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The Sideshow Tragedy, Rough Francis, and Waylon Speed at Higher Ground April 25, 2014   Leave a comment

I had a great time seeing some of the music I wanted to see last night. It always takes a bit of time to come down from doing the radio show on Thursday nights, so getting up extra early on Friday was a challenge. I worked 8:30-5, got home and ate some dinner. A bit after 7 I headed out and walked over to Higher Ground. The ticket line went fast and soon I was in the small room with a couple of dozen others. It wasn’t long until The Sideshow Tragedy hit the stage. Despite being a duo, they filled the room with energy from the first note. Guitarist and singer Nathan Singleton had a wild look in his eye, and played some wicked, dirty, bluesy slide guitar. He’s a master showman who hits a stinging note in one moment and is using his hands to articulate the lyrics in the seamless next moment. Drummer Jeremy Harrell was cool and composed and could change the song tempo on a dime. They said they had just recorded a new album in NY and played a mix of new songs, and songs from their excellent album Persona. Every song got louder and louder cheers, as the audience filled in and was remarkably impressed. Singleton broke the barrier on the last song when he hopped off the stage and prowled the front of the audience. The band put on such a stunning show that I can barely describe it!
When they wrapped up, I realized the room was almost full. I found a little space to stand in and waited for the next band. I was pretty tired, and not up for the usual mosh pit, so I hung back a bit.
Soon enough, ROUGH FRANCIS hit the stage. In the back, the volume was down a little and the guitars were mixed down a bit so the effect was not as strong as usual. They played a few songs and it was good, but not over the top. When I realized people were more rocking out than moshing, I move towards the front. Being closer to the speakers helped, and the sound started coming along. They tossed in a cover of an Iggy Pop song and everything just came together. The band were locked into the fast song, the audience was getting more into it, and half way in, Paul jumped into the crowd and played guitar while moshing with a couple of people at the front of the stage. He hopped back onto the stage, but the four of five moshers did not stop until the show was done. The band cranked it up and played killer versions of Righteous and Black and Red, and it was just perfect. The packed room was having a great time, and the band were at the top of their game. When it was time, they started Comm To Space so slowly, that I knew it was going to end up as one of the epic versions. It built and built, then slammed into the end section that sounds like it’s going to wrap up, until that final note springboards back into the song, and we all get to rock hard for a bit more. It was a fun and glorious show.
I was dead on my feet, but really wanted to hang out for Waylon Speed.  They did a pretty quick changeover and hit the stage with some country fueled rock and roll. They followed with Silver And Gold which had a nice epic build, that I would have loved if every fiber in my being did not want to crash. I made it about 4 songs then took the long walk home. I owe it to myself to go see them for real sometime soon. My limitations aside, it was a great night of music.

Lotus Land at Higher Ground February 8, 2014   1 comment

I had a good time seeing music last night. I got out of work early, took a bus to Shelburne, and had dinner with Mom, Dad and my brother Ken. After that, Ken and I headed to Higher Ground to check out Rush cover band Lotus Land. Usually, I’m not that into cover bands, but many of my friends have been raving about them, and I though it would be an easy way to drag Ken out to a show.
We arrived just after doors opened and chatted with some of Burlington’s coolest music people. We hung out with Mike Wilhide and his brother, Pat Cook, and all of the guys from Elephants of Scotland. Sadly, Rich Haskell could not be there as he was in New York celebrating the birthday of Scott Fultz by Seeing Cold Sweat.
My expectations of the show were pretty high, but I tried to not let it influence me, and just listen.
Shortly after 8, the band casually took the stage and set up. The opening guitar salvo signaled The Spirit Of Radio, and we were off. As the vocal kicked in, I was momentarily stunned. I expected them to sound close, but Chris Nelson’s voice was scarily dead on. Guitarist Bob Chartrand spiderwebbed his way through the solos and drummer Mark Dalton came as close to Neil Peart as you could hope. While the whole night lacked a little something (the fact that they weren’t Rush), it was so close that it was easy to wrap yourself in the veil of illusion and fly with it.
Much of the 2+ hour set was taken from Signals/Moving Pictures/Grace Under Pressure/Power Windows era. Songs like The Body Electric, Big Money, Analog Kid (with that great surging guitar riff) sounded great, rocked hard, and were fun to sing along with. Red Barchetta, early in the set, brought me along for the ride. The Camera Eye was enchanting from first note to last. They played the hits like Tom Sawyer and Subdivisions (though the sound guy kept not turning up the guitar microphone for the title line, it was almost there for the last one). They had the drummer do an intense solo, that I think was from A Show Of Hands. Ringing cymbals brought forth a killer YYZ. The crowning achievement of the evening was a spot on Xanadu. It was truly majestic!
They closed with a rocking Working Man, and threw in a little bit of Roundabout in the late part, but they did not make it off the stage before an encore was demanded. They saddled back up to the instruments and started Overture. They let it run through The Temples of Syrinx then morphed it into the Grand Finale, and that was that.
It was obvious that the band loved the music and loved playing it. More importantly, they had me rocking from first note to last. I’m still more excited to see bands play their own music, but if you are going to be in a cover band, this is the way to do it!