Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 11, 2014 New Year, New Idea (Also The First Show of the Year - The Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival)

Happy New Year to anyone who reads this blog. I hope this is the year you realize all of life's amazing possibilities. Everyone has big plans at this time of the year, do not end this year by saying "I should have done that" the Nike ad says...JUST DO IT! Here's what I am going to attempt. Last year I created a Social Club to try and get people to hang out at various events. I want to thank everyone who showed up to any or all of those events. I really enjoyed the idea but I have decided to try something else this year. The Social Club may have a few events this year but it will not be a monthly occurrence like last year. That said, here's my idea for 2014. I love music. I love live music even more. A few years ago, I read a story about Robert Christgau. He has been the rock critic for the Village Voice for as long as I can remember. (I know he no longer works there). For his 60th birthday, he went to a live music show for 60 straight days. Since I am turning 50 this year, I have decided to try to see 50 shows this year and I am inviting everyone to join me. You can contact me if you want to either invite me to a show you are going to or check which shows I am already going to and join me. The shows can be as big as Lollapalooza and as small as an open mic night at the corner pub...I just want to see someone playing music. My plan is to use this blog to report on the shows that I attend. Hopefully some of you will discover that you like one of the bands that I have seen play live and check them out. As I have said repeatedly, "Please support live music as often as you can." 

A few days ago, I read about The Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival in the Chicago Reader. It is a month long festival that takes place in various clubs from January 10th until February 8th. So I decided to see the show at the Tonic Room tonight. This place is a very small narrow small...imagine a band playing in your living room. This is not a bad thing, actually it is a very good thing. Because the sound is fantastic mostly due to the talented guy running the soundboard. 
 The first band was The Howlin Brothers from Nashville. I spent a few minutes talking music and Nashville with Ian, the fiddle and banjo player, before they played. He recommended Layla's Bluegrass Inn, Robert's Western World and The Wheel for anyone visiting Nashville. They sounded great. The music was upbeat and people were dancing on the small dance floor. All three of them took a turn or two on lead vocals, which I love when bands do that. It gives a different sound to each song and all three of them play and sing exceptionally well. Jared loved to dance while playing guitar. He even brought along a small dance floor that he used on stage so he could two step while he played. Whenever they switched song tempos they kept the crowd into the songs, like when they switched from the rave up of "Monroe" (I think that was the title of the song) to the slow smoky "Tennessee Blues". I loved the music, the sound and the well worn look of the guitar and stand up bass. The best description I can give is they play infectious dance hall ravers if your dance hall is located in a barn...and I mean that as a huge compliment. I'd like to thank the bass player Ben for telling me that my idea to see 50 shows because I am turning 50 this year was one of the coolest things he's heard. After their set, Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time" played over the PA system. Perfect. It's gonna be a good night.
Like I said before, this place was small, so changing bands was quite a challenge with equipment everywhere. So I took pictures while the next band set up. This band has the best band name I've heard in years...ClusterPluck. And they were great on stage tonight.
Once again tonight, I got to see a talented band that loves to play live and have did the crowd.
This five piece band from St. Louis swapped instruments and lead vocals while harmonizing throughout their set.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a good picture of the guitar player on the right side of the stage because he was an incredible singer. This band has stage presence and is great at setting the mood of a song whether it was a fast dance number or a soulful slow song. I loved every song they played tonight. I also enjoyed talking music and artistic talents with acoustic bass player, Justin. Check these guys out if you enjoy good music.
I always judge music clubs by the bullshit written on the bathroom walls. The crazier the graffiti, the better the music club. This places passes the test. 

I loved this sign above the stage.

This artwork pretty much covered what the crowd looked like in the Tonic Room tonight.
 Acoustic Anonymous was the headliner tonight. Another very talented band that straddled the line between picking and grinning and just plain jamming. Again multiple lead vocalists with various styles. It seemed to be a theme tonight and I really enjoyed it.
 The only electric instrument all night was the bass player for AA. I am not the biggest fan of jam bands, but when these guys stretched out their songs, I enjoyed the groove. I really enjoyed the wide variety of songs but by the end of the night, the crowd wanted to dance and ignored the slower songs...which was too bad because this band was very good at playing both types of songs.
He's playing bongos here, but he was really good on harmonica all night. Sorry but I could not find the names of the guys in this band. But I would like to thank the young couple, Craig & Becca that talked music with me all night. They recommended the following bands to me...Altan, Steel Drivers, Trampled By Turtles, Railroad Earth, Elephant Revival and Signal Ridge. So check them out, I know I will. I have 49 more shows to go.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

December 25, 2013 Christmas In California - Part 2

Merry Christmas. Chrissy and I are off to help my friend Kathy and her mom (who is like a second mom to me) make lunches for the homeless in Los Angeles. I never know who if anyone will take the time to read this blog but I ask if you take the time to read this post, please click on the pictures and see them full size.

While Kathy made breakfast for her friends who have volunteered to help this morning, I took a few pictures.

Mrs. D and Christy

This rescue dog belongs to one of Kathy's friends that helped make the lunches today. He was wondering why he was the only dog here with so many dog lovers at the house.
After a delicious breakfast... was time to get to work.

We made hundreds of sandwiches which were packed into a lunch bag with oranges, water and a special Christmas treat of a cookie, moon pie or Twinkie. The Twinkie brought on the best responses, one person yelled down the street, "I got a Twinkie!", another said " I thought they stopped making Twinkies."

Here's a group shot after loading Mrs. D's Jeep with food, water, socks and blankets.
Kathy's beautiful back yard.

Some art work on a fence in LA's Skid Row Neighborhood. I always thought skid row was a generic term for areas of a city that had SRO's or transient hotels. But the City of Los Angeles actually calls this area Skid Row. Because of my job, I have been in the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago. I have seen what poverty has done to the people that live in those neighborhoods and to the homeless in Chicago. But I have never seen anything like this area of Los Angeles anywhere in America. There are people living on the streets, some it makeshift houses, some in tents and some just lying on the sidewalks for about a ten square block area. The following pictures were taken while Kathy, Mrs. D, Wendy and I drove up and down the streets of this area handing out lunches, socks and blankets.

The disparity of wealth was clearly evident just a few blocks away.

Being from New York City, the irony of a homeless person on Wall Street appealed to me.

Wendy has that incredible trait of truly caring about helping people in need, she caused a lot of smiling faces today.

After getting a lunch, this guy wanted to pose with Kathy.

Even though I know that the past few years have created more new homeless people than the previous couple of decades, seeing people who deserve better than this still bothers me. 

Think about this just for a lose your job, then your have no where else to go...if you had to carry the most important things in your life around the streets of a city...could you live like this?

This was the most beautiful Christmas smile I saw this year and all she got was a bag of food and a pair of socks. She brought a smile to my face as a fought back some tears because maybe some people down here are to blame for their problems. But there can not be anyone who believes this little girl deserves to be down here. So take a good look at the face of poverty in the richest country in the world.

It takes a special kind of person to be willing to spend Christmas Day feeding strangers. Truth is I have donated to food banks for many years now but I have never done this on my own. I have only seen the faces of the grateful recipients when I went with friends who do this on their own. Those two friends, Debbie Karr and Kathy Delgado, also know each other. We all went to high school together in Indiana. I have thanked Debbie in the past and today I thank Kathy. Being able to see the smiles on the faces, the thank you looks in their eyes and the God bless you replies when you showed people that someone cares about them was my favorite Christmas present.

Kathy even had food for homeless dogs and this one was as kind and grateful as his human companions were to get a meal.

It just seemed wrong to me to have this banner on a building in this neighborhood.

Kathy and her mom have done this on their own and with the help of friends for years. They now do this as a tribute to her father, Phil. Another friend of ours, Roger Goode, does similar charity work back in Indiana as a tribute to his parents. Together Kathy & Roger created a Facebook group called Uncle Phil, Rudy & Betty's Goode Deeds where you can donate your time, food or a few dollars that will be put to good use. Check it out at

" I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery" was written across this mural. I believe it is a quote from Thomas Jefferson and I love the message.

It seemed appropriate that a very well dressed man accepted a lunch from us when we parked in the Fashion District.

A few of the businesses were open today in and around the Skid Row neighborhood.

Again I ask you, if you had to put all that you hold dear to you in a shopping cart, could you?

After making the sandwiches for the homeless, I dropped Christy off at her Aunt Marilyn's house so she could spend time with her cousins while I helped Kathy and crew hand out those sandwiches.
So these people are not homeless, they are Elijah, Carson, Tiven, Marilyn and Christy. 

We ended our Christmas Day at my parents house for dinner. Sorry Ma, we were late again. But enjoyed a turkey dinner with Jeff, Mom & Dad.

After a visit from this Santa, who I also recognize from my childhood...

...we opened gifts from each other...

...I love that my mom can be surprised by a gift that she asked me to get for her... was great to spend Christmas with my parents...

...even if Chrissy wasn't as thrilled as I least she enjoyed the weather.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.