Upcoming Show: Cracker at Mississippi Moon Bar in Dubuque, IA 2/7/09

Why is David Lowery smiling?

Friday was a day of surprises for me– I found out a new venue just opened in Dubuque called Mississippi Moon Bar that is part of the new Diamond Jo Casino. Last week was their grand opening complete with a VIP show with Cheap Trick. The wife of a guy I work with works at the casino so he filled me in on the details. It looks like there will be a pretty good selection of upcoming acts (for Dubuque, anyway– Darius Rucker? The Doobie Brothers?). I was really surprised to see a Cracker show listed on the calendar in February. I jumped in and got first row seats. Apparently every seat in the house is less than 80 feet from the stage according to my brother, Steve.

Anyway, any reason to see either Cracker or Camper Van Beethoven is a good reason, and Dubuque is a pretty short drive and it’s on a weekend. Tickets are on sale now and at least as of today there are still fantastic seats available on the floor by the stage. Tickets are $25 for regular reserved seats (or standing) and $35 for fancy table seats or boxed seats. I’ve never seen the venue, so I don’t know what those are like (or if they are really worth more than front row?).

Click Here for Cracker’s Official Website

Click Here for Cracker’s MySpace Page (which they apparently hate).

Click Here for the Mississippi Moon Bar site.

Upcoming Show: Chicago Soul Group Eli Jones at Mahoney’s, Cedar Rapids 12/7/08

Eli Jones is an eight-piece band from Chicago that delivers tight accomplished Soul and R&B that draws equally from the annals of classic R&B and Soul of Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin or Stax as it does from the contemporary renewed interest in authentic Soul and R&B delivered by Alicia Keys, John Legend or Joss Stone. The seven-piece Eli Jones band led by the tasty guitar tone of Brendan O’Connell deftly supports the vocal powerhouse of Stefanie Berecz.

The band started in 2005 as a trio and added horns and Berecz arriving at their current lineup in 2007. They released their first studio album Make It Right in November of 2007 and are planning to release their second album in the Summer of 2009. The band has been gigging steadily around the Midwest and played Mahoney’s in Cedar Rapids back in April to a receptive crowd.

The group is coming back to the area again next weekend playing The Busted Lift in Dubuque on Saturday, December 6th, and here in Cedar Rapids at Mahoney’s on Sunday, December 7th. I’m not sure about the cover at the Busted Lift, but the Mahoney’s show is FREE! I can’t think of a better way to wrap up a weekend than some soulful, funky R&B, really. You can always watch “Desperate Housewives” online or Tivo it.

Click Here for the Facebook Event Page– let the band know you’re coming!

Click Here to visit Eli Jones’s website. They have four songs that you can stream.

Click Here to visit Eli Jones’s MySpace Page

Click Here to see the shows up on Archive.org

Click Here to listen to an amazing acoustic “Candlelight and Satin Sheets” from Alice FM in May. The song is taken to an intimate singer-songwriter performance.

Upcoming Shows: Wye Oak in Iowa City and… Dubuque?

Wye Oak is back with another attempt to play Iowa City’s Mill. You may recall that they were scheduled to play the Mill back on June 15th in a bill that had Thrill Jockey new signings Pontiak. Your’s truly was to go and cover this, but the Floods of 2008 (as it will become known) prevented both the bands and me from getting to Iowa City. The route that the Iowa DOT was recommending to get to town took you over 200 miles out-of-the-way!

So, true to their word, Wye Oak is coming back to Iowa City– again at the Mill— on Wednesday 9/17 in a lineup that has Rock Plaza Central headlining and The Lonelyhearts opening.

More interesting than the Mill show (at least to me) is the fact that Wye Oak will be playing at Isabella’s in Dubuque, IA (my other hometown) on Saturday 9/10. Isabellas is a COZY little bar in the basement of the posh-ish Ryan House Restaurant. Since Wye Oak is a two-piece, they would fit on the little stage at the far end of the bar. But, the bar itself probably only holds 100 people or so– it would be a snug affair for certain!

Download four songs from If Children by Wye Oak

See a bunch of live videos of Wye Oak on YouTube

B-Sides in the Bins #28: Amazon.com part 2 – Limited Warranty

Neon, tissue box, sexy legs, and moody band shots...

Neon, tissue box, sexy legs, and moody band shots...

Limited Warranty – Limited Warranty (CD, Wounded Bird WOU 513, 2007) ($8.89)

It’s with slight trepidation and risk of any “cred” that I may have gained over the years that I write about this purchase. Limited Warranty is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me and is probably tainted and tinted by the gathering fog and mist clouding my memory of this band.

Limited Warranty was a band from Minneapolis that won the Star Search bands competition in 1985 which landed them a big cash prize and a single that was pushed for radio play. That single “This Is Serious” b/w “Never Enough” was recorded with former Psychedelic Furs drummer Vince Ely producing. The single enjoyed lots of airplay in the Midwest and toured extensively. They were eventually approached by ATCO, a subsidiary label of Atlantic to record their first album released in 1986.

This album, produced by Brian Tench who also worked with Orchestral Manoevers in the Dark, Bow Wow Wow and other New Wave Acts,  along with its first single “Victory Line” seemed to do really well. The album certainly got a lot of play in Dubuque on KLYV-105. Some of this, I believe, was because one of the member’s uncle was the station manager. Limited Warranty played in the Dubuque area quite a bit as I recall. I saw them play the Dubuque County Fairgrounds for a M.A.D.D. benefit with a couple of other bands. My brother Steve used to have the poster for this show “Fun-Tacked” to his bedroom door. We also saw them play the Circle in East Dubuque in the winter.

According to this very informative site on Limited Warranty, the band was recording demos for its follow-up album on ATCO when they were dropped from the label. Some of this material was included on their self-released EP called Domestic 7. They came to Dubuque around this time and made an in-store appearance at TJ’s Music World and did an interview on KLYV around this same time telling their story and pushing the EP. I bought the EP on cassette, and I still have it. I also picked up the album on cassette out of a cut-out bin at Musicland in Dubuque. I had always intended to rip these two releases to CD or mp3 but never got around to it.

Apparently, if you wait long enough eventually everything will be released on CD. While I was looking on Amazon for the Wounded Bird releases of the Del Fuegos first three albums, I was looking at the Wounded Bird site and found that the Limited Warranty album had already been released on CD since July of 2007! So, I ordered this one along with the first Del Fuegos.

Listening to it now, it certainly brings back a lot of memories. It is the pop hook-laden album I remember it to be. I had a co-worker listen to it, and his comment was that while it was pretty good and well-done, it was missing something that would have pushed it to the levels of label-mates INXS. I think it has something to do with the missing teenage angst or some level of darkness. It sounds as good as some of their contemporaries like the Psychedelic Furs, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Duran Duran, or OMD would have been turning out. The closest they get is the song “Domestic 7” about old folks homes with its samples of old people talking. The production is a bit thin, unfortunately, but very clean. I think this is a result of this album never having been released on CD so we are getting the limited bandwidth of the cassette or vinyl master. So, it could stand a remastering. Nevertheless, it’s cool to hear these songs again.

Thanks to Brian’s World for his Limited Warranty website— complete with mp3 samples of all of the releases!

Bo Ramsey and Stranger Blues Live in Dubuque 10/14/06

“I can’t believe that you came all this way to hang out here and hear the band play– you’re likeable.”
“Likeable” by Bo Ramsey

I managed to see one of the rare shows Bo Ramsey performed to promote his new album Stranger Blues. The last night of the mini-tour was in Dubuque, IA which is where my brother and sister-in-law live, so I called them up. Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties we used to go see Bo pretty much wherever he was playing, so it would be like old times. The venue was an art space/gallery that opened in the Warehouse district of Dubuque called “Voices Warehouse Gallery” which is in the Wilmac Warehouse, which will eventually have office space and condos.

Joining Bo on this run was a group assembled appropriately under the name “Stranger Blues.” This group represents two generations of Iowa-bred musicians. On drums was longtime sidemen Steve Hayes and on bass was Rico Cicalo both of whom worked on Stranger Blues. On B3 was Nate “Count” Basinger from the Iowa City R&B band The Diplomats of Solid Sound. Joining Bo on stage as rhythm guitarist was Bo’s son Benson Ramsey who is in the Minneapolis band The Pines.

The Voices Warehouse has only been open since September and it’s already had a couple of notable shows: the Bo Ramsey show and Andrew Bird played there the previous weekend. It’s a big open space with paintings and photos on the walls split up by artist and some sculptures on the floor. There’s a stage on one wall with old-time movie theater seats apparently bolted to the floor in rows as well as randomly spaced groupings of chairs and sofas. There is a bar of sorts off to one side made of polished limestone that was manned by members of the Dubuque Rotary who were serving three kinds of Menage a Trois wine and import beers like Corona, Heineken, and Amstel Light. Sadly the Rotarians forgot to get limes for the Corona and had to run out and get some. My brother called a friend of his who was joining us there and asked him to stop to get limes on the way there. When he showed up, the table we were standing at got pretty popular!

Running sound that night was Dubuque mainstay George Rondinelli. George has been running a music store in Dubuque for a very long time. George rents out sound equipment, but also shows up to run sound in a pinch. I bought my first bass amplifier from George, and spent lots of time in his store back in high school and college. George has the reputation of being of the genuine “good guys” when it comes to the music scene in Eastern Iowa. On more than one occasion, George lent out gear for acts that played the area and some piece of gear blew up. He managed to have the room sound great– which is quite a feat considering the building is a warehouse. I didn’t even need to put my earplugs in.
Bo Ramsey and Benson Ramsey Live in Dubuque 10/14/2006
Bo played two sets and an encore. Most of the music as you might expect was from Stranger Blues. I had heard reports from friends who attended the Waterloo and Iowa City shows that the first set was mostly drawn from the new album and a lot of it was, but pretty early in the first set he played “In The Weeds” and “Sidetrack Lounge” from 1997’s In The Weeds. Unfortunately, I was having too good of a time to keep notes on the sets, so I’m going to have to rely on foggy memory. I really think I prefer seeing Bo in a bar setting. Due to the size of the place, you had people sitting in the theater chairs and people stacked over by the bar. The bar folks were not really paying attention, and the people sitting seemed to be having a good time, however I remember the packed shows at the Silver Dollar in Dubuque and the Corner Tap in Cascade and Bo had the whole place rocking. My sister-in-law got her wish when Bo played “Get Away”– she sang along with the words. It was pretty clear that Bo and his band had their chops worked out. All of the years of touring Bo did with Steve and Rico helped propel this band to a well-oiled machine, too. Towards the end of the first set a collection of brave dancers formed at the right of the stage. The first set seemed to end too soon. Bo announced they’d take a short break.

I spent a good part of the break and part of the second set hanging out Jim Viner from the Diplomats who was along apparently to help Nate carry his B3 Organ. Jim’s a pretty cool guy. He filled me in on what was coming up for his band. They are going to play a number of regional dates and then are going to head to Italy for some shows.

I brought a copy of the CD I made of the Pines radio show from KUNI’s Live From Studio One in February with me. I was supposed to send a copy to David Huckfelt a while ago, so I decided to bring it. I ran into Benson at the bar in line and introduced myself and handed him the CD. We talked for a bit. I asked him about the solo record that he was working on. He said that the solo record project is parked for now and they are working on a new Pines record that will be released on Red House Records! Red House is the folkie label out of Minneapolis that Greg Brown has been on for years. That’s pretty good news! So, we’ll need to keep an eye on that. I also took the opportunity to mention that it’s really great that Bo is playing solo again and that it would be great if there would be more shows. Benson said that Bo is considering it.

The second set was, in my opinion, a more energetic set than the first. The “dance floor” to the right of the stage filled up and people started dancing in front of the stage as well! We were treated to more nuggets in the second set including “Rockinitis” from the Sliders album of the same name– which excited quite a few “Boficianados.” I don’t even remember the last time I heard that song live. He also did “Long Long Time” with its classic opening line, “A bug-covered windshield and a three-day beard/runnin’ down the road away from somethin’ I feared.” It was at this point when I joined in the dancing. I read in an interview online that Bo was wondering whether after all this time as a sideman that he’d be able to do some of the older songs. From my perspective he was playing as well if not better than any other time I’d seen him. Did I want him to play longer? Yes. The show was over after 11PM, which I feel was a bit early. But considering that this is the first time he’s played his songs in a while, I suppose that was as many songs as they could get rehearsed. It still was a great show, and I’m looking foward to any future shows he may do.

Bo is back on the road in support of Greg Brown. Of note is the fact that these upcoming shows are listed on boramsey.com as “Opening For and Appearing With,” so it looks like this run which starts 10/19 in Eugene, Oregon and continuing through a two night stop in Denver on 12/15 and 12/16. Based on previous shows I’ve seen with Pieta and Greg, it will likely be just Bo and Greg, so I’d say it will be Bo solo, which would be interesting. I’m hoping for some bootlegs to show up.