Electric Six with The Fever and Rock Kills Kid
Wednesday · Southgate House
There's very little about Electric Six that fits in with conventional wisdom. The Motor City outfit benefited from their association with The White Stripes three years ago as their debut Fire and the Danger! High Voltage EP garnered them high-profile praise from Rolling Stone to The New York Times. But the band's Detroit heritage is something of a misnomer.
"I think I found out who The Stooges and MC5 were like six months ago, so that was never my bag," says vocalist Dick Valentine with a laugh. "(Detroit) obviously helped us to get where we're at, but since we've been touring and we've had so many opportunities in Europe, we're hardly in Detroit anymore. I don't live in Detroit anymore and the guys who do are either on the bus or in Nottingham or something."
The part of E6's presentation that is pure Detroit is their blazing originality, as they stir up a sonic concoction that is equal parts Garage Rock, urban Punk and dust-off-your-white-suit-and-disco-ball Dance Pop. Valentine is quick to point out that the first album had a lot more of that freewheeling atmosphere than their latest, Senor Smoke, something that the band deliberately addressed on the new album.
"We went into the experience of the first record kind of green and naive and not really understanding the way things work, so we made a party record and then we got pigeonholed as some kind of party band," says Valentine.
"So we wanted to make sure the second record wasn't all songs about dancing."
Although a lot of names get thrown around in reviews as possible influences on the Electric Six sound, Valentine says the band doesn't strive to sound like anything in particular. "I don't look at any band as a primary influence and we don't sit down with each song and say it's got to sound like this or sound like that," says Valentine. "There is no agenda. And I don't really have a record collection, so I don't romanticize it. I know so many people who are like, 'I want it to sound like a Bowie record.' I don't think like that. (The Tubes comparison) is great. That's what everyone's saying. That's cool because nobody's doing it now." (Brian Baker)
Chris Smither and Peter Mulvey
Friday · Jack Quinn's
With the aftermath cleanup of Katrina in progress and the annual legendary Jazz Fest looming on the horizon in April, New Orleans is doing its best to recover some normalcy. If you know what it means to miss sweet New Orleans, then you might want to come see Chris Smither at Jack Quinn's this weekend. Smither, one of the Crescent City's finest musical exports, will stir his eclectic gumbo of Folk, Country and Blues Friday night.
Recording and touring since the 1960s, Smither is renowned for his ace Acoustic Blues finger-picking skills. Inspired by immortals such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan, he has melted down these formidable, original stylings and come up with his own daunting brand of the Blues. He's also a songwriter of merit as well as an interpreter of classics. Bonnie Raitt had a minor hit with his "Love You Like a Man," and she also covered his "I Feel the Same."
His most recent record, Train Home, released in 2003, offers yet another sterling collection of his greasy grooves and rugged, lived-in voice. His rearrangements of Mississippi John Hurt's "Candyman" and Buffalo Springfield's "Kind Woman" show both his taste and range of vision. In a daring choice, he even does justice to Dylan's epic "Desolation Row," with Bonnie Raitt's accompaniment. Through the years Smither has acquired his own cult following, especially for his live solo performances. With his trademark blue Alvarez guitar in hand and a foot-stomping demeanor, he easily commands the stage. He's a bit of a raconteur, spinning stories about growing up in the South with a laid-back, front-porch vibe. But it's his understated, virtuoso guitar playing that really draws the aficionados. Simply put, he's that good. As a bonus, Peter Mulvey, another gifted solo guitarist, opens the show. This should be an exceptional show, not to mention a guitar clinic. (Gregory Gaston)
Friday · Bogart's
Within the Jam community, Keller Williams is widely considered to be one of the genre's most unique practitioners. The innovative guitarist's use of Echoplex technology to loop and layer his improvisations makes him a singular performer with an incredibly inventive presentation. The Virginia native began his guitar education in his early teens and was playing solo gigs in his hometown of Fredericksburg before he was out of high school. Just before he entered Virginia Wesleyan College as a theater major, Williams was exposed to the mesmerizing guitar style of Michael Hedges, whose work continues to have a tremendous impact on Williams.
In 1994, Williams self-released his debut album, Freek, which garnered a great deal of critical acclaim, inspiring the guitarist to move west to explore the Colorado Jam scene. While attending the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1996, Williams fortuitously met and befriended the members of String Cheese Incident, leading to a gig as the band's opening act on their 1997/'98 tours (he even served briefly as the band's interim bassist in the late '90s). After the 1996 self-release of his sophomore album, Buzz, Williams signed with String Cheese Incident's SCI Fidelity label, where he has turned out a new album annually for the past seven years. This year sees another self-released Bluegrass Jam gem from Williams, entitled Grass (in keeping with Williams' eccentric tradition of monosyllabic album titles), this one featuring accompaniment from husband-and-wife duo Larry and Jenny Keel on acoustic guitar and bass, respectively. Williams' social activism might be every bit as important as his musical endeavors; his work with Conscious Alliance (details can be found at kellerwilliams.net) helps feed hurricane victims in New Orleans and impoverished Indian tribes around the country. (BB)