Wishes for a Merry Christmas 2015

This year I write this message with a heavy heart.

It’s not because the world seems to have gone more haywire or the political world is its normal maddening self. Instead, it’s because a member of the extended monoblogue family is no longer with us.

Traditionally I have left the site dark on Christmas Day and I take the time a day or two before to write a Christmas message to put up on the morning of Christmas Eve. I’m not going to depart from that tradition, but the voice that made this Christmas post special for many years has been stilled.

In the video below, which I used last year for the first time, you would never know that Michele Hogsett (the woman singing) was at the time waging a vigorous fight against breast cancer. Alas, she ran the last of her seven-year race back on December 8 and the celebration of her life (which featured this song) was last Sunday.

I call Michele part of the extended monoblogue family because she graced these pages a fair number of times for my long-running Weekend of Local Rock segment. Over the last few years it’s dwindled to an extent but two of the staple events I’ve used to keep it going were the Concert for a Random Soldier where Michele and her husband Jim regularly played and the (Save the…) BreastFest which had a six-year run from 2009 to last year as a part of Delmarva Bike Week. Sadly, Michele was simply too ill to make a go of it this year.

I also called Michele and Jim my friends. They were the ones who invited me (and later Kim and I) to share Thanksgiving with them for several years as part of their extended family. At her service, I heard from those affiliated with the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (the beneficiary of BreastFest) about how Michele was the first to interact with newly-diagnosed women and let them know what to expect, giving them pointers on how to best wage their own personal fight. In short, she was an asset to the community, and she is survived by her husband, the host of cats and dogs they kept, and the music she helped to create which brought joy to this listener. Someday we will see each other where the ocean meets the sky.

But even with this personal loss, the other sad part about this Christmas is that I can, almost word for word, rewrite what I wrote last year:

In the runup from Thanksgiving to Christmas… we’ve seen a lot of senseless tragedy. Unfortunately, much of it was brought about by hatred and evil – hatred over that last few layers of skin which determines its shade or of the belief system one follows, and the evil which justifies taking another’s life because of their chosen religion or profession. It’s very sad that in the time of season we celebrate life we should be advocating death. Once we stopped a world war to celebrate Christmas, but now…well, peace on earth seems but a quaint saying, and too many consider a successful Christmas as one where they got the biggest presents or threw the best party ever.

Fortunately, I can also conclude with:

In my case, this Christmas will probably provide neither of those worldly goals, but as I grow older I feel that I understand more about what Christmas is supposed to be. I’m not one to be prodded by the force-fed commercialism we now endure into what most consider “Christmas spirit” – in fact, when I was living on my own before I met Kim I didn’t even put up a Christmas tree – but in these final days before the holiday I can pause and take stock of the miracle and blessing of Christ’s birth and the Earth receiving its King.

Let’s all take stock of what we received in the city of David, and let’s take some time to be grateful for the gift of the company that family and friends can provide.

So from my rocking chair and laptop in Salisbury, Maryland, I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas. I’ll be back on Saturday.

Weekend of local rock volume 61

Delmarva Bike Week traditions are many: lots of bikes, loud pipes, and long nights in the local haunts and watering holes. But one tradition has a charitable side: each year the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition benefits from (Save the) Breast Fest, which this year marked its sixth anniversary.

As always there were raffles, drawings, and various people selling their wares to donate to the BreastFest cause, which has raised thousands of dollars over its run.

The lovely Iris pictured above is one of several volunteers who help the organizer, local musician, DJ, and breast cancer survivor Michele Hogsett.

Giving a big assist is her husband Jim, who emcees the event and helps with the details.

These bands and the sound man donated their time to the event. So how did they sound?

Leading off the classic rock fest was Front Page News, which got an A+ for expanding the stage.

Front Page News leaned on the older classics, although they threw a couple more recent ones in there. It was a good warmup and helped attract a crowd.

It was something Fuzzbox Piranha kept around as they kept the mainstream classics coming.

Then it was time for the ladies to hit the stage. Witches Brew has the distinction of playing all six editions of BreastFest. And if you weren’t aware of their presence, there’s just something about these guitars that say things will get a little heavier.

Obviously I’ve seen Susan and the boys enough to know most of their set pretty well, but they create a strong presence nonetheless. It’s not difficult with the songs they chose.

You’ve seen them here many times as Semiblind, but the recently-rechristened Something Grey took the fourth slot on the bill. They’ve been around long enough to know their audience, so the set was red meat classic rock punctuated with Jim’s guitar work.

We went back to a little harder edge with Chainbreak, although they had a fill-in drummer who incidentally is also a cancer survivor.

I think they were having a couple sound issues – “Flirtin’ With Disaster” was a mainly three-piece and I had a hard time hearing the lead guitar. It was better by the time they got to Led Zeppelin.

Finally, we got to Native Grave, who I really liked for one reason: they weren’t afraid to play a few originals. And yes, they were heavy because the guitarist is indeed the same one who plays for Witches Brew.

The true challenge for the 1 a.m. band is to keep the dwindling crowd there and Native Grave did a fine job in that regard – the place was still fairly crowded for last call.

Not only is the event a good way to raise awareness for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, but it seems to be holding its own as far as an attraction for the increasing number of people who like a little music with their Bike Week festivities. Considering BreastFest was up against Travis Tritt at the OC Bike Fest stage and Slaughter at the Soundwave Music Festival outside Berlin, not to mention entertainment at other area venues, they did pretty well.

Look for the seventh edition next year.

Weekend of local rock volume 55

Subtitled: the 5th Annual (Save the…) BreastFest edition.

I’ve been to all five of these events and I have to tell you this was probably the most successful. They finally got the two ingredients they needed to maximize success: a location in Ocean City and a Friday night slot during Bike Week – the last few StBFs were relegated to Thursday night.

But more on that in a bit. Let’s talk about the bands involved – by the way, all of them volunteered their time for the cause.

We arrived a little late so we only caught the tail end of Elwood. Hearing their last few songs, I was mentally kicking myself for not being ready to go a little sooner because they were solid. They also play a number of originals, which to me is a plus.

Chainbreak came on next and pleased the bikers with a collection of songs that included some Southern rock covers. If it’s Bike Week in Ocean City, you will hear something from Skynard, Molly Hatchet, or the Allman Brothers.

Veteran musician Lauren Glick and her Moodswingers were up next, and she belted out a number of old favorites.

Before I get much farther, I need to note the creator of the event, Michele Hogsett.

She’s the beauty and the brains behind the (Save the…) Breast Fest as a cancer survivor herself. And she shrewdly recruited her husband Jim to serve as the emcee of the event.

The reason I bring this up here is that they got a lot more busy once Lauren Glick cleared the stage. It was time for Semiblind.

Like Lauren Glick before them, Semiblind showed why they’re still a popular local group after nearly a decade of playing. I found this video from the event as the band jammed out on the Ted Nugent classic “Stranglehold.” That was their final song of the evening, but the rock wasn’t over by a long shot.

Like Semiblind, the next band has made all five StBF events, and they vowed to keep coming.

Now if you want to discuss a group which doesn’t compromise on being heavy, Witches Brew would be that group. They hammered out a lot of hard rock staples from the 70s through the 80s, and actually served as a good complement to the final band of the evening, Vivid Season.

If you add about a decade to Witches Brew’s playlist, you’d get Vivid Season.  They concentrate on songs put out during the last 15 years or so – not to say they don’t throw in older stuff, but it’s arguably the most current of the groups who played. (Semiblind will play some more recent stuff in their extended shows and as I noted, Elwood does quite a few originals.)

Yet while all the music was going on, my friend Melissa was selling raffle tickets. This WAS a fundraiser, you know.

Each of these little bags represented a raffle prize, with everything from free hotel accommodations to golf to apparel to tattoos and bike accessories in the mix. The list of sponsors grows a little each year.

Now I didn’t take any photos of the contestants in their tattoo competition, but I did snap a shot of these luscious cupcakes.

Speaking of luscious cupcakes, it should be noted the event sponsor did quite well this year.

The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition raised $1,609 from the event, which Michele said doubled their take from last year. Going from Thursday night to Friday night was a lucrative move for the group, for whom StBF now seems to be settling in as an annual occurrence at Pickles Pub.

The last photo I’m throwing in for fun.

If they can hold their spot, you may want to pencil in September 12, 2014 on your calendar for the 6th annual event. With an attitude like that, it should be a good time.

Weekend of local rock volume 49

This comes to you from the friendly confines of Ocean City, Maryland. If you couldn’t guess, it was OC Bike Week at Pickles Pub.

But I wasn’t there to celebrate the biker culture; instead I came out to one of my favorite charity events.

Yes, I am a tata lover. I admit it. But it was for a good cause, the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. Several people gave their time and effort to make this possible, including those who manned (womanned?) this table.

(See the front bag on the left side? I dropped most of my arm’s length of raffle tickets into the bag and won that prize. Third year in a row I’ve won something.)

Lovely Melissa was selling the 50/50 tickets.

I didn’t get a picture of Iris, who was manning her own camera for the best tattoo contest, but I did get a good picture of the ringleader of the event – who happens to be a fine singer and breast cancer survivor to boot. Michele Hogsett is the singer from Semiblind and also is a DJ who goes by the nom de plume DJ Siren, for obvious reasons.

She started the Save the Breast Fest three years ago and has gone through many trials and tribulations to make the event as successful as it is.

A lot of people were having a good time throughout the evening.

I do have one complaint of sorts, though. Jesse James Dupree, the lead singer of Jackyl, is now a whiskey maker. He had a promotional appearance next door at 8th Street Liquors (Pickles Pub and 8th Street Liquors are actually attached.)

It would have been nice if he’d popped over to say hello or at least donated a couple bottles of his product to the cause as a late raffle item. By several accounts he was quite interested in autographing the tatas. (Even if I had taken pictures, this is a family-friendly website.)

All right, that’s enough preliminaries. You can follow along with this handy band lineup.

As one may expect from this type of event, it was loaded with female-fronted bands. Lauren Glick and the Moodswingers batted leadoff.

I missed their first couple songs, but I did find out Lauren’s a great singer who can handle a little country or classic rock.

They yielded the stage to an up-and-coming band from Delaware called Elwood.

One of the younger groups playing the event, they mixed a couple bluesy originals in with their cover tunes. I thought they were the best band in the show.

Returning to the female-fronted pattern, Lipstick Molly came next.

The quintet played mostly rockers, but tossed in a little gunpowder and lead to liven things up for the modern country crowd.

The host band came next.

While Michele and Jim Hogsett have kept the band together for over six years, it seems like they have a different drummer and bassist every time I see them now. I was interested to hear they’ve gone back to their more “traditional” playlist, such as backing up ‘Black Magic Woman’ with ‘Magic Man.’

The second picture of Semiblind was taken during Jim’s solo on ‘Seven Nation Army,’ one which was so blisteringly hot you could fry eggs with it.

The composition and framing on this photo qualifies as my dumb luck shot of the night, and perhaps year.

Along with Semiblind, the only other band to play all four Save the Breast Fest events is Witches Brew.

I have to say that Susan Witchey (yes, that’s her name) personifies the biker chick, which makes her a natural for this show.

They also took care of the night’s first, long-neglected ‘social!’

Raise those glasses, ladies and gentlemen! And take some beads while you’re there – Susan really enjoyed passing them out between songs. I kind of wish they’d gotten to the last song in their written set, though – haven’t heard much Quiet Riot in awhile.

The final act eschewed cover songs, though. I liked that.

But I have a little trouble classifying Perception. Their artistic flair suggests their music would have a psychedelic strain, as you can see by the pictures of the guitar case and amplifier.

But when you actually hear them play, the very spare arrangements have more of a garage band feel. With these guys you can tell it’s three musicians as opposed to a band like Rush or even ZZ Top, where three musicians sound like four or five. They’re not heavy like Motorhead, either – these guys come with much more of an alternative sound and a “screw everything” attitude.

I have to wonder, though – I’m not a musician so I won’t hold myself out as an expert. But it seemed like on some of the middle songs they were either in a minor chord I don’t hear often or the guitar was a little out of tune. It was sort of strangely unpleasant.

Still, they put together some good songs which have gotten play on ‘Local Produce’ which was why I battled exhaustion from a long workday to stay around until 1 a.m. to hear them.

And the real good news is that the event raised almost $1,000 for the DBCC, which will go to help area women (and a few men) who are afflicted with breast cancer. All six bands should be commended, along with the local businesses which have supported this cause.

Weekend of local rock volume 41

At one time this was supposed to be two posts, but as it turned out – thanks to my faulty memory and other things which happened (or didn’t happen) over Delmarva Bike Week – this can fit comfortably into one post.

However, my camera misfortune actually opened the door for me to introduce you to a kind friend of mine who deserves a lot of credit. I’ll share that with you in a bit, but first I’d like to mention that this WLR post came from the recent (Save the) BreastFest that occurred a couple Thursdays back out at the Oasis Bar and Grill.

I was expecting an inside event, but instead the BreastFest was set up outside, amid some other Delmarva Bike Week vendors like these:

But you can tell which one was the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition tent – it was pretty in pink.

By the way, the woman seated on the hay bale with the gray shirt next to the crutches – this event is her baby. Michele Hogsett gets a lot of help but has organized this event over the last three years.

She lined up quite a few interesting items for the raffle. Believe it or not, I’ve won something two years in a row – seems like this is the only place Lady Luck smiles on me.

It’s a shame the weather wasn’t better and warmer; still I believe there were quite a few of these consumed.

This shot? Well, I added it to show that some guys have WAY too much time on their hands.

Okay, okay, now for the bands. As I said, I had camera issues and shortly after I took that last shot of the short bus, well, my batteries died and I didn’t have a spare set on me. I also had the occurrence of a longer-than-normal day of work, which meant I couldn’t get to the show until just before the third band took the stage. (My haste was probably why I forgot the batteries!)

Fortunately, there was an award-winning photographer there who I’ve come to know over the last few months through her work. She was there for the whole event and got some great band shots, so the photography credits henceforth go to Francie Davis/3roses photography.

The first band up was Fast Nixon.

By the accounts I heard these guys had a very tight sound. I had hoped to catch them live since they’re frequently played on the ‘Local Produce’ radio show but it was not to be.

Dust ‘n Bones took the stage next and I assume, based on my previous encounters with them, rocked the place with some strong cover tunes. They led into the point where I arrived, just in time for The Electric Co.

They took a folk-rock turn in their set, mixing in a few originals and showing their wide influence base of rock, folk, and even bluegrass. It may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but those who stuck around definitely enjoyed the show. Nate Clendenen of TEC was a second-time participant in the event, leading off last year with a solo gig.

The growing chill in the air reminded me of the upcoming Halloween season, and told me it was time for a dose of Witches Brew. (Clever segue, huh?)

The way Witches Brew rocked the stage, I’m sure they were quite toasty by the end. As usual, they pummeled out some hard rock covers from the catalog of groups like Judas Priest and Nirvana. They’re one of two bands which has played all three of these events, the other being the host group Semiblind.

Another band I’d looked forward to seeing was Deep Sea Research, which played next.

They may have been one of the most unique cover bands I’ve ever encountered (although they played one original tune too.) In a 45-minute set, they played only 3 or 4 full songs – the first 25 or 30 minutes was one continuous jam of various song snippets from the classic rock era. Just when you thought they may settle into a groove, they up and changed the thing around – I frankly enjoyed it.

Their last song was a Pink Floyd cover with a special guest.

Since Semiblind was next on the bill anyway, they asked guitarist Jim Hogsett to jam with them on their last song. And it made the transition between bands easier, too.

Even though Michele Hogsett was hobbling around on crutches helping to direct the BreastFest proceedings, Semiblind did their set with her gamely standing throughout. You can get a little more of the backstory behind the (Save the) Breastfest here and here. It’s definitely been a star-crossed event, having survived three venue changes including a last-minute cancellation.

With two new players on stage, they stuck to their bread-and-butter of classic rock covers – but Jim promised that exciting stuff is in the works with the new members. Stay tuned.

A band with a definite affinity for Van Halen is Fuzzbox Piranha. The music of those classic rockers was a staple of FP’s set, with a definite lean toward the days of David Lee Roth. But anyone who starts ‘Panama’ with the opening riff to ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ will get your attention.

Last but not least was Vivid Season.

A lot of what they played was those songs you’d find on a modern rock radio station, but they took a country detour for a couple tunes just for fun. Heck, those still out there were freezing by then so whatever worked to get up and dance, right? Some of the ladies were getting into it, that’s for sure.

I’m not sure just how much the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition raised from the event, although it figures that the first fall-like day with threatening weather happened to occur for this event. Sunny and 80 degrees would have likely doubled or tripled the turnout. But I’m sure Michele is undaunted and probably working out ways to make edition number four next year bigger and better.

I also want to point out that Francie Davis was most helpful and thank her for permission to use her work. She has a full album of the event, which includes many more band shots that I didn’t include here. Francie is probably best known, though, for her award-winning nature photos, with prints available for sale. Check her site out!