Friday, April 29, 2011

The Bishops rock The Grill

Spent last Friday night photographing The Bishops, an Indianapolis rock band that was pretty cool to begin with, but they introduced a keyboard player, Brian Barbour, at their show April 22 at The Grill, 9755 Fall Creek Road, Indianapolis, and the band's Bryan Bishop thinks this will open the group to explore more songs and styles.

The Grill is a cozy place, but that didn't stop people from finding room to dance through the night. The Bishops do loads of spot-on covers, from Mellencamp to Prince, Rolling Stones to Vanilla Ice, Neil Diamond (their "Sweet Caroline" was a venue-sing-a-long on Friday) to Wild Cherry (remember "Play that Funky Music"?). Bishop and vocalist Georgette Fraction handle most of the lead vocals, but lead guitarist Eric Boehmer will tackle a song or two ... and he's the start attraction on the guitar-solo-frenzied "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent.

Also in the band are bassist Eldon Hawkins and drummer John Marque. These images are from their show at The Grill.

For a full gallery of images from the show, follow this link.

Eric Boehmer (above), spellbound by the moment ... and (below) mixing it up on the axe with an animated Bryan Bishop.

Above: Georgette Fraction, doing what she does so well; the joy is obvious.

Above: New keyboardist Brian Barbour.

Above: Bassist Eldon Hawkins in the middle of a windmill strum.

Above: Bishop showing his skills on harmonica.
Boehmer investing in the solo (above) ... and a closeup of his pick hand (below).

Above: Taking a different perspective, aided by a wide-angle lens, and getting unobstructed views of five of the six band members. From left: Bishop, drummer John Marque, Fraction, Hawkins and Boehmer.

Bishop hamming it up (above) on one tune, then donning the prop (below) for Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice Baby." 

Marque (above) putting a silence on a cymbal and (below) getting into his rhythm contributions. 

Fraction (above) taking lead on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" then (below) taking lead on laughter.

Bassist Hawkins (above) and keyboardist Barbour (below).

Friday, April 22, 2011

The blues community's nod ...
to Jerry "Blues" Booth

It was an electric night at the Slippery Noodle Inn on Wednesday, when blues musicians and fans from near and far gathered for the Noodle's weekly jam session to pay tribute to the late Jerry "Blues" Booth, longtime front man for the local blues band Mean Weenies, who died April 15.

The club's main performance stage room is cozy even under normal circumstances, but on Wednesday night, the influx of fans, musicians and well-wishers made things even more compact than usual. Many of Central Indiana's blues stalwarts were on hand, including Gene Deer (left, above) and Gordon Bonham, who are shown in the throes of an intense guitar solo near the end of the first set. I'd heard that the list that musicians use to sign-up to participate in the jam reached three pages Wednesday; a co-worker said he sat with a musician from Toledo, Ohio, who was unaware of Booth's passing but knew about the weekly jam and thought he'd drop in while staying in town overnight. His name was never called.

I was able to grab photos for about an hour and a half before I reached a point where I could not either move around or find an open spot to shoot any more; that's not at all to complain -- it's to testify to the support of Jerry in fan and musician turnout from the local blues community. They put a bucket on the stage for folks to donate money so Jerry's family can afford a proper send-off. My co-worker acquaintance, who stayed till 1 a.m., said they announced near the end that they had collected $1,100 for Jerry.

To view a full gallery of images from the evening's performances, visit this link.

Gene Deer Band members, bassist Henry "Chief" Coneley (above) and drummer Joe Means (below).

Above and below: Deer in mid-groove.

Above: Gene Deer with drummer Joe Means, violinist Allison Irvine and guitarist Gordon Bonham.

Above: Gordon Bonham

Above (from left): Gene Deer, Allison Irvine, Smokin' Dave Wyatt and Gordon Bonham.

Above: Drummer Jeff Chapin along with bassist Smokin' Dave Wyatt.

Above: Scotty Thomas, aka Scotty Gunn, sang for Booth's band in the 1980s. He came up from Florida to participate in the jam. It kind of looks as if Scotty is checking to see if Booth is enjoying the show.
Above: Bonham's band has Smokin' Dave Wyatt as its bass player.
Above: With Bonham's head flinging back and hair flying and with Deer's head bent and eyes closed for maximum concentration, you know the intensity level is high.

Above: The spotlight is now all on Bonham.

Above: Blind Side Band's Sweet Lou Rapier, playing with musicians who started the jam's second set.

Above: Governor Davis of Governor Davis and the Blues Ambassadors

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Acoustic Cafe Series ends
with Amy Speace, Brooks Williams

Brooks Williams and Amy Speace closed the spring portion of the long-running Indy Acoustic Cafe Series on Saturday, perfoming in the cozy theater of the Wheeler Arts Community Center in the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Speace, promoting her 2011 CD "Land Like a Bird," opened the show, entertaining the nearly full house with ballads that touched the heart and soul ... and with anecdotes -- even if they had nothing to do with a song -- that made lovely vocal interpretations even more enjoyable. One narrative that had no song associated with it was the story of how Speace's grandparents met and took a liking to each other almost immediately, but delayed plans of marriage for many years because her grandmother had family to look after.

In another, she divulgied having "sort of a crush" on Verizon Wireless' commerical "face," Paul "Can you hear me now?" Marcarelli, whom she said was recently fired by the communications company. She used that story to transition into "Change for Me" off the new album, making a point to repeat the lyric "Can you hear me now?" and coaxing the audience to sing along.

In a third tale, she related how folk icon Judy Collins had planned to sing "The Weight of the World," a Speace composition, at the 50th anniversary Newport Folk Festival in 2009 and announce to the audience that Speace was its composer. Just as Collins was about to say Amy's name, Speace said, Peter Seeger -- who was off to the side -- distracted Collins, who then traded good-natured barbs with the dean of America's folk singers. When Collins returned to the microphone, she launched into the song, apparently forgetting to tidy up her song introduction by mentioning Speace's name. Well, it's out there now -- even if only here. True, it's not the Newport Folk Festival, but at least I didn't skip the most important part (Amy did say she's "good" with Collins, who later recorded the song on her 2010 "Paradise" CD; in fact, Speace was the first artist Collins signed to her Wildflower record label. Speace did joke that it's just Seeger she needs to settle with).

Williams, a Statesboro, Ga., native who now lives in Cambridge, England, followed Speace to the stage. He's a wonderful singer and songwriter, but his guitar-playing is what captivates -- and validates his inclusion as one the Top 100 Acoustic Guitarists of all time as listed by DigitalDreamDoor. Williams' "Guitar Player" album also is on the site's list of Top 100 Acoustic Guitar Albums of all time.

It was a delight to see him let loose and flow as the guitar licks and riffs rolled off his fingers with the savvy of a maestro. His immersion into the music, hopefully, will be evidenced by the selection of images I took from Saturday's show and posted here.

Like Speace, he has a deft on-stage manner with the audience, and delighted everyone not only with several blistering blues solos (I can only say "wow"), but a medley of short instrumental riffs from famous rock songs, from Hendrix's classic "Purple Haze" opening to the Who's signature "Overture" from the rock opera "Tommy." He joked that if he integrates a few more of those into the medley, it might be worth a full show.

Williams' website says he has a new "Live Blues EP" (this should be very interesting) just out and that it should be available at concert sites this month. I didn't see it at Saturday's show, but maybe it hasn't quite made it out yet. Williams' career spans several decades -- and 17 CDs.

Mark Butterfield, the Indy Acoustic Cafe Series operator, is hoping to return a fall season to the Series, starting in early October. Acts he's said he's planning to schedule include John Gorka, Nils Lofrgren and Sophie B. Hawkins.

To see complete galleries from the show, follow these links: Brooks Williams -- Amy Speace.