. The guitarist’s bold, slashing, blues and rock style found favor early among the top movers and shakers in the music business.

In 2000 Nanji and Indigenous fielded a timely break when B.B. King caught their act and invited them immediately on his Blues Festival Tour, which is known for welcoming newcomers as well as veterans. Nanji got to see Tower of Power, Buddy Guy, and Taj Mahal practice their craft nightly.

“That was a very cool experience,” Nanji said. “It was an honor to get out of the gates and play with these people so soon.”  

In 2002 Nanji was hired to play guitar on the Experience Hendrix Tour, an all-star tribute celebrating the music and legacy of Jimi Hendrix. Nanji performed nightly alongside David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, Billy Cox from the Band of Gypsys, Jonny Lang, and Brad Whitford of Aerosmith.

“I’ve been with the Experience Hendrix tour since the beginning when they were doing just one-off shows here and there,” Nanji said. “They do a tour every year now, about 20 dates or so. I’m also on a DVD they put together in 2004. I think they’re planning another tour for 2014 so I’m looking forward to that."

Nanji lives every guitar player’s dream when he performs ‘Little Wing’ on stage. He says one of his favorites to do live is ‘Hear My Train a Coming.’

“I would get up and back up Billy Cox when they do ‘Stone Free,’” Nanji said of the Hendrix Experience. “It’s really cool, it’s really open. I have the opportunity to play ‘Manic Depression’ with Robbie Krieger (The Doors) and Dweezil Zappa. I enjoy that a lot.”  

Nanji grew up in sparsely populated South Dakota where few blues performers ever rolled through town. But many American Indian households contained varied and interesting record collections and this is where Nanji was exposed to the rock and pop sounds of the 1970s. His Dad was a musician who showed him the way around a guitar. He also was influenced by the soul and rhythm and blues LPs in the house.

When not on the Hendrix tour Nanji stays busy with Indigenous. He says they might get to do some festivals in Europe in 2014.

“We’re starting to break a little ground over there, I think,” Nanji said with a laugh. “We’ve been trying to get our music out over there.”

The Indigenous and Jonny Lang tour arrives November 9 in Kalamazoo at the State Theatre. Lang and Nanji have a friendship that dates back before the Hendrix shows.

“I’ve known Jonny on and off for a long time,” Nanji said. “I actually met him when he was about sixteen. He’s from Fargo ND which is north of here, and we've known each other from the Minneapolis music scene. He’s been real good to my band. We’ve always had opportunities to play together and tour.”   

Jonny Lang wsg Indigenous, 8 pm, November 9, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St, Kalamazoo MI 49001

More info at www.kazoostate.com