Prince, Bowie, Merle, Jim Harrison, Carrie Fisher, Guy Clark, Muhammad Ali, Ralph Stanley...Sadly, this is to name just a few. Twenty-Sixteen was a tough year for my music, art and cultural heroes.
So for 2017, I'm taking a cue from Slate's celebration of legendary artists who are still living (See Wonder Week). I'm going to celebrate 365 days of Bob Dylan, his music, art and influence. I'll highlight one of his songs a day and share news, stories and other content throughout the year. I'll be curating a list of Dylan songs on Spotify and I've even launched an Amazon store featuring some of my favorite Dylan music and books.
This project is as much for me as for anyone who happens upon this blog, Spotify playlist or tweet. Bob Dylan's music, more than any other artist, has followed me, inspired me and influenced me throughout most of my life. This is a way to say "thanks" and share my love for Dylan's music while he's still on his endless tour.
I first saw Dash Rip Rock with my friend Kevin when the band opened for The Beat Farmers at Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, July 1986. My adrenline surges and smile widens thinking about that show.
Dash Rip Rock, Mojo's Mayhem 2016 at the Continental Club. (Mike Barzacchini Photo)
It was amazing when Kevin and I had the chance to see the band again at SXSW 2016. I spoke briefly with Bill Davis after DRR's Saxon Pub showcase. He not only remembered the Canal Street show, but told us that after the concert, Dash Rip Rock and the Farmers went bowling at a local lane. That would have been something to witness.
DRR's Bill Davis with the Butter-Spray Slide (Mike Barzacchini Photo)
Bill Davis' Gator Guitar (Mike Barzacchini Photo)
Long live Dash Rip Rock. Long Live Rock and Roll. Which is kind of saying the same thing.
More photos on my SXSW 2016 Dash Rip Rock Gallery on Flickr.
Sorting through photos, notes and memories from some of my top live shows of 2016. When I'm in Austin for SXSW, I try to not miss the Aussie BBQ. The event introduces me to new bands and sounds and the overall vibe in Brush Square Park is festive and fun.
My Stonefield gallery from the Aussie BBQ at SXSW 2016.
One of my favorite 2016 Aussie BBQ bands was Stonefield, four sisters who play beat-heavy, guitar-driven psychedlic influenced rock and roll. The band tore through a blistering 30-minute set, thrilling a few faithful fans and quickly converting the rest of the crowd. Stonefield's music has a great summer festival feel. Hope they make many return visits to the states.
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A great live-music memory from 2016 -- River Whyless at SPACE in Evanston in August. They opened the show with a stirring cover of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe." The band's "We All the Light" is one of my favorite album's of 2016.
Spring is finally making some headway, at least here in the middle States. Soon it will be the season of backyard BBQs and patio parties. You may have missed or forgotten Lonnie Mack's music while he was alive. But trust me, it sounds great on any party playlist. So fire up the grill, light the Tiki torches and turn up the Lonnie Mack tunes.
First Prince, now Lonnie Mack. Maybe the two don't equate, but Lonnie Mack was a rock guitar pioneer in his own right. Saw him live in 1987 in a hockey rink at Ohio University. May as well have been an Arkansas roadhouse. With his Gibson Flying V he put the Wham! in rock and roll. Rest in peace Mr. Mack. Read the Alligator Records press release.
Where were you the first time you heard Prince? Do you remember?
I'm not certain where I was, but I know it was 1979. It may have been summer on an asphalt basketball court in Richmond, Indiana, "I Wanna Be Your Lover" echoing from the open window of a passing car. Or later that fall on the campus of Ohio University, "Why You Want To Treat Me So Bad," blazing through the noise of a crowded Crook Hall dorm party.
But even before I heard Prince, I saw Prince. His face on the cover of his self-titled second album.
I remember thinking, "What's going on here?" This was something different. Something new.
And those sentiments would only be repeated throughout my 37 year adoration of Prince and his music. I remember wearing out my copy of 1999, flipping from side to side, wanting to hear all the songs at once again and again. Isolating the iconic guitar open to "When Doves Cry" and wondering aloud "how does he do that?" And I confess to many lip-sync rehearsals of "Kiss."
"I just want your extra time and your...Kiss."
Then came the summer of 1989 and the release of Tim Burton's Batman. I was volunteering at camp for children with diabetes. Prince's songs from the movie blasting from a boombox served as our soundtrack, with dozens of purple-clad, bat-insignia-wearing campers dancing their way through the week like some deep-woods mash up of Paisley Park and Fame.
Prince's music has never been far from my listening and my life. Yes, I'm most fond of those first dozen albums, but I've also lost myself in "Musicology" and most recently "Hit n' Run" Phase One and Two.
From standing in line to see the movie Purple Rain on opening night to witnessing the best (go ahead, argue with me, I dare you) Super Bowl halftime performance now or ever, Prince has struck many magical chords in my personal music history. And with his deep catalog this will only continue.
Not to mention I was blessed to marry the biggest Prince fan I've ever met. If nothing else, I'm certain Susan will keep my purple flame blazing brightly for years to come.
My undying musical gratitude to an original. I'll never see or hear the likes of him again. But I'm glad I had the opportunity to catch his brief, bright, shining purple star. Shine on, Prince, shine on.
I don’t remember my Grandpa Fred. He died when I was young. Though I understand he had a saying, one my dad would repeat after I’d come home from a long night of misadventure and have to rise and shine the next morning:
“Who has more fun than you?”
It’s become a mantra question for me. One I routinely ask my wife, my son, other family members and friends as we continue on this messy adventure called life. Usually, I don’t get a verbal response. Depending on the circumstances, I may come away with a smile, grimace or groan. Now, after almost 56 years of searching, I have my found the answer:
“Who has more fun than you?”
“Why Grandpa, that would have to be Steve Poltz.”
I first saw Steve perform a hyperkinetic set at the 2008 Guitartown/Conqueroo Kickoff Day Party. Immediately hooked, I learned that it was Steve’s tradition to play a zillion times during SXSW week. My SXSW experience ended that year during Mojo’s Mayhem where I witnessed Steve nearly get a haircut from the Continental Club’s venerable ceiling fan while surfing the crowd after a graceful stage dive. I’ve been hooked on Steve Poltz, his music, humor and indomitable spirit since. I followed him around SXSW two more years and witnessed three original and captivating shows at SPACE in Evanston, Illinois.
Me and Steve and Jonathan, SPACE in Evanston, Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Even better, through Steve’s Instagram feed, Facebook page, blog and other digital smoke signals, he lets me and all his fans in on his ongoing adventures, including weird signs, what’s for breakfast, freaky-cool socks, insta-songs, unique people met along the way and wholly original insights on culture and life. So it was with great anticipation in 2015 that I started planning my SXSW adventure by trying to figure out all the bars, hotel lobbies and laundromats where Steve would perform that week. That’s when I learned that Steve wouldn’t be coming to Austin in 2015. Instead, he’d be in Australia -- for more than a month! I figured SXSW must be cancelled. I mean you can’t hold the festival if the unofficial mayor is out of town. Because of my selfishness (“Why can’t I see Steve perform in Austin?”), it was temporarily painful to follow Steve on social media that spring. But finally, I figured it out: Why take over a town for a week when you can charm an entire continent for a month or more? See, Australia loves Steve too. They have for years. And in Australia, Steve has found a land vast enough for the enormous fun he radiates. Have I missed him in Austin these past two years? Sure, but here’s the best part: I may never make it to Australia, but through Steve’s messages in various Internet bottles, I’ve traveled along like I’m tucked in a secret side pocket in Smokey Joe’s guitar case, experiencing the people, food and places. Steve wraps his latest Aussie takeover today with a performance at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne. Up next he’ll sing the National Anthem on Thursday, April 21, at PETCO Park in San Diego before his beloved Padres take the field. Welcome back to the USA, Steve. Thanks for taking us along to Australia again this year. Hope to see you at SPACE in a few weeks.
And seriously, “Who has more fun than you?”
P.S: Steve, if you’re reading this, please let me know where I can buy my “El Poltzo for President” trucker hat. There’s at least one contested convention coming up and I need to represent.
P.P.S: If ya’ll haven’t bought Steve’s new CD, Folksinger, yet, I honestly don’t know what you’re waiting on. It’s loaded with heart-warming, -breaking, -persevering songs and a belly full of laughs, too.
Do you remember 1990? That's when this song was released and it carried us into 1991. In fact, it may have been the lead track on the soundtrack of the first year of our marriage. Still makes me smile (and chair dance). "We're going to dance and have some fun."
Some year I'm going to get to all three days of this amazing FREE music fest. Plans will keep me away on Saturday and Sunday this year, but I'm looking forward to Friday's line up for the Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Celebration:
From Steve Earle's bluesy Terraplane album. Makes me smile and think of you every time I hear it. You may not recall, but this song was in heavy rotation on our road trip to Franklin, Tennessee last year for Pilgrimage Festival.
That song for when you really don't want to go out. You don't want to hang with a bunch of friends. No crowds, please. You just want to be alone with that one person. Baby, I just want to be your tugboat captain.
I came late to Galaxie 500's music. Glad it finally found me.
Seems like it was about 1997 when I started listening to Fred Eaglesmith. I remember first hearing Fred on public radio, maybe it was Morning Edition, reporting on what it was like to be a traveling musician, living out of a bus. Not long after that, I started hearing his music on WNKU. One listen to "105" from Lipstick, Lies and Gasoline and I was a Fredhead for life. Here's a short playlist of Fred song's for Susan's Saturday.
"Wilder than Her" -- one of the first Fred Eaglesmith songs that hooked me and still one of my favorites.
"Johnny Cash" -- Love the big, crunchy Neil Young and Crazy Horse style guitar work.
"Water in the Fuel" -- Along with rural life, so many of Fred's songs are about the necessity and isolation of being on the road. In one place and wishing desperately you were in another.
My favorite song from 2015 from my current favorite songwriter. At least 100 listens and it's fresh each time. And each time I listen, I get chills. The fragile, temporary beauty of life. Reminds me I need to be present in each moment, or each frame.
Great pick, Susan. I've been all in on Garland Jeffreys and his music since first hearing "Escape Artist" from first cut to last on a road trip from Dayton to Athens, Ohio when it debuted in 1981. Fortunate to see Garland perform at SXSW in 2006 and 2012. Amazing artist and live performer.