Frank Gutch Jr: No Small Children’s New Video!!! * Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Varying Levels of Reality * Mist and Mast at The Wandering Goat * and (of course) Notes!

FrankJr2If you’re talking about music this year, even with the amazingly huge numbers of out of sight (or out of site) songs and albums being released, there is one song which rises to the level of Summer Anthem and that is Might Get Up Slow by three teachers out of L.A. calling themselves No Small Children.  Roll your eyes and say I’m beating a dead horse, if you will, but I know a solid hit when I hear one and this is it!  A few years ago, Sheryl Crow was handed a verbal “Anthem of the Summer” award by a lame media tied closely to a monied music and entertainment industry.

You remember it?  Neither do I.  Might Get Up Slow is a song of a different color, sports fans.  Just as I have gone around for over forty years bopping my head to The JamiesSummertime, Summertime, you hear this and you might well be spending your next four decades remembering and singing along with Might Get Up Slow, it is that good (and that up).  Good news is that you won’t have to search for it.  We here at DBAWIS can make it easy for you and are happy to do it.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what an Anthem of the Summer should sound like, major labels be damned!

Bosnia, Bono & Bill (Carter, that is)…..

The past few weeks, I have been making my way through a book which has me a bit disturbed— about myself, mostly.  The book is Fools Rush In and was written by one Bill Carter who, after losing a lady he loved almost too much, set a course which eventually landed him in Bosnia— specifically Sarajevo.  At one time site for the Olympics (1984), Sarajevo eight years later became a focal point for the war which broke up Yugoslavia, seemingly forever.  The city suffered a geographic catastrophe in that the Serbs were easily able to surround the city and basically starve its inhabitants to submission, except they did not submit.  The Sarayevans chose starvation and a slow attrition of inhabitants by artillery strikes and sniper fire rather than a sure ethnic cleansing at Serbia’s bloody hands.  Perhaps “chose” is a poor choice of words because after a certain point, they were trapped.  When Carter went there, the situation was tentative, at best.  Truth be told, as I read, I thought he was crazy.  I would never have been able to have done what he did.  Chances are, he wouldn’t have, either, if his situation had been just a tiny bit different.

The book is about war, sports fans, and not the simple face of war handed us by “The Embedded” (Thanks for killing real news, Cheney and Bush, you freaks), but real war— one in which friends and neighbors stop being friends and neighbors and in fact, kill one another for some greater good no one understands.  It is about starvation and lack of running water and feces and blood.  Life drained from good people right before your very eyes.  Hatred fertilized where before there was none.  Rotting corpses and body parts.  Mass graves.

It is also about life and how it goes on and it is there I become conflicted.  Bill Carter found himself in Bosnia almost by mistake— partially because he did not really know where he was going.  The important thing at the time that he knew where he was coming from and that was not where he wanted to be.  If anywhere.

To be in such a situation is not easy, at best.  Very, very difficult at best, I would think.  Especially when you see others die and starve and try to survive.  Throughout the book, Carter introduces us to people who, in a different situation, might be ordinary but in this instance are far from that.  People like Ciba and his wife, Amra.  Vlado who, in a time of desperation, fronted a band.  Sisters Lejla and Selma, as interested in the outside world as they were trying hard to survive in their own.  Graeme Bint, who was just plain crazy because how could you do what he did and not be.  What did he do?  Put his life on the line trucking donations of food and clothing and blankets and the like for the inhabitants of the besieged Sarajevo.  Spent days dispensing goods to the people he thought counted.  Survived.

billcarterportlandstateBut Bill Carter‘s tale was not all grass roots.   It also involved U2 and Bono and newspeople and criminals and politicians.  It involved life as much as death and, according to Carter, even more than death.  Life in death’s circle, maybe?  In an unending circle?

The more I read, the more I got an uneasy feeling, as if I could have been Carter or Bint or any one of the people involved in what essentially boiled down to a life or death struggle.  Could have been.  I have never been in a situation which involved life or death.  That uneasy feeling, I soon realized, was guilt.

Carter himself felt the guilt and even admitted it.  He could leave anytime he wanted and he had tins of food he could have eaten and did, when it came down to it.    He was American and had a sense of immunity, a power as it were, which kept him safe.  He thought.

In a strange turn of events whilst in Sarajevo, Carter made contact with U2’s management company and eventually, Bono, hoping to arrange a concert for Sarajevo.  As they kicked ideas around, U2 decided to do a string of live satellite hookups to coincide with U2 concerts.  The idea was to bring the plight of the besieged to the rest of the world.  It was a good idea, I think.  An admirable idea.  U2 was big enough and rich enough to throw a certain amount of money toward the situation and leave it at that but thought that awareness was more important.  So they did it.  They constructed a 90-foot screen which would carry the images of Sarajevans, live and in color, and through that allowed Sarajevo to speak to the outside world.  They did this at how many concerts?  Thirteen?  And then stopped.  Cold.

By this time in the book, I had invested enough of myself that I began asking questions (mostly of myself).  Why did I think it a bad thing that they pulled the plug?  Why did I feel slighted?  Why did I read so much into the things printed in the book?  I was sure it had not been written with my thoughts in mind, so why am I taking it personally?

u2Maybe it’s my background in music.  I have payed little attention to U2‘s career, you know.  I had no idea this had happened.  I stopped listening at the second album and was totally amazed that that was when the millions and millions of fans they gathered were just beginning.  I never expected them to be that big.  I remember standing across the street from Astor Park, a venue in Seattle, listening to them play a way too loud set to a crowd packed in like sardines, many leaning against the large windows out of necessity.  I remember thinking, this is crazy.  It seemed like the vibrations from the amps added to the bodies leaning against windows could lead to disaster.  But they didn’t.  There was no doubt in my mind, though, that a few people damaged their hearing that night.

So why am I thinking those things as I’m working my way through the book?  Because over the years I have heard a lot of complaining about Bono and U2.  From people in the music industry.  From people who thought Bono was being given too much access to politicians and to government.  From people who thought musicians had their place and it wasn’t trying to change the world.  Too many times over the years, I have heard people refer to Bono in a who-does-he-think-he-is tone.  In my head, I have had that tone myself at varying times.

Why?  All through Fools Rush In, I found myself conflicted.  It was a good thing U2 did, right?  They were helping people who needed help, right?  If it had been that easy, I suppose I could have understood it.  It became clear toward the end of the book when U2’s management pulled the plug on the Sarajevan participation in the concerts.  Carter wanted to know a few things and got his answer.  He put the question to Bono, who is making decisions, and Bono said we all are.  Myself and the other members of the band.  Together.    U2 is no longer a band.  They are a corporation.

Which may be one reason I don’t like superstars, outside of the fact that I am forced to hear their music too goddamned much.  I suppose I could wear earplugs, but I find them uncomfortable and unnecessary, especially when buying food at Piggly Wiggly.  The point is, when bands or musicians become that big, they are no longer artists.  They are barely people.  To me.

The good thing about reading the book I think is that I was forced to examine my values.  I was forced to think of what I do in terms of importance, especially in relation to other things.  To myself, the most important thing in the world outside of life itself is music.  I don’t know why.  It just is, and it remains so.  But there are so many levels to life and so many more to music and war and politics and so many things.  Is it any wonder the world is fucked up?

Mist & Mast and Ferns at the Wandering Goat

fernsTwo summers ago, I walked into Sam Bond’s Garage in Eugene, Oregon expecting a blowout session by the Bay Area’s Mist and Mast and stumbled upon a decent opening act in the form of locals Heavenly Oceans.  A bit more than eclectic, they played a good opening set and featured a guitarist from whom I would have liked to have heard more.  A few nights ago, I walked into the Wandering Goat, a coffeehouse in that same town, to see Mist and Mast and was treated to more Jake Pavlak, this time with a band calling themselves Ferns.  Whatever Pavlak did with Heavenly Oceans, he does more with this trio— Pavlak (vocals, guitar), Jeremiah Harris (bass) and The Kyd (drums).  Mist and Mast could not have asked for a better opening act because, so I thought, their music came from similar places.  As Ferns made their way through a number of songs (some so short they probably should be designated music vignettes), it came to mind that they had been studying Mist and Mast, their odd chord progressions and somewhat complicated rhythmic patterns mirroring that band.  It seemed that way.  I mean, it seemed so.  Of course, a few of the short pieces were low-end crankers and too short to even be considered M&M soundalikes, but on some of the longer pieces…..

But first let me set the scene.  The Wandering Goat is on Madison Street on the west side of Eugene not five blocks from where I once lived, houses of the older one-story variety which were prominent back in the twenty’s or so.  I would say that it is of the old hippie variety coffee shop but for the occasional tattooed and strangely coiffed customers trekking in and out for their caffeine and/or alcoholic preferences (coiffed meaning merely that the styles of hair ranged from intricately shaved and shaped to the natural).  It is bare-butt in terms of furniture, wooden tables and chairs easily movable and there is little in the way of amenities.  Like most coffee shops in the Pac NW, they serve a wide variety of caffeine-linked drinks and, I believe, roast coffee right on the premises.  They also serve up a nice variety of local brews, but I was driving.  I drank coffee.  It was good, too, though it kept me up most of the night.

Watching Ferns set up was a treat.  Right off, I noticed the strange combination of Fender Bassman head atop an Ampeg Classic speaker cabinet, the aged head showing more brown than the original silver grill cloth and the speaker cabinet a solid Ampeg gray.  Pavlak played through a classic Fender Super Reverb and The Kyd’s drum pedal was a leather-stripped Tama, reminiscent of the old Rogers pedal I used to play.  It was not equipment for equipment’s sake.  It was equipment chosen for a reason and they chose well.  When they played, they made the music come alive and though a couple of the pieces were of the odd-chord-progression variety, songs to kill the dance floor I guess you might say, on the whole they proved themselves worthy.  For a trio, they were surprisingly full-sounding, opting for bass-heavy guitar chords with the occasional rhythm/lead combinations so few play well.  At the end, they ripped into a semi-metal jam which reminded me of early Uriah Heep as much as anyone, the chords shaking windows and vibrating eardrums.  The only missing link for these guys, as far as I can tell, is a good manager.  They need to get out of Eugene, though they probably never will, or get someone to get them out of Eugene for a few tours so that they can gain more than a local following.  Highlights besides Pavlak’s guitar were moments, and there were quite a few, when all three jumped on the same page and rocked the place.  Watching the bass player was fun, too.  Harris wears it high on his hip and slings it like a guitar.  You do know that mistmastthe better the music, the faster you drink.  If I’d been drinking ale, I’d have been drunk before the set was over.

It took both bands very little time to move equipment, Mist and Mast carrying small amps and only one guitar apiece.  Jason Lakis sported a beautiful Guild Starfire 5 which he played through a Fender Princeton Reverb amp, Craig Adams a Telecaster through a Fender Deluxe, and  Mike Schmiedt a Fender bass through a small Ampeg.  I wasn’t able to scope out Dan Martin‘s drums in the chaos of setting up, but what mattered more than what he played was how he played them and he played them well.  The room was small, yes, but the sound was huge and even though I knew what to expect, I was surprised at the intensity of the sound.  Two years earlier, the band caught me by surprise, their professionalism and focus much more than I had expected.  I had just forgotten how really good they were, I guess.

Lakis handed me the set list when I walked in the door and I studied it.  Five from the latest, Follow a Bad Map;  one from Action at a Distance; one from Mist and Mast;  three from an older version of the band, The Red Thread.  I knew the songs well so when they broke into Free Tons from Bad Map, I slipped into a coma from which I exited only when another Bad Map tune, It’s a Machine, ended the night.  There was enthusiastic applause after each song, but the crowd was thin and I wanted there to be a hundred or more because the music warranted it.

If anything sets the band apart outside of Lakis’s intricate songwriting, it would be the guitars.  Lakis has a fingerpicking style with only occasional strumming while Adams plays bottom-heavy rhythm when he isn’t soloing.  His solos?  Short and sweet.  Outstanding.

There is a story behind the band even playing Eugene that I find fascinating.  They were on vacation.  The band and two good friends, Richie Garcia and Jeremy Zeller, decided to head north (they live in Oakland CA) to bike the Cascades and played this one night for fun and maybe for practice.  Eugene.  I hear stories of bands doing such things all the time but they always play Los Angeles or Toronto or some place so far away I could never make it to on time if I even had the resources.  This time, it was Eugene.  You can have your Stones and Willie Nelsons and other stars playing small clubs.  I will take Mist and Mast at a coffeehouse any day.  That night, and for once, I was a very lucky guy.

If you want to hear the studio versions of what I heard, you can visit the band’s Bandcamp pages here.

While You Were All Looking Backward This Past Week…..

I was enjoying the present and looking forward.  No celebrations of birthdays for people long gone (no one seems to realize that birthdays stop when people die).  No star-laden list of videos with accompanying sycophantic praise.  Today is today.  Let the past live, but not at the expense of the present and future.

Albums of note (and please note that The Beatles and Stones and Led Zeppelin and Taylor Swift and Katy Perry nor any others of your favorites are on this list):

michael-and-playboys-bottle-cap-cdMichael & The Lonesome Playboys/Bottle Cap Sky  Most of this album is a throwback to early country— a bit of an early Faron Young and Ferlin Husky sound.

Too Slim & The Taildraggers/Blue Heart—  Tim Langford is back and bluesing it up once again, this time with help from Jimmy Hall who guests on two songs, one on vocals, the other on harp.  Langford is one of the best.

David Mallett/Greenin’ Up—  I was in Seattle in the eighties and Mallett was a staple of the folk scene.  He’s still doing folk the old fashioned way and he’s never sounded better.

Churchwood/Churchwood 2—  This is former LeRoi Brothers Band member Joe Doerr‘s group and they are smokin’ hot!  The more I hear this, the more I like it.

The Incurables/The Fine Art of Distilling—  Outstanding power pop from St. Louis.  Like Norrish Reaction, The Incurables dig deep for their sounds.  Excellent album!

Arborea/Fortunes of the Sun—  Buck and Shanti Curran have been on the adventurous side of traditional folk for some time and have honed out a style all their own.  Very surreal.  And ethereal.  Beautiful stuff, this.

I would be listening to mighty WarHen RecordsDwight Howard Johnson‘s new album, Take Anything and The FiretapesPhantom but that clown Warren Parker keeps dragging his heels.  Just kidding, Warren!  Just trying to light a fire under you.  Those two albums are at the top of my anxiety list.

Bad news!  Vanguard Records has delayed release of the Sweet Relief III album until September 3rd due to a high level of releases in July.  They’d better not ask me what I think.  Labels have got to get their feet out of the past and step into the present.  Timing is no longer everything— the music and the promotion are.  You know how to promote an album which has artists like Ron Sexsmith and Ben Harper and Jackson Browne and Sam Phillips, among others?  Tell people about it.  It will sell itself!  Still, be ready for it.  You can sample a bit of some of the songs by clicking here.  Remember the date:  September 3rd.

Music Notes smallNotes…..  Simone Stevens is back in the studio.  While many of you might not know her, she is vocalist for Fiery Blue, the transcontinental collaboration which also included Paul Marsteller and Gabe Rhodes.  She has been quiet for some time but is ready to bust out with a new album soon.  She did release one solo album, Right On Time, an album I thought exceptional.  You can stream a song from that album (or download it for free) here*****  More great news from Ken Stringfellow!  This summer will see the release of a split seven-inch, meaning Stringfellow on one side and The Maldives on the other.  I’ve heard both of these acts and think that a whole album of them playing together would be a good idea.  Here is a video to whet your appetite*****  I’m listening to The Curtis Mayflower as I type and am thinking that these guys are pretty damn good!  The EP is titled Live From the Dive and it’s rough, but you can hear the music bustin’ out.  A lot of talent in this band and you can get it as name-your-own-pricer.  Just click on this, listen all the way through (because people who don’t listen to music closely need that time to adjust to what they are doing) and then order a download.  It’s name your own price, fer chrissake!  A buck.  Two bucks.  davegleasonThese four tracks are worth it!*****  Dave Gleason cracks me up.  Every picture I’ve seen of him, he’s playing a Telecaster, so I asked him, do you play any other?  He says, yes, I play a variety of guitars— all of them Telecaster.  (He lied.  I have pictures of him with an acoustic.)  Thing is, he plays them so well, I could care less.  He’s working on a new album.  Until it is released, you might want to check out his earlier stuff.  Read about him hereVisit his website here*****


Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

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DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

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