REVIEW AND PICTORIAL: PITTSBURGH HOSTS A STAR STUDDED FARM AID 2017

Just wow.  Take in the stage at this moment and realize how surreal it is.  There is Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and John Mellencamp all together on one stage.  And amongst them, Jamey Johnson and his non-brother Jack Johnson, Sheryl Crow, Nathaniel Rateliffe, Margo Price, Lukas Nelson, and Valerie June and some other soon to be household names.  The press conference pre-show was enough to get any music enthusiast running like a Mopar engine.  But it was also an excellent reminder of what the day was really about, who the true stars and heroes were: The Farmers.  Local farmers from the Pittsburgh area were also invited to speak and the Farm Aid organization made some short documentary-style film pieces to explain what their daily lives are like.  Let’s just say ‘it ain’t easy’. It put a whole lot of perspective on the day and the true reason why it was important that the music heroes were putting this all together, on their own dime and without profiting from any merch sales.

All photos © 2017 AWeldingphoto

 

The traditional send-off was a prayer with Willie Nelson and representatives of the Native American community, and then it was truly down to business once the Blackwood Quartet started to their synchronized crooning.  The true rocking got going once the highly experimental psych-rock Insects vs Robots out of Venice, CA took the stage.  The band includes Micah Nelson, son of Willie.  The sound comes off more Neil Young than Willie Nelson though and they put on a tremendous eclectic performance.  Of special note were the massive LED screens set up throughout Key Bank Pavillion, incredible not only in their detail but technology.  The stage background was LED as well and included an ingenious separation that allowed a quick load in and off of equipment between bands.  The sound was excellent and for the most part, the sets ran like clockwork.

 

Valerie June is best described as a blend of folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, and  Appalachian bluegrass.  It’s not something one may expect if judging by appearance, she’s a naturally beautiful African American woman with dreds like Lenny Kravitz once had.  Blessed with a killer voice and being able to play multiple instruments definitely makes her a multi-faceted threat.  Her performance was clean crisp and a great invitation to her style of music.

Lukas Nelson (also a son of Willie) and his band Promise of the Real are so good they are also Neil Young’s backing band.  They have a chill rock sound with a country basis a la The Allman Band.  Blackberry Smoke put a lot more of the rock into their country-tinged sound that takes its influence from The Stones, Aerosmith, and of course Skynard.

The more well-known acts then started to fill in along with the crowd.  Jamey Johnson started revving up the fans with his country music stylings.  Jamey is a very accomplished having contributed songs to  Willie Nelson and Merle HaggardTrace AdkinsGeorge StraitJames OttoJoe Nichols and Jessie James Decker.  The signatures on his acoustic guitar reveal a lot about who he has worked with, even the very visible Kris Kristofferson signature.  He played some great cover songs including The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,” Don Williams’ “Some Tears Will Never Mend,” Little Feat’s “Willin’,” Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” Next up was alt-country newcomer Margo Price out of Nashville.  Price’s music is also very country based, but not as much as some of her alt-country peers, more along the lines of June Carter with a modern twist.

Around 4PM things started to definitely kick up a notch with Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, most well known for the hit “S.O.B.”  Their set had a ton of gusto and movement creating a dynamic experience that matched well with the exciting Avett Brothers who went on after Rateliff.  The Avett Bros. are no strangers to Pittsburgh and put on a foot-stomping ho-down of folk-rock that was definitely one of the more “fun” sets of the day including Laundry Room,” “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” and “Talk on Indolence.”.  But, Jack Johnson and his ability to get many of the acts such as Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson, and Nathaniel Rateliff to jam with him to play Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” made the set amazing to witness.  He also got The Avett Brothers to play with him and an improvised guitar accompaniment by Lukas Nelson that Johnson described as “that’s beautiful”.  Probably the most laid back and hilarious songs of the day had to be Jack’s backstage Farm Aid written a tune, “Willie Got Me Stoned and Took All My Money.”

When Sheryl Crow was done with a few of her hits (Every Day is a Winding Road” “My Favorite Mistake”), she also got some of the other band members to come up, most notably Willie, the man himself.  The 23K plus attendees went nuts as “Pops” strapped on an acoustic that has witnessed many miles and many stories.  To see Willie Nelson pay tribute to Gregg Allman on “Midnight Rider” with Crow, his son Lukas, and Jack Johnson was a beautiful moment.

Dave Matthews did a forceful acoustic performance with Tim Reynolds that was powerful and passionate as he played “Don’t Drink the Water,”“Satellite” and “Mercy” as well as“What Would You Say.”  He also did an unreleased tune called “Odds Are Against Us” which he did with a bit of trepidation.  The set was intense and a clinic in how two acoustic guitars can blow away a full band at times.

John Mellencamp, a Farm Aid founder, brought a backing band that was dynamic and showed why the top acts have the ability to stay in the spot for decades.  Opening with “Lawless Times,” and transitioning to big hit “Small Town”, Mellencamp had a nice mix of the old and new with a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway,” “Check it Out,” “Pink Houses,”and an acoustic singalong to “Jack and Diane”, a song he said of, “I don’t even know why I play this song, I only play this song ’cause I know you guys want to hear it.”  He then told of writing the song as a young man as he was “working” on something in one room and writing the song in the other, accomplishing both goals by the wee hours of the morning.  His “Rain on the Scarecrow” will forever be a defining moment for Farm Aid history, telling the tale of the plight that the American Farmer had back in the 80’s.

 

Neil Young came out meaning business with  “F*!#in’ Up” (frequently covered by Pearl Jam) and wailing on his classic Gibson “Old Black” and doing his giant walk to Lukas Nelson and his backing band POTR.  The super long guitar jam of “Cortez the Killer” was blistering only to go into the ultra-fave “Cinnamon Girl”.  Young paused to thank the everyone for coming to Farm Aid and strongly noted, “Farmers are the American heroes today. They’re living a real life.”  Going into acoustic mode Young put on the famous harmonica and jammed out “Human Highway,” “Heart of Gold”, “Comes A Time” and fan faves “Like a Hurricane” and “Rockin’ in the Free World.”  Much of the crowd talked about the set is one of the best Young had ever done at any Farm Aid.

Willie Nelson and The Family went on to close out the night.  Along with some of his family members, they performed “Whiskey River”,“Still is Still Moving to Me,” “Beer for My Horses” and “Good Hearted Woman” (”one for Waylon,” he said). Jamey Johnson accompanied Willie and took the Merle Haggard part on “It’s All Going to Pot.” Sheryl Crow, Valerie June and the Avetts came out to participate on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away,” and son Lukas just crushed the guitar on “Texas Flood.”  It was a day and evening for the record books. Hopefully, it won’t take Farm Aid another 15 years to return.

 

 

Review: Foreigner @KeyBank Pavillion

Foreigner
August 12th, 2017
Key Bank Pavilion

 

Words and pix: Ed Thompson

I can sum this review up in three easy words. And I don’t think that anyone that was at Pittsburg’s Key Bank Pavilion Saturday night would disagree.  Kelly Hansen ROCKED!!!

 

The band hit the stage from behind a huge black curtain to the opening song Double Vison.  From the first note to his last breath of Hot Blooded, Kelly Hansen rocked from one end of the stage to the other and everywhere in between.  Even as far as where the seats end in the seating sections of the pavilion.  Yes, Kelly Hansen went DEEP into the crowd and got the already frenzied crowd rocking even more. He literally had enough energy for the entire band. Thinking he does that every night being in his mid 50’s is hard to believe, but apparently, he does. He looked like a young Mick Jagger running from one end of the stage to the other and jumping and leaping in between.  Hansen was rough in my opinion in his early years filling in for the great Lou Graham.  He didn’t really have an identity with the band other than “he’s filling in for Lou”. But between that time and last night in Pittsburgh, Kelly truly has found an identity. And it’s as “Foreigner’s Front man” without any doubt.  He controlled the stage like he owned it and in turn owned the band. It helped that he had Foreigner’s founder and legend Mick Jones with him tonight in Pittsburgh. We were lucky enough to be one of the cities that Mick’s wanted to play in.  It was truly great to see him play again. Last time I got to see Mick and the band itself was in the late 90’s right after Lou Graham had his brain surgery. While it was tough seeing Lou struggle to cover the basic’s in the Foreigner catalog back then, last night was the exact opposite. Kelly covered the night’s setlist and covered it well. Maybe even too well.  He left the crowd screaming for more even following the encores. Seeing the legendary Mick Jones was great though. Such a master at his craft and really controlled the music end of the show. I’m not sure how much Mick plans to be on the road in the future, so I feel lucky to have been able to see him perform again and also get some great images of him having fun.

Getting back to the concert itself, I have said, the band itself was electric.  The stage was all white with mostly white lighting throughout the show which really made the photos I got to take to pop. Kelly wearing white with sunglasses on really helped the photos look great too.  Following Double Vison, both Head Games and Cold Ice were next on the set list. Both really showed Hansen’s vocal strength and durability. Waiting for a Girl Like You gave him and the band a chance to slow down and catch their breath. Following that, Hansen and the band gave the crowd a choice of the next song they wanted to head and Blue Morning, Blue Day once overwhelmingly. Turning up the energy next with Dirty White Boy and Feels Like The First Time. The highlights of the night in my opinion from the reaction from the crowd was both Urgent and Juke Box Hero.  Both were huge hits for the band in the 80’s of the Foreigner 4 album. Both had great lead ups to the song but I think the sax solo on Urgent by Thom Gimbel really was incredible.  SO loud and so strong. Not one note missed or added. Just incredible the way that sax echoed off the roof of the pavilion and into the crowd. Starrider closed the set out and left the crowd in awe. Begging for more, the nearly sold out crowd got two more from Hansen and Company. I Want To Know What Love Is, is a weird one for more on the encore list.  To me, and this is only me, the first encore should pick up where the last song left on at.  To slow it down kind of seems like wasted energy for me, but still, Kelly nailed every note and then some. Picking it back up and closing the night out was the band’s anthem Hot Blooded. And truthfully, that’s the way they left the crowd. This was an incredible night and show. So much energy and positive vibes left me ready to run home from the show.  It was like watching a Rocky movie. Incredible show guys and put this one down as a “must see” if the band comes to your town.

World-Renowned Guitarist JOHN 5 Reveals “Season Of The Witch” Full Track Listing

New JOHN 5 AND THE CREATURES Album, Season Of The Witch, out March 3, 2017
 
Pre-Orders Begin Early February via iTunes
 
US Tour Kicks off March 3 in Fife, WA 
Awarded 4th Best Guitarist and 3rd Best Rock Video in 6th Annual Loudwire Music Awards
World-renowned guitarist JOHN 5 recently announced the release of his upcoming eighth full-length solo album, entitled Season Of The Witch. The fully-instrumental album, which features his band The Creatures (bassist Ian Ross and drummer Rodger Carter), is set to hit stores on March 3, 2017. The album features experimentation with various genres – including western swing, Spanish flamenco, heavy metal and more – thoroughly showcasing JOHN 5‘s diverse virtuosic abilities. Pre-orders will become available via iTunes in early February.
JOHN 5 took a different approach with the release of Season Of The Witch, choosing to share his new music with fans throughout 2016 by releasing several tracks individually in the form of various music videos. Tracks/videos released include the fast-paced “Black Grass Plague”, downtempo, introspective “Behind The Nut Love”, hard rocking “Now Fear This”, jazz fusion marathon “Here’s To The Crazy Ones” (featuring a bit of “monkeying around”), heavy metal Claymation shredfest “Making Monsters”, and last but not least, the whiskey-soaked “Hell Haw”. The videos have garnered nearly a million views, collectively.
“Since music is so visual nowadays, I thought these videos would be the best way to get my music out there, and it seems to have worked – now everybody knows the songs on the record,” states JOHN 5. “I put so much work into this record with the videos, the artwork, the songwriting and the playing – out of my catalog, this is by far my favorite solo record.”
Season Of The Witch track listing:
1) Book of Spells
2) Black Grass Plague
3) Guitars, Tits and Monsters
4) Now Fear This
5) Behind the Nut Love
6) Making Monsters
7) Dr. Evil’s Spook Show
8) Here’s To The Crazy Ones
9) The Macabre
10) Triple D
11) Hell Haw
12) Ode to Jasper
13) Season Of The Witch
A recently released Season Of The Witch album teaser trailer, directed by Josh Hasty, is available for viewing here.
Kicking off the same day as the album release, JOHN 5 and The Creatures will embark on an 18-date US tour, beginning in Fife, WA. See below for all currently confirmed tour dates.
JOHN 5 “SEASON OF THE WITCH” Tour Dates:
3/3 – Fife, WA @ Louie G’s
3/4 – Everett, WA @ Tony V’s Garage
3/5 – Portland, OR @ Star Theater
3/10 – San Jose, CA @ The Ritz
3/11 – Fresno, CA @ Fulton 55
3/12 – San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge
3/16 – Fullerton, CA @ The Slidebar Rock-n-Roll Cafe
3/17 – West Hollywood, CA @ Whisky A Go Go
3/18 – Las Vegas, NV @ Vamp’d Rock Bar & Grill
3/19 – San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
3/23 – San Antonio, TX @ Fitzgerald’s Bar & Live Music
3/24 – Tyler, TX @ Clicks Live
3/25 – Houston, TX @ Scout’s Bar
3/26 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
4/13 – Newport, KY @ Southgate House
4/14 – Indianapolis, IN @ Vogue
4/15 – Westland, MI @ The Token Lounge
4/16 – Chicago, IL @ Reggies
 
JOHN 5 has worked with a varied range of artists, performing as guitarist for some of the biggest headlining rock bands in the world such as Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, as well as playing session with Paul Stanley, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd and more. Slash has called JOHN 5, “one of the most mind-blowing guitarists around” and Rob Zombie has dubbed him “a fucking shredder”. JOHN 5 has released seven solo albums to date, as well as a remix album, and has written music for the likes of Avril Lavigne, Garbage, Ricky Martin and others. His upcoming release, Season Of The Witch, follows his previous solo work, Careful With That Axe, which debuted on the Billboard Heatseekers chart upon release in 2014.
JOHN 5 online:

Blondie Chaplin to join Brian Wilson & Jeff Beck on tour

CHAPLIN CONFIRMED TO PERFORM ON SELECT DATES INCLUDING
HOLLYWOOD, FL, NEW YORK CITY, LAS VEGAS, LOS ANGELES AND OAKLAND

ALONG WITH WILSON’S FORMER BANDMATES AL JARDINE, AND DAVID MARKS
CONFIRMED TO JOIN FULL TOUR KICKING OFF SEPTEMBER 27


Acclaimed singer and guitarist Blondie Chaplin will reunite with Brian Wilson after nearly four decades, since Chaplin’s collaboration as a member of The Beach Boys during the early 70s. Chaplin will join the Brian Wilson & Jeff Beck Concert Tour on select dates including New York City and Los Angeles, performing on songs that include his signature tune “Sail On Sailor”, from the 1973 tour de force Holland, as well as other songs during his tenure with the band.

Chaplin’s long and storied musical career began as a member of the South African rock group The Flame in the late 60s-early 70s. The Flame would go on to become the first and only music act signed to Brother Records, besides the Beach Boys themselves. Chaplin eventually became a full-fledged member of The Beach Boys and recorded and performed with the band during the ‘71-‘72 sessions for Carl and The Passions – “So Tough” and the ’73 album Holland. Chaplin’s tenure with the band culminated with his live performances being documented during that period for the double album The Beach Boys In Concert. Following his departure from the group he would go on to perform with The Band and more recently The Rolling Stones among others, as well as record several solo albums.

“Blondie was one of my favorite singers in the 70s. He blew my mind with ‘Sail on Sailor’ and he also sang on a song called ‘Funky Pretty’, on the Beach Boys’ Holland album,” says Wilson. “Until two weeks ago, I hadn’t seen him since 1974. It was great to see him again. He came into the studio and sang on one of my new tracks called ‘He Come Down’ – and he sang it great. I’m stoked that he’ll be performing at a few of our shows.”

“It’s a pleasure to sing ‘Sail on Sailor’ once again with Brian,” says Chaplin.

Previously, Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck announced the addition of several new shows to their concert tour kicking off September 27 in Hollywood, FL. Throughout late September and October, the tour will also take the two legends’ historical musical collaboration through 20+ North American cities including Toronto, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston and Atlanta. Wilson’s former band mates Al Jardine and David Marks will also be joining Wilson and Beck on all dates.  A complete tour itinerary is listed below.

Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck confirmed tour dates:

DATE                       CITY/STATE                     VENUE
September 27          Hollywood, FL                  Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino*
September 28          Tampa, FL                        Eckerd Hall

October 1                 Houston, TX                     Bayou Music Center
October 3                 St. Augustine, FL              St. Augustine Amphitheatre
October 4                 Atlanta, GA                       Chastain Park
October 5                Washington, DC                Warner Theater
October 6                Bethlehem, PA                  Sands Event Center
October 8                Albany, NY                        Palace Theatre
October 9               Boston, MA                        Wang Theater
October 11             Wallingford, CT                  Toyota Presents The Oakdale Theatre
October 12             Westbury, NY                     Theater at Westbury
October 13             Philadelphia, PA                 Tower Theater
October 15             New York, NY                    Beacon Theater*
October 16             Montclair, NJ                     Roberts Wellmont Theatre
October 18             Las Vegas, NV                  The Pearl Theater*
October 20             Los Angeles, CA                Greek Theater*
October 22             Oakland, CA                      Paramount Theatre*
October 25             Detroit, MI                          Fox Theatre
October 26             Toronto, ON                       Massey Hall
October 27             Akron, OH                          EJ Thomas Performance Arts
October 30             Milwaukee, WI                   Milwaukee Riverside Theatre

(*with special guest Blondie Chaplin)

Fans can expect a unique experience when they witness these two legends taking the stage together.  Brian Wilson, Jeff Beck, Al Jardine and David Marks will open the show together with both of their respective bands performing a string of hits.  From “Little Deuce Coupe” to “Custom Machine,” the show will then focus on eclectic selections from Wilsons’ vast repertoire, covering fifty-years of classics along with music from his rich solo catalogue. Beck will open the second half of the show backed by a four-piece rhythm section to perform selections from his solo career.  Wilson, Jardine and Marks who will add their distinctive harmonies to some of his classics will also join Beck.  All four will once again join together on stage for a massive finale that will bring together both bands again to run through their favorite songs from their youth and for the first time ever, some classic Yardbirds material.

Wilson is one of popular music’s most deeply revered figures, the main creative force behind some of the most cherished recordings in rock history. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to call Brian Wilson one of the most influential composers of the last century. Wilson was barely out of his teens when he began to create some of the most beloved records ever… nine consecutive gold albums that featured such classics as “Surfer Girl,” “In My Room,” “I Get Around,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Help Me, Rhonda” and “California Girls”…just to name a handful of the more than two dozen Top 40 hits Brian co-wrote, arranged, produced and performed on with his family band, The Beach Boys.

Known as one of the most influential lead guitarists in rock, Jeff Beck was ranked 5th in Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”  He has earned wide critical praise and received the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performancesix times and Best Pop Instrumental Performance once.  He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice; as a member of the Yardbirds (1992) and as a solo artist (2009).

Future of History Making PYRAMID SOUND STUDIOS Remains Uncertain

The fate of PYRAMID SOUND STUDIOS, a recording studio world-renowned for spawning the onslaught of American heavy metal in the 1980’s and beyond, has quickly captured the attention of long-time Ithaca, NY residents, recording artists, and friends of business owner Alex Perialas.
At Wednesday’s Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting, several local musicians and educators urged city officials to take demolition of the studio off the table.

PYRAMID SOUND STUDIOS, launched by Perialas in 1974, has recorded artists from Bad Religion, Anthrax, Testament, Overkill, Agnostic Front and Brian Wilson to local favorites The Horse Flies and Donna the Buffalo, as well as student projects. PYRAMID SOUND STUDIOS is a pinnacle in the local area, being that local musicians do not always have the ability to travel to New York City, Los Angeles, etc. to record their albums. Located directly next to the Clinton St. Bridge, which is undergoing heavy construction until November, the building is at risk of being condemned as a result of the project, stirring alarm among the local and online community.

“This is one of those things that is a state and city project where they’re replacing a 70-year-old bridge and its right in our footprint, if you will. With the building of this new bridge, there’s a chance that if they aren’t careful, they could do damage to the studio,” states owner Alex Perialas. “I’m currently working with the administration to land on an amicable solution to the situation. This has been a landmark facility for years. We pretty much created a style of music here that people had never heard of before. It would be a shame to lose such an integral part of music history due to this temporary construction.”

Jeff Klaus, professor of education at Ithaca College and member of The Horse Flies, addressed the committee Wednesday, “What is housed inside that scruffy building is a building within a building that’s purpose-built to be a studio.”

Klaus and his colleagues noted that 109 E. Clinton St. is a commercial garage space, which is located closest to the bridge project, while the recording studio is located at 105 E. Clinton St. The supporters stressed that the garage and the studio are two separate buildings, though it may not appear so on the outside.

In many ways, both the mayor’s and the common council’s hands are tied, given that the construction on the Clinton St. bridge is federally funded. Earlier this week, supporters of PYRAMID SOUND STUDIOS launched an online petition to help save the historical building. Thus far, over 550 people have signed. You can sign the petition at this location.

For more information on PYRAMID SOUND STUDIOS, visit this website: www.pyramidsoundstudios.com