“This is the night/ Of the expanding man/ I take one last drag/ As I approach the stand/ I cried when I wrote this song/ Sue me if I play too long/ This brother is free/ I'll be what I want to be/ I'll learn to work the saxophone/ I play just what I feel/ Drink Scotch whiskey all night long/ And die behind the wheel/ They got a name for the winners in the world/ I want a name when I lose/ They call Alabama the Crimson Tide/ Call me Deacon Blue.”—Steely Dan, “Deacon Blues”
Be more circumspect. After years and years, you begin to do this job by feeling around, by connecting the hands to electrodes that inevitably lead somewhere: a club, a concert hall, the empty warehouse or outdoor amphitheater where the sound will eventually come from, cascading, drowning even, but in an ecstatic way.
All the faces and the names and the sounds: They’re all wonderful and bright and memorable. And the scene seems so perfect and on time. Until you make a mistake and then another—transpose a name after an epic shatter sesh or foggily convince yourself that everyone is pushing singles these days and that’s what the hep mean when they say the word “record.” You know you’re alone.
So you redouble your efforts, taking K. Lamar seriously—with gravity and humility—but realize in the late night exposition of that particular record, that right or wrong, you’ll always be an outsider and that’s just fine.
Because, you tell yourself, that’s what rocanrol is really about. Your errors are also your grace in the holey improvisation you’re constantly devising; you should be crawling through those words anyway, if not to dance, then to correct.
And so it goes with summer blazing away. Wholesome new shows appear every day; you still smile when the names of certain bands come around at the office or the coffee shop and you’ll be singing along, with the stereo cranked up to 11, by the time deadline rolls around with a million songs swirling in your head.
Patty Griffin is a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter whose work has been variously classified as folk, folk-rock and Americana, among other genres. But whatever you call her flower-coaxing, broadly and sometimes boldly beatific output, it all comes down to a voice that fairly rumbles and flutters and flies through a wide, emotion-filled world of intimate vignettes captured in striking, sometimes stark arrangements. Griffin’s reach also includes gospel music. She utilizes and transforms the genre with challenging and compelling results on her latest, eponymous album. Griffin will be gigging at the historic KiMo Theatre (423 Central Ave. NW) on Thursday, June 27. Griffin’s sense of universalism, both in the compositional devices and the lyrics she employs, are often affirmative but plaintive; when she rocks out as on mi favorito, “Flaming Red,” it’s with a heartfelt urgency that is as authentic as the Gibson J-50 the artist wields. And if that’s not enough for you fellow rock mitote-cravers, her partner for the years between 2010 and 2012 was none other than the golden god himself, Robert Plant. Serio. That probably made for some fine duets but you can still catch Griffin at her most excellent on a spring tour that graciously includes El Duque. 7:30pm • $30 to $45 • All-ages.
I’ve been in the mood for some Grateful Dead tuneage since September of 1983 when I accidently dosed myself with 750 micrograms of purple microdot on the morning before two days of “Dead at the Downs” in Santa. The next four days are still somewhat of a mystery, but now whenever I hear “Me and My Uncle”—or anything from Europe ’72 for that matter—I go into a trance similar to, but far more active than the one I get from listening to The Bill Evans Quartet for hours on end. That’s why I’m so glad that Let It Grow, Burque’s premier Dead tribute outfit, will be jamming at Inside Out (622 Central Ave. SW) on Friday, June 28. The band, which features Lonn Calanca, Jeffrey Trespell, Dave Holtkamp, James Broska, Kelly Wilson and Kevin Kinane, grow their performances from heady nugs of improvisation that take flight on the sacred bones of fabled Dead tuneage magically brought back to life by visceral, cerebral performances. And that’s what it’s like, playing, playing in the band. Or how about this comparison: It’s just a box of rain or a ribbon for your hair; such a long long time to be gone and a short time to be there. 8pm • $8 in advance, $10 at the door • 21+.
Yes it’s true. With one eyebrow raised compellingly—in the fashion of Mr. Spock, but the one from Oscilloscope Laboratories—I am going to suggest that you, dear reader, take a trip west on I-40 to Route 66 Casino, an always illuminated creation of glass and concrete and steel rising just before Nine Mile Hill on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico. They have a super-decent concert hall there, one where both second acts and resurgent superstars come to play. Such is the case (you guess which, though) for REO Speedwagon, a band that will be rocking the heck out of the Legends Theater at Route 66 Casino (14500 Central Ave. SW) on Saturday, June 29. Although many rockers in my generation spent the early 1980s making savage fun of the quintessentially American pop-rock outfit whose hits included “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Keep on Loving You.” There is some decent tuneage in there, if you dig. Like a lot of Midwest rock bands that ended up embracing a commercial sound to help define their success, REO’s early work is probably their best. Wailin’ blues rockers like “Ridin’ the Storm Out” will always be fly even if what came after was created for mass consumption. That plus who doesn’t want to spend an evening with a high-register vocalist like Kevin Cronin, if you think he might even pull out real G_d-given golden rock nuggets like “Roll With The Changes” or “Time for Me to Fly.” 8pm • $45 to $89 • All-ages.
Whitey Morgan is the postmodern incarnation of honky tonk. The dude and his band, the 78s, emanate from Flint, Mich. and have a song called “Turn Up the Bottle” and another called “Hard To Get High.” It’s a lowdown and dirty brand of music from the country, where folks still fight over things like $5 bags of coke and the right to adultery and their sound has the squalor of The Beaumonts mixed up nicely with a double shot of eff-you twang—with some George Jones and Tammy Wynette thrown in for good measure. Whitey and company will make an appearance at Sunshine Theater (122 Central Ave. SW) on Saturday, June 29 and you ought to go, especially if that good old rocanrol just seems old to you lately. Country bands can play like the devil himself—just ask Charlie Daniels—and you can bet that this concert is gonna pack a punch. Rather than a traditional hootenanny, it may be more akin to a large ranch-based skirmish complete with loud as Hades guitar wrestling and a brutal, cattle-killing rhythm section. This ain’t your grandpappy’s version of “Hee Haw,” after all. 8pm • $25 to $80 • All-ages (13+).
It’s a true thing that Burque’s hip-hop scene is moving through a period of relative renaissance. With new releases by a plethora of local artists, studios rising up in what were once considered unlikely places and subgenres spanning from horrorcore to strictly left-field, trap-influenced rap, there are more options than ever for those who see hip-hop as the creative solution to the constant flux that seems to dominate the scene in Burque. Humans worldwide have been harkening to the sound, but like much else about our beloved burg, we’re still catching up with a national urban trend that has seen rap eclipse rock in many cities at many venues. That’s okay, we’ll all get along fine because we’re all one, sabes. In the meantime, here’s one last suggestion (curated response?) in this week’s column. Go down to the Launchpad (618 Central Ave. SW) on Sunday, June 30 and show Def-i some love. Dude is squarely responsible for the most excellent quality and quantity of hip-hop in this town. And on that very night, he’ll be presenting a concert as part of his Dream Trails Tour. The show includes some of the fiercest forces on the scene, like Sage Cornelius, Macchiato Music and DJ Béeso for chrissakes, so shake off your end-of-weekend blues and get down to the sound at the place where images of rocketships abound. And so the summer jams go round and round. 8pm • $5 • 21+.