first show of 2007

Only minutes ago I was driving Southbound from downtown Minneapolis on 35W. Here's the view from my steering wheel. This late night drive is become familiar to me, thanks to the great opportunities I've had over these past few Tuesday nights playing with local up and coming songwriter Michael Morris and his band. On my car stereo was spinning the Merle Haggard tribute album I just received via featuring great covers by my recent obsessions Marshall Crenshaw and Peter Case, plus other cool artists like Lucinda Williams and Joe Ely. It's a good tribute record.

Tonight with Michael's band I played accordion, melodica, and harmonica, and after three shows I'm feeling pretty familiar with the tunes. Michael Morris' songs are superbly classic sounding folk-rock with nice geographic images and very beautiful and clear melodies. It's ideal stuff to play with keyboard instruments 'cause I can sneak in and out of the arrangements and echo these very nice melodic lines, with lots of multi-step jumps and hooks and turnarounds. I have a mid-80s "Guitar" magazine featuring an interview with Eric Bazilian from the Hooters (one of my fave writers) and he says that the best songs are ones you can play with one finger on a piano keyboard, and Michael's songs are like this. Here's a photo of Michael.

We wrapped up the show tonight, but before us were a huge lineup of opening acts that I enjoyed immensely. Very first was Beau Kinstler who I've seen a couple times before there...he's a 400 Bar regular act. Good vocalist, and his singing (and songs, too, for that matter) is a dead ringer for post-Summerteeth Jeff Tweedy.

Next on stage were some VERY fun and interesting acts: the evening's host was comedian Derek Hughes, a magician and comedian originally from Minneapolis and now working in LA. VERY professional, very funny, and totally rocking magic tricks. I have no clue how magicians do their thing, and it blows my mind every time. Another local comedian Mary Mack was up next, and she, too, was fantastic. Her stage presence was a bit like Victoria Williams crossed with Frances McDormand from the movie Fargo or something.

Seeing these comedians was simultaneously inspiring and depressing. Inspiring because they're so obviously gifted and dedicated, and they're out there doing the real thing, following their showbiz dream. Depressing because here are two people with the talent and charisma to be nationally-known celebrities, but they're slaving in obscurity...and if THESE brilliant acts can't make it, how in the heck is Jonathan Rundman supposed to make a dent? Derek even talked about this in his he moved to New York (and now LA) and realized that ultimately his goal is to BE FAMOUS. And so he's searching for that one special angle or perspective that will allow him to climb those last few rungs to serious success.

Speaking of being nationally known and famous, the musical act that played before us was songwriter Marc Perlman of The Jayhawks, and featuring guitarist Jim Boquist formerly of Son Volt. I've been listening to Perlman's music since 1989, and I've been a huge admirer of Boquist's instrumental offerings for over a decade. Now that the 'Hawks are done, I guess Perlman's trying to get back out there, maybe as a solo act. The songs were melancholy mid-tempo soul-country tunes, not unlike some Jayhawks tunes, and many of them with lead vocals by a woman named Janey Winterbaum (or something like that). It was the first time Perlman had played this stuff in public, and it was interesting to see someone who has spent the past nearly-20 years touring the world and playing big clubs and theaters, once again back on a small stage for a couple dozen gabby hipsters. I wonder how he felt about the evening? I thought about introducing myself to Boquist and Perlman, but ended up leaving them alone.

Thanks again, Michael, for inviting me to play! It was a good evening, and it felt satisfying to be out in the real world, with great musicians, a polite audience, fresh and tasty songs, and cruising after midnight down quiet freeways with loud music on the stereo.

Oh, and happy birthday to my son Paavo, who was born 3 years and 8 hours ago.


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