Tag Archives: 2017

That night in Appleton

right now appleton 1

This is a photo from a tremendous set by The Right Now from their show in Appleton, Wisconsin, last month. Somehow, the old country club overlooking the Fox River was still standing after The Right Now scorched it that night.

Here’s how we got started.

The Right Now is a seven-piece pop-soul group out of Chicago. Heavy Soul Brotha Dave tipped me to them way back in 2010. Their first LP, “Carry Me Home,” had just come out.

I first saw The Right Now when they played an outdoor show on a gorgeous summer night in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. Although it seems like just yesterday, it was 2012. Their second LP, “Gets Over You” had just come out.

Fast forward to February 2017. The Right Now was just out with their third LP, “Starlight.” I’d not seen them live since that summer night in Wausau five years earlier, but I’d followed their career from a distance via Facebook.

By the time their publicist contacted me, I’d already bought my vinyl copy. Mine was Order No. 6. Sure, I said, I’ll write about it. Then I didn’t. They were getting better and more influential reviews than anything they might have gotten from this lightly traveled corner of the web.

Then, last April, a death in the family. David Grinslade, the partner of lead singer Stefanie Berecz and the father of their two children, died by suicide.

The Right Now, tightly knit after almost 10 years together, halted their Midwest tour in support of “Starlight.” They took some time off.

When The Right Now returned to the summer festival circuit a few weeks later, they had a dual purpose.

One was to promote the new record, of course, one they’d self-funded, self-produced and self-released over two years. (They proudly announced in July that “Starlight” was paid for within five months of its release.)

The other was to say “It’s OK not to be OK,” advocating for suicide prevention via outreach and mental health education in the wake of David’s death. They’re doing so by raising funds for Hope For The Day, a Chicago-based non-profit organization.

Hope For The Day

Fast forward to last month’s show in Appleton. A most remarkable encore unfolded.

“Won’t you join us out in the lobby?” they asked from the stage. “We saw this beautiful grand piano out there.”

Brendan O’Connell, who plays guitar and keyboards, sat down at that grand piano. He started playing softly as a group of perhaps 50 people gathered, standing around the piano in a semicircle.

right now appleton 3

Stefanie stood to his left and started talking about David. When she said he’d died, roughly half the audience reflexively said “Awww” in sympathy. When she said he’d died by suicide, a few startled gasps punctuated a stunned silence.

Then, for the first time, they performed “Who Wrote The Book,” a new song written by Brendan, sung by Stefanie and drawn from the aftermath of David’s death.

“Stef gave me the idea for the title and, obviously, the sentiment of the song. After David died, she posted something on social media about how difficult it was to say goodbye,” Brendan told me.

It was a song so new that as Stefanie sang, she scrolled through the lyrics on a phone she’d set on the piano. Their intimate performance was breathtaking.

When they finished, Stefanie simply said “Thank you,” and the small group of listeners scattered in reverent silence. What a moment.

Now, we go forward. Looks like Appleton has embraced The Right Now, which is wonderful news for a friend of the band who lives a half-hour away.

They’ll return in June and again in August. The latter gig will be at Appleton’s Mile of Music festival. That’s a free four-day festival featuring 200 up-and-coming roots music performers and groups. They’re showcased at 70 venues over a mile-long stretch of downtown Appleton.

See you there.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under April 2018, Sounds

Turn it up to 11

This last week of February marks 11 years since the debut of this humble blog.

As I write this, I’m listening to “Testify!” the WFMU radio show hosted by my friend Larry Grogan, whom I know well but have never met in real life. He, of course, is the proprietor of the mighty Funky 16 Corners blog and streaming radio empire.

As I look for songs to share with this post, I see all the cool covers downloaded the other day and recommended by my friend Jameson Harvey, whom I also have never met in real life. He, of course, is the proprietor of the fine Flea Market Funk blog.

As I consider the 11-year journey, a shout-out to the fellow bloggers I’ve had the pleasure to meet in real life, my friends Jim Bartlett from The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, Greg Erickson from Echoes in the Wind and Joe Accardi from Life Out Of Tunes.

Thought about something from “11” by the Smithereens. Nah, everyone knows that.

Thought about something we could turn up to 11. Nah, not the weekend yet.

Thought about an 11-minute song. Don’t have one.

So let’s just enjoy Garland Jeffreys covering the Beatles.

“Help,” Garland Jeffreys, from “14 Steps To Harlem,” 2017.

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under February 2018, Sounds

How to shop for record diggers

As the holiday season arrives, we present the following as a public service.

Your loved one is a record digger. You want to give them a good gift. I’m blessed to have a family who gets it, and is good at doing so.

If you’re Santa, here are a few guidelines. If you’re waiting to unwrap the gifts, please feel free to share with your loved ones.

Less is more, Part I. It’s better receive one nice record than an overstuffed, overpriced box set.

Less is more, Part II. It’s better to receive one nice record that gets dropped right onto the turntable than a stack of records that goes unplayed.

Talk to the folks at the record store. They might know your record digger better than you do, and they’re more than willing to help you find what you seek.

It’s OK to give a gift certificate. Let your record digger pop for obscure stuff neither you nor the record store folks would ever have considered. (Which explains how “The Hullabaloo Show” by The Hullabaloo Singers & Orchestra made it into one of my crates last month.)

It’s OK to ask for a wish list. That’s the best possible scenario for all parties. The giver is confident of giving something the recipient wants to receive.

That happened this summer. Four days before my June birthday, I went to see Garland Jeffreys. When I got home, I mentioned that he had a new record out. (Money was tight, so I didn’t stop by the merch table.) A couple of months later, out of the blue, we had to stop at the record store while running errands. Turns out a certain special order had come in.

“Waiting for the Man,” Garland Jeffreys, from “14 Steps to Harlem,” 2017. On which he covers his friend Lou Reed. He played this one for us that night.

Speaking of wish lists, here’s the one I typed into my phone while hanging out at the record store not too long ago.

— Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, “Soul of a Woman”

— Bob Seger, “I Knew You When”

— Mavis Staples, “If All I Was Was Black”

— The Isley Brothers and Santana, “Power of Peace”

— The “Soul Christmas” reissue on Stax

— My friend Norb’s book “Fear of a Norb Planet”

Ahem.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under November 2017, Sounds

Music to resist by

Moving on after almost 38 years in the news business has at times been an interesting journey.

I’m no longer what a former colleague once called “a second-class citizen,” having to watch from the sideline instead of being part of the action. I’m no longer subject to the ethics rules of the news business, important though they are. I no longer need to preserve the illusion of being objective.

That said — and this may sound a bit odd — I’m still trying to find my voice. Still trying to find the right voice in public, the right voice on social media. Old habits die hard. I still say less than more, sitting back, sorting through it all, checking sources, knowing that the news is often fluid.

One step forward was embracing that I could — at last — make donations to candidates and certain causes. I donated to a friend who ran for the state Assembly. I had never been allowed to do that. Also, for the record: the American Civil Liberties Union, Pro Publica, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, One Wisconsin Now and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as it battled the Dakota Access Pipeline.

And now, it’s also OK for me to resist.

It’s necessary to resist when political instability and social uncertainty not seen since Watergate generates protests of a magnitude and intensity not seen since the Vietnam War. I remember 1968 and 1974. These are times like those times.

So when Bandcamp announced that it was donating its profits from Friday’s music sales to the ACLU as a way of protesting the president’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Mideast countries from entering the United States, I got in on that.

Bandcamp expected to sell more than $1 million worth of music, with its cut — roughly 12 percent, or $120,000 — going to the ACLU. My piece of that was small. But please enjoy some music to resist by. These aren’t protest songs. Just some enjoyable tunes bought with money that’s going to fight injustice.

mtet-finger-poppin-time-lp

“Popping Popcorn,” the M-Tet, from “Finger’ Poppin’ Time,” 2015. DJ Prestige from the fine Flea Market Funk blog tipped me to the classic yet fresh instrumental soul/R&B sound of this group from the San Francisco area. My friend Larry Grogan of the mighty Funky 16 Corners blog wrote the liner notes for the M-Tet’s fine new LP, “Long Play,” which arrived here last week.

james-hunter-six-hold-on-lp

“Free Your Mind (While You Still Got Time),” the James Hunter Six, from “Hold On!” a 2016 release on Daptone Records, one of my fave labels. I saw this pleasingly rough-edged R&B/soul group from England last spring in a 200-seat venue in a small town in Wisconsin. Things got loose. Things got sweaty.

marvlus-comp

“For You My Love,” Josephine Taylor, from “Mar-V-Lus Records: The One-Derful! Collection,” 2015. This is the second in a series of comps issued by Secret Stash Records of Minneapolis. Mar-V-Lus was the teen-oriented imprint of the black-owned and operated One-Derful! group of Chicago R&B labels. Taylor, who was from Evanston, Illinois, recorded for Mar-V-Lus in 1966 and 1967. This one is previously unreleased.

masterpiece-whitfield-strong-tribute-ep

“Smiling Faces Sometimes,” from “Masterpiece: A Whitfield-Strong Tribute,” a three-cut EP released in 2014. Jason McGuiness is the producer. This comes from Los Angeles. A random find as I scrolled through Bandcamp’s soul listings. The other cuts: “Cloud Nine” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.”‘

magic-mountain-ep

“Thrown Away,” Magic Mountain, from the “Magic Mountain” EP, 2017. This bit of indie pop is from a group that’s a side project for New Jersey guitarist Jeff Nordstedt, a Facebook acquaintance. His other band, the Milwaukees, rocks harder and is one of my favorites.

1 Comment

Filed under February 2017, Sounds