Weekend of local rock volume 75

While I have seen live acts here and there over the last several months, I didn’t feel like I had enough of a flavor to write a quality WLR post. I like to catch a good selection of songs that have my attention, so seeing a band in passing, such as at a couple recent Third Fridays, doesn’t really make the cut.

My intention last Friday was to arrive early enough to catch the back half of The Permilla Project as they opened up for the Paul Reed Smith Band. Unfortunately we finally made it there just as TPP was concluding their set, so we heard it – and they sounded really good – but we didn’t see it.

What that meant was we had to endure a (thankfully short) changeover which featured the tunes (and I use the word loosely) dished out by a DJ team that had two strikes against it: one, they were playing a horrible mix of music and, two, they had the most obnoxious ID loop that they played all too frequently. Look, I know you want people to know who you are but I really don’t need to hear it about every 60-90 seconds. And don’t try to come off all ghetto when we can see you’re a couple white guys.

If it’s cultural appropriation you want, done well, then you should have come to see the band. Then again, is it appropriation when the party is evenly split between races and the female lead singer is balanced out by the older white guy namesake of the band?

I used this photo as the tease the other night, but this is most of the Paul Reed Smith Band at our downtown amphitheater.

There’s no doubt PRS crafts a fine guitar, or so I am told, but he can certainly play the instrument, too. And the best part was that he looked and sounded like he was having a lot of fun. This wasn’t just a gig he was doing as stop 23 on a 40-city tour.

I’m what you would consider a recovering ’80’s hair metal fan, and although my musical horizons have been expanded quite a bit by doing four-plus years of record reviews, I still love my blues-based music. PRS had a heaping helping thanks to the good rhythm section provided by the Grainger brothers. (Besides PRS and the Graingers, the rest of the band is Michael Ault and Bill Nelson on guitars, and Mia Samone as the lead singer you just can’t miss – and not because of her electric-blue hair.)

Unlike a lot of other bands which play local events, the PRS band stayed away from doing cover songs – one exception was a long, drawn-out version of B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone – and instead played a variety of original songs. Presumably these came from the two albums PRS has put together over the years, 2011’s self-titled release and 2017’s Time To Testify.

(Interesting note in looking up the band’s history: they are a very big hit in China, of all places. I never thought of China as a nation that liked American blues, but it goes to show that music is a global language.)

Yet the beauty of the band came in how restrained the leader was. Obviously everyone knows there’s a virtuoso-grade guitar player on stage, and certainly he played an outstanding lead guitar where needed. But to his credit PRS didn’t make the music about him, which is probably why the band seemed to work together very well. As they are not a constantly touring band, I think that keeps them more fresh when they do play out.

A closer view of the Paul Reed Smith Band playing at last weekend’s Downtown Salisbury Festival. Worth checking out if you’re in the area.

I’m certain that the PRS band sent the folks hope happy – and not just because they were giving away copies of their CD’s to some lucky fans. I suspect they may be back for another event in the coming months because they probably gained quite a few fans in Salisbury.

Thoughts on the Downtown Salisbury Festival 2019

It used to be one of three events I looked forward to; the trio of spring harbingers which came and went each April: opening night for the Shorebirds, Pork in the Park, and the Salisbury Festival to wrap up the month. Regarding the latter two, I made it to most of those over the last decade of their runs, missing a few because of prior engagements but generally having a good time. Pork in the Park came to an inglorious end a couple years ago when the county decided to focus its efforts on other events.

By that same token, after its 2015 rendition the Salisbury Festival went on hiatus, or in the description of the new incarnation, the concept was “retired.” In its place last year, moved back on the calendar to a new early June timeframe, was the newly-rechristened Downtown Salisbury Festival. Unfortunately, the 2018 event was marred by the same rainy weather which seemed to dog us every weekend last year.

While I attended last year’s event on Saturday, with the vendors strung along a couple blocks of East Main Street, this year our one opportunity to show up was Friday night. And thanks to construction along East Main Street as well as the completion last summer of the riverside amphitheater, the venue was set up a lot differently.

Instead of their traditional placement in Lot 10 or closer to the library, this time the rides were placed across the river from the amphitheater. To me that made things more festive.

The food court pretty much stayed where it has always been, and the selection wasn’t too bad. (We decided on dinner at a different venue, though. *Read to the end for a mini restaurant review.)

Some of the selections in the food court. It used to be just booths and tents – for many years the Wicomico County Republican Club was a staple there selling hamburgers and hotdogs right off the grill – but now it’s a fair number of food trucks, too.
More of the food court. It was a cloudy but not overly hot Friday night, so I thought the crowd was a little on the modest side.

I would have thought there would be a few more people down there, although the threat of rain may have dampened things a tad bit.

But because I was there on Friday night, all of the action was centered around the riverwalk. It made for a nice overall photo from the pedestrian bridge.

Looking eastward from the pedestrian bridge toward the amphitheater. This was the crowd as The Permilla Project was wrapping up.

In years past, I remember going to the old Salisbury Festival a couple of times on a Friday night and this was where the musical stage was set for that particular party. Now that’s become the main stage as opposed to using the steps of the Government Office Building or the makeshift space in the Plaza. So I gotta hand it to the city: the amphitheater is truly a nice venue to watch this size of show. There were probably 200-300 people there – maybe more – but it didn’t seem overly crowded at all. It probably could have (and should have given the talent level of the performers) held twice or thrice that many just fine.

So the question I have for anyone who read this and remembers last year: were there the same number and quality of vendors on Saturday? I missed it this year because of a previous engagement, but I thought it was misleading that the maps showed vendors but didn’t point out they were only there on Saturday (and maybe Sunday, although that was pretty much a washout.) In that respect, though, they really haven’t departed from the Salisbury Festival tradition – all they have done is moved the venue out of the Plaza and over to the riverfront. I suppose this works well for making it different from Third Friday.

Still I think the June date is a bit problematic. I’m not sure what the target market is for this event, but at least this year they picked a weekend that wasn’t crowded by high school graduations. On the other hand, we are also into beach time as well as vacations for the family. While the weather wasn’t as cooperative, I think as a regional event this always worked better in late April. If the idea is a little bit lower-key event, then June is okay.

The DSF wasn’t hurting for sponsors, at least. But there are a number of charitable and government entities here as opposed to local businesses. That’s why I wish I knew what vendor turnout was like.

I’m not done with the posts on this, though. Most of the reason I stuck around was to bring back a series dormant for too long. Here’s a hint.

Headlining Friday night was the Paul Reed Smith band. This weekend will feature a brand new edition of Weekend of Local Rock. Yeah, it’s been awhile!

Once they get through with remaking downtown perhaps this festival will get back to its peak, just like the Salisbury Festival did in the mid-aughts. (They had some great local bands there, to be sure.) I know a lot of the air gets sucked out of the lower-tier events because the city of Salisbury is concentrating on the National Folk Festival and its post-2020 successor but this is one worth fighting for if they can make a few tweaks.

*Oh, and by the way: I almost hate to say this because we literally pretty much had the run of the place by the time we left, but if you want to try something good, the new Salisbury Pit n’ Pub was excellent. It’s right by the old Monkey Barrel (site of several renditions of WLR) across from SU. We actually ate at the 28th Street OC location on a church couples’ retreat over last winter so we were glad to see one opened here. It definitely made me miss Pork in the Park.

Weekend of local rock volume 74

This will be a unique post in the WLR annals because I’m going to depart from chronological order.

As I noted the other day in discussing the AWF, I wasn’t there as long as I had been in the past – so out of six bands listed here I only saw the last two.

By the schedule in front of me, we came while The Haymans were playing.

These guys really looked cold. “Yeah, a ‘second season’ outdoor show – that should be fine!” Uh-huh.

While this duo plays often about town, this was the first time I saw The Haymans. I call it a duo because there’s two of them, but they also incorporate a backing track into their set to provide the rhythm section. That was a bit distracting and somewhat a bummer because I like watching musicians play.

Now if you liked watching a lot of women who had sampled the grape dance, this band was just the ticket.

I don’t know how many consecutive years they’ve done it, but I’m certain that some people go to the AWF on Sunday just to see On The Edge close it out.

If it was that “funky music” recorded between oh, maybe 1964 and 1994, and you can dance to it, On The Edge most likely plays it. And the fun part (besides watching the lead singer test out the limits of his wireless microphone circulating through the crowd) was seeing the migration up front.

This is almost the same shot I used Friday to show where everyone was at 3:00. They were waiting to dance it off.

The guy in the red Phillies regalia by the sound board? Yeah, he’s the singer next to the few dozen already shaking their groove thing. Pay attention to the picnic table at photo right.

Fast forward about a half-hour…

You probably couldn’t walk through up front by this point. Just two left at the table…

…and now they’re gone too. Had to join the rest of their crew.

On the way out I met up with Jim Mathias, who was coming in to sing with these guys. He thanked me for being engaged (presumably in the political realm) so I thank him for supporting local music, which is much better for the sanity in this current climate.

Maybe this current climate needs a dose of part 2 of this piece. As I said, I usually work in chronological order but in this case I saved the best for last. I’ve often bent the “local rock” definition to fit national acts playing local shows, and the AWF weekend kicked off with a trio of Christian artists at the Civic Center. Here are some of my favorite shots from the concert featuring MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, and Tim Timmons.

Timmons was the opening act, and while he only played three songs he got some assistance from the headliners at the end.

First up was Tim Timmons, a walking miracle: he was given five years to live with his cancer 14 years ago.

A little help from his friends.

Tenth Avenue North is a high-energy group. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t get a good shot of the singer milling through the crowd.

I really only got one good shot of Tenth Avenue North, but this was a cool moment too.

I actually liked them a shade more than I did MercyMe, but to each his or her own.

This was from the opening song MercyMe did.

Maybe the best shot I got all night comes from MercyMe.

We ended up doing the Happy Dance to close out the night. It was a long show – 7:30 until almost 11.

They were doing the Happy Dance in the Civic Center as the confetti blasted out.

So that, folks, was the weekend in local rock.

Weekend of local rock volume 73

For this installment I return with a look at some of the music from the Good Beer Festival. Unfortunately I missed the more enticing (to me) half of the music on Friday evening – a lineup that featured The Permilla Project, Anthony Calamoneri, Uprizing, and Petting Hendrix.

These festivals always provide a helpful musical guide. It makes the job of a blogger so much easier.

So the first act of my day there was the solo artist Winship.

Winship is a solo artist, but he set a pretty good mood for beer tasting.

What I will say about him is that he was good, but not particularly memorable good. I think part of that was getting my food while he was playing, which meant I wasn’t always close by the stage. He would have been a good fit for the old “bar stage,” which used to be a home for acoustic acts before they consolidated stages. I guess I’ll go with “elevated but easygoing style.”

Next up was the band billed as the Mark DeRose Band.

The sign said Mark DeRose Band, but Mark said it was Dreadnought Brigade. I like that better anyway.

Dreadnought Brigade was the band I actually got to sit down and listen to, and I enjoyed them. While they did a sampling of originals, they made a lot of friends by putting a good spin on classics like The Way It Is (the old Bruce Hornsby song), Jet Airliner (Steve Miller) and a neat version of the Johnny Cash tune Ring of Fire.

The next band may have grown up listening to Johnny Cash, but they were far more modern.

I was talking to someone when Six Pack Rodeo came out. If the name didn’t give them away, the hats did.

I gotta be honest with you…modern country isn’t my cup of tea. They went over with me like a can of Bud Light would in the middle of this beer festival. Yeah, I remember Six Pack Rodeo playing a Skynard cover but I had pretty much tuned them out by the time I left. I’m sure they’re nice guys and solid musicians but I wasn’t into it.

Like I said, Friday presented the better musical options, although as part of what seemed like excessive cost cutting they dropped a half-hour of music off each day of the GBF (not to mention the dual stages a couple years back.) But one thing I can say is that they avoided using overly local bands for the Saturday show as two hailed from Virginia and one from Pennsylvania. (Speaking of bands from the Keystone State, it’s a shame that Smokin’ Gunnz is no more because they would have filled that last slot really well.)

So the next WLR installment for tomorrow talks about the Autumn Wine Festival, but I will have a special (and appropriate for the day) added surprise.

Weekend of local rock volume 72

Normally this (more and more) occasional series talks about local groups in a local setting, but it’s not unprecedented for me to discuss a group that’s from outside our region. Such is the case with the subject of this particular volume, which featured a new venue to me and a somewhat different style than I’m used to. But it all worked out in the end.

Let’s start with a little bit of backstory. A few weeks back 88.7 The Bridge (a local Christian music radio station) began promoting an outdoor concert which would be held at Trap Pond State Park just outside Laurel, Delaware. As it turns out, this was just one of a weekly series of concerts the park hosts there each Saturday night, weather permitting. (Other Delaware state parks have concerts on other nights of the week.) So this was a chance for the station to come out and greet some of their listeners, too.

The Bridge had its van, tent, and swag all set to go. Certainly they were pleased with the results.

Perhaps it was an opportunity or just happenstance, but the group Consumed By Fire decided to come up from their native Oklahoma to play this one-off show. And I would have to say it was a rousing success, based on the crowd.

Not surprisingly, at a gathering of Christians at dinnertime the Chick-fil-A line was long.

This isn’t the best crowd shot I had, either. According to The Bridge, over a thousand people were at this show.

About a half-hour into the show I went to the front (stage right) and took this shot.

To warm the crowd up, Mark Dickey of The Bridge went up to introduce the band and toss out some spare swag.

The Bridge’s Mark Dickey came up to introduce the band, which started right on time.

The band itself is a trio of brothers, with the oldest being lead guitarist Joshua Ward.

Lead guitarist Joshua Ward. He was sort of the Bill Wyman of the group – then again, he is the oldest.

Jordan Ward is normally the drummer, but he also came out from behind the kit for reasons I’ll get into in a bit.

Jordan started out behind the drums, but took center stage when it was time to deliver the message.

You would know these three are children of a pastor once you heard them get going. Most outspoken was middle brother Jordan.

Youngest is keyboardist and acoustic man Caleb Ward.

For the first several songs Caleb sang from behind the keyboard.

Then for the acoustic part of the set, he made the band a two-guitar trio.

Much of what they played came off their latest release “Giving Over,” which came out in 2016. The band also did an EP a year earlier called “Lean On Me,” the title track of which was the song that led off the show.

As I alluded to in the caption for Caleb above, the first five songs or so were done with him on keyboard before Caleb shifted to acoustic guitar and Jordan stepped out to play a beat box.

A shot of the full band. This photo is by Kim Corkran.

After a trio of songs, including one with a great story behind it called Hold The Rain, we found out that preaching is a talent that can be passed on.

The message was from Hebrews 8, which coincidentally was also the subject of our sermon at my church last week – it’s the chapter that describes the new covenant between man and God.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all that know me, from the least to the greatest.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:10-13, KJV)

It’s interesting how that works, and becomes another sign of the day’s blessings and presence.

First of all, for the entire week beforehand they were calling for showers and thunderstorms for most of that Saturday. It did rain a little that day and threatened for much of the afternoon, but by the time we left for the show it was a very pleasant evening. Wonder why?

Next, after we arrived and got settled in, we chatted with our “neighbors” who were sitting next to us. Since the lady had brought the umbrella, I commented to this complete stranger “well, now we don’t have to worry about Murphy’s Law.” Ask yourself what the odds are of their last name actually being… Murphy? With that icebreaker out of the way, we found out my wife and her had another commonality as they are both nurses.

Maybe the only bad thing about the show was its relative briefness – Consumed By Fire was done before 7:45 after a 6:30 start. But they made up for it by hanging out at a crowded merch table.

Lot of shorts, CDs, and bags were sold from this table. I suspect gas money back to Oklahoma was no problem.

So out of all this we got some nice swag, my wife has a photo with and autographed CD from the band, we made a couple new friends, and – most importantly – according to The Bridge over 20 people came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior as a result of the show. In terms of achievement, that is a good evening all around because the people went home happy.

Weekend of local rock volume 71

To tell you how long I have been out of circulation regarding the local music scene, consider this is my first WLR post in over a year. Sometimes things in life change, and honestly I haven’t been in the same frame of mind in the last few years as I was when I built up a lot of this series.

But Kim and I had an invite we decided to take and as it developed I decided a post was in order. The band in question was a band I’ve seen 3/4 of on several different occasions, the most recent at the last (to date, anyway) Concert for a Random Soldier held in 2016. (That event wasn’t held in 2017 due to a venue issue – otherwise I would have done a WLR sooner.)

So here we were, traveling an hour to hang with a batch of Kim’s co-workers and friends at this nice place.

I’ll add more commentary about the venue at the end, but let me first introduce you to a band you probably already know if you’re from the area, Nothin’ But Trouble.

There are many, many hundreds of bands around the country who toil on a nightly basis playing other peoples’ songs. But the ones who stick out in your mind are the ones that play things you may not hear every day and play them well – or, they play a song you don’t know too much about and make it entertaining. The point where I decided to make this a post was the latter.

In the seldom-played depths of my CD collection is the second release from BulletBoys, called “Freakshow.” (That was the follow-up to the self-titled debut with Smooth Up In Ya.) On it is a song called Talk To Your Daughter which, as I rapidly figured out from the fact these guys were playing it, wasn’t written by them. (It was written in the 1950s by blues guitarist J.B. Lenoir.) There are literally thousands of songs out there like this a band could adopt as their own, and NBT took a few for themselves. Hey, if George Thorogood can do it…actually, there was someone there last night with a GT shirt on.

Then when they sang one of my favorite opening lyric lines in rock: “I pulled into Nazareth/I was feelin’ ’bout a half past dead” (a song from The Band called The Weight) I figured this would be an enjoyable evening. A late dinner turned into most of their three-hour scheduled gig with no break and songs like Crossroads (with a slow-tempo open), Folsom Prison Blues interlaced with Man Of Constant Sorrow, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Pride And Joy, and so forth. No doubt: these weren’t paint-by-numbers renditions.

So count me in as a fan. And Kim said afterward “I wondered if you would like that type of music.” Well, since rock and metal are predominantly blues-based, of course I would. They’ve been stealing the chords and progressions for a half-century or more.

I don’t know if this belongs to the venue or the band, but the sound was well-done. It was audible but you could talk at your table without screaming, and we were basically 40 feet from the stage. They had a series of ceiling-mounted acoustic dampeners which helped because the place is pretty much hard-surfaced otherwise.

The other selling point to Bethany Blues?

As I pointed out on social media, any place that has 16 Mile Blues Golden Ale on tap is a winner in my book. The food was good, too.

So who knows? Maybe I won’t go a year until my next installment – although, in the interest of full disclosure, my recent phone issues negated a planned post on bands at the Good Beer Festival last month.

Weekend of local rock volume 70

As I did from last month, I’m building on 3rd Friday to provide another edition of WLR. But in this installment I’ll profile a local group doing good through music.

The “official” 3rd Friday group playing on the Plaza stage was a Salisbury University-based group called The Benchwarmers, who I would say had more of a jazz feel than straight up rock. But they won the right to play through a battle of the bands, so here they were.

I still haven’t figured out the idea of the painting being created behind the group, but to each his or her own, I guess.

Now if you stood in just the right spot, you could hear the Plaza stage in one ear while Alex & Shiloh played in the other one, outside at Roadie Joe’s.

The management at Roadie Joe’s has definitely picked up on the concept of having outside live music during 3rd Friday and bringing in business, as the outside tables are generally filled. (Kim and I ate there last month, as I noted in WLR 69.) It’s nice because if the main stage doesn’t strike your fancy you can browse on over to that end of the Plaza.

I didn’t stay for the Roadie Joe’s nightcap act this time because I knew I would be back downtown the next night for a benefit called “Fire Up the Bands,” sponsored by the Maryland-8 chapter of Hogs and Heroes, a motorcycling group dedicated to supporting military and first responders.

While there were originally three bands on the bill, a late change cut things down to two. Meanwhile, there was a silent auction going on and the leadership of Hogs and Heroes was giving away door prizes between bands.

But the evening began with a group I had just seen at the Concert for a Random Soldier a couple months back, Scrapple.

After noting the sudden passing of Lewes firefighter Tim McClanahan in a training accident, Scrapple played a hard-rocking set that featured songs like the Black Crowes’ Remedy, Love Removal Machine from The Cult, Godsmack’s Keep Away, and Pearl Jam’s Even Flow, just to name a few. They also found time for an original song of theirs, which I thought was cool.

Once Scrapple finished, I went outside to stretch my legs, see some bikes, and watch the sun set over a cloudy downtown. There was a rain shower that passed harmlessly by during the show.

The second band on the bill was Lime Green, which I know has a number of originals to its credit based on their online presence. But they chose to play just one, their most recent called Pemberton Park.

Yet Lime Green still had a lot of unique musical ideas, like buttressing the old Pink Panther Theme into Pink Floyd, playing forgotten classics like The Ballad of Curtis Loew by Lynard Skynard or Snortin’ Whiskey by the Pat Travers Band, and absolutely blowing me away with their closer originally done by Rush. I never thought I would hear the first part of 2112 done as a cover, but they did Overture/The Temples of Syrinx. Damn, that was cool. I’m still smiling thinking about it.

Because the original intention was to have three bands, Scrapple came out and played a second set that started with Rush as well. But as they did when I saw them previously, they took Working Man and transitioned it into War Pigs by Black Sabbath. Their second set was heavier and more modern, with songs from Buckcherry, Marilyn Manson, Staind, and Tool among the selections.

But they got a little help when they went retro blues and did One Way Out, a song made popular by the Allman Brothers.

There was also a fun drum solo toward the end.

If I have one thing to say about Headquarters Live as a venue, though, I have to say that taking pictures in there is a royal pain with a cell phone camera. Unless you catch the lights just right, they come out awful. The best pics I had were with the doors open when it was still light out, which is why you get one photo of Lime Green.

But my night wasn’t done. A friend of mine has been bugging me to see his band, so I went back over to Roadie Joe’s to catch Copious Poor.

While they admitted they needed to get a sound person, the selection of songs was pretty good. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of a song I have occasionally used the video from on this site, Bound for the Floor by Local H. (You may see it again November 9.)

So once again it was a good weekend of local rock for firefighters that can always use a helping hand. It reminded me that local bands are among the quickest to respond when there’s a need to lend their talents for a good cause – or just to make an evening a little better.

Weekend of local rock volume 69

Unlike a number of the most recent previous renditions for this long-running series, this will feature four performers at three different venues in and around downtown Salisbury on consecutive days last weekend. It would have been five but the featured group from the local Academy of Music Performance was just wrapping up when we arrived.

So I wasn’t intending to do a WLR when we decided to eat outside at Roadie Joe’s afterward, but it turned out Kaleb Brown was playing and you know me – I like listening to music and taking pictures.

So it was just Kaleb, his guitar, and his beatbox (that would drive some of the dogs still around from 3rd Friday crazy) and that reggae sound he likes to do. Good dinner music on a lovely summer evening.

I think the band wasn’t supposed to start until 10 but they got an early start. We had just finished our dinner and were ready to leave when we decided to stay for a couple songs from Naked Nation that turned into half a set.

Naked Nation seemed to have a little different playlist than other cover bands, doing a wide range of songs that are not really classic rock and range more toward Top 40 alternative stuff. But the people were getting into it.

So Saturday came and I decided to head back downtown for the Salisbury Shore Craft Beer Festival. Headlining the event was Eastern Electric.

Now I like Eastern Electric, but it didn’t dawn on me that there was a band also playing in Headquarters Live called Billy Earl and the Pink Flamingos. So I checked out the location and the band.

Admittedly, their style of music isn’t my cup of tea – but it does allow them to put a different flavor on songs like Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. They can still make it sound hauntingly lonely.

Meanwhile, back at the Beer Fest Eastern Electric was doing their set mixing covers from several eras and some originals.

One of those was their closing song (and one I really like) called To Heaven Before The Devil. “I hope to get to Heaven/Before the Devil knows I’m dead.” It’s a rollicking mix of rock, blues, and country that represents the band pretty well. And as Eastern Electric singer Nate Clendenen put it, last Saturday was a nice occasion to hang out downtown – they’ve been trying to redevelop it “since I was in fifth or sixth grade” and it finally is taking root.

So it was truly a weekend of local rock, as all the bands came from this part of Delmarva. It’s worth reminding people that our little corner of the world has musical talent. All it needs now is the audience to appreciate it.

Weekend of local rock volume 67

Over the years I’ve noticed the local music community is more than willing to help out and I’ve been to several of these benefits over the years. But last Saturday it was time to assist one of their own and pay tribute to a special woman who was a great example of this willingness to help out her community.

In December Michele Hogsett finished her seven-year battle with breast cancer. Some may know her as the lead singer of Semiblind and the duo Dog & Butterfly, others as DJ Siren, and still others as the woman who put together the annual (Save the) BreastFest until this past year when she became too ill to continue. But four bands volunteered their time to help her husband Jim out with all the expenses incurred.

The board I began the post with was one of several that were placed in the venue. They are a great memorial in photos to Michele’s life so I’ll use them to divide this piece up.

I got there about a half-hour late, so I arrived about halfway through Fish Whistle’s set.

The trio, which has a former member of Semiblind in drummer Mike Edgerton, played a set heavy with Pink Floyd and Van Halen, among a host of other favorites. They set a good tone for the rest of the show.

If you can’t read the banner behind them, I’ll let you know Black Tide Rising was the next band up.

They were a little heavier on 1970s stuff, but they had help from Susan Witchey (who sings for the band Witches Brew) on the old Grand Funk Railroad classic I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home).

BTR also included some songs you don’t hear every day, such as Silent Running by Mike & the Mechanics. It was funny because he said he’d buy a drink for anyone who knew the song – I could remember the title but had to Google the band.

The Breakers were the penultimate band for the evening. They went back another decade, starting out with a Beatles song. Soon after, Susan was helping them out with much of the set.

Speaking of cool cover tunes, I seem to recall their last song was Hymn 43 by Jethro Tull. Years ago a friend of mine gave me the record – still have that vinyl somewhere in a closet.

There were a few cool things available in a silent auction, too.

Between these and the 50/50 raffles, there was a nice amount raised. During the breaks, we also heard from some friends of Michele and Jim who gave testimonials to her character. One piece of news that cheered me was the vow to bring back BreastFest after last year’s hiatus. It was a great part of Delmarva Bike Week and had become a recognized auxiliary event.

The last band of the night was Lime Green. Is this shot rock and roll or what?

I just love that dry ice fog machine.

I will also tell you that the lighting and sound at the OC House of Rock was very well done. They really, really loved that green lighting for Lime Green (naturally.)

Lime Green did a veritable potpourri of songs, everything from TLC’s Waterfalls to Folsom Prison Blues. Susan jumped in for some on their set as well.

They also played an original they’re planning on shooting a video for this spring at Pemberton Park outside Salisbury. So what is it called? Pemberton Park, of course.

Afterward, a lot of people stuck around to wish Michele’s husband Jim well. Jim didn’t bring his guitar for this show, but I’m hopeful he can carry on with his music as the grieving process continues. While Semiblind was better known as a cover band, Jim and Michele wrote and recorded a number of originals as well. Maybe Michele’s legacy can carry on as the inspiration for new music.

No use letting cancer defeat two talents, I say.

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 66

(As opposed to Order 6-D6, a long-defunct local group I really liked.)

I’m not going to stretch the definition of local too much with this much more brief look back at the Autumn Wine Festival, but it will do a lot of bending to the rock part. Here’s the six-band lineup over the two days.

We  got things underway with alex&shiloh, who perhaps were the most conventional acoustic group there insofar as style and playlist. I think they have done the bar stage at the Good Beer Festival, which is a handy measuring stick for that sort of thing. You’ll have to deal with the sun-splashed photos – the stage faces more or less northwest so the sun is behind it most of the day.

They yielded to the familiar local strains of Randy Lee Ashcraft. He’s been around long enough to become a legend around these parts by being not quite country but not so much rock, either. Just good listening, I guess.

Last up on a pleasant Saturday was Front Page News, which cranked out a number of familiar tunes.

They had the biggest crowd of the weekend.

Sunday started with its perennial opening act, the Backfin Banjo Band. They always start out with standards and take requests.

Instead of playing the middle on Saturday as they did last year, Such Fools played their unique style on Sunday.

We wrapped things up with the danceable On The Edge, and we needed something to dance to just to stay warm as the temperature struggled to get above 50 and we endured a couple brief showers while they were up.

Originally I thought the Sunday lineup was exactly the same as last year, but upon further review I found Such Fools switched days. Still, out of six bands three were holdovers from 2014. In fact, it seems like the turnover for the event is shrinking, and the last non-local act they took a chance with was Tim Reynolds and TR3 two years ago. Certainly I’m the first to support local music, but variety is the spice of life and the AWF used to bring in some interesting acts – onetime Bad Company touring bassist Paul Cullen played here a few years back, as I recall.

By design the Autumn Wine Festival features many of the same Maryland-based vineyards year after year. But does it have to keep the same bands, too?

Weekend of local rock volume 65

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, and what once was a monthly (or sometimes weekly) feature is down to two or three a year. As a guy I know would say, that’s a shame.

I also know it’s unusual to have WLR on a weekday, but this weekend I’m going to take a break from politics and do an all-music weekend – WLR today and Sunday sandwiching a music review tomorrow. Next week you may get the treat of two because I have a backlog of music to review. Besides a somewhat humdrum municipal election, it’s a quiet political time right now.

I’m starting with an event that’s become somewhat of a musical dynamo thanks to its two-stage setup, the Good Beer Festival. It featured twelve acts, with the bar stage primarily hosting acoustic acts while the main stage had full bands.

Bear in mind I also work the event so I don’t get to hear every song. Some of these are more detailed than others, but I always like to lead with the schedule to help keep track.

So I begin with the acoustic stylings of Phil Portier, who opened up on the bar stage. I will say I knew the Joe Jackson song he opened with so I could insert the “where?” at the proper place.

On the other end as Phil wrapped up was Paper To Planes, an acoustic duo hailing all the way from Kansas City.

I believe Don Adler was playing the GBF for the second or third time. But I didn’t get to see him play the unusual instrument at his feet.

Sam Birchfield was the first group where I noticed the merch table.

The Coteries at the bar stage also had merch. The New Jersey-based trio was disappointed they didn’t get to enjoy more of the event because of New Jersey traffic. They have several shows set up, which you’ll see if you look closely.

Wrapping up things on Saturday were local favorites Uprizing.

Having a local group to close in the prime slot was a little unusual. Previously they had reserved it for an up-and-coming band touring the region. I’m not sure if this will be a trend, but I liked the old approach better.

Whiskeybelly got Sunday started with an acoustic/electric combo – and a couple broken strings, which they laughed about.

On the other side, the GBF went country with the local group Haleytown – population 5. (The sign is a neat touch.)

Chris Diller set CDs and stickers at each table, and hoped people would fill the guitar case.

It always intrigues me how a guy can play so many instruments at once – needless to say, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

On the main stage was the group I thought stole the show, Sub-Radio Standard. It was the group I would have expected to close out Saturday.

Ken Wenzel was the headliner, if you will, of the bar stage. He played songs off the CD.

The Will Overman Band did their country best to wrap things up. I wish I had slipped around backstage to get a photo of “Big Red” – a 1970 Chevy Suburban they tour in.

So I was a little loose with the definition of “rock” in this one. Next year may be the year to just put the rock bands on Saturday and the country stuff on Sunday, since it seems to be getting about equal billing now.

On Sunday I look at the music from the Autumn Wine Festival.