It was the early ‘90s; a friend had encouraged me to come by Bear’s Back Room to hear Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings from Nashville, Tenn. They were on the road, playing their first gig in Bloomington and had yet to make a record. I came late, halfway into the evening. Before I had time to find a seat, I was stopped in my tracks and spent the rest of the night standing in the doorway at the precipice of another time and place in what felt like the early days of country music.
They had it all, the writing and musicianship, and on stage they looked like a Dorothea Lange photograph sprung to life. Gillian, with hair tied back, was wafer thin, in vintage attire. Dave’s shock of dark hair was anchored by sideburns, and he was wearing a dress coat and wrestling a calliope of sounds out of his guitar.
The Red Cross emblem on the outside implies it's a hospital. But the art hanging on the white walls make it apparent it is not. The Art Hospital, which opened in late 2005, will be gone by July 31, 2010. The local art gallery and studio, located at 102 E. Allen St., held its final show, "Carnivalesque," a celebration of carnival-, fairground- and circus-themed art, on Saturday, July 24.
The communally run gallery/studio has functioned completely on the effort of the members for almost five years. Lately seven members have contributed. However, the number of artists involved in Art Hospital has fluctuated over the years.
INDIANAPOLIS -- On Monday, June 21, just a few days shy of his 66th birthday, guitar legend Jeff Beck played a sold-out show at the Egyptian Room of the Murat Theater.
If the rare Indianapolis performance is any indication of how his world tour is going, it's safe to say that Jeff Beck is having the time of his life. And why not? He's on a roll.
In January, Beck won a Grammy Award for his instrumental version of the Beatle's classic "A Day in the Life." Since that time, he's toured with fellow Yardbirds alumnus Eric Clapton; released his first studio recording in seven years, Emotion & Commotion (Atco); and performed a tribute to Les Paul at New York City's intimate Iridium Room, on what would have been the guitar innovator's 95th birthday.
Beck opened Monday night's 90-minute set with a cover of the Billy Cobham's "Stratus." Propelled by Narada Michael Walden's explosive percussion, this number put the enthusiastic crowd on notice: "Fasten your seat belts; you're in for a wild ride."
"Is the guitar too loud?" "Nope." "Should it be louder?" "Yeah!"
Tim Harmon, local singer/songwriter, questions the audience on the noise level of his guitar at the Monday Night Songwriter Showcase on May 17 at the Player's Pub, located at 424 S. Walnut St. People continuously trickle through the door to enjoy food, drinks, good company and great music.
Suzette Weakley, one of the showcase's founders and a main organizer, says the weekly gig's reputation has grown so much in the past four years that touring songwriters from across the country looking for filler gigs find it a perfect opportunity.
Editor's note: The following guest column was submitted by Ashley Fisher from the Bloomington Area Arts Council in response to criticisms leveled by local artists in The Bloomington Alternative and other local media.
Fallout from the past
The new (Bloomington Area Arts Council) Board's 10-month story starts with the realization at the beginning of 2009 that the organization was failing -- again. Sensing this, both Ashley Fisher and Rob Hanrahan, who had recently joined the BAAC -- Fisher as a new Board member in October 2008 and Hanrahan November 2008 as a fundraising consultant -- took up the challenge as President of the Board of Trustees and Executive Director respectively in March 2009 to address the long-term sustainability of the arts council, despite its weakened state at that time. Both believed that the organization could be transformed -- and still do.
Music and culture critic Jessica Hopper -- consultant for the revered public radio show, This American Life and whose work is regularly featured in publications such as SPIN and LA Weekly -- indulged a diverse Boxcar Books audience on Aug. 28 with readings from her new book The Girls' Guide to Rocking.
A meaty manual on creating, recording and performing music, The Girls' Guide to Rocking is garnering across-the-board praise for its painstaking nuts-and-bolts approach to music and for its expediency to anyone -- not just the adolescent girls it targets -- interested in making it.
Though written in direct, accessible language, the book is impressive in its breadth and scope, and Hopper, a musician herself since age 15, explained that in writing it she drew from her own experiences. "I wrote this book on how to start a band and play and pursue your own interest in music, and a lot of it is culled from my own experiences from being a teenager in a band and growing up as a girl in a band."
Craig Brenner & the Crawdads
Live to Love
Bloomington’s own Craig Brenner & the Crawdads have just issued a new CD that romps with boogie, blues, jazz, R&B and even country in a delightful potpourri of 10 original songs. Craig Brenner, leader of the group and composer, lyricist and arranger of all 10 original numbers on the new CD, Live to Love, is an exemplar of what can happen when formal musical training meets deep-inside soulfulness and creativity.
Brenner graduated from Florida Southern College in 1970, then studied jazz piano with Wally Cirillo in Miami. He attended the justly renowned Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington from 1976 to 1980, where he studied piano, composition and improvisation, then undertook additional study through a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, studying boogie-woogie and stride piano under Bob Seeley and blues piano under Big Joe Duskin.
Editor's Note: "The Blues of Poetry" will be an occasional theme pursued in "Blues and More" columns, which will explore poetry set to music, and poetry inspired by music. Future topics will include the ragtime and blues poetry of award-winning Indiana poet Jared Carter; the poetic musings inspired by music of another Indiana poet Richard Pflum; a look at the highly lyrical and poetic songwriting of Canadian Paul Reddick; and the CD of Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf reading his poetry to musical accompaniment featuring Bloomington jazz pianist Monika Herzig.
Joseph Kerschbaum, spoken original poems
Josh Johnson, musical composition, guitars, keyboards, bass, with J.B. Murray, drums
Our Voices Sound Like Silence
Kerschbaum and Johnson
The CD Our Voices Sound Like Silence is best looked at as an interlocking poetic oratorio in 11 movements, each part contributing to an interlocking, complete composition in words and music. Thus is Our Voices Sound Like Silence embraced both in its totality as a composition and through each one of its 11 separate, complementary parts. These parts are: the eight original poems of Joseph Kerschbaum, which he reads over a musical backdrop composed by Josh Johnson, with Johnson playing multiple instruments accompanied by drummer J.B. Murray; and the three strictly musical interludes that begin, end, and form a bridge between the two thematic groups of Kerschbaum's readings that comprise four poems each. Structured, yet flowing freely, as a river within the boundaries of its banks, is this composition in word and music that forms the totality of this CD.
The First Annual Chubby's Reunion Fest was a two-day gala event held May 9-10 at the Indianapolis East Side music club Zanies Too, a most worthy event to honor a most worthy person, Chubby Wadsworth. The Chubster, as he's affectionately called, is the grand dean of Indianapolis original music, which he spotlighted, encouraged and actively supported at Chubby's Club LaSalle.
While no one seems to be sure when Wadsworth took over the reins of Club LaSalle, it was an active music venue in the 1990s right up to the last live performance there, the Bluesapalooza jam on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 2003 (Club LaSalle closed its doors permanently in February 2004, and the building was demolished earlier this year).
Club LaSalle is remembered fondly by musicians and fans alike as a place where both were always welcome, and where creativity and original voices were cultivated and encouraged. Unfortunately, while an artistic triumph in culturally starved Indianapolis, Club LaSalle was always touch-and-go financially, in part due to its location on the rough Near East Side in the "heart of Indianapolis's murder district." But inside the club it was always safe, and far too many now mourn the passing of Club LaSalle when they themselves didn't patronize it during the time its doors were open.
Indianapolis’s Locals Only Art & Music Pub, located at 2449 E. 56th St., half a block east of the intersection of 56th and Keystone Avenue, is one of the Circle City’s most outstanding original music venues, and its noted open mics are active incubators of that music. All three of the CDs reviewed below have strong ties to those open mics.
Johnny Ping, creative force behind the Accidental Arrangements, used to host the Tuesday night open mics, while Jethro Easyfields has long hosted the one on Wednesday nights. Simeon Pillar, Muncie singer/songwriter and musical collaborator with Easyfields, has been playing at the Locals Only open mics for three years now.