Monday, February 28, 2011

Murder By Death @ the Vault in Bay City

Murder By Death
American Roots & Close Encounters

Murder By Death is an American Band in every sense of the word. Their music is an amalgam of country western, jazz, blues, vaudeville and rock & roll. Not content to present as a typical 4 piece, the band uses cello to fill in the parts that were typically reserved for mandolins and fiddles. They are now touring in support of their new CD Good Morning, Magpie, an undeclared American masterpiece that you may not find in the chain stores. Believe me, it is worth an online search. I was able to talk with Adam Turla, the leader of the band as lead singer and main songwriter for the band from his home in Bloomington Indiana. He is casual and friendly and a man of few words. The band has been together for more than ten years, longer than the Beatles. Turla is modest in his response to their longevity. “It‘s all about a good diet and exercise… but more seriously- we have a fan base that is willing to grow with us and let us develop our sound.”

The band is known for its heavy touring schedule, a never ending tour of sorts year after year. Turla admits to a strong work ethic, “We just think of it as our job. A friend once described us as a blue collar band. We just show up for work every day- we are just lucky our work is doing something creative. We take care of ourselves by enjoying our free time effectively so we don't get wiped out from the grind”

“The idea is that we want to travel everywhere and if someone can arrange travel etc to a distant land we will do our best to make it work. I have always had wanderlust- as a kid I could picture nothing better than being Indiana Jones, travelling the world learning about cultures and fighting bad dudes.”

There is a story about Turla’s creative process on Magpie, going into the woods alone, fishing and writing. He admits that solitude is part of the process of creating new music,
“It helped- it was the whole point of the trip! I just needed to get out and focus only on songwriting. I just work on lyrics when they come to me. Once I have an idea it’s a mad dash.”

Turla has an expressive singing voice, a great husky tenor that recalls Nick Cave channeling Dave Mason and just a touch of Michael Nesmith. His voice seems to have matured through the years. It is quietly expressive without being too over-the-top emotive. His inspiration was surprising. “I think it’s just taken me a long time to develop and learn how to use my voice. I've never consciously tried to emulate anyone else but I love the singing of guys like Eric Burdon from The Animals- guys who go from a low growl to a shout.

Good Morning, Magpie is considered by a few in the know as a true American masterpiece, almost an artifact of days gone by when music was performed on instruments and the singer sang real stories about pain and suffering, love and redemption. Turla is humble in response to the praise. “I never thought about it as a masterpiece- but I’m glad you like it! I hope we have many more fine moments.

The disc has a wonderful eclectic feel from the Tijuana trumpets and jazzy motifs that punctuate the rhythmic feel On The Dark Street Below to the use of shuffle beats on Yes and Foxglove , the two-step waltz time on You Don’t Miss Twice and rock & roll on the coda of The Day. There are some dark lyrical themes that suggest Armageddon (Good Morning Magpie), the end of the world (White Noise) or the decline and fall of the American Empire (the Day) - the darkness versus light; good versus evil dialectic that is compelling and thought provoking. Not what you typically hear on the radio. It is an incredible musical accomplishment to create a cohesive body of music through the expression of such diverse idioms. Turla is circumspect about it, “We listen to a lot of different kinds of music - so we try to throw in cool little moments from various styles when appropriate. Eclecticism is kind of our bag.”

Turla and his bandmates Sarah Balliet (Cello), Matt Armstrong (Bass), and Dagan Thogerson (Drums) produced the album themselves. The sound is rich and pure with the vocal on top, the guitars on the right, the rhythm section in the middle and cello hovering above it all, weaving seamlessly in and out of the musical matrix. When this writer praised the pristine layered production, Turla remained humble, almost self effacing,
“Haha you are too kind. We just do what we do! We produced this album ourselves so I’ll take it as a compliment.”
Jim Dickinson one of the true musical geniuses from Memphis (along with Alex Chilton) once said that the best music is never recorded and if it is recorded it is almost never heard. He goes on to state that the best music is co-opted, pre-empted and recycled and then dumbed down for the masses. Pop music and rock & roll have done this quite effectively since original music such as blues, country and gospel became mass produced. It is all based in greed and exploitation. The recycling of musical ideas can be a tribute… and also a sham
It is band like Murder By Death that keeps music alive. Original music is not always an easy sell when you have mass produced Disney inspired claptrap dominating the airwaves and concert stages. Those creeps can even dumb down rap until it’s actually bubblegum music…poorly done bubblegum music. It’s hard to compete and make a buck when record companies look only to the bottom line and the public is willing to download crap for 99 cents. Sample and recycle that riff!
But there is a new reality emerging in which original music – blues, rock, jazz, and gospel - thrives in small pockets across the nation. This seems to be the case for many middle class artists on small independent labels. It’s a better relationship that has promise in keeping our best bands on the highways and the back roads touring across the nation and overseas. It isn’t very often you can see a band like Murder By Death in your own back yard. Don’t miss this chance to see and hear an incredible American band up close and personal.
Murder By Death will be performing at The Vault 505 E. Midland Street in Bay City on April 1st. Tickets are $10 and are available directly from The Vault or online at On the day of show, tickets are $12.

Bo White

Love Songs
Reflections of a Numinous Presence
Romance & Beauty

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or an arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadows and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
But carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
Thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
Risen from the earth, lives darkly in your body

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way
Than this; where I does not exist, nor you
So close that you hand on my chest is my hand
So close that your eyes close as I fall asleep
- Pablo Neruda

Neruda captures the spirit of deep dreamy love in the above Sonnet. He wrote it for his wife but the sentiment is universal and the feeling pure even holy. It is the type of love that intuits the innate loveliness in all human beings.

Songs of love can touch our very soul and captivate our hearts, minds and bodies. Music’s almost mystical power takes to another place. It moves us like a Jungian dance as the dancer goes deep inside herself, the heart pours out love and the mind creates a space of safety. In “Home of the Gentry” by Ivan Turgenev, the protagonist is touched deeply by a piece of music played on a piano. A passage describes its almost mystical power:
“The sweet passionate melody captivated my heart from the first note; it was full of radiance, full of the tender throbbing of inspiration and beauty, continually growing and melting away; it rumored of everything on earth that is dear and secret and sacred to mankind; it breathed of immortal sadness and it departed from the earth to die in the heavens.”

Music’s power cannot be objectified nor studied under a microscope. Its ability to evoke or manipulate emotions is almost inexplicable yet its influence on our feelings is universal. The emotional content of music is quite subjective, it may be emotionally powerful yet it may be experienced in different ways by the people who hear it. Still a love for music is a universal component of our culture and it appears to have importance in an evolutionary sense. It is theorized that music predates language.

Music is a apotheosis, a glorification of human life and the highest order of pure emotional expression along with the written word, oral history, poetry, painting and sculpture. I love all forms music and one of my favorite forms is the love song.

There must be reason for the enduring popularity of love songs
It could be the love song represents an intrinsic biological task to merge with others. And by merging ensure the survival of our species or maybe is fills our senses and lifts our spirits an imperfect world. Cloe Madanes once said that the perspective of a thoughtful and intelligent person is melancholia. Makes sense to me. Love songs often carry that type of dialectic of opposing forces - oneness is bliss; separation is dangerous.

Here is a non-definitive list of my favorite love songs.

One of the most to soulful and timeless Beatle love songs is In My Life. The lyrics bear repeating. John Lennon sings:

There are places I remember all my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With Lovers and Friends I still recall
Some are dead and some are living
In My Life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lover
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys created a masterpiece in 1966 when he penned God Only Knows with guest lyricist Tony Asher. The music is lush yet understated. The complicated melodic structure and harmonics perfectly underscore the message of a deeply felt love. Wilson on utilized a harpsichord and French horns on the song, instruments not typically associated with a rock & roll band. He was only 23 years old at the time

I may not always love you
But as long as there are skies above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it
God only knows what I’d be without you

If you should ever leave me
Life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I’d be without you

The Association is a great vocal band from the sixties/seventies.
Never My Love was released in 1967 and went up to #2 in the Billboard charts. BMI has credited the songs with the second most airplay in the 20th century for good reason, It is a great song:

You ask me if there’ll come a time
When I’ll grow tired of you
Never My Love
Never My Love

You wonder if this heart of mine
Will lose its desire for you
Never my love
Never my love

What makes you think love will end
When you know that my whole life depends
On you
Never My Love
Never My Love

Everything that Touches You goes a little bit deeper:

In my most secure moments I still can’t believe
I’m spending those moments with you
And the ground I am walking, the air that I breathe
Are shared at those moments with you

You love for real
You show the feel
Of everything that touches you

In the songs I’ve been singing quite often a phrase
Comes close to the feeling of you
But I never suspected that one of those days
The wish of the song would come true

You love for real
You show the feel
Of everything that touches you

You are of gracefulness, you are of happiness
You are what I would guess to be most like
What I’ve been singing in of
Love, Love , Love

Cole Porter wrote sophisticated jazzed up love songs such as I Get a Kick Out of You. It was featured in the Broadway musical Anything Goes but the definitive “hip” reading came from Frank Sinatra:

I get no kick in a plane
Flying too high with some guy in the sky
Is my idea of nothing to do
But I get a kick out of you

Some get a kick from cocaine
I’m sure that if
I took even one sniff
That would bore me terrifically, too
Yet, I get a kick out of you

One of my favorite obscure love songs is Can’t Find the Time to Tell You by Orpheus. It has a beautiful melody and sung in a clear baritone by leader Bruce Arnold.
Ba da da da da da
I Can’t Find the Time To Tell You

I look at your pretty face
And I fall in love with you
Fall in love with you
Every time I see you, yeah

Nightgowns of regal lace
That are flowin’ to the ground
Flowin’ to the ground
In a mist around you

OK – you had to be there,

Ray Davies wrote the definitive rock & roll love song in 1968 with his band the Kinks, Waterloo Sunset has a beautiful cascading sound and lyrics filled with longing and loneliness. Davies is experiencing love and contentment through watching two lovers escape from Waterloo to the other side of the River Thames

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, make me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright

But I don't feel afraid
As long as I gaze at
Waterloo sunset
I am in Paradise

Every day I look at the world
From my window
[| From: |]
Chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset's fine

Terry meets July
Waterloo station
Every Friday night
But I'm so lazy don't want to wander
I stay at home with dad

But I don't feel afraid
As long as I gaze at
Waterloo sunset
I am in Paradise
Waterloo sunset's fine

Evanescence “My Immortal” is a triumph, a song of incredible depth and power about love, pain and loss:

I’m so tired of being here
Because your presence still lingers here
And it won’t leave me alone

These wounds won’t seem to heal
The pain is just to real
There is just too much that time cannot erase

I have tried hard to tell myself that you are gone
But though you are still with me

The Proclaimers wrote a different kind of love song. Some may not view it as such but I do. For my wife and I, it’s “OUR SONG”. I dig the incessant beat and irreverent lyrics - it is simply irresistible. Here’s a sample lyric:

And I would walk 500 hundred miles
And I would walk 500 hundred more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

When I’m lonely, well I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man who’s lonely without you
And when I’m dreaming, well you know I’m gonna dream
I’m gonna dream about the time I’m with you
When I go out (when I go out), well I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man that goes along with you
And when I come home (when I come home), yes I know I’m gonna be
I’m gonna be the man that comes back home with you
I’m gonna be the man who’s coming home to you

The most tender love song I’ve ever heard is the quirky For Emily Wherever I May Find Her. The lyrics evoke poetic images are both obscure and sensuous. It has a dreamlike quality that underscores an existential loneliness. Art Garfunkel’s voice is heavenly.
What a dream I had
dressed in organdy
clothed in crinoline
of smoky burgundy
softer than the rain

I wandered empty streets down
past the shop displays
I heard cathedral bells
dripping down the alley ways
as I walked on

and when you ran to me
your cheeks flushed with the night
we walked on frosted fields
of juniper and lamplight
I held your hand

and when I awoke
and felt you warm and near
I kissed your honey hair
with my grateful tears
oh, I love you
oh, how I love you, girl
Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie is a tortured confessional. It’s Eminem’s voice throughout the breathtaking pounding rap. The minor key bridge sung by Rihanna, Eminem’s alter ego. This is about a deep abiding yet tortured love. It’s too strong, too possessive to survive.
Just gonna stand there
And watch me burn
But that's alright
Because I like
The way it hurts
Just gonna stand there
And hear me cry
But that's alright
Because I love
The way you lie
I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

I can't tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
And right now there's a steel knife
In my windpipe
I can't breathe
But I still fight
While I can fight
As long as the wrong feels right
It's like I'm in flight
High of a love
Drunk from the hate
It's like I'm huffing paint
And I love it the more that I suffer
I suffocate
And right before I’m about to drown
She resuscitates me
She fucking hates me
And I love it
Where you going
I'm leaving you
No you ain't
Come back
We're running right back
Here we go again
It's so insane
Cause when it's going good
It's going great
I'm Superman
With the wind in his bag
She's Lois Lane
But when it's bad
It's awful
I feel so ashamed
I snap
Who's that dude
I don't even know his name
I laid hands on her
I'll never stoop so low again
I guess I don't know my own strength

Just gonna stand there
And watch me burn
But that's alright
Because I like
The way it hurts
Just gonna stand there
And hear me cry
But that's alright
Because I love
The way you lie
I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

Now it’s time ladies and gentlemen. For my favorite romantic love songs of all time. Drum roll please…

Johnny Mathis. Wonderful Wonderful. Mathis’ silky smooth vibrato and crystal clear diction is a perfect accompaniment to this jazzed up pop masterpiece. He recorded this song in 1956. Sherman Edwards composed the music and Ben Raleigh wrote the lyrics. The legendary Gil Evans was involved in the arrangement.

Sometimes we walk hand in hand by the sea
And breathe in the cool salty air
You turn to me with a kiss in your eyes
And my heart feels a thrill beyond compare
Then your lips cling to mine
It’s Wonderful, Wonderful
Oh so wonderful my love

Sometimes we stand on top of the hill
And we gaze at the earth and the sky
I turn to you and you melt in my arms
There we are darling only you and I
What a moment to share
It’s wonderful, wonderful
Oh, so wonderful my love

The world is filled with wondrous things, it’s true
But they wouldn’t have much meaning, without you

Some quiet evenings I sit by your side
And we’re lost in a world of our own
I feel the glow of your unspoken love
I’m aware of the treasures that I own
And I say to myself it’s wonderful, wonderful
Oh, so wonderful my love!

Happy Valentines Day

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2010 Musical Highlights: Tales of Technology And The Ascendance of the Middle Class Musician

This was a year of sentinel events that had less to do with music and more to do with technology. Still, the music of 2010 provided an exceptional soundtrack to a country divided along racial, political and class lines. I believe that some of the best music created in the USA never gets released and if it is released, it’s seldom heard by a mass audience. There are exceptions. Lada Gaga’s Bad Romance is an excellent post-Madonna effort filled up with glitz and glamour and high arousal sensuality and Love the Way You Lie has this minor chord bridge sung with just the right nuance by Rihanna with a sharp segue to Eminem’s emotional rap. It is filled with longing and confusion. It’s real - perhaps the best executed performance of the year, if not the decade. Kanye West may argue otherwise as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a stone classic. West is a gloriously demented genius who gets better with each passing year.

Rolling Stone published Jonathon Cott’s long abandoned interview of John Lennon in its December 23, 2010/January 6, 2011 issue. Lennon talked with Cott for over nine hours – just three days before he died. As I read I could sense an audible silence like walking alone through a field of green grass on a sunny day. I miss Lennon and to hear his voice jump off the written pages was an extraordinary experience. I could hear him speak through the stillness.
Thank you Rolling Stone

I grieved the death of Alex Chilton on March 17th, 2010. He was a founding member of the Box Tops and Big Star and he released several spectacular yet uneven solo albums from the seventies until the time of his death. He was a true disciple of original music whether it was rock & roll, blues, jazz, punk, or power pop. He was a chameleon of the first order.

And…Ok.. I like California Gurls ‘cos Katy Perry is a hot Lolita and I get all juiced up whenever I hear the song. Bubblegum has never died no matter what the genre – just listen to eeny meanie miny mo lover. It’s so subliminally seductive that you may find yourself singing the chorus even though you hate it. But that’s the allure of bad music. It’s like the cult movies of the fifties and sixties – Planet 9 from Outer Space or the 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (the only film written by Dr. Seuss, thank god) – they are so excruciatingly bad, they’re good…maybe.

The deluxe reissues of The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street, Lennon’s stripped down Double Fantasy and Springsteen’s Darkness at the Edge of Town were like manna sent from heaven. Glorious. If only Rhino or some other reissue dudes could do it up right for The Beau Brummels. Speaking of reissues, my favorite local sixties band The Bossmen are getting a deluxe treatment with a 26 page booklet extensive liner notes, rare photos and three tracks unearthed by our bootleg friends @ Big Beat Records including a slowed down horn based version of I Cannot Stop You (a hit for the Cherry Slush), Easy Way Out and Listen My Girl. It’s scheduled for a 2011 release that will coincide with Dick Wagner autobiography entitled Not Only Women Bleed.

Locally we had a mixed bag musically. Some really great moments of creativity and rebirth mixed with the stasis of cover bands and karaoke.

Saginaw cannot be denied its birthright. We’ve always been wild and wooly. We’ve known hard times before. From the lumberjack days in the 1800’s, prohibition in the thirties, reform in the forties and the unrest and racial strife in the sixties, Saginaw has always fought with itself and today’s conditions seem only too familiar – a sagging economy, poverty and high unemployment. Such extreme misery has affected everything in Saginaw from crime, violence, to protest, the mobilization of neighborhoods and the faith based community and the Arts. Struggle seems to light the fire of our creative passions. Like a scorned lover, our musicians have sublimated their anger and sorrow and immersed themselves into their craft to create some of the best music on the planet.

Thick As Thieves have ascended to the top of the heap with a hybrid of rock, rap and soul that is uniquely their own. Sprout has emerged from an almost year long incubation of refining their vision and creating a new musical persona. The Tosspints have more edge than Burroughs - they are phenomenal. The Thunder Chickens squawk and cluck but continue to make great music and theater and garner an impressive following in towns and cities beyond our shallow borders. Melissa May is a force of nature! The Banana Convention is one of the most innovative bands in the area - they rock hard. Shar Molina is one of the premier vocalists in mid-Michigan. You’ve come along way, baby.
Tim Avram's Elastic fantastic acoustic auto erotic folk punkish rock & roll vision is our saving grace - modern spirituals with one foot in hell. Listen to the gospel. Brody and the Busch Road Trio are displaced Frankenmuth natives that are making a name for themselves. They are close musical cousins to the incredible Honky Tonk Zeros. Silverspork is a one of a kind metal band – smart, sexy and political with a little religion on the side - one of the best bands around. Tension Head is still #1 - OH YEAH! And the world is a better place because of the The Bearinger Boys’ vision and courage to tell it like it is. Matt Heller aka DJ Snakes almost single handedly brought back Hip Hop to Saginaw. Bobby Balderama, the legendary guitarist of Question Mark & the Mysterians, took everyone by surprise when he re-imagined the Mysterians as a cool jazz band.
The result was simply breathtaking. Diversity is the word - it is our heritage.

Perhaps the biggest issue in 2010 is the health of the music business. As it has been pointed out by several pundits in the last few years it’s not the music business that is dying. It is the CD business. Several factors are at work, including the decline in the popularity of the compact disc format, shrinking sales due to digital download services and file sharing, shifting business models and the rise of independent retailers. Ironically, this may create opportunity for our local bands to reach out to a national spotlight through technological advances in delivering music to their fans. This should reduce artists need to sign to a major label for financing and exposure.

In a recent interview Ian Rogers, the former head of Yahoo Music, responded to the fact that sales of CDs declined as the sales of digital files continued to spiral upward: “The lamenting we read in the press is not the story of the new music business. Continuing to talk about the health of the industry in these terms is as if we’d all been crying about the dying cassette business in 1995.”
He goes on to argue for a broader middle class of musicians who can support themselves – to make a living – by using the web to promote their music, live performances and merchandise. This would cause a power shift from labels to artists and create conditions for greater consumer choice.
In an article on the CNN Entertainment site entitled, Is the Death of the CD Looming?, Lisa Respers France noted that the Nielson SoundScan data revealed a sharp drop of CD sales from 147 million last July to 114 million as of July 2010. In 2007 CDs accounted for 90 percent of album sales with digital files accounting for the remaining 10 percent. By 2009 the figures shifted to 79 percent for CDs and 20 percent for digital downloads.
France quotes Billboard Senior Chart Manager Keith Caulfield: “Vinyl was the predominant configuration in the 50’s and 60’s all the way up through the 80’s and then cassettes became the predominant format in the early to mid 80’s to the very early 90’s. Then CDs became the predominant format and cassettes didn’t really go away until a few years ago. It’s a kind of natural progression, to a degree.”
Caufield sees the benefit of digital downloads as they can meet a demand almost instantaneously. He observed that a show like Glee or American Idol make songs instant hits because fans “have already heard and liked the song by the time they download it.”

The music industry is struggling with how music files can be safely stored. A recent article in Rolling Stone, File Not Found: The Record Industry’s Digital Storage Crisis by David Browne warns consumers that digital files are an unsafe storage medium and efforts to restore classic albums by the Cult and The Wallflowers were thwarted by missing data – entire tracks had disappeared! The Cult’s 1985 album Love contained only 80% of the album.
Browne advises us to back up our files on an external hard drive as Hard Drives do fail. He also suggests using quality files such as Apple Lossless and backing up your music on remote online “cloud” systems such as Carbonite.
Oh, and another thing - keep your CDs. Most discs in your collection should last another 30 years. Also…you should never throw away your vinyl collection. You should give it to me.

It is no wonder that the Music Industry is reconsidering its delivery system – how to get music to the consumer. It is a big issue locally. Recently I met with Sean Drysdale, the erstwhile monster bassist for the Banana Convention. We talked about the state of the music industry and the death of the Compact Disc. According to Sean, nobody really wants CDs anymore. He feels CDs are obsolete in the face of new technology – they just don’t give you a bang for your buck or the kind of musical experience sophisticated audiophiles demand. Sean gave this yellow thumb drive shaped like a banana. I inserted it into my USB port and like Alice peering through the Looking Glass I was transported to a magical land of color, music, videos, and photographs. I was able to see, hear and witness Banana Convention’s performances on the Warped Tour and their great show at Bemos. Links to You Tube will connect fans to other obscure BC performances. I listened to their incredible catalog of recorded music including Live @ White’s, Dirty Negatives, Freeze Dried Eclectic Singles, and Taking Back the Fun, and From the Vault (random singles, demos and rare tracks). The Banana Convention is certainly on to something incredibly daring. This multi-media presentation of all their “stuff” was blow-me-away impressive and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg to produce - if you don’t include all the expense of making the CDs, art and video production. BC charges only $10 and it includes periodic updates of new content such as the recent uploads of new photos and a great Christmas track, The Bells Will Be Ringing. It’s like having a complete vinyl collection of your favorite artist.

The slow death of the compact disc format will no doubt make small and independent labels more powerful but the CD is not yet down for the count. CDs still make a whopping 7 billion a year. Not too shabby. The big companies are like Wall Street hustlers bidding up on derivatives. They have no clear vision and they aren’t grasping the big issues. It’s like the Titanic boldly cruising in the mid-Atlantic waters, gauging a successful passage in deep waters with state of the art equipment only to scrape past the tip of the iceberg and sink ignominiously. The big companies don’t know how to deal with the advent of file sharing, the growing influence of middle class musicians, and shifting egalitarian business models. The independents are ascending to the thrown.

The King is Dead. Long Live the King

Bo White

Silverspork - A Release of An Oath

Listening to this new Silverspork CD is like opening a door to a blast furnace and basking in the heavy metal blaze as it seers your brain and melts your face. This band has the raw power of Iggy & the Stooges, the intensity of Eminem, the healing and prophecy of Bob Marley and the lucid political analysis of Noam Chomsky. This is post apocalypse gospel music that leads through the heart of darkness and into the light. Silverspork is like an eternal knight of the senses creating words, images and music that pulsates to the rhythm of the streets. Brian Gretzinger is the singer and lyricist and his songs are pocket essays on the crisis of materialism and the emptiness of modern life. Carl Abila is gifted guitarist who can sustain a stroke of pure thunder and explore up and down the neck like he’s making wild passionate love to a rock & roll goddess. The drummer/percussionist Mario Salcedo is power personified with lightening quick wrists that sets the frantic pace without skipping a beat. Jay Burk fills out the lineup on bass. He’s a monster and his contribution cannot be overstated. A heavy band like Silverspork requires a bottom that comes on strong and Burks is one of the best. He and Salcedo are integral to the overall sound. This disc is an act of courage in its honest depiction of our current hypermasculine, business-led culture.

The Matrix to the Occipital Lobe opens with a metal riff that attacks the body like a slug to the chest. The lyrical themes reveal a fictional universe that appears more real than our own sad reality. Spiritual metaphors are prominent – a portal to the other side, a tunnel that holds the light. In this alternate universe psychedelics are a sacrament and reality is multidimensional. This is a trip you need to take with a seasoned astral traveler. The Spork hits it hard with a sound that is an unrelenting G- force attack that fills the senses to overload until your salivating and begging for more like Fonda taking on # 19 while salivating for # 20 during her final blaze of glory in the Mekong Delta. Mastodon is a clear-eyed nightmarish vision about the end of an empire. The rot has set in and the social control agents are spoon feeding us propaganda through television, pharmaceuticals, marketing, and religion. It is really the ancient allegory of David & Goliath. Our government, led by the educated and elite – the stooges of Wall Street, is crushing us like a mastodon. It controls our thoughts and kills our soul. Gretzinger sings his ass off, sounding like Michael Stipes on the verses and an enraged Roky Erickson on the chorus.

Resilience is the angriest and most political cut on the CD. It hits the mark, an unwavering bullseye on political corruption. Abila’s spoken word verses provide the context to Gretzingers impassioned singing on the bridge and chorus:
Abila: The perpetuation of fear as a means of control is governed by the subjugation of the masses through illusory lies, war, disease, famine, Godlessness, Immorality, prescription drugs, and murder at all levels.
Gretzinger: Resilience and Integrity; It’s all part of the anarchy
Sieg Heil; Sieg Heil!
Powerful – a masterful expose of the fall and decline of the American Empire.

Apparatus rocks like there is no tomorrow. It is a relentless sonic assault with interesting if not obscure lyricism. Gretzinger seems to be writing about love and sex – the somewhat typical and mundane psychosexual dramas that occur on mainstreet. Boy meets girl. Their reptilian brains are activated and the game is on. A deeper meaning is hidden beneath the sensual glow of the lyrics that evokes a more personal vulnerability around the trappings of the music industry, the whims of the critics and tastemakers, and the elusive lucky break. Music is the apparatus. Success is the aphrodisiac.

X-Set opens with just a hint of a metalized My Sharona riff (borrowed several times over from Richard Berry’s 1955 classic Louie Louie) and Gretzinger’s soulful singing. The lyricism is sheer poetry. Thematically precise and lyrically impassioned, the song rolls and thunders with the uncertainty of sudden changes and personal growth through acceptance of pain and sorrow. Splendor is elusive and it’s difficult to be impressive when you’re filled up with doubt. This is a prayer for love and salvation and a tale of human suffering.

Rake opens with a quiet electric/acoustic guitar riff and cymbal play that lulls the listener into a false sense of security. Gretzinger’s muscular tenor reveals an impressive range and control. He can sustain his pitch and then leap to another octave. The music shifts suddenly to a heavy metal industrial blast with savage drums and full-bodied machine gun guitar riffs that recall the best instincts of Randy Rhodes riding Ozzy’s Crazy Train. Bassist Burks is no slouch, in fact he’s rock solid and able to anchor the rhythm section despite the huge wall of sound. The song covers a lot of ground asking questions that have no definitive answers - from alien sightings to the Big Bang and a belief in God. A powerful wall-of-sound unison chorus bolsters Gretzinger’s vision and message. It’s a dialectical dilemma
Stand up, sit down
Put your feet back on the ground
Stand Back. Shut Up
Well, don’t you make a sound…NO

Benzene is a warning about the prospects of never ending war and a nuclear winter. Gretzinger decries this holocaust created by states and governments that have no legitimacy to subjugate its citizens. It is a frightening vision…Abila counts it down
1212 TEST
1212 PUSH
Gretzinger sings, “Red buttons that destroy sandboxes”
A prescription for extinction.

Herman is an updated version of a modern Narcissus who is prone to excessive masturbation and an abiding indifference to other’s rights. Herman is a predator who seeks out and exploits the vulnerable. There are more than a few Hermans out there and this angry metal diatribe enlists a dark seething humor to convey and important message about people who forget about value and decency. Some see him as an incubus. Others see him as a genius. Gretzinger is right we hold both the anger and the antidote.

Explosive Bonham-like Zeppelin drumming and a insistent pulsating bass line create the soundscape for Fratricide, a searing tale of betrayal and the broken bonds of brotherhood. The cutoff is complete and the brothers hurt each other in absence of any reasonable strategy to reconnect. Acceptance is the only way out of hell and letting go is the only path to healing. Another great Silverspork song.

InJusta sounds like U2 before the cowboy hats and shades. This is an incredible piece of music with several tempo changes (a Silverspork trademark), explosive drumming, masterful guitar work (hail Abila), tight edits, and the world class vocal gymnastics of Brian Gretzinger. The lyrics speak to the false messages created by the mass media and our consumer culture. Marketing is now the central vehicle to create interest around a brand or product from automobiles, and oatmeal to political candidates. Marketers hire actors to tell lies about a product, as in the Vote For Change campaign that helped catapult Barack Obama to office. A second important message is that we humans have value simply by “being”. It informs the very nature of our existence, that no one is disposable. Silverspork is right. We are the proof. God loves theatre.

Gretzinger sturdy tenor trembles in The Lease as he struggles with a spiritual longing and his struggle between hope and despair. It is his vision quest. The divine is calling out and it can be experienced even when his faith is tested by a profound loneliness and a felt sense of “I don’t know who I am.” A revelation, a smile inward and love, imbedded in his heart unfolds and fills the singer with serenity and healing. A prophecy is restored and a spirit is leased in this temporary vessel. The album was recorded at Random Awesome Recording Studio in Bay City. In the next month Silverspork will be playing weekend gigs in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois before returning to Mid-Michigan to perform shows @ The Hamilton Street Pub and other great venues

You can purchase the new Silverspork CD online @ ITunes, Rhapsody, Napster, and Amazon.

Bo White

Take That Back, Do the Rewind. The Party’s Poppin’ It’s Social Distortion

I really can’t say I disliked this show but it was a bit disappointing. I was led to believe or, that is, I wanted to believe I was shelling out my hard earned cash for an honest to god, root hog or die PUNK show. Instead I get some impolite rock & roll that is as far away from punk as polka is to cabaret. Don’t get me wrong, the bands were tight and the players are well traveled professionals, going through the motions and stepping on their marks, never missing a beat. But the energy level on the stage paled in comparison to the heavy drinking, mosh pitting, crowd surfing audience. It was standing room only on the main floor and that allowed the crowd to form an amoeba-like living mass, pulsating and pushing each other to and fro - a sea of lunatics, a perfect storm. Bless their heart. I only wish I had the gumption to join them. It looks like fun to Daddy Bo, for sure.

My favorite band of the night was the opening act Frank Turner. He was a snotty British lad with a wicked sense of humor who threw out eff bombs like he was swatting flies and lifted his middle finger with the ease of a seasoned professional. He was like a drunken Ray Davies all Kinked up and telling his brother and the crowd to kiss his ass. He played acoustic guitar throughout his brief set and acknowledged his allegiance to the punk spirit by saying that he only plays folk music in order to destroy it from within. I gotta respect that. He performed rock anthems and shuffles and sing-a-longs, a type of Music Hall Punk. He finished his portion of the show with a great chorus and we all joined in…

I won’t sit down
I won’t shut up
But most of all I won’t grow up

The second act Lucero just didn’t have the goods, the gris gris, the…well, they sucked, kind of. The vocalist sang like Springsteen with a bad case of laryngitis with no tone or pitch, just an unworldly frog-like croaking that was like nails on a chalkboard. This dude was killing my ears and I’m convinced he was singing in an alien language known only to Lucero and the Klingons. Yeah, but…it grows on you, until it’s annoying. There was a pedal steel player that was riffing like crazy but all his efforts were buried in the mix. Too bad. The crowd got heated up and restless during this set and a few fights broke out. For a minute I thought I was watching a Spirits game. Southern rock for the Jerry Springer crowd.

By now the dawdling crowd packed the house, the main floor and the balcony. The audience was pumped, pulsating and boisterous. Sullen-looking security dudes could barely keep up with the tangle of bodies surfing up to the front of the stage. The energy was high as the anticipation reached a fever pitch and then - Social Distortion hit the stage, riffing with a heavy metal-amped up, body blasting sound. The vocal microphone produces a muffled sound and we don’t get a clear vocal from Mike Ness until the third song. Still something seemed amiss, the songs are well crafted but slowed down with no super-charged, rapid fire machine gun riffing. Ness did a little pirouette and jumped but he didn’t do it clean. He can’t seem to fly up into the air anymore – it’s like watching an old woman jog. Ness is beginning to show his age but he’s in shape and he is stocky like a body builder. His hair is cut short and he’s balding with a just a hint of a 5 ‘O clock shadow and a smug look on his face. I put on my glasses to get a good look at him. My god, Ness he couldn’t be...yes he is - ERIC SCHANTZ. OMG - it’s like steppin’ in it and trying to scrap it off with a stick but there is still a little bit stuck in the crevices. But eventually I got over it. In fact, I even dug it ‘cos it made Ness more human and accessible. In between songs I yelled out SCHANTZ- HEY-SCHANTZ-ITS ME-BO-WHHADYA DOING but he never answered me. He just texted Laura Girl and the Muscle Man and told her to tell me to shaddup. But by then I was already distracted by this nabob in the aisle who puked up his last gulp of PBR and part of his lung as he stumbled down stairs to the main floor.

Ness was cool and calculated throughout the show. He was so cool that it took him longer to roll up the sleeves of his shirt than to sing the next song. With his clean shaven visage and dress-up white shirt and suspenders, Ness looked more like a Republican fundraiser than a punk rocker.

Social Distortion is no longer a punk band but they are rockers. They did their hits and concert staples - The Creeps, King of Fools, Story of My Life, Ring of Fire, Mommy’s Little Monster as well as new songs such as Alone and Forsaken, Still Alive, Bakersfield, and Machine Gun Blues. My favorite Social Distortion song, Ball and Chain, was slowed down and beefed up and had a cumbersome, dirge like quality like the sound of a boat dredging sludge out of the Saginaw River. Nearby a forty-something bleach blond was freakin’ to the song. It could be an embarrassing moment or a simple act of letting go and having fun. I chose the latter. It’s never too late to get your freak on and have a good time.

Social Distortion does not sound like a punk band anymore. Instead they are a hard working touring band of professional musicians who put on a good show. They play the hits but they also perform new material with an updated sound. They are scheduled to release a new CD, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, on January 18th, 2011 while on an extended tour across the USA and Australia.

So… the story, the real story was the people in the crowd. All those incredible 40 year old fans, punked up and altered, dancing and crowd surfing and acting the fool may be hubris but then again it just may be good clean fun. The reverie of these unselfconscious music lovers inspired me to be more aware of my own body and my energy. They opened me up to a sense of spaciousness that’s been in hibernation for several years. Toward the end of the show I nodded off briefly and awoke with a start. Life lessons can occur in the most unlikely places.

Bo White

Dave Asher Spreads Out with On-U-Sound

David Asher is a visionary artist who helped lift The Process to incredible success in the nineties. For Asher Reggae wasn’t just music, it was a movement that was both political and spiritual. Any of you who were able to witness the absolute purity of Bob Marley’s power and presence may understand Asher’s undying allegiance. Marley’s concerts were a clarion call for revolution, to liberate the mind, body and spirit from the shackles of oppression and injustice. Marley’s music is based in Jamaican folk culture, mythology and religion - in essence, modern spirituals and songs of revolution. As Asher’s golden age with the Process passed, he continued to create great music and he never compromised his integrity just to regain mass popularity. Instead he followed his own muse and never looked back. His current transformation to reggae DJ is not too much of a stretch. Asher is more than a practioner and a student of reggae, he’s a rocking mad professor, teaching and prodding us about reggae, ska, dub, rocksteady, dancehall and reggae/soul fusion. Reggae music’s influence in other countries includes the practice of toasting which gained prominence in New York City and eventually evolved into rapping. Cool. Get ready for a testimonial that is every bit as inspired as the Rasta way of life – the spiritual use of cannabis and the rejection of Babylon.

What prompted this project?

Well, to be honest I started listening to reggae music about 30 years ago, in the late 70's. I was a big fan of anything that the independent rock label Island Records released. Island was run by a guy named Chris Blackwell. He was an Anglo Jamaican with very eclectic tastes.Blackwell started releasing Ska (an uptempo early precursor of reggae) singles in the 60's in Jamaica and then eventually discovered Steve Winwood with The Spencer Davis Group. From there he branched out in to rock music with acts like Traffic, Roxy Music, John Martyn, Jethro Tull and the like.
In the 70's he signed alot of great reggae artists, starting with Jimmy Cliff. The most successful group obviously, was Bob Marley and The Wailers. Although I was aware of Peter Tosh and a few other artists, I was pretty much clueless to the vastness of Jamaican music. It wasn't until Bob passed in 1981, that I began to understand that there were hundreds, thousands of talented reggae artists.
I have to give some credit for that realization, to a guy named "Pic" who had a record store in old town Saginaw that stocked lots of reggae. He also had a Sunday Reggae show on an urban radio station in Saginaw in the early 80's. Between Pic and my old friend Freddie Reif, those two clued me in to what I was missing.
Over the years I've amassed a pretty good sized collection of reggae music, transferring a lot of vinyl to compact disc. Greg Kimbrue (of The Kingfish Bar) was the first person to suggest I start to DJ reggae, about 10 years ago. Greg has always worked to spread reggae's vibes and I'm grateful to him for that.

Who inspired you?

Well, I'm constantly inspired by the amazing talent of reggae artists the world over. Not just the incredible artistry of the West Indian diaspora but artists in England, Africa, Japan, everywhere music is played, people are taking reggae to higher heights. On a personal level, the message of Rastafari, truth, rights, justice, equality, inspires and encourages me.

What is your vision or goal?

Mostly, I'm kind of like a revival selector. I specialize in cultural roots reggae music from the era that I love, the late 70's and early 80's. However, I do mix it up with old Ska from the early 60s and more modern cultural artists from today's sounds, as well as Dub, reggae's remix music. There are also a lot of great newer artists like Bushman, Sizzla and others, carrying the vanguard of modern roots reggae.

What do you want to accomplish?

Shaolin Sound bought our own DJ rig last summer and westarted taking it more seriously. I would like to share reggae music with as many people as I can, so that they can get the message to uplift their spirits. There is so much negativity now days, people need a positive vibration and that is what Reggae is.

How does this performance art differ from singing in a band?

Well, to be honest, it's much more relaxed for me. THE PROCESS performs at a very intense level and when I DJ, I'm just sharing the music, enjoying the vibes myself. Don't get me wrong, I do love to perform with the band but Djing is more easygoing, relaxing even, haha!

Do you write the music?

Well, I do play some music by THE PROCESS and some special pre-release stuff. Overall however, I'm playing music by as wide a variety of artists as possible. Wednesday September 15 we will be showcasing a special encore On-U Sound night. That night we will be playing sounds from the British label On-U Sound. As you know we did it at Whites a few months ago and it was pretty successful, so we thought we would kick this residency off by doing it again the first night. On-U's collective has backgrounds in Punk, Reggae and Funk, so they aren't exactly traditional reggae. This is the 30th anniversary of the label and so the time is perfect to do it. I was surprised and excited by how many people in Saginaw were familiar with On-U founder Adrian Sherwood's work. People in Saginaw know good music.

Any collaborators?

Well, I work closely with Seth Payton (Stamp'D, Master 6). He pretty much co-selects with me. He keeps it fun and we have a lot of laughs! Seth brings the more rocky music like 311 and stuff like that. We have also been working with a guy called DJ Lionheart from New York City. I do plan on having others selectors come in, so if fans of reggae music are interested come down and get involved. I'm looking forward to spreading the reggae vibes at White’s and across Mid-Michigan

Bo White

Bomb Tees & The Music Lab: Brothers in Arms

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. The Bomb Tees/Music Lab entrepreneurs have already brightened the ether-land pages of 360 Mainstreet (who scooped everybody as they are wont to do) and the Saginaw News and we don’t really need another hyped-up glossified advertisement for a new business. So I’m gonna pepper you with my acerbic take on the world of business - especially small business. The BT/ML is simply too small to fail. We need them. That’s why this little article is still important. What we don’t need in Saginaw is continued growth of chain stores and restaurants that rob a community of its unique character and vitality. As Ray Davies once pleaded in his masterpiece Village Green Preservation Society, “God save little shops, china cups and virginity.” Hmm, little shops, anyway. Wall Street can go eff themselves silly as they continue to socialize their risk with our money. The small business community doesn’t rely on derivatives and speculation to screw the public, NO, we tighten our belts and go mean and lean and then screw the public…oops, I mean - we HAVE to be genuine in our efforts to support the needs and overall vision of our diverse community. We Saginawians are a hearty bunch – savvy, smart and very creative. Maybe it’s the tension in our dialectic – poverty and wealth, racism and diversity, failing schools and Academy for the Arts and Sciences – that create the conditions that will lead to Saginaw’s recovery and rebirth. Bob Rindhage, Bob Connelly and Bill Fiebig III are part of a new class of entrepreneurs that are well educated and well travelled yet anchored into the fabric of what makes Saginaw tick. Hell, these cats come from good stock, families that are sensitive, encouraging and artists in their own right. Take Bill Fiebig #2…please, I remember dialing him up and going on and on about how cool his band the Purple Warblers are – when Fiebig #1 pipes up, “Well, let me go get my son.” Fiebig #3 followed his father’s muse and became a top notch musician, teacher and businessman. Rindhage had similar influences when his father Bob Rindhage Sr. developed the short-lived but well conceived Hancock Theater. Even great ideas and elegant business formulations can fail but these failed attempts can possess honor and purpose – especially as it influences our children to think outside of the box

I love the patterns and designs that Rindhage and Connelly have created for their shirts… I dig it. And I’m glad they don’t do hats ‘cos I don’t wear hats. Nope. I don’t trust people who wear hats, mostly because I can’t get behind the messages they espouse like “Lions”, “Tigers” and “Bears”, oh my - though I might buy one if it read Ringo or The Vault.

Rindhage is nudging 30 and has lived in Lansing, Cocoa Beach, FL and Seaside, CA. He is a graduate of Arthur Hill High’s class of ’99 and he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from SVSU. Currently Rindhage is working on his master’s degree in Communication and Digital Media. He’s going for it! Rindhage is well known musician in Saginaw’s music scene and has been a lightning rod for good music and good times through his work with Somewhere Safe, the FutureHolds, Horse Fight and Rock the Party. I’ve known him for several years now and he’s like a magnet that attracts musicians and artists…and girls. The afterglow is at Bobby’s place

His partner Brian Connolly also played in Rock the Party and The FutureHolds. He has an Industrial Management degree from Baker College. He also attended Arthur Hill, class of ’02. Brian and Bobby met through mutual friends while playing poker and became close friends. They enjoyed music and good times but they also were developing a more adult vision of the future. Their search for meaning led them into discussions about entrepreneurship – business with a vision and a focus on creativity. As vision became reality, they struggled to find a specific niche. They wanted to do a clothing line with types of humor t-shirts that they already liked. They knew others were struggling with the “vision thing” and felt they could fill this void. The t-shirt industry seemed to be flooded with shops so they devised a business plan that would make their product lines more unique and therefore more valuable. They developed five services that we could offer that would create a unique experience for customers and clients:

1.) Predesigned humor t-shirts displayed in the store (general retail sales)
2.) Instant custom t-shirts (the customer’s own idea on a shirt within ten minutes)
3.) Large or small bulk orders for businesses, sports teams, events, bands, weddings
4.) Personal company branding (Bomb Tees and its logo as its own brand identity)
5.) Vinyl decals (works on windows, vehicles and other various surfaces).

Bomb Tee’s offers professional in-house design work that many shops are not able to offer. The storefront creates a “high-end Chicago shop” vibe - clean, cohesive and welcoming.

Rindhage explains his vision, “Our short-term goals are to have a successful grand opening and to provide a fast, fun t-shirt service to the Tri-cities area. We plan to expand the business with more employees and production equipment. In the long-term we would like this unique compilation of services we offer to allow us to expand and eventually open shops in surrounding areas, such as Midland and Bay City”.

Bomb Tees is housed in a multi-purpose outlet that shares space with The Music Lab which is run by Saginaw local Bill Fiebig III (also a guitarist in Rock the Party). Bill also attended Arthur Hill class with Rindhage. The Music Lab sells used music equipment and new music accessories. They offer instrument repairs and music lessons for guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, fiddle and drums. For stringed instruments the lessons are taught by Big-Daddy Bill Fiebig Jr. The drum lessons are taught by Rock the Party’s drummer Adam White.”

The combined shops are open 6 days a week Monday through Saturday and are ready rock your party. Check out their websites and

Bo White

Whites vs Bemos: Game of the Century

It’s been a long time since I’ve played softball for White’s Bar, about 20 years or so. Those were the good old days, we still playing like we meant it, diving for ground balls, swinging for the fences and taking the extra base. But in reality we had some sense that our time was up and we would have to reluctantly give up our childhood fantasies. So here I am years later, getting ready to play softball against my soon-to-be buddies from Bemos, a cool club situated on Bay City’s north end. They love music so they are my kind of people. In fact, Luann, the owner of Bemos was the singer for the Housecats back in the day. I was thrilled that she even considered calling me about this offer to play a softball game. I was on it like a white on rice. I thought no problem. I’m still in shape. I have what you call muscle memory, only my muscles have Alzheimer’s. I swear to god it’s true. I try to bend over for a ground ball and I fall over. I try to fire a perfect throw to first base and it bounces 10 feet shy of the bag and when I bat, oh, never mind - it’s too embarrassing…ok, I’ll tell you - my grandson laughed at me when I took a full bodied swing hitting the grunt-o-meter at 98.5 like a Serena Williams wannabe and coming up with only air.. By my third attempt, I took out all the stops and used my deadly and patented home run swing from the sixties to produce a weak–sissified dribble of a bunt. I was too winded to even bother to run it out. And that was in my own front yard. OH THE SHAME. So, instead of playing, I became the defacto manager and I was ready to pull out all the stops by using strategy, chatter, mind games and some real cool hand signals that looked more like ancient and obscene Gallic gestures. But it was made stone cold clear to me that I wasn’t allowed to pat anyone on the rear-end, even if they rounded third on a home run trot. Ok by me. Andy Reed was the only one to hit a four bagger and he’s not my style - though he just may have the sweetest heinie-butt in show business next to Donny Brown – enuf said. Game time.

I was fashionably late by an inning or three but when I got there I wasted no time in playing mind games with our opponents. I would back up Andy Reed at shortstop and scream at Josh Jekel just for the hell of it. In other words I was pretty annoying - so annoying that my own team put on waivers. Bemos passed on me and I was out in the cold. But I never gave up, no-sir-ee-bob. I finagled my way back in the game, pretending to offer a toast and a dedication. So, I led both of the teams in a 4th inning stretch. We hoisted brews and toasted to the collaboration and good feeling that exists between Whites and Bemos. We even did an impromptu yet rousing chorus of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Then I railed against social injustice, war and Wall Street malfeasance…oops, that’s another story. And as I waxed philosophical and all emotional about this wonderful event, my old buddy Josh Jekel of Thunder Chickens fame dosed me with an ice cold can of PBR - at least it wasn’t Schlitz (it was never the same after the formula was altered). It was sweet and refreshing but in the 90 degree heat it bubbled into a sticky gooey life-like creature that resembled a mini-version of the blob. It crawled all over and under me until I screamed like a girl. It devoured me until all that was left was my smile.

What an honor it was to pay witness to an incredible level of cooperation and respect between two great clubs. That the vehicle was a softball game was music to my body and soul.

Rob (BEMOS) and a little bit of Bo: It is a very cool idea to bring two bars together especially when we have so many things in common: love of music, great people and fantastic musicians. It was a year in the making but it all came together thanks to Luann and Maggie (from Whites). There were several exciting moments that happened in the game. Johnny-don’t-lose your-Johnson, the drummer extraordinaire of the Tosspints, ratted out White’s for Bemo's. He was a HOOVER and he was pretty good at shortstop too. Andy Reed (the unofficial MVP) hit two home runs .The lovely and talented Melisa May from the Thunder Chicken's slide into 2nd base producing a sizable yet exquisite strawberry - several of the men offered to dust her off and apply crèmes and analgesics to the wound, the Heimlich Maneuver and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. So kind.

Despite almost an hour of intensive practice and weight training – 12 oz at a time, White’s Bar went down to inglorious defeat. Both teams kept track but we could never quite agree about the final score - though we are pretty sure that Bemos had more touchdowns than Whites.

Back at Bemo's after the game, Katie Koski from White's was right at home behind the bar pouring shots that we didn't know how to make. We drank everything she concocted just to make her happy…then, all of a sudden, everyone was happy – real happy and it turned into a communal love fest like Joni Mitchell had at Woodstock. WHEW. Much appreciation goes out to piano man Jerry Jones, Bemo’s pitcher. He had more junk on the ball than Doc Ellis during his LSD-assisted no hitter in 1970. And he put on a great show afterward, tinkling the ivories and goofin’ on Elvis. He is a super talent. A special thanks goes out to Andy Reed, the Thunder Chickens, John Johnson, Don Zuzula, Dan Seaman, Jesse from the Formfitters, John Clark, Michelle O'Neil, Gabe Hunter White, Natalie and Maggie Shinaver, Nick Stockford, Sue Blair, Lenny Trinklein, Laura Weaver and everyone who lent their musical, organizational and athletic talents to this wondrous event. Also, a special thanks to Mike Finn from the Kingfish Restaurant who supplied the bases and the field for our game. A good time was had by all and everyone is looking forward to our next game.

Ok, all together now…

Take Me out to the ballgame
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks
I don’t care if I ever get back
Let me root, root, root for the home team
If they don’t win it’s a shame
For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out
At the old ball game

Bo White

Heart Live @ DTE: WTF Dreamboat Annie meets the Red Velvet Car

I got into Heart as soon as they burst into the national scene in 1975 when they hit it outta the park with Magic Man and Crazy on You. The early success in the seventies can be attributed to a combination of uncommon factors that would forever change an otherwise testosterone-fueled rock band. In an era dominated by the cock-rock of the Motley Crue, Warrant, Ratt, Poison and dozens of other like minded phallic warriors (GIVE ME SPINAL TAP), Heart was fronted by two beautiful women – Ann and Nancy Wilson - who sang, wrote songs and played instruments and rocked as hard as Tommy Lee! The combination of Ann’s incredible voice and the powerful guitar work of Steve Fisher proved irresistible. With Fisher dating Nancy and his brother Mike partnering with Ann, Heart joined Fleetwood Mac in the romantic triangle, loves gone bad sweepstakes. Fisher left the band in 1979 when he and Nancy ended their relationship. His intricate and powerful guitar work was sorely missed and it left a big gap in Heart’s overall sound. The band would never be the same. They still seemed to rock but I would lose patience when they’d pull out a bombastic, over-the-top ballad. The sound was somehow diminished and homogenized like many of the faceless hair bands of the eighties. All those creamy big haired, big hook ballads seemed to be made out by the same large industrial churns. It just didn’t feel the same as the good old fashioned wood barrel rock & roll that I favored. But back in ’76, the monkey-love sensuality of Crazy on You could evoke in me an itchin’ loin-stirring warmth but Magic Man only reinforced my own inadequacies. Women NEVER saw me like Ann Wilson saw this dude. And as horny as he obviously was, he was sooo cool to suggest “you don’t have to love and let’s get high awhile.” Holy crap. That cat was on to something. Hmm, I’ll get stoned and groovy and I’ll pretend I’m cool and she will relax and then through my seeming indifference to getting it on, she’ll make the first move. And then I’ll be nice and gentle with a slow easy hand and then, and then, AND THEN… AAARRGGHHHHH. I’ll pound it like a 16 oz Porterhouse!!!! OH, LORD HAVE MERCY. I AM A MAN…kind of, more like a creepy little magic man.

Better defect to Canada and dodge mama’s bullets, brother. Just wait till Carter’s amnesty and you’ll get back in the driver’s seat, at least until the band breaks up –it’s the story of early Heart and it is a true love story back when the band struggled for an identity and came up with a unique sound that blended hard rock and folk music. Don’t get me wrong I like ballads juts as much as any emasculated sissy man who is kept and hog tied by a hard headed woman who could throw a hard sucker punch as well as a prime piece of butt. I’d rather have the punch ‘cos I love the way it hurts. Bullshit. Rihanna is just Eminem’s mouthpiece -NOBODY loves the way it hurts unless they grew up like Eminem. Ok - that could be millions of people. It’s a cruel world and the Wilson sisters are well aware of that…especially Ann. The reaction to Ann’s weight gain in the eighties was nothing short of a brutal invalidating sexism that continues to rage in our mainstream media whether on sitcoms, reality shows, commercials, boardrooms or bedrooms. Never mind that Ann Wilson is one of our greatest pop singers - ever. She’s a rock & roll Sinatra who can sing softly with nuance and a raised eyebrow or she can blow you away like Kate Smith god-blessing America. The gathering throngs at DTE seemed to understand this undeniable truth. They stood up from the very first note played and barely took a seat during the entire 90 minute show. Heart opened with the hard rockin’ Cook with Fire and came right back with five straight bonafide million selling hits Heartless, What about Love, Straight On, These Dreams and the exquisite Dog and Butterfly. The crowd was moonin’ and junin’ and hugging on each other like they were falling in love all over again. Ann Wilson played the crowd like ringing a bell and had them salivating for more. She has her own particular voodoo, a musical sorcery both sensuous and hypnotic. And just when she has lulled you into a safe comfortable place, Ann will hit a perfect high note with operatic precision that will shake you like a volcano waking from a deep sleep. Oh yeah, it feels good like a full body massage that sends shivers through your loins without ever touching an erogenous zone…ok , I know – just about any part of the body can have a delightful sensitivity – G-spot or not.

The thing that made this concert even more of an event is that Heart released a brand-spanking-new CD just days before the show and it is a superb disc from start to finish. From the title track Red Velvet Car (about a friend who comes to your aide in times of trouble) to Hey You (with a great Hey Jude-like chorus) and the rocker with a bold message WTF. These songs are every bit as good as anything in their illustrious 35 year catalog of music. Incredible. Ann’s voice has aged like a fine Bordeaux wine and she has a late period Sinatra rasp similar to his brash rock & roll vocal on That’s Life in 1966. I am in awe of this band of sisters. They are survivors who were still writing, producing, and releasing great songs long after their hit-making years and without much chance to turn a profit. They acknowledge this fact in recent interviews but they also state that they create for the act of creation. Because that was what they do and that is what helps nourish their souls - their aliveness.

Heart finished the show with a three pronged attack that left me bloodied and beaten and wanting for more. It started with those seventies gems bring us back to the time when we actually listened to new music and it MATTERED. Magic Man began the sensual assault followed by a nuclear powered Crazy On You and closed with the angry for a reason song Barracuda. It was righteous. And in the roar of adulation I saw Ann Wilson standing still, she appeared to be soaking it all in; she stole a sideways look to her sister Nancy, a brief smile flickered between them. A genuine moment – that is what it’s all about…right?

Bo White

Lizard Fair 2010: A Family Affair

This is the first concert I’ve attended in the past 45 years that I couldn’t smell that sweet salacious aroma of marijuana wafting through the audience. Could be that most of the concert-goers were in that prime pre-teen to teenage demographic. Some groups of kids went solo and some came with friends accompanied, of course by watchful eye of their superego-inflated parents. The old folks didn’t come so much for the music as they did to prevent their kids from doing the dog nasty-naughty things they did as willful teens. To this day, many of these aging boomers suffer from a heliocentric view that the sun and everything else in creation revolves around them and their little bourgeois offspring. To some degree Lizard Faire was an exercise in self aggrandizement…”look what I do for my kids that my parents never did for me”– well… for me it was true- at least in the beginning when the kids asked me to take them. I would be their hero.
Yeah, right.

I tried desperately to hate this show and everything and everybody involved in it – from Dow Chemical and the Great Lakes Loons to Taco Bell and Labadie Olds …but I couldn’t – it was just too much fun. And it started right away like a race horse first off the line. Burnham opened the show with punch of pure adrenaline and some excellent pop music. The three Burnham brother-others are veteran scene stealers from Vermont. The youngest Burnham, 14 year old Forrest did his best Donny Osmond with the verve and charm of a seasoned performer - much like Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers. He sang his adolescent butt off about love, teenage angst and more love and teenage angst. Songs such as Goddess and Perfect Saturday were shiny digital pop gems. Their hit Catch Me if You Can went down well and the girls in the front row pledged their undying love to which young Forest replied “I love you too” and so it goes…a veritable loves fest ensued.

Finding Clyde is an up and coming rock band from Chad Cunningham’s Bullfrog Records – it’s more fun than selling furniture but not as lucrative. Still, if anyone in mid-Michigan could get a young band into the big time it would be Cunningham. He is relentless and driven and though he may look unhappily obsessive he’s really having the time of his life. Finding Clyde is his latest project and they are a very good band and Joe Rivard is a superb frontman. He can sing a big power ballad like Be Someone and then rock your black cat bone with Time Waster. Look for Cunningham and Rivard to break this band into the big time.

Shontelle and Iyaz relied on a DJ scratching tracks and pre-recorded music. It took me awhile to buy into it …but I finally got it. The vocal backing tracks included a guide vocal for the lead singer – to free the artist to dance, make vocal asides and lead the tweens in a jump, jump, jump throw your fist up in the air frenzy as the pre-recorded lead vocal kept up the pace. The kids loved it…and I did too. Shontelle looked her leggy best in her tight sequined dress with green and silver trim. She performed her massive radio hit Impossible, singing to a backing track and proving she had the chops with an incredible acappella finish. We all went wild. Shontelle is no flash in the pan. She is a Barabados native that was discovered while attending the University of the West Indies. She’s huge in the UK and opened for Beyonce on her I Am…Tour in 2009 and she will open for Kevin Rudolph on his 2010 To the Sky Tour.

Iyaz was all over the stage with the most athletic performance of the evening. He sang his hits Replay, This Boy-That Girl and So Big and bits and pieces of other songs like eenny-meenie-miny-moe lover. He was all over the stage with a super-hero nuclear charged energy. He sang and rapped and teased and brought the kids to the edge of ecstasy. He had ‘em dancing and signifying like Michael Franti at Bonnarroo. He had us jump for freedom and preached a compelling message of peace & love – hi hater/bye hater. Great theatrics; great message. Iyaz was billed as one of the headliners.

White Tie Affair is truly on top of their game, musically speaking. The singer Chris Wallace is the defacto leader of the group and a great frontman. He has an outstanding voice with a three octave range and possesses an extremely high likeability quotient. He is so charming he was able to fumble his way through a couple of missteps when he tossed out the F-bomb – a true no-no in a show geared to teens and pre-teens. He recovered quickly and found his rhythm. The teens didn’t mind his faux pas as much as the adults did… eff-em, Chris. After all these cats are from the mean streets of Obama-land-Chicago. They do not suffer fools gladly. They sang their glorious MTV hits Allow Me to Introduce Myself and Candle (Sick and Tired). Their music is a pop-punk hybrid that is loud and sassy and accessible to a wide audience from pre-teens to 30 something adults. They have earned their road hog dues performing with Lady Gaga and hitting the road on the incredibly successful Warped Tour. Great band!

Kevin Rudolf was the surprise hit of this year’s Lizard Fair. He simply stole the show, overwhelming the competition with his incredible craft and virtuosity. He is a great singer and a muscular guitar player who can riff with the best of them. His music is based in twelve bars blues but he hops between genres with a seamless felicity. Rap, blues, hip-hop, rock. He can do it all. He performed his own material including the genre hopping gems I Made It (the official theme for Wrestle Mania XXVI), Let it Rock (the theme for WWE’s 2009 Royal Rumble), and Welcome to the World. You know that if the wrestling community likes your music it’s gotta rock, roll and thunder. He’s collaborated with Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi, Flo Rida and Birdman. Rudolf is a noted performer, songwriter, producer and guitarist. A 4-star musician.

The headliner Boys Like Girls closed out the evening. Their brand of power pop rock & roll and punk goes down well with a wide demographic ranging from teens to adults. They’ve been around since 2005 and through constant touring hit the mainstream by 2008. The focal point is vocalist Martin Johnson. His powerful tenor soars and moans and brings an almost Beatlesque/Green Day quality to the songs. He even looks like Billie Joe Armstrong. They have toured the states and the UK with the Fall Out Boys, Metro Station, and Good Charlotte. They performed their well-known hits Love Drunk, The Great Escape, and Thunder. Despite an interlude of musical/computer based experimentation that was a bit meandering, their set was well received. Another great performance.

Lizard fair delivered the goods and the mixed crowd of teens and adults joined hands in showing their appreciation for a great night for music and dancing. It was a liberating event that crossed the chasm of generations and united us for on great shining moment in which we enjoyed a shared experience.

Bo White

Alicia Warrington & the All Girl Boys Choir

Alicia Warrington has toured the world with Kelly Osbourne and gigged with the Hannah Montana/ Miley Cyrus machine. She was the drummer for one of my favorite Michigan bands the Gore Gore Girls, building her rock & roll chops with classic garage and punk rhythms. She’s also a soulful singer and – like all good drummers - a multi-instrumentalist. She left Saginaw in 2001 and became a Southern California girl, close to the action and getting plenty of session work. She’s made a name for herself in the industry but instead of playing it safe, she ventured into uncharted waters with her good friend and partner in crime in the Gore Gore Girls, Marlene Hammerele. They formed a duo in 2008 and blurted out a name that stuck – The All Girl Boys Choir.

Some have labeled the music Afro-Punk. I see it more as good ol’ rock & roll with as definite garage rock appeal. Time spent on Little Steven’s Underground Garage may have helped shape the sound. It’s more Question Mark & the Mysterians than the Sex Pistols, except when they play it real fast and LOUD. Alicia has fond memories of Saginaw including times spent at the Red Eye and Jamestown Hall and hanging with some of the great bands of the era like the Miscreants and Smiley Face. They are in the midst of their Never Ending Noise Tour and will headline the Crispy Fest @ White’s Bar on August 7th.

Review: How did you come up with the name? Any special meaning?
AW: We were just tossing some words around when, “The All-Girl Boys Choir” came out of my mouth. It just kind of stuck but, it has grown to mean something more for us. This Rock n' Roll game has always been a Boys club. We're here to change that up a bit. We're not afraid to get crazy on stage and shake things up. Ladies can rock out just as hard as the men.

Review: I Love the sound and spirit of The All-Girl Boys Choir. “Western Star” is a cool punk stomp rocker with an economical use of distortion with a cool bridge that borders on electronic. How were you able to come up with such diverse musical elements and insert them into a song that runs 2:44?
AW: Thank you. That song was originally over 4 minutes long. Haha. From a producer stand point, I knew that it had to be chopped down a little. It was being marketed as our single. “Western Star” was going to be the first song that people heard of The AGBC – it needed to grab their attention and hold it. Marlene and I actually love the original version and will most likely release it someday.
In writing “Western”, I came up with that twangy-country-ish guitar intro and Marlene added her signature slide guitar on top of it. I just allowed myself to be completely lead by the music. I let that song drag me wherever it was going to drag me and that resulted in the mixture of those “diverse musical elements” that you're talking about.

Review: I really enjoyed “Brand New Flavor” – your musical introduction to your fans. Your music has an eclecticism that is refreshing. “Say it Loud” rocks hard. “Exit Wounds” has a country flavor while “Hundreds of Thousands” has a retro feel like an updated Ventures track. And I swear Track 6 on your EP lumbers out like Zeppelin after Bonham got heavier sticks. Did you consciously try record a disc that could appeal to range of rock & roll fans?
AW: You know, Marlene is a big fan of 50's and 60's Rock n' Roll, Garage, Girl Groups, Sonic Youth, The Stones...and I listen to everything from Dolly Parton and The Bangles to Clutch and Lamb Of God. Haha. So, I think that, when you have two people with vast musical taste and influences – it is inevitable that you're going to hear bits and pieces of everything and that is exactly what happened on “Walking Miracles”. We consciously wrote an E.P. That appealed to us and hoped that people would dig the tunes as much as we did.

Review: The minimalist production values – use of basic guitar, bass, drums – and not trying to make it pretty and synthesized is the prescription for good old rock & roll – sometimes called garage rock. Was this an intentional decision to eschew the mainstream Top 40 for something more authentic?
AW: We're not so much into the pretty and polished Top 40 scene. We're into Raw, Loud, in-your-face, good ol' Rock music that makes us want to do high kicks and hand claps...sounds that make you want to get out of your seat and move. Marlene and I are huge fans of (that) MC5 / Ike & Tina Turner Revue-type of energy, that soulful intensity that makes you want to do – something. Those qualities are seriously lacking and, for the most part, non-existent in today's music and popular radio. Today's Mainstream music is a bunch of watered-down, soulless, 3-chord, over-produced, auto-tuned, corporate embarrassment.

Review: Did your experience with your other bands influence this direction?
AW: In working with different bands of all genres, I've certainly seen all sides of the music industry. I've seen what matters to most of the record labels and executives out there and – it's not the music. So, in that sense, I wanted to go back to the minimalist, grassroots, DIY approach with The AGBC . I wanted to have more control over the things that matter to myself and Marlene and to continue having fun making music that we enjoyed.

Review: What did you learn from working with Miley Cyrus? Kelly Osbourne?
AW: I love and have a lot of respect for Kelly and the Osbourne family. They gave me a chance and really helped me learn a lot about the music business and about being a session and touring musician. Working with Kelly was my first professional gig (from 2002-2005) and that job allowed me to get the start that was needed for my career. Sharon Osbourne is such a smart, business woman, I've always loved seeing what's next for their family. They are all hard workers and I appreciate that. I had the pleasure of traveling to many countries with Kelly and we shared so many amazing experiences. I still keep in touch with her and in fact, worked with her again in 2009. Doing the “Hannah Montana” thing with Miley Cyrus, reminded me of the importance of giving people, especially young girls, more options. I realized how important it is to have stronger female role models, to get young people to think outside of their little (Disney box) and to show girls that they can make an impact on the world, without a perfect blonde wig and singing songs about “Pumpin Up the Party”.

Review: Welcome back to Saginaw. Can you talk about some of your fondest memories about your home town. Where did you gig? Did you have a local mentor? Did you take drum, voice or guitar lessons? What bands did you play with?
AW:I miss the Red Eye Coffee House – it is always my stop for coffee when in town. Haha. I'm so excited to be playing here again. It's been about 10 years since performing in Saginaw. I always speak about it in interviews because I miss the Saginaw music scene. I've lived in Los Angeles and Vancouver since leaving MI in 2001 and although, I complained about it while living there, Haha, I have not found that sense of community amongst bands that Saginaw has. Back in my Saginaw days, there was a strong network of bands: Miscreants, Absence, Amputist, Smiley Face, Rugby Mothers, Bedlam, Aceldama, you know – the list goes on. I played drums in a few Mid-Michigan bands: Fudgegun, Dropping the Messiah and Purgatory. I remember kids, myself included, renting out Old Jamestowne Hall, Lincoln Hall, and wherever else to host shows. So many people would go to the shows and just hang out amongst friends and bands and you would always have a good time.
> Here, in Los Angeles, it's a total competition, “too cool for school” kind of a thing. Bands (that don't know any better) or don't have any options end up “paying to play” and having to sell tickets to their own show in order to get on the bill. People don't go to shows unless their friends are playing, so-and-so is going to be there and can get them on a guest list. So, I do miss the Saginaw scene. As far as lessons go, I am a self-taught drummer but, I did buy my first drum set from RIT Drums and I took 4 years of guitar lessons at Bay Music (Sadly, I believe both stores have closed). I was taught by Saginaw guitarists, Bill Fiebig and Jim Pagel.

Review: Who has influenced your musical style?
AW: There are so many people, places and experiences that have influenced me. Musically: Fugazi, Faith No More, Sleater-Kinney, Clutch, Heart and many, many more.

Review: When times get rough in the music business who do you turn to?
AW: I just increase my caffeine intake :)

Review: How would you characterize your drum style? Guitar style? Vocal style?
AW: Drumming, I've never been a fan of people who over-play. I'm a strong believer in complimenting and creativity - not trying to show off all of your skills in one little song. Haha. My biggest drumming influences are Mike Bordin, Janet Weiss and Brendan Canty so, I would throw myself somewhere into that mix. Guitar wise, you can tell that I'm someone who listens to a Machine Head record directly after listening Chuck Berry. Vocals, I'm just singing because Marlene didn't want to. Haha.

Review: Any plans for future recordings?
AW: Definitely! Well, we are in this for the long haul. Our, “NEVER. ENDING. NOISE. TOUR. 2010” starts July 27th in Austin, TX and runs for the rest of the year. We just got rid of our house and everything and decided that we need to stay on the road. We plan on writing and doing a demo while touring, settling back in LA for a few months after Christmas, at which point we will record a Full-Length album.

Review: How busy are you now with AGBC and your outside projects?
AW: I haven't had much time to do other projects this past year. I've spent so much time working on The AGBC. I did however, do a video with Tracy Chapman (Atlantic Records), I did a few local shows and worked with an old band of mine, The Bruises from San Francisco. I am handling The AGBC booking, which is a job in itself. I produced, engineered and co-wrote “Walking Miracles”. I'm doing design work and sharing promo duties with Marlene so...I've been insanely busy but, busy is a good thing.

Review: Any last comments?
AW: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. The All-Girl Boys Choir is looking forward to playing the Crispy Music Festival @ White's Bar on Saturday, August 7th. We have a string of MI shows in August so, I hope to see some hometown folks.
We're doing Flint and Detroit after the Crispy Music Fest and returning in October to play The Vault in Bay City. You can get our current tour dates at: and if you're feeling like an amazingly awesome person and want to support our tour fund, please visit:

Bo White

Alice Cooper Live @ Vets Park 7/17/2010

I have to be upfront with you, I was never a fan of Alice Cooper. From the very first time I heard to Love it To Death to his high flying seventies output with guitar gods Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter I always regarded Cooper’s shtick was a bit too juvenile. I got it – the idea that there is this gender bending Alice Cooper Group satirizing misogyny, racism, sexism, and homophobia. I truly felt he was also goofing on a “rock star” image that he never quite believed yet was sucked in just the same…sex, drugs and rock & roll. Hell, once he sobered up he cheated on his girlfriends, voted Republican and played golf just like Tiger Woods. He showed us the Real Stuff. Tonight he put on a great show. At 62 years old he still looks good and has a stage presence that rivals Liza Minnelli. He is thin, energetic and with his jet black Grecian formula hair he looks and acts just like his younger self… like a rock star. I don’t know how he does it or why he does it, unless it’s just for the money. To bring out the guillotine, the hangman’s gallows, the same old songs and the skits that deal with themes violence and retribution must get a little thin sometimes.

Cooper has put on essentially the same show for 30 years. And it is an excellent show. The biggest problem is that to make the show work, Copper must stay in character, keep the energy up and project an image of danger – with a nod and a wink. It can put a huge divide between the audience and the performer - even though we are all in on the joke. And because of the tongue in cheek naughtiness, we can all join in with a massive love fest of memory and song. For a glorious moment we can be eighteen again.

The audience had an interesting demographic – this was an all ages show from nouveau rich marina folks to minimum wage working class couples and newly initiated teenagers. For some, the message from songs like Eighteen and Schools Out resonated in the present moment. They were wearing their (necessary) angst on their sleeve and living it to the hilt - a right of passage.

It was an entirely different experience for the Baby Boomers. Cooper’s music transformed us to an image of our much younger selves. We were recapturing a moment in a chain of associative sights, sounds, and aromas. Our memories flickered like a brief candle as we sang a long and shook our groove thing. Much of the crowd was able to cast aside their baggage - booze it up and get high and leave their worries behind. Tomorrow can wait. Live in the moment.Dance.

Alice Cooper understands the need to embrace and cultivate his image. He’s the Billion Dollar Baby. And he is a marketing genius. Otherwise, Cooper would have to rely solely on the strength of his music and the quality of his singing. He would stand naked and vulnerable. It would be like Kiss out of costume. I, for one, would love – just once - to see a stripped down Alice Cooper show without frills, theatre or costumes. If you’ve heard his radio show, you know Cooper is a great storyteller and has a very entertaining shtick. He’s a natural conversationalist and a quite charming dude. It could be a better show, at least in terms of making a real human connection to his audience. Hmm. Maybe not.

But Cooper is a smart business man. He knows it just wouldn’t work if he stepped out of character and got real and told stories about his days in Saginaw and Detroit and his relationship with our favorite son Dick Wagner. That would ruin the show. You don’t see Lisa Minnelli stepping out of her role in Victor/Victoria to talk about how tough it was to get a break in the biz. No sir. Neither could Alice. It would reveal too much about Vincent Furnier. And Vincent is not your typical sexy rock & roller name. It conjures up images of nurdism and normality. It would make the entire concept of Alice Cooper vulnerable.

Furnier had a tough time in the beginning. In 1967 his new band the Nazz were voted the worst band in LA, a well-deserved accolade based on listening to their single Lay Down and Die, Goodbye. By 1968, they were the Alice Cooper Group and though their first two lps Pretties for You and Easy action were roundly panned (for good reason). But the band hit their collective stride when Bob Ezrin came on board and produced their fabulous hard rock masterpiece Love it To Death. By this time Copper was gigging in Detroit and taking in all those hard rockin’ influences such as Bob Seger, The MC5, The Stooges and the Frost. Vincent Furnier found his stride, his image and his purpose.

The Alice Cooper show was note for note perfection beginning with Schools Out, No More Mr. Nice Guy and I’m Eighteen pounded out in rapid succession. This was full bodied sonic boom rock that created a musical landscape that was both powerful and melodic. The band consisted of anonymous but capable musicians that were young and frisky. This proved to be a high energy Detroit ROCK show with a little heavy metal thrown in for good measure. The act began in earnest with a series of songs that played out Cooper’s familiar themes that dealt with violence, murder, revenge, rape and domestic violence – pathos as well as humor. This is actually quite sophisticated musical theatre. The songbook created both the storyline and the subplots to Cooper’s outrageous musical vision - Wicked Young Man, Ballad of Dwight Fry, Go To Hell, Guilty, Cold Ethyl, Poison, From the Inside and Nurse Rozetta. I felt Dick Wagner’s presence throughout the show. He is truly a master, an undeclared musical genius – and he is ours. Wagner co-wrote six of the songs and created the guitar licks (as a session man for Cooper) on many more. I can recall dozens of times I’ve listened to Dick perform his Alice Cooper catalog at White’s Bar including Go to Hell, Only Women Bleed, I Might as Well Be on Mars, I Never Cry, and You and Me. The music shifted as the themes became more nuanced and elusive. Be My Lover was both a cry out for intimacy and a threat of violence. Cooper colored Only Women Bleed and I Never Cry in tenderness and a wisp of longing. I left between Black Widow Jam and Dirty Diamonds not because I didn’t like the show – it was magnificent – but I had enough. I was tired by the heat and the blinding rays of the hot sun and frustrated with a baby boomer Marina crowd that pushed their way into tight spaces and sang Eighteen at the top of their lungs and meant it.

I wish I could…

Bo White

Dave Mason Live @ Rocking on the Riverfront Concert July 16th, 2010

Seeing Dave Mason in a recent show in Detroit is like going to my 40th Class Reunion with high expectations yet leaving with a sense of dread and a fatal realization. I…I look like THEM. I’ve grown old like a tattered old coat – and my beloved classmates are no longer the people I remembered… those old effers are ancient.

Mason, the once serene sex symbol rock star is now a crotchety old fart with a big belly and a bald head. He looks more like a retired beer-swilling assembly line worker who moves to Florida, walks around in baggy shorts, wears a shirt that doesn’t hide his tremendous girth and turns his thermostat up to a constant 80 degrees. I don’t think Rita Coolidge or Bonnie Bramlett would saddle up with him anytime soon… unless they want to do the bump and grind with a big balding Buddha. Get religion.

This couldn’t be the Dave Mason I saw @ Ford Auditorium in ’71. I was there with my girlfriend and Dave was singing his ass off on songs like Only You Know and I know, Waitin’ on You and Shouldn’t Took More than You Gave. His guitar work was extraordinary - economical yet fluid, melodic and powerful. I was having’ the time of my life, listening to my hero with my best girl by my side. The crisp sweet aroma of marijuana circled the room and tantalized my olfactories. It sure smelled good. At about this time my girlfriend lights up – only it’s a cigarette. I didn’t mind. But as I looked around the auditorium, I noticed a mushroom-cloud of sweet Colombian rise from the seated throng and circle around the decorative luster of the arched ceiling. It seemed that everyone in the whole damn auditorium was smoking’ and passing it around like it was communal love fest. Like a phantom, an usher suddenly appeared from the midst of the heavy hemp fog, came up to my girl and put a hand on her shoulder. “Put it out,” he barked. Well, she put it out alright and she sent me with it. She was P-I-S-S-E-D to put it lightly. I tried to help her see the humor and the irony - if only she would have lit up a joint instead. But she didn’t find it one bit funny, instead she drove to the downtown bus station and told me to find my own way home. We ended our relationship a few months later and Alone Together became the soundtrack for our breakup. It got me through; brother…it got me through.

Dave Mason did not age gracefully but his songs were like a rare vintage wine that gives you a warm comfortable buzz. It felt like that long overdue phone call from an old friend… when the sound of his voice evokes an inward smile that no one else could see. Mason opened with World in Changes an introspective song about longing and discovery from his 1970 masterpiece Alone Together. The guitar work is fluid and the song contains several tempo changes. He followed with Let it Go, Let it Flow, a 1978 hit that has a mellow Southern California charm that sneaks up on you.40,000 Headman, a classic Traffic song from ’68 was a real treat as he Mason was able to recreate the complex textures and time signatures. Great song. He did a note for note take on one of his biggest hits, the popish Jim Krueger composition. We Just Disagree - probably the worst song of the night. Luckily enough (for me) Mason did several songs from Alone Together including Look at You, Look at Me, Can’t Stop Worrying and his two great masterworks Shouldn’t Have Took More than You Gave and Only You Know and I Know. The original LP was released on marble vinyl. It was his crowning achievement – an entire disc about love, loss and longing. It’s about breaking up with someone you love dearly and learning that the only way out of the pain and sorrow is acceptance.

He also performed two of his greatest Traffic songs Dear Mr. Fantasy and Feelin’ Alright. Mason’s guitar work was simply stunning throughout the evening from the heavy full bodied rockin’ workout on Dear Mr., Fantasy and the sonic soaring Telecaster brilliance on All Along the Watchtower, a song he introduced to his friend Jami Hendrix back in ‘68. Hendrix recorded it at Olympic Studios forthwith and released it on his legendary Electric Ladyland LP (Mason played acoustic guitar on it). Mason incorporated it into his seventies shows and recorded it for his 1974 self titled LP. Tonight it was brilliant!

Mason puts on a tight show with a set list he’s been playing for years. I can forgive the stasis as well as his well rehearsed ad-libs. I’m sure it gets stale but people only want to hear the hits. To play new original music would be the death knell to touring sixties/seventies rock bands like REO, Styx, and Boston. The audience does not want to work too hard and hopes to leave with a pile of boozy music-fueled false memories. Yet, in the middle of the show, Mason had the temerity and a huge pair of I-don’t-give-a-damn oversized balls to play songs nobody knew (got to get beyond the seventies, brother) by cranking out Good 2 U and Let Me Go from his 2008 release 26 Letters-12 Notes. Unfortunately Mason received only polite applause for his effort. To be honest these songs did not measure up to Mason’s glorious past and served as a grim reminder of the fading arc of his star power. Onstage Mason appeared anxious and awkward as if he had lost his confidence. Perhaps he is fighting his inevitable decline and the necessary losses he encounter as he gets older. These are the things we give up in order to move on to the next stage of our lives - like youth, freedom, and experimentation. But liberation from our past glories can create the conditions for true creative freedom.
Maybe that’s what keeps Dave Mason performing and thrilling crowds with his wonderful songs and his overall craft. He’s still got the mojo; it’s just harder to notice.
At mid-point during the show he bent over to adjust the microphone stand and hit his head on it and muttered something unintelligible… it just wasn’t his day.

Bo White