INSIDE THE BUMMER TENT May 2, 2003
Last Sunday I was a judge the Lehigh Valley Blues Network showcase/competition. Four bands competed for a trip to the national event in Memphis. It was a great night with a packed house of enthusiastic blues fans. Although the night was a bit stressful for we judges, who had to deal with both our close friendships with the participants and the rather formal national ballot, we completed our task with no hanging chads to speak of. However, what struck me most about the evening was something that has always occurred to me at the many blues gatherings we attended. There is a genuine community in the Blues scene. All musicians have this to a degree but there is a distinct sense in the blues crowd that they are all struggling for very little compensaton at an artistic endeavor that they really believe in. There is no huge pie in the sky here. In the blues you don't even dream of becoming Brittany Spears or doing McDonald's ads.
At the end of the evening as I talked to all the musicians, the ones that won and those that did not, there was not a bit of resentment. They were all friends when the evening began and they would leave as friends.
Which brings me to Eddie Shaw and Tom Bryant .. Eddie Shaw is a living legend of the blues. Tom Bryant is the guitarist of the locally based Bryant Brothers Blues Brew. Tom's band was one of the bands competing for the trip to Memphis and Eddie Shaw was the visiting headliner for the event. Eddie Shaw now in his late 60's was a fixture with Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and absolutely brought down the house with his classic "honking sax"and vocals.
In talking to Tom Bryant later in the night, he said that what the evening really meant to him was being able hear the great old stories in dressing room, from "someone who was really there, a part of blues history." He was just happy to be a part of it.
And what the evening meant to me was that "living legend" Eddie Shaw could (and would) travel from to a tiny club in Emmaus, Pa and tear up the joint for I'm sure, too little compensation.
And, by the way, the winner of this competition was the Thom Palmer Band - congratulations guys!!
Zen For Primates, who have been challenging audiences for over 15 years are moving in a new direction and adding theatrics to their already quirky live show. The band is working with director, Devon Allen and will introduce a full-blown showpiece at the Main Street Theatre in Quakertown on Friday May 16 and Saturday May 17. The event will feature many area arts and music co-conspirators. For info and pictures of the amazing Main Street Theatre go to www.buumertent.com.
Hanging Out and About
It's great hanging out and about the Lehigh Valley these days. There are new places opening up all the time and luckily live music is becoming the focus of the "scene" more and more. Recently we visited the Hamilton Street Public House, previously known as Lord Wellington's Gate and before that The Brass Rail, located on 12th & Hamilton Streets in Allentown and caught the sounds of Fusion Jazz Trio, which is exactly that, fusion Jazz. The brothers Vern and Warren Mobley, drums and bass respectively, and their keyboard player rocked the house with interesting renditions of everything from Jazz standards to Earth Wind and Fire. The owner, Steve Didonato, who used to own Abruzzi's On Main in Coopersburg (another cool music venue) is having live music Wednesday through Saturday, and is also spearheading a big Blues and Jazz festival in downtown Allentown. Wow, dancing in the streets of Allentown! The Downtown Allentown Blues & Jazz Festival, slated for sometime in September will feature live bands and great food vendors and is being organized by a varied group of intetested restauranteurs and downtown businesses, the City of Allentown's Economic Development groups and a host of other interested players. Stay tuned - we'll be giving you an update as the plans for this festival develop.
Tracking for Celtic avant-folk music from Devilish Merry has begun and the songs are absolutely amazing. Most of the band resides in Pittsburgh and has roots in West Virginia. The combination of the vocals, instrumentation (hammer dulcimer, fiddle, lap dulcimer and banjo) and writing styles gives Devilish Merry their unique sound. They pay a huge homage to Appalachian mountain tradition.
RiverFusion is happening Sunday May 4th. It's at the Illicks Mill Fields (near the Ice Rink and Pool) on Illick's Mill Road in Bethlehem. Lots of great bands and food and fun. It was a huge party last year and proceeds go to the Illick's Mill Partnership for Environmental Education program. The event is being administered primarily by Bethlehem High School students and their teacher/advisor Karen Dolen - www.illicksmill,org/riverfusion.
And, also on Sundays from 11AM to 12:30PM, be sure to listen to Truman Ingalsbe's Meanderings on WDIY, 88.1 FM. - www.wdiy.org. It's a heartfelt and reassuring musical/literate journey into the world's quiet natural corners and it's right there in the radio!! Amazing.
Inside the Bummer Tent - check it out the first Friday of every month or view past articles on-line at www.bummertent.com.