Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ellis Paul at Club Passim, 6-25-16 Concert Review

Ellis Paul performing "I Ain't No Jesus"
You can count on experiencing something special whenever you go to an Ellis Paul concert. At his show on June 25th at Club Passim, there were a couple of surprises. John Davidson, one of the hosts of That's Incredible, introduced Ellis.  Ellis learned this was to happen just a few minutes before the show, and when he took the stage, he said "Wow, that was cool." And it was. (By the way, John himself will be performing at Club Passim in July.)

Ellis opened the show with "I Ain't No Jesus." There is a timeline on one of the walls of the venue, and patrons are encouraged to share their memories of the place. After "I Ain't No Jesus," Ellis mentioned that he put the first time he played there on the timeline, and also said he thinks he's the artist who has played at the venue the most (in fact, this was his second show there that day - he had done a family show in the afternoon). He then started the song that he has likely played the most, "3,000 Miles," and we were treated to a surprise guest. Vance Gilbert entered through the stage left door and sat down at Ellis' keyboard. For a moment, he pretended to play keys, leading Ellis to say, "Don't do it." He didn't, at least not for that song. He provided some nice backing vocals. Oddly, Vance had come up in our conversation just before the show, and I had mentioned that it had been way too long since I'd last seen him. Vance joked around about meeting Ellis: "We was toddlers in Maine. And he toddled up to me and said, 'Hey, when we grow up, let's do folk music.'" Vance also provided backing vocals on a very cool version of "Rose Tattoo" and on an energetic "Kick Out The Lights." This crowd needed no instructions on its part for that song. And it was on "Kick Out The Lights" that Vance played a bit on keys. After Vance left the stage, Ellis commented, "I didn't know he could play piano." He then added, "Still don't know."

Ellis came out into the audience to perform "You Ain't From These Parts," a fairly new (and incredibly funny) song. As he did at the show in Milford in March, he read some of the lyrics from his journal. The lyrics seemed to be different from those he performed at that earlier show. At the Passim show, he did a verse about Pennsylvania; the Massachusetts verse also seemed somewhat different (but it could just be my faulty memory here). After that one, he returned to the stage and mentioned the recent events in Orlando. That led to "Nine Months To Fix The World," one I haven't seen him perform in quite some time. It required a pair of reading glasses borrowed from an audience member, as well as another audience member volunteering to hold the CD liner notes with the lyrics for him to read. The line "love your fellow man" received a cheer from the audience, as did "I'm going to clear the world of bullets/I'm going to confiscate the guns."

Ellis told the McCabe's guitar story, with Vance sort of heckling him a bit from the back of the room. Ellis also told the story of Guinness (one of his guitars) and of its being damaged by an airline. I've heard him tell this tale several times, but this time some details were added that I hadn't heard before. He then introduced "Alice's Champagne Palace" by saying, "Alice's Champagne Palace is the Club Passim of Homer, Alaska." The audience sang along for the entire song.

Ellis wrapped up the set by coming back out into the audience to play a couple of tunes unmiked. He mentioned the lawsuit against Led Zeppelin, and then played "Snow In Austin," demonstrating that his song has some similarities to other songs. He played a bit of those other songs, including "The City Of New Orleans," "Dust In The Wind," "Landslide" and "Mr. Bojangles." Vance Gilbert joined him for "The World Ain't Slowin' Down," the final song of the set. The encore was "Home," which was requested by someone in the audience. It was a really good show, and - as always - I left feeling pretty damn good about the world.

Set List
  1. I Ain't No Jesus
  2. 3,000 Miles
  3. Rose Tattoo
  4. Kick Out The Lights
  5. Maria's Beautiful Mess
  6. Thomas Edison
  7. Hurricane Angel
  8. You Ain't From These Parts
  9. Nine Months To Fix The World
  10. Drive-In Movie
  11. Wasted
  12. Alice's Champagne Palace
  13. Snow In Austin
  14. The World Ain't Slowin' Down
  1. Home
The show ended at 9:50 p.m.

Here are a few photos from the show:

"3,000 Miles"
"3,000 Miles"
Ellis talks about one of his books
"The World Ain't Slowin' Down"
Club Passim is located at 47 Palmer Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ellis Paul will be returning there in December for his annual New Year's Eve shows.

Josh Lederman & The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars at The Plough And Stars, 6-25-16

A trip to Boston just doesn't feel complete without seeing Josh Lederman at least once. This trip I was fortunate enough to catch two of Josh's bands (and sort of all three, since his Country Pleasures duo bandmate sat in with The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars). On the 24th I saw The Be Nice Or Leave Brass Band at Bull McCabe's in Somerville, and the next afternoon saw Josh Lederman & The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars (or, CSARS) at The Plough And Stars. Josh Lederman & The Cambridge-Somerville All-Stars have been playing afternoon shows at The Plough And Stars for eight years now. It's crazy how time passes, right? One thing that keeps these shows fresh after all these years is the impromptu nature of the performances, due to the band's lineup being different each time. The idea is to have some of the area's best musicians sit in for a couple of sets, and so you never know just what instruments will be heard at a given show. It all depends on who shows up.

Before the show on the 25th, Josh talked about the difficulty he had in finding musicians for that week's gig. So many people were out of town, or otherwise engaged. But what resulted from that was wonderful. While sometimes the band can become quite large, at this show it was just Josh on guitar and vocals, Mark Earley on harmonica, Chris Anzalone on drums, Chris Maclachlan on bass and Emily Fine on vocals. The stand-up bass ended up having a great presence, and the harmonica worked as the main lead instrument. And then partway through the second set, we got the addition of Mark Chenevert on saxophone.

The first set included some tunes from Seven Years A-Roaming, including "55 Words," "Pretty Babe," "Windows Of Despair" and "Chere Bassette." They concluded the first set with a good cover of "Jackson," playfully having it sort of fade out at the end. After a twenty-minute break, they opened the second set with a country song, "Sweetest Waste Of Time." They did some songs that I saw The Country Pleasures do, including "Step It Up And Go" and "Cornbread, Peas And Black Molasses." They also did a couple of songs that will be included on the upcoming CD release (I can't wait for the new CD). When the saxophone was added, the band stretched out some of the songs, giving us some great and fun jams. I particularly loved the way the saxophone and harmonica worked together - such a great dynamic. The second set ended at 6:04 p.m.

Here are a few photos from the show:

And, for good measure, here are a couple of photos from The Be Nice Or Leave Brass Band show the night before:

The Plough And Stars is located at 912 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge. Bull McCabe's is located at 366 Somerville Ave. in Somerville.

Grateful Dead Sticker, Northampton

My brother and I got to the Iron Horse Music Hall very early for The Nields concert on June 17th. So early that we had time to get a drink at a nearby bar. I forget the name of the place, but I loved it. I had a Guinness, and the bartender poured it correctly, taking his time, and even putting the shamrock in the foam. And on the wall was this Grateful Dead sticker that I had never seen before. Anyone know about this one? (By the way, even after a leisurely drink, we were still first in line for the concert, and so got the table we wanted.)

Adam Ezra Group at The Worcester Common, 6-23-16 Concert Review

The Out To Lunch concert series in Worcester, Massachusetts kicked off its seventh season with a show by Adam Ezra Group on June 23rd. The show started at 12:15 p.m., with a couple of speakers, including Councilor Kate Toomey, who said, "We're a world-class city that does things in a world-class way." Well, I don't know about that, but I certainly appreciated the live music. And it was a great day for it.

Adam Ezra Group took the stage at 12:21 p.m., opening the first set with "Come On Over," a song from the band's most recent studio release, Songs For A Movie. After "Drive," Adam mentioned the group of children dancing in front. It was a fairly large group of young kids, but they stayed within the bounds of a circle drawn in blue chalk. After the third song of the first set, city manager Ed Augustus interrupted the music to talk about a new World War II memorial and a Civil War memorial. For a moment, I worried that this was going to be the way of things for the afternoon, but he was the last politician to speak, and the band quickly got back into the music, playing "Let Your Hair Down," followed by "Takin' Off." The first set ended with a good cover of James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James," which Adam performed solo. The first set was short, and ended at 12:49 p.m. During the set break, the crowd was treated to a performance by the Imperial Lion Dance Troupe.

The second set started at 1:16 p.m. with "Ease It Down Right," with Adam on harmonica. The group of kids had disappeared, perhaps devoured by the lion. That was followed by "Steal Your Daughter" and then "She's Just A Girl," the latter a request from someone in the audience. They did a couple more from Songs For A Movie: "Becky" and "Sprig." As with the first set, The Adam Ezra Group ended the second set with a cover, this time a really sweet rendition of The Beatles' "Let It Be." The show ended at precisely 2 p.m. There was no encore. After the show, Adam signed CDs for a crowd of fans who gathered at the merchandise table.

Set List

Set I
  1. Come On Over
  2. Drive
  3. (title?) 
  4. Let Your Hair Down
  5. Takin' Off
  6. Sweet Baby James
Set II
  1. Ease It Down Right
  2. Steal Your Daughter
  3. She's Just A Girl
  4. Becky
  5. The Toast 
  6. (title?)
  7. Another Sunshine
  8. A Boy's Song
  9. Sprig
  10. Let It Be
Here are a few photos from the show:

"Come On Over"
"Come On Over"
"Takin' Off"
"Takin' Off"
Imperial Lion Dance Troupe
"Ease It Down Right"
"Steal Your Daughter"
"A Boy's Song"
"A Boy's Song"
The Out To Lunch concert series takes place on the Worcester Common Oval, just behind the City Hall at 455 Main St. By the way, parking sucks. The library lot is nearby, but half of it is permit parking, and there were no other spots when I pulled in. I ended up at a meter on Main St. several blocks away. The meters only allow you two hours, so at some point you'll have to feed yours. I chose the set break, which meant I missed a bit of the performance by the Imperial Lion Dance Troupe.

The Nields at The Iron Horse Music Hall, 6-17-16 Concert Review

The Nields performing "Black Boys On Mopeds"
The Nields celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary with a couple of full-band shows at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts. The first show, on Friday the 17th, focused on music from the band's first decade or so - from 1991 to 2001. Before the show, Nerissa and Katryna came out to play for those waiting in line, which was a wonderful surprise. They did one song, "Cool In The Backseat," and moments after they finished, the doors opened (this was at 5:30 p.m.). At 7:05 p.m., Ben Demerath opened the show with a half hour set. (Later he'd join The Nields for a couple of tunes.)

The Nields took the stage at 7:53 p.m., telling the crowd, "Thank you for coming to our birthday party." And there was something of a party feel to the show. They kicked off the set with "James," from Bob On The Ceiling, which (if memory serves) was the first Nields album I ever got. They followed that with "Jeremy Newborn Street," from If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Now. "That's on the vinyl," they said afterward, referring to a limited edition double album titled Haven't I Paid My Dues By Now, which was released as part of their twenty-fifth anniversary celebration. As I understand it, only two hundred copies were made.

One of the highlights of the set was another song included on that new double vinyl release, "Snowman," a song originally from their 1998 release Play. They did an excellent, powerful and groovy version of it at this show. It's one of my favorites anyway, but this was a particular stellar rendition. They also did a great version of "Alfred Hitchcock," another they included on Haven't I Paid My Dues By Now. After that song, they talked about touring, and about their first tour van, which they called Moby Juan Van Kenobi, and about raising money for their second van, Nessie The Loch Ness Vanster. They also told a funny anecdote about a gig at a mall where they'd been asked to play "Gotta Get Over Greta," but then were told to play "Taxi Girl" instead.

Another highlight of the show was "In The Hush Before The Heartbreak," which really featured their beautiful vocals. Ben Demerath joined The Nields on oboe for "One Hundred Names," a song from If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Now (while Nerissa moved to the keyboard). He then switched to mandolin for "Keys To The Kingdom," also providing some backing vocals on that song. The set then ended with a fun version of "Tomorrowland."

For the encore, the full band played "Gotta Get Over Greta." In introducing it, Nerissa talked about how they really tried to make it with that album. "We could not have done any less," she said. "You mean any more," Katryna corrected her. "Oh yeah," Nerissa laughed. That song also featured Amelia Chalfant on guitar, while Dave switched to bass. Then to close out the show, Nerissa and Katryna moved to the staircase at the back of the room to perform "Easy People" unmiked. (That's the song that gives the double album its title, by the way.) The show ended at 9:35 p.m.

Set List
  1. James
  2. Jeremy Newborn Street
  3. Be Nice To Me
  4. Black Boys On Mopeds
  5. Snowman
  6. Georgia O
  7. Que Sera Sera >
  8. Alfred Hitchcock
  9. Taxi Girl
  10. Barbie Poem
  11. Jennifer Falling Down
  12. In The Hush Before The Heartbreak
  13. Just Like Christopher Columbus
  14. Best Black Dress
  15. Living It Up In The Garden
  16. One Hundred Names
  17. Keys To The Kingdom
  18. Tomorrowland
  1. Gotta Get Over Greta
  2. Easy People
Here are some photos from the show:

"Cool In The Backseat"
"Cool In The Backseat"
"Cool In The Backseat"
"Barbie Poem"
"Living It Up In The Garden"
"One Hundred Names"
"One Hundred Names"

"One Hundred Names"
"Keys To The Kingdom"
"Gotta Get Over Greta"
The Iron Horse is located at 20 Center St. in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Air Traffic Controller at The Bull Run, 6-16-16 Concert Review

Air Traffic Controller performing "This Road"
Air Traffic Controller put on a really good show at The Bull Run in Shirley, Massachusetts on June 16th. At first I was excited that it was a dinner show, because I was still kind of tired from traveling east (that's a whole other tale), but by the band's second or third song I was itching to dance. Anyway, a band called Town Meeting kicked off the night at 7:45 p.m., and I enjoyed their set. They had some nice harmonies, and I really dug the harmonica solo that led into "Missionary Street." I think "Phoenix" was probably my favorite song of their set. They did a thirty-eight-minute set, and then there was a fifteen-minute break before Air Traffic Controller took the stage. For this show, they were a five-piece band.

Air Traffic Controller kicked off the set with "People Watching," the lead-off track from the band's latest CD release, Black Box, and followed it with another tune from that album, "Get It Over With." In "The Work" they made a reference to The Empire Strikes Back in the line, "I heard someone say, 'Do or do not, there is no try.'" They would make references to a couple of other films during their set. Their song "If You Build It" is obviously about Field Of Dreams (though it also refers to For Love Of The Game), and in "Ready Or Not" they refer to Jerry Maguire in the line "To a time where I had you at hello." After "The Work," Dave commented, "This is kinda like a house party," and said something about the town of Shirley. Someone in the audience said it's cold there in the winter, and Dave asked if the town really had a different weather system than that in Boston. I could no longer sit down when the band started "The House," an insanely catching pop song from Black Box, so I went to the back to dance. Turns out I wasn't the only one.

Casey introduced "Water Falls" as a new song, but it's also one from Black Box. Actually, I think they played every single track from that album. They dedicated "Creature Of The Night" to the audience for making it out on a week night. Casey did "Island" solo, as usual.

They did some songs from their earlier releases as well. They introduced "The One" as the "first song we ever got on the radio." They followed that with "Ready Or Not." "This one goes out by request," Dave said. He then added,"We were going to play it anyway." That song is so pretty, and features some really nice vocals. There was even an acappella section near the end. And they played a couple of songs unmiked in front of the audience - "Can't Let Go" and "This Road," both of which are from The One. "Everybody takes this road to get into the city/Everybody takes this road to get out." That was one of the highlights of the set. The only cover they did was the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses." They ended the set with "Bad Axe, MI."

The encores were "You Know Me," which was a request, and "Are You With Me?" The show ended at 10:29 p.m.

Set List
  1. People Watching
  2. Get It Over With
  3. The Work
  4. The House
  5. What You Do To My Soul >
  6. Water Falls
  7. Creature Of The Night
  8. This Is Love
  9. On The Wire
  10. Pick Me Up
  11. Warrior
  12. The One
  13. Ready Or Not
  14. Phantom
  15. Island
  16. Can't Let Go
  17. This Road
  18. If You Build It
  19. Hurry, Hurry
  20. Wild Horses
  21. Bad Axe, MI
  1. You Know Me
  2. Are You With Me?
Here are a few photos from their show:

"People Watching"
"Get It Over With"
"The Work"
"The House"
"Ready Or Not"

"Wild Horses"

The Bull Run is located at 215 Great Rd. in Shirley, Massachusetts. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere. I took the Shirley Rd. exit from Route 2, and after a while I figured I must have made a mistake (around the time I hit a stop sign near a cemetery). But no, I was still going in the right direction. There is plenty of free parking behind the venue. And the food was good. I had the veggie burger.