Jonathan Richman & Tommy Larkins ***
It’s been exactly 18 years since this legendary indie-rock singer/songwriter graced Savannah with his inimitable presence, and in that time an awful lot has changed for the former frontman and founder of The Modern Lovers.
His frequent late-night TV appearances on the Conan O’Brien show and high-profile cameos in such hit Farrelly Bros. films as Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary earned him a small legion of new fans and tremendous worldwide recognition as “that skinny guy with the guitar and the deadpan shtick.”
However, Richman’s earnest and confessional brand of childlike, guileless tunesmithing is no shtick. He’s as genuine and up-front as they come, which some people find slightly awkward to watch (this has more to do with their own hangups than Jonathan’s aura of goofy self-confidence), but others swear by. Few recording artists in this day and age have as devoted and loyal a fanbase as Richman, who’s been making records since the early ‘70s.
Famously (among rock academics, at least), in oft-covered nuggets like “Roadrunner” (Joan Jett) and “Pablo Picasso” (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, John Cale), The Modern Lovers bridged the gap between the atonal noise-pop of The Velvet Underground (as a teenaged VU fan, Jonathan often crashed on Lou Reed’s sofa when visiting NYC), the cocksure, organ-drenched bravado of The Doors and the jackhammer declarations of Iggy Pop’s Stooges. It is not a leap whatsoever to say that the band —perhaps more than any other one group— neatly encapsulated what would later become known as both punk and new-wave.-------------------- Here's a short documentary detailing Richman's work in recording his own version of a song from the cult rock opera film Hedwig and The Angry Inch:
However, in 1973, after experiencing an epiphany while touring Bermuda, Richman insisted his bandmates turn down their amps and embrace the feel-good mind-set of acoustic Calypso troubadours. Not surprisingly, they instead quit, and ultimately, two of them would join the lineups of (respectively) Talking Heads and The Cars.
Richman soldiered on, carving out a niche for himself with a catalog of imminently memorable songs which vacillated between the absurdly lighthearted (“Pretty Little Chewing Gum Wrapper”), documentarian (“Fender Stratocaster”) and bracingly honest (“My Career as a Homewrecker”).
After a series of cultish albums for the Rounder label which included forays into C&W and Spanish language vocals he was signed (just a few months after his last Savannah gig) by Neil Young —a huge fan, along with Bob Dylan (who once called Richman a “secret hero”) and Pixies frontman Frank Black (who once recorded with his pals Teenage Fanclub “The Man Who Was Too Loud” about Richman— to his Reprise-distributed Vapor Records, where Jonathan remains to this day.-------------------- Here's an extraordinarily touching track about the death of his mother, taken from Jonathan's brand-new CD: --------------------
He tours worldwide for a few months out of each year with just an acoustic guitar and maracas, backed by his old friend, drummer Tommy Larkins, and is famous for playing whatever he feels like from his massive repertoire — “Calm down, calm down, I don’t take requests,” he playfully chided an unusually assertive crowd the last time he was here. And he meant it.-------------------- Here's a recent clip of Jonathan and Tommy shot at a packed theater show: --------------------
Regardless of what songs he pulls out of his bag, one thing is for certain: this rare appearance (co-sponsored by Connect) will likely go down as one of the more memorable local shows of the past decade. Tix are $12 adv./$15 at door for 21+ only and can be charged online at tinyteamconcerts.org (see ad this issue for list of local outlets). Listen & Learn: myspace.com/tinyteamconcerts, myspace.com/pablopicassowasnevercalledanasshole. Wed., Oct. 8, 8 pm, Savannah Smiles.
Against Me!, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Future of the Left ***
This triple-bill has all the makings of an absolute smash for fans of edgy, melodic modern punk, and will likely see a sizable number of locals making the hour-long drive to this S.C. venue.
Fl. quartet Against Me! appeal to a wide variety of listeners, and are riding a growing wave of both critical and commercial acclaim. Their last CD was also their first on a somewhat major label, Sire. This string of dates will be their last for a while, as frontman Tom Gabel will soon hit the road with an ad-hoc supergroup consisting of members of Lucero, Hot Water Music and Avail. Support on this outing comes courtesy of the double-good Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Touch & Go artists who’ve been steadily competing for the title of “Best U.S. Rock Act You’ve Never Heard Of” for years now. I would imagine many people will buy a ticket just for the chance to catch this group live.-------------------- Here's a recent video from Against Me!: --------------------
The band to watch, however, may just wind up being the first ones on the bill — often a slot where one finds less-than-stellar newbies, but (as in this case) occasionally real contenders with little or no name recognition. Future of the Left have just released a pretty damn impressive debut, which isn’t entirely surprising, since 2/3 of this Welsh trio used to be in Mclusky. That group imploded after making three albums, the last two produced by the Über-prickly Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana, Shellac) who famously dubbed them “the only good band in Britain.”-------------------- Here's a great, retro, British pub-rock sounding Ted Leo track from a few years back: --------------------
The new group, including one former member of Jarcrew, makes scathingly absurd (and sometimes quite funny) noise-rock that’s equal parts confrontation, agitation, insubordination and pontification. This club date (approx. 500 capacity) may just wind up being one of those “I saw them back then” moments.-------------------- The audio is slightly off-synch, but check out this ferocious live clip of Future of the Left from a recent SXSW Fest in Austin, Tx.: --------------------
As for why a show like this is taking place in the relatively chi-chi environs of a resort island and not in Savannah (where it makes a hell of a lot more sense): it’s because in S.C., they still let folks under 21 into bars, but don’t allow them to buy alcohol, unlike Savannah, which outlawed this practice. As most of the well-known rock and punk bands these days rely on the ticket sales of high school and college fans to keep them afloat on the road, there’s almost no way Savannah venues can afford to pay such groups to play in a town where half their fans can’t get in to see them. Sucks, huh? Be safe on the road. Listen & Learn: againstme.net, tedleo.com, futureoftheleft.com. Tix: $17 adv. / $20 door at stageshhi.com. Thurs., 8 pm, Stages (Hilton Head).
Blueground Undergrass **
Something of a minor legend, this Atlanta/Athens-based jam/Americana/fusion/way-out act is all over the musical map, and prefers to think as far outside the box as possible. They blend free jazz improv with hillbilly music, like Vassar Clements on Vivarin. Banjo player and titular band leader The Rev. Jeff Mosier is a respected elder on the Southern jam scene who has been cited by the members of Phish as a major influence on their own band’s development.-------------------- Here they tear up the traditional mountain folk tune "O Death", popularized by David Lindley's old '60s psych band Kaleidoscope and Camper Van Beethoven before Dr. Ralph Stanley nabbed a Grammy for his rendition on the soundtrack fo the film O Brother Where Art Thou: -------------------- This is their first local appearance in quite some time. Listen & Learn: bluegroundundergrass.com. Fri., 11 pm, Locos (downtown).
Kylesa, AGAGAG ****
Not realizing there was an opening band at Pinback’s recent Charleston date, my friends and I arrived too late to catch Savannah’s own Kylesa, who in an odd match-up (with far too little fanfare) is out on the road for a couple of weeks by special request of those way-cool indie-rockers.-------------------- Music video from Kylesa's 2006 album Time Will Fuse Its Worth : --------------------
Fresh from cutting a new album, these internationally-known exponents of the “Savannah sound” headline a massive bill that also includes the buzzworthy, locally-based “psychedelic hardcore” band A Girl A Gun A Ghost. This show kicks off a 26-date nationwide tour for the band, which has recently altered their lineup (much to the chagrin of some longtime fans who feel they may have sacrificed some of their uniqueness in the process). Also appearing: Knives Exchanging Hands and Before We Forget. Listen & Learn: myspace.com/kylesa, myspace.com/agirlagunaghost, myspace.com/knivesexchanginghands. Fri., 11 pm, The Jinx.
Marce, Lauren Lapointe, Hannah Miller
Locally-based artist Lauren Lapointe is often at the epicenter of the female singer/songwriter game. A tireless independent musician, she got into the game relatively late, but has dedicated herself to writing, recording and self-releasing her own emotional, poetic tunes, usually accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. Her last CD hit #13 on the Roots Music Report Folk Charts, and one of the famed Wainwright family called her “a gifted and openhearted storyteller with a flair for melody.” She has also in the past organized acoustic showcases at this popular eatery and venue.-------------------- Here's Lapointe at a recent S.C. festival gig : --------------------
This time around, she’s joined by Gainesville, Fl.’s Marce (whose sensual stage presence and message-oriented lryics helped her nab Folk Song of The Year in VH-1’s 2006 Save The Music Awards).-------------------- Here's Marce backed by a band: -------------------- Columbia, S.C.’s Miller, whose career is said to be off to a great start (she just released a Nashville-tracked album that’s receiving plenty of college airplay, and has opened for the likes of Sarah Lee Guthrie and Danielle Howle) appears as well. -------------------- Here's Miller live in the recording studio: -------------------- Listen & Learn: marceonline.com, hannahmillermusic.com, laurenl.com. $5 - $10 sugg. donation. Sat., 8 pm, Sentient Bean Coffeehouse - ALL-AGES.
Rick Elvis (Undressed)
No, he won’t be doing “An American Trilogy” in the buff, but this regional Presley impersonator will supposedly be starting a new, two-day-a-week house gig out of costume at this low-key venue. Better yet, all these shows are free to the public. Info: 354-5515. Thursdays, 8 pm & Sundays, 4 pm, American Legion Post 184 (Thunderbolt).
This award-winning songwriter (who's collaborated with rock star John Oates) has been hailed as an artist with tremendous potential, and as someone who “understands how to create, write and construct a hit tune.” Noted for his coastal upbringing, there’s a decided lightness of being in his material that reminds many critics and listeners of the same kind of buoyant optimism often found in the work of Paul Simon or Ben Harper.-------------------- Here's an interview with Waddle and a solo performance: -------------------- This gig (his Savannah debut, I believe) finds him playing one of the most laid-back, alcohol-free rooms in the area. Listen & Learn: reedwaddle.com. Wed., Oct. 8, 9 pm, Metro Coffee House- ALL-AGES.