First though, let me wish everyone a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year. The new year starts in January because it’s the first month following the Winter Solstice, when the days start getting longer after December 21, the shortest day of the year. So it really is a time of renewal and rebirth.
I started my New Year’s weekend off by driving up to Tannersville to see my old pals, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, at the Orpheum Performing Arts Center. The OPAC has been closed for 25 years and this was the first event there since they re-opened, and let me tell you, it must have inspired the band, because they were on fire! By the time they got to the third song, “Louisiana Lady”, I was convinced it was the best I’d ever seen them play. It was a shorter set then they usually have played at The Bearsville Theater in past years, but thoroughly enjoyable all the same. They ran through most of their hits, skipping only “Lonesome LA Cowboy” and “Glendale Train”, and closing with Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”. The new OPAC theater is a beautiful building and a great place to hear music and I hope they are planning to present more shows in this venue.
On New Year’s Eve, I ventured into Kingston to catch Pitchfork Militia and The Johnny Monster Band at the new BSP, formerly Back Stage Productions. Pitchfork put on their usual great show and I was struck by what a great guitarist frontman Peter Head has become. As I was watching Pitchfork, I was thinking that they are really the only local band that I really like, but guess what? I found another! Within seconds of starting their first song, The Johnny Monster Band had my jaw on the floor! I had heard good things about them, but I was totally unprepared for the sounds coming from the stage! This kid is the real thing! If I said there was a straight line between Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Johnny Monster, I might be overstating the case, but not by much! Johnny Monster is a monster guitarist! If these guys are playing anywhere near you, do not miss them! They will blow your mind! In the next few weeks, I will be profiling both of these bands in this space, so look out for that.
A few weeks ago, a friend told me about a young singer/songwriter from Stamford, NY, who he thought was really good. He pressed a CD into my hands and asked me to have a listen. Now lots of people give me CD’s to check out, and the percentage of real quality music is usually pretty small, so my expectations were not high, but from the opening chords of the first song, I realized I was listening to someone pretty special. Pete Jacobs is in his last year at the Berklee School of Music and has assembled a band of mostly other Berklee students to play his intricate Beatle-esque songs. Everything about this record, “Thoughts upon a Window”, is top notch and professional, from the writing and playing, to the production and engineering.
The Beatle influence is front and center, but Peter’s songs are not derivative or slavish copies of the Fab Four. They stand on their own as high quality songs in the same genre, and very impressive ones at that. There are rockers here as well, and Peter says he is influenced by modern bands like Radiohead, Coldplay, The Shins, and I’m pretty sure I heard some Foo Fighters in there too. But please understand, Peter’s music goes beyond his influences. He’s taken what he could from the music that influenced him and added his own touch to make it completely his own.
The band, who may book themselves as The Pete Jacobs Band, or sometimes Electric Evolver, plays mostly in New York and Boston (they’ve also played at WAMC’s Linda Studios in Albany), but Pete has never lost touch with his Delaware County roots. Whenever he’s home, he makes it a point to play some smaller gigs, sometimes solo acoustic, in and around his hometown of Stamford. If you get the chance, catch him. Pete Jacobs could be amongst our next generation of great electric singer/songwriters! More info at www.petejacobsmusic.com.
On a sadder note, after my deadline for my last column, I heard about the passing of Dan ‘Bee’ Spears, Willie Nelson’s longtime bass player, and Sean Bonniwell, driving force behind The Music Machine, the 60’s garage rock one hit wonders who recorded the great “Talk Talk”, still one of the best of it’s genre, and not an easy song to play. Rest in Peace fellas. You made a lot of people happy while you were here. The tough question is though, where’s Willie gonna find another bass player who can follow his meandering sense of time? LOL.
Oh, and did I mention that this column begins my second year writing it, and as if to celebrate the occasion, hvmusic.com has added me to their website, www.hvmusic.com, a great resource for Hudson Valley musicians and music fans.
My live music picks will now run from Wednesday to the following Thursday, which may engender some repetition in consecutive weeks, but will also give y’all more time to plan your outings, so I think it’s a fair trade off. Here’s this week’s picks.
Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 – Tonight’s the last night of LITTLE FEAT’s three night stand at The City Winery in Manhattan.
Saturday, Jan. 7 – The very accomplished guitarist, MICHAEL POWERS returns to Club Helsinki in Hudson. This guy can play, and he’s an old friend of mine, so please support him. We need more of Michael in the Catskills.
Sunday, Jan. 8 – STEVE EARLE and ALLISON MOORER make their first appearance at Club Helsinki. This is one of my two Picks of the Week. MICKEY HART of The Grateful Dead rolls into The Highline Ballroom in Manhattan for one night.
Monday, January 9 – STEVE EARLE and ALLISON MOORER drive South after Helsinki and show up at The City Winery in Manhattan, this time with Woodstock’s own HAPPY TRAUM in tow.
Wednesday, Jan. 11 – The great CHRIS THILE, with his PUNCH BROTHERS bandmate, MICHAEL DAVES, make a stop at Club Helsinki. Thile is one of our best mandolin pickers, and if Daves is on the same stage as Chris, he’s gotta be pretty awesome too. My second Pick of the Week.
Welcome 2012! May it be better than the last! Start it off by having a great week y’all!