Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Very Quick Ponderosa Stomp Impressions

Despite this being in my hometown I've done a really poor job covering the Ponderosa Stomp. I guess I've been doing serious blogging for Jazz Fest and want to sit back, learn and enjoy this sacred event even more tailored to my tastes. But I'll check in on night one (though going to bed would be a better idea)

Little Willie Littlefield was on when I came in and really got things started just right. It was a simple setup, just him and a keyboard and a mic that the kept missing when he's turn to the audience and sputter something. And I mean sputter, the old man was covering himself in his own spittle as he played and dousing himself with water in-between sets despite the main stage being a freezer the entire night. High point: "Do y'all want some boogie-woogie?" he says smiling with a set of teeth seemingly offset to the right about five teeth. He proceeds to slam on the keys with what appeared to be his right hand, left hand, and stomping foot all in a different time, and I don't think he meant it. He's slamming down on the wrong chords all over the place and oddly enough it all fit. This old dude was pure rock & roll and I cracked up the entire time while he would play some boogie woogie, then Mary Had A Little Lamb, then turn to you and go "YEAH!" and bust into something else before London Bridge (followed by another YEAH). He came on later that night and though I went out for pizza after seeing about three songs, I hear he started playing the piano by banging it with a shoe in his hand.

I was really excited for Classie Ballou after seeing him talk during the conferences. This man was busting out world-class rock & roll instrumentals like "Classie's Whip" way down in Cajun country, yet thought his interview was talking about "Syrup" music before he got it and busted out a little Wipeout. It's not that Classie couldn't play, the way it was amplified and mixed, the guitar was thin and the drums were super-huge, sounding like a bad 80's comeback album. Speaking of which, check out Classie's myspace for a good laugh. Regardless of his performance, his past work and his general character stands: this guy is an overlooked legend of Louisiana music.

Little Joe Washington knocked just about everybody out. You see, a the problem with a lot of the more ho-hum artists is that they've lost their sense of adventure. Little Joe Washington just lost all semblance of giving a shit and has turned out better for it. You have this man of mysterious age and limited teeth busting out all-over-the-place guitar solos that fall out but eventually back into time (much to the relief of his seemingly worried sidemen). Meanwhile he squeaks out typically blues lyrics while plucking and often just straight up rubbing the guitar against his teeth. Or hat. Or leg. At least half of that show was played with the guitar being "played" in some unconventional manner, but he really truly could still play guitar. After Dr. Ike came out for everybody to give him a round of applause he hopped off the front of the stage and extended his hat for tips.

Dale Hawkins, reunited with his guitarist James Burton after ~50 years, just straight out tore it up. Dale was in good spirits and damn James Burton just spits out these fiery rockabilly solos as if he were talking. Of course, he traded them off with Deke Dickerson, who despite playing with a few other acts seem to have a little more color brought out in his playing given who he was playing for.

The first few songs I saw of the Remains were pretty boring, but I hear that's what everybody thought, and then it got better. Well, instead I saw The Bo-Keys who played some very tight funk... until Dennis Coffey came out. Listen, that guy is worth a $50 ticket alone. I can't think of a good way to put it at this out, but Coffey had all the technical ability of Yngwie Maalmsteen, except it's actually listenable and he could even play nicely within the songs the Bo-Keys were playing.

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy was another oddball act, though predictably so. Imagine you typical middle-class 50-year old, kicking in the air, yelling "ARE YOU KNOCKING ON MY DOORKNOB? YOU CAN KEEP KNOCKING UNTIL YOUR KNUCKLES ARE SORE. DOODLEY-DOO! WE'RE IN THE DESERT BOYS!"

Ray Sharpe (with the A-Bones backing him up) was cute. He sort of looked like a fish and really enjoyed the little phrases he would say. I did too. He would start out songs saying "this was supposed to be my big hit... but it missed!" But he doesn't sound bitter, it sounds more like "whoopsie!". He would make us shout out "but Goodie!" after he said one of his songs were an oldie. He would end all of his songs either really drawn out or abrupt ways and "the A-Bone band by way of Brooklyn" (as he called them) were visibly really confused. But he could really bust out some great licks and more so than any other group, including the Bo-Keys, he turned the House of Blues into a sock hop.

And then Lady Bo... I was a little skeptical after the interview session. She had a very "I'm a professional, playing music since three, doing dance in Giuliard" blah blah sort of person, rather than the Rock & Roll attitude a lot of people showed. So when she takes stage, we were treated to 5 minutes of her getting the sound "just right", then screwing around to a Bo Diddley beat, a little bit of Bo Diddley medley except her guitar is running through some oscillating pedal so it sounds like a slow siren, then she wants the audience to clap the half-notes to the Bo Diddley beat. Yeah, people clapping everywhere. Second song was a slow, slow number and... I was out of there.

I'm omitting some things that I didn't catch much of or didn't have much to say about, but really it was still a pretty great night.


hemard 2.0 said...

I'm glad you could incorporate Yngwie Maalmsteen into this post.

Hunter said...

oh dear, apparently I was very tired