The last two times California Guitar Trio played CSPS they were heralding new eras for the venue. Their October 2008 show was the first show in CSPS since the Flood. They generously donated parts of the proceeds of the show to CSPS. Their 2012 show was after CSPS was re-opened following the substantial overhaul of the venue. So, it is certainly fitting that California Guitar Trio is back playing CSPS in 2016– the 125th year the venue has been in existence. Coincidentally, it is the 25th year of the Trio!
The band has been back in the studio working on a new album– their first since Masterworks, their 2011 album of classical music. The recording is complete, and mixing, mastering and the rest of the release process is left to do, so they’re going to do a Kickstarter to get that funded. Some of the perks from that Kickstarter include a DVD of rare video performances from the band’s archives!
The trio always sounds amazing in CSPS, so this is a show not-to-miss!
Wed Aug 3 2016 – 7:00 pm • CSPS Hall
$17 advance | $21 door
Some of the most special shows I’ve seen at CSPS have been the ones with Pieta Brown. Though Cedar Rapids isn’t her home turf, I feel like in some ways CSPS has become a 2nd home for her– she seems really comfortable with the crowd which is a mixture of Cedar Rapids and Iowa Citians and is capable of giving a very intimate show in the big space.
She’s returning this Saturday night, May 14th with Bo Ramsey opening with a special solo show and then joining her for her set. This show is a CD release show for her self-released EP of outtakes from her album Paradise Outlaw. I reviewed the CD titled appropriately enough Drifters for Little Village Magazine, saying “Although Pieta Brown thinks that the songs on Drifters have “many rough edges,” they provide a picture of what a double album might have been like. She offers these songs as an experiment, launching her own “underground” label imprint, Lustre Records. I’m looking forward to more collections of songs from her archives — Drifters is a great start!”
We’re getting a treat with Bo Ramsey opening for Pieta as he doesn’t do many solo shows. His last show was opening for Pieta at the Englert. I can’t remember the last time Bo played solo in Cedar Rapids!
To add to the things we’re thankful for this year, The Pines are making a return to CSPS Thanksgiving Weekend! The combination of the soft atmospheric folk of this band and the passionate, attentive crowds and the huge ambience of the room (and frankly, well stocked selection of handcrafted beers and local wines) always makes for a memorable not-to-miss show.
Above The Prairie includes help from the extended Ramsey and Brown families with contributions from Greg Brown, Iris DeMent, Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey, who also co-produced the album with The Pines. The first listen we’re getting from the new album is “Aerial Ocean” with Benson Ramsey on lead vocals, it has all of the trademark nuances of The Pines– the chimey clean picking, the washes of synths, but owes a lot to classic Dire Straits. But, they always kind of had that same vibe as mellow Mark Knopfler as well as JJ Cale.
So, grab a quick sandwich of leftover turkey and dressing on your way out the door to CSPS Saturday night to see The Pines. I can’t think of a better way to cap off the weekend.
Sat Nov 28 2015 – 8:00 pm • CSPS Hall
$16 advance | $19 door
Above The Prairie tracklist:
There in Spirit
Hanging From the Earth
Where Something Wild Still Grows
Come What Is
Time Dreams feat. John Trudell & Quiltman
One of my favorite albums of 2013 was JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound‘s third album Howl. I was already a fan of the band and their cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” was a smart, if calculated play to get some attention from the Indie Rock crowd.
But for me, the more sparse, stripped down– both musically and emotionally– approach of Howl was eye-opening. The album is reminiscent of 80’s soul like Fine Young Cannibals or Terence Trent D’Arby and maybe a little like The Smiths at times (particularly the guitars). The video for “Rouse Yourself” is really great with Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson in it.
JC and band have been in the studio recently working on their fourth album. Brooks told me that they would be performing some of the new songs on their upcoming live dates, which includes a stop in Cedar Rapids at CSPS in New Bohemia on Friday night! This will be the first time I’m seeing the band live, and I can’t think of a better place to catch them. Beautiful, big, room with a cozy bar on the side with great beer on tap and wine. If you haven’t been to CSPS yet this would be a great first show!
Friday, October 23rd CSPS/Legion Arts will be presenting a show I’m really excited about– two Iowa bands with their roots in electronic music– but both taking it to different places.
The opening band, MAIDS, calls themselves “Midwest Disco” and although the music certainly leans to a clubby disco sound, I’m not sure that “Midwest” adds any discernible spin to their music. Danny Heggen and Mickey Davis make something between Postal Service and Four Tet with the occasional Scissor Sister in for dance floor leanings. Midwestern, certainly, since they’re both from Des Moines but for electronic pop it holds its own against anything spun in a dusky, crowded club outside the rows of corn here.
The headliner Jack Lion is one of my favorite bands out of Iowa in the past few years and I’m VERY excited to be able to see them at CSPS as I think they’ll be able to really take advantage of the beautiful acoustics and general vibe of the attentive and warmly supportive crowds. Jack Lion is a jazz trio of trumpet, bass and drums that fuses electronic and ambient creating some really engaging and immersive soundscapes. They’ve released two EP’s so far “JAC” and “K L” and are working on a third (“ION” presumably). I wrote a review of the JAC EP for Little Village last year comparing it favorably to Kieran Hebden of Four Tet’s side project with jazz drummer Steve Reid. When I listen to Jack Lion, I can’t help but think about the experimental directions Miles Davis took and I’d like to think that he might have taken his music in this same direction.
Nellie McKay is in a lot of ways an artist from a different time. Compared to what is generally regarded as “pop music” currently, popular music from the 50’s/60’s and even the 70’s seemed to cut a much wider swath through genres. Jazz, Rock, Country, Folk and American Songbook. In that same spirit Nellie McKay has not been content staying in one genre– even per album in most cases.
For McKay’s sixth album titled My Weekly Reader, she opted to dive into the rich catalog of 60’s pop and rock and create an album of covers that demonstrates her incredible musical chops and catalog knowledge as well as presents the songs with her unique and smart sense of subtle irony and humor. While I really appreciate her original music more, the opportunity to see her dive into covers (as she did on her album of Doris Day covers Normal as Blueberry Pie) also reveals her influences.
And I haven’t even mentioned her stints on Broadway and film!
McKay is bringing her solo show back to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, April 28th. She was here in September of 2012 (which is where the picture above was taken). Her shows are a lot of fun– she’s a great artist, musician and wonderful singer. Her adopted stage personae at first seems a little scatterbrained, but she uses that disarming “aw-shucks” delivery to make some sharp and thoughtful commentary about everything from veganism to feminism to current politics. When she performed last time, she improvised a cute song about Iowa.
She was interviewed recently on NBC 4 in New York City about her new album:
She is a performer who continues to impress me and we are fortunate that she chooses the big stage at CSPS to bring her show. Don’t sleep on this!
I’m pretty excited about the lineup for Saturday night at CSPS– both bands put on great live shows, and we’re lucky to get them here in Cedar Rapids. Oh, and Twins will be bringing vinyl! In between sets DJ Tone Zone will be spinning records.
Sounds like a great night, doesn’t it? See you there!
The Surf Zombies with TWINS and DJ Tone Zone will start at 8PM on Saturday, April 26th. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
Ypsilanti, Michigan folk rock band The Ragbirds are a family-affair. Fronted by Erin Zindle on vocals, violin, mandolin, accordion, banjo and percussion (whew!) she is joined by her husband, percussionist Randall Moore and her brother T.J. Zindle on guitar. The current lineup is rounded out by Loren Krantz on drums and Brennan Andes on bass guitar and percussion.
With this many members of the band playing percussion you might imagine that The Ragbirds are a polyrhythmic sort– and you’d be right. The band calls their sound an “infectious global groove”– a mix of Eastern folk, afro-cuban, Celtic and African all poured into the funky stew. It sounds like a cross between Rusted Root, Camper Van Beethoven and Edie Brickell and New Bohemians to me.
The Ragbirds will be taking over the stage at CSPS in Cedar Rapids on Sunday night at 7PM. Shaking it to the grooves of The Ragbirds would be a great way to shake off the winter cold– so you should make a point of heading down to NewBo, and while you’re down there you should check out the restaurants, book store and the Farmer’s Market before the show!
In addition to their musical endeavors, the band also conducts workshops on “Eco-Touring.” The band has a diesel Ford F-350 van converted to use waste vegetable oil– using cooking grease from local restaurants and preparing it for use in their van. They won’t be conducting a workshop in Cedar Rapids, but I’m sure they’d be happy to talk about it after the show.
Back in June, Wisconsin six-piece band PHOX opened up for six-piece Seattle band Hey Marseilles at CSPS. Hey Marseilles was gaining some critical attention at the time and were on a run of dates in support of their new album Lines We Trace which included the great single “Heart Beats.” The band asked PHOX to open for this run of shows and the show I saw at CSPS had me enthralled– lead singer Monica Martin has a beautiful voice and the whole band has an astonishing amount of talent and skill. Monica is just getting her bearings as a frontwoman, but her stage banter with the audience the band was funny and heartfelt. It’s great to see this band getting more attention and it is clear it hasn’t gone to their heads.
We are really lucky to get PHOX back at CSPS– this time as the headliner with former Cedar Falls, IA-now-Twin Cities husband and wife duo Har-di-Har— another favorite band of 2013 for me. Julie and Andrew Thoreen have put together what amounts to a full band by sharing the percussion duties with a split trap kit while they take on guitar, keyboards and bass duties as well as vocals. And, what vocals they are! Very tight harmonies sounding a lot like British Folk from the 60’s and 70’s. I reviewed their three EP’s over the last year for Little Village including their latest Hard Parent/Thick Child:
I think it must have been a compilation CD that came with CMJ Magazine that included a song from the 90’s band Grant Lee Buffalo that lured me to purchase Mighty Joe Moon in 1994 or so. The album kicks off with the searing guitars of “Lone Star Song” and proceeds to swing bipolar between sweet folky acoustic and burning electrics all housed in HUGE unabashed reverb like only the 90’s could deliver. Needless to say this was exactly what my then 26-year-old self thought was the best thing ever! Playing though that CD this evening and writing this article, it is still surprisingly an exciting and emotional album for me.
I bought Fuzzy and Jubilee and listened to them quite a bit, but by the end of the last century I was listening to much different music and didn’t continue to follow what frontman Grant Lee Phillips was up to. As it turned out, he kind of abandoned the band in pursuit of a solo career, and has eclipsed the band in releases.
His most recent release came out in October, 2012 and is called Walking in the Green Corn. The album, which concerns itself with the extensive research that Phillips did regarding his Native American roots was recorded very quickly over the winter months leading into 2012. “I do my best work when nobody’s paying attention – including myself,” he recalls. “That’s what happened: it really snuck up on me. By the end of the year, I had most of the album written and recorded.” The resulting album leans more towards the thoughful folk acoustic sound than the often blistering electrics of his previous band, but doesn’t abandon the emotion and sentiment distilled from his mixed heritage. “Connecting to my ancestry is like having this deep trunk that’s embedded in the earth, with deep roots. It was always something that was important to my grandmother, who was Creek, and to my mother.”
Phillips is on tour right now and is bringing his show to the crown of the NewBo district, CSPS on Wednesday night at 7PM. Tickets are $17 in advance and $20 at the door. This is a rare chance to catch him– I don’t remember the last time he was in the area!
Click Here for information about the show at the Legion Arts website and how to get tickets.
The player on Phillip’s website has most of the new album in it if you want to check it out.
Last year Grant Lee Phillips was on tour with another CSPS alum Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket and WPA. Here are the two of the performing the title track: