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Rick and Yvonne’s 30th Anniversary Magical Mystery Tour
By Rick Brown

Saturday, June 12th 7:37 a.m. (Santa Cruz, California) – Yesterday we took off on a rainy, relatively chilly morning out of Cleveland after a 40 minute delay described by our captain as “waiting for the plane to be re-aired”…something like that. All I know is we sat in a hot as hell airplane “being patient”. This frustration was surpassed at the Hertz Rental counter in San Francisco. It took 70 minutes to wrangle into a contract for a Mustang convertible… which at first glance looked like a Scarlet and Gray Buckeyemobile. Fortunately, in the daylight it turned out to be red with a tan top… whew. I look too much like a stereotypical tourist as it is.

The Positioning of Holes
By Rick Brown

I have … for years now…supervised people younger than I. At first they weren’t much younger… now they are. Now I’m like twice their age. And the surprising thing about this reality is that it’s much easier supervising since becoming the same age as… or even older than… their parents. I suppose it’s because when I was younger… say 30… I concerned myself with whether I appeared “cool” or “hip” to my younger employees. Just the use of such words now ensures the fact that I’m more than likely way… WAY… not cool. Whereas “coolness” was once a worry, today I honestly (pardon the vernacular) don’t give a rat’s ass whether I’m “cool” or not. And ironically I think in some way that attitude does in fact make me at least a little “cool”. Not giving a rat’s ass I mean. Perhaps this is what people call “maturity”.

The biggest change since I was half my age is the weirdness factor. Oh, I’m not sure younger folks would think of it in that terminology. Back in 1970 if you wanted to stand out…tune in…turn on…and drop out (so to speak)…all a guy had to do was grow his hair down to his shoulders. Which is exactly what I did when I was 19. People would throw lit cigarettes out car windows at me. I got asked to leave stores in small towns because “they didn’t like hippies”. Truck drivers would throw a full can of beer at me while I was riding my bike. Those were the days huh?

It’s harder for youngin’s to set themselves apart now. (Not that you really are being individualistic at all…back then or now. It just seems that way in a 19-year-old brain.) So in the post-modern era…or post-post-modern era…or neo-post-post-modern era…whatever it’s called at this point in time…you can see plenty of tattoos…neon colored hair… piercings… or a combination thereof.

A few years ago I had a young woman working for me who was quite intelligent, attractive, articulate, self-assured… and terribly spoiled. She had a small tattoo…tasteful…kind of like my father’s “eagle holding an anchor” tattoo but with a different motif of course. Her hair was dyed a subtle shade of red… almost natural looking. It wasn’t garishly bright as many of her peers preferred. And she was one of those who loved to buy her wardrobe at vintage clothing stores (read: stores who raid Goodwill type establishments and sell the same clothing at a escalated prices.) This woman was not terribly outspoken politically or belligerent. In most aspects she was probably much more conservative than I at her age… which at this time was around 21.

One day she came in to work with a nose ring. She had a pierced septum. Now I have a deviated septum, which is quite a different story. Hers’ had a hole in it… put there purposely. Mine just exhibited deviant behavior…like blocking air from going up my nostrils on any given day. But I didn’t choose to have a deviated (devious?) septum. I was born with it. She… on the other hand… paid a guy who probably had 800 tattoos and 65 holes in his body to poke a hole in her septum from one nostril to the other. Ouch!

I couldn’t help myself from acting… well… like an old fart. As politely as I could I said something to the effect of, “Uh… I see you have a nose ring.” To which she equally politely replied, “Yes. I had it done when I was a junior in high school.” Unable to quell my curiosity I slid even further into major league old fartness. “But… uh… why in the WORLD would you want a hole in your septum? I inquired. At this comment she became visibly indignant. “You have your EAR pierced!!!” she exclaimed in a less than soft voice. Then she spat out, “What’s the difference where you have a piercing?”

At first, her having taken offense to my inquisitiveness nonplused me. I pondered her question for a moment and replied… strictly observationally of course with obvious old fart overtones, “Well… mine makes me look like a fag. Yours’ makes you look like a cow.”

That was the end of the conversation.

The subject never came up again.

Tommy James and the Shondells
Tower City Amphitheater
May 29, 2004

* * * *
By Rick Brown

This was the third time I’ve seen Tommy James and the Shondells. And I’ll go to great lengths to see this band. Like going to Cleveland’s Great American Rib Cook Off…an unlikely event for someone who hasn’t eaten beef or pork since 1982. Yet, there I was wandering around the Carney lights and dense blue smoke trying my best to ignore the smell of scorching swine carcass. The annual festival is next to the Cuyahoga River, which most certainly adds to the atmosphere, and Tower City Amphitheater where the show was to be held, is more euphemism than it is venue. In Germany they call it a beer tent. In Cleveland it’s an amphitheater. Go figure.

Ignoring all this wasn’t easy until Mr. James and his hired guns came out on the huge stage and began cranking out a hit parade impressive for any group since the dawn of rock and roll. In the 1960’s there was so much happening musically that Tommy James eventually got stuck with the “bubblegum band” label, which really wasn’t fair. Sure, The Shondells made pop records…extraordinary pop songs. Live, these songs are harder edged…some even bursting out of their pop genre, crossing the line into damn good rock and roll. And Tommy plays a more than respectable guitar…delightfully LOUD!

Beginning with solo career hit # 1, “Draggin’ the Line”, Tommy James skillfully fronted the Shondells, navigating them through many of the band’s 23 gold singles. “Crystal Blue Persuasion” never sounded better, as one well crafted gem floated into the next. “Say I Am”, “Gettin’ Together”, and “Sugar on Sunday” combined for a machinegun burst of pop song joy. Then came the opening strains of a song I fell in love with the very first time I heard it. What “Crimson and Clover” loses in psychedelia in a live setting it more than makes up for in soaring, searing, gritty guitar rock bravado.

Savoy Brown

Oh, Brave New World With Such People In It
- or -
Twilight of the Idols
By Ted Kane

After months of build-up and controversy and despite the best efforts of many to impede its successful release, Fahrenheit 9/11 opened across America in the number one spot at the box office. The efforts by the artists formerly know as the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy to discourage theaters from showing the film seem to have completely backfired; the film not only had a successful opening day in terms of the amount of dollars brought in, it actually set a record for the highest average take per theater. While it outgrossed #2 White Chicks by roughly $2 million, this number is much more impressive when you consider that Fahrenheit played at less than half the number of theaters than the latest opus from the Wayans brothers--and yet more impressive when you consider the anecdotal evidence of people sneaking into sold-out theaters by buying tickets to other films or, as I witnessed, by the old fashioned way by having confederates let them in through the exit door. I caught it on opening night here in Long Beach, and if I wouldn't have bought my tickets online a couple hours early, I would've been shut out. This piece isn't a movie review per se, though I will include a brief one; I'm more interested in commenting on some of the controversies around the movie, in particular Ray Bradbury's infantile
reaction to a film that invokes the title of one of his most famous books.

Goat Motor Checks Oil in Chicago
By Patrick O'Malley

Newly formed yet apparently extensively rehearsed power trio Goat Motor played their first official gig at Chicago’s Elbo Room on May 11, 2004. Comprised of the standard power trio setup of drums, guitar, and bass; the similarities with other power trios seem to end there, other than maybe jazz trios. In their abbreviated six song set, Goat Motor transgressed a number of styles and genres, including some ‘standard’ power trio-esque material. These transgressions so prominent and seamless that an aural observer in an adjacent room could easily mistake Goat Motor for having four or even five members. And at the same time one could be somewhat confused, pleasantly, from one song to the next as they seamlessly segued from rock to funk to soul, etc.

Blank Sight
By John Bennett

Bob Dylan
What Stage at the Bonnaroo Music Festival

Manchester, TN 6/11/04
By Cory Tressler

Over the past few years my obsession with Bob Dylan and his music has flourished to the point that I have been transformed from a music lover who respected Dylan for being a revolutionary force behind contemporary music into a full blown Dylan fanatic who owns over 25 of his albums, has written an obsessive article about his obscure and dynamic 1974 album New Morning (see Naked Sunfish Issue 18 January 2004), and has read many of the compulsive, and often frightening, chronicles of Dylan’s extraordinary life. Even though I have developed into a proud Dylan worshipper I had never seen him in person, despite numerous opportunities of see him play in various venues around Columbus and throughout Ohio, until I headed into the backwoods of Tennessee for the third installment of the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Of course, I love the live music Dylan has created throughout his career. I have a few unauthorized live bootlegs from the 1990’s and I have collected the amazing authorized Dylan bootleg series, including a pair of discs from perhaps the greatest rock and roll tour ever 1975’s Rolling Thunder Revue.

Fahrenheit 9/11 and the Vote Against Bush
Isaac Jones <http://www.syntaxpolice.org>
Anna Potoczny

It is very common to hear the opinion that the country is divided. Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't a film of reconciliation; it fully embraces the divide. It wants you to choose sides. It wants to tip over the fence-sitters, the moderates.

The film itself is more-or-less divided into two over-arching themes: The first half enumerates the ways in which the rich wage war. The second half enumerates the ways in which the poor pay for it. If you assume that Moore's goal is to defeat Bush in 2004, the message to fence-sitters is clear: Unless you consider yourself among the super-rich, this war is being waged against you, this administration considers you its enemy.

Again and again, Moore drives home the point that the war against terrorism, and it's step-child, the war against Iraq, negatively effect every-day people, the non-super-rich, the fence-sitters. He brings us to his run-down home town, Flint Michigan, to meet the mother of a soldier killed in the war. We meet her and feel her pain in unforgettable detail. This part of the movie goes on for so long that the audience must begin to feel the discomfort of an unintentional voyeur.

In contrast to this, Moore brings the war back to Congress (where war is supposed to begin, after all) to harass congressmen on the street corner, asking them to help enlist their own children for the war effort.

Consider also the peace group that Moore introduces us to. He goes out of his way to show that they are a bunch of every-day cookie-eating activists who get together, talk, and stand on the corner with signs. Nothing unusual, very American. But unbeknownst to them, their open group has been "infiltrated" by a officer from the department of homeland security. In this way, Moore tries to demonstrate both the offensive intrusion of the government, as well as their offensive waste of valuable resources: we learn that at the same time the government is infiltrating this group that there are only eight state troopers on duty some nights in the entire state of Oregon.

What real-world effects might this film have? Wag-the-Dog -inspired conspiracy theorists might suggest that Moore has granted the Iraqis two extra days of independence: the big news on the Monday morning after its opening wasn't the film, but rather the unexpected transfer of power to the new Iraqi government. The Bush administration asserts in the same breath both that it hasn't seen it, and that it's a work of fiction. Whether he's seen it or not, Bush must be aware that in an election that stands in a statistical dead-heat, it could tip the balance, and he would no-doubt be pleased to draw attention away from the film.


Our 25th Garden
By Rick Brown

I have plans to make a lasagna dinner for the farm girl I married after I finish this story. The Italian red sauce I’ll make it with was pulled out of the basement freezer last evening. I made it from tomatoes, basil, and green peppers we grew last summer. The date on the container reads 8/3/03. We both get a great deal of satisfaction growing food for ourselves. It’s a lot of work… a lot. But it’s not difficult really. If I can learn so can you. Yvonne grew up on a farm in Knox County, Ohio. And while I grew up on 5 acres… far from suburbia… the only gardens my working class parents ever attempted led to late August “watermelon safaris”. We would wallow into the weeds and when on of us kids fell over a melon… there it was.

Savoy Brown
June 12, 2004
Moe’s Alley
Santa Cruz, California
* * * * 1/2
By Rick Brown

I used to see the name Savoy Brown frequently when I was still living in the Cleveland area some 30+ years ago. They played the teen clubs where I spent many a weekend night listening to such luminaries as the James Gang or the Amboy Dukes. I want to think I have seen Savoy Brown. But after this show I know there’s no way I could have forgotten about it if I had witnessed this extraordinary British blues outfit.

Kim Simmonds is the front man/guitar player of Savoy Brown. He always has been really, and for all intents and purposes he is the entire band personified. Admittedly, I knew very little of this longstanding group when I walked into Moe's Alley in northern California. But I'm an avid student of their legacy now. Moe's Alley is a wonderful little blues bar. The state prohibits smoking in all public places so you can imagine how refreshing it was to see a great blues show here. The bar was cozy and clean with a courtyard area to accommodate those who did smoke. A gentle breeze made it's way through open windows. Moe's was like no beer joint I'd ever been in before. They were playing Ray Charles when no one was on stage ... perfect. http://www.moesalley.com/

There was no opening act. The band was scheduled to begin at 9:30 and that's exactly what Savoy did. Now THAT'S amazing! Personnel changes have been more the norm than not. In the early 70's three members left to form Foghat. But other capable players reinvented the band several times and the lineup this night was made up of American guys Mr. Simmonds is close to, now that he too resides in the good old U.S. of A. Simmonds' solo breaks during the first few numbers were different than any guitar licks I think I've ever heard. Delightfully disjointed, calculatingly articulate, and seasoned with purposeful feedback,…his sound immediately took all of us back to those heady days of British boys "discovering" American blues music in a decidedly psychedelic era. And good gawd was it great to see a guy playing a Gibson Flying V through a Marshall Amp again!

As the set progressed Kim Simmonds settled into his groove drawing on the vast 3 decade long catalog of his band. His playing became more fluid as the evening went on and backed by his able mates ... most notably David Malachowski on guitar ... Simmonds was free to meander the breadth of his Flying V's fret board as he saw fit. When the two guitar players played off each other’s riffs it was pure electric guitar heaven ... especially in the second set during tunes like "Savoy Brown Boogie" and Freddie King's "I'm Going'’ Down". Malacowski's cleaner, predominantly rock oriented chops intertwined with the distorted blues cries of Simmonds' V to cook up a bubbling hot music gumbo. Another impressive aspect to Savoy Brown is their ability to play not only the blues but also rock and balls to the wall power ballads. Sweet.

By a third of the way through their second set all us white folks in the crowd were getting a bit fired up. The night was quickly turning into a chicken shack house party. You'’ve heard of "Dead Man Walking"”? This could have been a tongue in cheek sequel titled "White People Dancing". Directly in front of me was a guy who looked remarkably like Jerry Van Dyke ... especially from the back. Before you make any judgments here I must say that I have, in fact, seen Jerry Van Dyke. Dan (our webmaster) and I were visiting Kelley’s Island, Ohio about 25 years ago. We were playing pool at the Village Pump and in walked Jerry Van Dyke. (I'’m not making this up.) Most of that evening I saw Mr. Van Dyke with his back to me. So I'm somewhat of an expert on what Jerry Van Dyke looks like ... especially from behind.

Anyway, this guy started dancing in the most peculiar way ... even for a white dude. I imagine Jerry Van Dyke might very well indeed dance the very same way ... like an amateur mime walking like a robot on a moving sidewalk at the airport. He would move his legs and arms together without going anywhere really ... then do a little back kick with his right leg ... turn 90 degrees and begin again. I think this particular gentleman inspired the whole room to start dancing. (We all thought, "Shit! I can do better than that!") It was a sight to behold ... especially during Savoy Brown's rousing rendition of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle". There were about 100 of us white folks hopping around in some exclusive fashion singing "All night long! All night long!"Besides Jerry close by, there was a woman who seemed to be double jointed in the waist. Her torso circled around and around her hips making her resemble a human Tilt-a-Whirl! At first she appeared sexy. After a while I began to worry that her torso would eventually pop right off her hips and the mental image was macabre.

Not that I can dance. I usually get out on the floor and pretend I'’m having a seizure. And as the years have passed the seizures have become less and less violent. Now I dance like a white dude heavily sedated yet still obviously experiencing a mild fit. But it was all so glorious to be lost in Savoy Brown'’s music that hypnotically. I wish I could be more explicit about the songs and such. But I was on vacation and listening to a British blues band I should have started listening to three decades ago while having a few beers and pretending to have a mild seizure on a dance floor crammed with not so young anymore white people. Now that's a vacation experience everyone should have at least once!

And I'm a convert to the church of Savoy Brown. That night listening to their inspiring blues I harkened back to one of the very first concerts I ever attended ... Cream. Canned Heat opened that show. Savoy Brown reminded me of both those legendary groups while still exhibiting their own distinct character. I found myself thinking of other great British blues bands like Fleetwood Mac ... with Peter Green on guitar ... WAAAAAY before they became a chick pop band of course. Since this show I bought my first ... and it won't be my last ... Savoy Brown CD. If they come within 50 miles of me I'’ll be at the gig. And one thing I know for sure ... whomever Mr. Kim Simmonds shows up to play with it will be Savoy Brown. I've seen a few great guitar players in my day. Mr. Simmonds… in many respects ... is much more than that. Kim Simmonds is a one-man band. He is Mr. Savoy Brown.

Check out Savoy Brown’s website at http://www.savoybrown.com

Best of Shadowbox ‘04
Shadowbox Cabaret
Easton Towne Center
Columbus, Ohio

* * * *

By RIck Brown

( L to R - Katy Psencka, Jimmy Mak (as Casey Kasem), Megan Overholt, and Jennifer Lilly )

Even though he’s told me himself in the past, it took me quite a few Shadowbox shows to notice how often David Whitehouse falls down. Really. Probably 5… 6… 7… maybe as many as 8 time this guy hits the dirt… uh bricks… uh whatever the stage is comprised of. And he does this on purpose…intentionally. Now falling down is not a difficult thing to do. Every winter I manage to fall on my ass at least once. I usually wait until there are at least 50 people around to watch. And I sure don’t do it on purpose!!! But falling down is an art form Mr. Whitehouse has perfected. All great physical comedians from Curly Howard to Jerry Lewis to Steve Martin have known the immediacy of letting gravity have its’ way. We all do it. That’s why it’s funny.

Audience favorite summer camp-ish skit ”Jason’s Scary Stories” where Jimmy Mak illuminates his face with a flashlight and tells what are at times incredibly mundane tales as a scared little boy is always hilarious…as it is in this show. But Whitehouse, who pantomimes the action as Mak spins his yarn, sells the story. And it usually involves at least one spectacular dive “Best of…” includes two such side splitting episodes of “Jason’s Scary Stories”. Ouch!

The majority of skits in “Best of…” are from the past year’s Shadowbox Cabaret shows although some like “One Small Step for Tang” are real blasts from the past. A spoof on Tang breakfast commercials televised shortly after the first walk on the moon, the skit involves the filming of one such ad. Matthew Hahn plays an incredibly dimwitted Neil Armstrong, David Gigliotti is the under appreciated Mike Collins (who never left the space capsule) and David Whitehouse is a foul-mouthed Buzz Aldrin. (Dick Cheney is now qualified to be his understudy.) The three have an off handed charm that is countered by the commercial’s director (Jimmy Mak) and assistant’s (Amy Lay) frustration with the astronauts’ ineptitude.

The two acts that stand out are “At 40 – Valentunes”, a parody of Casey Kasem’s classic “American Top 40 radio program and “Dr. Mystery – the Magical Mystery Tour”. Jimmy Mak playing a dead on Casem…albeit sarcastically…first introduces the Dixie Chicks (Katy Psenicka, Jennifer Lilly, and Megan Overholt). After their song Mak snarls “They bring new meaning to the word…hoedown”. Christina Connor performs a delightfully crass Beyonce rave up and J.T. Walker III’s apologetic “I’m not gay…really” take on Clay Aiken is uproarious. Followed by an over the top Michael Jackson (Amy Lay) routine this could easily have been the evening’s comedic highlight.

David Bowie
May 24, 2004
Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium
Columbus, Ohio
* * * * *

By Rick Brown

When I was younger I found David Bowie intimidating. All those different “personas”, the art crowd, the “glam” thing seemed…well…all a bit frightening really. Now that I’m a brave, macho, old guy (read: I don’t give a shit anymore) that all becomes irrelevant. Still, the fact that he was playing Vets…arguably the worst venue in this city for a rock concert…along with the reality that I had screwed up getting tickets and consequently my wife Yvonne and I would be sitting in the very last row on the floor…gave me cause for concern.

But after an enjoyable opening set by the Stereophonics, Bowie waltzed on stage looking so comfortable in his 50ish skin that I sensed the crowd immediately connect. Like an unspoken admission between all of us that more than a little water has passed under our bridges, we came together as if the concert was already an hour old…rather than in its’ infancy. Mr. Bowie smiled knowingly and launched into a retooled “Rebel, Rebel”. And we were on our journey.

Longtime guitarist Earl Slick fronted Bowie’s excellent band and their experience together showed. There were the gems most of us were unabashedly dying to hear like “China Girl” and “Modern Love” from the early 80’s Let’s Dance”…a delicious rendering of “Under Pressure”…and “The Man Who Sold The World”. But staying true to himself Bowie also mixed in tunes from more recent releases such as “New Killer Star” and the title track from the same CD “Reality”. He teased self depreciatingly about how many copies of this 2003 venture had actually been sold. Mr. Bowie’s charm and wit accentuated the comfort level on many occasions this evening. He even mentioned how much he liked Vets asking, “What do you call a place like this? A venue?” I call it a super-sized high school auditorium. Yet I will admit Bowie’s staging and lights suited the big barn better than any act I’ve seen here. This was easily the best concert I’ve seen here.

We were also treated to Mott the Hoople’s Bowie penned and produced classic, “All the Young Dudes” as well as a cover of Velvet Undergound’s “White Light/White Heat”. Now into his fifth decade of creativity, Mr. Bowie took bits and pieces from each and wove his body of work into a tapestry that was at once both familiar and surprisingly fresh. Tunes such as “Supermen”, “Ashes to Ashes”, and “Heathen (The Rays)” became catalysts prying memories long buried in brains and incited us all to think out loud, “Oh yeah! I remember now.”

The big surprise for myself was “I’m Afraid of Americans”, a song from 1997’s Earthling that not only seems more relevant today than 7 years hence, but was the uncontested highlight of the evening. Immediately following the band closed with a mesmerizing “Heroes”.

Returning triumphantly David Bowie, Earl Slick, and company churned their way through 3 of the best from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars beginning with “Hang On To Yourself”, closing with “Ziggy Stardust” and sandwiching in between “Suffragette City”. But this was hardly “Wham, bam thank you ma’am.” All 3 tunes were presented with a maturity not evident on the original recordings. We all stood singing with Mr. Bowie, smiling as if we had just stumbled across a long lost pair of old shoes we loved and thought irreplaceable. Comfortable…familiar…and classy. And wait! Something we may have forgotten. These are our DANCING shoes.

It was that great…even in the back row.

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