The Neil Young Story

Aside

When I was young, I used to do house video for Robert Warren Mobile Television Production at what is now Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre.  It was a great gig — I got to see every show I wanted to all summer, I picked up some extra cash, and I had some cool experiences like being onstage with Aerosmith.

The night that Neil Young was playing, his tour manager pulled us aside before the show and told us:

You have to put the cameras where Neil can’t see them.  If he sees a camera while he’s playing, he’ll fly into a rage.

Was this true?  Was the tour manager pulling our leg?  I have no idea but I know that we pulled all of our cameras back and Neil Young fans got house video that wasn’t nearly as good as we usually provided.

I think of this from time to time.  If I haven’t talked to a band beforehand, I don’t like to show up with cameras unless it’s an event that you’d expect to see photographers at anyway.  Most artists might not care but I’d rather not distract the one who does.

Temperance League at Plaza-Midwood Pig Pickin’

2011-07-03

Fourth of July weekend, hot cars, beer, barbecue, and loud music — the Plaza-Midwood Pig Pickin’ had it all including Charlotte’s Temperance League on the stage.  The band is the sort of straight-ahead rock & roll that I grew up on:  two guitars, bass, drums, and a charismatic front man with a penchant for jumping off stage.

Guitarist Shawn Lynch was kind enough to answer my questions via e-mail.

Q: I’m going to take a wild guess that it’s not love of money that gets you up on stage. What drives you to the perform live music?

Bruce Hazel

It’s always nice when the money happens, but in the world of original music it’s not a dependable motivator… I think it’s just the love of playing music. We’ve all been doing it for so long, it’s just what we do. It seems, for this band especially, that we’re in the die-hard holdouts, last-men-standing demographic… We’re just gonna play ’til we can’t play anymore or ’til it’s no fun anymore – which I don’t see happening anytime soon…

Q: When I started asking “What bands should I cover for CharlotteFive?”, people mentioned Temperance League over and over. What do you guys do to connect with people?

Mark Lynch, not falling into the drums

I don’t think we do anything out of the ordinary, really. I think that we have great songs, and we really put a lot of energy and heart into our shows… There’s a spontaneity when we play for sure -”Will Bruce will hang from the ceiling?” “Will Mark fall into DK’s drums and neither one drop the beat??” Maybe it’s because we play a kind of direct rock and roll music that doesn’t seem to be played much anymore… I dunno… I just hope people enjoy the band as much as we do..

Q: What’s next for Temperance League?

Shawn Lynch

Well, we just recorded a song with our pals The Houstons for an upcoming split 7″ record, and then we’re gonna put out another all Temperance League 45 for the Fall… We’ve got some swell out-of-town dates coming up – we’re really jazzed about playing the Hopscotch festival in Raleigh in September too. I think the master plan is to keep playing and making records and making new fans as much as possible…

Q: From your perspective, what does the future of music in Charlotte look like? What are you excited about?

Chad Wilson

I think Charlotte’s always had a great amount of talented musicians that tend to get overlooked on a national level… I think that’s gonna change.. it has to, y’know? This city has gone thru some major changes the last few years, and it seems that there are a lot more outlets for creative expression of all sorts, and the music scene has definitely benefit from that.

Q: You’ve released several singles and an EP on Bandcamp — does that freedom to record and release in smaller doses affect the way you guys think about new music?

David Kim

Not necessarily.. Bandcamp is a cool outlet/tool for any independent band, but I think the main goal is to make records (vinyl). We’re doing this all by ourselves at the moment, so it’s just working and saving for the next time to record and release… Now that the CD is on it’s way out (thankfully) it’s Vinyl for home or Downloads for on-the-go – we want anything we record to sound great and capture some live energy, and luckily we were able to do that on our 45 and on the other songs we have up at Bandcamp. All 5 were recorded live in 1 day and mixed the next with Mitch Easter at the Fidelitorium in Kernersville, NC.

The Overmountain Men at The Thirsty Beaver

2011-07-02

The show was billed as “DC3”; however, as David Childers explains, he’s given up on naming every different combinations of music and “We all play the same thing – you saw The Overmountain Men.”  I’m talking to him on the shaded porch the day after the show, looking out over the riot of color in his garden.

Childers’ performance the night before was a great illustration, I think, of why Bob Crawford of The Avett Brothers coaxed him back into the music scene.  Before the show, he was humble celebrity, stopping to talk to everybody he bumped into.  During the show, the audience was rapt, engaged, dancing around on the tile floor.  I saw people singing along, cheering and leaning in when the band got to their favorite song.  Comparisons ran through my mind before I realized that Childers is an original – an impression strengthened talking to him the next day..

Q: What’s the secret to getting an audience up and dancing?

Dale Shoemaker, Robert Childers, David Childers, Randy Saxon

You’ve just got to rock them, man. You go out and play like that — you notice most of it was real upbeat kinda stuff, a couple of slower things. You’ve got to give that to them, they’ve got to rest.

Q: The first time I heard a David Childers song was “Pretty Boy Floyd” on a compilation released in the late 90′s…

David Childers, Randy Saxon

Known on the Undergound

That’s it. The story in that song caught me immediately.

Did you like that?

Very much. How important is storytelling to you when you’re writing songs?

Oh, man, that’s all of it. There’s always a story in it — I think that’s important to songs. Even if it’s impressionistic, there’s some kind of dynamic going on in there with two people or a group or a group of people or whatever. I think that’s just a natural thing for me. You listen to somebody like Bob Dylan, even his more surreal stuff, there’s always some story going on. A song like Pancho & Lefty, which I consider a real American classic, that’s four verses and it has a chorus, no bridge, and it’s a hell of a story.

Q: A newer song that really struck me was “Angola“. How did that come about?

Dale Shoemaker

Did you find that video? That was Bob Crawford’s fault. Bob Crawford plays bass with The Avett Brothers. He’s a guy who came down here from Jersey, not a damn cent to his name. He wound up in a studio working for Jeff Smith, who is a hell of an artist & filmmaker here in Charlotte. Jeff made a documentary about the prison rodeo at Angola. That’s where a lot of that footage came from.

It’s a fine documentary, something that should be on Showtime or HBO. He had asked Bob to write a song for it and Bob had written that song, Angola, and he wanted me to sing it. So, he sent it to me and I reworked it some, I did some revising and changing. And then Randy [Saxon] and I went to a studio and recorded it — Old House. It’s an excellent studio and it’s a place a lot of people use.

We went over one night — I remember it was during the Democrat convention in ’08 — and we recorded that. Then, Bob was out in LA with The Avett Brothers, they were recording an album with Rick Rubin. Bob got access to some kind of studio through Columbia and they mixed it there. 

We’ve done more co-writing like that. Of course, he’s not around, so we do it through the mail or e-mail. Sometimes, I’ll even play it for him over the telephone.

He has really good ideas. That’s not the only song we’ve worked on together. He has ideas that I wouldn’t come up with necessarily. Everybody is idiosyncratic in their writing style unless you’re in Nashville and you write the way they tell you. “You got to have a bridge. Oh, that’s too left wing”. That’s what I’ve heard a lot of times, my music is too left wing. I am a left winger.

Q: There’s a thread of activism that runs through your music. Is that intentional?

Randy Saxon preparing for the show

I can’t help that. It’s just the way I’m made. And, you know, the people that inspire me — Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan protest songs, Eric Anderson, Phil Oakes, Joan Baez, Peter Paul & Mary singing in the early 60′s about the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement…it has an essential way of grabbing you and making you aware of what’s going on.

That’s not all what it’s about. I’ve actually kinda given up, honestly. I just like the human struggle. Life is struggle — there’s no escaping that so I guess it bleeds into songs.

Q: For a man who reportedly retired from the music business, you’re pretty busy. What happened?

Robert Childers, Dale Shoemaker

That’s a recent thing. You know I’m an attorney too. I have a very vital, active practice. I was doing both those things, I was going hard, chasing a dream. Trying to make something happen, making albums, going out, playing, trying to make something happen. 

It just had me going like hell. I mean, I was playing every weekend. We went overseas a couple of times. And it was just taking a lot — it wore me out, I got physically exhausted, mentally, spirtually, every way. It didn’t seem like anything was happening…it’s not like I said “I’m retiring” and signed a form…I just said I’m not going going out and play again. I’m going to stop. I don’t know when I’ll do it — I may not ever do it. It just felt like this endless treadmill and it was.

You drive to NYC, play for $400. Come back to Gastonia and play for $400. Go to Atlanta and play for fucking twenty-five cents. It just was a real strain. It was putting strain on my marriage, causing problems, so I’m glad I did. It was a perfect time to lay it down and take a rest.

But old Crawford, man, he just wouldn’t let me lie. He said “Let’s write some songs” and I wanted to keep writing. I was going to do that anyway. But, then, my business became extremely demanding, very busy, and it was good to me. It helped me get over some financial hurdles and it just made sense to focus on that.

You know, I’ve always got a creative thing, though. I took up painting when I stopped going out. I could do it at home, sleep in my own bed, spend time with my wife, work around this place — it takes some work around here, it’s a pretty big spread of land.

But, it just seems like things have changed — I’m not out playing a lot. After today, I don’t think I have another gig until August. But, believe me, I’ll be doing stuff, recording. Playing out, I’d like to do more of it if it’s the right place, but just going out, playing so you can play, to try to make a living at it is quixotic to me. It’s like tilting windmills. You’re going to get knocked on your ass.

But it’s a nice supplement. In a few years, I hope to draw my Social Security, play more, and work a little less. So I didn’t retire. I just went into hiding.

The Journey

Aside

I spent some time talking to David Childers this weekend for an upcoming feature here and he put something in words that’s driving what I want to do here:

If you want to talk about the Americana scene, there’s an interesting story to be told around here. Like, the Rank Outsiders, that was a very interesting thing. They opened up this showcase in the mid 90′s. Doubting Thomas, Lenny Federal, Lou Ford, Michael Reno Harrell, it’s just interesting to me what all these people have done. There are a lot of trails that go off from there.

You follow it, I think you’ll find an interesting story.

It’s not limited to Americana, either.  There’s a lot of trails leading me all over Charlotte and I think it’ll be an interesting story.

Bill Noonan and The Barbed Wires at Smokey Joe’s Cafe

2011-06-24

I caught Bill Noonan and The Barbed Wires at Smokey Joe’s Cafe in a late show last Friday night, following opener Sun Dried Vibes. Noonan was restringing his guitar when I made it there, telling me that he always ends up leaving it to do until just before a show.

The Barbed Wires’ music covers the ground between classic country and roots rock, with original songs and covers to please fans of both genres.

I asked Noonan, a long-time colleague and friend, his five questions via e-mail.

Q: What has inspired your songwriting lately – are there particular bands or artists that you find yourself going back to again and again or does the inspiration come from places outside of music?

Bill Noonan

I am on the lookout for inspiration wherever I can find it…listening to artists or genres of music that grab me is always inspiring…I tend to go on kicks with certain artists or styles…recently, for example: the Louvin Brothers, older bluegrass, Cajun/Creole, Doug Sahm, and proto-punk rock and roll have all been sources of inspiration. And yes, there are old faves I always return to. Outside of music, regional culture, history, changing seasons, landscapes, conversations and social interactions can all spur songwriting ideas.

Q: “Get Off Of My Land” is one of my favorites out of your songs. What’s the story behind this song?

That is one of those songs that pretty much wrote itself. For a number of years I lived way out in the country, in Cherokee County, SC, but still drove into Charlotte each day for work. You could see the changes on an almost daily basis…where what’s trying to be the city is starting to take over what used to be the country…and it’s changing the landscape and the old way of life in a good part of this region. That was a story I wanted to tell. Thinking about it over a period of weeks, the storyline just came together…the farmer/developer confrontation…around the line “get off my land”…which comes from the observation that when someone asks you to get off their property, they usually let you know they mean it.

Q: The Barbed Wires is truly a cast of characters. How did the band come together?

Chris Peace and Joe Williams

The band lineup has really just come together since the first of this year, with Lee Sharp (Leebo) coming on board on drums, and Country Bill (Walpole) back in the mix. Chris Peace is doing a great job on guitar and harmony vocals, and there is nobody more solid than JoeW (Williams) on bass. It’s a great bunch of guys, and everybody really loves to play, so we’re excited about the possibilities…so many tunes, so little time. Leebo and Joe have been playing around town forever, but our musical circles did not overlap until fairly recently. Chris was one of my guitar students back in the 80s, he played in Sugarsmack in the 90s, but then left music for quite a few years…we reconnected about the time my last CD came out 2 years ago. Country Bill has been one of my very best compadres for many years…he played with Lenny Federal and the Federal Bureau of Rock and Roll back in the day, and we had an act for a while in the early 00s called Country and Western Bill…we hadn’t done much together over the past couple years, so it’s great to have him back on board in the Barbed Wires.

Q: What do you want to accomplish next with The Barbed Wires?

We really enjoy playing out, so we’re looking to keep doing that…getting more visible locally, and maybe starting to get around a bit more far and wide. It’s also about time to do another record, and I can’t wait to get these guys in the studio.

Q: What do you see in store for music in Charlotte over the next year?

Lee Sharpe

From my little corner of the scene, things look pretty good. There seems to be more cross-pollination across musical circles happening, which I think is healthy. More people turning on to local music, and giving new/different acts and venues a chance is also a good thing.

Leadville Social Club at The Thirsty Beaver

2011-06-26

Leadville Social Club is a band whose music they like to describe as “hard to put in a box”. That sounds accurate — high energy roots rock, Americana, country, alt.country…I don’t know what to call them other than a lot of fun.

I caught them last weekend at The Thirsty Beaver playing with Austin native Charlie Faye. Shows at the Beaver are crowded, intimate affairs with a few feet of tile separating band from audience and they make for an interesting photography experience as well. (I’ve cheated and used one picture from an earlier show at The Double Door — I’ll have a better idea of how to shoot here next time.)

I also caught up with frontman Bob Graham in e-mail for a few questions.

Q: Leadville’s Facebook page suggests that you needed some encouragement; however, when I’ve seen you guys play, you look like you’re having the best time in the world up there. What’s it like on stage?

Chris Edwards

Doesn’t everybody need encouragement? Maybe artist more than most. But to be honest, I have learned either you get it… or you dont. so my skin has gotten a bit thicker than one would think. As far as the encouragement card.. Its great when the music touches someone or makes them have a great time, Thats ALWAYS nice to hear. On stage with this band, I feel very fortunate to be playing with such talent…..sometime Chris ( Edwards ) and I make eye contact and both smile that smile that says ” It dont get much better then this”. For MANY reasons.

Q: How did you guys come up with the name ‘Leadville Social Club’?

Bob Graham, Brian Wilson, Bill Noonan, and Chris Edwards

Leadville is an old mining town in Colorado. Its the Highest incorporated city in the U.S…Chris and I were trying to agree on a name……Leadville stuck.. Our first gig at the Thirsty Beaver we were just Leadville .Randy Saxton and Geoff White sat in that first gig and nailed my songs they were hearing for the first time. After many PBR’s , I told the crowd ” This is like a Social Club”. It stuck. We have changeable band members ( since guys have other band schedules we all work around) that give us a different sound depending on that night. We have played with some GREAT players. Anybody know a dependable drummer, BTW?

Q: What music is inspiring you lately?

Bob Graham from Leadville Social Club, playing at The Double Door

For me, Howie Gelb (Giant Sand) is the shit, love Sun Kil Moon “Ghost of the Great Highway” cd,…….Neil with Crazy Horse, ……..this is just lately,right?

Q: Leadville plays some great covers in your shows — “So Much Wine” comes to mind. How do you pick the cover tunes that you want to play?

Randy Saxon & Geoff White

Cover tunes come about WHEN EVER we practice. Chris is a great writer and I wish he would write more……but he is also good at pickin out some “under the radar” covers.

Q: I see a lot of people at your shows who are obviously fans of Leadville Social Club. How do you encourage people to come out and enjoy your music?

Randy Saxon

I think word of mouth has gotten folks out. Has to be because we dont have a CD out, but we have a lot of gigs booked. Maybe its because we dont take ourselves serious . We just wanna share in the fun that night.

It’s Time

I’m a life-long music lover and a photographer.  I’ve been watching live music in Charlotte for years now but it’s time to take it a step further.

This blog is here for pictures of live shows and 5-question interviews with bands from or performing in the area.  My goal is a new show, a new interview, and a new post every other week.

If you have a local band and you want to be featured, leave a comment or contact me.

 

Live Music Is Best by Neil Carpenter (NeilCarpenter) on 500px.com
Live Music Is Best by Neil Carpenter