Dear Fedwell

Dear Fedwell 2014 # 1

Fedwell is the Infinity mascot, sentinel and a wise old bear.  Take advantage of his infinite wisdom by asking questions about Infinity, music, etiquette, relationships, and any other cosmic subjects. You may reach Fedwell at: DearFedwell@Comcast.net  Look for your questions and answers in the Blog. 

Loyal Fan

Dear Fedwell,  Who books the acts for Infinity?

Signed — Loyal Fan

A:   Dear Loyal,  Fedwell does, of course.  Next time you’re at Infinity just tell me who you’d like to see and I’ll take care of it.  Your request will not fall on deaf ears.

High Five Bear

Dear Fedwell

Q:  Doesn’t your arm get tired?

Signed, Ralph in Waterbury

A:  Dear Ralph,  Sometimes when I see Queen Elizabeth waving at her adoring public I ask the same question.  And the Statue of Liberty must have the same problem.  Personally, I never get tired.  I’m more concerned about warping.  And termites.

Movie Fan 

Q:  Dear Fedwell,

If your life was turned into a movie who do you think should play you?

Signed, Movie Fan

A:   Dear Movie Fan,  It’s really too bad about John Belushi’s early demise because he would have been perfect.  Sean Connery is good but he’s too old.  I would need a “ladies man”.  A heart throb.   Probably George Clooney has the skills and rugged good looks.  Or Brad Pitt.  Tom Cruise?

An Interview with Will Evans

By Emily Edelman

will evans # 22Founder of Barefoot Truth and one of our favorite singer songwriters, Will Evans will join former band mate  Jay Driscoll, this Saturday, March 15 to perform acoustic versions of their fan-favorite songs. He spoke with Emily Edelman about Barefoot Truth, a songwriting contest, his latest projects and the upcoming show at Infinity Hall:

We still have some great seats left: http://www.infinityhall.com/events/the-original-barefoot-truth-will-evans-and-jay-driscoll/

First Shows, Deer Tick & Authenticity: A Case Study

deertickinfinity(Photo credit: Todd Gay and CPTV)

by Author Griffin (@AuthorGriffin)

It’s an odd thing to try and review a show when its the first time you’ve seen an act perform. Maybe it’s just that ‘review’ is the wrong word. I don’t feel rightly qualified to review the Deer Tick show I saw at Infinity Hall on 3/5 having seen no other Deer Tick shows for comparison. Plus who am I to pass judgement on any given artist’s offerings? It’s, none of it, wrong and its, none of it, right. It’s art, it just is. Take it or leave it, it speaks to you or it doesn’t, but believe me, this one spoke to me. That said, I’m going to make this a piece about what I look for and, more importantly, what I listen for when I see an act for the first time using this amazing Deer Tick performance as a case study.

Now I’ve seen a few shows in my time from a variety of artists. Counting the decade I worked for a regional New England touring act, it’s quite a few, actually. Less than some but more than most, and I’ve got the stubs so… yeah. They say that 10,000 hours spent on any one thing makes you an expert. In no way do I claim to be an expert in live music, I certainly don’t feel like one, but the math is close and its hard to argue the math. Stubs man, I’ve got the stubs. We’ll leave it at that.

I’ve only been listening to Deer Tick via online streaming for a few weeks now and I thought the tracks I’ve heard from both their fourth album ‘Divine Providence’ and their more recent release ‘Negativity’ were solid. It’s a skillfully-presented rough and haggard sound but it’s done with purpose and intention and I’m way into it.

One of the first things I strive to get a sense for when seeing an act play for the first time is authenticity, and Deer Tick is just that, authentic. And that authenticity speaks to people, you just can’t fake it. I spoke to fans there that had driven from Boston to catch this show. I saw New Hampshire license plates in the parking lot. Folks don’t drive for hours on a Wednesday to see just anyone. Authenticity is a powerful platform. For the chance at an authentic experience, to behold a genuine article, even for an evening, personally that’s what I’m after, and those in the know will tell you there are very few limits to the efforts they will make to those ends.

But effort, of course, is a two-way street. Nothing is less interesting to me than to see an act simply go through the motions. You catch enough shows and you start to get a real sense for the special ones, and this show was special. Deer Tick played a predominantly acoustic set, with front man John McCauley and guitarist Ian O’Neil seated on stools. The band made mention to the crowd that they had reworked many of the songs we were hearing for the night’s acoustic performance being taped for Infinity Hall Live (@ihltv) and it showed. As an aside, whenever you happen to catch any act on a night that they’ve really rehearsed for, a night for which they’ve put in the long practice time, for whatever reason, acoustic or other, it’s always a treat. You can hear it. What I saw and heard last Wednesday in Deer Tick’s Infinity Hall show was a band more accustomed to electric guitar, distortion and rock clubs that went out of their way to refine their sound for an evening, adding the subtleties of an acoustic show and softer but very powerful vocals to give us a more polished Deer Tick product. Classic in the classic sense. It was reminiscent of Nirvana’s ‘Unplugged in New York’ in the best way possible.

I heard some amazing electric-hinted acoustic versions of songs I knew, like ‘Baltimore Blues No. 1’ off of their debut album War Elephant, Divine Providence’s ‘Now It’s Your Turn’ and ‘Make Believe’ as well as cuts from Negativity like ‘The Curtain’ and ‘Mr. Sticks’. One of the highlights of the evening being when McCauley brought out a special guest, his wife Vanessa Carlton, to sing the duet ‘In Our Time’, the husband and wife on stage singing their own song, but still somehow conjuring the ghosts of Johnny and June. Very special.

To circle back to my original premise, I try to keep an open mind when seeing a first show. A cliche, sure, but I mean it in the ‘running an option route’ sense. I’m open, hit me!  And Deer Tick did just that. I’m a fan and they’ll be on my concert schedule again soon, but the larger point here was that my opinion is irrelevant. I don’t care as much about what an act does or what musical wares they choose to peddle, I care that they care. Such as in life, whatever you do is fine as long as you try really hard to do it. It was obvious to me that Deer Tick went to great efforts to put on an amazing show that matched the effort their fan base made to be there. That’s all any fan can hope for, really. Those are the shows that I want to see and you should too.

Respect Yourself — Stax Records and the Soul Explosion

9781596915770

 Book Review by David C. Parks

   This book tells the story of a brother and sister, Jim Stewart and Estelle Stewart Axton, who created Stax records and proceeded to bring soul music to people of all colors.  Just as the recently reviewed (in this Blog) biography of Johnny Cash which was a book on two levels, music and addiction, the Stax story is the inseparable tale of a record company and  racial prejudice.  Wonderful as it would be to tell the story of this amazing little company on just the purity of its music,  it is impossible to avoid the repugnant behavior of racist Memphis in the early 1960’s. Consider this —  One of Stax earliest success stories, Booker T and the MG’s, consists of four guys, two black and two white.  Their song “Green Onions” defined the Memphis funk sound and yet they could not play on the same bandstand. Initially they could only play together in the Stax studio where race did not matter.

    The Stax story is well told by Robert Gordon.  He tells us about the simple charm of a recording session.  Anybody could come in off the street for an audition. Even “audition” is a bit too formal a word.  A guitar player who arrived for a recording session that did not go well had a driver with him who said that he could sing.  What the hell, give him a try.  Not bad.  His name was Otis Redding.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Someone plays a riff and says, “Hey, listen to this.”  The sax player tries out a few notes, someone comes up with some lyrics, the organ player feels out where he belongs, and pretty soon Jim Stewart says, “Let’s record it”.  Major hit songs came out of this family-style, fun, serendipitous method.  No unions, no musical arrangements,  no hassles. Gordon contrasts this with Gordy Berry’s Motown Records in Detroit which used an assembly line system where the musicians rarely even saw the vocalists.  They laid down a track and the singers filled in the lyrics at later sessions.  Two different visions with contrasting results.  “Hitsville” versus “Soulsville”.

    The story of soul music is entwined with the story of radio.  As the musicians got out of Memphis to play gigs to promote their songs they listen to the radio in other cities.  Memphis would not allow a mixed race group to play together or even enter a restaurant but the big cities up north were fair game.  At the time radio stations were locally programmed so there existed a New York sound, a Detroit sound, and a Philly sound.  What a concept.  Not like now when the corporate top ten drivel dominates the airwaves and lowers the bar for what passes as popular music.

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     Robert Gordon relates an absolutely amazing anecdote about Jerry Wexler from Atlantic Records, Jim Stewart, owner of Satellite Records (not yet Stax), and three black musicians. They want to have a business meeting but the Memphis hotel won’t let them sit at a table together in the dining room.  So they decide to go to Wexler’s hotel room and have room service.  They were all forced to use the service elevator. It gets worse.  The waiters report the little gathering and the police arrive to investigate.  Wexler calls for the manager and uses the few minutes he has to scrawl a note to his company in New York, put it in a stamped envelope, and dash down the hall to the mail chute.  He wants somebody to know what happened to him in case he is locked up, beaten up, or killed.  This is 1960, Memphis, America.

     But the Stewarts are color blind.  As Estelle says, “At the studio, we just looked at people as talent, not the color of their skin”.  This is such an important slice of American history. As Don Nix, guitarist for the “Royal Spades”, a white group (!), says, “Now if you can imagine, white kids had never heard R&B music before. It was like going to another planet, a real good planet.”   This Stax studio and record store, bouncing from paycheck to paycheck, and seemingly by accident releasing some of the coolest music you’ll ever hear is a real gem.   The loud speakers above the front door attract music lovers to the sidewalk where they listen to the hits, dance, and maybe get a chance to record a song.  If you have any doubts about whether you’d like to read this book try this:  Give “Last Night”  by the Mar-Keys a listen.  If you like the groove, you’ll like the book.

“Last Night”  by the Mar-Keys

And if you love soul music come to Infinity hall this Friday night and hear our favorite soul band, Soul Sound Revue! Some great seats still available: http://www.infinityhall.com/events/soul-sound-revue-3/

soul sound review lighter spellingPoster by Jon Riedeman

Big Head Todd & the Monsters at Telefunken-Elektroakustik Studios

blogpostby Author Griffin (@AuthorGriffin)

It was an unseasonably warm day last Sunday afternoon when we pulled into the Telefunken-Elektroakustik parking lot in South Windsor, CT. And we will take that nice weather all we can get it, this New England winter has been brutal, but little did I realize the real heat would come in the form of a blazing Big Head Todd & the Monsters private matinee set. The real heat, mind you.

Now my friends at T-Funk (@TELEFUNKEN_Mics) are the best. Tony and Alan lead an all-star team of mic mechanics and they all really know their stuff. Not only do they manufacture world-class microphones and peddle their wares to titans of the music industry, but they absolutely love music and they know how to have a good time. Like a really good time. I’ve seen some incredible sets from a whole slew of artists at Telefunken over the years, but this BHTM matinee was stellar, top 5 easy.

When I hear ‘private matinee’ I immediately think three songs acoustic, but man was I wrong about that and thankfully so. Todd started out solo for one song, ‘Travelin’ Light’, but the show really got going when he brought out the rest of the Monsters for a full-on electric ‘Josephina’ followed by ‘Black Beehive’, the title track of their brand new album and a song, Todd explained, he had written after Amy Winehouse lost her battle with addiction. If you haven’t heard Black Beehive, do yourself a solid and check it out, it delivers on many levels, but I ask you, what BHTM record doesn’t? It sounded incredible in there as they rounded out the set with more tunes from Black Beehive including ‘Seven State Lines’ and ‘Hey Delila’ but without question, the cherry on top was the encore.

I had been right up front the whole show, sans stage, so standing on the same level. I could’ve reached out and high-fived Todd at any time during the set so to just call it ‘intimate’ doesn’t exactly paint the picture. Heeding the small crowds’ request, we got us a ‘Midnight Radio’ encore. My all-time favorite BHTM tune, I saw them do ‘Midnight Radio’ at ten paces…

…’through the static and the rain’…

…and I will never forget it as long as I live.

Big Head Todd & the Monsters are one of the best bands working. Period. They’ve been at this a long time and that truth is incredibly apparent in their music, old and new. Hugely popular amongst their dedicated fan base, BHTM’s infrequent brushes with mainstream attention are surprising, I feel, in comparison to the masterful level of original songwriting they produce again and again, album after album.

If you know BHTM, then you know what I’m saying. If you don’t, then you need to get on that.