Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Roadshow Revival 2013-A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash

Roadshow Revival 2013
A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash
Ventura County Fairgrounds
June 15, 2013

Walking in
(I started writing this on June 15. It's now July 31, and what I have learned is to break this sort of thing up into two or three entries. 

Here's the short version-I'll most likely attend next year-and most likely my father-in-law will too. The crowd was calm and friendly.

I really enjoyed the Dave Gleason Trio, the Blasters, Junior Brown, Robert Gordon, the Sideshow Preachers, and Zippy Josh. I felt that Alexandria and the Starlight Band was pretty good. I didn't particularly care for the Vonettes or Chris Shiflett.

On the whole, it was a great show. I'll see you all there next year). 

The first question you might ask is, "What exactly does Ventura have to do with Johnny Cash? Isn't he from Arkansas?"

Well, yes, he was from Arkansas and he died in Nashville. But strangely enough, Johnny lived in Casitas Springs, just outside of Ventura, from 1961 until his divorce in 1966. His first wife, Vivian and his four daughters by her stayed in Ventura. His daughters attended St. Bonaventure-Johnny attended all of their graduations, and Johnny did several benefits and other community activities during his time here.

He also accidentally started a 500 acre fire in the Los Padres National Forest, paying a very large fine.

So, if there's a beach town that should be considered for a Johnny Cash festival, Ventura would certainly seem most qualified to hold it-outside of Jamaica, where Johnny also had a home.

Cindy Cash organized the first Roadshow Revival in 2009, and I attended with my daughter in 2010. The 2010 version was heavy on Johnny Cash tribute bands, and brought up the question-how many times can you shoot a man in Reno on the same day? Robert Gordon was the headliner, playing a set that was terrible with Slim Jim Phantom and Jammie James backing him. W.S. "Fluke" Holland, Johnny Cash's longtime drummer was also there and played a set. It was okay, but the vendors and car show was interesting, and it wasn't that expensive.

I missed the 2011 show, which featured X, the Blasters, Kris Kristofferson and Deke Dickerson. I've seen X and the Blasters several times, but in hindsight, would have loved to see Deke Dickerson. I don't think I knew who Deke was in 2011, but I'm very familiar with his work now.

I didn't want to see the 2012 show with Wanda Jackson and Carlene Carter, so I didn't. 

But this year's line-up I was all over. Headlined by Junior Brown, who I've wanted to see for years, with the Blasters and Robert Gordon, I thought this would be perfect for me and my guitar playing father-in-law. He was unfamiliar with Junior Brown and the Blasters, but I knew he would appreciate the fine guitar slinging that both acts bring. Plus, in the ads, Robert Gordon was advertised with Chris Spedding, another hotshot guitarist who Gordon has recorded with several times over the last 30 years, which I thought would lead to a good set.
General Lee

My father-in-law and I have attended concerts together before (Matthew Sweet [see my 7/23/12 post], Social Distortion, Bob Dylan and BB King) over the past few years, and it's always been a good time. After breakfast at the Busy Bee (see my 6/17/13 post), we went to the fairgrounds.

The festival was set up with two stages, with the car show and vendors set up between them. We weren't searched walking in, but the guidelines said that you were allowed to bring in a chair and a bottle of water. Upon entry, I immediately spied the General Lee, and my neighbor, Coy Duke or as he was originally introduced to me, Byron Cherry. Byron let us leave our chairs under his table, and my father-in-law and I headed off to check out the vendors. On a side note, I must be the only person on earth who's never watched an episode of Dukes of Hazzard.
My Complimented Shirt

My shirt received a couple of compliments walking in, including some guy taking a picture of the back, which I thought was pretty cool. Nice to know that I got the dress code correct...

Cash'd Out was on the main (Get Rhythm) stage, but we walked over to the second (Hey Porter) stage, past the parading, tattoo'd Pin-Ups to see the Sideshow Preachers. About 50 people were standing on the lawn listening to the traditional country harmonies that reminded me of 60's and 70's country singers like Tammy Wynette. I don't remember liking that type of sound in the 70's, but found it very enjoyable on this particular Saturday. I'd read about them in the local paper, and if I see that they're playing somewhere, I'd go see them again.
Sideshow Preachers

Later in the day, I saw singer Erika Harding walking, and complimented her set. My father-in-law, who has the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone, picked up the chat, also complimenting her, and then asking questions about her guitar (a Takamine lawsuit, which from a distance I thought was a Guild). She was very friendly, which was kind of refreshing, and which we also would find to be the norm throughout the day.

Back to walking about, I won a t-shirt from the Bail Hotline which actually looked pretty cool, in black with a guitar on the front, and was given a water as well. Lil' Zeke's Bail bonds gave me a pen. I don't think I've ever been to a music festival with competing bail bondsman, and I'm not sure what that says about the crowd. I've never needed a bail bondsman, and hope I never do, but I can safely say that both booths were friendly, so I'm just going to leave it at that.

Back to the Hey Porter stage, Alexandra and the Starlight Band blazed through another 70's influenced set, but this time of the soul sound that fell somewhere between Janis Joplin, Stax Records and Tina Turner. Alexandra is a woman of indeterminate age and indeterminate ethnicity channeling a 70's stage presence that I found fascinating. My father-in-law and I spoke to Alexandra after her set, and I found her to be friendly as she shamelessly flogged her merchandize, and younger than I thought from the stage. Her music didn't quite fit in with the other, more country tinged performers, but it was still good.

I noticed a difference between the two woman performers that we spoke to, which was that Alexandra is trying to make it in the music business, and is very much a driven showperson. Erika Harding eluded to her day job, and gave the impression that she's happy to play music and make some money from it, but isn't looking to be a star anymore-if she ever was. Both women were excellent singers, but in very different styles and attitude.

Moving back to the vendors, I debated the pros and cons of getting a shave while my father-in-law shopped for some pomade. Two different barbers were doing haircuts and shaves, but I opted not to. In hindsight, I should have gotten the shave, and I will next year. My father-in-law selected some Suavecito Pomade, and I probably should have picked up a some of that too.

Though I understand the Christianity was very important to Johnny Cash, we would move from one stage to the other whenever the Pastoral Readings came up. The Pin-Ups had slightly more interest for me, and I think almost any woman in decent shape looks better in a 40's style sundress, but after you've seen one Betty Page, you've seen them all. Plus, I'm not really into the tatted up chicks that were most of the contestants. For whatever it's worth, I thought the Mexican participants could pull the look off better.

Zippy Josh and the Rag Tag Band seemed to have a big local following, with the band carrying on a dialogue with several of the people in the audience. An acoustic three piece that was playing at punk rock speed, they reminded me of a beachside Gogol Bordello mixed with a bit of Violent Femmes. Nice, tight playing and some solid songs.

The Vonettes' Roadshow Revival You Tube promo got me a %10 discount on tickets, and so I felt obligated to check them out. A 60's style girl group, we watched a couple of songs, and I wanted to like them, they were working hard...but it just didn't do it for me. I think what happened was instead of harmonizing, all three were hitting the same note the same way, and so it was just a bit shrill for my tastes. Harmonizing in an outdoor venue can be challenging, and I think they're local, so I'm sure I'll see them again.

The VIP Seating
There was a few minutes to check out the Johnny Cash memorabilia from the collection of Cindy Cash, so we looked at some of Johnny's old stuff.

At this point, my father-in-law and I hadn't watched one act on the Get Rhythm stage. That would change with Robert Gordon.

One of the reasons we hadn't been watching much on the main stage is that there was an area at the front blocked out for VIP's, which kind of sucked. So where you could get up close and personal with the acts on the Hey Porter stage, you had to have paid the extra bills to get a good spot.

Still, I've been listening to Robert Gordon since 1977, when I heard "Red Hot," and the ads had said he was going to be with Chris Spedding, so I knew it was going to be good. But as we walked over, the emcee was asking for Robert Gordon to report to the stage, that he was on in seven minutes.


Robert Gordon and John Oliver
Then I looked at the stage, and the guitar player wasn't Chris Spedding, but instead, someone who looked like a dead ringer for The Daily Show's John Oliver-right down to the suit he was wearing.

This wasn't looking good. But the band started playing, and R.G. came on, and all was right with the world. Robert's singing was strong, the band was tight, and unlike the last time I saw him, the set list was prepared. The John Oliver look-alike could play! Good, sharp Telecaster licks which really helped Robert's singing, it was a great set that left me wondering who the backing band was. Late in the set, R.G. confessed that he'd just met the band the night before, but that they were great, and I heartily agreed. No "Red Hot," but a great set none-the-less.

Chris Shifflet/Dead Peasents
Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants was a band that I was curious about. Shiflet is the Foo Fighters lead guitarist, and the Dead Peasants are his roots-rock side act. Another group that I wanted to like, but for some reason, they just didn't do it for me. It seemed like the guitars were mixed low, and the sound just wasn't very good. The band could play, but there was something amiss that even after two weeks I still can't quite figure out. My father-in-law wasn't really into them either, so it was back to the second stage, where we discovered....

Dave Gleason Trio-looking like John Oliver!
The John Oliver look-alike! And he could sing, too! It turns out that they were the Dave Gleason Trio, and for me were the discovery of the day! Sounding somewhere in the area of Dwight Yoakum and Buck Owens, Dave put on a rocking set of Bakersfield-country music that was really good. Rocking on the side of the stage was Robert Gordon, checking out his pick-up band and really getting into it. I believe Gleason's wife was hawking his wares at the side of the stage, and I picked up a copy of his cd, Turn and Fade, which I've been playing around the house and really enjoy. Dave's wife said that I could have the cd signed after the set. We also had a brief discussion about the b-bender that gave Dave's playing a country-twang, with me misidentifying the creator as Gram Parsons, and Dave's wife correcting me, that it was in fact Clarence White and Gene Parsons. I was close, though-they were all Byrds.

After his set, Dave's wife handed me a marker and told me to bring it to him, which I did. My father-in-law and I both complemented his set and remarked on his playing with Robert Gordon. Dave graciously said that playing with Robert Gordon was a thrill, and he seemed to be a genuinely nice man. I gave him the marker, and he signed my cd, and then, it was off to see the Blasters.

Surf City Signs
As we walked over, I checked out a trash can that the guy from Surf City Signs was just finishing up. If I had someplace to put it, I've have bought it. No website, but if you like the trashcan, the number is 530-410-2281.

I could go on and on about the Blasters, a band from my hometown of Downey, California and whom I've seen several times in the last 30 years. I can't remember ever seeing a bad Blasters show. I've seen them when the crowd was totally in to them, in various clubs and roots and rockabilly shows around LA, and other times when they were the unwelcome opening act (the Kinks in '85 at the LA Sports Arena comes to mind), and they have always delivered. I saw them in their original incarnation, with Dave Alvin and featuring Lee Allen, and later versions with Smokey Hormel, Jame Intveld, (though not with Hollywood Fats or Steve Berlin) and a few times with this current line-up that features Keith Wyatt (great lessons on You Tube).

the Blasters
The Blasters were already going when my Father-in-law and I walked up, playing a set list that they could have played in 25 years ago, and the crowd was rocking. When you have a core of good songs, you don't have to change much, and the Blasters gave their all. Good to see in the light of singer/leader Phil Alvin's emergency tracheotomy in Spain last June. Phil's voice sounded good, and though some Blaster's fans may find this blasphemous, I think Keith Wyatt is a better player than Dave Alvin.

I though both 4-11-44 and Fun on A Saturday Night (both on eMusic and iTunes) were strong albums and on par with the rest of the Blasters' canon of work, but the band didn't play any songs from those two discs, or if they did, it was before I walked up. I was bummed, but it was only a 45 minute set, and a band with as many quality songs as the Blasters can be excused for a greatest hits outing.

Junior Brown
The show ended with Junior Brown. By this point, it was starting to get cold, with a breeze blowing off the ocean, but Junior came on ready to rock. The guit-steel guitar was placed center stage, and with his 3-piece band, featuring wife Tanya Rae Brown Junior preceded to put on a guitar tutorial. Though ostensibly a country picker, Junior's Surf Medley or his Hendrix covers show he can rip into just about anything on that guit-steel (now you can buy your very own!), grabbing the tuning machines and twisting, using volume pedal swells and cranking dials on his amp. It was a stunning guitar display.

This post has been over a month in the making, so enjoy the pix down below. I finally want to get this posted.
Johnny Cash Stuff

The late Jalopy Joe's personal ride
Jalopy Joe, RIP

I took a ton of pictures, but I don't really feel like putting captions on the following. Shoot me an email if you want me to comment on something. Otherwise, thanks for reading this far.