Monday, August 02, 2010

Stella, and how in the world did I end up in 7 bands?

The answer is "I can't help myself". I've had the rock and roll bug since hearing the Beatles (or The Chipmunks sing the Beatles) as a wee thing. My Uncle Dewey had a guitar in the mid-60's and also a band. I was fascinated by that thing. The only sounds I could make from it was bumble bee sounds by plunking on the bass E string and running my finger down the frets the way a surf guitarist would.

I didn't get serious about playing one till I was a senior in high school, the 2nd semester in 1980. My friend Tim O'Connell was about to throw the guitar into the trash one day when I was at his house and I begged him to give it to me. I wore that little guitar out.

To the side is a picture of the Stella he gave me. It's since been signed by several of my fellow North Carolina musicians when I co-led the NC Songwriters Alliance in the 90's. It still hangs in my home. The close-up at the top of the page is what Ryan Adams wrote on it when he played the Songwriters Alliance on one particularly bizarre night.

Anyway, back to the original question. For years and years, following the break-up of my first real band The Hanks, the only band I played with was my self-titled band Jeff Hart & The Ruins. Then later, the Panther Branch Boys and The Brown Mountain Lights. But after years of sort of vaguely trying to "make a go of it" while still holding down a day job, I slowly realized that simply playing live music in general was what it was all about for me. I briefly had a Kinks tribute band in the 90's and recently we revived it as The Kinksmen. But one thing has led to another and I'm in a Neil Young tribute band called "Young Neil and The Damage Done", and a very occasional Television tribute band (the NYC 70's rock heroes) called Amps Do Furnish A Room, and now a band called "Mockpile" which pays homage to Rockpile, Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe and even some Elvis Costello and Big Star.

I just can't say no apparently. I'll soon get back to my own stuff (and even a sideways revival of my old band The Hanks, but with a few new members and a new name ie, Johnny Paul Jason), but this has been a nice detour and it's helped me get back in touch with what I really love about music anyway and why I got into it in the first place.

Monday, April 12, 2010

And now we're back where we started, Here we go round again.

Some of you will recognize that as the lyric to the Kinks' song "Do it Again". I had the good fortune to have my Kinks tribute band The Kinksmen receive an invitation to perform at the Full Frame Documentary Festival in Durham, NC on April 9. There's a documentary called "Do It Again" which screened there and it's about Boston Globe writer Geoff Edgers' quest to reunite the long dormant British band. The film has been getting lots of attention and the Full Frame Festival was an especially well-received viewing. (One note: in a similarly Kinky event, I opened a show as a solo act for Dave Davies' Kinks Kronikles at Cat's Cradle in 1999, a show I was thrilled to hear Geoff mention in his film).

Geoff's recap of the April 9th festivities:

"The short summary: Lines snaking around the corner, a sold out 1,000 seat hall, a smashing, post-screening set by the Kinksmen. A night that would have been perfect had Carlene (his pregnant wife) been able to come.

More detail: I was, frankly, terrified. Fletcher Hall is big, about 958 friends bigger than I have in the Triangle. And Full Frame is packed with fantastic docs, including two playing at roughly the same time, both films that are, frankly, a bit more socially important than “Do It Again.”

Adding to my anxiety is that two days ago, the Full Frame folks told me 400 tickets were sold. Then, we stopped getting updates as advance, Internet sales were ended. The buzz is incredible, we were told. Don’t worry about it. Well, that’s just not how I work. I worry.

In reality, I had done my job: A Sunday story on the front of the region’s big daily, a feature in the Independent Weekly, an appearance on WRAL Friday morning.

Still, it was hard to feel good until Rob called me on my cell – I was backstage watching soundcheck – and told me to meet him outside. That’s where I saw the line, which started near the front door of the Carolina Theatre and ran down the block, around the corner and up as far as I could see."

More here:

To add to the thrill of being associated with such a cool project and film, Geoff also asked NC favorite sons and influential indie rockers (all from Winston-Salem and with UNC ties) Mitch Easter, Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey (the latter two from the heralded dB's and Mitch from Let's Active and as a famed record producer) to sing a few with The Kinksmen. If this sounds like your idea of a perfect spring North Carolina night, it really turned out that way.

We played to a packed sold out house in the historic Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham following the Q&A session with Geoff and director Robert Patton-Spruill. The curtain raised just as in the old rock and roll movies and we proceeded to kick things off with "Picture Book". We then brought up Chris and Peter as they did versions of Days and Tired of Waiting (video courtesy of SnoopDave)

The complete set list was as follows:

Picture Book

I'm Not Like Everybody Else

Days (Peter Holsapple)

Tired of Waiting for You (Chris Stamey)

Till the End of the Day (Mitch Easter)

Stop Your Sobbing

Set Me Free

Waterloo Sunset

Medley (You Really Got Me / I Need You / All Day & All of The Night)

Low Budget

Another video shot from the side of the stage is The Kinksmen on Waterloo Sunset (video courtesy of Phil Venable - he has several more clips of this show, click his name).

A night I'll long remember. To have three of my best musical friends along with three of my most important musical influences shoulder to shoulder paying tribute to The Kinks was something I could not dream up if I'd tried.