INSIDE THE BUMMER TENT Feb 7, 2003
I used to drive from Easton to Bethlehem a couple times a week just to hang out and play with other musicians at Illicks Mill. I certainly didnt realize at the time that this would be a defining moment in my life. Of course, no one ever does. And we certainly didnt pretend that we were the new Lost Generation or the Algonquin Round Table .well, maybe we did. But, one thing that has struck me as unique in analyzing that time is how many folks from that artsy melting pot stayed in the arts for hell or high water. It was a very supportive, exciting and properly competitive environment. There was Craig Bolyn who would make records in Europe, take Todd Rundgrens spot in the Nazz and also tour with The Spencer Davis Group; Steve Kimock, later to become a favorite guitarist of Jerry Garcias and a darling of Dead Heads around the world and Jesse Gress, who has been Todd Rundgren's guitarist for many years and currently tours with Tony Levin. All these and many more passed through the brief history of "The Mill" as a music and arts venue.
Just recently as the Illicks Mill Partnership For Environmental Educational was starting out and Miriam was getting involved as a board member, I was reminded that two of the musicians that I have been so involved with recently in Zen For Primates, vocalist T. Roth and sax player Dave Smith were also Illicks Mill "alumni." Oddly, we didnt even really connect back then, but we too are all still "lifers" in the music biz.
The Illick's Mill Partnership (www.illicksmill.org) will host the first in a series of "Storytellers" nights, loosely based on the VH-1 Storytellers concept on Sunday February 16 at 7 PM at the Ice House in Bethlehem. IMP Storytellers will take you on a multi-media journey through the musical history of the sixties. Musicians who played at Illick's Mill in its prime will perform classic and original songs and share their stories behind the music. More than a dozen performers will take the stage including folk singers Neal Neamand and Mary Faith Rhoads, jazz musician Lee Daniels, bluesman Frank Nastasee and bluesy rockers Bob Hemmerly, Wayne Smith, Dave Smith and Steve Molchany. For tickets and information call IMP at 610-653-0908.
Spaceship Rain Productions, the filmmaking team of John Philapavage and Kevin Kiernan of the famed "Leaving Hollywood" are at it again. This time, we found them outside of Allentown bar Cannon's on Super Bowl Sunday and one of the coldest days this winter, filming their latest film, "A Life Untitled." Starring Stephen Wilt as Michael Hall, a depressed and confused funeral parlor employee who believes all he needs is to get his big break in life, and then everything would be right in the world. When given that chance by larger-than-life, enthusiastic and worldly Gray, (Patrick Gray), Michael fumbles big-time. A would-be adventure to the Netherlands, a fouled attempt at a new life, someone is left dead - and Michael's life is returned to the much-hated status quo. "A Life Untitled" will be featured at the Square Dance Film Festival, presented by Adaptation Productions on Saturday, February 22 at the Roxy Theater in Northampton (www.roxytheatrenorthampton.com).
And, later in the evening on Saturday, February 22, go out to see Zen For Primates at Godfrey Daniels (www.godfreydaniels.org) with new Zen violinist Shelagh Maloney and Jodi Beder on cello, Pete Fluck on sax, Mike Krisukas on guitar and the one and only T. Roth on vocals.
Hanging Out and About
On Saturday February 1, we joined in a wonderful gathering of most of the areas Blues artists for a Memorial Jam in honor of the late great Al (G.) Guerrero. It took place at TKs in Allentown and it was a packed event from start to finish (when they had to throw everybody out.) Als spirit and the effect he had on the local Blues scene seems to grow larger with each passing gathering. You could certainly feel his presence in the room.
Some of the many highlights of the evening were great vocals numbers by Sara Ayers (who is currently filling in for Bev Conklin of BC and the Blues Crew) and Jackie Tice with an interesting take on the old Bonnie Raitt classic, "Love Me Like a Man." She was backed by Thom Palmer and All Points Bulletin, who now have veteran bass great Bobby Soul on board
A little later it was James Supra, fresh off an 18 hour drive home from a Blues competition in Memphis doing a cool version on "Messin With The Kid" and then Dave Smith on alto sax, tearing up the house with a searing statement of the simple melody in a version of Gerswhins "Summertime" sung by Jimmy Lawrence. It really was hard to end the show.
And, speaking of the Blues, a lot is about to happen nationally after the designation of 2003 as the "Year of the Blues" by the U.S. Congress. (www.yearoftheblues.org.) Yes, they are talking about music, not politics.
In association with PBS, there will be the release of a series of 6 films revolving around Blues related themes, each done by a different director. The project will look into the nature and emotional impact of Blues music and explain how it evolved from folk music into a world language and progenitor of Jazz and Rock-n-Roll. Martin Scorcese will have the first picture in the series entitled "From Mali to Mississippi" tracing the beginnings of the blues in Africa and its journey to the New World with original compositions from contemporary artists such as Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita and Habib Koite.
Wim Wenders' "Devil Got My Woman" looks at religious and secular elements in the music with profiles of Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J.B. Lenoir. Wenders by the way, was responsible for the great 1999 Afro-Cuban documentary "Buena Vista Social Club" about the making of the must-have CD of the same title. Director Mike Figgis looks at the blues' influence on British music of the 1960s with artists including Eric Clapton, Tom Jones and the Rolling Stones. Richard Pearces "Moaning at Midnight," showcases Memphis, the city that produced Howlin' Wolf, Otis Redding, B.B. King and Elvis Presley. The project also has access to never before seen archival film on the Blues masters.
The recording for "A Bummer Tent Collection - Blues, Volume II" compilation CD has begun in earnest. We are still lining up some of the new bands to be included on this years CD and concert but we know that some favorites will return. Todd Wolfe, BC, Eric Steckel, Thom Palmer & All Points Bulletin and Craig Thatcher & James Supra will all be doing new tracks for the CD and we are hoping to get a track from Shades Of Blue with Beth Guerrero taking over for her dad, Al G. on bass.
It's called Petro's. And, it's a cool new restaurant on the 5th floor of the TEC Center on 11th and Hamilton in Allentown, a new hang out for hip poets like Empress Nzingha and Anthony, and an "up and coming" jazz haunt for music lovers. Tuesday nights from7:30 to 10:30 PM, Petro's features the music of jazz great Bill Warfield on trumpet, along with Valley favorite, Gary Rissmiller on drums, Bill Washer on guitar and Paul Rostock on upright bass. This is defintely Bummer Tent's new pick of the month. Come out, sample some of Petro's eclectic cuisine - anything from coconut crusted shrimp to "afribrean" chicken (a delicate blend of African and Caribbean cooking), BYOB and (currently) there is no cover (and a free beautiful view of South Mountain in the distance.) Support it, or this too shall pass.
OK, here's the deal. If you are reading this on Friday, February 7, tonignt at Radio City Music Hall, there is an immense "Year Of The Blues" concert taking place. Martin Scorcese is producing and most likely filming the event. Scheduled to appear are people like Buddy Guy, B.B King, Dr. John, Solomon Burke, Bonnie Raitt, Gregg Allman, The Neville Brothers, Ruth Brown, Levon Helm, Odetta, Aerosmith, John Fogerty, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Mavis Staples, Lazy Lester, Alison Krauss, David Johansen and that's just the first set! Sounds like it might be an interesting evening - n'est-ce pas? Well, earlier this week it was not sold out. There were a couple $1,250.00 seats available. So, what are you waiting for? I guess we're waiting for the next WLVT -Channel 39 fundraiser.
Inside the Bummer Tent - check it out First Friday of every month or past articles on-line at www.bummertent.com.