1. A Year Later

    'Showtime' (Club Cafe)

    It’s hard to believe that Black Coffee has been cranking for only a year.  To celebrate, we played our anniversary show last night at Club Cafe in Pittsburgh.  I like hanging with the band and friends after the show, but an occasional late night drive home is always nice to reflect.

    It was a pleasure to share the evening with Aabaraki, a band that’s been in my funk/soul rotation for a few months now, who dubs their style as reduction-stutterfunk.  Earlier in the year, a few of us went to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band in New York and winded up catching these fellas at Rockwood Music Hall.  Definitely check them out.

    'Doors at 7' (Altar Bar)

    We also had the opportunity to talk with the sound engineer, Denny, who – as it turns out – used to run sound regularly for Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band.  He has been running sound for years, and it was great to have him behind the knobs last night.

    Pittsburgh shows are always special to us.  There are some nice venues down there, great people, and folks just seem to genuinely enjoy seeing live music.  As usual, there were a ton of familiar faces, but it was especially good catch up with the Touch Faster crew and our friends Joe and Monica.  Joe was always among the performers at the Phryst open mic nights we’d hit when we were starting out as a trio.  (Great times, but I don’t miss carrying my Barker through the crowd on our way out.  Though, my Ampeg would fare well in that environment…)

    'Hanging with The Lube' (Flood City Music Festival)

    So we shall see what the year brings.  We’ve played over 65 shows in the last year including a pile of festivals, shared the stage with Lubriphonic and Bettye LaVette in Pittsburgh (not to mention a pile of touring acts at Johnstown’s Flood City Music Festival), met some really great folks along the way, and to say the least:  we are chomping at the bit to hit it hard again this time around.  We have a pile of new tunes in the works, and are truly branching out regionally with shows on the calendar in WV, PA, and NY and others in the works in MD and VA.

    That’s all for now. Be on the lookout for our friend Jay’s recording of last night’s show.  And if you’d like, sign up for our email list in the meantime.

  2. Original Music is indeed a community interest.

    Chad Becks raises the dilemma that many genres of guitar including the jazz and classical varieties are experiencing a lack of growth in comparison to other more popular genres. Though I’ve not observed an actual decline of interest in classical or jazz guitar within the musical community, I can certainly relate his observation to the acceptance and support of musical creativity. Becks’ observation between pop music and jazz or classical guitar differentiates between two vastly different levels of creative complexity within written music, and is analogous to the continually growing popularity of cover-bands versus lesser-supported original music at the local level.

    Having lived in Centre County now for eight years, I can certainly say that musical interest among the general public favors popular music over original music – or at least the typical downtown band line-ups selected by our venues make it appear this way.

    With State College holding a large population of the county, it’s common to hear local musicians blame the venues and their student patrons for this lack of variety. True or not, many naturally relate the demand for sing-along bands to the thirsty student patrons that stimulate the borough’s night life economy. On the contrary, bluegrass – an example far from sing-along pop music – has much local support not only from musicians but more importantly the community. So it is not truly fair to say that State College night life only caters to popular music. Though bluegrass’ local popularity may be largely attributed to its American roots, other roots genres such as blues and jazz do not share the same steady niche that bluegrass holds in and around State College.

    Again using bluegrass as our example – there is another reason for why it is a more successful contender than jazz in a community where pop seems to flourish. Centre County already has numerous popularized gathering circles for bluegrass music. They are hosted on a regular basis by local churches and cafes and offer a free open-to-any-skill-level environment to learn how to play bluegrass music. The circles provide a unique opportunity for musicians to collaborate and meet each other, and it’s my belief that these circles have created an unintended movement over time. The result is a stronger community foundation for bluegrass to thrive in the county. American root genres or not, the same cannot be said for jazz, blues, jamband, and funk, though, some intimate downtown atmospheres such as Zeno’s Pub (and occasionally Bar Bleu) show that there is a consistent interest in such creative music styles.

    For whatever reason, there are not many gatherings in Centre County to bring attention to jazz guitar and much more generally, original music. I too agree with Becks, and generally speaking, I believe that it is up to our musical community to establish localized “cells” of musicians to hold playing circles that encourage growth of original music in the community. Numerous local organizations and venues already exist to thrive on the music and musical relationships generated at such creative music circles. Though, much like the circles that assist the interest in bluegrass among the public and local musicians alike, I believe the original music circles must occur regularly and encourage participation at every skill level to successfully increase awareness that original music is indeed a community interest.

  3. Dirty Superb at the Red Horse Tavern

    Dirty Superb at the Red Horse Tavern
    Dirty Superb, Friday Sept. 4th
    Did you get the memo? Dirty Superb is staging a hostile takeover of your work weary mind. Even though the semester just started, there’s a new CEO in town: Soul Power. Come watch Dirty Superb bring their musical synergy to the stage this Friday.

    Dance grooves and general merriment await you in Pleasant Gap. So make the journey and fill us in on what you did on your summer vacation. Come Monday, you’ll be sure to have some stories to share around the water cooler. But this weekend, loosen your loafers and slip into something on the funky side.

    Dirty Superb will be playing at the Red Horse Tavern in Pleasant Gap this Friday, September 4th. The show is from 9 to 12pm, with no cover charge. Hope to see you there!

  4. A Sunday with Vitamin Funk

    Chris plays ddrums
    Chris plays ddrums
    On Sunday I got together with Vitamin Funk to do some jamming and recording before Chris and Mike headed back to college. We had some room-mic recordings of most of our tunes prior to the weekend, but wanted new takes on some of them with a sax player we recently met.

    In about two hours we ended up laying down five tunes (bear in mind the goal wasn’t a professionally isolated studio recording).

    My SRC Barker
    My SRC Barker
    Three were previously written, and the other two were an upbeat blues song and a reggae beat – both ideas that came up while fooling around earlier in the summer. They were both on file as well, but we wanted a more formal shot at them with more than one mic in the room. The three originals were Off the Wall, Jammy Moe, and Keeping it Funky.

    Sunday was a great time, and I look forward to the next Vitamin Funk show whenever that may be. We’re toying with the idea of setting up a show or two in State College around Thanksgiving. I’ll let you know if that comes to fruition.

  5. WingFest with the Hounds of Soul

    Hounds of Soul - August '09 Flyer
    Hounds of Soul - August '09 Flyer
    This Thursday night at 7:30pm State College’s funk, soul and Motown band Hounds of Soul will be performing live for the first time at Tussey Mountain WingFest. We’ll be playing tunes of the 60s and 70s, and covering songs by Tower of Power, Blood Sweat and Tears, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan and James Brown to name a few.

    The nine piece band features a four piece horn section and includes members who have performed in State College and Altoona area bands such as Cliff Turner and the Afterburners, Cootie Brown, and SouthWEST.

    If you are into funky music and like wings, come out to Boalsburg to see State College’s funkiest horn section. More information for the event can be found at the Tussey Mountain webpage. The band will also be performing at 8:00pm this Friday night at the Bellefonte Arts and Crafts Fair.

    This post is part of the thread: Jackie Brown & The Gill Street Band – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.