Friday, October 30, 2009

Dylan Review

I went and saw Bob Dylan last night.


First of all, I'm a huge Dylan fan, so I'm biased. But I've also never seen a Dylan show that I've liked. So I was a little wary.

This was way different.

The gig was at the Aragon Ballroom, the "Brawlroom" as we used to call it, when it had a staple of metal acts on a constant basis. Craziness abounded indeed for many a reckless teenager.

That was not how the Dylan show was, though (no kidding.)

No, despite the lack of a mosh pit, the Aragon was the absolute perfect place for Dylan to play. Like I said, I've not seen a show of his that I've liked, and after last night, I learned why.

It was the room. I'd forgotten how cool the Aragon is.

Dylan is a genius, as most of you know (or will at least acknowledge.) He'll probably have a reputation along the lines of Beethoven and Mozart a century from now (provided we have blown ourselves up or died off as the result of an uninsurable, I mean incurable, disease.) And, really, the best way for that genius to be performed is in a small and intimate setting. This just doesn't happen in a stadium or arena or festival. Dylan is subtle, dynamic, and always changing. It just doesn't seem to work, in my opinion, in a large venue.

The listed capacity for the Brawlroom is 4500, though I doubt it. I'd say more like 2500. No matter, there was probably only 1000 people in the audience (which was fine with me. A lot of people missed out. Suckers.)

He kicked off the show with two rarities. First was Watching the River Flow, released only as a single, and then Girl From the North Country, released on both the Freewheelin' album and Nashville Skyline (one of my faves.)

This really set the tone of the show. He was doing older stuff, but in the current style he's been developing over the past decade. That's standard for him. And if you're really a fan, then you already know that, really, this is a blues band. The last 4 albums that he's put out, going back to '97's Time Out of Mind, are a collection of true roots/blues/americana music. He's been going back to the beginnings and developing something very much minty fresh while being true to a bygone era.

Certainly better than most of the blues bands in Chicago, the so-called "Home of the Blues".

He was sporting a 6-piece band (2 guitars, bass, drums, keys/horn/3rd guitar, and Bob, who played guitar, keys, and harp,) basically the same unit he's been using for the last few years. Last night, the lead guitar player for the gig was Charlie Sexton, who is, in a word, smokin'.

And this is what makes Dylan so great, especially at this point in his career. His m.o. has always been re-invention, from the folk days, converting to electric at Newport and rocking, to finding God and putting out gospel (those were not very good records, his "godrock".)

Nowadays, he's clearly paying homage to Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Hoagy Charmichael, but making it Dylan.

Off of his latest album, Together Through Life, he played Hell's My Wife's Hometown, in the vein of Willie Dixon's I Just Want to Make Love to You, with dynamics that were so effective and well executed, you would have thought this was a bar gig (I saw Dylan in a bar once, but that's another story for another day.) The bass man was playing an upright, the drummer was using brushes, and Bob was playing leads, using sparse phrasing, and mostly picking single notes.

He also played Beyond Here Lies Nothing, also off the new record. This is in the style of Otis Rush's All Your Lovin' , done entirely as a rumba. The drums were powerful and tight, and the interplay between Dylan and Sexton was flawless and easy. They've been together a while, now, and it shows.

Most of the tunes were newer, which I enjoyed. I really like the recent catalog. Some were hits: Stuck Inside a Mobile, Highway 61 Revisited, Just Like a Woman, and of course the money song, Like a Rolling Stone (everyone has to play their signature. It's almost mandatory.)

None of them were done as they were on the album.

He even re-invents the old stuff. And the small venue is where you can really see (he's an outstanding band leader, and his guys never take their eyes off of him, lest they miss something) and hear it all unfold.

Really, though, my words cannot express what really went down. I feel bad about that. You really should have been there.

I'm going back to see him again tonight.

So it goes...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More health care

I received an email from I wanted to share it with you so that you can make a statement to our (non) government that we all need health care.

Especially for your favorite artists and musicians and kids that go without or without enough...


The Senate is closing in on a health care bill with a public health insurance option, a key ingredient of meaningful health care reform.

But conservatives and insurance companies are fighting hard against the public option, so Senate leadership has compromised by including an "opt-out" clause, which would allow individual states to choose not to participate in the program.[1]

There's a real danger here. In the stimulus fight, we saw Republican governors and legislators refuse federal dollars for political gain. The same thing could happen with health care reform, with everday people in states like Lousiana, Alabama, and South Carolina -- states with large Black, poor, and working-class populations -- left out.[2]

That's why I've joined's campaign calling on Congress and the White House to make the public option available everywhere. Please join me:

I understand the need for compromise and negotiation, but I also want to make sure that no community gets negotiated away in the process.

Including "opt-out" may be the best way to get a bill through the Senate with a public option--but that won't be the end of the process, and it doesn't mean "opt-out" will be in the final bill. The House still needs to decide exactly what will be in its health care bill. And once both the House and the Senate have passed legislation, they'll have to negotiate with each other, and the White House, to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

That's why we need to make it clear that we're watching and that we will demand a public option that's available in every state. Please join me in sending this message to Congress and the White House, and ask your friends and family to do the same:

Thank you.


1. "So what is the 'opt-out' compromise?" Talking Points Memo, 10-26-2009

2. "Public option opt out denies help to those who need it most," Fire Dog Lake, 10-8-2009

This is getting so tiring.

So it goes...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Here's to your Health

Life's endurance test.

Part of the title of the blog you (and hopefully your friends) are currently reading.

Being a musician means being self employed, for the most part.

The idea of going to work in the pro musicians' world is way different from most everybody else who has to do something to earn their gold doubloons.

Being a musician also means that you've accepted the idea of never really making a whole lot of dough. Or having some sort of retirement fund. Or having someone pay your health insurance bill for you.

You want a raise? You're joking right?

Vacation time? Holiday pay?

Ha and ha.

That's a tough concept for most people to swallow.

We accept these conditions, though. That's just how it goes. We playas do what we do. We're not really suited to do anything else (you probably wouldn't want us doing anything else either.) Mostly we're weirdos and misfits, the square peg trying to fit into the circular hole.

But, we're still people (and yes, we are going to be playing during the Bears game. Did you think we were just setting up our stuff for fun?)

And we need health care, just like any and everybody else.

Now, I've got health insurance. Really, it's not, though. It's more like bankruptcy insurance. I've got to spend thousands up front before the company starts kicking in.

Plus, since I'm paying my own premiums myself, the money I send to them is after-tax money (those of you who get coverage through your jobs don't get to boast such good fortune. Count yourself as lucky.)

So, as you've obviously figured out where I stand on this issue (if you didn't, you do now,) I am very much in favor of a complete health care overhaul. Personally, I believe in a single-payer system, similar to the dreaded French system, but part of the Obama plan "
offers a public health insurance option to provide the uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage with a real choice". I suppose that's, at least, a good start.

Sadly, the U.S. is a nation of sides. you're either for or against Obama; you're either a democrat or a republican; you either think Fox News is real news or you don't.

You either believe everyone should be able (entitled) to see a doctor or you don't.

Today I got one of Barack Obama's mass emails. I get them a lot. He urged us to call our senators and representatives and let them know where we stand. After all, it's up to Congress to craft the bill, not the President's. He simply signs off on it. Now of course, he's put it out there as to what he deems acceptable or not, and pressures Congress to do it. But they write it.

And they write it based on our wishes (presumably.)

So I've made the calls today. I hope that you will too. Remember, they work for us. We should not fear them. They need to fear us.

Here is a portion of the email I received:

Health insurance reform
is finally ready for consideration by the full Congress, and hundreds of insurance company lobbyists on Capitol Hill are working overtime to kill it. Calling is quick and easy, but effective -- and your voice has tremendous power at this critical moment.

After you make your call, tell the staffer who picks up where you live and that you're counting on Congress to deliver on health reform. Let them know that Americans like you support the President's plan -- and that if your representatives are working to pass it, they have your thanks.

If we hit 100,000 calls made or committed to, we'll send an unmistakable signal that this time, families must come before insurance companies. We'll be tracking progress toward our goal publicly -- make sure to report your call back to us so we can count it:

The link gives you Durbin's and Burris' phone numbers at the Senate, as well as Quigley's in the House (5th district). If you're in a different district (or in another state altogether), there is a link to get your guy (gal).

Ah, the beauty of checks and balances (and you thought I wasn't a patriot.)

So it goes...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shameless Promotion- Band Photos

I'm doing a gig at the world famous Jazz Showcase in Chicago in mid-December.

It should be pretty cool. It's the band's first time in the place and we're gonna do an all-Coltrane (all the time) performance, including every selection from the great Love Supreme album.

No cover charge (try getting that from your doctor.)

Ooh and aah.

Just like any other company offering goods and services (are we still clinging to capitalism in the wake of nationalized banks and compassion for insurance companies' well being and proper place in society?), we need to promote the event in hopes of attaining fortune and glory and money for parking.

So we had a post card printed up with all of the info for the gig at the Jazz Showcase on Dec. 9 starting at 8pm. Maybe you are on our list to receive said postcard via U.S. Mail (another foolishly outdated institution.)

The card also has a band photo.

"So what?" you say?

Well, as any of you who have spent time in the trenches on the road know, EVERY band has to have a band photo. It's part of the package. So the group dons it's "look", whatever that is, which has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the band is any good (and usually they're not.)

For the rest of you, who have not seen the latest action shot of Dr. Love and the Milk Monkeys, there is a great website that I was turned on to by my friend, colleague, and bass player of BMR4, Chris Bernhardt, who incidentally will be performing on Dec. 9 at 8pm at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago.

The website is

Check it out. It is one of the funniest things I've seen online that wasn't dirty or banned in Southern states.

806 S. Plymouth Ct. in Chicago at 8pm on Dec. 9, by the way.

So it goes...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rolling Along

For those of you that have been wondering about me (and I'm sure that number is quite large), I'm alive and well and rolling right along.

Like a stone, as one might say.

Autumn always seems to bring a lull with it. Things have certainly slowed down. Guess that's why they call it the fall (whoever "they" are).

The summer, for both the working player and the weekend warrior that undercuts the working player, is and was lively and full of action. Lots of fun was had by yours truly. I had a great deal of work with both the Lonnie Brooks band and the BMR4, as well as the fine Mississippi Heat and Matt Stedman bands. I did a gig with an old pal, Vince Agwada, and another with an even older set of pals (Ron Shanaver, Buzz Kilman, Pat Brennan, "Dangerous" Dave Forte, and the All Bubba Blues Band/Heirs of Moe.)

Neil Young wouldn't have been prouder.

I also did a few clunkers. You know, the gig was average, the band (and the dough) was only average, the venue was average, and the wardrobe was average (if you look like a hack...)

But that was then, and this is now, and there's only looking forward. And even though things drop off a bit right about now, meaning the bread gets lighter in concert with the workload, it's by no means a disaster. Simply an adjustment in lifestyle.

And it is a lifestyle, not just a job.

Which is why it kills me that some of these younger cats out there can be so shortsighted. As you have by now surmised, I recently did a gig with a young bass player (always with the bass players.)

Green as a frog.

To again quote the late, great L.C. Walker (it's becoming routine these days, it would seem): "Let me elucidate."

You gotta do what you gotta do, and I understand that. But if you're gonna go ahead and take that $50 or $75 gig (yeah, I hate it too, but sometimes...,) the first thing to remember is that it's not really a good idea to bitch about it while you're on the gig. Nobody wants to hear it. Not the other guys in the band (they're getting screwed too, don't forget,) not the band leader, and certainly not the boss at the gig (even though he knows he's screwing you.)

Complaining will only give you a bad reputation in your young professional life. And since I am looking over at the kiddie table, remember that you don't exactly have one yet. We all deserve to make more, but we took the gig and that's that. If you really don't dig it, then don't do it (and believe me, I've turned down as many cheap-o gigs as I've taken.)

I know you think you're Jaco (who?), but, um, you're not. Maybe someday though.

Doesn't really matter if you're perceived as a whiner right out of the gate.

It's easy to find someone who'll do that $75 hit for 50, know what I mean?

The other thing you shouldn't do is spend half or more of your dough at the bar. It's not the smartest thing to be doing, don'tcha think? I mean, if you're complaining that the money's low, and you deserve this and that and such and such and your rent is due Monday and you gotta pay your over charges on your phone bill, then it's probably not a good idea to just give your paltry salary back to the boss.

Like I said, he knows.

As for me, I just roll along. Taking the good with the bad. Keeping my complaints close to the vest. Staying in the good graces of band leaders for the side work that fills in some of my blank spaces (which means I've got dates to fill. Don't be shy in calling.)

So it goes...