Saturday, May 13, 2006

Lazy Lester, Lil' Buck Sinegal, and Barbara Lynn(above)!

I need to say that I don't consider myself to be (TOO big of) an expert on "popular" music by any definition. However, I am a somewhat obessive fan of that nebulous genre and in recent years my tastes have gravitated even more so towards what might be called "roots music". This would be the seminal stuff that is now considered to be the template for rock and roll. I say this to distinguish myself from the true authorities, some of which I met recently during an eye-opening set of performances. I got back from Memphis weeks ago now so I think my brain has had time to process the whole trip; particularly the 3 nights of incredible music known as The Stomp. I'm glad I went on this vacation all by my lonesome for multiple reasons, but the main benefit was only being accountable to myself. I'm the kinda guy that worries whether my friends are having a good time at a show, and that can hinder my enjoyment at times. As the only people I had ever approached some semblance of communication with previously were folks from the forums I was free of any interruption in my music-watching regiment. It was very nice to meet this group in three-dimensions, as opposed to a reconfigured batch of 1's and 0's. We seemed to have a bit of an instant kinship, or maybe they were just very cool and friendly people with somewhat similar interests. I guess I just don't meet people like this in Dallas much.

I'm a pretty open-minded fella when it comes to music but at the same time I do tend to filter things through punk if you catch my drift. What I mean is that I tend to like a live performance to be upbeat or at least heartfelt, and passionate. If you leave the edges slightly ragged and try to remember that fire in your belly, even better. With this in mind, and with the large amount of legendary perfomers on the bill I will attempt to mention the highlights of the show. Ironically, the first night of the three was in my opinion the best over-all, and the hands-down showstopper of the evening was Tammy Lynn's extended version of "Mojo Hana". If you witnessed this and were able to control your body then you might already be dead. Lil' Buck Sinegal and the Topcats, with Stanley "Buckwheat Zydeco" Dural on Hammond B3( with Leslie speakers) were the backing band I saw and enjoyed the most over the course of all the nights. They backed a rotating cast of front men and women that would make most records geeks shivver in their Beatle-boots. It was impressive to watch them jump right into songs they may or may not even know with the most minimal of instruction, and no rehearsal. Deke Dickerson and the Eccofonics were the second most active backing band of the event and they did a great job too.

Al "Carnival Time" Johnson's signature song seemed to get people in good spirits, and Texas' own Roy Head was a particularly dynamic, and charismatic performer. I heard that after his Ballroom set he walked straight up to perhaps the only black dude in that audience and said "Pretty good for a white boy, huh?" Jay Chevalier, and what little I witnessed of vocal group The Climates were terriffic as well but the other first night performance that will stand out the most after Tammy Lynns's will be The Alarm Clocks. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that they were the only "Garage" group of the evening, but they did not dissappoint. Of all the garage bands on the bill they seemed to "get it" the most. The fact that they did some new numbers didn't distract from their blast of primal '60's punk. I might even buy the new album! The Bad Roads were in a tough spot following up the Clocks performance, and their standard bar-band set made me head to the Lounge stage to see what I was missing.

I decided to show up late the 2nd night to conserve energy, and that turned out to be a mistake. I got there in time to see B.B. Cunningham backed by James (Telecaster-whiz) Burton which was very cool, but I had missed what was apparently a pretty smokin' set by Dallas' own Kenny and the Kasuals. Well Kenny and the boys are playing around the corner at their usual haunt tonight so I guess I finally need to go check them out. Lady Bo(to right), who was the female counterpart and partner to Bo Diddley was fun if not a bit reliant on the novelty people seem to enjoy when a woman plays guitar. She did look extremely cool! Novelty seemed to be the motivating factor behind the inclusion of Arch Hall, Jr. as well but I wasn't complaining. Arch is most famous for a handful of B-movies from the '60's, one of which was immortalized by the TV show Mystery Science Theatre 3000...EEGAH!! The stars of the night had to be Travis "Scratchy" Wammack(below left), and The Fabulous Wailers without question. Travis was a child prodigy guitarist from Memphis who started out a little bit Link Wray and ended up a lot badass. He looks like Kenny Rogers now but that didn't stop him from backing up many an artist at Muscle Shoals and many other fine recording studios, or from ripping it up at the Stomp. The crowd went nuts when we did his instrumentals, and even seemed to enjoy most of his stuff with vocals. The addition of his son "Monkey" on drums was a nice touch. William Bell was a veritable "how to" on stage presence and what a great singer. I nearly had tears in my eyes when he did "You don't miss your water." The Wailers headlined the main stage that night and I feel lucky to have seen these living legends. They were the inspiration for what many consider to be the first proper "Garage" group, the Sonics. The Wailers were known across the Pacific Northwest for their amped up shows and the young Sonics were inspired to take that energy to the next level in turn creating a template for future raw, rock and roll, and punk. That Hammond really paid for itself by the end of the night, and I was a bit jealous that I didn't get to see these cats in their youth, because if they rocked this hard as "senior citizens" I can only imagine the shows they used to put on.

On the 3rd night I was dissappointed to learn that Barrence Whitfield, and The Rebirth Brass Band had cancelled for various reasons but not to fear, Rockin' Enoki was near. I had actually already seen this wonderful man from Japan play twice in the past couple of days at in-store performances at Goner Records, and Shangri-La Records respectively so I didn't check out much of his last minute, fill-in lobby set at the Stomp. I guess I missed one of the highlights of the show but there was just to much going on so I headed off to check out what else was happenin'. I do think it was very cool for everyone, Enoki included, that he came to the event as an observer and ended up playing to a very receptive crowd. He's primarily known for his own band Jackie and the Cedrics, and stayed two doors down from me at the! Memphis' own (Monsieur)Jeffrey Evans was a lot of fun at Shangri-La as well. Backed by wisecracking Ross Johnson on drums he held the small, ethusiastic crowd captive. Corpus Christi's Zakary Thaks were a cool blast of '60's garage, but their singer seems to have forgotten that it's encouraged to move around in rock and roll. Still sounded great, though. Sleepy LaBeef, The Tennessee Three, and Fillmore Slim were enjoyable as well but the real standouts as expected on this evening were the sets by Barbara Lynn, Clarence "Frogman" Henry and Dallas' own Bobby Patterson. Corpus Christi's Barbara Lynn was only able to do a few songs due to arthritis but don't let that influence your mental picture of her appearance, abilities, or performance that night. I'm not sure how old she is but she looks great and I can only wish that I was half the guitarist that she is. I won't try to pretend that I could write or sing like her either. I'll go see her again anytime if it's within a couple hundred miles or so. It's really hard to describe the magic feeling that this type of performer brings so I'll just say she kicked ass. Lazy Lester( whose song Ponderosa Stomp was the inspiration for the events moniker)even sat-in with Barbara despite cancelling for mysterious reasons. The Frogman was literally infectious with his big, genuine smile and fun, friendly demeanor. He's getting up in years, needing the assistance of a walker but when he took to his feet for certain songs you would never know it. He almost looks younger than I do now, and he is one hell of an entertainer. Like at many moments during this show I felt like I was living a piece of history. I mean how often do you get to see the original artists do their own hit songs? He treated the crowd to wonderful version of "I ain't got a home" complete with his patented "baby-girl" voice and "Frogman" voice. Lots of Fun! Bobby Patterson closed the show with a very engaging performance and lots of down home asides and hilarious anecdotes. The guy was at home in his element and looking very dapper with his embroidered Tweety Bird vest. I hope he plays around here sometime, as he's a dj at local AM station Soul 730 KKDA (You've got a friend.)

The whole experience was too much, and certainly beyond description. Bonus photos of The Fabulous Wailers, Arch "Wild Guitar" Hall, and Jeffrey Evans with Ross Johnson at Shangri La Records, ...more to come!