Lights, latkes, action: Food, music, social causes highlight Brothers Lazaroff’s Hanukkah Hullaballoo

Hullabaloo rhearsal-6
Rabbi James Stone Goodman at Hanukkah Hullabaloo rehearsal.

By Barry Gilbert
Special to the St. Louis Jewish Light

Brothers Lazaroff’s Hanukkah Hullabaloo, which began just three years ago as a humble holiday party after a Kinky Friedman concert, has grown into a music, dining and cultural experience bringing together multiple strands of the St. Louis Jewish community.

The event has broken out of the confines of its original home at Off Broadway in south St. Louis and moved to the Plush restaurant and nightclub in midtown. The third edition Dec. 4 will offer a separate-admission “tish,” or teaching dinner, led by rabbis; music ranging from rock, doo-wop and hip-hop to klezmer and acid-jazz; special readings; and DJ sets.

The centerpieces of the first two Hullabaloos will return: latkes prepared and served live onstage; and a performance of Rabbi James Stone Goodman’s Hanukkah epic “Eight Days,” backed by the Eight Nights Orchestra: Brothers Lazaroff with members of the Funky Butt Brass Band, Will Soll’s Klezmer Conspiracy and the Vaad.

The big change this year is the inclusion of several organizations, or presenting partners, representing the arts, social justice activists and creative entrepreneurs.

All proceeds from the general admission ($10 minimum donation) and the tish ($36 per person) will go to One Life-One World, an organization founded by Goodman at Congregation Neve Shalom that offers programs in prison outreach, mental illness and addiction. Last year’s Hullabaloo raised $1,500.

David and Jeff Lazaroff say the expansion of the Hullabaloo and the move to Plush are basically a happy coincidence.

“We were surprised by the community turnout (last year), and they wanted to sit,” David Lazaroff says.

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Garland Jeffreys: ‘R.O.C.K.’ in Chicago

The Garland Jeffreys Band performs at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago on Nov. 16, 2013 / Photo by Barry Gilbert

By Barry Gilbert

CHICAGO  (Nov. 16, 2013) // Some fans had waited for years, even decades, to see Garland Jeffreys on Saturday night. And that wait was more than worth it when the veteran rocker took the stage at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

Jeffreys, who wears his New York City hometown like a suit of armor, came out at full speed with “Coney Island Winter” from his 2011 comeback album, “The King of in Between”: “Politician kiss my ass/ your promises break like glass,” he sang, the poetry and beat slamming at a country in crumbling decline.

But every song about liars, scam artists and abusers also showed the way toward redemption, truth and love. Jeffreys is ultimately a powerful, positive artist who radiates warmth and honesty and gets it back in kind from his audience. This show ended in a love fest that included a spontaneous third encore – his band had already tossed set lists into the crowd, and it took a few minutes for the players to heed the boss’ call to return.

Jeffreys, 70, also made a deal with his audience regarding his daughter Savannah, 16 (yes, 16!): “When my daughter comes to Northwestern (University), I expect you all to watch out for her.”

“We will,” the crowd answered.

Jeffreys is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-born singer/songwriter who has released just 12 studio albums in his 43-year career. His mixed heritage – Puerto Rican and African-American – is mirrored in his music, which embraces rock, soul, R&B and reggae. His lyrics often deal with the challenges and responsibilities of being “other,” such as in “I May Not Be Your Kind,” “It’s What I Am” (“… too white to be black, too black to be white … I’m one of them, it’s what I am”) and in “Hail Hail Rock ‘n Roll”:

Father of coal, mother of pearl/
Never too black to blush to pick up a white girl/
The color of you, the color of me/
You can’t judge a man by looking at the marque/

His set spanned 16 songs and almost 90 minutes, backed by an excellent four-piece band featuring Mark Bosch on guitar, Brian Stanley on bass, Tom Curiano on drums and Gray Reinhard on keyboards.

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Peter Cooper hits it out of the park on ‘Opening Day’

Peter Cooper
Peter Cooper

By Barry Gilbert

As I write this, Opening Day is just three hours away – well, Opening Day of the 2013 World Series. A good time to listen anew to Peter Cooper’s recent CD, “Opening Day.”

The bases on “Opening Day” (Red Beet Records) are loaded – with the humor, warmth and honesty that have marked Cooper’s previous solo albums as well as his contributions to three CDs with duo partner Eric Brace (who harmonizes on this CD).

opening day cvr(2)The CD cover is evocative of the music within: a photo of Cooper as a boy at his first major league game, in 1978 in Atlanta. “I’ve been coming since before I can remember,” Cooper sings. “ I’ve seen the pictures to prove it was so.”

And with just the Cardinals and the Red Sox standing, out of the 30 teams that had such high hopes back in April, the chorus of the title track has never been sharper (Cubs fans might want to avert their eyes):

“All’s well that ends well/ ’round here things don’t end well/ but we’re tied for first with the whole summer left to play/ the fall breaks kind for the lucky ones/ winter comes even to the champions/ keep the aftermath and the epitaph/ give me Opening Day.”

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The Del-Lords rock in return to St. Louis

The Del-Lords are (from left) Steve Almaas, Scott Kempner, Eric Ambel and Frank Funaro.

By Barry Gilbert

The Del-Lords brought their A game to St. Louis on Oct. 18. But they ended up playing before a too-small crowd, an unfortunate consequence of the Cardinals finishing off the Dodgers to win the National League pennant just three miles down Broadway at Busch Stadium.

No matter. The lucky three-dozen or so at the Off Broadway music venue who kept their ears focused on the music (and one eye on their cell phones for the score) were amply rewarded. The reunited Del-Lords performed as if the room was full, swaggering through a 14-song set that included a healthy selection from their initial run in the ’80s, a few from this year’s “Elvis Club” CD and a couple of killer covers.

It was the kind of show that reinforced why I love rock ‘n’ roll. As Del-Lords guitarist Scott Kempner says, quoting his friend, the music legend Dion DiMucci: Two guitars, bass and drums; it worked then, it works now.

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Mandolinist Jeff Austin is honest with himself


Jeff Austin

By Barry Gilbert

Jeff Austin’s career path was set. He was going to a college conservatory of music, taking acting and dance, and auditioning for shows. Next stop: Broadway. Then, after 100 or so Grateful Dead shows, he decided he’d rather play in a band. Trouble was, he barely played guitar.

That was 21 years ago. Now 39, Austin is an accomplished mandolin player and a founding member of the Yonder Mountain String Band. He is branching out with an upcoming solo project, and he’s bringing a side band, the Here and Now, to the Old Rock House in St. Louis on Sept. 4.

The Here and Now, Austin says, is and will be what its name implies: Jeff Austin and whoever is available and willing to play with him at any particular time. For this tour, his bandmates include banjo magician Danny Barnes, guitarist Larry Keel and bassist Jenny Keel.

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Billy Gibbons Q&A: ZZ Top is still bad and nationwide

ZZ Top (from left): Frank Beard, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill
ZZ Top (from left): Frank Beard, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill

By Barry Gilbert

A chance to interview Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top? Hell, yeah.

Unfortunately, Gibbons is not crazy about doing phone interviews, so we had to settle for an email exchange. That’s good, because it sure is easier. But that’s bad, because there’s no give and take, followup questions or a chance to salvage unresponsive answers. (Not that Billy really did that.)

That little ol’ band from Texas has been on the road for 43 years, and that road was taking it to St. Louis on Aug. 24. A concert advance based on this interview for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch can be found here.

Following is our email exchange, with editing only for punctuation and clarity.

BG: I’m sure you get asked this every day, but here it is again: How is it possible for a band to be together for so long with no personnel changes, no breakups and reunions, no tabloid dirt dishing? How do you all handle conflict?

Gibbons: First, and foremost, we embrace the continual good time doing the ‘whatever’…! We like to keep on keepin’ on with, as we like to say, ‘the same three guys and the same three chords.’ Maybe it’s that we’re a trio as it’s an odd number (very odd in our case) so no ties in the case of a vote. We like playing and recording, so no reason to stop. OK, most bands break up and, inevitably, get back together, so if you’d like to think of the past 10, 20 or 30 years as a ‘reunion tour,’ feel free to do so.

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Dwight Yoakam’s generous Pageant show spans genres

Dwight Yoakam performs at the 42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards in New York on June 16, 2011. Associated Press file
Dwight Yoakam performs at the 42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards in New York on June 16, 2011. Associated Press file

August 19, 2013 12:53 pm

By Barry Gilbert
Special to Go! Magazine

To call Dwight Yoakam a country singer really doesn’t do him justice. If that were strictly true, Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring of Fire” wouldn’t have the sound and rhythms of T Rex’s classic “Bang a Gong” when played by Yoakam and his hard-rocking band.

As Yoakam told the Post-Dispatch in the days leading up to Sunday night’s concert at the Pageant, genre is something music marketers worry about, “but it’s not a boundary for musicians.”

And that was true throughout the generous 32-song, two-hour-plus show. “Trying” from last year’s “3 Pears” CD, rode on Jonathan Clark’s bass line and rhythm, which would be at home on many a Memphis soul record. Other songs took on a similar vibe with washes of organ by multi-instrumentalist Brian Whelan.

Another new song, “Rock It All Away,” was built on power chords any rock fan would love, and early Elvis Presley hovered over the stage during a cover of “Little Sister” and in the Jordanaires-like background vocals of “Always Late With Your Kisses.” (Missing was his rave-up cover of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds.”)

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Dwight Yoakam Q&A: Guitars, Nudie Suits Etc. Etc.

Photo by Emily Joyce
Photo by Emily Joyce

By Barry Gilbert

Country music star Dwight Yoakam is spending the summer reconnecting with fans on a tour that takes him to a mix of venues, from theaters and festivals to state fairs and casinos. It’s a variety he appreciates, but he’s especially partial to festivals, having played Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days, Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Stagecoach in California, among others, already this year.

I caught up with him late last month while he was home in Los Angeles for one day, running errands and doing interviews before heading out on the road again. (I wrote an advance for his concert in St. Louis on Aug. 18 based on this conversation for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

We talked about a variety of subjects, from geeky guitar stuff to Western music fashion to the future of music distribution. But we started off with “3 Pears,” his latest album that came out last fall and landed him atop the Americana chart for eight straight weeks, a big change from his days as a hitmaker on mainstream Country radio.

Here is a transcript of that 44-minute interview, edited for length and clarity:

BG: Let’s start off with “3 Pears.” It’s been nine months, I guess? It was a smash on Americana …

DY: Yeah, it was an honor to have that kind of response to it, held the No. 1 spot for eight weeks on Americana radio. I was just elated. In some ways it felt like it was a full circle journey to have this album come out and be received on an alternative format, sort of like the first EP was when I began with “Guitars Cadillacs.”

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Yoakam gives a nod to the Beatles on new album ‘3 Pears’

Dwight Yoakam performs at the 42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards in 2011 in New York. Associated Press file
Dwight Yoakam performs at the 42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards in 2011 in New York. Associated Press file

August 15, 2013 1:45 pm •

By Barry Gilbert
Special to Go! Magazine

Dwight Yoakam was part of what Steve Earle has called the Great Credibility Scare of the late ’80s, when so-called New Traditionalists filled the country radio charts post-“Urban Cowboy” and pre-Garth Brooks. But Yoakam’s career has been anything but traditional.
A Kentucky native reared in Ohio, Yoakam was embraced by Los Angeles roots rockers and punk rockers despite channeling the Bakersfield vibe of country icons Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Even while racking up hits on mainstream country radio, his music drew from other genres and was unlike most of what was being played.

Most recently, after spending some time on independent labels, he returned to his original home at Warner Reprise — but to the label’s Nashville office, where expectations turned upside down again and he became a hit on the Americana radio chart.

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