Monday, July 29, 2013

Concert Review: Leon Russell, Officer Friendly, Greg Townson

Posted By on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Thursday night I agitated the backstage gravel in the Gray Ghost with the Tin Man riding shotgun to catch Leon Russell at Party in the Park. Upon our arrival, Ithaca-based Driftwood was serving up its whirling stomp-and-shout spin on bluegrass. The group brought excellent vocals and intensity, especially when the fiddle player wound up and bowed for the clouds. The crowd was one big, howling smile. This band needs to come back soon...

Russell Rascal'd his way to the stage set up on the by-then packed parking lot under the bridge. Russell is a study in white, and looks a lot like how I thought god looked like, when I believed in god. Russell is way-cool and understated as a vocalist, and at times it was hard to make out his words. The piano, however, rang loud and clear as the man's digits summoned the boogie.

Rolled by the Dinosaur with a backseat full of females to catch the blue symbiosis that was Steve Grills with his special guest -- and big brother -- Arizona-based guitar slinger Tom Grills. The two duked it out family style. Steve is an encyclopedia while Tom is a shredder. It was cool to hold them both up to the light.

Friday night, Los Straitjacket, Hi-Riser, and all-around rock 'n' roller Greg Townson celebrated the release of his most excellent solo CD, "On Your Side." Townson's stripped-down performance -- just the man, a Harmony Rocket, and a Jerry-rigged suitcase -- showed how beautiful his songs are even without the polish and dressing. Townson is a treasure.

Later that night I went from the sublime to the subsonic pummeling of Water Street for the Officer Friendly reunion with guests Eyesalve and Nasty Habit. Eyesalve's set was an earsalve of big 90's, not-too-grungy rock as it set off in its mid-tempo thunder and drive. Nasty Habit -- the stars of the night, for me anyhow -- rocked its collective brain out with period-correct 80's-inspired metal. These guys have it down; the screaming guitars, the soaring vocals, the hooks, and the moves. The kids went bananas. Officer Friendly didn't miss a beat and came out as tight and as loud as ever. It was nostalgia for a lot of the big crowd, but still made sense to first timers. Good rock will do that.

Sadly due to Shakedown obligations, I only got to hear three songs from Nikki Hill at her packed show at Abilene Sunday night. She sounded dangerous and beautiful and it broke my heart to leave. So you tell me, what did I miss? Be gentle...

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