Monday, August 17, 2015

Newport Folk Fest: Sunday feat. The Philosopher Part II

The much-belated finale of the Newport Folk Fest is here. The third part, the Sunday of the weekend. The part where we pretend to wax wise and cast about all kinds of wisdoms. Pelt you with them.

And with pictures, too (again, all copyright Ravings).

Electrical tape apparently fixes sizable holes.
Chris Stelling is here to the left, erm, other left, we guess. And the one thing we can say about him, other than the fact that he really, REALLY should just get a new guitar at this point, is that he's got really good, intricate plucking and riffs.

Maybe that's where the two sizable holes in his guitar come from (you can see the larger of them, below his right pinkie).  But you can't see the half-roll of electrical tape he's using to keep his guitar together.


If only we had a picture of that...

Oh wait! Faith and begorrah, this one came out okay!

She sure ain't pretty, we'll say.
Yes, we think that's a hounds-tooth band-aid there as well. Classy K-Mart shopper.

But you know, class doesn't usually factor into these things. It shouldn't. It's not the reason someone gets up on stage, performs a handful of songs, and goes about their generally poverty-stricken way in hopes of one day making ends meet. Why would a musician do that to themselves? Why would they live rest-stop to rest-stop on cold cans of beans and, occasionally, franks?

We can make all kinds of assumptions, here. Why we'd do it; why we kinda are doing it (though with writing). Why is Mr. Stelling up there on stage? We'll never quite know. But having known a few musicians, and writers, and people of the creative sort, we can say there are about 173 different - and good - reasons to be some sort of artist.

Pay ain't one of them.

You know, check out Red Green up there. Here's another reason down here you'd want to be in this kinda profession.
Group huddle (wish magical suspenders)

If you were having as good a dancing time as these folks, you might be confused for this guy:

And the Night Sweats? It's daytime and he's pourin'.
Nathaniel Rateliff poured it all out on Sunday. And as much as we'd love a decent shot of those magic, magic feet o' his, those shots came out too blurry for any sort of comprehension.

This guy knows how to boogie. With an up-tempo, down-trodden wail, he's like a soul voice for rock and roll: jamming, punch in the gut, but pick you up and swing you after. We think it's fair to say Rateliff plays music so that he has something damned good to dance to. We're going to give you an album review of his coming up right soon (as it's due out later this month).

We haven't quite answered why we stick to our thing. The "writing" thing. Our reason? Number 145: to teach, primarily. Rateliff, we might say, falls under Reasons 39, 87, and 110: respectively, to dance, to wail, to get all the bad sh*! outta ya.

We've had our thoughts set on good ole #145 for so long, that sometimes we think it's the only way. Maybe it's the same way with a lot of musicians. Maybe they get stuck in the same rut, and don't go off exploring new reasons to write and perform.

The Ballroom Thieves, #24:

Cellist Calin Peters, 1/3 of Ballroom Thieves

We think of this group as sharing that same #24 as with The Head and the Heart. That is, to get people to sing along. Their melodies, more rustic, more folksy, are similarly singable, with nice, sweet harmonies.

But really, what we think we're getting at is this: that there's no one right, or wrong way, to pursue music. Or writing. Or painting, or whatever else have you. Some people are lucky enough to do it professionally; some people do it for reason #15: to soothe one's soul. We're not saying, "Yes, you should buy a guitar and get a-strummin.'" That that's the only way to go about life and things and stuff. (Besides, get something gutsy like a trombone.) But sometimes, for a lot of people, anyway, you don't have to do these things for profit. Sometimes you profit enough by just doing them. There are all kinds of studies we can cite, involving happiness or empathy or reading signals in dating; but really, push all that garbo aside. Find something that centers you. If you don't sell a CD or a book, so be it; that's not always success.

We mean, look at the books that tend to sell. Billionaire Dinosaurs who seduce young guys and... well, you get the idea. Contribute to yourself. I think that's what we're trying to get at. And that's what festivals like Newport are good at. That kind of connection, that kind of reflection, all in about 72 hours of hectic running around and photographing everyone and everyone's dog.

They're also good for craziness like this:

Gillian Welch, drum monster.
Highway 65 Revisited was a most fun and most crazy mosh-pit of musicians on stage playing those classic old Dylan tunes. Here Ms. Welch has apparently defeated the bass drummer of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (most likely in a game of Yahtzee) and is touting her prize.

But again, why we write? We've got to take things back home.

Not particularly for entertainment's sake. There's a bit more to explain about it, true, but that's best left for another time and another place. What we can say is, somehow we missed our favorite photo of the 'Fest. The one that brings out both curmudgeon and thoughtful philosophy from us. We don't really think there's much more for us to say, sometimes a decent photo speaks it loud enough, and we think this one's fairly decent. Reason #3 to write: to stare off in the distance at nothing, at everything.

We'll catch you all next time. Thanks for putting up with unexpected delays, and thanks more for catching up with us again. Peace in you,

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Wave Goes On An On

On an On - And the Wave Has Two Sides
Roll Call Records
- out now
3 / 5

Minneapolis trio On an On comes back to our blog with their sophomore release, and we're going to say they're getting better. A pastiche of pop and electronica, the Minnesotans have refined their sound, honed it to where it hits directly, no frou-frou, just click on the dance switch and let it jam. But while we appreciate the effort, and there are certainly highs to the album, we're going to say that And the Wave Has Two Sides isn't as deep as it seems: despite a few singles, and perhaps even including them, this smattering of dance-inspired tracks doesn't have it. These tracks lack that kind of personality we look for in an album. What remains are some decent choruses, some nice beats, but ultimately, a Wave that doesn't really peak or arch or, well, flow quite the way we'd hoped.

We do have some favorites here. "Icon Love" is our top of the twelve, with a toned-down, 80s feel to the electronic component. Next up is the obligatory dance-floor number "It's Not Over," which hits all the notes that it should. But even though we like it, and it's enjoyable, we wish it'd hit some weirder notes, add more color to it (see B&W cover above), flesh out a bit. It works, yes, but at some point we're going back to Chain Gang of 1974 et al. It's depth, really. And Wave lacks a bit of that.

On An On makes good strides with their sophomore, but feel like they're still splashing around in the pool a bit. "Icon Love," and then take a pass.