Thursday night, November 19th, was the last of the three shows that comprised Pieta Brown‘s Artist-in-Residence at the Mill Restaurant in Iowa City. Each show had different opening acts and gallery exhibits, and Pieta used these shows to try out different performance configurations. The first show was a solo acoustic show, the second was a duo show with Bo Ramsey, and this show was a full-band show. The band, dubbed “Skyrocket” was Bo Ramsey on guitar, Steve Hayes on drums and Jon Penner on bass. Effectively this her “Dream #9” band with a swap of drummers from Jim Viner to Hayes. The opening act was Dustin Busch, whose photographs were in the gallery and who joined Pieta on stage as well for the first show. The gallery for this show was an installation of Sandy Dyas’s photographs.
I was looking forward to this show because I really enjoyed seeing Pieta with a full band back in June and this is as close to her records as she can sound live. I think she has really come into her own as a songwriter, musician and performer since her self-titled debut in 2002. Certainly her solo, duo and trio performances are the style that is associated with her, but fronting a band on stage is a new mode for her, and one I hope to see more of because, frankly, I like the drive of the drums behind her songs. Talking to her after the show about it, I get the idea that she doesn’t want to put too much focus on the full-band configuration over the other forms. She isn’t going to tour the full band, I’d say– if only because of the complicated logistics and economics of touring a full band.
Dustin Busch aka “Dusty B” opened the show with a solo acoustic set. Dustin’s set was comprised of covers and original songs which showcased his “hill-country” blues style. Dustin’s amazing slide guitar style was coupled with a characteristicly mush-mouthed vocal delivery which reminded me of R.L. Burnside or T-Model Ford. He had a microphone pointed at his feet so that his foot stomping could be picked up. I was really impressed with the set– I’d like to see him play again sometime when he’s in the area. I had a great conversation with him after the show about old blues artists– its clear his passion is in this as he possesses a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of this topic. I could have talked to him for hours! I managed to capture his set-closer which was an instrumental cover of Al Murphy’s “Quail is a Pretty Bird” with my iPhone which you can see below. This song is typically a fiddle tune, but Dustin transforms it for guitar.
Because the stage was occupied by more people, it left less room for the neat stage props, so Stan Crocker created a new set incorporating some of the original props, but included a steer skull and an interesting blanket of lights you can see in the above picture. I wish I would have gotten a wide-angle shot without the band– it was really cool.
Pieta brought out her new Reverend Flatroc electric in Rock Orange, although in these pictures under the red lights it appears that the guitar matches the pink in Pieta’s outfit. She was playing it through a Fender Silverfaced Twin Reverb, which according to an interview with Nick Stika I read with Bo Ramsey in Premier Guitar, is actually modded to a blackface circuitry. This means that it is a later Fender tube-based amp from the CBS period, but has been modified to the same circuitry a pre-CBS “blackface” spec. (sorry about the guitar gear geek stuff…).
The set was great, and included a run of songs that were very suited to the full-band experience. It was pretty evident that the Bo/Steve/Jon backing band was a good choice– they play together very frequently and it shows how easily they can be dropped into a setting like this. The crowd started warming up to the band and some people started dancing. I’ve said it before– I really like hearing Pieta with a full band– the energy is palpable and infectious.
Pieta was her typical humble and gracious self– thanking people for coming out and thanking the Mill for letting her try her “experiment” and stated that she hoped to be able to do this again.
This show’s art exhibit was one that I was really looking forward to– the Sandy Dyas installation. She utilized the backroom to its fullest with a sort of “mini” installation of her “Heaven & Earth” exhibit which will open at Simpson College in Indianola, IA on January 11th and will run through February 5th. She is using the walls as a larger canvas– if you will– where she is hanging photographs in groupings in relation to each other– the juxtaposition of which offers an interpretation of the subjects wider than the individual photos. Graphic arts is about the use of space, and this exhibit will be an interesting and compelling exercise.
After it was all said and done, these shows accomplished what Pieta set out to do– she got an opportunity to work out some of her material in different stage settings– a sort of warm-up to the touring she will be doing in support of her Shimmer EP and the upcoming full length this year on Red House. She also used these shows as a way to show the community of artists that exists in Eastern Iowa. I moved back to Eastern Iowa to follow a career opportunity, but I was also very excited to come back to the area to see the music and arts scene I grew up around. I hope that Pieta attempts another series of shows like this– there are a lot more artists and musicians who could benefit from the exposure Pieta could bring to them in this setting.
Pieta Brown and Skyrocket Setlist:
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
In My Mind I Was Talkin’ to Loretta
You’re My Lover Now
I Don’t Want To Come Down
Rollin’ Down The Track
Lovin’ You Still
How Many Times
Red Apple Juice
Looking the World Over (Memphis Minnie cover)
Dustin Busch Performing “Quail is a Pretty Bird”
Pieta Brown and Skyrocket performing “Hey Run”
Click Here to see my full flickr set of pictures from the show.
Click Here to read my review of the first This Land Is Your Music show on 11/5/09
Click Here to read my review of the second This Land Is Your Music show on 11/12/09