GUIDING MARAH BACK HOME

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 26, 2016 by midliferocker
Marah (photo by Marko Korkeokoski)

Marah (photo by Marko Korkeokoski)

A beloved and extraordinary rock band finds that a second life can be even better than the first.

By Steve Houk

You know that old saying, “you never know what you got until its gone”? Or something like that?

Well, whatever that saying is could easily refer to the exceptional Pennsylvania-borne band Marah who, after 20-plus years of grinding it out, recording great music and playing epically euphoric shows to adoring fans all over the place, called it quits, and for a host of pretty common reasons lots of bands break up: people grow up and want another life, or they just grow apart, or it’s just time.

For Marah co-founder/singer/songwriter/guitarist Dave Bielanko, there was really no other life, no other choice. Music was him, and he was music. The end of the band hit him hard, real hard, but he did what lifetime musicians do, he survived, playing music even without his beloved band.

But five years later, a sort of miracle happened, well, a miracle as far as already broken-up rock bands go.

“It’s all kind of a little bit surprising ‘cuz we weren’t planning to bring ourselves back together,” Bielanko told me recently as the band readied for its upcoming tour. “It just started in 2015 with reissuing (2000’s Kids In Philly) for its fifteenth anniversary which was something that we had really wanted to do. And then one thing led to another, and we had a party to celebrate it, and it felt good to play. Everybody was at a kinda different place in their life, and the music kinda meant something different.”

Thankfully for both the reunited band and their rabid fan base, it looks like Marah — a band writer Stephen King once called “the best rock band in America nobody knows” — may be in for an extended second wind. They’re playing a few reunion shows on the East Coast this summer, including the first place they played after reuniting in 2015, Vienna’s Jammin Java on July 29th, followed by the Bowery Ballroom in NYC and a closer to home gig in Sellersville PA, all before they head over to Spain for a number of shows in October. And rumblings are that a new record isn’t far away. Marah is back…something not fathomed a few years back.

Bielanko speaks rather eloquently, especially for a weathered, seasoned rocker, when he talks about the wonder of Marah’s rebirth, and how a second chance can be even sweeter than the first, given you’ve already been down a long road together.

“Pretty much the second we stepped back onstage together, we were laughing and smiling,” Bielanko said effusively. “And it was like, wow, all of that experience exists somewhere within you, and it doesn’t go anywhere. That was kind of one of the big motivators, that stepping back into it when we’re 150 yards down the field already. Being in a band suddenly meant something that it didn’t mean when we were going through it six nights a week just because that’s what you did from the time you were 15 years old.  I think it might have been the same with anybody who had been in a good band or worked as hard as we did, playing six nights a week in bullshit night clubs or whatever, you develop something, and we had that. It wasn’t alot of work coming back because we’d done all that work. It felt really good. I think it’s a pretty cool and slightly righteous reason to play music.”

Did Bielanko ever think the band would get back together after their 2010 split?

“Hell no. The only thing that’s making it quite as special as it might be right now is the fact that it did go away and it went away for all the people that it meant something to. It was completely gone, no one had thought it was gonna come back. My brother (and bandmate Serge Bielanko) had children, and wasn’t available to me anymore. So I kept growing in the way that I could, and to all of a sudden have it come back, it’s more valuable.”

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Dave Bielanko and Christine Smith (photo courtesy Tim Yarrington)

After their breakup, Bielanko looked at any way to make music, and much-needed relief came in a most unlikely but astounding way, the stunning collection Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania, a unique project based on the songs and writings of Henry Shoemaker that came about when he and bandmate Christine Smith took on a project that surprised even them.

“At that point in time, I didn’t have a rock and roll band, I couldn’t think of anything to do. I had a big tape recorder and someone offered us this church in this tiny little town, and we said wouldn’t it be cool if we made a band out of these local people and we wrote these old songs. It kind of worked but it was such a rewarding and cool thing to do. We mad a couple thousand records and sold them all and that’s it. Closed up the shop. As far as Henry Shoemaker, we were drinking in some cabin one night and this guy brought down a book from his attic, and I couldn’t even believe it existed. I was looking through it and the romantic notion of it hit me pretty and I kept doubling back to it and looking at those songs and realizing no one knew anything about any of that music. You couldn’t even tell if it was true or if it was fabricated after the fact. That’s the cool thing about art, you know, you grab what you can at the moment, and that’s where it ended up.

Bielanko doesn’t hold back when talking about what the future could hold as a result of the band’s serendipitous reunion. He wants he and his band family to complete the story, and that means hitting the studio.

“We have to. There’s this bottomless hole in people like us, you can’t fake it. It was cool to get back together once and play in front of people, and then maybe do that five times, but then it’s like, where is it going? It has to be headed somewhere in order for us to feel validated. So the next obvious place it points to is to start to think about, what would we say? What would happen next if we were to make another record, and then that starts the wheel turning. It’s all lined up in a pretty cool way. I can’t tell you for sure that’s gonna go down that way, but I would really like to see that happen.”

Part of Marah’s legend, and part of what makes their return so exciting to their fans across the world, is their exulting live experience, and Bielanko and his Marah bandmates – brother Serge, Smith, Adam Garbinski, Dave Petersen and Mark Sosnoskie are elated that both band and crowd are feeling like the magic is back when they hit the boards.

“The coolest thing that’s happening is the looks on our faces when we walk on stage. And people are smart, they get alot out of it as long as you’re putting alot out. People are walking away from these shows like they really saw something. And I reckon that they really did. And that’s what we value more than anything right now. There’s not too too many people who can really do that, and that’s cool. We’re lucky to have it in our corner. But we did it the hard way, and didn’t really realize we were doing that back then, maybe. To have it is a kind of gift now in 2016. It’s something great.”

Marah performs Friday July 29th at Jammin’ Java, 227 Maple Ave E Vienna, VA 22180. For tickets, click here

 

 

 

 

GRAHAM NASH: THE ROADS TAKEN

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2016 by midliferocker

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A two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer takes us down yet another extraordinary path.

By Steve Houk

“Where are we going?

Those four simple yet provocative words, set on top of a soft, pulsating yet haunting beat, begin Graham Nash‘s exceptional and most recent album, This Path Tonight. And like the bulk of Nash’s music since the early 60’s, the words, and the album, resonate deeply. Why? Because it’s a question most of us ask ourselves all the time: Where are we going? Is this the right path? Am I going to make it?

For Nash, who turns 75 this month, it’s been an incredible life full of a myriad of different paths taken, musically, and in his personal life as well, which has been tumultuous of late to say the least. But his music is what always helps him navigate the journey, it helps him to gain perspective, as he tries to find his next path.

“Everything’s going well, I’m about to start touring again,” the kind and affable Nash told me as he prepared to hit the road. “But recently I divorced my wife of many many years, and fell in love with a beautiful lady artist from New York City, and this record is my emotional journey through my life right now. And it is indeed why I started [the record] with a question…where are we going?”

For over 50 years, Graham Nash has taken us down his many paths with him, whether it be with his first band The Hollies, or with his famous quartet and then trio, or by himself on his solo forays. And his latest effort is no exception, it seems to have affected people more profoundly than ever, giving them a voice that reflects what they’re going through as well, especially in their middle to later years.

“It really does seem that I have managed to touch people’s hearts,” Nash said softly. “Alot of people are responding to this in a very emotional way. I seem to have touched a nerve here, in alot of people. And This Path Tonight is showing how I dealt with my circumstances, and doing it hopefully so that it helped other people.”

Nash’s music has always been reflective and thoughtful, whether addressing matters of the heart, or as an activist and social conscience. And he’s wanted to touch people deeply since the very beginning.

“When I first heard the Everly Brothers‘ ‘Bye Bye Love’ when I was about fifteen years old, their music affected me very deeply.,” Nash reflected. “And I’ve always wanted to make music that affected people the same way. I don’t want to waste your time. Time is our only true currency. That’s all we’ve got. Time and our family and friends. So we have to take care of ourselves, we have to utilize every second the best way we can.”

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For this tour, which stops at The Birchmere in Alexandria on July 21st, Nash has once again brought along only his current collaborator Shane Fontayne on guitar, a gifted longtime musician in his own right and co-producer of This Path Tonight. Fontayne, 20 years Nash’s junior, has been a staple in Nash’s musical life for a while now, and helps bring Nash’s glorious music, both his old classics and newer tunes, to grand life in a powerful way.

“He’s a great listener,” Nash said. “About six years ago, (David) Crosby and I were singing at a show with our friend Marc Cohn, and Shane was Marc’s lead guitar player, and obviously very good. Crosby and I were supposed to go to Europe like two or three weeks later, but our lead guitar player Dean Parks couldn’t go. So we asked Shane if he could learn the songs, and he learned about 35 songs in a week. Plus…he’s English.”

As other paths in Nash’s life continue on, one that seems to have finally come to an end is the one with his legendary bandmates C S and Y. But even as he bids farewell to that amazing chapter, he can still see past the acrimony to recognize just what a great band he and his uber-talented buddies created.

“That’s completely over. But I’m very proud of the work that I did, not only with The Hollies but with David and Stephen and Neil, too. I thought we were a great rock and roll band, that’s why I took so long to do the Crosby Stills Nash & Young box set from our 1974 stadium tour. I wanted people to realize just what a fine rock and roll band CSNY was.”

Graham Nash is still going strong, stronger than ever perhaps, and he is able to use not only his musical talents but his inner strength to forge ahead and make the very best out of what otherwise could be an uncertain road ahead. And it looks like his childhood amidst the shadow of war set him up for just that kind of survival.

“I’ve always had the ability to turn what looks like a problem into a solution. I think that my upbringing in England after World War II stood me in good stead for that, because we made it through World War II, we’re all still alive. Some of our friends aren’t, and some of the houses we used to love aren’t there anymore. But we’re all still alive, so let’s get on with life.

Graham Nash performs Thursday July 21st at The Birchmere, 3701 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305. For tickets, click here

 

 

 

 

NILS LOFGREN: STELLAR EVERYWHERE

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2016 by midliferocker

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A legendary solo artist and sideman keeps making beautiful music no matter where he straps on his guitar.

By Steve Houk

So just for a minute, imagine you’re Nils Lofgren. Pretty darn cool thing to imagine, actually.

But imagine sitting there, carefully mapping out your next few months, planning shows to follow the release of your new live record, you have it all set. And then the phone rings. You hear that familiar, growly voice on the other end, saying something like, “Hey Nils man, what’s up, how’s it hangin’, ya ready to hit the ROAD?”

And just like that, all of your carefully laid-out plans, your own solo career, even your life, are put on the shelf so you can go out again on tour with your buddy Bruce Springsteen and conquer the world. Even though it may put your own priorities on hold for a while, you can bet that neither Nils or anyone else in the E Street Band minds one bit. But even though it’s always hanging in the air as a possibility, it’s still a bit jarring when you think your life will go one way, and then, with one phone call, all bets are off.

“I’m good, still in kind of the twilight zone,” Lofgren told me recently as Springsteen’s River Redux tour kicked into high gear. “I had this whole year planned, doing my little acoustic shows, and here I am on the E Street run, and very happy about it. A very different year than I thought it would be, and grateful for it. Anytime Bruce wants to have a chapter with the E Street Band, it’s critical to make that happen, and a beautiful opportunity. Not just for us, but for millions of people that get a hit out of it.”

Even with the huge thrill of being a lead guitarist for Springsteen for 30 some odd years, Nils Lofgren is talented and gifted and revered enough that he can jump on the E Street Express for a year or two, wailing and spinning in front of millions worldwide, then come back to earth and jump right back into his own successful solo career, one that has spanned a decade longer than his time with Bruce. And he has certainly kept busy on his own, having recently released a stellar live record UK 2015 Face The Music, only a year after putting out a massive 10 disc/169 track career retrospective, Face The Music, that spans his entire 45 year career.

Lofgren, who just turned 65, is excited about this latest live record and about what the next chapter of his solo career will bear, all after he says goodbye to Bruce…at least until the next call.

“I had just started writing again, then tabled that for a little bit, heh,” the enthusiastic and amicable Lofgren said. “But when I get home, hopefully I’ll get a record written, and you know, just start another chapter for my solo thing. I managed to get this great new live CD done last year thanks to my wife Amy, she said look, these are the best shows you’ve done, and she’s watched me for 20 years. Happy ’bout that. And I’m still kinda blown away that Fantasy did a 10 disc box set, and let me handpick the best of 50 years of work.”

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Anyone who has followed Lofgren’s illustrious career knows that one of his strengths is the live performance, whether it was during his days with Neil Young and Crazy Horse, with Springsteen, or solo. He is a master showman and mesmerizing player, and relishes engaging with his audience. And even this deep into his long run, he still takes the live experience very seriously.

“I’m always improving with the energy of the crowd,” Lofgren said. “Main thing I notice at a show is there’s an inevitable comfortability and confidence, mixed with some humility and excitement. For example, there’s like 600 people in the middle of nowhere in some little town in England that are sitting there, that went through the trouble of being there, that are expecting great things from me. And if I just prepare properly, usually it always works out.  It’s just more a function of knowing how to take the energy of the audience and make the most of it night to night. It’s a home away from home for me, and it’s just a place I thrive in and feel really natural in. It’s kind of a magical thing for me, I do love to perform more than anything else.”

Lofgren is known for his exceptional talent and musicianship, whether it’s as solo artist or side man. Despite torn up shoulders and two replaced hips, he can bring a vitality and dynamic to his work that many players half his age wish they could muster. So where does all of this deep talent and keen instinct come from?

“Honestly, the way I hear notes, the main reason I was able to practice and have it lead to a music career? That gift is not of my own making. Because my parent’s DNA, and some higher power, I got a gift that I didn’t ask for, and I’m just trying to make the most of it. But I have worked at it ever since I was 5 and playing the accordion, which was part of learning and integrating music into my DNA.”

Lofgren’s longstanding relationship with Springsteen goes back even farther than when he started actually playing with the Boss onstage in 1984. “I bought a ticket to see (Springsteen) play in the early 70’s, and in the early 80’s I was at the River show in LA. So I was at the Sunset Marquis and I happen to bump into Bruce one morning, he was off to the final mix of the (River) album, and he invited me along. I got to sit and hear it all working out. I still remember being impressed that past his songwriting and playing, that they got the sizzle and electricity of a live show into the grooves more I thought than any record had done previously. And to be playing it now, and have all these shows in front of us, I mean, come on, amazing.”

(photo courtesy rayshasho.com)

(photo courtesy rayshasho.com)

A huge part of the magic of his E Street Band experience was standing onstage right next to beloved saxophonist Clarence Clemons for so many years. He and the Big Man developed a camraderie as tight as anyone in the band ever has, and Clemons’ death five years ago this month still deeply affects Lofgren to his core, even prompting him to write a beautiful ode to Clemons, “I Miss You C,” a few years back.

“We were very dear friends, stood next to him for 27 years,” Lofgren reminisced poignantly. “He was the one who liked to talk the most. I love all the guys, but C and I, we’d chat all the time, off the road, and just really liked to, ya know, gab with each other. Very dear friends. On my 60th birthday, we buried him. I can still feel him and hear him, and used to sit in the dark while Bruce would do something alone on stage for countless hours, and just have so many thousands of memories that are still very vivid. I still feel like he’s with us as a band and certainly as an individual, and I am grateful for the time I had. Although of course being greedy and selfish, I would have liked another thirty years with him, but that wasn’t to be. So I’m grateful with what I had. And keepin’ it alive through that song.”

When Clemons passed, the future of the E Street Band was up in the air. Could Springsteen really take the stage without his foil, his pal, his sidekick at his side? Lofgren says not only was Springsteen able to carry on without Clemons, but he remains very impressed at how Bruce and his band have even thrived, all with an amazingly serendipitous replacement.

“I will say hats off to Bruce, because, you know, I mean, it was so traumatic, he had a much longer deeper history with Clarence than me. And if he had said, look guys, my heart is not in playing without Clarence, I would have respected that. The fact that he took a long time to decide, and decided let’s try to recreate the band to honor him. There’s no Clarence II, Jake his nephew is doing a fabulous job. And he’s playing Clarence’s instruments, which only Clarence would let Jake do, no one else. There’s a respect and homage there that could probably only happen with someone in the family. It’s just beautiful that it worked out.”

And what about the seeing a new player, albeit still a Clemons, playing that incomparable sax solo in “Jungleland” and on other songs that were the domain of the Big Man?

“As traumatic as it is, the best way to heal is to play those songs and honor those parts (Clarence) wrote with Bruce, and share them with people night after night. I mean that song, so many times I would just sit there in the dark watching Clarence play this brilliant piece, and then step up and do my part. Still just a great honor to play all those pieces, but that was certainly one of Clarence’s signatures.”

For Nils Lofgren, music is clearly sacred, it’s what he lives for. Whether it’s with Springsteen in front of 90,000 in a stadium, or 500 in an intimate club, Lofgren knows the magic of music is really inside each and every one of us.

“I wrote an album a few records ago called Sacred Weapon, and certainly music is just that, for billions. And the beauty is you don’t need to play, you don’t have to have musical talent. You can bang on the drum or you can just listen, but it soothes the soul, it’s the universal language. Like I said, music’s a sacred weapon, man, it’s a magical thing.”

GARY LOURIS : STILL STANDING TALL

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 14, 2016 by midliferocker
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The Jayhawks (L-R, Tim O’Reagan, Karen Grotberg, Gary Louris, Marc Perlman)

An Americana legend makes it to the other side by coming home to his beloved band. 

By Steve Houk

For a supremely talented guy like Gary Louris, writing music seems effortless. The consistent magnificence of Louris’ work over the many decades that he has been the front man and driving force behind alt-rock legends The Jayhawks is evident on every record the band has made since their stunning debut, Hollywood Town Hall, in 1985.

But life gets in the way of even virtuostic musicians, and a bout with addiction sidelined Louris for a while, threatening to deprive him of creating more incredible music, and us as loyal fans from hearing it. Lucky for us, Louris survived, and once again is thriving, as evidenced by The Jayhawks excellent new record Paging Mr. Proust and their highly anticipated current tour.

And if you ask Louris, he knows just how lucky he is. “I’m very lucky, not everyone has made it,” Louris told me from Chicago where the band was playing two shows. “I feel really good, especially considering I’m not 21 anymore. Clarity is a good thing. And my purpose on this tour among others is to show that even later in your life, you can still do some of your best work. There’s not alot of examples of that in the rock world, so we’re trying to show that it can be done.”

And boy, was it ever done. 2016’s Paging Mr. Proust is one of the band’s strongest and boldest records ever, and is evidence that Louris’ successful quest to put out solid music in the latter end of his recording career is working, and shows how talented and continually innovative he remains. Louris brings his Jayhawks play the Lincoln Theater Saturday June 18th.

For Louris, life presented some major challenges a few years back, so writing music took a backseat to getting healthy. When he got over that hurdle, he found himself wondering what was next, and after a while he realized it was the comfort and familiarity of his beloved band that would guide him towards the next chapter.

“The reality is that I went to rehab [for painkiller addiction] and when I got out three and a half years ago, I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life, and I had alot of time to think,” Louris said candidly. “So I started writing music with no particular…maybe this is the key…no particular place that it was gonna land. I wasn’t writing for the Jayhawks, I was just writing music, and some of it was completely off the Jayhawks radar, some weird electronica sounds and some other a little less so, but some ended up being more like Jayhawks stuff. Once I realized I really needed this particular band and the structure of the band and the friendships, the history, I kind of sifted through and found the songs that I felt fit the band, that still allowed us to push the envelope into different places, but still felt like the collective. Once I knew that was happening, I wrote songs specifically for the band and then we collaborated, so that’s how it kinda got going.”

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The songs began to flow and soon it was off to record, and an old buddy of the band with a Hall of Fame resume jumped on board because he had wanted to work with the band for a while and this looked like a golden opportunity.

“[REM’s] Peter Buck knew of us and mentioned that if we make another record, he’d like to be involved,” Louris said. “So we kinda kept that in our brain, and when it came time to make a record, his name came up, and also Tucker Martine came about because Peter lives in Portland and he wanted to stick in Portland. It was a great balance, because Peter’s more big picture, a ‘let’s not belabor the point’ kinda thing, he would have liked to have made the record in six days. Tucker is much more detail-oriented, so I think it worked out really well. They enjoyed working with each other. Not every record works this way, but everything kinda fell into place.”

After the many roads Gary Louris has gone down in his illustrious career, Louris always seems to come home. He just seems to be happiest playing and collaborating with his original band. And he also gets that despite his past aversion to touring, it’s a necessary part of life for this latest version of his one and only Jayhawks.

“It is pretty cool what we’re doing, we have a good group, we all get along, it’s a real great chemistry, and I’m excited about how good we’re getting. And I want to take it out to the people. And it’s just a necessary thing, people don’t buy music anymore, touring is the only way to make a living really, for a musician. I like to work and it’s good to be able to do what I love and have people come out and tell you how great it is. What’s not to like?”

The Jayhawks perform Saturday June 18th at the Lincoln Theater, 1215 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009. For tickets, please click here

LAKE STREET DIVE: SERENDIPITY BREEDS SUCCESS

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2016 by midliferocker

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One of music’s hottest acts combines superior talent and a tight bond to make a red hot band.

By Steve Houk

It could have all happened so differently.

Four strangers, four kids really, all attending Boston’s prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in the early 2000’s, all with separate yet equally passionate dreams of musical success. They could have easily found other bandmates, other collaborators at that mecca of musicianship to mesh and join bands and make beautiful music with. Or they all could have decided to go it alone.

But no, serendipity would step in, as it often has for this quartet. And thanks to one of them making the first move, a musical force of nature called Lake Street Dive was born.

“Yes, it’s been serendipity over and over and over again,” lead vocalist Rachael Price told me from a tour stop in Brighton, UK. “For one, we’d only been at the Conservatory for a year before (guitarist/trumpetist) Mike Olson asked us all to play together. He was like, ‘I want to form a band, I’d like to play some songs that I’ve been writing,’ and he got us together. It’s also about the amount of music that we share in common, as far as what we love and what we grew up with, it is so the same, on a really specific level. And it’s the way in which we get along as four people, it’s so harmonious, which is really the most serendipitous part. It’s not like we were already all good friends, that all happened post-formation, we became friends through the process of being a band. It’s like I found my three siblings. We always say we’ve been on a twelve year platonic double date.”

In addition to a truly deep bank of varied musical talent, that rare band cohesion has been a main reason that Lake Street Dive has been able to weather the last dozen years and become one of the most talked-about, sought-after and wholly unique acts out there in music today. They play Wolf Trap‘s Filene Center on Thursday June 16th with special guest The Lone Bellow.

The four members of Lake Street Dive — Price, Olson, bassist Bridget Kearney and drummer Mike Calabrese — all went to the Conservatory with a dream of their own. So who knew that it would take the four of them together to make their dreams come true? Take Price, for example; being in a foursome was not on her radar.

“I expected to come out of there being a jazz singer,” Price said. “I wanted to be the next Diana Krall, which is hilarious. I got really into jazz standards when I was young and that’s what I focused on with most of my vocal technique and training and learning. Then I was like, well, I’m gonna go to jazz school, obviously that’s what’s gonna happen next, I’ll get out of jazz school and I’ll be a jazz singer. And then, I met Lake Street Dive…and everything changed.”

Not long after the four got together in Boston, bassist Kearney entered a song in the annual John Lennon Songwriting Contest — and here’s more of that Lake Street Dive serendipity — she won in the jazz category, propelling the band to the next step in their journey.

“(Bridget) wrote that song, so it got her some prize money,” Price continued. “And she’s like, ‘Well, it’s the band’s performance of it that won, so I want to put all the money back into the band.’ So we made a record, probably earlier than we should have, but that record, and especially the tour around it, was just one of those crucial steps that cemented us as a band, which I think really was our desire. I think the four of us had that desire individually even without saying it to one another. We really wanted to be in like a set group, you know, four equal parts, working together, to make music, with no one being the particular leader. So when we went on the road together that time, it just made us all feel like we were doing what we were supposed to do.”

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Lake Street Dive’s latest record, 2016’s Side Pony (courtesy Nonesuch Records)

Lake Street Dive’s sound, their specific genre, is not an easy one to pin down. If you cut a swath across their catalog, you’ll hear shades of jazz, soul, rock and R & B all come through to create a sound truly all their own. Calabrese has described it as “if the Beatles and Motown had a party together,” but even that doesn’t describe their unique vibe.

“We don’t really do well describing ourselves with a genre,” Price said. “We could be like, well, this is a soul song, and this is a rock song. But we just kind of reach out for different styles, based on how we feel, and based on the types of songs that everybody’s writing.”

In addition to great songwriting by all four members, one of Lake Street Dive’s biggest pluses are its live performances, where you can feel the four bandmates feeding off the audience, a staple of a successful band.

“It’s something we focused alot on,” Price said, “and it’s just kind of the way we seem to work best. That’s where we figured out how to play with each other. How to have fun playing with each other. The songs don’t really come alive until we played them live, you know, for a few months. I think our goal is for it always to feel good, so to have it be funky in some way, and to make people move. Slow or fast, but yeah, we want people to move their bodies.”

So 12 years ago, when the four young musicians began their journey in Boston together, did they think they’d ever reach this level of success?

“I think we’ve exceeded (expectations) for sure,” Price said. “I don’t think we thought too much about it, but to be making a living, and for us making a really good living, and still artistically and creatively be doing what we want to do, it’s really kind of a dream.”

Lake Street Dive with special guests The Lone Bellow perform Thursday June 16th at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, 1551 Trap Rd, Vienna, VA 22182. For tickets, click here

 

PETER WOLF: FINDING THE CURE

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 26, 2016 by midliferocker

Almost 50 years in, one of rock and roll’s coolest still finds a deep connection to his audience. 

By Steve Houk

It’s been almost 40 years ago now since my high school buddy Ted Riegel used to crank up “Musta Got Lost” from the J. Geils Band‘s seminal 1976 live record Blow Your Face Out on a cassette player in our locker room before our varsity baseball and soccer games to get us psyched up. It was that perfectly raucous combination of rock and roll, soul and R & B that the Geils band was so good at, especially with their powerhouse lead singer Peter Wolf blasting out the vocals in a style truly unique to him. And boy, did it get you stoked to go out and do some damage on the field.

I related this story to Wolf recently, and what do ya know, he had a very similar story related to him by one of rock’s most notorious leading men, a story that made us both laugh at the almost identical nature of the memory that involved Wolf and his wild old band.

“I met Axl Rose many years ago, and he told me that when he was a football player on his high school team, they used to play ‘Musta Got Lost’ before each game. And he said every time they played it, they won. You never know how the music penetrates.”

As far as Peter Wolf is concerned, his music has deeply penetrated our hearts, minds and rock and roll souls for nearly five decades, from his wild Woofa Goofa days riling up crowds (and high school athletes) into a frenzy with J. Geils, to his post-Geils days churning out consistently stellar solo work. And his excellent new effort A Cure For Loneliness is no exception, and may be his best solo foray yet. Wolf brings his superb band The Midnight Travelers to The Birchmere on June 1st.

For Wolf, Cure is a reflective piece that takes a look at where he is at this point in his life across a host of genres. He does it with just the right combination of flair, subtlety and power, along with solid musicianship, and says he crafted it with a specific process in mind.

“We put together a batch of songs and recorded it in studio,” Wolf told me on a break during his current tour. “And then we did some recording of the same songs live and we just picked and choosed. We tried to give it some kind of beginning, middle and an end. ‘Rollin’ On’ kinda leads into the thematic aspect of the record. ‘Stranger’ leads with a kinda lonely kinda feelin.’ And ‘Cure For Loneliness’, well, there it is, music’s my cure for loneliness.”

Joe Greene Photographer

Listening to the new record, I found myself feeling my own individual connections to the music, songs that seem to speak to what I’m feeling at this point in life, right now. Add that’s a hope every artist has when they create music, to make that kind of connection with the listener.

“When I make ’em, I make ’em to please myself,” the amicable 70-year old Wolf said. “Because I figure, if I can’t please myself, I can’t expect other people to be pleased. So it’s nice to hear there’s some kind of connection to the audience.”

As far as the current live show, it seems that it has something for everyone, and that’s really been Wolf’s appeal his whole career.

“I choose very special artists to perform with me, so by that alone it makes the evening unique. And we have a great camraderie. We can play all the songs on the solo records, we can play some favorite blues and rockin’ stuff that I like, and we can play most of the Geils stuff. We got hundreds of songs in our repertoire, and when we get to a show, anything goes.”

And when you ask Peter Wolf what makes him happiest these days, well, after almost 50 years, it still all comes down to the music.

“Playing with this band, in front of a good house, that’ll do it for me. I don’t mean that to sound like show biz jive, just telling you the honest truth. It still has to do with the connection to the audience, and also my connection with the band.”

Peter Wolf and The Midnight Travelers perform Wednesday June 1st at The Birchmere, 3701 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305. For tickets, click here

 

 

 

JUSTIN HAYWARD: THESE DAYS, NOT MOODY OR BLUE

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 22, 2016 by midliferocker

justin

A rock legend carries on his timeless legacy while also finding powerful new subjects to write about.

By Steve Houk

Of all the miraculous, timeless music Justin Hayward has created – from the wondrous songs he wrote as a member of prog rock legends The Moody Blues as well as his strong solo work – there’s a song he recently wrote and debuted on his current tour that very well might be his most stunning. That’s saying alot from the guy who wrote such rock classics as “Nights In White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Your Wildest Dreams.” But “The Wind Of Heaven” is something different altogether.

Hayward had worked with filmmaker David Minasian on a live DVD of his Atlanta performance a few years back, and recently found out Minasian was working on a new film with a powerfully emotional story. Hayward was so moved by it that he and his friend wrote a song about it.

“It’s the story of a vet who comes back from Afghanistan, and really loses his way and has to find his life again,” Hayward said to the crowd in New Hampshire on the opening night of his current tour where he debuted the song. “He finds it through horses, and the horses give him back his life. We got so carried away with the story that we wrote a song together and we would like to do it for you now.  This is called ‘The Wind of Heaven.’ ”

The song struck such a powerful chord that the crowd roared through joyful tears after he finished. A man stood up in the middle of the applause and said, “On behalf of all us veterans in the audience, we want to thank you for playing this song tonight.” It was a moment that even a legendary rock star who’s seen it all must have taken pause at.

Justin Hayward has always written music that has moved and touched people, and as he prepares to turn 70 this year, he continues to write and perform his formidable songs from then and now with that familiar skill, passion and flair, as he always has. His current “Stage Door Tour” comes to The Birchmere on Sunday May 29th.

The name “Stage Door Tour” comes from the childhood experiences that he had hovering around the stage door of the Empire Theater in their hometown of Swindon, UK.

“My brother and I could not afford to go to the shows , in fact, we were regularly chased away from the lavish entrance by the fat commissionaire who stood guard there. But we loved the stage door – we saw many artists come and go – and we believed it was the place the real magic entered and left the building. Which of course, it is.”

Hayward still sporadically tours with two of his remaining Moody Blues mates when they can find the time. “The three of us that are still playing together, we’re so lucky to have been there at the right time and together and to have had success, that’s something that the three of us really treasure, it’s hard to let go of.” But it’s his solo work that really enables him to get to the core of the tunes.

“I enjoy this solo touring as well because it brings back the essence of the songs and it’s the way that I originally wrote them, it’s how they would have sounded in my own home,” Hayward told me from his studio in Italy. “I get to bring my acoustic guitars out from home, the ones that played on the records, so that’s nice too. It gives me a chance to do things that we’ve never done with the Moodys. It gives a different look to the set list and what to play. That’s always interesting, I get to do ‘Forever Autumn’ which was a hit for me as well. I enjoy every moment, it’s very precious.”

Of all the periods in his rich and lustrous musical life, Hayward relishes them all especially those he’s experiencing right now. But he looks back on one time in particular with great fondness.

“Things are always much more interesting when you look back at them,” Hayward said reflectively. “I think the most enjoyable time for me was the mid 1980’s. I wasn’t very much aware of what was happening in the 60’s, I suppose because I was so young. But in the 80’s, to have success with ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,’ it was a real joy to have that opportunity, it’s like a second chance, and to be recognized in the street for the first time, people never knew my name but they’d say, ‘Hey aren’t you the Moody Blues guy?’ because of the videos and stuff like that. It was a wonderful time.”

Justin Hayward performs Sunday May 29th at The Birchmere, 3701 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305. For tickets, click here

 

 

 

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