It was a celebration fit for a king… in this case the king was Dr. Herb Hughes. The location was Southminster retirement community, a fortress of senior citizens who enjoy the amenities of a southern palace tucked away from the working world. It was my duty to put on a performance to honor the Doctor on his birthday.
I set up near the podium… a high pitch screech from my speakers was not enjoyed by a gentleman on the front row, he exclaimed, “Well now you have our attention!!!” I sheepishly walked back to my piano bench and got started. The playlist began with an array of doo-wop hits from the golden age of American Music… Songs from the Ronnettes, The Shirelles, and Dion were played to set the mood.
A special moment came when I took my break after an hour of playing and Dr. Hughes made his birthday toast. He said, “Thank you all for coming! I was at church last Sunday and the minister had an interesting twist on an old expression. When there’s a will… there is family!” Everyone in the ballroom was laughed uncontrollably.
I made my way back to the piano and started playing “Amazing Grace.” I was only halfway through the first verse before I noticed a wonderful elderly lady singing all the words. Next her husband came up, and by the third verse I was surrounded by a crowd of happy faces singing along. We ended up singing the song three more times before my brother joined and we had a crew of nearly ten people singing together. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it a million times over, music has a magical way of bringing people together… All ages and all walks of life. Happy Birthday Dr. Hughes, we love you.
It was a brisk September evening in Charlotte, NC and Miles and I decided to go see a band called Zuli! It turned out to be a fabulous decision. A four piece collective with wacky hair and a new age surfer rock sound. They started the show with a lovely melody of four part harmony that kicked into their signature upbeat flowing sound.
The lead singer Ryan had an engaging stage persona… often bopping around the stage and playfully sticking out his tongue. His vocal range was incredible… regularly taking his melodies to high places before locking in with the band for tight instrumental breakdowns and thrashing solos… The band was tight… they were all enjoying themselves and so was everyone in the audience… At one point Ryan politely said to the collective after the first song… “Hey guys thanks for coming, it’s okay if you all move into the center of the room and away from the walls!” Everybody did, and now everyone was listening together.
My favorite part of the show had to be in their song “kubadiver” Right before they went into an upbeat and visceral instrumental jam thrash, Ryan let out a screech that sounded like it came from a prehistoric dinosaur and slapped the heck out of his guitar. After the show I had a word with the band and they couldn’t have been friendlier. Zuli were melodic, Zuli were tight…. Zuli put Charlotte in a great mood.
A simple drum beat, mixed to perfection… He’s back… A shadowy revolving stage with nothing but a man at his drum set…or so we think. Lenny Kravitz has just released his new single and it’s a power pop groove-a-thon. I don’t know why it’s so cool, but seeing someone play drums and sing at the same time has always been fascinating to me. Much like when you see Sting play bass and sing a different melody simultaneously it adds an impressive element to an artist’s performance. It’s a natural way of saying to the audience: “Hey! I am a great musician.”
The Video captures the feeling of artistic angst and expression. Each hit from the snare drum is accompanied by a splash of sweat bouncing off the skin of the drum and Lenny himself. It is a refreshing site to see in a top forty world dominated by drum machine samples… a man beating his drums and singing his heart out. No noticeable effects… just a solid powerful vocal and instrumental performance.
In the video at the 2:14 mark, Lenny is replaced by Ms. Jas Kayser at the drums. She has a similar hairstyle wearing the exact same clothes. It is a really cool effect seeing both of them switch on and off at the Kit.
My experience as a musician is that playing an instrument has often always been an escape and sort of therapeutic solution to the problems in my life. Seeing Mr. Kravitz express himself on the drums was awesome to see. The song is great… so is the video… Check it out below. Low Music Video
If you want to hear more about the video in depth from the man himself. Go to the 24:00 minute mark of his interview. Lenny Kravitz on Trunk Radio
In a media world saturated by vapid and cliché over sexualization of women in the music industry, it’s important to reflect on the talent of those genuine female songwriters who rise above the bullshit.
It was a Monday… I was driving back from the Coffee Shop after staring at my computer screen for a few hours (I’m currently taking a course on search engine optimization… #neverthoughtideversaythat) and I flipped on the radio. “Men do you want a bigger pe… switch… Get zero percent money down on your brand new Chevy… switch… God I feel like hell tonight… the tears of rage I cannot fight… I’d be the last to help you understand… Are you strong enough to be my man… my man…”
Boom! Leveled! Hit with a heat seeking missile of vulnerability, melodic beauty and truth. You know when you flip on the radio and the perfect song comes on at the perfect time? Well… That song was “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow. I got the goosebumps, you know the ones that are so good that they almost tingle the back of your neck?
I couldn’t wait to get home, I was on YouTube checking out a live performance she did of the song in New York in 2005.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5Yl5j43s DU Truly touching…
That look she gives at 0:50 seconds to the crowd… wooh… See that’s the look of a songwriter in her element… in that special zone of twirling creative cosmic energy that no one can define. She is sharing her story with us in a way that will be forever timeless.
So Ms. Crow… if you ever read this… Thank you for saving my day.
Back at it again… gig number two at Vin Master in South End! I posted up with my speaker on top of the fridge, plugged in my trusty SM58 and I was off like a herd of turtles! It was great to see one of my talented photographer friends (Kyle Scharf) bring his whole family to watch, very touching indeed. He told me before I started to play, “Harry it’s no problem… my son Conor loves music, he dances all the time.” Sure enough, he was busy prancing like a pony to a cover of Yellow by Coldplay. I am sure if Chris Martin were at Vin Master on July the 13th, he would have been a little touched too. Below is a photo Conor took… pretty good for a two-year old!!!
The night picked up some steam as a rowdy group of 30 year olds came in and started drinking Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio… a perfect time to play a little Michael Bublé. I received a few tips as the evening progressed and before I knew it… it was time to wrap up.
If I were truly being a good boy I would tell you that I immediately invested my tip money into a 401K savings account… but alas, the whispering devil on my shoulder took me straight to Wendy’s where I ordered off the four for four menu. The lady at the intercom suggested I should get sweet and sour sauce for dipping, it was a good suggestion… but I personally prefer good old fashioned honey mustard.
My next gig will be at the Harris Teeter wine bar on Providence Road…
It was a stormy evening… one ideal for a night of 90’s covers and half priced wine. I arrived at the venue promptly at 6:45 p.m. ready to set up my gear. The location was Vin Master, a beautiful new wine bar located right next to the train tracks on South Boulevard in Charlotte, NC.
It wasn’t the easiest set up I have ever done, I had my normal difficulties with the microphone stand (I was the kid who had trouble coloring between the lines in kindergarten) but eventually situated my sound system on top of a refrigerator.
Once I had everything all set up, the show was rolling!!! It was touching to see friends show up, enjoy the drinks and the relaxed piano music from the olden days. The fan favorite of the night had to be the cover of “Hit Me Baby One More Time.”
But for me, the highlight of the night was a conversation I had with a New Yorker. He said he had moved to Charlotte a couple years ago and he really enjoyed the performance, later suggesting I should show up at Vin Master regularly. “You could be South Boulevard’s next Elton John!!!,” he squeaked with a wry smile! After a congratulatory pat on the butt he disappeared into the night, walking home with a sense of elation and simultaneous embarrassment. My next gig at Vin Master will be on Friday the 13th of July between the hours of 6:30 and 9:30 p.m.