Live Review: Eric Schwartz at The Backyard

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Eric Schwartz

The Backyard, Brighton, MA

November 5, 2017

A series of scheduling conflicts have kept me from getting to The Backyard earlier this year. But this late addition to the calendar provided an opportunity to get to one of my favorite local live music spaces at least once during 2017.

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Meanwhile, I had thought to catch Eric Schwartz at his Fox Run House Concerts show on November 25th this year at another very cool local house concert performance space. But this Backyard show allowed me to see Eric perform live while resolving a potential Thanksgiving weekend schedule conflict. Win-win.

Eric Schwartz, if you’re not familiar with him, is one of America’s preeminent comedy singer-songwriters; I’ve seen him referred to as “folk,” but that is a bit of a misnomer, as his style incorporates a variety of musical influences crossing various singer-songwriter subcategories. Perhaps the one song that gained the most notoriety was one of Eric’s political ditties, his 2008 International Songwriting Competition winning song, “Clinton Got a BJ.” (NSFW word tweaked to avoid search engine wrath.) More recently, his social commentary jam “I Gotta Problem With That” has drawn some attention, but my personal favorite Eric Schwartz tune – the one that made it onto my smartphone playlist – is the hilarious screenplay-in-a-song “Don’t Tell My Wife.”

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from an Eric Schwartz live performance, since this was my first time seeing him in person, but this guy’s one of the best at what he does – and, as I always say, it’s always worthwhile to see musicians who excel in any lane of the 50-lane superhighway that is their craft – so I jumped at the chance.

It’s sometimes hard to tell where Eric’s musical and comedic noodling turns into a song and when it’s merely noodling – though a perusal of his ReverbNation page and a scan of the song titles on his albums may help figure out where to draw the lines. Regardless, Eric performed about 15 songs on this particular evening. Or 18. Your call. It was a chilly evening in Brighton, but thanks to some unseasonable warmth, still a decent night for a live show.

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Eric’s first song of the evening was an R-rated comedic female-hygiene-related adaption of “Saving All My Love For You,” setting the bar at its clearly-not-for-children adultest right from the start. Next up was my personal favorite, “Don’t Tell My Wife,” rather Hee Haw-ish in its delivery at times, just like on the recording. ‘Til now, though, I had no idea it was actually based on a true story. “Don’t Ask” followed, a bluesy soul-like word salad sporting significant rhythmic vocal scatting.

Eric followed that with his most political song of the evening, “He Won,” a tale of the last presidential election as seen through the eyes of an unhappy deity, delivered devilishly in a dark, smoky narrative vocal style; perhaps I’ve said too much.

Any political conservatives who couldn’t find humor in the prior track, though, hopefully returned from their bathroom breaks in time for the next number, Eric’s voyage through a seemingly random collection of rhyming words that he tied together at the end… quite cleverly. You’ll know it when you hear it. And he followed that up with the frighteningly unhygienic “Telltale Kitchen.”

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Following some hilariously demented children’s music and some more comedy noodling, Eric moved on to his uber, ultra, meta-country song, “There’s a Picture.” (Do I need to warn you not to click through on this link if you’re at work? Really, with Eric’s songs, it’s always a risk.)

Politics returned with “I’ve Got a Problem With That,” followed by Eric’s Gospel song, “The Better Man,” a song of forgiveness… of oneself.

With that, in spite of a supposed zero percent chance of rain (when I checked my weather app earlier in the day), drops of water fell from the sky, so the show moved indoors for the final two songs. First up, Eric swung through his catchy, hooky ode to lesbian trailblazers, “Hattie and Mattie.” And then he closed the evening with “Hallelujah,” a brilliantly NSFW re-imagining of the tune and its cliched use by vocally-talented would-be troubadours to melt women’s… um… let’s just say “it’s ability to attract women” and leave it at that.

Eric plans to take some time off from touring soon, so catch him now if you can. At least, jump at the chance if you’d enjoy a fun, lighthearted evening of clever, imaginative, occasionally political, and often highly inappropriate (adult?) musical comedy. I can’t say it too often: This dude’s one of the best at what he does.

Eric Schwartz

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

This is the last backyard show of the season at The Backyard, but you should bookmark the “Events” page of the venue’s website and check back for future show listings. Liking The Backyard’s Facebook page is probably also a good idea.

West coast-based Eric Schwartz has a few more gigs in the northeast over the next month, with dates scheduled on Saturday, November 25th in Sudbury, MA; Saturday, December 2nd in Oswego, NY; and Sunday, December 3rd in Oxford, NY. See the “Shows” page of Eric’s website for additional information and to see upcoming live dates whenever they’re added.

One Last Advisory

It’s worth repeating, and I’m serious here: Do not sample Eric’s music while at work. Wait until you get home, lock the doors, turn out the lights, and for heaven’s sake, use protection… I mean, headphones.

Live Review: Carmel Liburdi at Hamtramck Korner Bar

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Carmel Liburdi

Hamtramck Korner Bar, Hamtramck, MI

November 3, 2017

There was certainly a lot of love in the room as assembled fans and friends gathered to celebrate the release of Detroit area singer-songwriter Carmel Liburdi’s new CD Insomnia Slumber Party. Liburdi is a gifted lyricist and songsmith who knows how to connect with her audience. She writes tunes that are personal and somewhat confessional, with a broad appeal that most folks can relate to. Affairs of the heart, religion and self-reflection are some of the prime topics of her songs delivered with a sense of irony and whimsical introspection.

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

The place was packed and, after some introductory pleasantries, she jumped right into the title track to her latest release “Insomnia Slumber Party.” Armed with her trusty acoustic guitar, Liburdi dove into the folky, laid-back rhythms with ease. It’s a small tale—perhaps a personal account—of two people who find themselves fatefully together at the end of the night after the other partygoers disperse. She appeared to have the crowd dialed in from the get-go and followed that up with a wry and lighthearted tune called “This Song is About You.” The tune had a ragtime Tin Pan Alley vibe where she puts a cad in his place with the line “You dirty cowboy riding atop your trusty steed; I need you now, boy, but it’s a want more than a need.” Talk about turning the tables!

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

“Umbrella Tattoo” contains vivid imagery and a dream-like rapid stream of conscious lyrical delivery. As she refers in her own song, it’s like “grunge pop punk played on acoustic.” “Sewerstar” is kind of progressive in its structure and how it takes several twists and turns in mood and tempo. Liburdi whips out her ukulele for the cute and somewhat surreal tale “The Vine.” She cleverly observes various fruits and vegetables within a garden and gives them all human qualities, not unlike Simon and Garfunkel’s classic social observation “At the Zoo.” This woman can write about pretty much anything and give its characters purpose and integrity. Toward the end of this tune Liburdi also played “mouth trumpet” and brought the house down. “Zoe” followed and was another catchy piece, with a light rock and boogie edge.

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

The last two songs in her set really played to the emancipated woman. In “Not for Consumption,” she pulled no punches singing the line (after defending her position in an encounter with someone) “I’m here in the now. I don’t know why and I don’t know how.” “Genuine Creep” closed the main part of the show and was probably one of the more poignant songs of the night. Love is confusing sometimes as she sings, “I’ve shown I can love even if I can’t love you.” And then in the next breath she emotes, “When you think I’ve moved on and I came back to you. That’s just what I do.”

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

She concluded with an encore from an earlier release called “Ice Cream in Heaven.” It was a clever little number where she called up acoustic bassist Gwen McPhee and percussionists Mike Land and Phil Warren to help her out. Actually, at a few select points earlier in the performance, Liburdi received a little help from those friends as well.

Carmel Liburdi is a unique and singular talent. She can, essentially, carry her own as a solo performer and is totally authentic and believable. Aside from her obvious songwriting prowess, perhaps that is her biggest asset.

Live Review: Corey McLane at Hudson House Restaurant

Corey McLane

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Corey McLane

Hudson House Restaurant, Hudson, MA

October 27, 2017

One of the cool things about hearing a talented hard rock singer like Corey McLane doing an acoustic cover night is that you get to hear songs from a variety of musical styles delivered by a power voice. Corey is the lead singer of Exhale – I would suggest checking out some of his band’s music here on their bandcamp page – and you can hear the vocal power in the songs he performs, even when the songs themselves don’t feature it.

Corey McLane

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Hudson House is a cool place to catch music, too. It has a kind of neighborhood bar feel on the bar side (with a nice restaurant on the restaurant side of the house). On this particular night, a lot of folks turned out specifically to see Corey, so it was fun crowd. I like to grab something off the menu to combine live music with a late dinner when I come here, and after a big lunch yesterday, I found something delicious (the kielbasa) from the appetizer menu to try.

I had about an hour and a half block of time available last night, and that carried me through more than 20 songs from Corey, plus a few at the end on which Nikki McLane joined him. There were only a couple songs on Corey’s set list I couldn’t identify, so I know it was either entirely or virtually entirely a set of covers. And, though I hadn’t heard him sing live before, his vocals were as crisp and powerful as I had expected from listening to his band’s recordings, with even the mellowest of covers being drenched in his identifiable, grungy-metal tone, sporting something akin to gravel in his voice, but it really comes across more as a warble or a wobble, though those aren’t exactly right either. The key point, though, is that this dude has a powerful, crisp, identifiable voice, and that’s what you’re looking for in a voice that can fill an arena or develop a large, loyal following.

Corey McLane

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Corey opened the evening with “Ain’t No Sunshine,” then followed it with a heavy, brooding number (one of the two for which I didn’t catch the title), doing a song-to-song contrast thing he seems to like to do.

There were plenty of instances in which Corey’s take on various hits was interesting and entertaining. His performance of Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train,” for example, got the grizzle in the vocal but with kind of an ominous echo overlay. He nailed the howls on “The Joker.” And his performance of The Flys’ “Got You (Where I Want You)” was delivered with an almost Southern hard rock wail while being driven by a sound much bigger than he should have been able to get from an acoustic guitar.

It was fun to hear Corey deliver a song like Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy” that’s right in his wheelhouse and then, a couple songs later, to follow it with an on-point performance of Pure Prairie League’s “Amie.” He also back-to-backed a very properly brooding rendition of Bush’s “Glycerine” with Third Eye Blind’s energetic “Semi-Charmed Life,” a song whose opening chords elicit a smile that seems so amusingly out of place coming moments after the closing chords of “Glycerine.”

Corey McLane

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Other standouts during the set included Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” and The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” But I actually stopped taking notes after song number 22, Corey’s spot-on version of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up.” He sounded shudderingly too close to exactly like 4NBs’ Linda Perry, including nailing all the quirky stuff.

Shortly thereafter, Corey was joined by Nikki, and the two performed a few songs before my exit, notably OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars.” Actually, most notably another tune, but I didn’t jot down its title, so we’ll stick with saying “Counting Stars” was the most notable,

In any case, it was a heck of a fun evening of music delivered by an exceptionally talented vocalist. I’d suggest getting out to give him a listen if he’s doing the solo thing at a bar near you; a pure, top-shelf, big stage-caliber voice doing a variety of your favorite tunes. And, of course, if you’re into the heavier stuff, give his band Exhale a listen.

Looking Ahead

You can follow Corey’s solo acoustic performances via the “Events” tab of his Facebook page. And you can follow his band’s Exhale gig schedule via the “Shows” page of their website or on the band’s Facebook “Events” page. In fact, you can catch Exhale tonight at Carlo Rose in Pelham, NH or next Saturday, November 4th, at a Toys for Tots benefit show at Sammy’s Patio in Revere, MA. And I see more gigs in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island before year-end, so check out the band’s calendar (as well as Corey’s solo show list) and catch some loud rock & roll (or a bunch of well-known covers performed by a dude with a powerful rock ‘n roll voice).

Live Review: Brian Charette and Jordan Young at Kerrytown Concert House

Brian Charette

photo by Anna Yatskevich; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Brian Charette and Jordan Young

Kerrytown Concert House, Ann Arbor, MI

October 23, 2017

Brian Charette is an internationally renowned jazz organist/pianist/multi-keyboardist who has been a creative force on the music scene for over 20 years. He has played with many luminaries from all walks of the music world. Jazz legends Houston Person and Lou Donaldson, pop icons Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Chaka Khan, and Cyndi Lauper, and the Allman Brothers’ drummer Jaimoe have all employed Charette’s services at one time or another.

Brian Charette

photo by Simon Yu; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

On this particular night in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the keyboardist was joined by frequent contributor and right-hand man Jordan Young on drums and vocoder. The intimate and acoustically perfect theater was host to a musical journey that included an intoxicating mix of straight ahead bebop, acoustic piano musings, and “circuit bent” electronica. The term “circuit bent” refers to the manipulation of certain electronic gadgets (i.e. effects pedals and patch boards) that have been manually altered to “misfire” or change their natural pattern of sequence or flow. The result, in conjunction with keyboard-triggered samples, makes for a sensory roller coaster ride with few boundaries.

The majority of the music played during the concert was drawn from one of Charette’s newest recordings entitled Kürrent. While there were visually only two people on stage, the wealth of sounds that emanated from them both was quite amazing. They began with a tune called “Doll Fin” that firmly established their working relationship and affinity from the start. Via a modular SK1 Hammond keyboard, Charette initiated the tune, with a pulsating left hand bass and assured comping. A convergence of synthesizer swells from his Korg unit along with assorted odds and ends soon conjured up a cacophony of otherworldy sounds. The slithery groove was further cemented by Young’s nimble drumming that consistently pushed and played off the beat. With the array of keyboard whimsy and circuit bending in full display, Young added to the mix by playing “real time” samples on the vocoder as well as speaking into the device creating “Daffy Duck”-like sounds. Yes, I repeat, “Daffy Duck” sounds which were oddly appropriate and cool!

Brian Charette

photo by Melanie Scholtz; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

That was followed by a piece that was slightly more mainstream called “Time Changes.” It was kind of a straight-ahead Jimmy Smith style blowing tune in which the inventive duo swung like crazy. Charette tastefully integrated flourishes of color on synthesizer to add accents and atmosphere to things. “Mano Y Mano” was the line repeated in robotic fashion by Young through the vocoder. This set the pace for a tune that was part experimental and part acid jazz freak out. Quick and taut bebop framed lines comprised the main body of the melody and were another strong vehicle for the duo’s improvisations.

Charette shared with the audience the fact that the follow up composition, “Standing Still,” was one of the very first tunes he had written. It was a very lilting and upbeat piece, with a light swing. That soon gave way to throbbing and pulsating loops that reverberated in the background as Charette stepped over behind the beautiful house piano to the side of the stage. He played some great Chick Corea/Herbie Hancock-like accompaniment before returning to the Hammond to resolve in a samba and swinging coda.

Another highlight of the night was a tune dedicated to quirky NYC scat singer Shooby Taylor called “Shooby’s Riff.” Charette playfully triggered samples of Shooby’s voice amid a killer bass line and Young’s consistent rhythms. They included another dedication to composer/instrumentalist Tadd Dameron by playing an acoustic piano and drums duet called “Tadd’s Delight.” It was a swinging and really sweet piece, with a hint of ragtime and some wonderful brush work by Young. They concluded the evening with another cut off the Kürrent album called “Conquistador.” It basically put an indelible stamp on their ambitious, nearly 90-minute set, with an array of shifting tempos and time signatures, staccato melodic lines and smooth transitions in mood and sonic textures.

Brian Charette

photo by Simon Yu; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

Brian Charette and Jordan Young are exemplary artists who are doing something very significant and interesting, with their dedication to upholding the jazz tradition while simultaneously fusing a myriad of seemingly disparate elements within that context. This is the future of jazz and improvisational music.

Looking Ahead

Brian’s tour continues, so check the itinerary page of his website to see if he has any upcoming live dates near you. Tonight, Friday, October 27th, he’s at the Blue Note Bistro in Miamisburg, OH; tomorrow, Saturday, October 28th, he’ll be at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati, OH; and Sunday, October 29th, he’ll be at The Greenwich, also in Cincinnati. Beyond that, Brian will be in New York, NY on November 6th and in Miami, FL on November 7th, 8th, and 9th. He has additional November dates in Beacon, NY; Rochester, NY; Methuen, MA; New York City; and Nyack, NY; with shows in South Africa, Europe, and the U.S. West Coast also on the calendar. Again, be sure to check his website to see if he’ll be in your neighborhood.

Live Review: Bob Malone at Barn #81

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob Malone

Barn #81, Hopkinton, MA

October 14, 2017

Bob Malone is one of the great rockin’ blues keyboardists of our time. Period. Berklee-trained, Bob has chiseled and honed his style among some of the best local musicians in Los Angeles, his performance skills polished over years in the studio and on the road. Since 2011 Bob’s “day job,” in fact, has been as John Fogerty’s keyboardist. And, of course, he has released some stellar blues recordings, performing his own stuff between his Fogerty gigs. On Saturday night, in this intimate “house concert” performance space in an outer suburb of Boston, Bob treated an appreciative audience to his skills.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

And he was supported by a great band – Jeff St. Pierre on bass, Chris Leadbetter on guitar, and his old college buddy Philip Antoniades on drums. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I love catching Bob Malone with a full band, so this was perfect.

Of course, those of you who have been reading the Blog from the beginning have seen my reviews of Bob Malone. Twice, to be exact. Both times within the first three months of launch. I reviewed Bob’s October 2015 concert at the 100 Club in London as part of my “Five Nights in London” series. And I reviewed Bob’s most recent album, Mojo Deluxe, in January 2016. So you know I’d be shocked – shocked! – if Bob didn’t deliver a world-class performance. Spoiler alert: He rocked the room!

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob kicked the evening off with a bang. A rollicking, rousing, energy-filled rendition of “Certain Distance.” He then followed it with one of my favorite instrumental numbers, “Chinese Algebra.” And a room-rocking performance of “I’m Not Fine,” always a song worth shouting along with at the top of your lungs. These are all songs from his most recent release, Mojo Deluxe.

“Up on Cripple Creek,” a tempo-changing energetic number from Ain’t What You Know, followed before Bob really brought the room down with a mellow, contemplative favorite from Mojo Deluxe, an insightful consideration of middle aged-ness, “Can’t Get There From Here.”

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob reached back two decades to his 1996 The Darkest Part of the Night album for “I Know He’s Your Husband,” one of Bob’s songs on which his vocals sound the most Randy Newman-esque. Next up, “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time,” portrayed a room-electrifying energy and wow, I do love that guitar line. The intensity remained, as “Rage & Cigarettes” came next.

What followed was a really cool rendition of Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents.” In the lead-in to this homage to Petty, Bob asked “someone” to please tape this performance because, after many not-quite-right attempts, he thought he finally had it down. Indeed, he did.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

While most of the evening’s songs were from Bob’s newest album, he again reached back to 2009’s Ain’t What You Know for the exceptionally emotionally powerful “No One Can Hurt You” (…like me). Then back to a newer track, “Toxic Love,” which simply roars, and the energetic “I Wasn’t Looking For the Blues.”

Next up Bob dipped into his Born Too Late album for “Home to Me.” Light, melancholy; cool, almost jazzy. Very cool selection to showcase yet another side of Bob Malone. Bob picked things up again with chunky, “Walk This Way”-style Steven Tyler-inspire, fast-paced vocals on the next song (whose title I can’t read in my notes).

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The final two songs of Bob’s set were from Ain’t What You Know. First up was the title track, which turned into a serious jam, and was followed by a rowdy rendition of “Stay With Me” that transformed the end of Bob’s set into a disco ball-spinning dance party (of which there is some photographic proof a couple pictures down).

Bob’s encore was the sentimental “Paris,” a slow, swaying, arena-filling ballad that’s a signature Bob Malone song, a sentimental, emotional, scene-painting, perfect selection to end the evening for an enthusiastic room full of his fans.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I love gigs like this. If you keep your eyes open, there are chances to catch some of the most talented musicians in the world in intimate settings full of friends and neighbors, and they’re truly special evenings. I’m glad to have finally made it to my first Barn #81 gig, too – I had heard about the shows in this cool setting. And I knew Bob had played here before, but until Saturday night I didn’t realize the concert series was run by one of his old college buddies from Berklee. But hey, a friendly atmosphere with a talented band featuring one of the premiere blues musicians in the world, and it ended almost as a dance party? What a Saturday night!

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

The “tour dates” page of Bob’s website lists several shows around the U.S. over the rest of 2017 and into 2018, with solo gigs in Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania in the coming months, and performances as John Fogerty’s keyboardist in Oklahoma and Texas, plus a 10-day stretch of John Fogerty gigs in January in Las Vegas. Be sure to check Bob’s website for details and for additional performances as they’re added.

Barn #81 is a great venue, a relaxed atmosphere full of friends. I don’t see any future events listed on the Barn #81 Facebook events page, but I do see Jennifer Tefft will be there on Saturday, November 11th. I almost hesitate to mention it, though, because I still haven’t figured out if I’ll be able to get there that night, and I’d hate to see the show sell out before I get my tickets.

Live Review: Fondatsiata and Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Fondatsiata (The Foundation)

with Shturcite (The Crickets)

The Regent Theatre, Arlington, MA

October 13, 2017

Last night’s concert at The Regent Theatre in Arlington, promoted locally by Face Bulgaria and the Bulgarian American Cultural Center Madara, was a big-time rock ‘n roll event for the Boston area Bulgarian community. Bulgarian supergroup Fondatsiata (The Foundation) performed along with special guests Valdi Totev and Georgi Markov from Shturcite (The Crickets), a legendary Bulgarian rock group formed in 1967 and popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s, sometimes referred to as Bulgaria’s Beatles.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

With spelling assistance from the Facebook event post, Fondatsiata is comprised of Kiril Marichkov (also from Shturcite), Ivan Lechev (from FCB), Donny Vekilov (from Donny and Momchil), Slavcho Nikolov (from B.T.R.), and Venko Poromanski (from “TE”).

I, of course, don’t know any of the songs, so I’ll be brief – no song titles or song-by-song rundown of the evening – but I’ll share plenty of photos instead. The crowd in attendance, however, knew most of the songs.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Fondatsiata opened the evening with several songs, showing the skills one might expect from a “supergroup.” Slavcho Nikolov unleashed some serious guitar wizardry; Venko Poromanski displayed top-notch drumming that included an engaging solo; Ivan Lechev rocked the axe but brought something especially dazzling to the mix when he switched to electric violin; Donny Vekilov brought energy and an impressive voice to the bunch; and bandleader/bassist Kiril Marichkov has clearly discovered the fountain of youth.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Valdi Totev joined the band for a few songs, and then he was joined by Georgi Markov for Shturcite’s portion of the performance. For those of us unfamiliar with the band, Shturcite’s last line-up change occurred in 1976 (thank you, Wikipedia), when Valdi joined the group, and the line-up remained unchanged until guitarist Petsi Gyuzelev’s passing in 2013. Ivan and Slavcho remained onstage to join Shturcite during their segment of the show.

Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Indeed, as much as the crowd loved the Fondatsiata performance, thinks kicked up a notch when Shturcite took the stage to perform several old favorites. Boston’s Bulgarian community was standing, singing, and dancing in the aisles, even more than during the first portion of Fondatsiata’s performance.

Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

When Venko and Donny returned, the party atmosphere continued at a fever pitch, as Fondatsiata played several more songs.

Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Then came time for the encore. Three encores, to be exact. Before an appreciate crowd, the seven musicians of Fondatsiata and Shturcite regaled their fans with more favorite songs, and a two-plus hour concert experience came to a close.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Indeed, it would have helped if I had known even a couple of the songs so I could sing along. And, unlike new English-language performers, I wasn’t able to learn the songs partway through. But it was a pleasure to be there for such a high-energy performance. And even without the enthusiastic audience all around me, I’d’ve enjoyed the exceptional musicianship on display. I mean, I did enjoy it. Obviously.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Stylistically, the music was classic rock, largely rooted in ’60s, ’70s and ’80s rock styles (though more ’60s and ’70s), with hints of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Doors in places, and even an occasional nod to progressive rock, generally packaged in a middle-of-the-rock ‘n roll-road, mainstream style that could be played across a variety of pop and rock radio stations and easily reaches a broad demographic. Not unlike the Beatles and the Stones in that respect. This music plays directly to my personal musical tastes; indeed, if only I could understand enough to sing along, I’d probably have a few of the songs still stuck in my head today.

Fondatsiata and Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

As I’ve said before, when a famous performer from any country is performing – as I experienced at Belgian star Milow’s show in New York last fall and during performances by Bulgarian stars here in the Boston area (like Theodosii Spassov or Vasko Krupkata) – it’s always worth seeing one of the best musicians from anywhere perform, even when you don’t know the songs. And, of course, if you’re a Bulgarian in America, you’ll be scanning the other five tour dates on the schedule below to see if you can make it to see Fondatsiata and Shturcite during their U.S. concerts this weekend or next…

Looking Ahead

Yes, the two-weekend U.S. tour continues, per the band’s website, tonight (October 14th) at the Botev Academy near Washington, DC and tomorrow, October 15th, at the Copernicus Center in Chicago. On Friday, October 20th, The Foundation will be at Coco Cabana outside Atlanta; on Saturday, October 21st in Tampa; and on Sunday, October 22nd at Stache Drinking Den and Coffee Bar in Fort Lauderdale. Be sure to check the website or Facebook page for additional details.

 

Live Review: The Folk Revival featuring Shawna Caspi and Outrageous Fortune at WICN

Shawna Caspi

Shawna Caspi; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Folk Revival: “Outrageous Fortune & Friends”

WICN Performance Studio 50, Worcester, MA

September 28, 2017

The Backstory

On Wednesday morning, I was looking for some good live music to see that night. I found some local shows, including Shawna Caspi’s house concert hosted by notloB Music. After sampling her music and hearing her exquisite voice, I decided she was someone I really wanted to hear perform live, but I ended up having car trouble a few hours later – this was a recurring theme last week – so I couldn’t get out. Coincidentally, however, that very same day a member of Shawna’s team out to me about Thursday’s live in-studio performance at WICN 90.5 FM in Worcester. Shawna was slated for an hour-long set, a live performance on WICN 90.5 FM at the radio station’s studio, part of a four-hour show with a live studio audience. Now y’all may not know this, but I was a board operator at WKLQ in Grand Rapids one summer while studying broadcasting. I haven’t been back inside a radio studio in decades, so this sounded like a cool opportunity.

The Show: Folk Revival

As you know from the variety of music covered in the Blog, I’m not much of a folkie. I love the best music across all genres, but given the small percentage of my music that’s folk, it’s not surprising I wasn’t familiar with WICN’s Folk Revival (7:00 to 11:00 pm Thursday, over the air and streaming online) and host Nick Noble‘s decade-long run at its helm. In addition to his knowledge of the genre, Nick possesses an easygoing, friendly demeanor, skill at asking friendly questions that yield interesting responses, and a deep, silky voice that makes him the quintessential radio host for this type of show. Though I hadn’t known about him before, it was a pleasure to watch this maestro in action.

Shawna Caspi

Shawna Caspi; photo by Geoff Wilbur

I walked in right around 7:00, just in time for the show’s first performance, an hour-long set by Shawna Caspi. She was followed by Chris Welles. And Outrageous Fortune headlined the evening. Between featured performers, three local artists each performed a song. During these “breaks,” I often left the studio, so I only caught half of the songs and entirely missed both songs by the third of these three artists. Below, rather than running strictly chronologically, I’ll write about the three main performers first and then mention the performers whose songs populated the transitions. Well, the two I caught, anyway.

The Opener: Shawna Caspi

The Folk Revival was the tentpole gig of Toronto’s Shawna Caspi trio of Massachusetts performances. As I noted above, it’s Shawna’s voice (and delivery) – powerful, emotional, precise, as if from the ’60s-’70s folk era. My limited folk knowledge betrays me a bit here in that the only group that comes to mind is Peter, Paul, and Mary, but that’s not exactly who she reminds me of; stylistically, though, I’d place her as a musical contemporary. Of course, when any genre is performed by a musician of Shawna’s caliber, if you’re a music fan, it’s an opportunity missed if you don’t go out to hear her when she’s in town.

Fortunately, I didn’t miss this opportunity. Shawna kicked the evening off with one of my favorite songs from her new album, Forest Fire, “Never Enough.” It features a soaring vocal, and it just seemed to pop in the acoustics of the radio station’s studio. “Love in a Moving Van” followed, a guitar picker with a rolling tempo, a catchy, memorable tune with rich, warm vocals.

Shawna Caspi

Shawna Caspi; photo by Geoff Wilbur

“The Devil’s Rolling Pin” was a bit of a change of pace. You can actually hear the devil in the details of the rich, finger-picking strum and ever-so-slight haunting hint and cheerily foreboding tone in Shawna’s vocals. So haunting and slightly speakeasy-ish, it would probably fit on The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League’s Masquerade, which I reviewed earlier this month. Very cool, showing the breadth of Shawna’s vocal capabilities.

Next, Shawna’s voice soared as she breathed new life into an old cover, “The Hobo’s Lullaby.” And she went very old-school folky with a little syncopated rhythm on “Not So Silent,” a catchy, fun, and powerful protest song with the singalong line, “We are louder; we are louder than them.”

“Anchor” refreshingly changed things up a little. Nice and airy, it felt free and bright like a summer day. A lazy summer day.

“Breakables” followed, a slow roller with a headturning phrase or two that really showcased Shawna’s voice. Those high, powerful, warm, crisp notes that only a few can hit, and she only even truly showcases that range occasionally, saving it to wow us on songs like this one.

Shawna brought her set to a close with “Oleaster,” a lyrical and vocal-driven tune from Forest Fire that utilizes clear, rising power in the vocals to help provide emphasis. It was a strong performance in a unique setting, a room whose acoustics were ideal for the crispness, precision, and warmth of Shawna Caspi’s performance style.

The Warm-Up Act: Chris Welles

Chris had a busy night. As one-third of Outrageous Fortune, he also served as his own warm-up band. Though he wasn’t alone. He, as guitarist, was joined by fellow Outrageous Fortune members Dan Dick on bass and, for some songs, Rod Thomas on backing vocals. So, really, the entire Outrageous Fortune trio all had a hand in opening for themselves. The third member of Chris’ trio (or fourth member of his quartet, depending on the song) was violinist Tomoko Iwamoto.

Chris Welles & band

Chris Welles & band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

As a trio, Chris and comrades opened with “Paradise or Hell,” showcasing a moderately haunting, weird sound. The second song, “Lullaby,” with Rod joining on backing vocals, was exceptionally impressive, showcasing a rich, warm, all-encompassing sound, perhaps my favorite of the set.

The performance continued with a jazzy, swingy cover of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and then a guitar and violin duet arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that was light and very old movie soundtrack-esque. Indeed, that classic cinema music vibe continued with a rendition of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” featuring a very Bing Crosby-ish vocal amid a lively performance delivery.

Chris’ penultimate song, a fun and lively (that word again!) rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “Old Man Mose,” was another of my favorites from this set. And the set ended with Jelly Roll Morton’s “Whinin’ Boy,” again sporting something very black and white movie-ish about Chris’ vocals.

The Headliner: Outrageous Fortune

Outrageous Fortune

Outrageous Fortune; photo by Geoff Wilbur

I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay until 10:00 PM when the show ended, but Outrageous Fortune did get through an enthusiastically entertaining six songs before my 9:30 exit. I’m not sure I’ve ever covered a live show by a jug band before, but yes, this was as much fun as it sounds like, a half-dozen rousing numbers from this multi-talented trio.

Outrageous Fortune kicked things off with “I Got Mine,” the energetic opening track on the band’s new album, Delta Bound. They followed it with a vaudevillian rendition of Irving Berlin’s “My Walkin’ Stick” on which Rod Thomas played a walking stick-kazoo, of all things. It was an animated performance – a treat for the in-studio audience, at least – and a stroke of genius when we all realized the walking stick Rod had produced for the song was more than just a visual prop.

Outrageous Fortune

Outrageous Fortune; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Next up was a rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Come in My Kitchen” that had a Sesame Street-esque rhythm, kind of Big Bird-meets-Dukes of Hazzard. I particularly liked the patience in the vocals, as if waiting for the right lane to open at various times. Outrageous Fortune followed that with another Irving Berlin number, “Russian Lullaby,” deploying a relatively traditional line-up of guitar, bass, and harmonica, driven vocally by a nice, crooning lilt; and the harmonies here were truly something special. This led to the new album’s title track, Duke Ellington’s “Delta Blues,” at which point I had to exit, though the band and the radio show still had plenty of time remaining. I’m sure I don’t know what I missed; and I could have known but didn’t, as I forgot I had been at a radio show, so I didn’t think to turn the radio on while I drove home.

The Between-Band “Break” Performers

That was the end of my evening, a heck of a night. Of course, as I mentioned, there were performances during the breaks between the main artists. Each of three performers delivered a single song twice during the evening, a terrific idea for showcasing additional artists during the program. As noted earlier, I stepped out of the studio during part of each of these breaks, but I heard three of the six songs, as performed by two of the three artists.

Kevin Kvein

Kevin Kvein; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Kevin Kvein

I was in the room for both of Kevin Kvein’s songs. His first, “Age of Destruction,” was a mid-tempo strummer with a kind of open, echoey vocal style. His second song, currently untitled, was even more interesting. Rich, warm finger-picking guitar with a fragile vocal, not trembling though it seems like it should have been. Very cool and original.

Edwin Baculima

I only heard Edwin’s second song of the evening, his rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman Blues,” a well-conceived slow-paced blues performance with an airy, almost Western feel.

Edwin Baculima

Edwin Baculima; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

This radio studio live performance experience was very cool, and I look forward to keeping an eye on The Folk Revival’s Facebook group to see when there are future live shows that fit my schedule.

Shawna Caspi’s concert schedule, per the gigs page on her website, continues with a gig at Bear’s Place in Bloomington, IN on October 3rd; a house concert in Grosse Pointe, MI on October 6th; a show at the Unitarian Universality Community Church of Hendricks Country in Danville, IN on October 7th; and a Musical Hospitality Coffeehouse show at Boss Community Center in Kewanee, IL on October 8th. Following that, her calendar lists a series of shows October 11th-14th in British Columbia, an October 20th show at the Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM) Conference in Iowa City, IA, and then some shows back in Ontario. Check out Shawna’s website for additional details and more concert listings.

Outrageous Fortune’s next gig is Saturday, October 14th, 1:00-3:00 PM at Cafe L’Aroma in West Newton, MA. (You know how I love daytime shows; this’ll be great fun!) Keep an eye on the “shows” page of the band’s website for information about additional shows as they are added.

And, lest I forget, Tomoko Iwamoto is a member of the gypsy jazz outfit 440. Per the group’s Facebook events page, they’re performing at 11:00 AM today, October 1st, for Sunday brunch at the Trail’s End Cafe in Concord, MA. This is usually a second Sunday of the month gig, but it’s obviously the first Sunday this month. And, as always, check back at the Facebook page for upcoming show announcements as they’re added.