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Three LIVE SHOW reviews for your reading pleasure this time around... the scene around the Puget Sound is definitely "getting better", particularly in th' blues/jazz/funk vein... look for more here next issue...
Cara Clarke, Blue Bottle, 7/25/2009
After hittin' th' "Blue Bottle Cafe" the very night before Cara's show, I had decided I would skip this one, & catch her on the next go-round... as often happens, though, my FB page started percolating with activity about 10:00 in the morning on the 25th... a sort of random message led me to find that my long-time musical pal Remus Glaude was actively lookin' for something to do with his flugelhorn... turns out he'd already met Cara (& Michelle as well), and already knew some of her players (Stefan Abuon) - who you've seen here before in LIVE SHOW reviews, so her gig at Blue Bottle was a no-brainer... we had to make it! He picked me up a lil' after 7:00pm, & we rolled on out through Rainier & into Yelm around 07:45 or so... lots more folks hangin' out than normal, so I'm assuming there had been a lot of advertising.
I get the "big table", back against the wall, so I can have the most flexibility in getting pictures... routine sound checks begin to happen + for this show, Cara's joined by bassist Steve Bartlett & percussionist Jay Sicilia ... as with the last show, the leadoff is done by the players (not Cara), but this opener packs a fine punch, with the bass & percussion contributing in a big way to the "THUMP" (for lack of a better term)... 'coz that what these boys were doin' - just KICKIN' it! After that opener, Steve does a nice walkin' bass line (and sings) on "Gone Fishin"... (or was it "Goin' Fishin"?)... either way, you'll definitely get the idea when you hear these guys do a lazy but punchy walk through th' glory of being free to choose what one wants to do - in other words, retire... somehow I could really relate to that! :-) It's clearly apparent that these guys understand what music is supposed to be about - FUN!!! That always has something to do with the ambience Michelle Jones has established here in the Blue Bottle, too, though... reminds me a great deal of high times back in the "Gnu Deli" (downtown Olympia in the late '70's), except that it's more of a spirit influence than the substances that were so plentiful in those old days! It's like there's no pressure in here to "be someone else", & that the things you do well are encouraged here... that kind of atmosphere makes for monumental musical performances, too! Definitely a groovy little place to hang out & be entertained in... you'll meet all kinds of characters here, for sure - & that diversity is a big part of the attraction for anyone with an open mind! Quite a contrast, too... an "oasis of cool" in this little (though ever-expanding) "pride of the prairie" town.
As Cara takes the stage & begins her act, you can immediately feel a sense of magick beginning to happen... she's not just talented (though she certainly is that), she truly enjoys being up in front of folks, & knows how to weave a spell! She leads off with a great tune (penned by Abuon, in fact) that makes even the most non-musical in the audience understand why "music can be a friend".... she's projectin' soul like a BOMB, & gets all of us RAWK-in with her... before the end of "Kansas City", she has the audience eating out of her hand & toasting the celebration with her!
During our FB chats earlier in the day, Cara had invited Remus to come out to the gig, & she told him he "better bring his horn"... having known him for quite a few years, I knew he might be just a tad shy about gettin' up there, so when Cara rolls the band into a Sly & The Family Stone tune, I'm urging him to get on up there... & I'll tell you folks, he just shined on it... in fact, you see that Cara was right there encouraging him on, & the audience got right on up & joined in... it wasn't long before the "keyword" for this celebration of life & the living was abandon!!! Heck, by the end of the evening (they're supposed to close around 10:30, but I think it was 11:15 or so before the end of the last set), essentially everybody was on the floor!
If you're looking for a place to listen to great music, where the spirit will touch you (but not be "pushy" about it), you need to roll on out there - I think they said their next gig is on Saturday the 8th of August... great music, great spirit & a great place to be. I have a feeling Ms. Jones has some genies in some of those lil' blue bottles, & performers like Cara Clarke know how to reach right on down there & take them out of the bottle for a few hours, so all of us can FEEL the SPIRIT! & what could be cooler than that?
Jillian Fate, Blue Bottle, 7/24/2009
Diggin' back through emails about a show I thought was coming up at Michelle Jones "Blue Bottle Cafe"... couldn't find it, so went to the calendar & stumbled on an announcement about Jillian's show... hit her MYSPACE page & liked what I heard, so knowing that Michelle always offers something diverse, I packed up my ol' city-slicker cowboy hat & headed on out to Yelm!
When I walk in, Cara Clarke is there... we yak a bit about another favorite player of mine (Rodger Pegues - who, as it turns out is one of Cara's old-time musical pals)... I play two or three boogies on the old piano in the side room, then we wander out to smoke a bit & watch as Jillian & her red pickup pull up to off-load their equipment. Cara introduces me & we sit together on the bench stoop chattin' 'bout stuff all th' way from "light" experiences to the death of parents... very "real" discussion, no "mystical krapola", & just as "down-home" as I always expect it be at Michelle's place... truly comfortable, no pressure, small & intimate! (Of course, the triple latte helps to keep the yak going).
During the sound checks & setups, Jillian's "PR girl", Mary (her sister-in-law), takes a couple of shots of her standing in front of her "Jilly band"... that's two cutouts of sax/guitar playin' ladies who are there (at least in shadow) to back her up... a couple more shots while the sound tech (turns out that's Jillian's brother Shwan)...
...as I read through her little promo sheet, I find out a couple of interesting things.... it mentions that her husband Jim & her son Austin support her musical efforts... & that she's from Eatonville - that town is a whole 'nother story in itself (I used to work there many years ago)... the rigs are just about setup & they do a couple of sound checks, so the small audience knows it's just about time for her show to start (20 minutes or so after the advertised time, but everybody seems to be cool with that, probably 'coz of the relaxed atmosphere).
After a (very) brief introduction from Mary, Jillian hops up & monologues a short introduction to her first tune, "What A Trip"... all sequenced, with her doing vocals against it... she dances a bit & shows just a tad of butterflies... nothing new, if a performer doesn't have just a little bit of "edge" on, they never make it over the first hurdle... after Michelle turns the lights up (during the second tune, I think), you can see Jillian relax a bit... her style during that first tune is kind of "Broadway"... lots of movement on her part, plenty of arm swing, hip-sway & eye contact with the audience... this is definitely not the kind of show one sees every day in Yelm (or anywhere else), and it's readily apparent that she's put a lot of practice & soul into her message! What she's doing also defintely contributes to the three words that always come to mind when thinking about the Blue Bottle - "different", "diverse" & "delightful"!
On "We Will Rise", the mix was good, but it seemed to me that the volume on the music tread (a bit) on her vocal, & it has a "sound drop" right in the middle... not a good thang! Her vocals remain strong, though, & (eventually) the engineer pushes her mike back up enough so we can hear her singing! As she seques to "Dance To The Future" & stretches out with some real dance moves & vocally, I think to myself... "this really isn't what I would listen to on an average day", but at the same time, Ms. Fate injects plenty enough spirit & soul, which makes it stay quite interesting! After a couple more sequenced tunes, both more upbeat than the earlier ones, she sits down to play an original of hers called "Shadows"... part of it is based on sequences, but she plays the board, too, as well as singing it. Easy to tell that this one is near/dear to her, & in my mind's eye, I could see her in-studio, trippin' on into the spheres for hours on end, using the keyboards as the transport (like I do sometimes). Jillian's "draw" for those who watch her performance is her "moves" (very show-stage oriented) & a kind of transcendence you seldom see these days. All in all, a very interesting set to listen to & absorb. I believe she's nearly ready with a CD, so when that's out, I'm lookin' forward to review copy!
I'd been looking forward to seeing & hearing this gig (11 July, 2009) for our friends "Sour Owl" for a month or so, ever since I saw it announced on (one of) their web pages... the 17th Annual Tacoma Old Town Blues Festival promised to be one cookin' event... on arrival (my first time in Old Town Tacoma), I could see that their ads weren't just "hype"... though the parking was on a steep hill, it was too easy to slide right in - of course, I got there around 10:45, an hour & a half before there was anyone (except the promoters & the sales tents) there. About 30 minutes after arriving, I wandered back from the quaint little bar/restaurant (The Spar) to find Lynn Henson (leader of the band) & the drummer setting up & doing sound checks... as you can see from the picture, there was quite a bit of emphasis/advertisement for "Red Hook" (which has a brewery right there in Old Town, I believe, though I didn't see it). The whole atmosphere was righteously "down home", sort of like a gigantic blues picnic... booths setup selling everything from necklaces to tasty BBQ nuggets - to add to the whole festive & slightly pagan atmosphere, there was even a face-painting booth... noticed a lot of kids & adults getting cute little butterflies & such painted on their cheeks. Cool stuff, to be sure - it's really nice when the whole family can attend such an event & know they're gonna' have a great time!
After checking out the setup, I wandered over behind stage & saw my pal Steve Munger, who plays sax for the band. Found out the first few hundred copies of their CD had finally come through, & (of course) they were ready for sale at this event... as you'll see if you visit Steve's page (link above), he's been on the Olympia scene (in various bands/genres & venues), for a long time, but he seemed pretty hepped up about this CD release, & I can't say I blame him... the review copy he handed off to me (even though I already reviewed the trax in issue #92), is sounding very, very good - excellent recording. As Steve & the rest of the band pointed out, the artwork for the CD was all "home-grown", & even has some "stories" behind it - more on that later.
The band came on about 5 minutes after noon (they were supposed to start at noon, but you know how that goes - especially at a laid-back festival event like this), only to find they had one "cold" amp... fortunately, it only took about 45 seconds for that to get fixed, & they SLAMMED right into it with their "Sweet Mocha Drop" (on the left) - great opener, to be sure! Right after that, they moved into the git-down & phunky "Coyote" (right side above), & it wasn't long until folks in the crowd sat down their BBQ & Red Hook to get on up & dance 'round in front of the stage... (you can see a mom showin' her kid how to shake it in the picture below)... everyone in this band contributes to the momentum they generate, & a grand time was (surely) had by all - Sour Owl is a SOLID band, whether they're playin' blues, rock-oriented stuff or (even a bit of) jazz! I stayed through the entire set (just about 50 minutes), but had to get up & walk around (sitting on the grass is cool, but next time I'll make sure I bring a portable chair, some sandwiches & a cooler full of ice-water). This was an excellent opening act for Old Town's festival - they set a great mood for the crowd, but stayed (as usual) true to their funky & spirit-filled roots! A wonderful time was had by all - I'll be sure to make the 18th, & will hope the "Owl" is there, too!
Till next time...,
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