- I got to hang out with a few of the folks on this list in St. Louis over
the past few days for Twangfest. Saying I had a fantastic weekend is an
understatement along the lines of saying Fairbanks gets cold in January. A
huge thank you to the Twang Gang for programming a marvelous, eclectic
bunch of performers.
The first couple of nights seem like about a hundred years ago, but from
what I remember, Lonesome Bob kicked ass, and provided one of the week's
sweetest moments when he prefaced his verse "I have a girlfriend but we're
not in love" with the disclaimed "this next bit is a total lie". I hope
his take on "Patches" was recorded, as it's even better than the one on
_Things Change_. Slobberbone rocked the house, and Fred F. soundchecking
his spoons prior to, um, jamming on "Lazy Guy" was one of the goofier
moments of the week.
That stuff happened B.C. On to A.D. Friday night was my musical
highlight, and a perfect example of the variety and quality of Twangfest.
The Sovines (augmented by Mark Wyatt on organ and fiddler-about-town Erin
Snyder) started the night off with a tight set of trucking songs. Kelly
Hogan followed with a typically delightful set of her country-soul.
Illuminating the disco ball during her gorgeous take on the Magnetic
Fields' "Papa Was a Rodeo" was a perfect touch.
After Hogan, the evening kicked into high gear. Tommy Womack played a
balls-out arena rock show to a small club, ending with an amazing version
of "Little Bit of Sex" that incorporated a hilarious account of Gene
Simmons's aftershow habits at KISS concerts. The song/monologue reminded
me of what the Ass Ponys did last year. Tremendously entertaining, and we
wondered how the hell anyone could follow him.
The next act blew Womack off the stage. Calvin Cooke's Sacred Steel
Ensemble was the musical highlight of my week and my year to date. Cooke's
quartet featured his amazing pedal steel riffs, a female vocalist who was
more a part of the rhythm section than a frontwoman, an insanely
down-in-the-groove-picking-on-polyrhythms rhythm guitarist and one of the
best drummers I have ever heard. Jaws hung agape at his ability to keep
time, serve the music and absolutely beat the living daylights out of his
kit. He hit the drums so hard that the kit looked like a heart beating,
yet not a single note seemed gratuitous. Afterwards, I heard comparisons
to Keith Moon and Elvin Jones; I heard a young Art Blakey if James Brown
had hired Blakey. I'm not one for drumming clinics, but I would have paid
to hear this guy play alone. Hearing him in the context of Cooke's
otherworldly riffs, laying down a rhythmic foundation with the guitarist
was one of those rare transcendental musical experiences I live for. They
played a mantra-like, hypnotic piece with the repeated lyric "I Want to Get
to Heaven" that was so beautiful that when it ended I realized I'd been
weeping. The set seemed to be over in two minutes. I could have heard
them play until dawn.
James Intveld followed Cooke. I remember thinking he sounded good though I
was so overwhelmed by the last act I don't remember much more than that as
I slumped against the side wall and caught my breath. I do remember
Intveld doing some good picking at the afterhours party that night.
One Riot One Ranger (a.k.a. The Dead Ramones) worked covers of the Hollies,
Roky Erickson and -- bless 'em considering the bad news of the week -- the
Ramones into their set, though my favorite moment was when Mark Wyatt
corrected his lyrics in the middle of a sternum-thumping bellow on "Working
on a Building". Ow! How do you do that, Mark? That was followed by more
beautiful singing by Christy McWilson. The Morrells turned the evening
into a frat party and provided sympathetic backing to Dallas Wayne's
honkytonk. Billy Joe Shaver closed down the Duck Room entertainment with a
loose run though some classics and some fine new songs that were clearly
(and painfully) about his son.
I'm slowly assimilating back into normal life, even getting to sleep before
2am. Jen tells me the coughing/snoring/getting the crap out of my lungs
even subsided after about an hour. If I can get my voice into shape before
tonight's show I'll have achieved all my goals for the day.
running on fumes and delighted to do so,