first published in the Broad Ripple Gazette
Indianapolis Songwriters Café
Tom Roznowski, Sarah Grain, Tad Armstrong
December 19, 2008
Boulevard Place Café
4155 Boulevard Place
I can’t believe that this is the first Indianapolis Songwriters Café I’ve attended. It was as great as I thought it would be. The room was packed. This month featured Tom Roznowski, Sarah Grain and Tad Armstrong. The musicians played in-the-round – taking turns and swapping stories as they played. It gives a chance for the musician’s personalities to shine through. The format also gives the songwriters a chance to take a topic and run with it. Trees, horses, families, love and pie were reoccurring themes.
Tom Roznowski is a great story teller, both in the anecdotes he shared and his music. He paired stories about everyday life – barber shops, jukeboxes and houseguests with the songs that came from those stories. Roznowski’s song Heaven of Pies pays homage to his life-long fascination with pie. For the record, one of Roznowski’s goals is to be a judge at a pie contest at the State Fair. Hear that folks? Make it happen!
Sarah Grain’s music is very personal – her songs are an honest glimpse in to her life. The challenges of parent’s divorce, the fear of never seeing a loved one again and her faith are topics she’s tackled in a very beautiful, thoughtful and hopeful way in her music. Grain taught herself to play guitar by writing songs. She continues to work on the songs she wrote years ago, often changing the words and the melody.
Tad Armstrong’s music is also grounded in real-life. Two of the songs he played came out of a post-Katrina visit to New Orleans. Armstrong also covered songs by other songwriters, connecting the dots along the way. He played Deliver Me by the late Bill Cowsill’s band, Blue Shadow. Armstrong currently plays bass (and is the only non-family member) with the iconic family band, The Cowsills. Armstrong sang a Robbie Robertson Christmas song riffing off of a not-so-flattering review of his band Middletown.
I can’t say enough about how great this series is. The next show is Friday, January 16. 7:00 pm, $5.00 featuring another great lineup -- Cliff Snyder, Tim Grimm and John Barney.
Birdy’s X-mas party
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Punk Rock Night’s Greg Brenner reprised his role as celebrity Santa for the second year, filling the big shoes (and beard) of long-time Mr. Claus, Otis Gibbs.
I just missed the band Reaul, but I heard rave reviews. Ashworth followed with their lovely acoustic tunes, including their new Christmas song, “King of Love Come Down.”
Things got a little crazy on stage after that. The Birdy’s X-mas show always has a getting together with your high-school friends vibe. If your friends were all musicians that you’d practiced in each others basements and that you’ve most likely slept in a van with. Two of other bands in the lineup, The YaYas and Vinyl Shriner, share members and lots of history. I won’t try to sort out what order the bands played, since the set times were negotiated on the fly and they all played several times.
The YaYas were a fun treat. The trio has played together since their high school days in Zionsville. Their sets had a bluesy rock feel and showed off Andrew Dyken’s soulful voice. Vinyl Shriner is good old-fashioned shiny Fez-wearing fun. My favorite part of the night was the helium-fueled Chipmunks’ cover.
Lines of Nazca features Birdy’s booker and mayor of the Upper Room, Jeff Sample. It is always a treat to see Jeff on stage. Almost the whole band contributes vocals making for some surprisingly sweet rock harmonies. And any night I get to dance with Santa is a good one.
Northside Newsstand Festivus Party.
December 23, 2008
I really debated about whether to write about this. As you know, I’m a big cheerleader for our community and will defend the reputation of neighborhood to the end. And I still feel totally safe. As it turned out, the incident only confirmed and strengthened my commitment to the community.
I considered walking the four blocks from my house, but decided that the sidewalks were too treacherous. I almost parked on a side street, but decided that it would be safer to park on College Avenue. As I was walking toward the Jazz Kitchen two men walked toward me. Being ever so polite, I moved over and walked on the grass so they could pass. No dice. One man batted at my purse and the other showed me his gun. I very nicely handed over my bag. The part that really frosted me was that they both called me a bitch....really? You're taking all of my favorite things and calling me names. Whatever, asshats.
It took me a few minutes to walk/slide/freak-out my way to the Jazz Kitchen but I knew once I got there I'd be taken care of. I whispered the situation in to the ear of Frank, the doorman. You know how I hate to cause a scene...I stood in the lobby as I was waiting for the patrol car and made small talk with people passing by. The weather was awful and the police were super busy. The policewoman finally arrived and we realized that it was too loud to talk in the entryway. So I got to sit in the back of a squad car. By the time I got done giving my statement a crowd of friends had gathered on the deck waiting in the rain for me. It was like walking in to a big group hug. I just wish someone had gotten a photo of me getting out of the police car.
Jazz Kitchen owner, Dave Allee let me use is office, phone and computer to call in credit cards and de-activate my phone (it was bad enough the jerks had my beloved iPhone, I'll be damned if I'll let them use it). Newsstand Joe Walters sat with me while I made the calls. Hostel John had my spare set of keys. Hugh Vandiver drove me to get the keys; made sure no one was in my house and drove me back to my car. And Tammy Lieber and the twins were kind enough to let me sleep at their house.
Now that I've had time to sort it out, I realized that I'm just good old-fashioned pissed off. I'm mad for the neighborhood -- it was on College Avenue, between two of my favorite places - the Red Key and the Newsstand. I'm mad because I love to walk at night. I'm mad that people are giving me a hard time for walking alone at night (it was around 9:00).
I'm mad that my camera is gone --I feel really naked without it. I'm mad that the notebook that I've kept notes for every show I've seen in for 2008 is gone. I'm mad that all of my make-up is gone (not that I wear a lot, but it was all in there). Not to mention cash and credit and gift cards and other crap. I'm mad that I have to get another driver's license. I'm mad that my cash is gone. I'm mad that I'm achy and sore (between adrenaline and the one block walk of running/sliding to get help I really goofed up my neck and back). I'm mad that Christmas notes I'd written to friends are gone. I'm mad that I had to change my locks. I'm mad that I don't feel comfortable in my own house. And most of all, I'm mad that I'm mad.
But all in all, it's okay - I'm thankful that my dad could hand me cash and a credit card so I could replace the phone and have some walking around money. I'm thankful that I have such caring friends and family. I'm thankful that I have a warm and cozy home. I'm thankful for living in a neighborhood that people know my name. I'm thankful to have a good job that I love.
There were some funny moments. Stepping out of the squad car in my sparkly skirt was one. Before the police arrived and the news spread Dave Allee came out and teasingly asked if I had any ID. I flipped him off, I don't know who was more shocked -- him or me. All night, people who didn't know what happened were telling me how beautiful I looked - apparently I wear wide-eyed flushed-faced fear well.
The outpouring of support has been amazing. The folks at the Jazz Kitchen and Northside Newsstand were amazing. People have been handing me their house keys, offering rides, key chains have arrived in the mail and Marigold gave me a new purse and Matt (Jazz Kitchen bartender and Rachel (Thrifty Threads and former CATH employee) gave me a gift card to replace the makeup. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. Seriously.
And not that anyone deserves to be mugged – as I’m been saying: I should be able to walk down the street with a coat made of $20 bills and not be bothered. But, I’m wondering why I had so much crap in my purse – I’m back to a smaller bag, keys in the coat pocket and just taking my drivers license, enough money for the evening and lipstick with me.
Oh, the music review – I was in a bit of a daze, but Otto and the Gearheads sounded great from the lobby and DJ Rusty had the whole place dancing. A success, I’d say.
Home Fields Advantage House Concerts
December 28, 2008
I think this was the third year Otis Gibbs has played a holiday show for this great house concert series and this year it fell on house concert host Cyndi Wagner’s birthday. What a great way to spend your birthday!
As always, Otis was charming and engaging. He’s such an amazing story teller. And he told the best one ever: Otis just finished a tour with Billy Bragg. Joe Hill was a labor activist and songwriter who was executed in 1915. Hill's body was sent to Chicago as was cremated. His ashes were rumored to be sent to every Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies) local. In 1988 it was discovered that an envelope had been seized by the U.S. Postal Service in 1917 because of its "subversive potential". The envelope, with a photo affixed, captioned, "Joe Hill murdered by the capitalist class, Nov. 19, 1915," as well as its contents, were deposited at the National Archives.
After some negotiations, the last of Hill's ashes weres turned over to the IWW in 1988. The weekly paper ran notice of the ashes and invited readers to suggest what should be done with them. Suggestions varied from enshrining them at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC to Abbie Hoffman’s suggestion that they be eaten by today's "Joe Hills" like Billy Bragg and Michelle Shocked. Billy did swallow a small bit of the ashes and carried a share for completion of Hoffman's idea.
Otis was sitting at Billy Bragg’s kitchen table (can you imagine how cool it would be to sit at his kitchen table?) and Billy brought out some of Joe Hill’s ashes for Otis. I’m sure you’re all wondering - what did Joe Hill's ashes taste like? Otis' answer: Solidarity.
Otis will be back in Indianapolis for his official CD release show at the Vogue on January 17. See the preview below for the details.
Chad Mills, Matt Martin and Evan Haughey
January 2, 2008
The Upper Room
Chad Mills, Matt Martin and Evan Haughey played to a packed crowd for a fundraiser for the wonderful Indy School on Wheels.
As you all know, I’m a big fan of Chad Mills. Not only do I like his music, but I appreciate how generous to the community and his fans. He played almost 150 shows in 2008. He spelled out a word in electrical tape on his guitar. All I could see at first was VE. I was debating on whether it said LIVE or LOVE. As it turned out, it was GIVE. Perfect!
Matt is an Ohio transplant, where he played with his band Mild Eye. He’s carving a niche as a singer-songwriter in Indianapolis. He played his own tunes plus thoughtful covers. He told me he’s also concentrating on the drums.
Evan also showed off his original songs and covers tunes. Chad met Evan when he hosted the open stage at the Whammy Bar said that Ryan was the highlight of that whole experience.
All three joined together for the last set and played some impressive off-the-cuff cover songs. Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” was particularly fun. Mills dubbed the trio “The Charity Lineup.”
Sanuk CD release show
Saturday, January 10, 2008
2:00-4:00, all ages, non-smoking
5225 East 56th Street
I have a special place in my heart for this young band. They first contacted me though the very excellent Web site, MusicialFamilyTree.com and I later volunteered with Oliver and Duncan at the Wilco show this summer. Sanuk played the Tonic Ball and did an amazing job.
Their record release show was scheduled for the now defunct Center Stage Café. I think they found a great venue for the concert. And they’ll have professional lighting and sound for the show. The band reminds me of the collaborative beautiful sound of Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s. I look forward to hearing the CD, “Honey, I have news….” I’ll see you there!
Punkin’ Holler Boys
Friday, January 16, 2009
7:30 – 9:30, $4.00, 21+
Historic Melody Inn
3826 N. Illinois Street
The Hillbilly Happy Hour is always a great way to kick off the weekend. The Punkin’ Holler Boys show will be bittersweet – John Sheets is retiring from the band. Make sure to stop in and wish him farewell.
Otis Gibbs - CD Release Show
Saturday, January 17, 2009
doors 6:30, show 7:30, $8.00, non-smoking, seated, 21+
6259 N. College Avenue
I’m so excited about this show that I got my Red Key shift covered (thanks Lana!), which is big news. It’s going to be a cool show for so many reasons. I love the fact that Otis used to work for the Patio and Vogue, I love the idea that he’s making the show early, seated and non-smoking.
And I love the CD. I’ve been listening to “Grandpa Walked A Picketline” pretty much non-stop since I got a copy at the house concert (see the review above). I actually had the CD in my hand two other times and wound up immediately giving them away – the last time to Hayes Carll. I’ve been itching to listen to it for months. I just about fainted when I opened the package at the house concert and saw that I was thanked in the notes – in the same sentence as Amy Lashley and Billy Bragg. Okay, it’s a really long sentence, but an amazing honor. It might have something to do with helping them move. Anyway, the record is terrific and chock-full of legendary musicians.
I’ll see you there, for sure.
Dustin Clark, Kristy Kruger and Dylan Sneed
Monday, January 19, 2009
7:00 pm, $7.00, all-ages, non smoking.
4903 Winthrop Avenue
I’ve been listening to Indianapolis’ own singer-songwriter Dustin Clark’s self-titled CD and really digging it. He’ll be opening the first show of the 2009 Indy Hostel season. I’ll let “Hostel John” tell you about Kristy and Dylan.
“Kristy Kruger - Songwriter and artist has musical tastes that travel easily from Billie Holiday to Johnny Cash, combining her Texas Americana roots with her love of New Orleans-style jazz. The Dallas Morning News says she has grown into one of the most eclectic singers in the area, citing her as a "female Tom Waits." Krugeralso won the Dallas Observer Music Aweard for Best Female Vocalist and the 2007 International Independent Music Award for "Best Americana Album of the Year." She has contributed to Public Radio International's "This American Life" and even made a fan out of the show's host Ira Glass.
“Dylan Sneed - As a grassroots songwriter and performer Dylan has criss-crossed the country on several national tours. 35,000 miles later, Dylan's songwriting and guitar skills have won him much acclaim in the South and the Dallas area. The Dallas Observer praised his latest EP as "One of the Best Local Releases of the Year." Fans of Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan will most likely enjoy Dylan's fusion of traditional and modern songwriting.
“The scene here at the Indy Hostel is all about people. People like you. If you are here then everyone is here."
And check out the display of local music at the Glendale Library and my PEZ display at the College Avenue Library this month.