Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Notes From The 2019 Roots Roadhouse Festival

James Intveld, Rosie Flores, Dale Watson
The 2019 Roots Roadhouse Festival, held March 31st at The Echo and Echoplex, featured an excellent lineup of artists. The event page online said, “Celebrate the outlaw country spirit and the cosmic cowboy soul with some of the best performers American roots music has to offer!” And indeed, the lineup included Dale Watson, Doug Kershaw, James Intveld, Sam Morrow and Rosie Flores, among many others. This was an event where you had to pick and choose, for there were three stages set up, with music happening simultaneously on all three. Actually, there were four stages, but the fourth was for square dancing and such, so I didn’t bother with that one. In my experience, those folks get a little nutty if you’re not involved in their very particular dance.

After like fifteen minutes of driving around, I finally found a parking spot only a couple of blocks from The Echo, though it turned out only the musicians were allowed in that entrance. The audience had to enter The Echoplex, which meant crossing Sunset, going down a staircase, and crossing another street. Trying to get a car to stop for you in Los Angeles, even if you’re standing in a crosswalk, is not always an easy endeavor. And trying to get cars in four lanes to stop is damn near impossible. But eventually I made it down to the Echoplex, where the Roadhouse stage was. Each stage had a different name. The Honky Tonk stage was in the Echo, while the Back Porch stage was in the little courtyard behind it. In addition to the stages, there were venders inside, something I hadn’t expected, selling clothing, jewelry, shit-kicking boots, records and even cassettes.

Teddy And The Rough Riders
At 3:24 p.m., the first band of the day took the stage downstairs at the Echoplex. Teddy And The Rough Riders, a band from Nashville, offered some good country rock, with pedal steel and some nice harmonies. Their sound had an overall enjoyable vibe, and the day was off to a good start. When they announced they had a couple of songs left, I went upstairs to the Honky Tonk stage to catch Alice Wallace, arriving just in time for her first song, “The Lonely Talking.” I had seen her perform once before, but that was several years ago. This time Kaitlin Wolfberg joined her on violin. Someday I should make a list of all the artists I’ve seen Kaitlin play with. Actually, it might take less time to make a list of all the artists she hasn’t played with. Alice Wallace delivered a powerful vocal performance. She has a new album out, and her set focused on material from it, including “Santa Ana Winds” and “The Blue.” I was particularly enamored of “The Blue,” which is a sweet song. I went back downstairs to see Ruby Boots, missing just Alice Wallace’s last song (I heard her announce she had one more as I made my way down the stairs).

Alice Wallace

Ruby Boots
Ruby Boots is based in Nashville and told the audience the last time she was in L.A. was last April, basically a year ago. She added, “Fuck winter in Nashville.” “Sometimes love don’t come back around,” Ruby sings in “Easy Way Out.” Ah, but she makes it sound so good, whether it comes back or not. Her set was a little longer than the first couple I caught. In “Don’t Talk About It,” the title track from her recent CD, she sings, “Everything’s changing/But it don’t make much difference now/You don’t hear me complaining.” Certainly no one was complaining at this show. She played a new song (after nearly chickening out), titled “I Think I’m Losing My Mind And I Don’t Care.” After revealing the title, she asked, “Anyone with me on that?” Then she kicked into the song, a cool tune that I was definitely digging. After it, she spotted a coat for sale from one of the vendors, and announced her claim on it. I am assuming the coat she saw was the fur coat I’d been eyeing earlier for my girlfriend. Ruby Boots really rocked, particularly on the last song of her set.

the fake fur coat

Sie Sie Benhoff

Dallas Moore
I made it outside for a bit of Sie Sie Benhoff’s set at the Back Porch stage, and liked her immediately. I was also amused that her other guitarist was sporting a Van Halen T-shirt, but then, hell, the guy suddenly started seriously rocking his guitar, so there you go. What I found wonderful was that Sie Sie Benhoff’s voice was adorable and sweet after that loud, rockin’ jam. That juxtaposition was something the whole crowd totally appreciated. Yeah, the audience seemed a bit rowdier outside. After a few songs I went back inside, with the intention of going straight up to see Sam Morrow (who I had seen open for Henry Wagons once a few years ago), but Dallas Moore on the Roadhouse stage grabbed my attention. He was delivering some fantastic raw country rock, and playing a mean guitar. In his song “Texas Tornado,” he mentions David Allan Coe, and yeah, I was already thinking of him, for Dallas Moore has that same unbridled energy and attitude. This set was a whole lot of fun. As much as I hated to leave before the end of his set, I needed to get upstairs for Sam Morrow. Sam Morrow came on strong, right out of the gate, rocking the room with his first song, and then hardly taking a breath before going right into the next one. It was a half-hour set, after all, no time to waste. He got the crowd grooving, and urged folks to come closer to the stage, which they did. Sam also made mention of the impossibility of seeing every artist at the festival: “Lots of good bands. Thanks for coming and watching us.” Toward the end of the set, Sam did a fun cover of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” And his last tune became a great jam with a funky edge.

Sam Morrow

Rosie Flores
I stayed upstairs, because Rosie Flores was up next and I had never seen her perform. When she came out on stage, she asked, “Is everybody happy?” Then she announced, “I proclaim this happy hour.” Indeed. You know, bands often ask audiences how they’re doing, but with Rosie I believed she really cared about the answer. And when she proclaimed it to be happy hour, she then followed up by ensuring that it was for all those listening. Her set was tremendously fun, and her band included saxophone, which is always appreciated. She kicked her set off with “Simple Case Of The Blues,” the groovy, bluesy title track to her new album, which featured Rosie delivering a nice lead guitar part. Her whole vibe was just adorable and wonderful, and that delightful energy seemed to transfer to the crowd. The instrumental “Teenage Rampage” was particularly fun. After “Love Don’t Love Nobody,” which had a great classic sound, Rosie mentioned that these songs were from her new album. She then dipped more heavily into the blues with her next song, “Mercy Fell Like Rain.” She had the crowd in her hand, even before saying: “I miss all the cute guys in L.A. There are so many of you.” James Intveld joined Rosie on vocals for the country tune “Crying Over You,” and they both were clearly having a lot of fun, and so were we. She asked the crowd what time it was, and several people answered, “6:40,” so precisely. Rosie mentioned that was the time she was supposed to be done, but would do two more songs anyway, and launched into “Drive Drive Drive.” I loved her delivery of the line, “I’m losing control, I might just lose my mind,” which was playful, even a little flirtatious. But she ended her set there, as she was told there wasn’t any more time. I stayed in my spot up front at the Honky Tonk stage, for James Intveld was coming up next.

James Intveld (sporting a classy country jacket) and his band, the Honky Tonk Palominos, delivered some delicious country music, including the pretty “A Woman’s Touch” and a cover of Johnny Paycheck’s “Motel Time Again.” He told the audience he had intended to do “Crying Over You,” but since he just played it with Rosie Flores, he decided to do something else. The crowd at this concert, by the way, was cool, made up of good folks, except the woman who spilled her beer all over the edge of the stage, then walked away without cleaning it up. Good thing I was quick to move my bag. The woman behind me, more in the spirit of the day, handed me her napkin so I could soak up some of the beer. Anyway, James gave us a fun rendition of “Your Lovin’” (a song from his first album), featuring some fantastic work by his electric guitar player, Bob Gothar. But perhaps my favorite song of his set was “This Place Ain’t What It Used To Be.” He concluded his set with a rousing version of “Polk Salad Annie.”

Amigo The Devil
When James Intveld’s set ended, I went downstairs to hear a raw, powerful rendition of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” already in progress, performed by Amigo The Devil (which is one guy, Danny Kiranos). It was incredible. Seriously. When he finished that, he told the crowd he was moving into love songs, and played “Husband,” with the line “Oh, I hope your husband dies.” The song has a truly sweet sound and is hilarious, and the crowd sang along, even before he urged them to: “If you feel like singing along, please do; if you don’t, please change your mind.” He switched to banjo for the next song, and I was delighted and kind of blown away to find that the audience knew all the lyrics to that song too. They even sang part of the song for him at one point. This guy was amazing, a force with a powerful and true voice. He had the audience stomping along, then switched back to guitar for a much more serious and darker song. What a ride he took the crowd on throughout his set. When he announced “Hungover In Jonestown,” some folks in the crowd shouted for joy, and I quickly learned why. This was a delightfully twisted song from a sideshow halfway down the road to hell. “This life is a joke, and death is the punchline.” “Good night!” he shouted at the end of that song. The crowd was hungry for more, demanding “One more song” even as the house music came up. Eventually they gave up, as the equipment on stage began to be changed. But wow. I need to get all of Amigo The Devil’s CDs, and I need to see him again.

Doug Kershaw
His loyal and delirious fans mostly cleared out after his set, and I easily made my way to the front for Doug Kershaw’s set. I had seen Doug Kershaw perform at The Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival, and so knew what kind of treat I was in for. The band supporting him was The Dave & Deke Combo, and they did one song without him to start the set, “I’m Just Too Lazy,” in which they sang, “I’m not tired, I’m just relaxing.” Then Doug came out with his fiddle, and was a delight in his purple and gold sparkly shirt, and shoes with red lobsters on them. The party began with “Diggy Diggy Lo.” The set features some excellent music, with a very loose and improvised feel, along with a great heaping of humor between songs. In fact, a rather goofy and unexpected ending to “Cajun Joe (The Bully Of The Bayou),” led the band to joke that they play every song exactly the same way every show. Before “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To,” Doug Kershaw told the audience that what he learned from Hank Williams was to keep it simple, to tell a story but keep it simple. He didn’t play fiddle on that one. Some folks shouted out requests for “Jambalaya.” “I hear you,” Doug replied. And some guy yelled, “You’re fucking awesome, Doug!” That guy was right. Well, Doug didn’t play “Jambalaya” right then, instead choosing “Love Me To Pieces.” But he did finish his set with that request.

Dale Watson
I remained right where I was for Dale Watson’s set. His band included pedal steel, standup acoustic bass and drums, and they got right into the heart of things with a good country jam. This music made me feel pretty damn good. What more could I ask for? Dale told the crowd, “If you’ve got a request, feel free to keep it to yourself.” I had no requests; I was happy to hear whatever songs he felt like playing, such as “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” which featured a seriously cool bass lead, and “My Baby Makes Me Gravy.” He played some material from his new album, Call Me Lucky, including “Johnny And June,” a sweet and beautiful song performed as a duet with Celine Lee, and featuring some absolutely gorgeous pedal steel work. Celine Lee sang with Dale on several tunes, and sang lead on a Wanda Jackson song. Another of the highlights of his set was “Lie When I Drink,” which got the whole crowd singing along. Then “Exit 109” began with a cool drum solo. At 10:30 p.m., Dale joked about being surprised no one had given him a drink that far into his set, not even a shot or a beer or anything. Well, you know before the end of his next song there were drinks lined up in front of him. Seven shots and two beers, to be exact. That led to a wonderful cover of Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down.” Dale Watson spotted Rosie Flores in the audience, and called her up on stage for a duet of “God May Forgive You (But I Won’t).” By the way, there were a lot of musicians in the audience, not just during Dale Watson’s set, but throughout the day, folks who were on the bill and stayed for the other acts, and folks who weren’t on the bill at all. Anyway, after “God May Forgive You (But I Won’t),” Rosie remained on stage, and James Intveld joined the group for “Crying Over You.” And no one in the audience minded hearing that song a second time. What a wonderful rendition, with vocals by Rosie, James and Dale. That led straight into a reprise of “Lie When I Drink,” which finished the set.

That also finished the night for me. There was one more band, but it was after 11 p.m., and I had to be up at 4:15 the next morning for work. But what a fantastic day of music. The Roots Roadhouse Festival is an annual event, and I am certainly going to try to attend again next year.

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