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Check out those Melons!

Former local fronts reunited ’90s wunderkinds Blind Melon

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Imagine a wildly popular band with a wildly popular lead singer, and at the peak of their wild popularity, the singer dies of a drug overdose. The singer was so integral to the band’s sound, so irreplaceable to fans, that a fruitless replacement search by the remaining band members was eventually abandoned and the band members simply moved past their rock star life style, sadly accepting that that life was behind them.
            Now imagine that a couple of the members (now studio producers), a full decade after the demise of their beloved band, discover in the studio a new singer who shockingly embodies the charisma and energy of their old singer.
            Now imagine you’re that singer.
            How in the hell do you have the nads to think you could step into Blind Melon Shannon Hoon’s shoes?
            Apparently Travis Warren, former resident of San Luis Obispo and former front man of popular but now defunct local act Rain Fur Rent, has those nads!
            On Wednesday, May 7, Travis Warren and the four remaining original members of Blind Melon play Downtown Brew during an 8 p.m., 21-and-older show. Advance tickets, at the venue and Boo Boo’s, are $17, or $20 at the door. Local favorites Still Time will open the show.
            Warren was supposed to do an interview, but he’s a rock star now. Maybe if you’re lucky, he’ll snub you for an autograph after the show.
 
Ronday
            How many people do you know who have a day named after them? If you said Tuesday Weld, you’ve got it backwards. She was named after a day. Tuesday—as in the day itself—was named after Tiw, or Tyr, the Norse god known for his sense of justice. (You learn something new every time you read this column, huh?) But I’m talking about somebody like Ron Thompson having Sept. 5, 2007, named Ron Thompson Day bySan Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Now that’s having a day named after you, dig!
            Thompson—the celebrated R&B guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist, and Grammy-nominated living blues legend—has played with a lot of the greats: as the touring band leader with John Lee Hooker for seven years, with Big Mama Thornton, Sonny Rhodes, Luther Tucker, Jimmy McCracklin, Pee Wee Crayton, Carla Thomas, Percy Mayfield, Etta James, B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, Booker T. Jones, and countless others.
            Thompson also headlined the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love Concert in Golden Gate Park last September, sharing the bill with legends such as Jefferson Starship, Canned Heat, Jesse Colin Young, and many others. He’s also headlining several blues festivals around the nation this year and touring Europe next fall. Which is why it’s amazing that this kickass international performer will appear in an intimate South County club on the weekend: Ron Thompson and The Resistors play O'Reilly's Bar & Grill on Friday, May 2, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7 advance at the venue or $10 at the door.
            Now let’s talk about the possibility of a Glen Starkey Day …
 
Your chocolate is in my peanut butter!
            It may seem like a strange switch to trade jazz trumpet for blues harmonica, but nearly 40 years ago that’s exactly what Lynwood Slim did, citing Jimmy Reed, Little Walter, and Paul Oscher as his early influences. Good new for swing blues fans, I guess. His latest CD, Last Call, on Delta Groove, showcases the kinds of sounds that merged jazz and blues during the Swing Era into an amazing combination—the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of music!
            “I’ve just always liked that swing stuff,” Lynwood said during a radio interview. “I don’t know why; it kinda just grabbed me when I was a kid. Jimmy Reed was my first guy that I really listened to playing the harmonica in the early ’60s. They had a radio show in L.A. called XERB with Wolfman Jack on it, and he broadcast it out of Tijuana, Mexico, because they wouldn’t give him a license in the United States. He played all these Ivory Joe Hunter songs and Margie Evans and Johnny Otis; a lotta R&B stuff, Little Walter. When I was 9, 10 years old, I used to listen to it all the time.”
            The SLO Blues Society presents swing blues stylist Lynwood Slim on Saturday, May 3, with local favorites Blues DeVille opening the 21-and-over 8 p.m. show at the SLO Vets Hall. Tickets are $17 for Blues Society members and $20 for the general public
 
Get funky!
            Rapper extraordinaire, Del the Funky Homosapien, joins skalecious act The Expendables for a killer outdoor show on Saturday, May 3,starting at 1 p.m. at Pozo Saloon (tickets at Boo Boo’s are $24 advance or $28 at the door).
            Del—the man, the myth, the legend—is touring in support of 11th Hour, his newest CD out now on Definitive Jux. I haven’t heard it, but Billboard says the album’s “bottom-heavy, fog-thick beats [sound] awful nice under Del’s syrupy brainiac flow,” and XLR8R calls it “a bold step toward complete mastery of the hip-hop art form.” The album debuted as the No. 1 Top New Artist on the HeatSeekers Chart, as well as No. 12 on the Rap Charts and No. 34 on the R&B Charts.
            Devin the Dude opens.
 
Red Dirt phenom
            Iron oxide is found in the soil in parts of Oklahoma and Texas, infused into the ground and causing the earth to look a rusty red. Red Dirt music also seems infused into the earth of Oklahoma and Texas, rising from the dusty ground with the unstoppable quality of some organic thing.
            Recently, Red Dirt favorites Cross Canadian Ragweed came through SLO Town, and this week another Red Dirt phenom hits The Graduate: The Randy Rogers Band.
            Rogers, a preacher’s son, was raised by his parents, Danny and Donna, in Cleburne, Texas. Mom was a teacher’s aid in special education and dad was a guitar-playing Baptist minister. Roger’s great-grandmother Ruth taught him how to play the piano when he was 6 years old. By 11, he was writing songs and teaching himself to play chords on guitar.
            Raised on an eclectic mix of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Don Williams, The Beatles, and Pearl Jam, Rogers played live, and his high school garage band performed a Stone Temple Pilots cover in a talent show. In other words, he rocks that country!
            After two independent studio albums (and two live records), hitting it big regionally in Texas, and then cracking the top 40 country charts, Rogers and company scored a deal with Mercury Nashville. But the humble preacher’s son didn’t let it go to his head.
            “We were really conscious about not letting the fact that this was going to be our major-label debut mess with our heads,” he said, “because to us, this record is really just the next step. For many folks who don’t know about the movement that’s going on down here, it’ll be their first look at us. But we approached this like we were making our fifth record, not our first. And there was a lot of trust from the label in terms of, ‘You guys go out there and make a record and turn it in, and we’ll leave you alone and let you do your thing.’”
            Just a Matter of Time sounds like a rock’n’roll album with a big ol’ country heart, and its single, “Somebody Take Me Home,” was later covered by Kenny Chesney for his The Road and the Radio album.
            Check out the Randy Rogers Band on Sunday, May 4, at 8 p.m. at The Graduate (advance tickets are $12 plus ticket service charge, $15 at the door, at all local Vallitix outlets).
 
Come on, songwriters! Join the fun!
            Happy anniversary! Since Pismo Beach resident Steve Key started his monthly West Coast Songwriters Competition a year ago, $1,800 worth of studio recording time has been awarded to its Best Song winners in contests judged by professional songwriters such as Jude Johnstone and Jill Knight, music producers Randy Rigby and Steve Hilstein, radio hosts Amy Jacobs and Bill Pesso, and concert producers such as Elisabeth Demongeot of SLO Folks and Barry Hamlin of The Clark Center.
            The competition, now held every first Sunday at The Clubhouse, usually draws more than a dozen performers, many of whom join the West Coast Songwriters, a San Carlos-based nonprofit boasting more than 1,200 members that began almost 30 years ago. Local membership stands at about 40 (dues are $75, or $40 for full-time students).
            The SLO competition has drawn members from all over the state, with performers ranging from teens to seniors. For instance, Santa Margarita resident Jade Jackson celebrated her 16th birthday in February with a Best Song win, and last summer she represented SLO at the Grand Finale Competition, held at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley. She was later invited to perform at the WCS annual conference to an audience of hit songwriters, publishers, and music industry insiders.
            Check out competition No. 13 on Sunday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. J.D. Hardy, recording artist on the Nashville-based Castle label, will be one the guest judges. This all-ages show is free!
 
Whole lotta bluegrass shakin’ going on!
            The 10th annual Parkfield Bluegrass Festival runs Thursday through Sunday, May 8 through 11, and tickets are on sale now. Parkfield (perhaps best known for its earthquakes) is a sleepy, rural paradise, population 37—not including cows. It's also home to the Central Coast's most “earthshaking” annual event, the Parkfield Bluegrass Festival. Produced wholly by the volunteers of the Bluegrass Music Society of the Central Coast, the festival features performances by The James King Band, Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice, Eric Uglum and Sons, LeRoy Mack MacNees, The Del Williams Band, and eight other regional and local bluegrass bands—as well as workshops and four curfew-less days and nights of jamming opportunities.
            For the first time this year, kids can learn to play and sing in bluegrass style at Bluegrass Camp. Kids and teens get in free; adults pay an $80 admission at the Parkfield gate (single-day admissions are less). Camping costs $25 per unit. For more information, write to BMSCC at P.O. Box 332, Grover Beach, CA 93483, visit www.parkfieldbluegrass.com, or call 725-3060.
 
More music …
            Duo Appassionata, featuring Marian Gilbert and Randy Garacci, performs Beethoven’s Sonata No. 7, C Minor at the free noontime “Brown Bag Concerts” at SLO First Presbyterian Church on Friday, May 2.
            A free piano and organ recital at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 2, at the SLO United Methodist Church, highlights performances by acclaimed student pianist Anna Kaufman and local organists Jim Holloway, Janis Johnson, and John Cribb. Kauffman, the star of the recital, is a 17-year-old high school junior at Advanced Christian High School, who began taking piano lessons at 5. Along with the piano, she also studies the violin, and along with her two sisters, she wrote, produced, and performed an original musical drama, Eretz Israel—Our Promised Home.
            Blending Hawaii’s slack key guitar technique with soulful singing in various genres such as rock, blues, folk, and international music like Portuguese fado and flamenco, Makana has virtually reinvented slack key and introduced it to a worldwide audience. Makana, whose Hawaiian name means “a gift given freely,” started singing at 7, took up ukulele at 9, and began learning the art of slack key at 11, studying with legendary slack key master Sonny Chillingworth. Now Makena plays a 7 p.m. benefit on Sunday, May 3, at Los Osos’ South Bay Community Center to aid the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. This all-ages show costs $20 for reserved seating or $15 for general admission. Buy advanced tickets at Boo Boo’s.
            Two timers! When local jazz lovers Jacob Odell and Dylan Johnson get together with Santa Barbara percussionist/drummer Steve Campbell as Functus, jazz is dumped for night of heavy-hitting, sweaty, sexy funk. Catch their first show of ’08 at Sweet Springs Saloon on Saturday, May 3, at 9:30 p.m.
            A free mass choir of 175 voices performs at the San Luis Obispo United Methodist Church on Sunday, May 4, at 4 p.m. as part of the annual United Methodist Church Central Coast Choir Cluster, which features choirs from seven Central Coast United Methodist churches.
            On Sunday, May 4, the Famous Jazz Artist Series at the Hamlet in Cambria presents its annual salute to the college jazz music departments on the Central Coast. Combos from Cuesta (under the direction of Ron McCarly) and Cal Poly (under the direction of Paul Rinzler) will perform at 4 p.m. with proceeds from the concert going to both music departments. Tickets are $15. Call 927-0567 for reservations.
            Celebrate Cinco de Mayo reggae style when Soja, Rebelution, and Resination play the Graduate on Monday, May 5, at 9 p.m. for an 18-and-older show. Tickets are $17 advance at local Vallitix locations or $20 at the door.
            If you’d rather celebrate Cinco de Mayo hip-hop style, check out Andre Nickatina (a.k.a. Dre Dog), the San Francisco rapper known for his smoothly aggressive delivery and his scarred smirk (courtesy of a vicious Daschund attack when he was 6 months old) when he hits Downtown Brew. According to press materials, he’s “courted controversy several times, most notably after head-tackling the lead marcher in San Francisco's Gay Pride Parade.He has released a multitude of albums, most recently Horns and Halos with Equipto, the release of which he celebrated by cutting a Daschund's throat from ear to ear, otherwise known as a Chelsea Smile.” Hmm. Either this guy is the biggest asshole ever, or he’s a funnyman whose bark is worse than his bite. Let’s hope for the latter. Advanced tickets for the 18-and-older Monday, May 5, show are $24 at Boo Boo’s and the venue or $25 at the door.
 
 
 
CD Reviews
 
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Kassin + 2—Futurismo
            The plan was genius. Three of Brazil’s hippest young musicians unite, and each takes the helm to deliver an album under their name, with their playing mates condensed to the math at the end. Where Moreno + 2 (Moreno Veloso, son of Caentano) centered his guitar and vocals on bossa nova and Musica Popular Brasileira (MPB), Domenico + 2 (Domenico Lancellotti) exerted a degree of electronic experimentation over tradition with percussive inquiries. Now enters Alexandre Kassin to perfectly balance the two. With Futurismo, Kassin can be considered an odd mash of Gilberto Gil’s tropicalism and Beck’s quirky electronic bent. Kassin can be equally fascinated with disguising MPB with indie rock leanings (“Ponto Final”) or somehow making bossa nova dance delightful with a computer (“Namorados”) when he's experimenting. But when he plays it straight, like on the incredible opening one-two punch of “Tranquilo” and “O Seu Lugar,” you’ll only want to dig deeper and Google further into this man’s history.
 
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Marbert Rocel—Speed Emotions
            It’s arriving on German-based Compost Records, and you’d expect to hear the infectious downbeat and upbeat of jazzy electronics, similar to label mates like Truby Trio or label cousin Jazzanova. And those parts are immediate. “Seven Stars” and “Cornflake Boy” will catch your shoulders bopping to dubbed-out minimal house thumps, and entranced by Ante Seifarth’s charming vocal. In fact, her every appearance adds a smart pop appeal immediately to every song, and she has face time on more than half of the tracks. Even when the duo of Marcel Aue and Robert Krause is left alone, they tickle out dance-floor-oriented tracks that seems sophisticated, approachable, and cool. Variation arrives in “Purple Bass,” which opens up tensely noir with odd ticks and clatters, and then turns heavy with a lumbering fuzzy bassline. And then there’s “Blue Days,” which is paced as a ballad, sounds as if it’s been constructed from discard junk clutter, yet is polished perfectly by Ante’s voice. It all seems quite simple, yet why can’t I resist hitting repeat just one more time?
 

—Malik Miko Thorne, of Boo Boo Records and KCBX’s “Night Train.”


Glen Starkey, when deciding between two evils, always picks the one he hasn’t tried yet. Ask him all about it at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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