Live At The Spotted Cat

We can’t get enough of the live music in New Orleans.  Last night we hit multiple venues on Frenchman Street, which has just about the best collection of live music venues within a small geographical area that you’ll find anywhere.  We started at one of our favorites, the Spotted Cat Music Club, where this band deftly covered some classic selections from the Great American Songbook.

As always on Frenchman Street, the music options are diverse — from torch songs at the Spotted Cat to roots blues music at the Apple Barrel to a kick out the jams, move your feet horn band at Cafe Negril.  We enjoyed every one of them, and tonight we’ll be back for more.

Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman died yesterday.  One of the founding members of the Allman Brothers Band, a group that unquestionably is one of the finest rock bands America has ever produced, Allman had been ailing for a while.  He was only 69.

Allman was one of those recording artists whose personal life always seemed to be a mess — he was married to Cher, of all people, for a while, which probably tells you all you need to know — but you felt that his life really was about his music.  Allman played guitar and keyboards in the band, but everyone really knew him as the voice of the band.  His unique, smoky vocals, with their gravelly, gritty undertones, injected life and soul into the bluesy songs that the Allman Brothers Band made their own.  Songs like Whipping Post, One Way Out, Not My Cross To Bear, and Midnight Rider are classics in large part because the vocals are so . . . legitimate.  When Allman sang about being tied to that whipping post, you felt that he really knew what he was singing about.  He could make Happy Birthday into an exploration into the dark recesses of the human experience.

We’re getting to the point where many of the rock icons of the ’60s and ’70s are moving on.  It’s sad, but it’s also a reason to listen, again, to some of the music that made them enduring icons in the first place.  Today, it’s time to go listen anew to the Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East, one of the very best live albums ever recorded.  This performance of Whipping Post below comes from one of the band’s Fillmore East performances.

Live On Sixth Street

Everybody knows Austin has a thriving bar and live music scene.  Last night we started our pub crawl in the very cool Rainey Street area, which I’d never visited before, stopped to have a beer at the Container Bar, which is largely constructed out of those enormous corrugated containers used by the shipping industry, then legged it up past Stubb’s to a bar called Cheer Up Charlie’s, where a kind of light show projected against a white bluff entertained us.  After noshing at Stubb’s we headed over to Sixth Street, the traditional strip of bars and live music venues that keeps getting bigger — and louder.  

Around Austin you see people with t-shirts that say “Keep Austin Weird,” or something like that.  After our foray through Sixth Street, I’d say that goal is being accomplished.  You see people wearing flags as capes, masks, wigs, glitter, and just about any combination of clothing, or lack of clothing, you can conceive.  On Sixth Street, you can still freely let your freak flag fly.

Woody Pines!

Last night Kish and I joined the Bahamians for another music night at the Refectory — a chance to listen to some live music in an intimate venue, with food provided by one of Columbus’ finest restaurants.  Going out on a Monday night for dinner and a show was an act of unusual spontaneity for us.  After all, Monday night you’re usually curled up on your couch, grateful that the first day of the work week is in the books but otherwise fortifying yourself for the next four days.  It’s not a night when people do much.

But sometimes it pays to break out of the mold.

IMG_2380We happened to be at the Refectory for dinner on Saturday, and the host of the music series came by to tell us that a table for Monday’s show had opened up at the last minute.  A flier advertised the artist as “Woody Pines!”, with an exclamation point.  That’s a good sign, I thought.  Then I noticed that every artist on the schedule featured an exclamation point after their names, so I kidded the host about it.  After all, I pointed out, exclamation points must be earned and cannot simply be doled out willy-nilly to every Tom, Dick and Jazz Artist on a programming list.

Still, Woody Pines looked very promising.  He calls his music “down home swing,” and the photo showed a guy with a steel guitar wearing a harmonica holder and a beat up hat,  which is even more encouraging than the exclamation point.  So, we took a chance, and we’re glad we did.

Woody Pines fronts a three-piece combo that also includes a stand up bass, well-played in the foot-stomping slap style, and a clean-cut virtuoso working a ’50s-vintage Gibson electric guitar who added terrific fills to every song.  These three guys played roots music, some blues, and some songs of uncertain provenance, but whatever they touched had an irresistible move-your-feet beat to it that somehow combined elements of rockabilly, roadhouse blues, early ’50s rock ‘n roll, and the sweep of the American musical soul, all rolled into one.  They absolutely rocked the joint and had me tapping my feet and tapping the table, and if the Refectory performance space had a dance floor, every person in the room would have been on it.  Add in Woody’s strumming and picking and exuberant stage presence, and you’ve got a musical evening that I’ll remember for a while — and I’ll try to recreate, too, because I bought two Woody Pines CDs on the way out.  It was some of the best live music I’ve heard since my last visit to Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.

On the way out of the performance room after Woody had knocked my socks off, I saw the host of the music series, shook his hand, and told him that Woody Pines definitely deserved the exclamation point.  Woody Pines!


Nashville must be the top bachelorette party destination east of the Mississippi.  You see the bachelorette groups everywhere — pedaling together to power the bicycle bars heading down Broadway, slamming down Jell-O shots, singing along with the band at the Honky Tonk Saloon, and whooping it up on the sidewalk — and always smartly attired in matching shirts and hats with clever slogans about love or being drunk, and sometimes both.  As soon as one group leaves, another bachelorette band arrives to take its place.

Why is Nashville such a popular bachelorette destination?  Well, why not? It’s got lots of saloons and live music and drink specials and pedal bars and all of the features of a modern bachelorette fantasy.  And let’s just say that the ladies we saw were taking full advantage of the chance to cut loose, starting bright and early and hitting it hard.  They were having fun in the bride-to-be’s last hurrah.

I’m guessing that what happens in Nashville stays in Nashville.

First Concert At The Commons

IMG_0883Walking home tonight on a fine evening — at least until the rains are supposed to come later on — the music started pumping as I approached Columbus Commons.  It’s the first outdoor concert of the year, at least to my knowledge, and the music was cranked up and the food trucks were out in abundance.

This particular concert was a private event, for OSU students, but it made me resolve that we’re going to go to one of the concerts on the Commons this year, come hell or high water.  There’s nothing like live music to provide a shot of adrenalin heading into the weekend.

Columbus Songwriters Association

Last night Kish and I joined our friends Dr. Science and the Bionic Half-Marathoner for the Columbus Songwriters Association Finale Showcase at Notes.  We were there to see their son, Jack, compete with more than a dozen other local songwriters.

IMG_0660It was also our introduction to the Columbus Songwriters Association, an interesting organization that says a lot about what our city has to offer.  The CSA seeks to nurture and support the creative impulses of lots of homegrown musicians, by doing things like hosting Songwriter Showcase events where the musicians get to perform live at venues like Notes.  The ultimate goal of the CSA is to make Columbus into a music city, like Nashville.  It’s a worthy goal, because any great city needs vibrant music and arts scenes.  In that regard, we thought it was pretty cool that we walked to the CSA Finale Showcase directly after leaving a great performance of La Boheme by Opera Columbus, which meant that we touched very different points on the live music spectrum in the space of just a few downtown blocks.

At last night’s event, 19 different musicians performed their own songs before an overflow crowd that jammed the club.  After each song, audience members completed evaluation cards for each performer.  The cards were eventually collected and counted, along with the reactions of a panel of judges, to decide who made it to round two.  Although we had to hit the road before the second round began, participating in the first round was a lot of fun and showed that Columbus has a lot of budding musical talent.  We particularly liked Jack, of course, but I also want to mention Maya Mougey, a teenager who showed tremendous poise in playing guitar and singing a song she wrote about losing touch with her sister who had moved on to high school.  We sat next to what looked like a table of her friends who cheered like crazy for her when she was finished, and we did, too.