Skribe’s Postcards: A Special Delivery

Skribe fans know his minimalist approach.  He makes huge music and art with so few raw materials.  He kicks at a ratty old hi-hat cymbal and bass drum fashioned out of a battered suitcase while he yanks tunes out of yard sale guitars or a canjozookie, an 8-stringed creature made from an old oil can.  He plays a kazoo. skribe canjo-zookie It might look like an accident but it sounds like the sorcerer’s apprentice has enchanted a music store.  His sound and his vibe enchanted enough people to crowdfund his entire 2014 album, Less is More.  How one guy makes that much music is magic indeed!

In December of 2016, Skribe released Postcards, a collection of eight songs with him backed by a full band.  It’s exactly the album many of his fans already heard in their heads.  Anyone who has caught him live has seen plenty of high-test musicians lined up to jam with him and been treated to some obscenely good collaborations.  On Postcards, Skribe takes a road trip with all his musical buddies riding shotgun.  And from the first notes, you’re along for the ride.  This is a fun album!  And if you’re not careful, you might learn something too.

“Wide Awake,” the first track, is about insomnia.  You, fellow traveler, follow his imagination “…through the ceiling into outer space” and back again to the central questions of life.  How does he answer them?  He seeks “…the unturned stones still on the old frontier.”  The music buzzes and reverberates and sounds like infinity.  Six instruments include electric guitar, vibraphone and electric carillon.  After a few listens, you may actually dream about scenes from this song.  It won’t disturb your sleep but it might make you hum in the daylight.  It’s the new sound of ancient wisdom and wondering.

The deep thoughts continue on track two.  Yet “Common Ground” reminds us how simple life can be in the moment.  Horns and drums give the tune an international, festival kind of vibe.  He says, “…the settled heads of perfect pours rise with high demand so fill your soul or thirst for more but tonight won’t come again.”

“Home Sweet Home” would make a great rap.  Or it could have been a hit for Hank Williams.  Skribe grins that he’s gonna “…grow on you like a wicked weed.”   It’s a rambler’s tale of chasing a muse.

“Mayonnaise & Honey” is a rock song about passion.  You’ll get it.  It rocks.

The savory instrumental “Canned Ham Blues” is actually played on a hamjo.  Yep.  It’s a stringed instrument made from the can from a canned ham.  It’s all Skribe.

The song “M.I.Y” had its actual debut in a video Skribe submitted to the 2016 NPR Tiny Desk Concert series.  You can make it yourself.  It’s all about perspective.  In the video you actually see a tiny desk and the canjozookie.

The last original song on the record is “Partners in Crime.”  It could be a paean to his muse, his guitar, his band or his audience.  Whatever the meaning, he means it.  It’s obvious that Skribe, aka Aaron Yealdhall, is at home wherever he finds himself.  He’s enjoying looking for himself and for us.  At shows since the record’s release, he’s introduced himself saying “My name’s Aaron and I play in this band called Skribe.”

So fans can now have something in their hands that they’ve heard in their heads and hearts for a while.  Yes Aaron is Skribe but Skribe is also an idea, an entity.  It’s very Zen for garage folk.  It’s also rock, country and the blues with this big-ol’ band and high production values.  It’s the jackalope in the landscape, the wings on the vacuum tube, and the helmet on the dog.   On these Postcards, Skribe delivers some wonders of the world you will want to write home about and visit over and over.

The final song on the album is “Strangers” by Dave Davies of The Kinks, from their 1970 album Lola.  It says “Strangers on this road we are on, we are not two we are one.”  It’s a perfect fit with the journey metaphors of this album and brings us all home together.

Hello 2017: Charmed I’m Sure

Hello 2017.  I feel like you will be a momentous year for this Earth.  I vow to share all the love I have and music I can gather.  2016 took too many of my musical heroes.  But the music is still here and so are all the people it inspired.  I dedicate my work in 2017 to heroes passed, to being present and to building a future filled with inspiration.

I created a playlist of some of my most memorable shows in 2016.  I kept it to twelve songs by twelve bands but obviously I saw many more great shows and bands.  All of these bands worked their asses off to make the world a happier place and I thank them for it!  I reveled in new releases by Ton-Taun, a new musical pairing with Bjorn Jacobsen and Francois Byers and several new acts that really trip my trigger.  Yam Yam is a funk-rock band from Harrisburg that you can’t help but dig.  Bethlehem and Sad Patrick are so honest and human; they reach me on a biological level.  ovvls bbcOVVLS is an experimental psychedelic duo from Liverpool UK who blessed me with the opportunity to be their tour manager for 12 days.  I can’t look at that playlist and not feel optimistic about the future of music and the spirit of humanity!

Speaking of music, spirit and optimism: I’m hosting Music Friday concerts at 551 West in Lancaster every month in 2017!  shawanTo start the year right, Shawan and The Wonton will bring smooth soul, a touch of folk and a trunk of funk to town.  I feel like life is sending a healing angel on a day many may feel anxious or upset.  Come have some great food and drinks with us.  The show is free and it may free you too.  Shawan should give you a bump for a week!

By Friday January 27th, I predict you’ll be ready for some heavyweight blues.  We have a three-round pounder for you at Tellus360!  I named it Three Points of the Compass Blues because these three acts bring a world of blues styles and hail from three different cities.  ben-voOur center point and headlining is Benjamin Vo Blues Band from little ol’ Lititz.  His skills are ridiculous and he pours his heart into every note of vocals and guitar.  Nobody’s music made a bigger impact on me in 2016 than Ben’s.  Boom.

Hailing from the northern port of Williamsport is Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants.  I know these cats from Bullfrog Brewery.  Gabe is young on the outside and ancient on the inside.  He’s actually taking his band south: to The International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.  He’s actually the reason I created this show with Tellus360.  I hosted Gabe at 551 West in November.  Here’s one where Ben sat in!

Our southerner, from The Land of Pleasant Living, is Skribe.  You all know I love Annapolis and its bottomless well of talent.  Skribe is the guy standing there, grinning, cranking the handle and filling your cup.  It won’t take but a few sips of what he’s pouring before you’re loopy for his style. Skribe2 If you caught him when I used to bring him to Dispensing Company, on the main stage at FloydFest, or at any of his 200+ shows a year, I know I’ll see you at Tellus360 on the 27th.  This is a $10 show for just $5 folks!

Nothing like a bargain to start the year right!  Catch some feels with Shawan and The Wonton for free on Friday 20th.  Catch hold of the blues and shake that bugger with Three Points of the Compass Blues on Friday 27th for just $5.  I guarantee that will keep you boppin’ and rockin’ till Groundhog Day at least!

Fits & Starts for Roots & Blues

Are you having fits & starts over the schedule for Roots & Blues?  Do you know the phrase fits & starts?  In the case of deciding who to see, where and when during Lancaster Roots and Blues festival, the phrase could describe how you are wrestling with choices.  You decide who to see, you discover an option, you feel conflict and you flip.  It’s a good problem to have.  Don’t give yourself conniptions as my mother’s people would say.

Map-of-Festival-2016-LRB
I have to try and be everywhere at once.  It’s my job as Director of Operations.  Of course that’s impossible and I’ve learned to let it be.  I can’t introduce every band or even see every band.  I can’t stop what I’m doing and have a beer with every friend I run into.  So I build a framework for each night: start, middle and finish.  I try to mix business and pleasure into the decisions.  Then I let the chips fall.  All I have to worry about is getting everyone checked in, sound-checked, parked, fed, paid and pampered.

Friday 2/26.  By the time the VIP Reception opens at Lancaster Visitors Center at 5pm, I will have been on the job ten hours already.  So I’ll have a cup of Gerhart Coffee and a glass of Barossa Valley shiraz.  I’ll munch some delicacies by Chef Tim Carr.  I’ll hug and introduce my pal Kaleigh Baker before she performs solo acoustic.  Then I will dash to Convention Center to introduce Sweet Leda as they open the Main Stage at Freedom Hall B at 6pm.  I’ll get to boogie a few minutes there before I start the laps of this phase of operations: opening.

By 7:30pm most venues will have opened and the VIP event will be ended.  I’ll secure the Visitors Center and check in on the Food Truck Court on Market Street.  If I start a counter-clockwise lap from there, I’ll catch a bit of Sam Baker at Ware, Left Lane Cruiser at Tellus 360, The Ogham Stones at Elks Lodge, Banditos at Chameleon and Ten String Symphony at Trust PAC before introducing Kapali Long to open Dispensing Company’s stage.  Dude is coming from Hawaii to play our festival.  That’s my plan 7:30-9:30.

MaceoThat gives me 30 minutes to try and catch a few minutes of Marah at Tellus 360 and solve any festival problems before Maceo Parker hits the Main Stage at convention center at 10pm.  What could go wrong?  Of course I want to be there to see a legend and his 12-piece band show us what it’s all about.  That just doesn’t happen every day in Lancaster.   I hope to see 15-20 minutes before I begin the next phase of laps: finales.

Chameleon and Ware Center will be wrapping up between 11-11:30pm.  I hope to fit introducing Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants at Federal Taphouse into those laps.  They go on at 11pm and are some serious blues-rock pals who call Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport their home.  I know you never heard of them.  You heard it here first; be there!

Frog HollerAs I hit my 17th hour on the job Friday, I want nothing more than to introduce Frog Holler at Elks Lodge Ballroom and have my first beer of the night.  They will celebrate 20 years together in 2016 and for my money, they embody everything a roots and blues festival should be.  Last pause of the night will be at Federal Taphouse for Toronzo Cannon.  It will feel like being in Chicago and my feet will likely feel like I walked there!  Then it’s back to headquarters to review and prep for Saturday!

toronzo

Where’s the Love for G?

Thursday night 11/15 at Chameleon Club, I treated myself to another night of G. Love and Special Sauce.  The opening band, Guerilla Panda Dub Squad, played heartily but briefly.  I will keep my eyes open for another area appearance by them.  But I don’t miss G at the Chameleon and it’s safe to say the crowd was feeling the same way.

He opened with “Shooting Hoops” from the first album and people went nuts.  Then he slipped into “Who’s Got the Weed.”  Ten years ago that would have sparked many clouds rising from the dance floor.  This time it only brought security with flashlights.

The band played many crowd favorites: “I-76,” “Baby’s Got Sauce,” “Back of the Bus” and of course “Cold Beverage.”  G played a nice acoustic version of “Gimme Some Loving.”  I didn’t hear any new songs which surprised me.  Usually the band tries out a few new ones live before committing them to a new recording.  They played from 10:30 to 12:15.  That also surprised me as the last time they played Chameleon was a four-hour affair.

Two things at the show went beyond surprise to disappointment.  As I worked my way into a spot near the stage, some guy whacked me in the head not once but three times.  He was cursing me and asking who I thought I was to just move in front of him.  I was actually beside him but that’s not the point.  I moved back rather than picking a fight with this guy.  I have too much respect for Chameleon to cause trouble there.  As I got to the edge of the crowd, who should appear but former club owner and friend of mine Rich Ruoff.  I told him what happened and his reply was, “At a G. Love show?  What’s the world coming to?”  He asked if I was ok and we resumed our grooving but it was very upsetting.  If you are the guy who whacked me in the head, reply here and I’ll be glad to meet you on any corner in town.

The other upsetting thing was the distinct lack of an under-21 crowd.  When Lemonade was released on iTunes, people downloaded it that month more than any other album.  “Booty Call” and “Lemonade” were the singles but people downloaded the whole album.   G. Love and Special Sauce never got major radio airplay but they had a committed national following among young adults.  Where were they?  Did the Fixin’ to Die album with the Avett Brothers scare them off?  Was this show marketed wrong?

I suspect this is another symptom of “social mediatus”: confusing virtual reality with reality.  No amount of downloaded songs is going to provide you with a concert experience ie real socializing and seeing a band in person.  We veteran concert-goers need to get the next generation out there to some shows before venues turn into iPod bars!