by Clint Burgess, Serena Carlson and Mike Corrigan
Tillamook medium cheddar is David Bazan's favorite cheese. Or so the Pedro the Lion front man claimed during the last time he was in Spokane. The consummate Northwesterner, Bazan and his current incarnation of Pedro will be christening the Detour this Saturday.
Bazan has been captivating audiences for years with his mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma style of indie rock. As everyone knows, Pedro the Lion started out on the Christian label, Tooth and Nail. With an ever-changing lineup and varying musical climates, Pedro has evolved into a much more enlightened group. The maturity that comes from hundreds of shows and subsequent life experiences are increasingly present on the band's latest release. Control (Jade Tree) reveals an off-axis perspective on the world at large. More heavy and openly darker than previous albums, Control spins the listener into deep metaphors and promises sure fits of mind-wrenching contemplation. Diehard fans have embraced the album, but not until after the prodding that was needed for them to get past their initial shock over the heavy electric influence on the album.
Work has moved forward for Bazan since the last record. Control was the second in a trilogy of concept albums he was inspired to write. He has stated that the task of carrying out a threesome of intertwined albums has been daunting at best. However, the last album of the three has been under construction for some time at Bazan's recently constructed home studio and should be forthcoming shortly. The personnel for the band is rotated every once in a while to keep the songwriting and instrumentation fresh. It was during a break from this work that Pedro the Lion made its first ever appearance in Spokane last March. The show took place at Fat Tuesday's and certainly lived up to expectations as Bazan and Co. blew the minds of a capacity crowd. Drawing mostly from Control, the band ripped through song after of song of high energy, complemented by Bazan's cynical wit. He engaged in stage banter with audience members and graciously endured the sporadic "I love you, David." It was obvious that he enjoyed the show and was pleased with the turnout. Unfortunately, it was the same day that the United States started dropping bombs on Iraq, so the event was shrouded in melancholy.
Bazan is one of the great songwriters of his genre -- or his generation, for that matter. He has a commanding stage presence and always leaves the listener pondering. Recently he has been performing solo acoustic sets under the moniker "Paperback." His strength lies in simple yet subtly complex acoustic arrangements paired with his unmistakable, super-bummed-out vocals. He has yet to disappoint live and continues to impress audiences worldwide. This past summer found Pedro the Lion in Europe where the group continues to increase its fan base and gain notoriety from the press. If you were at the last Pedro show in Spokane, you know what to expect. If you weren't at the last show, you better get your ticket now, because this one is going to sell out.
Motor City Madman -- Break out the way-too-short cutoffs and wife-beater undershirts, gas up the Trans Am, stock the cooler with Schlitz and pawn your TV for ticket money -- Ted Nugent, the Motor City madman himself, is comin' to the Gorge.
OK, maybe that's being too stereotypical. Still, Nugent is the hard rocker responsible for 1977's album rock radio hit "Cat Scratch Fever," the now-classic Double Live Gonzo! album of 1978, and the squealing fretwork of the now-defunct pop metal super-group the Damn Yankees. So it's understandable that music such as his could inspire nostalgia for the glory days of mullets, Mustangs and metal heads.
With the current tour, Nugent is undoubtedly hoping to capitalize on the recent wave of '70s and '80s nostalgia. TV shows such as VH1's I Love the '80s and Fox's That '70s Show have brought these time periods to the forefront of our collective consciousness, even for those who may not have been alive to experience the cultural richness these decades possessed. Nostalgia tours, particularly for metal bands for some reason, are common and popular ---Ticketmaster.com lists current tours by Aerosmith, Kiss, Journey, Great White and Molly Hatchet, just to name a few. What's going on here? The expression of a long-suppressed love for huge hair, obligatory guitar solos and acid-washed jeans?
But I digress.
Nugent, who shares the bill at the Gorge this Saturday with the equally Paleolithic ZZ Top, is touring in support of Craveman, his first studio album in seven years. The album, according to the press release, is "a slice of vintage, chest-thumping Nugent wango tango." To understand "vintage" Nugent, we have to go back to Detroit in 1956, where an 8-year-old Ted - now there's an interesting mental image -- first learned how to play guitar. He soon formed his first band, the Royal High Boys, followed by several other lackluster projects. But with the Amboy Dukes in the late '60s, Nugent finally hit the big time. The Dukes issued several relatively popular albums and singles (the psychedelicized "Journey to the Center of the Mind," for one) through the mid-'70s. Band turnover was high, however -- Nugent was the only member to stay the course. He eventually changed the band's name to Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, and they continued to release albums and play live shows until 1975, when Nugent struck out on his own.
Solo Ted Nugent was an automatic success, due in large part to the guitarist's reputation for intensity and unforgettable antics on stage. Nugent may not have invented the concept of "arena rock," but he certainly left his own indelible mark on it. He would perform concerts dressed as a caveman -- wearing only a small loincloth -- and would often swing onto stage via a rope to begin the show.
Yet Nugent demanded complete artistic control of the band, prompting the other members to leave one by one. By 1980, all of the original members of Nugent's backing band had quit. Undaunted, Nugent continued to tour and release mostly forgettable albums throughout the '80s and '90s, pausing only briefly to do a stint with Styx's Tommy Shaw and Night Ranger's Jack Blades in that short-lived pop metal project, the Damn Yankees. Nugent's popularity, however, is back on an upswing -- he opened for KISS on their farewell tour in 2000, and another live collection, titled Full Bluntal Nugity, was released in 2001.
Nugent is, of course, more famous for his off-stage behavior. He's an outspoken critic of factory animal farming and is a rabid hunting advocate. In a recent Salon.com interview, he said, "If you want your body to be healthier, get off the salmonella, e-coli, mad cow, assembly-line toxic hell train of mass assembly-line slaughter! It's indecent. What I do is pure." He has written an autobiography called God, Guns and Rock 'n' Roll (which became a New York Times bestseller) and co-authored a cookbook called Kill It and Grill It with his wife, Shemane.
Another Long Strange Trip -- Seven years ago, chance and circumstance brought Darryl Kastl from the Bay Area to North Idaho. Now serendipity and hard work are conspiring to bring a little piece of the Bay Area's musical past here as well. Kastl has booked none other than Big Brother and the Holding Company into Moscow's beautiful Kenworthy Theatre for a show this Friday night.
Kastl grew up in San Francisco, was a teenager during the crazy Haight-Ashbury years, and had a personal connection to some of the movers of that scene -- a scene that nurtured not only Janis Joplin and Big Brother but also the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia got him into a bar when he was 16 years old. Bay Area rock promoter Chet Helms was a regular guest at the Kastl home.
Big Brother and the Holding Company will forever be remembered and revered as the band that introduced the world to one of the most notable female rock vocalists of all time, Janis Joplin. Though they likely wouldn't have been as notable without having picked Joplin as their lead singer, Big Brother nevertheless embodied the loose, indulgent and psychedelic aspects of San Francisco's late-'60s Haight-Ashbury scene. The classic lineup came together in 1966 with Sam Andrew and James Gurley on guitars, Peter Albin on bass, David Getz on drums and Joplin at the mike. The Monterey Pop Festival of the summer of 1967 and the release of their Columbia Records debut, Cheap Thrills, were the two defining moments for the group, each representing the best of Big Brother's interpreting, improvisational and full-on, acid rocking, freak-out skills. The band's fortunes as a commercial force took a turn south with the departure of Joplin in 1968. They broke up, only to re-form again in the '70s with different singers, and have continued into the '90s and beyond to capitalize on their considerable notoriety and reputation as musicians.
Kastl, who moved to Moscow seven years ago and started his own framing shop (Kaleidoscope Picture Framing) and art gallery, was bitten by the rock bug again last year during a performance by Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Coeur d'Alene Casino.
"The show was good but the atmosphere was just terrible," he says. "After it was over, I happened to walk by Peter Alvin, the bass player, as he was playing a slot machine. So I stopped and said 'hi' and asked him what it would take to bring them to Moscow. It's exactly a year later and now they're gonna be here."
Moscow's beloved and intimate Kenworthy Theatre should be the ideal venue to experience Big Brother's nostalgia trip. The 85-year old ex-vaudeville and movie house underwent a major restoration project in 2000 (under the direction of the Moscow Community Theater and the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center Board), which returned the venue (after almost two decades of under-use and neglect) to its former glory as a performance space and source of civic pride.
Says Kastl, "The great part for me, aside from the show itself, is that if this is a success, I want to bring in acts like Bo Diddley, maybe Arlo Guthrie. It excites me to be able to bring that type of talent here."