Monday, December 9, 2013

(Travelin' With The Red Dirt Road Dogs)

                                                             Dennis and Brenda Kippa

Yes, friends, you read that headline right. Sometimes the concert will bring itself right into our homes.
This is a fairly new capability, but our Red Dirt crystal ball tells us that one day this will just be another choice we can make in deciding how to experience the music we want to hear.

With a nod to the powerhouse that is Texas weather, we recently found ourselves canceled out of a concert for the second time in less than thirty days. Not willing to be left undone again, Road Dog One (that's Dennis) began a tour through the websites of the bands we like. To our surprise, he discovered that The Band Of Heathens was having a web concert, and it was due to begin in just a few minutes.

You haven't heard us talk about the Band of Heathens... yet. We are anxiously awaiting their concert in Dallas later this month; our full report will follow that event. So far, we had only seen them in short clips of one or two songs - aboard a cruise ship, in clubs, etc. - via U-Tube online. We noticed a joyful sense of experimentation, yet a clearly well-oiled package of professional musicianship that made us want to be in the audience at the earliest possible opportunity. Every time we saw a clip of their performance, we wanted to see more. Now we were seeing that a whole concert was here for the taking … and the great sum of five dollars. What's not to love about this?

Road Dog One did his magic with the cords, plugs, inputs & outputs, and we were ready to be a part of the audience with one or two minutes to spare.

The scene was a club in Berkley, California. On the down side, the whole event was shot with only one camera, fixed in a long-range position. This made it impossible to experience any close-ups, or to even be certain about exactly which person was singing at times. That is the end of the down side report, because everything else was concert perfection. This band's trademark concert style of improvisation and extended versions of their songs keeps their audience in a constant state of excitement and expectation. Just when a song seems to be coming to it's end, the band launches into a thrilling transitional jam to tie it to another of their songs to create a once-in-a-lifetime medley. Judging by the body language between the band members, it seems apparent that whoever is “in charge” of a song is the one that all of the others watch closely. This person takes the song where he wants it to go and the others follow along with what is needed. Many bands try to do this; not so many can pull it off and make it look easy.

We realized that we were receiving audio that was unaltered by first going through the venue's sound system, which made a huge difference. For this, we give our full appreciation to the audio technician who was in charge of the sound board. Clearly, this person knew how to process the sounds, and through the wonder of digital output and this technician's talent, we were on the receiving end of a truly unique sound experience.

The Band of Heathens is another of the amazing Austin-based music marvels. It's made up of founding members Ed Jourdi and Gordi Quist, both of whom are expert at vocals, guitar and harmonica, and Ed Jourdi also shines on keyboards when the occasion warrants. The two of them play off each other, taking each song into new territory with almost every delivery. What sounds like straight-up rock or country one time might sound like gospel the next time they play it. The band is rounded out by Trevor Nealon on keyboards and Richard Millsap on drums. In the opinion of Road Dog Two (that's me, Brenda), it's the keyboards that often take this band into the stratosphere. All of their songs are original, and these guys really know how to put a song together. We won't be a bit surprised when some of their songs get picked up by other musicians in a bid to grab the glow for themselves (it probably won't work, though; perfection shouldn't be messed with).

What a great treat it was to stumble upon this web concert! As the result of having several things go “wrong”, we are reminded that the finest jewels of experience are sometimes found hidden behind or underneath the remains of what once looked like a lost evening.

Watch for more on the Band Of Heathens later this month or early next year. Meanwhile, listen to Americana music for yourself, and enjoy!  

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