ZZ WARD VINTAGE VINYL 12/02/12
PHOTOS/VIDEOS/WORDS by BzNtz
Before Vintage Vinyl posted a event called ” ZZ Ward Instore Performance ” on Facebook. I had never heard of this young rising star. I had the night off work because, I was going to see Coheed and Cambria later in the evening. So my girlfriend and I decided to hit the local record store for some free tunes first.
So coming into this show, my knowledge of ZZ was extremely limited. I knew she had a new record out which was being well received, and that she recently appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Other than that, I knew next to nothing.
We got to the wonderful Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis, a few minutes early and found a good spot up front. About 20-30 people filled the aisles of cds and waited patiently for the show to start. About 6:05 the band came out from the back and took the small stage. They all looked very cool, and ZZ came out rocking a Notorious B.I.G shirt (Which made her even cooler!). She looked very excited to say the least!
ZZ is originally from Oregon, but is now based out of L.A . She played songs from her new album ” Till The Casket Drops ” which came out in October. One of my favorites was the title track ” Till The Casket Drops ” which is a great song about loving someone till the end. In this case, till the casket drops. She rocked this song, her voice was incredibly powerful and capturing.
There was a very diverse crowd in attendance all types of people, young and old filled the area around the stage. My girlfriend really enjoyed her lead single ” Put The Gun Down “. ZZ is a very good performer and she steals the show. Her lyrics are very catchy, her band was on point, and that made her show all the better.
ZZ really connects with the crowd, her band really compliments her well and they sound great together. Last time they were in town they opened for Blues legend Buddy Guy. If only I had known about them then, I would of went to that show.
Before playing the song ” Charlie Ain’t Home ” ZZ credited legendary Etta James for inspiring her to write the song. It was another highlight of her 25 minute, 5 song set-list. I enjoyed hearing the story and inspiration behind the song.
Before leaving she made sure to introduce her band and play a song about hooking up with a nerd called ” Move It Like You Stole It ” which was another great song. Everyone was in a good mood by the time they left the stage.
After the show, ZZ hung out to sign autographs and meet with fans. When it was our turn she was really nice to us, down to earth, and cool. Then Papa Ray from Vintage Vinyl came over and gave her a rare Etta James Cd that made her smile ear to ear. She was great to talk with and I am very happy I came out to see this show. They played a show here the day after at The Firebird which I was unable to attend sadly. However, next time I will be there, she blew me away. Go check her out if she comes to your town, you won’t regret it.
Acoustic singer-songwriters have always had a special place in my heart. I can’t explain it, but I have always been a sucker for the Marc Broussard’s, Jack Johnson’s, Matt Nathanson’s, and Todd Snider’s of the world. An acoustic guitar can go a long way when partnered with some witty stage banter and clever lyrics sung deep from the soul of the person who penned them. Its good to put the dancing shoes away every now and again and just chill out with a glass of Makers Mark, ride out your buzz while soothing to a crooner like Stephen Kellogg.
Kellogg normally spends his days as the leader of Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers (SK6ers), a Massachusetts based four piece that I have not only had the pleasure of seeing in the past at this same venue, (click for review from Sept. ‘10) but have also had a chance to catch many times over the past few years. But this was my first time experiencing Kellogg in the intimate solo acoustic setting. He plays a mean acoustic, channels his inner Dylan to shred the harmonica, and writes beautiful lyrics, about love, fatherhood, staying young, loneliness, and family…. not to mention everything else a 10 year vet of the grassroots music scene with over 1000 shows under his belt has endured.
The opener for the show was Tift Merritt, a 36 year old singer-songwriter with a country vibe which some people compare to Joni Mitchell or Emmylou Harris. (link to “Good Hearted Man” from 2004’s Tambourine) Merritt has released two albums on Lost Highway Records in addition to a few independent and live albums. Unfortunately I was unable to catch Tift, but she did come out to sing a song with Stephen Kellogg during his set (more on that later) and I was really digging her voice. There seemed to be many folks in attendance to see Tift, as a few songs into Kellogg’s set there were a few choice seats that opened up. You can get more information about Tift at her website.
Stephen Kellogg took the stage right about 8:45 with what appeared to be four mini chests or nightstands behind him with a few random pictures on them and a single strand of lights running along the curtain behind him, SK started his set with “Lonely in Columbus” and “A (With Love)” both from 2009’s The Bear. “Anthem of Our Discovery” from the 2005 self-titled album followed, but was stripped down even more than expected for an acoustic show. It was a nice change of pace for a song that usually gets the energy going at a SK6ers show. Kellogg then put the harmonica on for the first time as he asked the crowd if anyone served in the military. After 5 seconds of dead silence, he dedicated “4th of July” from 2007’s Glassjaw Boxer to soldiers serving everywhere.
A few weeks before the show Kellogg had announced via his Facebook page that he was going to take requests for this tour via the Facebook event page for each show. Well a highlight of the evening came when he announced that tonights Facebook request was “Girlfriend As Pretty As You” from the 2005 EP One Night in Brooklyn, a song requested by me via the event page. He then read off a few one liner quotes, some of which were from the mouth of former Dunder-Mifflin Regional Manager Michael Scott. Sadly I was not able to jot these down as I was getting another Makers Mark from the bar. Kellogg then played a new song about falling in love with his wife at the age of 18 called “1993.”
“Start the Day Early” and “Such a Way” both from the self-titled album, and two of my favorite SK6ers songs followed. Kellogg then welcomed Tift Merritt to the stage and together they traded verses for the classic Kenny Loggins tune “Dannys Song.” Merritt and Kellogg’s voices complemented each other very well and I was sad to see Tift go after only one song.
It was time for some crowd participation, as Kellogg divided the crowd into two sections and gave each their own 3 words to yell when called upon. He then played the uplifting “Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts” from The Bear, asking the crowd to yell “Rhea, Pearlman, Joanie, Chachi, Liberachi”, which as far as I know has no relevance to the song. The first set ended with “Milwaukee” from Glassjaw Boxer, another favorite song that references Kelloggs tour manager and cousin Jessica, who has also acted as merch girl and the SK6ers biggest fan for 10 years.
Kellogg then left the stage through the crowd and almost immediately came back on for the encore. After thanking the crowd, and pointing out a picture of his Grandma on the table behind him, it was two songs from The Bear to close the night out. First up was the title track which SK explained that the name had came from a lesson he learned as a child, and as Kellogg sang “sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. Sometimes you’re gonna win, and sometimes you’re gonna lose. But you know, in the end, theres no apologies” you could tell it was a lesson about not giving up no matter what the circumstances. The last song of the night was “Satisfied Man” which tackles eternal teenage love, zombies, the birth of a child, death and afterlife all in a 3 minute song that is actually pretty damn beautiful.
Needless to say, Stephen Kellogg has a way with words. The dudes a lyrical poet, and he can provide enough banter to keep the show flowing between songs when not backed by the Sixers. I would highly suggest checking this show out if you get a chance, but don’t slack on tickets as most shows on the tour as selling out well in advance. Check www.stephenkellog.com for more information and watch for a new album from SK and the Sixers this fall.
Catch him out on the West Side next week. 5/12 Seattle at The Triple Door, 5/13 Portland at Mississippi Studios, 5/14 San Francisco at Swedish American Hall, 5/16 Los Angeles at Bootleg Theater.
On their first visit to Utah, John Paul White and Joy Williams — The Civil Wars — promised the crowd at The State Room in Salt Lake City on Thursday they’d hear “folk.” Never a million years did I think I’d hear Michael Jackson’s trademark “Billie Jean” rendered in folk and that I’d absolutely love it.
Besides “Billie Jean” and “You Are My Sunshine” sung “darkly,” the duo sang a host of original material … “The Tip of My Tongue” and “Dance Me To The End of Love,” among others. Williams’ dulcet voice is intoxicating when layered with White’s whispery vocals and gentle guitar. Together they led the audience on a aural yin and yang of romantic love in “Poison and Wine.”
Williams is a brunette sprite with a darling tease of a smile. You’d never hear her California roots when she sings “Barton Hollow.” White, who’s actually from Alabama, looks the refined mountain boy-man. They both wore wedding rings — or at the least third finger left hand — yet aren’t married to each other. The stage chemistry between them is completely charming. Even the chit chat between songs, which typically appeals to me as much as nails on a chalk board, was genuinely likable.
The success that has landed The Civil Wars on the Jay Leno show, the Sundance Film Festival’s Music Cafe, and on tour throughout the US despite their short history is easily explained. The Civil Wars are every music couple’s music couple. Warm, silly, spontaneous, happy, and musically stunning. Yet their show was minimalist in so many ways: it wasn’t long, it wasn’t wide ranging in genres, and there wasn’t a huge back up band or props. And besides the acoustical excellence, every minute was exquisitely well orchestrated.
The audience left energized and wanting more. It was nearly impossible to navigate in the lobby outside The State Room, as crowds waited for their photo opportunities and demo CD signings with the two. The Civil Wars has a new album coming out on February 1st and based on the crowd response at The State Room, they’ll have a sellout.
If you missed seeing The Civil Wars at The State Room, you may be able to catch them in Park City at the Sundance Music Cafe during the coming week. Check their website for details.
Disclosure: Admission $12 + fees of $3.50. I did NOT receive payment for this review.
Heartroot concerts and snow in Utah are highly correlated. The Heartroot duo, featuring Mindy Dillard and Eric McEuen, was on my follow up list from the first time I saw them back in November. The first two attempts were thwarted by severe snow and snow packed (not plowed) roads. The third time was the charm.
Heartroot’s concert at the Holladay United Church of Christ began with the exquisite “Teach Me to Love You,” sung a capella. Thereafter, the “typical” configuration was Mindy on banjo, Eric on guitar, but they traded for a few numbers and also reached to their array of instruments on the stage, which was expansive and easily viewed from any seat in the house.
Gnomie is the couple’s mascot of sorts and he’s been blogging their adventures during their cross country tour, which began in their adoptive hometown of Portland and culminated in Utah with this final concert. Mindy’s appreciation of the childlike was notable throughout the performance. While in Utah, incidentally, she performed “Snow White and the Submarines,” an original operetta created for children of all ages. Last Saturday evening included learning how to make snail eyes and a few sing alongs.
The duo’s strikingly beautiful harmony, theatrical quality, and dramatic lyrics combined for a final charming tour performance in Mindy’s hometown of Salt Lake City. Playing from their extensive song list, tunes as “It’s a Tiny Fish In a Big Ocean,” “Break Me Open,” and the mellow and ponderous “Can I?” made the lineup.
The second half opened with a gorgeous capella number “Oh Sisters Let’s Go Down In the Valley to Pray” and continued with “Love Is a Tanglewood Tree,” “There From Here,” and “Little Bird,” which I have heard and written about previously. Both Mindy and Eric had written songs about their grandfathers, which they performed. “Hidden Water” painted a picture of a water dowser while “Grandpa” described a domino-playing grandpa who liked raisin pie.
The show – which ran well past 90 minutes past the 9 pm published ending time – finished strong with “There From Here,” “You’ve Gotta Move When the Lord Gets Ready,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow, “Angels All Alone,” and my favorite, “Guess We Made It Afterall.”
I quickly exited as I was late for a social engagement with friends. As I walked outside to my car, it was snowing fiercely. Imagine.
Sunday morning/early afternoon at Festival 8 was nothing short of perfect. I made my way to the venue pretty early in hopes of getting an 8 shaped donut and coffee along with a free scoop of Phish food in exchange for a busted old cell phone. While I managed to get my ice cream, I never made it into the 45 minute line for a free donut and coffee. Why would I when the only NFL game available at Festival 8 just happened to be the undefeated Indianapolis Colts vs. my beloved 49ers? I instead grabbed a Magic Hat brew and enjoyed a solid first half of football that just happened to have my team in the lead.
After getting some highlights at halftime, I headed towards the stage to get a good spot for the acoustic set. Having been lucky enough to see both nights of the 1998 Bridge School concerts (which Phish were apart of) I was excited to see what the boys could do with a full length acoustic set. Shortly after the crack of noon, the band took the stage in reverse stage positions (Page on stage left, Fish on stage right and Trey and Mike standing on their opposite sides) and encouraged the crowd to take a seat. The crowd did not oblige as the band launched into “Water in the Sky”. Somehow, the band managed to tone down the already mellow song. Up next was a song that is not a favorite of mine – “Get Back on the Train”. I must say, in the acoustic format, the song had a lot more twang, and was actually pretty fun.
It was around this time that the band once again asked the crowd to sit, and the masses finally agreed. Front man Anastasio joked that the band would be playing a lot of mellow numbers, and that he had never played to a sitting Phish crowd before. “Brian and Robert” followed Anastasio’s words and basically sounded the same acoustic as it does electric. The next song however was a treat to my ears at least, as I had never heard it before. I assume it is from a Mike Gordon solo record, but “Invisible” was a cool little ditty lead by the band’s bassist. I got my first “Strange Design” next, lead by Page McConnell who pounded upon the keys of his grand piano.
During this time, arguments began to break out in the crowd. Perhaps they couldn’t see because of the height of the stage, or maybe it was the “I got here when gates open and I wanna boogie” mentality, but the first few rows of audience was very upset that they had to sit. As they stood, the crowd behind them who wanted to sit quickly became aggravated. An epic battle of screams of sit down versus screams of stand up broke out during “Mountains in the Mist”. I was hoping to see some fist flies as things started to get ugly between the two mobs, but sadly time didn’t permit. The debate was settled by the next song.
The final song of the bands epic fail last festival known as Coventry, everyone stood up as the Vermont natives busted out an acoustic version of “The Curtain With”. Even stripped down, it’s hard not to shake your rump on this classic, and I stood up with the rest of the crowd (personally I enjoyed sitting as it had been a long weekend of partying/walking and I could take better video footage upon my rump). Musically, this may have been the highlight of the lengthy set. It was at least more impressive than a few of the songs that followed, such as the McConnell lead “Army of One” and Anastasio’s “Sleep Again”.
Things started to pick back up with some more classic Phish jams. While not a stretch to be played acoustic, “My Sweet One” is always fun. Same could be said for the Gordon lead song from 1996’s Billy Breathes – “Train Song”. Two big moments in the set were “Bouncing Around The Room” and “Wilson”. As much as I love “Wilson” the highlight of the song had nothing to do with music, and everything to do with Anastasio’s banter. Before the Whack boom balaba do laba do scream into the guitar solo, Anastasio cut off the rest of the band to confess to the crowd that it was not his idea to have us sit down. Apparently multiple members of management had told Anastasio that the crowd wanted to sit down, and begged him to ask. Being a lil ADHD himself, Anastasio admitted he could no longer sit upon his barstool and launched into guitar solo.
The Gamehendge theme continued with “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters” which while a rare treat for many was actually my third time seeing the song. As folks screamed for the first full Gamehendge in 15 years, many groaned as the band left the stage. Sweating like a pig, I deiced to head back to grab some water as the band to my surprise returned to the stage for an encore. I headed for the very back of the field beyond the towers that had shot fire the night before and found a large section of empty grass to lie down upon. Perhaps the most requested song of the day, “Driver” made many sweaty hippies happy, but I was more stoked about “Talk” which is rarely played during electric sets. In fact, I wish the band had stopped there, but instead they closed with the painful “Secret Smile”. While many joked that it was the best “Secret Smile” ever (and truthfully it probably was), it was a rather lackluster way to close an otherwise beautiful set.
I don’t know why, but I heard many complaints about the acoustic set amongst various phans all day. I heard that it didn’t work, that they didn’t go off and that the song selection sucked. While I agree that some of the songs were not my particular favorite (Secret Smile and Army of One come to mind), how could anyone be upset by the chance to see Phish not only surrounded by beauty in any direction you looked, but hear them stripped and vulnerable? Clearly Phish is an electric band, but to strip songs like “Wilson” and “The Curtain With” down shows that beyond the jams and funk are well crafted songs. Personally, I hope Phish doesn’t wait 11 years to unplug again.