Sunday, January 15, 2006

maren morris, frank mcculley, goodwin, briley, eaton lake tonics

fell by fred's to chow a fredburger and pick bassist / restaurateur / attorney eric zukoski's brain re: some musicbiz stuff. normally a jazz cat, eric was playing with maren morris, a 15-yr-old singer-songwriter wunderkind whose cd walk on has caught the ear of major label ppl. she's showcasing for some of 'em at ritzy xouba lounge in arlington this coming thursday, but the folks at fonky fred's (just a few blocks away from will rogers center, where stock show madness is currently underway) seemed to dig her just fine. _teeny-tiny_ li'l gal with a _b-i-g_ ol' voice -- think bonnie raitt, joan osborne (who?), patsy cline even -- with impressive songwriting skills (she's been doing it since age 9, for goodness sakes), stage demeanor 'n' riddim gtr chops (even though she's about as tall as her flat-top, and could barely get her hands around its neck). hearing that kinda vocal power 'n' heartache emanating from such a tiny teen was quite an experience, as was seeing eric playing an electric bass and drummer cooper heffley working with someone he actually looked older than. maren's mos def a big talent and one to watch in future. if it seems like the stuff o' showbiz pipedreams, think back to when a similarly youthful reba mcentire was getting booed offstage at the stock show a coupla decades ago.

other reason for our fred's foray was to hook up with jim yanaway, who'd arranged a visit for us to sculptor-painter frank mcculley's home. (i'm helping jim with a press release for frank's upcoming show -- that'd be wild things at the fort worth community arts center from february 4th-27th; the center's open from 9am-5pm monday-friday and 10am-5pm saturday.) mcculley's a neighbor of ours in arlington heights who played bass in local bluesbands, got a master's degree in painting from u.t., taught art at carter-riverside high school for 25 yrs, and fabricates the most amazing, large-sized papier mache animals. you've gotta see the pieces to believe 'em -- not just the scale, but the details 'n' textures as well. he's got a house full of 'em and is hoping to sell some to make room for new work. a must-see for anyone who digs the truly unique 'n' original in vis arts. my sweetie's going back there to shoot some photos later today; just hoping it doesn't rain, so she'll be able to get the giant komodo dragon in frank's backyard out from under wraps.

after making arrangements to return to frank's today, we headed to (where else?) the wreck room to hear goodwin, briley, and the eaton lake tonics. goodwin evil dictator daniel gomez' wife is a coupla wks out from delivering their new baby, and perhaps incipient papahood has el presidente in a reflective frame o' mind. he showed up nattily attired in a bindle t-shirt (the band he "had to quit, so they could get good") and admitted that with the help of copious quantities of highland mist at a recent goodwin practice, he was actually able to listen to and even appreciate some of the bindle tracks he played on ("i usedta hate listening to 'em, but this time i found myself admitting, 'hmmm, that was clever' "). he's putting the finishing touches on the sophomore goodwin cd (altho he insists "we still have a coupla new songs we need to track"), but his level o' confidence and satisfaction with the band's current performance level was indicated by the fact he'd made arrangements to record the evening's show to 16-track from the board. (in the event, someone -- do you detect a hint of self-censorship here? -- forgot to press the "record" button, so none of it was captured save the last song, but the point remains: the goodwin boyzzz are at an ass-kicking peak right now, and gomez knows it.)

also, all three bands were videotaping, and there seemed to be more ppl equipped with cameras than non-photographic civilians in the house. goodwin's tony diaz and damien stewart had augmented the wreck's usual bare-bones lighting setup with strings o' white christmas lights down the center of the room and behind the backstage curtain, for optimal vid and photo effect. the battalion of fashion-forward folks (so many guys in dark suits w/black t-shirts that i felt like i was at sxsw or something) whose ringleader was the cat in the chico marx lid (my sweetie said she saw one of the other cats _get up_ out of the hat-wearer's chair when he returned from a trip to the bar) were there for the eaton lake tonics, i do believe. (it's not just entertainment, it's sociology.)

i'd seen the eaton lake tonics before, but this time they seemed a lot more focused and idiosyncratic, almost like a solo singer-songwriter with intermittent riddim accompaniment (lotsa rests for the bass 'n' drum dudes while the frontguy carried it). local-music visual referents abounded -- bearded, bespectacled frontguy played a telecaster and looked for all the world like bubba kadane from bedhead, while the muttonchopped drummer bore a distinct resemblance to graham richardson from woodeye (hey kid, lemme hear ya say, "so _i'm_ the asshole here?!?!?") -- while the songcraft, replete with intricate wordplay and folk-blues styled constructions, put me in mind of all those saddle creek bands my middle dtr digs. less burrito-ish country rawk action and pop-punk (matt hembree sez "weezerish") moves than in previous sets. clearly a band that's finding their feet, in a good way.

briley was up next with a totally different take on the evening's topic, "different things to do with three instruments." these three marshallites martial a more thunderous (tho still melodic) attack, characterized by brittle gtr textures, math-y interlocking gtr and bass lines, and an added plus: actual vocal harmonies! they share several influences with the goodwin boyzzz: foo fighters, jimmy eat world, weezer, and i gotta check out this roma 79 band whose t-shirt front briley-ite jeff stark was sporting. their sound is all big powerful dramatic sturm und drang ramalama. they're tight and they play hard, with intensity.

the goodwin boyzzz (attired in contrasting outfits of black 'n' white) brought all of that, with an added element: abandon. that's the collateral benefit of being well-rehearsed to the point of automaticity (which recording tends to provide) -- you can put it on automatic pilot onstage and have _fun_ with it. and they do. tony diaz is such a cutup that it's easy to forget what a great singer he is -- a paragon of presence, power 'n' passion. gomez wrestles great fistfulls o' harmonic-rich thunder from his brace of semi-hollow yamahas, while hembree employs a _massive_ bass sound ("probably an indication that my equipment is about to give up the ghost," he quipped) to punch through the wall o' gtr in unexpected places, and master showman damien stewart (wearing a giant "s" beltbuckle like the superhero you always knew he was) drives and lifts the music while making it appear effortless. this is about the sixth or seventh "best" goodwin show i've witnessed, which sounds like bullshit, but it's not -- these cats keep raising the bar for themselves. they started the set at a level most bands finish at, and after that...well, if you weren't there, you missed it. (note to e.p.: just tell andre to press the button next time. sigh.)


Blogger Cindy said...

I think Maren was about 9 years old the first time I heard her perform. It was at Raz on the Braz on a crowded campground...I could hear her, but couldn't see her...I couldn't believe it when I got up to the stage and saw this little girl belting out a Buddy Miller tune...she's awesome.

6:32 AM  

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