Saturday, July 11, 2009

Housekeeping and a Dilemma

Just a few quick housekeeping notes. I have added some pictures and a couple short video segments. These are obviously unedited due to time and talent restrictions. I hope to improve their presentation through editing, cropping, zooming. etc. But I wanted to get some up before we leave town again. You can click on them for bigger size , which helps.
Almost all the photos are by my talented and lovely wife, Becky Glenn, with a couple by me braving the crowd for a better vantage point. Trust me, her photos are much better than my presentation reveals. I'll try to give her pics better editing and proper photo credits when I learn how.
Because I have added pics and vids I have restricted how many load up at once. Its now set for 3 posts per page. Let me know what you think. Also the comments thing should now allow anyone to comment without registering or anything, though I will preview them before they appear, to cut out spam and porn, etc.
And you see I took a little break in format to include the Playing for Change and Joan Baez concerts on the Santa Monica Pier. Well its my party and I'll cry if I want to!
Tonight we're off to the first house concert since I started this. John Batdorf and James Lee Stanley at the Duncan House Concert right in Ventura about 5 miles from home. They'll play both solo and together doing "All Wood and Stones" the CD they made together revisiting the songs of the early Rolling Stones done SoCal acoustic style.
We'll try to get pics and get a review up before we go to WorldFest. Its a real dilemma, having so much fun there's no time to write about how much fun we're having! It's just hectic in festival season!

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Saint" Joan by the Sea

So, it was the source of some debate for us last week. After having seen the Internet phenomenom band "Playing for Change" at the Santa Monica Pier last Thursday night, we wondered if the rather modest size crowd of that night would be repeated or exceeded the following Thursday when we returned to see Joan Baez. I wasn't sure myself. Could the viral power of the internet, which made the "Playing for Change" video of "Stand By Me" such an inspirational success, trump almost 5 decades of musical accomplishment and social activism? Good news, fellow boomers! The crowd that showed up to see Joan last night grew so large they had to stop letting people in to the free concert and over-whelmed security finally gave up at keeping fire lanes open as they had been insisting on earlier in the night.

Well since I brought it up already, a quick review of last week's show. The Playing for Change Band was formed of some of the participants of the "Stand by Me" video, brought together from all over the world for this tour. Members of the band come from Africa, South America, Europe, the Caribbean and North America. The various musicians took turns in the spotlight doing a varied repertoire of ethnic music from their native areas, original tunes and some pop and soul standards. Despite some audio problems and a very out-of -tune guitar that apparently only I could hear, the band played a spirited set of crowd pleasing , life -affirming feel-good music and we really enjoyed it. The opening act was local reggae talent Bushman who sounded good also.
Check out video below.

Anyhow, back to last night. Joan looks great! And she sounds great still! Again there were some difficulties with the sound so the band finally said they would compensate for it on stage, which they did successfully. Her band consistedof a guitar/mandola player who sang background, a stand up bassist, a mandolin/fiddle/ pianist, and a hand percussionist. Unfortunarely the only musician's name I caught was the percussionist, who is named Gabriel Harris and, if I'm not mistaken, is Joan's son. I'll have to check that out.

I admit, over the years I've been kind of up and down on Joan's music, I generally like most of it but she tends to sound bland and boring sometimes. Well she really wowed me last night, performing some new songs as well as the gems of the past you'd expect. The emotional highlight came when she introduced a song she swore she would never do as nostalgia and dedicated it to the people of Iran. She then led the crowd in a moving singalong of "We Shall Overcome" and when she delivered the last verse in Farsi, we were shocked how many in the crowd could still sing along. Lots of Iranian emigrees in SoCal. The other highlights for me were the labor movement anthem "Joe Hill", a great version of "Don't Think Twice Its Alright" where she sang the last verse doing her best Bob Dylan impression (yes, really, I was pretty shocked too!), and ,as an encore, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". All in all a really nice time. And I love the fact that Joan is still out there daily fighting the good fight for social justice etc. I'll always admire her for that even after her voice goes away!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Well, now that some preliminaries are taken care of, I can get to this blog's real mission - a discussion of the music. But one other thing you should note - It is nearly impossible to go to one of these music festivals and hear ALL the music. First off there are schedule conflicts where acts are on at the same time in different locations and choices must be made. Then of course there is the need to eat, sleep a bit, grab an occasional shower and take care of other bodily functions. And then, as a musician, there is the opportunity to jam with other players, sometimes at the expense of catching a live act. The saving factor in this, at Live Oak and most other festivals, is the fact that almost all acts are broadcast live on a low powered FM station that serves the festival grounds. So some acts may not be seen but are still heard. In doing these reviews I will let you know if I didn't actually see the act in question and will also let you know which acts I just outright missed. My apologies to my readers ( if I really have any! ) and to those acts I missed., I will endeavor to include links to acts websites when I can, and I encourage you to check them out, whether it was an act I heard and liked, or one I didn't like, or one I just missed. All of these acts are pros doing worthwhile music whether it meets my taste or not they are worth a look.
So first of all, here's a link to the festival's website that you may want to peruse

Now on to the music, taking things chronologically

Live Oak traditionally starts off on Friday night with Joe Dickerson playing his bagpipes briefly as a sort of a Welcome Ceremony. Then the emcee, Joe Craven, comes out and starts introducing the acts. For those not aware of Joe, he is a fixture in the Central/Northern California music scene as a mandolinist/fiddler/tenor guitarist/singer/percussionist/songwriter/workshop facilitator/educator/crusader and I could probably add slashes and other roles until my fingers bleed. He is quite a guy, a real character and interestingly is the only performer to appear at all three festivals we have gone to/will go to this summer. He is a fixture at festivals all across the country so those of you in other places probably could have a chance to see him somewhere. He is also one of the most ADVENTUROUS dressers I have ever seen.
So the first act to hit the stage was Rancho Deluxe, an alternative country band. Unfortunately I started the festival by missing them completely, which was disappointing to me, because I was looking forward to hearing them, but time got away from me setting up our campsite. Here is a link for them, they really deserve more than I'm offering but oh well.

Next up was Terry Evans, a soulful singer from Central/Northern California, who did a really nice set of soul and rhythm and blues in the vein of Otis Redding or Joe Tex. Terry has played with a host of major names like Boz Scaggs and Ry Cooder to name just a couple. He had a really tight band and really put on a stirring show I really enjoyed. But I have to say, this is an act that would be even better in a bar setting rather than on the festival stage. I don't know why, but some acts are just made to heard while getting loaded and dancing in a nightclub! Here's a link for Terry

Next up was Old Bind Dogs, described as a Traditional Scottish group. Even though I have extremely eclectic taste, Scottish music is not something I'm really into so we chose this time period to eat dinner back at the campsite,. We did catch about half their set and listened to the rest on the radio. These guys are really virtuoso players playing music I'm just not that into, but I still enjoyed them a bit. They also played later that evening at the late night Hot Licks Dance but we were jamming back at the campsite and skipped that. Their photo is above on the bottom. Here's their link

The last act of the night on the Main Stage was Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, one of the acts I was most looking forward to. For those unfamiliar with Dave, he used to front the group "The Blasters" and has been a fixture of California music for decades. His work these days is in that gray area where folk meets blues meets rock meets bluegrass often classified these days as Americana or American Roots music. We've been fans for a while, I just love his song "The King of California" a song that grabbed me immediately and I haven't tired of in a dozen or so years. His band for this tour, The Guilty Women, are a male musician's dream, 7 attractive women who all happen to be world-class kick-ass musicians. Of particular note are the wonderful Cindy Cashdollar on lap-steel and dobro, top session player Sarah Brown on bass and California guitar legend Nina Gerber who is amazing. Add in the dual fiddles of Laurie Lewis and Amy Farris, drummer Lisa Pankratz and vocalist Christy McWilson and you have one great band playing some really delightful Alvin tunes. This band is no novelty act- they are the real deal! Upper left photo is this band, sorry such a bad pic, I've got better of them from the Kate Wolf Fest but to use them here would be dishonest I guess. Here's Dave's website

That was the close of Friday night. We were beat and retired early, anticipating the next day of fun which I will tackle next post.

Comments Etc.

I just realized this site requires you to have a gmail account to comment and I know most of you don't have one. You can email your comments, questions, etc to me at This is an email address dedicated to just this site and separate from my personal email. I will then periodically put the comments or questions in a post dedicated to comments only. Hopefully that will solve this dilemma at least temporarily until I can come up with something better. Maybe this will stimulate a little discussion.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Live Oak Music Festival

On our way back from back-to-back festivals, I told my wife Becky that, even if other festivals might be better, Live Oak will always be our "home" festival. It takes place at Live Oak Camp which is next to Lake Cachuma, CA , about 20 minutes north of Santa Barbara and a little more than an hour north of our home. Its quite convenient for us.

The festival is run as a benefit for KCBX radio, a public radio outlet on CA's central coast. It is held every year on Father's Day Weekend and consists of three days and nights of music camping and all around fun. This was the 21st annual but only our third year going and it was on June 19,20,21. Live Oak is a pretty eclectic festival, some acoustic acts, some full bands, a smattering of world music, a little dash of rock and roll. It definitely leans towards folk,bluegrass,blues sort of direction but always with some diversity and at least a few bands that rock out a bit. Most of the music takes place in what is called the Main Stage, a pretty professional stage set up in a large field, where the audience sets up their low backed chairs and blankets. See a picture up above. There are also a few other venues at the festival, one at the other end of the property that they call Stage Too where they hold smaller concert/workshops during the day and at night host the dances they put on for teens. Another venue closer to the Main Stage,called the Hot Licks Stage, hosts the early morning concerts and late night dances for grown-ups. There is also a stage for kid's shows.

One of the Live Oak traditions is the Thursday night Line Up. On Thursday afternoon, the day before the festival starts, you can put your vehicle in the lineup for camping spaces on Friday morning but you must sleep in or next to your vehicle. On Friday morning at 8:00 am they let you in, in the order you are lined up and there is a mad dash to claim camping spots. Becky loves my description of this - " a latter day hippie land rush". There is a picture of this in lower picture above.

The area for camping is varied, much of it has many oak trees for shade but there are also areas that are pretty much out in the sun. BTW this is a very hot area, a bit inland. Our first year here the weather was in triple digits all weekend but the past 2 years have been in the mid to high 80s. Some years camping can be really crowded. We have tried to go to sleep listening to the couple in the next tent make noisy love, been woken up in the morning by screaming kids, and this year were even kept awake by a band with a full drum kit in a campsite right near us. But everyone is pretty nice and proximity can just help you make new friends, and we made quite a few this year.

There are quite a few porta-potties spread over the property and they are cleaned once or twice a day. There are showers near the central area by the main stage, but they are in a roofless structure, with just a men's side and a woman's side and then a big open shower area with about six showers but no stalls or anything for privacy. There is hot water but it is non adjustable and can vary from very hot to cold depending on luck. The festival area has food vendors and some crafts etc. Not a great variety of food available and only one vendor sells coffee which can make for some looongg early morning lines.

In general this is a very laid-back, well run festival. It attracts a wide variety of people, lots of older people but many young people also, many have "grown up" attending the festival with their family. It does tend to attract a bit older crowd then some other festivals though. The majority of people come from the central coast area around San Luis Obispo, where the festival started, with added folks from the Santa Barbara and Ventura areas. I actually ran into three different people I know from Ventura College, where I work. My major criticism with how this festival runs is the "down time" between acts on the Main Stage, sometimes a half an hour. It seems a better alternation of small acts/ big acts, and acoustic/electric could keep things moving as some of the other festivals do.

Well that's an overview of the Live Oak Festival. In the next day or so I'll try to get my music reviews from this festival up on this site. And,oh yeah, if anyone actually reads this and has comments or questions or their own experience to share, I'd love to hear it all!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why is there air?

My apologies to the Cos for stealing the title of this post, but I thought I might start this off with a brief explanation as to the what and why of this blog. If you're reading this anywhere near approaching real time, you either already know me or you just got really,really lucky. I've had a life-long interest in live music. In addition to being an amateur musician, I have spent time professionally running bars and nightclubs and have also spent some time being a booking agent ( all this was back in the Hartford,Conn. area ). In the last several years, my wife, Becky and I have been attending houseconcerts and music festivals here in California. If you are like most people and haven't heard about houseconcerts, well they are just what they sound like. Folks open their homes for performers to appear there, with all money from the door going to the musicians. It is all a labor of love for the folks doing it, if anything it costs them money. Recently it occurred to me that, while there are great sites promoting houseconcerts, no one seemed to be reviewing them on a regular basis. Well, I'm stepping up to fill that niche. I plan on doing reviews of not only the houseconcert shows we see, but also of the venues themselves, as we find there are notable differences between them. The same thing applies to music festivals, I will be reviewing the festivals themselves, the locations, the kind of crowds, facilities, etc, as well as reviewing the music itself. And since we are just back from consecutive music festivals, I will be starting with their reviews first, I hope to have my first installment up in the next day or so. I'm not sure where this will all lead or whether anyone will actually read it, but here goes nothing!