The Beat Goes On
Interviews, Road Trips, and Deadlines, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation
by Lee Abraham
Somewhere along the line I decided to spend the summer of 2000 in Greenville, NC. Just seemed like the thing to do. After all, thatís where the Home Grown Music Network is. Anyone familiar with the HGMN knows about all the cool things they do to help independent, touring jambands spread their music. If youíre not hip to the HGMN trip, check out their website at http://www.homegrownmusic.net.
As a journalist, Iíve covered the HGMN story many times. As a music freak, I never cease to be amazed by the outstanding new talent they continue to find. And then thereís the business side of me that recognizes the HGMNís huge potential. Put all three together, as well as the fact that the folks at the HGMN are cool people, and moving to Greenville to work with the HGMN for the summer was a no-brainer. And it worked out great! We got a lot done and had a ton-o-fun in the process...
Right now Iím in New York. Brooklyn to be exact. Got here about a week ago. Although the summerís not yet officially over, at times it already feels like fall. Blame it on the pennant races and presidential campaigns. Not to mention a subtle drop in temperature. Particularly in the mornings. And the change of seasons brings introspection. Reflection. A gathering of thoughts, if you will.
As always, there are a few points on the line that stand out against the blurry backdrop of time in motion. Hereís a few of mine, from the summer of 2000:
-Back to back shows from The David Nelson Band and Wise Monkey Orchestra at Winstons, in Ocean Beach, San Diego. These two shows were the last hurrah for my extended run in wonderful Ocean Beach... what a great place! Had many a high time at Winstons over the winter and spring, and capping it all off with great shows from two of my favorite bands in rapid fire succession was a thing of beauty...
-Summer officially starts with the annual All Good festival. Itís as simple as that. This yearís location at Capon Ridge in the middle of West Virginiaís natural glory was the best yet. Simply outstanding! And itís always a pleasure to exchange energies with the All Good regulars. Every festival has its own personality, and I would describe the All Good festivalís ambiance as Ďcharming.í Itís a -community- thing. Anyway, All Good 2000ís musical highlight was experiencing Dr. Didg live for the first time. Was completely blown away by the jamming that went down after the good doctor invited ĎAG,í slide trombone player extraordinaire from Wise Monkey Orchestra, to sit in... WOW!
-Sometimes itís the bumps in the road that make travel interesting. Case in point: running out of gas with the HGMN krewe enroute to Hookahville. Iíll never forget wandering at 4 am on the back roads of North Carolina with Bryan Rogers from the HGMN, in search of a pay phone. We didnít have to go too far. Thankfully, we found one not too far from where the van pooped out. Funny thing was that the convenient store (an apt description if ever there was one) where we found the phone, opened at 6 am, which rolled around before the AAA arrived. So we bought a gallon of gas using a water bottle (that we had to purchase and then empty on the flowers out front), and walked back to the van. That gallon got our van back to the store, and from there we filled up and went merrily on our way...
Oh yeah, musically, Arlo Guthrie stole the show at Hookahville!
-The 1st Annual Jammy Awards at the Irving Plaza in New York City was an unforgettable evening. Truly a special night, the Jammys had it all: excitement, camaraderie, suspense, drama, a sense of history, and lots of outstanding music... Now when I say 'unforgettable,' that doesnít mean I can rattle off who played what, or in some cases, who played with who. Thatís not where Iím coming from on this. It was the -vibe- that was unforgettable. Literally. The fact that the Jammys was the day before the -Gathering Of the Vibes- festival in nearby New Jersey, gave the event an added dimension. At least for the bands and fans also going to the GOTV, the Jammys proved to be a celebration of the scene everyone could savor together during the extended weekendís festivities. It was a -bonding- thing. And very, very cool.
-Due to the venue, The Jomeokie Festival, held on short notice at the Winston-Salem County Fair Grounds in North Carolina, had its share of ups and downs. Musically though, it was killer! Caught one of the best back-to-back set sequences of the summer there, a simply delightful one-two rhythm combination that started with Donna the Buffalo. I can dance all night to their Cajun psychedelia and the buffalo had me shakiní it with abandon on that warm summer afternoon. And then came Foxtrot Zulu. Can you say Ďhigh energy?í Props to Jojo the rock and roll clown and his side kick ĎTrippy the tie-dyed terrier,í for taking FZís set over the top with their side splitting on stage antics. This was one for the funsters...
-Over the summer, Peasants Cafe in Greenville became the 3rd jamband club I can safely say feels like home. The first was Legends Lounge in viva Las Vegas. Spent so much time there on the dance floor, at the bar, and even onstage (not to mention one night on the floor, under the desk in Rudy the ownerís office, Ďfor reasons Iíd rather not disclose,í as Willie Nelson has been known to say...), that for me, Legends transcended being a place to experience music... it became part of my life. And it always will be. Although I never made any music at Winstons, I sure checked out plenty of the kind stuff there.
Another bonus was living about three short blocks away, which made it very convenient for a quick dash to the privacy and sensory stimulation of the Anytime/Anywhere 'multimedia studio,í during set breaks. Winstonís is also the home of Wise Monkey Orchestra and that alone qualifies the club for my short list of favorite venues. And then we have Peasants Cafe. Caught some top notch shows there over the summer, including: the Miracle Orchestra, Keller Williams, Hipbone, Baaba Seth, Project/Object, and the All Mighty Senators. Paul and the rest of the good folks at Peasants do a fantastic job, and I for one appreciated it during my extended stay in Greenville. Hoy Hoy!
-Was totally impressed by two bands that I caught for the first time this summer. First and foremost, Deep Banana Blackout. Talk about warriors of the muse... I donít think Iíve ever seen as stunning a display of versatility and stamina as what DBB did over the long Jammys/Gathering of the Vibes weekend. Not only were they the backbone for the Jammy All Stars, led by their guitar slinging sonic visionary, the incomparable ĎFuzz,í DBB played on the opening date of the festival backing up Merl Saunders, followed an extended set of their own material, and then rocked the crowd -again- on Sunday... truly impressive!
And Iíve always heard great things about moe., but never fully got off on their CDs. Until their new live CD came out that is. And they're even better in concert. Caught moe. a couple of times this summer and came away with a whole lotta respect for this incredible jamband.
-As a music journalist, I conduct a lot of interviews. Some are better than others. During the course of my ongoing research on, ĎMusic For the Mind, a Quarter Century of Rock and Roll Journalism,í a couple of interviews were particularly enjoyable. Speaking with Jorma Kaukonen is always a pleasure. Heís a funny, intelligent guy, and is just a blast to chat with. Also had a lot of fun with JB from Widespread Panic. Hereís another guy who is incredibly down to earth and a pleasure to talk with. Both gave me some great stuff for the book. Most of the time I deal with up and coming bands, but occasionally I get an assignment to cover one of the biggies. Over the summer I got to exchange energies with a few heavyweights for articles published in the Las Vegas Weekly. The most mind blowing, by far, was getting a half hour with Roger Waters... now that was a gas!
Also had very enjoyable interviews with Bela Fleck, Rob Wasserman, Tim Reynolds, and members of the David Nelson Band. All these folks proved to be articulate and passionate about their work. Hey, I can relate. For me, this stuff isnít a job, itís an adventure...