Earlier this year, I stumbled across CokeWeed’s website, and noticed that they had made their first record, CokeWeed Volume 1, available for download:
Now, I once found a fortune cookie that offered the following words of wisdom:
“Remember: Cheap things not valuable; valuable things not cheap”
While It would appear that Zhu Rongji had since that particular fortune banned as part of the “Great Rehabilitation” of PRC and subsequent emergence as manufacturer of cheap goods for planet Earth, I have generally found that fortune’s advice to be pertinent. Which might explain the lowered expectations I brought to my first listen of this record. I downloaded it here, arranged the dishes for washing, and set it to play, expecting not much.
I am pleased to report that CokeWeed are the firm exception to my fortune-cookie edict. In fact, I can say it more simply. THIS BAND RULES!!!!
From the soft, meandering. lost-in-fields romance of the first track, LittleBird, through the high-water mood swings of the middle track,Not My Old Man,to the high-note, train-chugging, honkytonk cabaret of The Frizz, CokeWeed: Volume I is well worth it’s penniless price. Blending the jangly guitars of Creedence Clearwater Revival with the subdued moodiness of Velvet Underground, all wrapped up in the dual-ribbons of singer Milan McAlevey’s crooning baritone and Nina D’s soft, breezy, dream-inducing contralto, Volume I, is about as fine a debut as a band could hope for.
Which brings us to Nice Dreams, their second album.
On the graph of musical expectations, what is the axial opposite of a sophomore slump? I suspect, given time, it will have something to do with this record, which stands firmly atop CokeWeed: Volume I and reaches up into the stratosphere. In fact, I can say it more simply: THIS RECORD TOTALLY RULES!
Rather than tell you how, I’ll just encourage you to see for yourself:
His appearance belies him: A slight man with a 12-string guitar about describes it. He played the DAC in August, 2010, in an acoustic solo show. I recall it was not a huge house.
But I also recall, it was transporting. Micah’s songs—about wrecked ships, guests who come for dinner, and clearings in the woods—are delicate, small, and totally of a place. That place is these north woods of Maine, where his music seems to issue forth in mossy glades, and crash upon granite shores. Like all great Maine art, Micah’s music is subservient to the landscape that is its home. Listen to this, and you’ll see.
MICAH BLUE SMALDONE – “THE CLEARING” The Clearing
You see, it turns out that Micah Blue Smaldone and CokeWeed were on Tour together this spring. They swung through Brooklyn, and I caught the show. CokeWeed were great. They played a tight, short-ish set, anchored by a STELLAR version of their standout single from NiceDreams, “Golden Apples.”
Then, Micah Blue took the stage. Only, he didn’t have his signature acoustic guitar strapped on. In fact, he had something that looked an awful lot like one of them there ‘Lectric gee-tars! What was this? Shame! Shame! Had the boy not heard of Dylan at Newport? And what was this? CokeWeed returning to the stage to accompany him? Quelle Scandale!
Friends, I was floored. It counts as one of the dozen or so indelible shows of my life. And when this “Avengers” team of Maine Indie-Folk-Rock agreed to play our own DamJam, I must admit: I kinda lost it. This video gives a bit of flavor, but it’s sorta like seeing a lion in the zoo as opposed to out on the savannah.
Just got some FINE FINE news about this ‘ere DamJam! And that news is: that we have secured one JB BENN to perform magic for us.
Who is he? That’s easy: he’s one of the best magicians in the world. With his own TV Shows on the A&E and Discovery channels. Performed for Kings and Queens. And royalty of other sorts, as well: See below.
JB Benn performs for (and out-cools) Bono
JB Benn with Oprah Winfrey
JB Benn and the World’s Richest Man
JB specialized in close-up magic, that you can touch with your hands and see right in front of you. And it is amazing stuff. In-league-with-forces amazing. Most magic gives of a whiff of the trick when you see it. Not this stuff. Check it out:
It’s a real honor to have him. And I”m selling it short when I say you won’t want to miss this. This is one DamJam performance I guarantee you’ll never forget!
Earlier this year, I hosted a fondue party at my house in Brooklyn. Guests of honor: The Milkman’s Union. They showed up rockstar-style, with large appetites and no wine. And one of them even stole my cologne. So, it’s a testament to how FABULOUS their music is that the whole incident is wrapped up in my memories with a big pleasurable bow and filed under “great nights.” The boys dragged themselves through the cheese; and then retired to the fabulous Capri Social Club across the street:
They treated us like Gods. And I know it was not my charms that greased the taps.
I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this band. They have been steadily gathering acolytes over the past couple of years here in Maine, and are on the cusp of a debutante’s welcome in the wider worlds of the East Coast, with the upcoming release of their new LP. Their bloom even reached New England’s The Deli music magazine, where they won the coveted “Best of New England” fan poll.
…And now, it’s time for a confession: I feel that I owe this band my musical life. When the Milkman’s Union played here in Denmark last year, they were our first foray into that “electric” musical sound the kids are so excited about. And it should be no surprise that they brought the house down. if you were there, you know whereof I speak. They awoke in me a love for music that had lain dormant for a decade, reminding me that all that is great in life can be communicated by a guitar, drums, and bass under (exceptional) lyrics.
Now, they headline the DamJam. Kismet? Hardly! When something this good comes along, the better part of discretion tells that you should hold it like magic.
So here you go: a couple of talismans, for your listening pleasure.
They say that work is love made visible. If that is the case, than I can guarantee you this band loves you, cause nobody works harder to entertain. With a rigorous touring schedule that has taken them to almost every corner of Maine, this is one band can honestly claim a “local” following literally everywhere in the Pine Tree State. At their last outing in Denmark in 2010, folks traveled from as far away as Bethel and Rangeley to catch their show.
Which dedication, of course, begs the question: Why? Simple answer: because they’re great. The Toughcats play a manic, puckish brand of folk music that sounds as if a hillbilly, a glam-rocker, and a crooner got shipwrecked on a desert isle together, where, over the course of a couple hundred years, they evolved a new civilization, for which this music is the soundtrack. Witness:
…Oh, and as if I really need to mention: These guys know that “you got to have a party.” I do believe they’ll be providin’ one, come July 21.
Oh, and get this: the band features an OBOE! Props to bandmember Dan Stackhouse, who blows the &^!_# out of that thing. I wonder where the Oboe-ist stands in the hierarchy of Rock-n-Roll instrumentalists? Crazier the drummer? Moodier than the singer? More self-destructive than the guitarist? More introverted than the bassist?
I guess you’ll just have to come see the band for yourself and find out.
Anyways, we’re thrilled to welcome these five fresh faces to our lineup! Come cheer them on this July 21. They’ll be first in the lineup, so be sure to get there early to catch em.
Perhaps you’ve seen a few of these posters around town:
Handsome, isn’t it? It is the work of Portland’s own Kris Johnsen, whose work is just amazing. And, more to the point, HAND CRAFTED!!! He “pulls” each poster by hand, like taffy, so that each one is different. You can see him do just that in this video:
We’ll have a few of his works available at the DamJam for purchase, if you feel yourself spiraling in to a paroxysm of need for one. And if you find one around town, you’re welcome to ask if you can have dibs. But don’t ask for the one at Morning Dew Foods–it’s already called for.
A year back, we had the pleasure of hosting Portland’s bestest belly dancer, Rosa Noreen, here at the DAC for a bellydancing workshop. In tow was her boyfriend, Samuel James.—all 6’2 of him, sporting a curiously constructivist hairdo, and intent on having a swim. As Rosa taught the denizens of Denmark to shimmy, shake, and move that thang, James could be seen, waiting, bored, playing his Nintendo DS halfway up the stairs like modern update of that old AA Milne poem. I ventured to introduce myself, and asked Mr. James that awful question, “What do you do?” His reply caught me like a whiff of strong cheese: “I am one of the better guitar players in Maine,” he said with an impish smile. I will confess that a part of me harbored grave doubts.
Later that evening, after an excellent dinner, we returned to the DAC to hear the Press Gang perform and see a full-bore performance by Ms. Rosa. As we waited backstage in the green room, Mr. James found an old, battered guitar. It’s strings were lines of rust; its warped back more suited to Quasimodo than the blues. But I’ll be damned if Mr. James didn’t prove his comment of earlier in the day, with nothing more than that beast and his nimble fingers.
I quickly asked him if he might be willing to jump into the evening’s lineup. Ever the troubadour, he fetched his “spare” resonator guitar from the trunk of his car, and took the stage with this song:
Wow. The rest, as they say, is history.
We are so very excited to bring Mr. James back for a full outing, at the Dam Jam this summer. Those who were there last year—you know whereof I speak. Those who are new to the man and his music, I can only say I envy your innocence—and it won’t last long.
If you wish to whet your appetite more, have a look here.