Friday, May 29, 2009


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THE DERAILERS at Shady Grove 5-28-09

First time seeing these guys and it was their "unplugged" version, they said. So, instead of a 5 piece band with keyboards and steel we got a 3 piece guitar, bass and drums. That was a little disappointing for me.
Someone said they've been described as "Buck Owens meets The Beatles." That wound me up as I'm a big Beatles fan and thought that might be fun. I was thinking like some early Beatles stuff when they were doing Carl Perkins, "Honey Don't" etc...
I didn't hear any Beatles. I heard Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, a little Jerry Lee Lewis. They are a rockabilly band, I would say. And a good one.
However, the show was a bit dull. Pretty much every song was preceded by "this is off our fill in the blank record album, or it was written for so and so or it is about this or that. Talk about a complete lack of pacing a show. Start and stop, Start and stop. Never picked up any steam.
The lead guitar player is also the lead singer. He's really good at both. Great voice and to handle lead guitar while singing like he does, is pretty rare to see. Very fun to watch. They are all accomplished musicians and the bass player does some fine harmonizing.
I didn't feel there was much originality in their music and they also did a bunch of covers. It was kind of like being at your local bar on a Friday night when they have a classics band come in for the masses. Be Bop A Lula, Johnny B. Goode, that type of stuff.
So, overall, fun stuff but I wouldn't go out of my way to see them again.
The crowd was the smallest of the year. Probably because Bob Schneider was down the street, playing at Threadgill's. Therefore, the people who arrive closer to show time and always have to sit on the lawn or stand in the back, were able to get seats up front. They talked loudly through every song, even after people asked them to quiet down. Bimbos and Bimbettes. The world is full of them. They are always the folks who clap the loudest after each song, too. What idiots.
Lastly, our great waiter, Brad, is no longer there on Thursday nights! He got an internship which cuts into his Thursday. Good for him, sad for us. We will miss him. Our new guy, Peter, seems to be a good replacement. He had a sign on the back of his shirt that said "husband #5." All the wait staff had names last night, like Sandra Dee, Tommy Lee Jones, Elizabeth Taylor. Peter said he was Elizabeth's 5th husband. He didn't know who that would be. I looked it up and it was Richard Burton when they married in 1964. Peter, a young guy, had no clue as to who Richard was! We filled him in. He felt the alcoholic part fit him pretty well and loved the distinguished British actor description also.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


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JON DEE GRAHAM and KELLY WILLIS at The Gallery 5-24-09

The Gallery is the upstairs portion of the legendary Continental Club. I never knew it existed. Jon Dee plays the Continental Club every Wednesday when he is in town. He decided to start this weekly Sunday night series at The Gallery called Jon Dee Graham and Friends. He brings in a guest each week and they talk, tell stories, play a song, talk, tell stories, play a song...get the idea? This is a very tiny space, according to the fire marshall there is room for 49 people. There are sofas, chairs, a tiny bar and you are basically sitting on top of them! This is pretty darn neat, let me tell ya.
So far, Jon Dee has had Alejandro Escovedo, Ray Benson, Bruce Robison, to name a few. I would have loved seeing them all. A guy sat next to me who had been at the Alejandro show. He raved. Said the story telling is the best thing. You get to hear all of this behind the scenes stuff in the music business that is totally fascinating.
After seeing the show myself, I have to agree. It's all the things you never hear when you go to a concert that makes this intimate show so cool.
Number 1, I think Jon Dee likes to talk more then he likes to play! And that's ok because he tells great stories. He's a really funny guy. He just started chatting with Kelly about parenting and they were off and running. Jon Dee said "you know you're a parent when, as a musician, you go on the road to get some rest." Then Kelly passed around a series of photos of her 4 kids. For those of you who don't know, Kelly is married to the GREAT SONGWRITER Bruce Robison. They have 4 kids, an 8 year old, a set of 6 year old twins and a 3 year old. Suffice to say, something had to give and unfortunately for us fans, it's been Kelly's career. She hasn't been touring and rarely performs these days, except private parties around town, she said. Another reason why I wanted to get to this show. I love listening to Kelly sing and play, so when she does appear in a public performance in the Austin area, I try to get there.
Anyway, the pictures she passed around of the kids were hilarious. She talked about the difficulty of raising a family and trying to have a music career and being on the road. Kelly also said things were getting easier at home until 2 weeks ago when Bruce brought home a puppy. She said she was ready to kill him for that!
They also talked about their days playing together as Jon Dee, back in the early to mid-90's, was her lead guitarist. I did not know that. So, they told war stories about the road days. There was much laughter. We learned of Kelly's dry sense of humor. It's all the personal things you discover that makes this show so neat. We learned when driving the van back from a gig, Kelly was the one who was the "cleanup" driver. Jon Dee said you would be driving back and it would be 4am and nobody in the band wanted to drive anymore and that is when Kelly would say "I'll drive." Jon Dee said she would take over and that was it, they were home. We heard many stories of their time together.
Jon Dee sang a song he wrote for his 17 year old son who has had his heart broken for the first time. He talked about that. Kelly played "Not Forgotten You," a great song Bruce wrote. Kelly said it was written after she broke his heart back when they were dating.
They each played maybe 3 or 4 songs, in-between the stories. Jon played along to all of Kelly's songs. He's such a great guitarist. At one point Kelly told of wanting to learn how to play the mandolin but Bruce told her she needed to learn how to play the guitar first. Ouch!
This is the kind of stuff you can expect when going to one of these shows. You get to learn about the artists beyond their music. It's really special.
Admission for this show was $17.
My only complaint is they keep it so dark in there that both were in the shadows the entire evening. They do have spotlights but they didn't sit underneath them. It would be nice if, since you are there, you could see them.

SHADY GROVE Unplugged at the Grove concert series

Since this is my most favorite thing in the whole wide world to do, I thought I'd post some pictures so you can sort of get a feel for the place. The vibe here is just plain cool. You have great music, good friends, cold beer, hot food, big, shady trees, friendly staff...what more could you ask for? Well, ok, if there is one thing you could ask would be for the vocal mix to sound as good as the instruments do. Vocals, most nights, sound pretty muddy in the audience. I don't know why that is since instruments are crystal clear.

Jody Denberg of KGSR welcoming everyone before introducing Carolyn Wonderland

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looking right from the stage toward the lawn where people bring lawn chairs and hang out

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view from the stage looking left, also in the last row on the left is Brad (red shirt), our favorite waiter

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view of the tiny stage

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CAROLYN WONDERLAND at Shady Grove 5-21-09

Every Thursday we're back at Shady Grove for the KGSR Unplugged at the Grove free concert series. There is a pretty big group of us who get there very early and grab seats up front. There are people who come to listen (us) and those who come to party. So, we try to get as close to the artist and away from the talkers as much as possible.
It doesn't matter how often you see Carolyn. It is always a great time. What I really like about seeing her live is she gives 110%, both playing and singing. She really let's it rip!
She had her steady drummer, Michael Lefkowitz along with Cole El-Saleh on keyboards. Carolyn sat down for this show which I don't see too often. Not that it makes her any more mellow but it did change the intensity level for the crowd, I think. What I did notice that's changed since I saw her last is she is paying more attention to her singing, seems to me. She has always just belted it. Now, I notice more nuance and that's cool to see/hear. It always happens to the best performers as they gather experience. You just need to go back to Patty Griffin's early records and compare those vocals to what she's been doing the last several years. Same thing.
That said, Carolyn still rocked the place in a big way! Played a bunch from Miss Understood, one of the best records of 2008.
She had Shelley King come up and duet on a couple of songs. The two of them together are always fun. They go way back and Shelley has a great voice. She also brought up a guy (not sure who he is) to play trumpet for a few songs. Carolyn also plays trumpet, so this was a double shot, I guess you would say.
The concert lasted about 1 1/2 hours. The other thing I love about Carolyn is she really appreciates her audience. She doesn't take us for granted and always thanks us for taking a chance on live music, coming out and listening. All artists thank you, of course, but she is very, very sincere about it. A nice touch.
I took several videos but there are two I like best. One was taken during sound check so there was good light. The second one was her opening number, Long Way To Go. Here are the links:

Thursday, May 21, 2009


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MATT The ELECTRICIAN and SOUTHPAW JONES at Flipnotics 5-20-09

These guys have been doing a weekly show together for quite a while but I had not been to one until last night. They basically do a song swap except they play and sing on each other's songs so that is great.
No cover, just a tip jar was passed around. Crazy, I know. The room was packed but not many people ponied up which I thought was pathetic. Flipnotic's also keeps their prices reasonable (cheap). $2 for an Amstel Light.
Anyway, I'm much more familiar with Matt. I've grown to really like his music. Southpaw, I didn't know his music at all. He's a pretty humorous guy. Writes quirky songs. They're good. He has a way with words. Many, you will laugh out loud yet there can be a serious undercurrent to them. One song that stuck out for me was about Marilyn Monroe with the premise of how different her life would have been had she married Henry Miller. Some of the lyrics were about their moving to Paris, dying her hair blue, doing some opium and probably being alive today. It was pretty hilarious.
Matt played several I am familiar with & really like, My Dog, Animal Boy, the Angela/WalMart song (I don't know the name of it). He did a very funny one about not wanting to be your Facebook friend.
These guys play various instruments, too, which really livens up the show. Matt, besides guitar & banjo plays the cajone, a mini-trumpet and...euphonium!! Southpaw, along with guitar, plays harmonica, mini-xylophone and keytar. So, for only two guys, they can sure make a joyful racket together.
Also, it seems every week they come up with a new topic, either from fans or themselves, write a song and play it the following week. Last night's song was based on renting relationships or timeshare relationships. Next week's song will be about "It wasn't my fault." Someone in the audience threw that out there last night after he opened the door and the handle fell off!
These guys make good music, have a good time, a lot of laughs, well worth going out to see.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


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ANDY GULLAHORN at St. Michael's Academy 5-18-09

After Steve Earle at Waterloo Records I zipped across town to this show. I hadn't heard of Andy or this place until someone posted how much they liked this guy on their Facebook page. So I listened to him on his myspace page, liked what I heard and decided to go see him.
Turns out he is from Austin originally and this place is where he went to high school. He currently lives in Nashville.
He writes heartfelt lyrics and has really sweet melodies so he hooked me straight away. He is also very funny. Chats quite a bit between songs and has a dry wit about him.
The guy played for almost 2 hours and all that was asked for was a donation. Hard to believe.
Check out the songs he has on his myspace page:

Being at his old high school was pretty neat. A freshman teacher introduced him while her students collected donations and sold his cd's. You gotta love it.


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STEVE EARLE at Waterloo Records 5-18-09

Steve has just released a new record which is all covers of Townes Van Zandt. Townes is his hero. He said he recorded these songs the way he remembered hearing Townes play them live. There's not much for me to say about the songs as everybody already knows they're great. Steve played about 55 minutes, all songs from the new record called Townes, except for 3 of his own: Taneytown, Rich Man's War & Copperhead Road. I must say, Copperhead Road live, standing about 4 feet away from him, was pretty cool. I did get a video of it:

He was his usual salty, funny in a serious way self. He is preaching for us to get out of Afghanistan these days as he thinks we can't win there. Said they kicked Alexander the Great's ass so we got big problems! He's probably right.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


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JESS KLEIN at Flipnotics 5-16-09

Finally got to see a Jess Klein show. This is someone I had been aware of for a number of years but didn't own any of her music nor had I ever seen a live show. Recently, I saw her do 2 songs at a Springsteen tribute and her performance made me realize I really needed to check her out.
Saturday night, I finally got that chance. First off, just like that tribute show indicated, she grabs you straight away. People either have stage presence or they don't, I think. She has it big time. This is not a singer/songwriter who gets up and strums and sings. Jess is very, very soulful. And the way she moves, you almost feel you are intruding by watching (almost!). You really can't take your eyes off her.
Since I'm not familiar with her music to begin with, at this point all I can say is I want to hear more. There were several new songs played and all sounded terrific. The new record should be coming out in late summer, hopefully.
She throws in some blues, a little bit of everything, really. And, she's a good guitarist! Always love it when they get up there and can do something besides play 3 chords!
The show consisted of 2 sets. The first, Jess was by herself. The second set brought Scrappy Jud Newcomb up to play some electric guitar. He's my favorite guitarist here in Austin so this was a big bonus for me! The guy just adds so much to whomever he is playing with.
It was a fun evening, a small room but also a small crowd. This, I will never understand. We do have many choices every night in Austin. For example, I skipped Slaid Cleaves' cd release at Cactus to see Jess, but still...she should be drawing larger crowds. She's too good not to.
I look forward to seeing her again soon, I hope. Would also love to see her with a full band. I'm sure she must rock it!

Friday, May 1, 2009


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legendary GRUENE HALL, oldest dance hall in Texas

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PATTY GRIFFIN at Gruene Hall 4-29-09

Not sure where to start - Patty or Gruene Hall? I guess I'll start with Gruene (pronounced green). This is about 45 miles south of Austin. I think Gruene may have it's own zip code but it is actually in New Braunfels. Anyway, Gruene Hall is the oldest dance hall in Texas, built in 1878. I don't think much has changed since then except for the neon beer signs inside. I have been hearing about this place since I moved here but until Wednesday night, hadn't make the trek down there. All I can say is, you have to see it to believe it. As my friend James said, "I've been coming here since 1975 & it hasn't changed one bit." It is a wooden building with a tin roof, no air conditioning, a long bar up front, pool tables on one side of the room, a dirt patio outside, picnic tables inside for seating. Really, you gotta see it. Shows are general admission and normally the only seats are the picnic tables with a big dance floor separating them from the stage. For Patty's show they put metal folding chairs on the dance floor for some up close seating. It was a no dancing show until the very end. I'll get to that later. Procedure is, the doors open an hour before show time. They kick everybody out of the bar 15 minutes before the doors open. For Patty's show, the doors were opening at 7pm. We got there around 5:30, just in time to walk in and see Patty finishing sound check in her tank, shorts and flip flops. Had a couple of beers and when people started lining up outside around 6:15 we got in line too. The stage is no more than 1 foot off the floor and the front row of seats were no more than 2 feet from Patty's mic. I'm guessing nowhere on this tour will you get any closer to her.
Patty. For my money, there is nobody I'd rather sit and listen to. Well, except BRUUUCE. That's it though. There is just not another voice out there like hers. She has a new record coming out later this year and it is a gospel record. She said she loves that music and when asked about doing an album said as long as they didn't mind that she is a lapsed Catholic, she'd love to! So the show consisted of probably 5 or 6 songs off the new album along with her past material. One of the new songs she played is a duet with Mavis Staple called Waiting For My Child To Come Home. The other new songs, I don't know the names of. But they all sounded terrific! To get a taste, check this out:

The concert lasted about 1 1/2 hours. We got to hear some new arrangements on several songs including Love Throw A Line and standard arrangements on Useless Desire, Top Of The World, Icicles and Heavenly Day. Heavenly Day ended the main set and this is where the dancing came in. There were a couple of morons sitting up front who just had to get up and slow dance to this song. After all, this night was all about them. Never mind the thousand or so people behind who had to endure this distraction. Poor Patty, also. Literally 3 feet in front of her were these 2 mopes. And to top it off, they couldn't even dance! They basically rocked back and forth like a couple of sick cows. Enough about those jokers.
This was the 2nd night of the tour. This is a new band except, of course, for Doug Lancio, her lead guitarist. There is a new drummer, bass and keyboard player.
The cool thing about this show was how much fun Patty had. She is normally not that animated, chatty, open, so to speak. She loves Gruene Hall and talked about how much she loves playing there. She danced a lot, smiled bunches, was very talkative and clearly had a great time. As did we all.
One more thing, about the crowd. The place was packed, wall to wall. There were no disruptions, no people talking or anything. Everyone was completely attentive. It was an awesome night.
Lastly, the acoustics were outstanding. Can't wait to go back to Gruene, that is for sure.