"In a fair world, I should be carrying Jef's bags."
—Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson
I was sad to see that Germantown guitar veteran Jeff Lee Johnson passed away on Monday. Johnson never got super famous, but he was always there in the fringes: He put out several under-heard solo albums. He backed the likes of Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, George Duke, D'Angelo and McCoy Tyner. He played the starring role in that amazing Lonnie Johnson tribute album a few years back. Questlove loved him.
We put Jef Lee Johnson on the cover of City Paper in 2010. A.D. Amorosi did the interview. Mark Stehle did the photos. Here's a Johnson quote that sorta sums him up, maybe:
"I've had that said to me, that I'm too good at what I do and that I show people up. I'm not looking to show off other musicians' shortcomings. Their shortcomings are not my problem. I may be a guy who has said no more often than I said yes, but I'm just trying to knock the gig out of the park every time."
For more about Johnson's passing, check out Dan DeLuca's piece in today's Inky.
“One of the prettiest sights in this pretty world is that of the privileged classes enjoying their privileges.”
—Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story
Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard aren’t singers — they’re scruffy, flannel-clad, Southern, guitar-playing lions.
Hot Water Music has been pioneering a brand of gravel-throated rock somewhere between punk and post-hardcore (or whatever you want to call it) for nearly 20 years now. Their set at the Electric Factory Saturday only reminded the crowd that yes, their live show as refined as it is impassioned; yes, they will still play “Trusty Chords”; and yes, Ragan’s roar of a voice in particular is enough to occupy and quake every open space in the venue.
HWM’s set was balanced nicely with long time favorites from Caution, A Flight and a Crash and No Division, and a handful of tracks from their latest record, last year’s Exister (Rise). “Mainline,” “Paid in Full,” and especially “Drag My Body” were solid picks from Exister that highlight the band’s exceptional rhythm section (Jason Black is a bass guitar hero).
I caught Ragan last March at the Philly stop of his Revival Tour, so I wasn’t caught off guard by how jovial and appreciative he is when addressing the audience between songs, but I wasn’t expecting him to pour even more of himself into his playing — this is a dude who sings with his entire body. But the best HWM songs are always the ones where he and Wollard share vocals, the bromance-y songs like “Wayfarers” and “It’s Hard to Know,” where you’ll look around the Factory and find pockets of 30-somethings with neck beards arm-in-arm at the balcony bars, shouting right back.
Though Christopher Owens’ face is obscured by a curtain of perpetually lanky hair on the cover of his new (and debut) solo album Lysandre, a near-unprecedented proportion of his face was visible during his set last night at Union Transfer. These slightly tamer locks were just one of many changes to Owens’ post-Girls identity. He was also, for example, joined by seven-piece band – a figure that sometimes felt overinflated, especially in the presence of two distractingly under-utilized American Apparel-esque waifs. Much about the songs from Lysandre felt similarly ornamental. With a running time of less than thirty minutes, Owens’ album is slightly insubstantial – a fact which frequent and slightly anachronistic-sounding flute flourishes seemed to emphasize, rather than disguise. And the sameyness of the recurring instrumental theme which runs through each track of Lysandre was not much mitigated by the live performance.
But this somewhat middling first set was mostly redeemed by an extended encore of covers, including The Everly Brothers’ “Let it be Me” and Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice.” Owens and Co.’s rendition of Simon and Garfunkel classic “The Boxer” was particularly excellent and marked one of the few times that the generally enthusiastic crowd rose from the plastic folding chairs which had been set up for the occasion. Though easily the highlight of the performance, these covers also drew attention to the relative weakness of Owens’ own material.
It wasn’t a bad show by any means — but I did leave more with the desire to hear Owens cover the rest of Bridge Over Troubled Water than to replay Lysandre ad nauseum.
And that's how you win tickets, people. All three of these artists get a pair of tickets each to see Joel Hodgson at the Troc on Sunday. Don't forget to read Shaun Brady's awesome story on Joel in this week's paper.
“Riffing Myself,” Sun., Jan. 27, 4 p.m., $22.50-$39.50, The Trocadero, 1003 Arch St., 215-922-6888, thetroc.com.
Sacre bleu: Georges Perrier wants his name back. The French chef who sold Le Bec Fin to Nicolas Fanucci was pleased last year that the new owner wanted to keep Perrier’s flame burning with a namesake basement boite, Chez George. This year, not so much: Word has it that Perrier needs his name back for his own business concerns and enterprises, vite vite. With swift dispatch, the recently re-done room will now be known as Le Bar.
Philly boxing giant Joey Eye is taking over Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino in a big way starting Jan. 26. The cut man/promoter has a huge lightweight bout brewing between Lebanon PA’s Esteban Rodriguez and Victor Vasquez. Eye will fill that bill with seven other matches, starting at 7 p.m. Put up your dukes.
Shake Shack, Danny Meyer’s burger chain (number one at 20th and Sansom is still packed daily), is indeed opening its second Philly link as the cornerstone of Drexel’s Chestnut Square complex along the 3200 block of Chestnut. Students can get the shake on by autumn 2013.
As you'll see in tomorrow's paper, we're pretty excited about Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson performing his one-man show "Riffing Myself" (aka "Sunday in the Dark with Joel") at the Trocadero. Would you like to go? We'd like to send you. So
1. Draw a picture of one of the MST3K robots
2. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. Thursday, with GIMME JOEL HODGSON TICKETS as the subject
3. We'll choose our favorite two or three pics and set the winners up wih a pair of tickets each.
AMATEURS ENCOURAGED! Just have fun with it.
"Riffing Myself," Sun., Jan. 27, 4 p.m., $22.50-$39.50, The Trocadero, 1003 Arch St., 215-922-6888, thetroc.com.
LOVE NOTE RECIPIENT: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
I AM: Christian Hunold, a full-time college professor and part-time wildlife photographer.
MY LOVE NOTE:
Hopefully you saw Neal Santos' awesome Birdie Busch photo on our cover last week — and read A.D. Amorosi's interview. Well, then you know what you should do tonight.
The Philly Opry and album release party for Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night, Fri., Jan. 18, doors at 8 p.m., music at 9 p.m. sharp, $12-$15, with Joy Kills Sorrow and Jason Loughlin, Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com, birdie-buschmusic.com.
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