Me and my uncle went ridin' down/ South Colorado, West Texas bound/ We stopped over in Santa Fe/ That bein' the point just about half way/ And you know it was the hottest part of the day/ I took the horses up to the stall/ Went to the barroom, ordered drinks for all/ Three days in the saddle, you know my body hurt/ It bein' summer, I took off my shirt/ And I tried to wash off some of that dusty dirt/ West Texas cowboys, they's all around/ With liquor and money, they're loaded down/ So soon after payday, know it seemed a shame/ You know my uncle, he starts a friendly game/ High-low jack and the winner take the hand...—“Me and My Uncle” by John Phillips, as performed and popularized by the Grateful Dead.
On this week’s choice: It’s summer. The song takes place in Santa Fe. The Dead are taking their final tour across the continent as I write. I hope Bobby pulls this tune out of his hat. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe it’s about my life. Maybe it ain’t. In any case, grab your own payday spoils and check out one of the shows I’m on about in the tirade that succeeds this ramble.
Gather ye some red rose petals, the bones of yesteryear’s memory and a fine hankering for the root source of Americana. Bundle all that hippie hoodoo into your wagon, and trip on down to Launchpad (618 Central SW) on Friday, July 3, for a glimpse of the Dead and a verisimilitude of their essence as portrayed by local musical tribute-teers Let It Grow.
The ensemble previously known as The Warlocks, excepting Jerry Garcia, who one assumes is wandering the fields of Elysium—guitar in one hand and a joint of primo in the other—perform Friday night in Chicago. The whole veggie burrito-laden shebang will be simulcast at Launchpad from 6 to 11pm.
Following this formidable discourse on the habits of aging hipsters, local deadhead doppelgangers Let it Grow jam from 11 until closing time. Comprising Lonn Calanca, Jeffrey Trespel, Dave Holtkamp, James Broska, Kelly Wilson and Kevin Kinane, these guys are playing in a band where the music never stops. Seriously though, their kind combination of killer chops and reverent attention to detail make for an experience that displaces nostalgia with a form of musicality that renders the Dead catalog as a timeless expression of American music. You won’t need a miracle to get in either; tickets for this 21+ bonanza are only 5 dollars. The door to this cool place of easy winds opens at 5 in the afternoon.
Once you’ve established that the US blues are a thing, use the knowledge in a patriotic way. Head on down to Low Spirits (2823 Second Street NW) on Saturday, July 4, for the CD release party of Merican Slang. Fulsomely funky and featuring the alto sax vibrations of Romeo Alonzo, Merican Slang makes music inclusive of a variety of red, white and blue genres, with special attention paid to jazz, hip-hop and southern fried boogie.
Merican Slang, whose new recording is titled Livin’ in Merica, is a damn good listen; guitarist/lead vocalist James Haynes partakes in tones that range from ecstatic to enigmatic, while the rhythm section—built from the prodigious talents of drummer Ricardo Sanchez and bassist Dave Pankuch—put a hefty punch into the proceedings. Soulful rockin’ reggae stalwarts Mondo Vibrations and working man’s blues dude Rudy Jaramillo and the Rudy Boy Experiment open. For 10 bucks, 21+ concert attendees will no doubt be exposed to fireworks the ears will fancy and the eyes will luxuriate upon. How’s that for the beginnings of democracy? Rocking, say respondents, who plan to enter when the doors open at 8 in anticipation of a 9pm show.
Through a variety of astute entradas into the American musical universe, Johnny Alexander Veliotes Jr.—better known as Shuggie Otis—is the epitome of our nation’s musical heritage. He’ll make a concert appearance at Sister (407 Central NW) on Wednesday, July 8. Shuggie’s old man, a fellow by the name of Johnny Otis, forged a new sound called Rhythm and Blues from his experiences as a composer, arranger and producer living in post-war Los Angeles. The dude discovered Etta James and played drums on the first-ever recording of “Hound Dog.” His progeny ain’t no slouch either.
Multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis learned the guitar as a toddler and started gigging with his father as a teenager. His early work yielded the notoriously obscure proto-R&B recording Snatch & The Poontangs, which in turn led to gigs with some of the country’s best players; the bass on Zappa’s jazz fusion monstrosity “Peaches en Regalia” is all Shuggie, all the time. Such exclamatory excursions culminated in albums like Here Comes Shuggie Otis and Freedom Flight—featuring folks like Leon Haywood, George Duke and Aynsley Dunbar supporting Otis’ aural ferocity.
Not to out-do himself—the guy’s a fricking musical genius, you know—Shuggie famously declined a stint in The Rolling Stones and developed an acid-drenched version of soul for his 1974 release Inspiration Information. And lest one forget, Otis penned a tune called “Strawberry Letter 23,” one of the most beautifully playful yet complex pop tunes written by a human being. For just 20 clams Burqueños can be part of something which may well define the term “Best Concert of 2015.” The doors to Sister roll up at 7 in the evening; Mr. Otis takes the stage at 8pm.
So, wash off some of the dusty dirt our town is famous for, get up in some of your best duds, and truck on out to one of these awesome shows. Maybe you’ll run into me and my uncle. Just don’t ask us to play cards; the music should suffice and I’m as honest as an Albuquerque man can be.