Music


February 9, 2008

I've had the pleasure of knowing Mike Milligan for a decade now and during this time watch him grow as a guitarist and musician, a songwriter and a singer, becoming, with his band Steam Shovel, national-quality blues-rock performers who are respected as such -- while still continuing to live in Central Indiana!

Mike, now 36, and the two other permanent members of Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel -- brother Shaun, 33, bassist, and Robert "Tiny" Cook, drummer -- are all full-time musicians, although "Tiny" is also an engineer for Escience, a multi-million dollar home theater company that's made home theaters for former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller, pizza entrepreneur Papa John and the Drake Hotel. Mike formed Steam Shovel in 1993, with Shaun joining in 2000, and Cook in 2005.


February 2, 2008

It all started with a simple brainstorming session. IU senior Eric Butte, from the IU Business Careers in Entertainment Club (BCEC), wanted to put on a show that would draw a crowd, be fun and worthwhile, and maybe draw a little profit in for the Emergency Room at Bloomington Hospital, which saved his life from a near-fatal motorcycle accident several years ago.

He wanted something fun and simple. What he got was Hoosier Guitar Idol, a two-year-running, rip-roaring good time of a guitar talent show that attracts the best axemen this side of State Road 37.

"There's just something about guitar playing that brings people out, that people love to see," Butte said. "People love guys like Slash and Jimmy Page, and they also love [shows like] American Idol. So the idea just combined the two."


January 27, 2008

Uncle Fester's House of Blooze got a taste of the real thing last Thursday.

But just a taste -- because when you take a band like the Chicago Afrobeat Project (CabP), whose last show was at the House of Blues in Chicago, and place them on a small stage like at Uncle Fester's, not only do all of the musicians barely fit, they've got a hell of a lot less to work with.

Luckily for the Bloomington crowd, CabP didn't seem too concerned with the venue. They were just having a great time showing us what the Chicago spin on afro-beat music sounds like.

January 26, 2008

In case you missed the preliminary rounds of this year's Hoosier Guitar Idol, hosted by the IU Business Careers in Entertainment Club (BCEC), don't stress. There is still rock redemption to be had.

The five remaining contenders will battle it out for the "Idol' title at 8 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 28, at Max's Place, located at 109 W. Seventh St.

While competition details are still being worked out, the finalists -- Casimir Lewandowski, Shane Provost, Kyle Gilpin, Austin Johnson and Tyler Baker -- will expose their creative visions, hopefully with their own composed riffs, to the audience for about five to 10 minutes apiece. From these exhibitions, the panel of judges will make their decision on who will be Bloomington's next Hoosier Guitar Idol.


January 19, 2008

You're invited to a wedding – IU Opera style. On Feb. 1, the IU Opera Theater will open the spring portion of its 2007-08 season with the nation's first collegiate performance of A Wedding by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom.

A Wedding, based on Robert Altman's 1978 film about a high-society wedding, was first staged at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2004 and is Bolcom's third project with IU Opera Theater. Bolcom's collegiate premieres of McTeague (1996) and A View from the Bridge (2005) achieved critical acclaim with the IU Opera Theater.


January 13, 2008

If David Baas had lived his life according to what other people told him to do, or followed a typical societal timeline, his life would look very different. After all, a biology professor couldn’t keep 12 dusty guitar cases lining the perimeter of his new office. Nor would it be professional to keep a cherry-wood acoustic leaning against his desk for easy access.

His walls would be adorned with diagrams of the DNA double-helix structure and magnified images of the HIV virus rather than a vibrant watercolor portrait of Ringo Starr.

Baas’s office, in the back of Roadworthy Guitar & Amp, has a sort of systematic disorder to it. Loose papers threaten to consume the desk space, music magazines pile up in the corner, and thumbtacks hold countless stray notes to a cork board, far above eye level. If it were neat, Baas joked, he’d never find anything.


December 29, 2007

Betty Harris
Intuition
Evidence ECD26135-2

With contemporary so-called R&B so dominated by Britney Spears wannabes in blackface, it's so pleasurable indeed to hear the real thing done by a seasoned artist who knows how it's done. Certainly Betty Harris's Intuition fits that bill -- to a tee! It's just an all-around musical pleasure.

Betty Harris perfected her soul, blues and R&B chops from 1958 to 1969, working with singer Big Maybelle and producers Bert Berns and Allen Toussaint, and touring with Otis Redding. Then she retired from music to raise her family, but fan notice posted on the Internet brought her back into performing again in 2005. In December, 2006 she teamed up with producer/engineer/songwriter/musician Jon Tiven to record Intuition, her debut solo CD, released on the well-regarded Evidence blues and soul label.


December 5, 2007

Watermelon Slim and the Workers
The Wheel Man
Northern Blues Music NBM0038

In the past few years, one of the biggest, most talked-about, emerging blues artists has been Watermelon Slim. Okie, Vietnam veteran, holder of blue-collar jobs, Watermelon Slim honed his hard-edged blues the old fashioned way: in small clubs and juke joints, but also at antiwar rallies, just playing the straight-ahead, raw blues from the heart before demanding but also straight-ahead, raw audiences who could tell who was real, and who was just faking it, as soon as they heard it. They heard the real thing in Watermelon Slim and his band, the Workers, and they rallied.


December 4, 2007

My First Time
A Collection of First Punk Show Stories
Chris Duncan, Editor
Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2007

Yes, a review-essay on a new book about punk rock. So what’s that got to do with the blues? Plenty, as you’ll see below. This is exactly why my column is called “Blues and More.” Because, just as with the review last week of the killer CD by the Killer himself, classic rock ‘n’ roller Jerry Lewis, I wanted to be able to explore far more that is relevant to the living soul of the blues than just genre-specific blues music itself. And a good look at My First Times fits this format of doing blues – and more – exactly.


November 20, 2007

There are certain things in life that just sit with you. Maybe it's a song, maybe it's a scene in your favorite movie, or maybe it's a painting filled with color and life. Whatever "it" is, it rounds out your life and makes the journey a little easier to bear.

For me, it's an entire musical. Rent, the history-making rock musical based on Puccini's opera La Boheme, came to the IU Auditorium Nov. 13 and 14, and the experience filled a hole in my life that I didn't even know existed.

While I was already familiar with the music and storyline from the movie version that came out in 2005, I knew I needed to see it live to get the full experience. Well, I went, and I fell in love with the production all over again.

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