The Cardinals may have dropped out of first place in the NL Central on Sunday, but on Saturday night they led the majors in song as the Baseball Project hit it out of Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room to close out Twangfest 15 in St. Louis.
Veteran rockers Steve Wynn, Mike Mills, Scott McCaughey and Linda Pitmon, wearing their twin passions for music and baseball like a uniform, tore through 14 tracks from their two CDs as the Baseball Project. And for extra innings, they connected on songs from some of Wynn, McCaughey and Mills’ other bands: Dream Syndicate, the Minus 5 and R.E.M., respectively.
Twangfest, which became Flood Fest on Friday night when storms outside caused floor drains inside the Duck Room to back up and leave an inch or so of stinky water underfoot, was threatened again Saturday when water started rising just about showtime. But the Blueberry Hill crew dealt with it quickly, and opening act Marah went on just a bit more than a half-hour late.
(Thanks to recording fiend Jeff Regan for an mp3 of “Wet Vac.”)
Friday night’s thunder and light show again flummoxed University City’s storm and sanitary systems. As drains backed up and the tide rose across the floor of Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room, I remembered that Nora O’Connor had the perfect song for the occasion in her catalogue: her cover of Tom Waits’ “Looks Like I’m Up Shit Creek Again.”
It wasn’t needed, because she and the rest of the crowd on the third night of Twangfest 15 listened in delight as headliner Robbie Fulks riffed twice on improvised songs.
As fans in sandals and flip flops sloshed in an inch or so of stinky water, Fulks and O’Connor battled a wet vac droning what Fulks judged to be middle-E and inspired what we’ll call “Wet Vac”:
“While the water came into the club/ the wet vac worked very hard./ Twangfest would not be ruined by the water/ so we diverted it into someone’s back yard./ While the rain in St. Louis couldn’t stop the Twangfest when they brought the wet vac out/And to the sound of the wet vac E/ all the (unintelligible) got to scream and shout/ (shouting) WET VAC … WET VAC … WET VAC … wet vac.”
Later, Fulks improvised the more involved “The Duck Room’s Goin’ Down.”
The wait was more than worth it. Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis dazzled in a rare performance together Thursday night, their songs simultaneously reaching out to the head, the heart and the gut.
Headlining the second night of Twangfest 15 at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room, Mr. and Mrs. Robison, backed by Will Dupuy on bass and Geoff Queen on pedal steel and guitar, offered 20 tunes over an hour and 20 minutes.
The set list mined the catalogues of each to good effect. But what made the night extra special was a handful of new duets that the couple unveiled, hinting of a career merger after about two decades of individual success.
It’s simply criminal that their mixture of country, pop and folk isn’t played on radio here, with the notable exception of Twangfest sponsor KDHX (88.1 FM). From the opening notes of “Sweet Sundown” to the closing masterpiece “Angry All the Time,” Robison and Willis displayed the honesty and simplicity that makes great songwriting.
Michael “Supe” Granda, St. Louis native and bassist for the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, has added a new series of gigs to his parallel solo career: “Supe’s On: An Evening of Songs, Stories & Serious Silliness.” The show, which debuts this weekend in St. Louis, features Supe singing songs from his Daredevils and solo catalogues, and telling stories drawn from his book on the band.
We had a very enjoyable chat last week, and my story from that interview appeared in Go! magazine (EDIT: The link is apparently permanently broken; ) in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Also, here are some links to some earlier Supe/Daredevils stories
For fans of the Daredevils, Supe and the Sandwiches, Supe de Jour and the Garbonzos, here’s the interview Q&A, edited a bit for length and clarity.
BG: I see by your area code that you’re still down in Nashville.
Supe: I’ve been in Nashville 19 years. Almost as long as I lived in Springfield. I love it down here. I got access to the greatest musicians in the world. For a musician and writer, it’s like being a kid in a candy store.
The following post is an unedited version of my report for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which ran in a shorter form on Monday, June 9, 2008.
June 15, 2008
By Barry Gilbert
The Waco Brothers, an irreverent band of post-punk, country-leaning Brits from Chicago, and Ha Ha Tonka, young tradition-minded rockers from the Ozarks, closed out the four-night Twangfest 12 in style Saturday [June 7, 2008] at Off Broadway.
St. Louis’ not-for-profit, roots music festival came full circle with the Wacos, who inaugurated the series at Off Broadway in 1997.
— Review of Day 1: Chuck Prophet, Centro-Matic, the Butchers and the Builders
— Review of Day 2: The Gourds, the Dynamites featuring Charles Walker, the Deadstring Brothers
— Review of Day 3: The Old 97’s, Hayes Carll, Miles of Wire, I Love Math
— Review of Day 4: The Waco Brothers, Ha Ha Tonka, the everybodyfields, Caleb Travers
Clad in a variety of black Western shirts, the Wacos played for an hour and 45 minutes and tore through 20 songs, a set list that would have been longer if not for the Wacos’ nonstop onstage banter that ranged from British sexual practices to U.S. politics, with numerous checkpoints in between.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 1, 2007) — “May the bird of paradise fly up your nose.”And welcome to the Grand Ole Opry, theme-park version. Little Jimmy Dickens was the host for the first segment of Saturday’s late show at Opryland USA, and his crossover novelty hit from 1966 set the tone for the night.
What was the tone? Kind of laid-back. Folks laughed politely at the moldy, cornpone jokes, and Dickens seemed to get a bigger hand for being 86 years old than for anything else.
Loudest cheers of the night went to the exciting gospel quartet Legacy 5 — No. 5 plays the piano — but they cheated, bringing in a busload of fans.
Perhaps I’m feeling ambivalent about this experience because it came only a few hours after I toured the “church of country music” and the Opry’s original home, the Ryman Auditorium. And perhaps no first-time trip to the Opry can meet expectations fueled by years of reading stories and books about it, seeing it on TV and hearing it, ableit rarely, on the radio. Because it is a radio show, broadcast still over WSM in Nashville, complete with live scripted ads for Martha White Flour.
Then there’s this whole Opryland USA thing, this monster created in the middle of nowhere 20 minutes out of downtown Nashville by Gaylord Entertainment, which saved the Ryman from the wrecking ball 20 years ago and rehabbed the old church, but not before moving the show out of downtown.
This blog is intended as a place for fans of roots music — country, alt-country, roots rock, blues etc — to get together and discuss and critique our favorite music. I’ve been writing about music for many years for mainstream newspapers, and I’m looking forward to freeing my inner fan.
For the past 10 years, I have worked as a copy editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, writing about music for the Everyday, Get Out and A&E sections: CD and concert reviews, concert previews, artist profiles, and Best Bets and Critic’s Picks. A link to those stories can be found on the Story Library page of this blog, or here.
Future posts will consist of original stories and reviews, as well as stories published by the Post-Dispatch, with links to the newspaper’s website, STLtoday.com.
I’ll also pass on links to other websites, blogs and music-releated places that catch my eye.