Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bill Kirchen & Redd Volkaert, Ada Riverhouse ~ 7/25/15

Doors opened around 5pm and we arrived around 5:30 with our lawn chairs, for our first ever concert at the Ada Riverhouse.
Concert was to begin at 6pm and from 5:50 to almost 6:30 the opening act, Luke Warm and the Not So Hots, played around with sound checks. But the bluegrass/country band finally started in full swing and played for a solid hour.
Luke Gitchel, lead singer in his plaid shirt and baseball cap, was entertaining and incredibly talented. "Here's a song I wrote, 'I got drunk last night'." "My Mom's real proud of this one." But he followed that up with a murder ballad he also wrote, about Sarah May, and his mother is probably a little happier with that number.
Around 8pm Bill Kirchen and Redd Volkaert were up on the stage and doing their own setup work. They don't have "people" and they didn't have a back-up band or musicians. It was sweet and pure music.
Just before they started and intermittently throughout the concert, Jerry the Promoter would make an announcement via his megaphone. We haven't seen one of those in years.
He not only called for another number by Luke Warm but also continually plugged raffle tickets for a guitar, that Bill claimed he was only allowed to play twice. Bill would have liked to win it but thought there would be a whiff of impropriety if he did. He went on to play "One Woman Man."
Bill and Redd started with "Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods," "Crazy Arms," and "Down to Stems and Seeds Again Blues" (Bill: I told my mother it was an agricultural song). Redd Volkaert then sang "She's Gone Gone Gone" and the guitar playing was magnificent. "Always Late With Your Kisses" was a little long and repetitive but "Oxblood" was rockabilly awesomeness.

Someone from the audience shouted out "Two Triple Cheese" and Bill sang what he could remember from his Commander Cody days.

But the last number before their break was one we were waiting for, more famous than Two Triple Cheese from Commander Cody, "Hot Rod Lincoln." Bill added in a musical history of styles and families (here's the King family) that was hilarious. The only wrong note played was a reference to the Edmund Fitzgerald, asking it to move over for the Lincoln. Growing up mostly in Michigan he should have known there was nothing humorous about the Edmund Fitzgerald going down in Lake Superior.
So a break at 9:05, resuming at 9:25, and finished at 9:45, called on account of darkness. Musicians playing by their cellphone lights to the end. "Wine wine wine do your Stuff." But no amount of wine can undo seeing the cutoff men's sleeves, a confederate flat hanging out of a jean's pocket, cowboy boots and shorts, and the t-shirts.
Ada Riverhouse put out a nice spread with a beer table, a wine & liquor table, and food featuring brats or cajun sausage, beans, and potato salad, for a small price.
We learned to appreciate the concert rules at Frederik Meijer Gardens as we were subjected to high chairs and smoking. A few cigarettes and some pot we could tolerate but cigars wafting throughout the area was revolting.
And no shirt? Keepin' it classy.
Great to have this high chair plunked in front of us. A trainwreck indeed.
Many people had their own labeled chairs.
We loved this concert and venue with its easily accessible food and beverage tables. But it was interesting that there was no security, no rules about smoking, no lights, and no cares about photos or videos.
We had to keep moving to stay out of the sun and this group was huddled early on under the tree.
A friendly neighbor took some group photos of us and was creative in his instructions.
But one person couldn't follow the simple instruction of where to look (you know who you are).
We took great pleasure in moving in front of high chair man later in order to stay out of the sun. And he was very gracious about it, not knowing what an irritant he had been to us. We caught a sunset on the way home and we're happy to have experienced the talent of Bill Kirchen right here in Ada, in spite of the t-shirts & cigar smoke.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Doobie Brothers at Frederik Meijer Gardens ~ 7/5/15

We had a new strategy tonight. Instead of waiting in line for an hour to get a close seat, we would wait to arrive until 15 minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin. So we got there at 6:45 (45 minutes after the doors opened) and the lines were still there! Ugh! But we got in in about 10 minutes and found a nice space on the side, shared with the evergreens. 
We started to set up our chairs but were informed by a Meijer volunteer that our chairs could not be in between the white sprayed painted lines. Those were reserved for people who bought the white plastic chair seats. Sitting behind this group, outside white line, was our next option but our neighbors to the front kindly offered to move up so we could fit in the space. Cheers to being a good neighbor!
Lara Johnston (daughter of Doobie founding member Tom Johnston) was the opening act and she started just a minute or two after seven. She had a powerful voice but we didn't care for her music. She did have a stage presence, however, strutting the stage in what we call stripper heels (with an alien in the background :-).
She did do the most talking of the evening as she described watching the fireworks downtown Grand Rapids the evening before. "You guys know how to celebrate in the bestest way." Sigh. She finished by 7:30 and we had to wait until 8:00 for the Doobies to appear. And it was steamy hot.
We spotted our son and his friends on the other side of the amphitheater and tested the camera's zoom capability ~ it was good. But I still walked over to say hi :-)
From our vantage point, we easily spotted the Doobies arriving and assembling on stage left.
They boldly opened with the blockbuster "Jesus is Just Alright with Me," and it was grand.
There are two founding members still with the group, Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston (1969). John McFee has been with the group since 1978, and group itself has been off and on again through the years. This tour they were joined by saxophonist, Marc Russo, and bassist, John Cowan, who played with the group in the early nineties and joined again in 2010 as their touring bass player. There's the line-up.
They took turns behind the microphone.
McFee was amazing as he continually switched among what seemed to be a dozen different instruments.
And everyone was taking pictures.
The group continued to march through their set with energy and power, and with very little talk. They were on a mission to put on a great show by playing great music. No banter required.
They performed all the songs they knew we'd want to hear, and added a few newer numbers. I didn't think about Michael McDonald until they sang "Takin' it to the Streets" and we didn't miss him. "Long Train Running" closed their set, just shy of 1 1/2 hours of playing.  They didn't make us wait long for their three number encore ~ they were back on stage in 2 minutes to perform "China Grove," "Road Angel," and "Listen to the Music."
And, then they were gone. Peace out, Doobies, until next time. You still put on a fantastic show, and are indeed a long train running!