Rick Wakeman: Interview

Okee dokee folks…The man with a cape and keyboards is headed to Fall River on October 19. Legendary Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman hits the Narrows Center for the Arts with his Even Grumpier Old Rock Star show. I spoke with Rick last week via a Zoom call.   

Rick Wakeman: Hi, John! Hi, my friend!
John Fuzek: Hi, Rick, where are you? in England?
RW: Yes, I am on the East Coast in an area known as East Anglia where I am sitting somewhat soaking wet ’cause I’ve just taken the dogs for walk in the rain
JF: I have been to East Anglia!
RW: Whereabouts did you go?
JF: Norwich
RW: I’m not far from Norwich
JF: I have friends out there!
RW: It’s a lovely county
JF: I wanted to move there, I thought it was beautiful!
RW: You know, there are number of people who come to visit and actually stay, a lot of people in the entertainment business or the acting fraternity, it’s amazing the number of people who’ve got houses around here 
JF: Wow, yes, it is a beautiful area and when i came back and landed in Boston it was depressing, the culture difference was maddening, it was like night and day, anyway, so you are doing the Grumpy Old Man tour…
RW: Yeah, even grumpier
JF: Well, you’re 72, you’re not that old
RW: Ah, thank you! That’s the nicest thing anyone has said in a long time!
JF: I have a friend who is a little older than that and he still does stage work!
RW: Excellent, well I am still trying, trying hard, it’s um, funny enough the playing and being around recording and doing concerts is good but the traveling gets to you a little bit sometimes, I used to enjoy the traveling but sometimes you’ve got a ten hour drive and walk straight onto stage after, when you get to my age it gets a little tough, it’s like “oh, really, I have ten minutes to have a cup of tea?”, it’s fine, I do try to take a but more care of myself  than I have done for ages, when the pandemic started my hands were getting stiff, this isn’t very good, so I started, when the lock down was lifted, this might sound funny, I started a fitness regime, which my wife calls a “fatness regime”, but I actually feel better for it, we’ve increased it for the tour because one of the things that I have understood in recent years, certainly since the pandemic, is that if you want to do your best on stage you’ve really got to be as healthy as you possibly can, so that’s been my aim for the last year and since the restrictions were lifted over here and I do feel better for it
JF: That is encouraging, i am a musician as well and I basically do the same thing where i drive to gig and literally get out and play, I’m 60 and my hands are getting stiff having guitar related hand issues
RW: What has helped is walking the dogs a couple miles a day, you end up walking 14-15 miles a week that you normally wouldn’t walk
JF: I did that when I had dogs but now I have cats, I guess we could walk around the house together
RW: We’ve got three rescue dogs and three rescue cats and the cats are the boss, the cats boss the dogs around and it’s quite funny
JF: I believe it! So, I generally read up on people before I interview them, this will sound stupid, but I read your Wikipedia page and after i read it all the last line says “Rick Wakeman does not like Wikipedia”
RW: Well, it’s so inaccurate in many places, I went on once to correct a bunch of stuff and as I was correcting it someone was putting it back to the way it was before-totally incorrect, I mean Wikipedia does a decent job, I mean I use it like everyone does when you’re looking up things and you kind of accept that there might be things that aren’t 100% correct, but at least it hasn’t got me down as dead!
JF: That’s a good thing, but after reading that Wikipedia page and all the health issues that you’ve had it is definitely a good thing!
RW: Yes, I have pushed the boundaries, as they say, over my life, I am very grateful to still be around and still be able to play, and because I enjoy it so much it’s probably one of the reasons that I am trying to get myself really fit, I’d like to be around for a long time, my wife and I have been together for 20 years and married for 10, she’s 25 years younger than me, hopefully wen she gets to 75 I’ll still be around at 100, I say still be around, she’ll be pushing me around, I’ve got so much, a lovely family, six kids, thirteen grandchildren, a fantastic wife, my work with animal welfare charity, dogs and cats, living in a lovely part of the world, plus being able to play, I just find that so, so good that i want it to last forever!
JF:  I didn’t know about the animal welfare things, I am a huge animal lover
RW: I am an ambassador for Animals Asia, we save as many moon bears as we can from the bear bile farms, which basically kills the bears, we’ve got about 600 in a sanctuary in Cheng Du, I’ve got a moon bear myself called Moon, he’s in the sanctuary, and also I am involved with a charity saving suffering strays where we save street dogs from Eastern Europe, mostly Romania an Bosnia, we’ve actually got two street dog rescues from Sarajevo from the war zone who were so badly treated it was unbelievable, we got them home and they are the most adorable, lovable dogs, and this one might sound strange but recently, just two weeks ago now, our third dog arrived, a little Labrador, she was bought from the meat trade, from the butchers in China
JF: I cannot even fathom how people can do that
RW: luckily, as part of the charity that we are involved with they bought her, it literally was like, “how would you like her?” and I said, “on a lead, please”, it took seven months to get her here, and she’s gorgeous, they all get along great, and we’ve got three rescue cats, one in particular, we call him GT, he eats a lot, he’s the big boss, the dogs are terrified of him, TERRIFIED of GT, and the ten year old Lab/Bernese Mountain Dog mix, Garrow, he’s huge, but a real softy, he’s terrified of little GT, it’s really funny, GT hides around the corner of the door and when the dog’s face appears, and Garrow goes, “oh, no it’s him”, it’s lovely, we are heavily involved in that.
JF: That’s great! I respect you even more now. I already did before but I really respect people who help animals, they are a huge part of my life, I’ve been a vegetarian for 35 years because of that
RW: Right, they are the voiceless ones, a friend of mine, a wonderful actor, Peter Regan, says, “someone has to speak for the voiceless ones”
JF: Ricky Gervais does a lot of that as well
RW: I know Ricky very well, he’s heavily involved as well as Brian May, Brian, Ricky, myself and Peter Regan, Susan Nichols and a few others, there’s quite a few of us and we’re not frightened to say what we think, we were also involved with helping Pen Farthing get his animals back from Afghanistan…when I look at our three dogs they are just so gorgeous and so loving,  and Pete Regan says they’ve all got lots of love to give they just need the opportunity to give it
JF: I put my dogs on the cover of my CD and named it A Dog’s Age and wrote the title track, “A Dog’s Age”
RW: Brilliant! I always put pages in the program for the different animal welfare charities and I did record a trilogy a few years ago which started off being written about the cats, it’s called “Cathedral Cats”, I’ve never done anything with it but i was thinking of adapting it and making it all of the animals that I am involved with, there were two bears, moon bears, I had one called Rocky and one called Cyril, both sadly died because the bear bile trade causes them to have kidney failure, I wrote a piece called “Rocky” and another one for Cyril, they’re both around on YouTube somewhere, I felt such a sense of relief after having written them, that I’d actually done something, just talking to you I might just resurrect the “Cathedral Cats” thing and look at all the animals that I have been involved with over the years and then do pieces specifically for all of them
JF: I would love to hear that…so, I watched a video of you, it’s a few years back now, when you were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it was a view from over your keyboards and it showed your hands just flying across the keys with such a light touch, it was amazing
RW: I don’t see that very often because I play 95% of the time with my eyes closed, and that stems from one early piano teacher from the age of 5 right through when I went to the Royal College, and from day one she said to me, “you’re going to learn to read music and you’re going to learn pieces, once you know the pieces I want you to put the music to one side, close your eyes and see pictures of the music, cause music is painting pictures, I want you to paint pictures and it can be anything you want as long as it depicts the music in your mind”, and I’ve always done that and i still do it to this day, so quite literally 95% of the time I am playing with my eyes closed and I see pictures all the time
JF: Well, we are almost out of time so I just want to wrap this with one more question. What can we expect at your Grumpier Old Man Show at The Narrows on October 19th?
RW: A bit of a mixture, I am taking a couple of keyboards as well as a piano so it enables me to do some pieces that work better on keyboards than piano, things like some of the organ pieces, the church organ type pieces that I’ve done, there’ll be that and there’ll bit the odd, slightly serious moment, which doesn’t happen very much…I want to do something that is a sort of a Q&A, when people arrive they have the chance to write some questions or anything they want and they can be put in my dressing room at half time…I’ll look at the questions and there’s bound to be a few that are the same and there’s bound to be a few weird ones and just at a couple of places in the set i will get those questions out and either give incredibly good answers or incredibly stupid ones, I think the odds are they are more likely to be stupid.
JF: It’s just going to be you on stage, solo, correct?
RW: Just me with a grand piano and some keyboards
JF: Thank you for taking the time to talk! I will see you on the 19th!
RW: You certainly will. Cheers!

Rick Wakeman brings his Grumpier Old Man Tour to the Narrows Center for the Art on October 19. For more about the show “Roundabout” to: NarrowsCenter.org Also coming up at the Narrows: Rodney Crowell, Leo Kottke, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, Suzanne Vega, Samantha Fish and much more!

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Farm Aid 2021: Concert Review

Okee dokee folks…Last week I was fortunate to attend the 2021 edition of Farm Aid. For those of you who don’t know about Farm Aid it’s a fundraising and awareness raising concert/organization dedicated to helping family farmers and promoting good food. 

Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson in 1985 and was inspired by an off the cuff remark made by Bob Dylan at Live Aid that maybe some of the money raised could be used to help family farmers. Nelson inducted the help of Neil Young and John “Cougar” Mellencamp and they presented the first Farm Aid concert in September of 1985. That massive, all star line-up included Alabama, The Beach Boys, Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, John Denver, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Foreigner, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Sammy Hagar, Daryl Hall, Don Henley, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Rickie Lee Jones, B.B. King, Carole King,Kris Kristofferson, Lorreta Lynn, John Mellencamp, Joni Mitchell, Willie Nelson and Family, Randy Newman, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Bonnie Raitt,Lou Reed, Kenny Rogers, Brian Setzer, Eddie VanHalen, Neil Young with The International Harvesters and still many more. I watched the entire thing live on MTV back when they still actually featured music. 

Since its inception Farm Aid has raised many, many millions of dollars to help farmers and has presented 35 annual live festivals. Last year’s event was virtual due to the pandemic. The show at Xfintity Center was back to a live, in person event. The concert sold out in just days. Unfortunately soon after, Neil Young bowed out of the concert over Covid concerns. Still the main board members/performers: Nelson, Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and newest member, Margo Price remained part of the show as were a host of other performers-Tyler Childers, Nataniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Bettye LaVette, Jamey Johnson, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Allison Russell, Particle Kid, Ian Mellencamp, and the Wisdom Indian Dancers. Sturgill Simpson canceled a few days before the event due to laryngitis.

The show kicked off with a performance and blessing from the Native American group, Wisdom Indian Dancers. Organizer offspring performances by Ian Mellencamp and Particle Kid (Micah Nelson) followed. Nelson gave a nod to the absent Neil Young with a raw rendition of “After The Gold Rush”. Johnson, Lukas Nelson w/POTR, Russell, LaVette, and Childers followed. Ratecliff’s set included a rendition of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” that had Lukas Nelson joining in. 

Between sets videos from farmers played to alert the audience to the plight of their way of life. There was an emphasis on Black, female, and Native American farmers as well as nutritional and sustainable ways of growing. A Native American, woman farmer in one video commented, “It doesn’t matter who’s to blame, it matters who’s going to show up and fix it!” 

The set of the day belonged to new Farm Aid board member, Margo Price. Price and her band, which includes her husband Jeremy Ivey, performed a very satisfying set which included another nod to Neil when she played “Homegrown” with a little help from Micah and Lukas Nelson. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds strummed and picked through energetic, acoustic renditions of Matthews music. “Today we will raise a little money and a little awareness for the people who grow our good food” exclaimed Matthews when he addressed the audience. John Mellencamp, puffing on a cigarette, took the stage next with a very stripped down band of accordion, guitar, and backing vocals. He spoke of how in 1985 he received a cold call from Nelson asking him to join in on the Farm Aid cause. While playing his signature, “Jack & Diane” he razzed the crowd for messing up the song despite having “40 years to learn it”. Mellencamp’s set included the poignant song “Rain on the Scarecrow” which was surely part of the reason he aligned himself with Farm Aid. Willie Nelson closed out the night with his family band that included his two sons, Micah and Lukas. 

Farm Aid is about more than just the music. The music and performers attract the attention but there is so much more to a Farm Aid concert. There is the Homegrown Village. Here there are countless informational booths where you can learn about farms, farming techniques, food, alternative approaches to food production, and just about anything about food and farming you could imagine. You can talk one on one with local experts in the field. In addition there were panel discussions on many farming related issues. These discussions included performers Ratecliff, Price and Russell. Many of the food concessions were stocked from local and organic sources. The issues of Farm Aid and what they do does not just happen one day a year in September, it is a year round cause. The festival is just the tip of the iceberg; it just emphasizes the cause. 

Unfortunately the most outspoken person at a Farm Aid concert, Neil Young, was not present. Young tends to drive the point home during the pre-show press conference and at many points during his set, sometimes to overkill. Unfortunately there was not a pre-show press conference this year. During the 2018 edition he constantly instructed the audience to shop at farmer’s markets by calling out to the crowd, “What are you going to do when you pass a farmer’s market?”. “Stop in” is the response he looked for over and over. 

As much as the between set videos were informative I wonder how much attention was paid to them? Were they mainly for the internet viewers or the in-person attendees? I did catch a lot of info from the video segments but I feel that more talk about the cause by performers on the big stage would have gotten the message across better and reminded folks what the event is really for. 

Ever since the very first Farm Aid in ’85 I have been interested in the cause. Attending the concert made me feel like a small a part of the solution. I can relay the points of the Farm Aid cause here and hopefully turn others onto the message and the music as well. Even small things like purchasing a t-shirt helps out. This can still be done online. Though the $45 price tag for a shirt may seem hefty it is helping out the cause financially and with the message. Every little bit does help. 

I spent my day at Farm Aid photographing the performances and Homegrown Village activities. You can view the full album here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=motifri&set=a.4396235650455790

Farm Aid is a year round campaign. If you want to learn more, donate, watch performance highlights, or just buy some of the great merch that they have available, then plow on over to: FarmAid.org

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Rocking Out in October: Picking Up The Concert Scene

Okee dokee folks… It’s pumpkin spice season. Not that I am a fan but I am at least glad that the summer is over. I saw a meme that read “pumpkin spice vaccines available”. If it was real maybe more folks would get it. Here I am eager to get vaccine #3 and there are folks out there still unvaxxed. We are still in the midst of a pandemic and people are still getting sick and dying though you might not know it by some folk’s behavior. I applaud those venues who are requiring vaccines to attend shows. I hope that more and more do it until the unvaxxed have nowhere to go. These are the folks who are prolonging the pandemic. Hopefully they realize this sooner than later but I won’t hold my breath, well, maybe if I am in their presence I would. Bring your vaccination card with you everywhere, it’s like a VIP membership! Read on… 

The man with a cape and keyboards is headed to Fall River on October 19. Legendary Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman hits the Narrows Center for the Arts with his Even Grumpier Old Rock Star show. I spoke with Rick from his UK home last week via a Zoom call. Read that interview here: MotifRI.com For more about the show “Roundabout” to: NarrowsCenter.org Also coming up at the Narrows: Rodney Crowell, Leo Kottke, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, Suzanne Vega, Samantha Fish and much more!

At the Knickerbocker in Westerly, Christine Ohlman headlines the Women’s Voices 4 show on Sunday October 10. Ohlman is the long-running vocalist for the Saturday Night Live Band and is known as “The Beehive Queen” for her towering blonde hairdo. Appearing with the Christine are Rebel Montez members: Cliff Goodwin, Lorne Entress, and Wolf Ginandes. The show begins at 2 pm and also features The CarLeans, Kala Farnham & Co., and Midnight Anthem. This show benefits the Rock and Roll Camp For Girls at the Institute For The Musical Arts (ima.org). For more, Muscle Shoals to KnickMusic.com 

Smithfield’s superstar Sarah Potenza returns to Rhode Island for a homecoming concert at The Met on October 23rd. Joining her for this show will be the Smithfield High School Chorus as well as Voice contestant Katie Kadan. Potenza was featured on The Voice and most recently America’s Got Talent. She has a big voice that will wow you every time! See what the buzz is all about. Also at the Met, on Sunday October 31 award-winning blues guitarist/singer Sue Foley will be playing songs from her newest release, Pinky’s Blues. For more, hit the “Road to Rome” to: TheMetRI.com 

Hiroya Tsukamoto is headed to Tiverton for an October 24th afternoon show. A guitarist and composer originally from Kyoto, Japan, Tsukamoto blends world music, jazz and folk that is described as “eclectic, immersive and mesmerizing”. Hiroya received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music and came to the United States in 2000. He has since released three solo albums: Solo, Heartland, and Places. Hiroya has been performing internationally including several appearances at Blue Note(NYC), United Nations and Japanese National Television(NHK). This concert will take place on the Meeting House grounds located at 3850 Main Road. They ask that you please bring your own lawn chairs. For more, take the “Gemini Bridge” to: FourCornersArts.org 

Common Fence Music has two shows this month! Jake Blount will open Common Fence Music’s Fall 2021 series, at The CFP Arts, Wellness and Community Center in Portsmouth on Saturday, October 16th at 8pm. Blount is an award-winning banjoist, fiddler, singer and scholar based in Providence. He is half of the internationally touring duo Tui, a 2020 recipient of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize, and a board member of Bluegrass Pride. He is a two-time winner and many-time finalist of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival (better known as Clifftop). Although he is proficient in multiple performance styles, he specializes in the music of Black and indigenous communities in the southeastern United States, and in the regional style of Ithaca, New York. He released his debut solo album, Spider Tales, in May 2020.

S.G. Goodman follows on Saturday, October 30th. Goodman performed at this summer’s Newport Folk Festival!. She was listed as one of Rolling Stone‘s “Artists to Watch”, describing her as “Kentucky farmer’s daughter writes songs so the world can hear what life is like where she grew up” Her bio goes on to add, “The singer’s music confronts the more painful parts of life in a farming community, much of which is governed by big business or political mechanisms that seek more to turn a profit than to value and support the lives of its employees.” For more about these and other shows this season, hop over to: CommonFenceMusic.org

The Collaborative, a nonprofit arts organization in Warren, will present Folk at the Farm, a free music concert featuring four Rhode Island-based music groups, on Sunday, October 17th from 2-6pm at Frerichs Farm, 43 Kinnicutt Ave. There will be performances by the award-winning and internationally acclaimed folk duo Atwater-Donnelly, Irish-influenced duo Bank of Ireland, the soulful, tropical sounds of Caribbean Jam Duo and high energy two steps and sultry waltzes from New England’s hometown Cajun band, Magnolia.  The Collaborative suggests bringing chairs and blankets as no seating will be provided. The Collaborative suggests bringing chairs and blankets as no seating will be provided. For more, get eh folk on over to: TheCollaborative02885.org/FolkAtTheFarm

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Back on the Road: Karla Bonoff at the Greenwich Odeum

Okee dokee folks… Back in the pre-pandemic era I was scheduled to perform an opener for Karla Bonoff at the Greenwich Odeum. Then the cancellations started and the show was bumped ahead a couple of months and then again a couple of months later. This continued for a year and a half until society got a little bit of a handle on the pandemic. I am happy to say that the show is actually happening on Friday, October 1! 

Karla Bonoff is a singer songwriter, who has been performing since the late 60’s and her eponymous first album went gold in 1977. This release included a few of of Bonoff’s songs, which had previously been recorded by Linda Ronstadt: “Lose Again”, “If He’s Ever Near”, “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me”, and one by Bonnie Raitt -“Home”. This album also included a who’s who of 70’s players and singers as well: Andrew Gold, Lind Ronstadt, Waddy Wachtel, Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, Wendy Waldman, Glenn Frey, JD Souther, and quite a few others. I’ve had this record in my collection since it was released and I actually find that Bonoff’s version of her song, “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me” outshines Rondstat’s cover. As hard as is is to say about any Rondstat performance, the production muddies this interpretation. Bonoff’s cut seems to better emphasize the loneliness of the lyrics.

At the age of sixteen Karla and her sister Lisa auditioned for Elektra Records and recorded an 11-song demo but no deal came of this. She played often at the famous Monday night Troubadour in LA which was a breaking ground for many artists such as Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Elton John. There were other singer-songwriters (Kenny Edwards-Stone Poneys with Linda Ronstad, Wendy Waldman-writer/producer, and Andrew Gold-“Lonely Boy” and “Thank You for Being a Friend”) who became friends of Bonoff’s and they formed a band together called Bryndle. The group recorded an album for A&M records and but the record was shelved. Edwards and Gold joined Rondstat’s band and this connection led Linda to record three of Bonoff’s compositions on her 1976 Hasten Down the Wind album. This helped Karla secure a record deal and release her debut LP. 

Over the years Bonoff would release many more albums, have more songs recorded by Linda Rondstat and other artists and reform Bryndle-only this time releasing a couple of albums. In 1982 she scored a hit with “Personally”, which was a top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and in ’84 she sang lead on the song “Somebody’s Eyes” which was included on the Footloose film soundtrack. Karla still records and tours the US and Japan regularly. She recently release a holiday album entitled Silent Night as well as a single and video of the song, “Night Full of Rain”. 

I called Karla at her Montecito, California home the other day and we had a conversation about the upcoming show at the Odeum as well as a few off the cuff topics.
John Fuzek: Hi, is it smokey out there from fires?
Karla Bonoff: We haven’t had the smoke, it’s been going east instead of south which is good for us, not great for everyone else, it’s very, very dry
JF: Do you ever watch Bill Maher? I like his idea of a pipeline carrying water cross country
KB: Yes, all the excess rain and snow there should be a way to pipeline it to the west
JF: Romans built aqueducts a millennia ago…anyway…the show that we are playing was supposed to take place a year and a half ago
KB: I know, everything that I am doing started up in September and it’s all from stuff that’s been rescheduled, it’s like we had a weird missing time event and now we’re doing it
JF: I looked at your touring schedule, you seem quite busy
KB: We are, it’s busier than I would normally do, but we are trying to make everything up and had to squash it in wherever we could, everybody was rescheduling so many times, all these shows have been moved two to three times, I feel bad for the agents, it’s bad enough to have that job, but to have to redo this stuff over and over and over and over again… We were out on our first leg last week for the first time I’ve been out playing in a year and a half, I think people are still a little afraid to come out. It is what it is. You just have to plow forward and hope this all gets resolved.
JF: It’s been a mixed bag here as far as audiences, hard to know for sure.
KB: How is RI doing as far as vaccines?
JF: I think we are in the higher end of the vax rate, New England is fairly good overall.
KB: Yes Massachusetts did pretty well. As well as Vermont, which is great.
JF: I couldn’t wait to get a vaccine.
KB: Me, too, I had to go through a lot to get one, too.
JF: Right, me, too and as soon as I got it,, they started giving them to everyone.
KB: Same thing here, I had to drive to LA, Magic Mountain, which is like 75 miles. It was a big amusement park with millions of people driving through. It was worth it. It was really organized, but within a few weeks you could go to the market and get one. I didn’t want to wait. It was scary, I just got the booster. I was getting ready to travel, and be at airports, and be inside at venues that didn’t have vaccine requirements and I couldn’t risk it.
JF: I have had to show my vaccine proof for a few shows that I have done, and I am happy about that.
KB: More and more venues are doing it. I find that (mostly) everywhere I am going is doing it…
JF: Well, 670, 00 people have died from it so being safe is wise.
KB: Michael McDonald got it [COVID-19] after having both vaccines, and they had to cancel four or five Doobie Brothers 50th Anniversary shows.
JF: I had a friend who got very sick, not hospitalized, after getting the vaccine, but it was the J&J.
KB: I have heard that about the J&J. Michael got it out on the road somewhere. He said he’s ok but it’s still scary.
JF: Back to the music… You just put out a new recording, didn’t you?
KB: While we were on Covid hiatus, I did a Christmas album and released the single, “A Night Full of Rain.”
JF: I saw that the video for that single was recorded while you drove a truck, was that on a sound stage or did you just drive around?
KB: My producer, Sean, and his daughter do videos. It was just a one shot thing. I drove the truck and he and his daughter shot it, it was fun.

Karla and I went on to talk at length about CDs and albums and the waning of physical media versus digital. We both preferred to have the CD or vinyl. Karla said, “We are the old people of the generation now, these are remnants of our youth”

We got back to the interview, and I asked Karla if she was performing solo or with a band at the Greenwich Odeum.
KB: I play with Nina Gerber who is a really wonderful guitar player. We have been playing together for 15 years now. She played with Kate Wolf back in the day. She is pretty well known in Northern California. She sometimes plays with Eliza Gilkyson, and she is an artist in her own right. She has some CDs that are really beautiful. It’s just the two of us. It’s pretty “unplugged” acoustic, piano, guitar. I play piano and guitar, and Nina plays electric and acoustic guitar. If you go to my YouTube page you can watch the videos of the two of us performing. That’s pretty much what the show is.
JF: I noticed that you had a bunch of videos recorded in Japan, and saw that you have a following in Japan. How did that happen?
KB: When I did my second record for Columbia, the Restless Nights album, it just took off there. We went over in 1980, and had a huge amount of fans. We’ve gone over pretty much every year to play. We have a lot of younger fans there as well. I think their parents turned them on to it. it’s very different than here
JF: I have been to Japan. It’s an entirely different culture there, especially when I went in the mid 80’s. It was culture shock for me, coming from Rhode Island.
KB: It was culture shock back in the 80’s. We had a drummer with dreadlocks and they would want to touch his hair. They hadn’t seen a lot of westerners then, especially outside of Tokyo.
JF: Yes, they do that! I was in Shizouka, and I had people come right up to me and grab my chest hair or touch my beard!
KB: Right! It’s not like that now but it was in the 80’s.
JF: I had people coming up to me, and wanted photographs taken with me, and I was no one but an American.
KB: It was really fun, but now they have seen us a million times and it’s not like that anymore. 
JF: I am thrilled to be on the bill with you. I have wanted to do a show with you for a long time. I think our music has the same audience, especially these days with newer music that I really don’t connect with.
KB: It’s just a different world… I am grateful to be doing this, and hopefully staying healthy. I know I won’t be able to do it forever but I am enjoying it while it lasts.
JF: While I was watching your videos I came across “Personally”. I remember that one from way back, do you perform that one live?
KB: It was a great record to make. It’s not a great live song without a band. Sometimes we play if for fun as an encore, but it’s kind of weird on acoustic guitar; it’s a whole different thing. It’s also a little high for me now. I haven’t changed all the keys on everything yet.
JF: Yup, I have run into that. Your voice drops as you get older.
KB: On guitar with a capo, it’s pretty easy, but on piano it’s a hassle. I have to learn them in the new key, and then sometimes you wind up going into the old key and it’s a potential disaster!
JF: I have a hard time remembering lyrics these days!
KB: Linda Rondstat in her prime even had a hard time remembering lyrics. It’s just a thing. She would just block.
JF: Didn’t she have stage fright as well?
KB: She was never all that comfortable. She was comfortable singing, but not that comfortable being a performer.
JF: You worked with her, and she recorded your music, like “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me”.
KB: Yes… I think more people know her version than mine.
JF: I like your version better. I have friends that are fans of Bryndle, unfortunately I am not that familiar with it. I do know Andrew Gold’s stuff though
KB: We made a couple of good records, one in ’95 and another in 2003.
JF: Is Wendy Waldman still performing?
KB: She is doing more producing of other artists. She was playing a a group called the Refugees. She doesn’t really like traveling. She has a studio in her house. She is a really good producer so she is doing mostly that.
JF: I am pretty sure I met her at one time at a Folk Alliance conference.
KB: It was probably Folk Alliance. She did do that.
JF: And Andrew Gold died a few years back?
KB: he did, yes, as did Kenny Edwards, Andrew was 59 and Kenny was 64, they died just a few years apart 
JF: It’s always sad.
KB: Yes,both of them would have made a lot more music.
JF: They do have music out there, especially Andrew. That will always be out there, he has the Golden Girls theme.
KB: Right, Andrew’s widow does a really good job promoting his music still.
JF: I guess we should get around to talking about the show again. What can we expect at the show?
KB: We do a whole mix of stuff from my first album, all the way until now. Maybe some stuff from the Christmas album. It’s a good array of everything. It’s me and Nina playing the tunes!
JF: The Odeum is very nice I have played there a few times
KB: I have never worked there, it’s a new one for me.
JF: The people who work there are great.
KB: Good! I am looking forward to it! I am excited to get back and play. I hope that people will come out to the show. I think now we are all just trying to keep music going, keeping venues alive.
JF: I look forward to meeting you and playing the show!
KB: I will see you there…

Karla Bonoff with special guest, John Fuzek (ME!), will be at the Greenwich Odeum on Friday, October 1 at 8pm. For more, KarlaBonoff.com and You can find “Something Fine” at: GreenwichOdeum.com. That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

Fools Rush In: Fun Show at the Stadium

Okee dokee folks… Back in July I was invited to open for the band The Fools in New Hampshire. I thought it an odd pairing but I took the gig nonetheless. I remembered the band from the early 80’s and loved their songs “Psycho Chicken”- a “Weird Al-esque” spoof of the Talking Heads’, “Psycho Killer”, and the country parody, “Life Sucks Then You Die”. The 80’s was a long time ago and I didn’t remember much more so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I loved the show! It was fun, entertaining and lead singer, Mike Girard has an amazing voice besides and is  pretty damn funny on stage!. Check out some of their videos on YouTube. Go ahead, do it now, I’ll wait… See, I told you they were good! When I found out The Fools were playing at The Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket on Friday September 24 at 8pm, I contacted singer Mike Girard to talk about their upcoming return to RI.

The Fools…

We started the conversation talking about some of The Fools’ earlier gigs at Lupo’s and when they opened for Rush at the Providence Civic Center. Girard continued with stories about touring with Van Halen. 

Mike Girard: It was our second national tour. We got got signed onto the Van Halen ‘We Don’t Fuck Around’ tour… We did 36 cities in North America, it was just a blast…

MG: But David Lee Roth didn’t like us. About two weeks into the tour VH’s road manager came to us and said ‘David doesn’t want you talking to the audience anymore because that is what he does’. Then a couple of days later the road manager came to us again and said ‘David doesn’t want you jumping off the drum riser anymore because that is what he does’. About halfway through the tour our deli platter disappeared and we no longer got soundchecks. And the juxtaposition to this was Eddie Van Halen, he had just met Valerie Bertinelli and she was along for the tour. You would see them sitting backstage and there were little heart balloons over their heads and Eddie would be ‘How’s it going, man, how’s it going?’ and I didn’t want to ruin his perfect day and tell him how it was really going. It was stunning to watch Eddie play. He would have these looks on his face like he couldn’t believe what he was playing either… Overall it was a great, great time… We were going to have our homecoming at the Boston Garden and they fired us from the tour four days before the show… It was a great experience and it didn’t kill us.

We talked about the song “Psycho Chicken” and Mike told me that at one point the Talking Heads actually dropped “Psycho Killer” from their set because so many people were clucking during the beginning of the song. 

MG: I was with a couple of friends. “That song ‘Psycho Killer’ came on and I just started making chicken noises. Within five minutes the song was written. We were playing it in a club in Newburyport and a DJ from WBCN was there and he said, ‘If I had a cassette of that I would play it’, so that is what we did. Within a very short time we were getting heavy airplay and had no record contract. We were getting the same amount of airplay as Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin!

Mike told me that he in fact did write the Fools’ songs but I was curious if he played an instrument and what the process was. 

John Fuzek (Motif): “I know that you play the toilet seat guitar (you have to see the show) but do you actually play guitar?” His reply, “God, no, that’s what the other band members do! I’ll get a melody in my head and then I’ll write lyrics to it. Initially I would just go hum it to Rich, my guitar player, and he’d say, ‘ok, that’s a C, ok, that’s a D’ and that is how we worked it out…then I got one of those little organs that tell you what chords you are playing.” I told him “as long as it works, that’s the important thing.” 

MG: I always felt that I was writing songs for the character that I am in the band. It’s me up there, of course, but the guy that is up there never has any troubles. Everything goes perfectly in his life and if it doesn’t, he doesn’t know that that is happening because he’s a fool

MG: We’ve all had trouble in the band at one point or another- a death in the family or someone in the band is playing with a ruptured Achilles tendon-which was me by the way…having that person to become was a saving grace…when your job is to go and have fun it’s a really nice job description…you try to become the bigger, wilder, more fun version persona of yourself when you’re doing it.

Girard mentioned that he is now 72 years old, though if you saw a Fools’ show you would never know it

MG: It’s the energy of the audience. Some nights you’re just like a puppet on a string. The energy of the audience is making you bounce, making you dance, the unplanned kind of movements and the expressions> People show up expecting a good time and that’s the first step in making it happen!”

JF: What can folks expect at your September 24th show at the Stadium Theatre? 

MG: Let me think. The shock, the awe. Five knuckleheads go whiz bombing. The band lets me climb out on a limb and then decides whether to join me there or cut the limb off. And I will bring the adult props…

Like I said,The Fools present a FUN and truly ENTERTAINING show. Whether you know all their songs, one song or no songs at all you are going to have a great time. Don’t miss out! 

If you have not yet been to The Stadium Theatre this show is a perfect time to check it out. It is a beautiful theatre in the heart of Woonsocket with ample parking behind the building. Woonsocket is just a quick ten minute drive up 146 from Providence. You really have no excuse not to go! “Doo Wah Diddy” yourself a favor and get to this show! Also coming up at The Stadium: The Femmes of Rock, Stayin’ Alive Bee Gees Tribute, Sara Evans Acoustic Trio, Elton John Tribute, The Outlaws with Corky Laing’s Mountain, and many, many other shows…  For more, cluck on over to: StadiumTheatre.com

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

After the Fall: In which our resident roots expert ponders the next season and beyond

Okee dokee folks… We are in the home stretch of summer, and it is unclear how the pandemic is going to affect fall schedules. I am seeing many cancellations already, so it’s best to check directly with venues before you head to any show to make sure the show is happening and find out their vaccination policy. I am glad that places are mandating vaccines for attendance; this is a public health crisis that takes cooperation to get beyond. Outdoor shows will probably be the norm until the temperature gets too chilly. I’m looking forward to cooler weather and hopefully more live music, but who knows? We have global warming issues and a lingering pandemic. We need to worry beyond the fall, we need to worry about the next decade and beyond. Too much to ponder? Too heavy? Read on…

Farm Aid 2021 is coming up on September 25 in Hartfod, Connecticut. The event is sold out, but you can still help to save family farms by donating to Farm Aid. Cash over to www.farmaid.org. Last year’s concert was virtual, but, so far, this year’s will be a live, in-person event. Unfortunately Neil Young has dropped out of the show due to COVID concerns, but the line-up still lists Wille Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, Nathanial Ratecliff, Promise of the Real, and many others. I will be attending this year’s installment of Farm Aid and will have photos and a review to publish. Look for it the first week of October!

The third annual River Bend East Songwriters Festival will take place on Saturday, September 11 from noon – 5pm on the grounds of historic Slater Mill, 67 Roosevelt Avenue in Pawtucket. Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame Member Mark Cutler and award-winning singer/songwriter Rachel Sumner will co-headline the event. Other songwriters include J. Michael Graham, Kala Farnham, Kevin Williams and Allison Rose. The National Park Service will provide free tours of the museum and family-friendly activities. For more about the festival, compose on over to fb.com/rbesongwriters.

The Bluegrass Throedown happens every Wednesday at the heavenly dive bar in PVD, Nick-a-Nees. If you are a fan of pickin’ and a grinnin’ then get there for 8:30 so you don’t miss a note. Nick’s is dog friendly, so if Fido likes tunes bring him/her along, but only if they like people! Coming up you can catch the sounds of Rock Hearts on September 8, Poor Monroe on the 15th, and The Splinters on the 29th. There is no cover, but they do pass the hat, so be generous! For more, mow over to bluegrassthroedown.com

The third season of the Levitt AMP Woonsocket Music Series continues on September 10 with the always busy Adam Ezra Group and wraps on the 17th with Sidy Maiga and Afrimanding (West African Drums) with Chachi Carvalho and the International Players (hip-hop). In addition to the free admission, attendees can purchase dinner or snacks from the food trucks, enjoy an adult beverage at an on-site bar provided by Ciro’s Tavern, or just gaze at the sprawling view of River Island Art Park. For more, side by each over to grant.levittamp.org/woonsocket

If you read my interview with Jon Anderson of Yes last month, then you know how much of a Yes fan I am. I mentioned to Jon about how hard it is to cover Yes’ music and that I had seen a tribute band that did a pretty good job of tackling this. Awaken is the band, and Anderson was very familiar with them. Reaching the virtuosity of Steve Howe, Chris Squire or even Rick Wakeman is daunting for any musician. Awaken’s set list runs through all the various incarnations of the band. The classic roster of Yes is no more, but the touring band is still worth catching when they are in the area. Rick Wakeman will be at the Narrows in Fall River on October 19, so that will be a rare opportunity to experience an intimate performance with this master keyboard player. If you want to hear Yes’ hits and deep cuts sooner than later, then hit the District Center for the Arts in Taunton on September 10 when Awaken tackles the tunes. For more, get “Close to the Edge” at districtartcenter.com.

I just realized that I have now been writing for Motif for 17 years!  Wow. Hopefully I have another 17 in me! That’s it for now, thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com

Yes!: Jon Anderson head to Woonsocket

Okee dokee folks… Back in the mid ’70s, my friends and I would drive around in my 1965 Rambler station wagon. I had an 8-track tape player sound system and often Yes songs would make the endless loop in the deck. We would always find it amusing how you would hear the clank of the track change mid tune. Those Yes songs were long! Their prog-rock albums were a staple of my record collection and was the perfect soundtrack for headphone listening or night time cruising. I have been fortunate over the years to have seen Yes many, many times and in almost all of their band configurations. I even caught the show where the Buggles (“Video Killed the Radio Star”) merged with Yes. Nowadays Yes is like most bands of that era — a couple of original members and hired gun fill-ins. Long time bassist Chris Squire passed away a couple of years ago. Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman haven’t performed with them in quite a long time. I saw Yes at Bold Point Park a couple of years ago and I was still able to get a good fix of the music.

Two members of Yes will be playing solo area shows. Jon Anderson will be at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket on August 28 and Rick Wakeman will hit the Narrows Center for the Arts on October 19. I had the opportunity to speak with former Yes frontman, Jon Anderson. I always record these conversations so I can transcribe them accurately but unfortunately there was a glitch. Somehow because of either an equipment malfunction or a brain fart (I had experienced a concussion days prior) there was no recording. After realizing this I quickly jotted down a few notes from the conversation so I could make the best of the interview.

When I called him his initial comment was that he was sitting and staring at the ocean. He was in Connecticut and had played a show in Ridgefield the night before. The first thing I noticed about speaking with Jon Anderson was the feeling that I was engaging with a character from The Lord of the Rings. He had a magical way of speaking and he had the most interesting UK accent I’d heard. It was a fun chat. We laughed a lot. I commented that I noticed he had played Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, MA a few nights prior and that my band had just played there as well. I told him we play Neil Young music. He said that he wanted to sing on one of Neil Young’s album but Neil never called him back. I mentioned to him that I was tied up with my own music stuff and was not sure if I was going to be able to get to his show. He told me that doing music was a gift and that I should be grateful; it was far better than “shoveling shit”! He said he should know as he actually used to shovel shit in his youth! I told him that while I was photographing Yes a couple of years ago guitarist Steve Howe gave me a “finger wag” as I snapped shots of him. I asked Jon “what’s up with that?” He replied that Steve can be a bit of a curmudgeon about having his pic taken. The more I talked with Jon the more I thought to myself “I HAVE to get to this show!” Anderson has collaborated with many artists over the years, some examples being Vangelis and Jon Luc Ponty. I asked Jon about what he is doing with music these days. He exclaimed that he has enough for ten musicals to present over the next few years. He added, “I just keep thinking of more music to make”. I then asked his age as I wondered if this would be a factor. Anderson is 77 but he is a youthful and spry 77 so I imagine that we will be blessed with much more of his work. Then I thought again, “I HAVE to get to this show!”

I asked what he was doing on this tour. He mentioned that he is working with Paul Green, the founder of The School of Rock. His band is made up of past members of School of Rock bands. If you have ever seen a School of Rock performance you already know how talented these kids are. Jon and I talked about our experiences with School of Rock bands and how we are always amazed by them. I inquired about what songs we could expect from him at the Stadium show. He immediately mentioned “Hear of the Sunrise”. This song came up a few times. He also told me that he would be covering songs such as Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, and something by INXS. He added that they would be playing a LOT of the classic Yes music that he is known for. Again I thought “I HAVE to get to this show!”. We went on to talk about how Yes bassist Chris Squire and Anderson added how lucky he was to have been able to work with him. After about 20 minutes we had to wrap the call as he needed to hit the road to his next destination. I thanked him and said, “I HAVE to get to this show!”. I decided then and there that I will MAKE THE TIME to get to this show. It will be worth it. If you are a Yes fan as I am you owe it to yourself to hear the true voice of Yes once sing these timeless classics.

Jon Anderson and the Paul Green Rock Academy Band will be at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, RI on Saturday, August 28. Seriously, It’s “Your Move”, get your tickets now. For more, “Roundabout” to StadiumTheatre.com   

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

On the Road Again: Southside Johnny talks touring in advance of his PPAC show

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will be at Providence Performing Arts Center on August 20. I recently spoke with John Lyon, aka Southside Johnny, about touring post pandemic, porch performances and how it all started.

John Fuzek (Motif): So, are you in New Jersey now?

Southside Johnny: Yes, I am about a five minute walk from the Atlantic Ocean.

JF: How does it feel to be back out performing after the pandemic?

SJ: It was odd at first. We played a couple of shows. We had a rehearsal, which we never do because we’ve been playing for so long. It all felt great, seeing people’s actual faces! It’s a wonderful thing. Every show’s been fun. Being off for that long you wonder what kind of shape you’re in. It’s like riding a bike, I guess. You get back on and you fall over a couple of times and then you’re good.

JF: Yeah, I am kind of in the same boat. I am just getting back to performing again, it’s been a tough year.

SJ: I was lucky that I have some neighbors that play guitar. I play harmonica and we would sit on the porch just like it was 1922 or something like that before radio became big and sing and have cocktails, of course, and people would come around. It was really a small town enjoyment.

JF: Did you do any recordings of it?

SJ: No, but someone filmed a bit of it once. It was very informal, you know three verses of a song where there are four verses and you get to the fourth and you and you start humming or whistling the last one.

JF: I do that on a good day!

SJ: I do that on stage with my band. I get the words all screwed up sometimes. The audience knows me and they laugh they say, “There he goes again.”

JF: Maybe you should do a porch recording album. It might be a fun thing to do.

SJ: it might be, I’d have to have a few more musicians to make it, well, who knows, I’ve thought about it, but I just enjoy the spontaneity of it, so I don’t want to make it any formal thing.

JF: That’s true. You had a guy in your band a while back Joel (Cage) Gramolini, I did some gigs with him way back and he used to tell me he had been in your band.

SJ: Yeah, he was great. He decided to go solo…he was a terrific player, great singer, we had a lot of fun.

JF: He’s Gary’s brother from Beaver Brown but you know that already!

SJ: Yes (laughs).

JF: Who is in the band these days?

SJ: It’s the same band I have had for five or six years. The drummer is probably the newest guy. and he’s been around for quite a while. It’s people that have been with me for a long, long time and we are a well oiled machine, and it’s probably the best band that I’ve ever had so I am really enjoying it, I can relax and let them play and not have to worry about anything and it makes it a joy for me on stage and they can all solo, they can all improvise, and they all get along which is a blessing, believe me, you ride on the bus for 10 hours!

JF: I have a band, I KNOW!

SJ: You don’t want any conflicts, a little bit of sniping here and there is okay, but no real conflicts or the tension ratchets up and everybody’s miserable.

JF: How long will you be out for with this tour or is it just a one up for this show?

SJ: We have lots of make-up dates, we were in Florida and we got shut down in March last year when we were on the road so we have a lot of those dates to make up where we promised that we’d play and we’ve go other gigs coming in so it’s going to be a very busy second half of the year. I’m grateful for it, but I look at schedule and I think “Oh, boy, I hope we can make it through this one.”

JF: I have a little bit of a concern that we might go through a shut down again in the fall. What do you think?

SJ: I haven’t really kept up with it as much as I used to, I know there’s the Delta variant and now there’s another one. I don’t know, I’ll take it as it comes. I’ve been vaccinated and the the band’s been vaccinated, so we’re not too concerned about catching it but we certainly don’t want to carry it to anybody. You know with large gatherings you have to worry about those things these days, things will develop, I can’t control it, so whatever happens, happens, just like the weather. We played outdoors the other day and it rained during the day, but it cleared up at night and it was beautiful. I had a great time so you can’t really worry about things that you can’t control. 

JF: Beaver Brown is playing with you at PPAC. Are they on tour with you or is the only show you are doing together?

SJ: I think that it’s one of a few that they are playing with us, usually when we come up that way they join us, we are going all over the country but we are not going to Europe this year, which I am kind of miffed about, but I guess it’s a little bit more restrictive over there. Maybe next year, if I am still playing next year (laughs).

JF: How old are you now?

SJ: 72. The years on the road takes its toll on you, but I still love being in front of the audience and singing, just closing my eyes and singing makes me feel, it’s just a satisfying thing to do, it’s like a great gift has been given to you.

JF: That’s great! One of the things that I like to hear from musicians they’re grateful for the gift of music and they don’t take it for granted. I know I certainly appreciate being a musician all of my life. I’ve been doing this for almost 50 years.

SJ: Yeah, you have to be. Especially if you’ve done it for a long time you start to realize that in the arrogance of youth you think, “Yeah, I can do this, this is cool.” But you get a perspective on it you are being ALLOWED to do it. People actually come and see you play, and it doesn’t always work that way. There are plenty of people that are better than I am that don’t get out to play as much as I do.

JF: So where did Southside come from? 

SJ: Chicago, where a lot of blues players come from. One time someone said, “Here’s Southside Johnny.” I don’t remember who said it. IT might have been Gary Tallent, we all had to have nicknames for this one band and that became mine and I can’t get rid of it now.

JF: Tell me a little bit about the beginnings with Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt.

SJ: Well, there was a club called the Upstage Club. It was open to teenagers, no alcohol served and it was open until 5 o’clock in the morning in the summer. Of course all the musicians gravitated there. They had a stage, drum kit, keyboard, guitar amps, and all you to do was bring your instruments and jam and form bands and do things like that and that’s where I met most of those people. Gary I went to school with, then when Steven and Bruce came down and played we were all in little jam bands and someone conned a bar owner into letting us play, maybe even paying us some money. We put together a band, we all knew every Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, a lot of Rolling Stones, so we knew  lot of songs and we had rehearsals, then we’s go and play and try to make some money.

JF: Having a place to play and making money is always a good thing!

SJ: It was. It was a wild club, it used to Show silent movies and we played music behind them, WC Fields shorts and things like that. It was the ’60s and it was a crazy time. We were very fortunate to have it. It was our education.

JF: When did the Jukes formerly form or did they just evolve out of something?

SJ: They evolved out of a band called the Blackberry Blues Band and it’s a long history, Steven (Van Zandt) and I wanted to add horns, it was really tough to get three different horn players but eventually we did and it became Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and we played at the Stone Pony for about four years, maybe more, we still play there in the summer at the outdoors thing, but we didn’t get to do this last year but we will in September this year, so, it’s very fortunate to have places to matriculate I guess you could say.

JF: I have not seen you band in a long time, my brother was a huge fan of yours, I think I saw you last at an amusement park called Rocky Point.

SJ: Hopefully you will get to see us when we come to Providence!

JF: I put it on the calendar, but a lot of times I have my own gigs and cannot go. It’s a good thing to have gigs but it’s a drag not to be able see people I want to see.

SJ: The same thing happens with us, so many people are playing the same nights as we are and we want to see them and you just can’t if you’re working, it was like watching a television series that was on Friday nights, we never saw them, we played every Friday night.

JF: Now all you have to do is stream it!

SJ: It’s not a problem anymore but it used to be funny to hear people talk about that they just saw this and we just saw that and we would say no, we didn’t see any of it

JF: Did you do any live streaming while you were on the pandemic break?

SJ: No, Jeff did, my keyboard player, and a couple of the other guys, I am not proficient enough on that kind of thing, besides, I need an audience, I need people around me, I am mush better live than just sitting around playing

JF: I am right with you on that, I did one live stream with the band, there was a little bit of an audience there but that was it, I kind of feel the same way as you do, it’s kind of sterile. So, what are your live shows like nowadays?

SJ: We try to do two hours, we do a lot of the songs from the past, but we haven’t had an album in a few years, but we try to hit every album, we improvise everything on stage, there’s no real set list, I make a set list but they just laugh, and you know, we’re open to anything, the other night people called out a couple of requests and we did them, it’s easy to do with this band, they’re so good

JF: It’s great that you can do that, not everyone can do that nowadays, they are so set in a format, and newer bands don’t have the performing legacy to pull stuff like that off

SJ: Yes, and also it’s just the years of being a musician, you know a million songs, just by osmosis almost, and if I start singing a song that they don’t know they can fake it, it makes for an exciting moment for us on stage and I think it translates to the audience, they love to see us stumble and fall (laughs)

JF: it’s REAL! Being a musician as long as I have I have watched things go and when I see a band play and hear music I LIKE the imperfections in performances but now musicians try to make everything so clinically perfect it has no personality., I like the cracks in people’s voices, the forgetting of the words, the blown notes, that makes it real

SJ: You won’t find any perfection in a Juke’s show I’ll tell you that right away. (laughs)
Some bands will play the same set every night, I don’t want to work in an office where everything is the same, I always want it to be a little bit challenging, I always want it to be a little bit what’s going to happen next? I don’t know what’s going to happen I want to be surprised by some moment in the show

JF: that’s what makes performing fun and what makes a concert experience good for an audience member, I have been to multiple night shows where it has been the exact show including between song banter, whereas I have been to others where it has been a totally different show each night and that is more exciting

SJ: it’s more exciting for the musicians too, anyone can get complacent doing the same thing over and over, I don’t want complacent musicians, I don’t want to be complacent myself, i want to be challenged and i want to carer about what I am doing, if i just go through the motions that’s not healthy for me

JF: It keeps you young, too!

SJ: Well I don’t know about that (laughs) But it keeps you interested, and I’m going to do what I want to do on stage and that’s the way it is

JF: that’s the good thing about music, you’re the boss, well, Springsteen’s the boss, but you’re in charge!

SJ: (laughs) I am in charge, I am the officer in charge

JF: and I am sure it shows and hopefully it will for years to come! Bands like the Jukes are a rarity and there aren’t new ones coming along, everyone is so American Idol-ized… they don’t understand the music business, they look at it completely different, you happened organically, you worked your ass off over the years, now people just want to plug in and be famous

SJ: There’s always an audience for live music, there’s a lot of good bands…and there are lots bands that matured playing live, it’s just, as you say, there is a lot of manufactured stuff, but there always was, there are always producers and record companies dictating who sings what and all that, that’s not what we do, I don’t worry about that, I don’t think about it that much, people come to see us because they know they’re going to have a god time, we have a good time, the audience has a good time, and that’s all it’s really about

JF: “We’re Having a Party” that’s your song so…

SJ: That’s right!

JF: When I was growing up that was a great song to come on and sing along to while you’re drinking at a party, that was it

SJ: We do have some songs that are a little more thoughtful but basically when we’re onstage we’re just having a good time and I think that’s all people really want from us, I’ve written some political songs, I’ve written some angry songs, but in the long run they come to see us and they want to forget what’s going on in their world and be reminded that there’s some fun to be had and joy in life and that’s what we do.

JF: and you have horns which is great, not a lot of folks have that anymore…

SJ: No and there’s a reason for that (laughs)

JF: why is that?

SJ: All horn players are crazy! (lots of laughter) I love my guys, it elevates music to another level, when they kick in everybody gets a jolt and I think that’s great

JF: I love horn bands, the power of the horns and the arrangements, that adds a layer to music that you just can’t get with synths, and like you said the horn players are usually crazy and the antics on stage are always interesting to watch as well

SJ: Luckily for me I’ve got my back turned to them! (laughs)

JF: So you get all the spit from the horn section on you?

SJ: That’s exactly right!

JF: Anything else you want to throw in before we wrap this up?

SJ: Just if anyone is looking for a good time they certainly should come to the show

On Friday, August 20, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will be having a party and you’re invited! They are famously known for their horn driven renditions of “The Fever,” “Walk Away Renee,” “Talk To Me” and, of course, “Havin’ a Party.” Their shows are always a lot of fun, and they are bringing along Jon Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to make it even more so! For more, toot over to PPACRI.org

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com

It Takes a Village: Town crier talks music and medicine

Okee dokee folks … I honestly thought that we would be beyond pandemic discussions by now, but we’re not. GET A F**KING VACCINE!!! We have the capacity to eradicate the virus, but it takes a village and we are learning that the village has more than one idiot. It has throngs of them. As long as the unvaxxed walk among us, the virus has human fuel to burn and MUTATE. This is on you now — science has done its part. Smarten up or everything is going to get locked down again. I don’t want to live in a bubble with no live music again. I am fine with natural selection weeding out the covidiots, but seriously enough is enough. GET A VACCINE so we can ALL be safe and get back to normal. Thank you. Now read on…

The 7th annual Rhode Island Folk Festival (formerly the Providence Folk Fest) will take place on Sunday, August 29 at Rose Larisa Park in Riverside (East Providence). It’s right across from the carousel so you can dash over for a painted pony ride between sets. This year’s fest features three stages of music with over 40 acts, and best of all, it’s FREE. There will also be food and crafts. For more, get the folk over to RhodeIslandFolkFestival.com There is still time to donate $$ to help fund the fest!

The Rhythm and Roots Festival will take place Labor Day weekend at Ninigret Park in Charlestown. Though this year’s fest will be a bit smaller due to the pandemic, the Motif award-winning event will still retain the charm and fun of previous years. This year’s line-up includes Richard Thompson, John Hiatt, Donna the Buffalo, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi, and way too many more to list. R&R has instituted safety protocols: “To gain admittance, all attendees entering the campgrounds and/or the festival grounds will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result taken within 72 hours.” For more, root-a-toot to RhythmandRoots.com

The Providence Performing Arts Center will be presenting shows once again! On Friday, August 20, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will be having a party and you’re invited! This Jersey band formed in the ’70s and had a close association with Springsteen. They are known for their horn-driven renditions of “The Fever,” “Walk Away Renee,” “Talk To Me” and, of course, “Havin’ a Party.” Their shows are always a lot of fun and they are bringing along Jon Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to make it even more so! I had a chance to speak with John Lyon, aka Southside Johnny, and you can read that interview at MotifRI.com/southsidejohnny. PPAC is back in action and there are lots more shows to come. Elvis Costello was just added to the calendar! For more, palace over to PPACRI.org

The chartbustin’ Robin Lane comes to Providence on Saturday, August 14, to perform a benefit in support of her nonprofit, Songbird Sings, which helps trauma survivors heal through songwriting and music. The show will be at Dusk and besides Lane will feature performances by Kid Gulliver, Justine and The Unclean, Nightspell, and The Jacklights. To learn more about Robin’s organization, tweet over to SongbirdSings.org. For more about the show, dash over to DuskProvidence.com.

The Z in New B has shows for FREE! The City of New Bedford in partnership with The Zeiterion Theatre present Summer Sound Series, free concerts in Custom House Square in downtown New Bedford! The beer garden opens at 2pm, with live music from 4–7pm. Bring a lawn chair and lounge in the park, or sit under the tent and have a drink from the on-site bar. On the schedule is Kim Trusty on August 12, The Jethros on August 19 and Rebecca Correia on August 26. For more, X, Y over to the Z at Zeiterion.org

Even though John Chan is retiring and getting out of the food/music biz, there are still great shows happening at his venue. Blues-rock singer-guitarist Mike Zito will be performing with special guest Anthony Geraci on piano on Thursday, August 19 at Chan’s in Woonsocket. With numerous Blues Music Award honors under his belt, Mike Zito just released his new album with Hillside Global, Resurrection, on July 16, and recently won two Blues Music Awards from The Blues Foundation. Also at Chan’s: The Peacheaters, Michelle Wilson & the Evil Gal Orchestra, Duke Robillard Band, Diane Blue & Friends,Confounded Bridge and much more! Order up to ChansEggRollsandJazz.com for more.

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. Please, please, please get vaxxed. Don’t be part of the reason we shut down and raise the COVID numbers again. Be part of the solution! www.JohnFuzek.com

Giving Him the Six Degrees: An interview with Kevin Bacon as he comes to The Odeum

Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael will be bringing their band, The Bacon Brothers, into the Greenwich Odeum on Friday, July 16. I had the opportunity to speak with Kevin via phone last week in advance of his show.

John Fuzek (Motif): We actually played a show together quit a while back. You played in Newport, probably 2004ish. I opened for you. I guess I can do “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with you.

Kevin Bacon: You know we’ve actually played around with the six degrees thing with music, which is actually pretty easy to do because, you know how it is, you played a gig with us, you end up working with people or playing on records with people who played with other people, you can get pretty far down the six degrees road just with the music thing…

JF: How did the pandemic affect you? Both in music and film…

KB: I can tell you that the Ides of March, that moment that we all remember when everything seemed to go bye-bye, I was shooting  TV show that I’m on in New York, City On A Hill, and I got the call that we were going to suspend production, we’d kind of gotten wind of this pandemic. I’d got the call that we were going to suspend production for a couple of weeks, and we were in the studio finishing up our last record and I just had this sense that it wasn’t just going to be a couple of weeks. My whole family was out in Cali, and so I booked a flight and left NY and that was it for another, whatever it was, months. I was in LA and I ended up going back and starting up again, we ended up shooting the remaining six episodes, we had shot two. I guess started back in June and we were able to  mix the record, sort of remotely, you know, pass mixes around. I also wrote a song In LA, and we cut that, again using file sharing. I did go into a studio that a buddy of mine owns down the street from our place in LA, put on masks, and he mixed it and we were able to get some guitars and some drums in isolated rooms, you know, it was just all that crazy stuff. So, yeah, this is the first time back.

JF: You haven’t played any shows yet? Will this be the first one back to playing at the Odeum?

KB: No, we did play one show. We went to Iowa. We went to a Casino in Iowa and played a single show about a week ago.

JF: Are you in Rhode Island right now?

KB: I’m not right now, I am actually on my way overseas this weekend, I’m doing a film in Bulgaria. 

JF: What are you working on in Bulgaria?

KB: I’m doing a film called The Toxic Avenger.

JF: I think I have heard of that. You WERE in Rhode Island because Kyra (Sedgewick) is working on a film here, right?

KB: Yes, Kyra is up there now, it’s very serendipitous that we’re playing in RI while we’re working in RI.

JF: You have played the Odeum in the past, correct?

KB: I believe we have, yes.

JF: It’s a great room, I have played there a couple of times, good sound, good people.

KB: I seem to remember having a good time. We really like those old converted movie theaters, we’ve played a lot of those all over the country.

JF: When you started out, did you want to be a musician or an actor or both or just whatever came your way?

KB: I was kind of on the fence about it. We’re talking about when I was maybe 11? I knew it was going to be one of the two. I think when I really started taking acting classes and tried to sing in theaters in Philadelphia, I was a pretty driven kind, I really got out and started getting my feet wet when I was really young. I was writing songs and my brother was already off to the races on a music career and I think that for whatever reason I should probably do something different and that, in combination with the fact that I just loved acting, I mean I just immediately felt nurtured by it.

JF: Do your other siblings do anything musical or acting-wise?

KB: My sister Hilda was really more into music even before my brother. She was a Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins type acoustic folk singer when she was in high school. She never really pursued it as a career, but she was good. Had a really good voice and then her and my brother put together a jug band. They used to practice in our little house in Philly, so when I was a little kid — she’s 10 years older and he’s 9 years older than me — if you picture they’re probably about 13 and 14 and I’m probably about 3, and I’m sitting on the steps to our — unfinished would be the understatement, when you talk about our basement — and they’re down there playing away with jugs and washboards, you know the whole thing.

JF: Your brother Michael plays cello as well, correct?

KB: Yeah, he’s a good cello player, over the years we have capitalized on that and have added it. When we first put the band together we didn’t really use cello, but we use it more and more now. Michael’s first band was a rock band called Peter and the Wolves when he was in college. When they broke up he came back to Philadelphia and he was in a pretty successful band that was just acoustic guitar and cello, but Michael didn’t play the cello, his friend Larry played the cello. His friend Larry was like a virtuoso cello player and they were called Good News and they were great and very popular, especially in and around Philadelphia. There was a very specific kind of music scene in Philly.

JF: Do you both handle the songwriting in this band?

KB: Yes, and we used to write together, but we really don’t write much together anymore.

JF: I am sure that is tough because of the travel and such.

KB: Yeah, I mean I think that when I was first starting to write, first I started writing without knowing how to play an instrument. So I was just writing melodies and lyrics and then bringing them to my brother and he would kind of figure out the changes and structure the song. Once I started playing a little bit of guitar I just started writing on my own. Once in a while he’ll send me, there’s a song on our last record that he had a great, cool lyric and he had a sort of rhythm and he sort of spoke the lyric into the phone and sent it to me and I put it aside for like almost a year and one day I just kind of busted it out and said, “Now I’m kind of hearing something.” In that case we co-wrote it, but he did the lyrics and I did the music, a lot of people write that way.

JF: Yes, I’ve written that way with others as well. When did you start playing guitar?

KB: I was probably about 13 or 14.

JF: That’s about when I started as well. I think that’s when everybody starts.

KB: A lot of people start when they’re 14 and stop when they’re 14. I’m one of those guitar players that really didn’t put in the hard work and as a result, I’m sort of stuck in a certain place. I got plenty of knowledge in order to write, but that is kind of where it stopped. And that was just the process for me. Everyone has a different kind of process. There’s a big difference — the 14- or 15-year-old kid who opts to not go to run around on the street or go to a baseball game or whatever, but opts to stay in his room and really shred. Then you get to a certain level that I’ll never get to, but I am very happy to have any kind of facility on any kind of instrument. I don’t need to tell you it’s a nice thing to have.

JF: Has the Bacon Brother’s music been used in any of your films and has he appeared in any films with you in a band capacity?

KB: He never appeared in any film in a band capacity. There was a time when we were constantly trying to write something and get it into one of my movies and constantly unsuccessful. It’s funny, we do a song in the set now that I actually dragged out from our last record or the one before, I can’t remember, that I wrote for Tremors. But the funny thing was at the time the movie was called Beneath Perfection, so the song is called “Beneath Perfection” and then they rejected the song and the movie came out and they changed the title of it. We’ve had a couple of songs not only in one of our movies, but in other ones as well. I wrote two songs for a movie that I did called Telling Lies in America that was about an early ’60s DJ and a relationship, he was kind of a slimy DJ, he had this band that he was trying to promote, and they they needed a couple of ’60s R&B tunes for the movie. The writer, great writer, Joe Eszterhas, wrote a title of a song that was supposed to be the hit for this young band, the song was called “Medium Rare,” and I read that title and I thought that was the worst title I have ever heard for a song, so let me see if I can write it. So I ended up writing that one and another one that ended up in the movie. So that was kind of fun. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to specifically write in a style of an era or a kind of genre. It’s kind of a fun challenge, it’s not something that you necessarily get to do all the time.

JF: One movie I remember you playing guitar in was Stir Of Echoes. I think you played guitar throughout that one.

KB: If I remember correctly, he was a musician. 

JF: And he was hearing a song in his head. 

KB: Yeah, it was like “Paint It Black” or something like that. And the funny thing about it, I wrote a song for that one and it didn’t end up in that movie, but i think it ended up another movie. I’ll tell you a funny story about that one was that the prop guy came to me and said, “You need to have a guitar. What kind of guitar would be lying around in this guy’s house?” And I was like, hmmm, let me see, I think it would be a J-45 or a J-50 Gibson with a sunburst from the ’60s. Basically thinking of a guitar that i kind of wanted (laughs) and sure enough they went out and found me one and I most definitely kept it. I still have it! So if you look at that movie I still have that J-45.

JF: I don’t blame you. It’s a nice guitar! What can we expect at the Odeum?

KB: It’s a lot of new music. I’m sure there’s a lot of new music from the last time that we played there. We are playing in a five-piece configuration. We don’t have keys, but we have cello, guitars, ukulele, different kind of percussion situations, harmonica, you know, all that kind of stuff. We like to have a good time, we’re looking forward to playing.

JF: I remember it was a fun show. How long has the band been around?

KB: We started in, I think, ’94 or ’95.

JF: I know that this is probably a dopey question, I know you did it when I opened for you, but do you still do the Footloose song and dance a bit?

KB: We sometimes do it.

JF: I am sure you are tired of it.

KB: Well, there’s two ways of looking at it. One is that bands talk about how hard it is when fans just want to hear their hits. My feeling is that, “Shit if I had a hit I’d play it!” In our case we don’t have a hit, so if it’s going to give people pleasure and they’re going to have a good time, just as a goof, to hear, what I like to call “The F song,” sometimes we’re happy to do it!

JF: That’s good. I am sure that people like to hear that. That’s the reality of the band is that as much as it’s about music, you tend to be the focal point just out of default.

KB: I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. I kind of feel like, it’s just a reality. I can’t tell people to come in and close their eyes and pretend that I wasn’t in a movie. There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m happy it gets people in the seats. We don’t pretend that’s not part of who I am.

The Bacon Brothers play the Greenwich Odeum on July 16. For more about this show and the many others at The Odeum sizzle over to: GreenwichOdeum.com

That’s it for now, thanks for reading. www.JohnFuzek.com