Not quite program notes for Amendola VS Blades VS Parker VS Skerik:
I’m fairly certain I met Scott Amendola in September, 1995 the night his two bands, Charlie Hunter Trio and TJ Kirk played a rare double bill at Cubberley Center. The show was our first sellout; only about 2 percent of the shows I’ve produced have sold out; it’s tough here; tonight they won’t even let us sell tickets.
I had been saying that the TJ Kirk Charlie Hunter Trio co-bill was the only time they played together — it was the last night of one tour and the first night of the other; maybe the brain trust thought Palo Alto was a safe place to experiment — but Scott when I saw him recently told me that the same thing happened a second time, years later. I saw Scott at the The Makeout Room 2018 holiday party showcase. And our discussion is the seeds of this event tonite, March 30, 2019. I mean, we’ve been planning this roughly 3 months but have known each other or worked together more or less for 25 years.
The band we see and are about to hear tonite, or my understanding is, is an outgrowth of a project co-led by Scott Amendola drums and Wil Blades organ — Hammond and Leslie? Jeff Parker has played with Scott in other projects — the Scott Amendola Band and maybe Will as well; Skerik has played with Will (I first heard of Skerik when he was with Charlie Hunter and Stanton Moore in Garage A Trois —GAT — although he was also part or a a leader of Critters Buggin’ who I’ve never seen or never saw but sent me a demo tape back in 1997 or so – same era as the Cubberley Shows — I suspect because they saw “Cubberley” on the routing of Medeski Martin and Wood — I don’t think they ever followed up with a phone call to discuss a gig, just sent a recording with a cover letter, from Seattle or Portland, a jam band somehow connected to Pearl Jam).
I counted about 200 credits, according to All Music Dot Com, between them, the four players tonite. They are in town together — two live here two flew or drove in — to record a earlier this week in Berkeley and are doing a total of 3 shows with this lineup. Last night at the Ivy Room, tomorrow a “jazz afternoon” at the Palms Playhouse near Davis.
It’s kind of a weird digression but I was in my mind connecting this moment, introducing the band, to my feelings or thoughts when I heard about the death of a British rock or pop or disco musician or figure named Keith Flint of Prodigy or The Prodigy (Mr. Blades, who I have not actually met yet at the time of this writing, but who I saw perform briefly at Cafe Stritch in San Jose — “Stritch” incidentally, like TJ Kirk, is a reference to Roland Rahsaan Kirk— probably would recognize that “Prodigy” is or was a type of electronic keyboard instrument, like a Moog, maybe a type of Moog. The rock band — Live 105 kind of thing, to, in the instant matter, tonight at the Palo Alto Art Center, the former Palo Alto Cultural Center, the former council chambers — democracy happens here, democracy happened here — a KSCM thing — and by the way, thank you to Chris Cortez — himself a drummer, a reggae drummer — of KCSM for promoting this show.
Yeah, I do that.
It’s sort of like taking a jazz solo — my habit of writing like this – I did not like this prior to 1995 when I started booking the occasional jazz show. But the thing, or so I hear, is that when you take a jazz solo you have to still pay attention to the form or key and I think you have to start or stop in the right place. So I mean its weird if I start a sentence and then digress and forget what I was starting to say, about Prodigy and Keith Flint and how that relates to a previous show featuring Scott Amendola. It was already a pretty oblique and obscure story.
And I wanted to mention that Ted Geherke of San Jose State and the Fountain Blues Festival had passed away recently — someone RSVP’d to this and explained that it conflicts with a memorial today in Los Gatos for Mr. Geherke. I never met but appreciated those shows.
Also, Herb Wong. I thought of myself initially standing up and starting to speak on this topic, as a way to introduce the band but thought of Herb in an ironic way. Herb Wong was an educator here in Palo Alto Menlo Park and Berkeley who ran a record label, produced shows and taught an Adult School class on jazz. I only met him a few times but he left a huge legacy but I noted, if this is not too petty, that he used to give a wee bit too long-winded intro’s to bands at shows I saw, at Stanford Shopping Center or Palo Alto Jazz Alliance. I mean, he was certainly a very hip cat but and that’s just the way it is, people have more patience for you as an emcee when you are like 30 then like 55.
Maybe as a weird tribute to Herb Wong I will introduce a band that he knew and give an overly long intro. But today I am getting by with merely a long and winding program notes, that, yeah, is a lot more about me than about Jeff Parker or Skerik — I think he is scary good as in very very good and unnaturally or supernaturally or preternaturally good so he goes by “Skerik” — or Amendola VS Blades.
So I’m happy that there is a decent turnout for this show, it will be a great show, I guarantee it.
(And writing this six hours before the “hit” is more like a prayer). And I was reminded of the other big show that in my 25 years doing this is a standout — the TJ Kirk Charlie Hunter Trio — I’ve also booked the Scott Amendola Band on a co-bill with James Hurt of Blue Note. A weird thing that comes to mind about that TJ Kirk show, at the 300 capacity Cubberley Community Center Theatre, is that these two guys, these dudes asked to see me before the show, they had a concern. What their deal was that they were surprised the venue had seats and they wanted to dance but they felt that either they were too embarrassed to be potentially the only dancers at a seated show or there wasn’t enough room to dance in the aisles or in the throw. In fact that were subject was a heated debate a year later when I booked, in one weekend, Cake, AFI and Medeski Martin and Wood — two or the three sold out — and AFI fans stood on the seats and about a dozen seats crumpled — no one was hurt — nor in all the stage diving — but the venue guy was upset – -I paid a friendly it turned out welder and artist name Arbogast to fix the seats and he only charged me $75 — I had withheld the bonus of AFI — who still hold the Earthwise record of 412 tickets sold — the capacity I said was 300, actually 325 but we kept 25 off the books for comps. And I remember being yelled at by the famous punk agent of Utah, Stormy Shepherd Leave Home for not paying her band their bonus — which I eventually did, of course. I’ve paid everyone. Anyhow for Medeski Martin and Wood when the fans got up to dance, in the aisles, in front of their seats, in the throw —the techs were told by management to shut them down. So he or they turned on the house lights and eventually stopped the show — and I remember John Medeski, on his organ, sensing something weird, some weird vibe — geez, I hope I don’t jinx tonights show by telling this story – -Ted the tech seemed cool – -one he’s finish, two he plays guitar, or says, and I can usually tell — Medeski started playing what I thought was a Charlie Brown riff — not Vince Guaraldi but what the teacher would sound like —wha wha wha whaaa wah — whiny — but not “winny” like a horse — and there was a group of tapers or at least one at that show, but I haven’t tried to check that — maybe people edit it out. Anyhow we subsequently negotiated that since the Cub had 30 seats across we would let them stand 2-deep in the throw, the area between the seats and the stage.
So, basically the two dudes, at the TJ Kirk show 25 years ago, that Scott Amendola our key man tonight hopefully also fondly remembers — despite the fact he’s done roughly 1,000 shows since then to my 200 or so as a promoter or manager — asked permission to dance on the stage; Cubberley is a proscenium theatre with a very large stage and curtains and, yes, room in the wings for 2 guys to dance. And we let them. Maybe the band noticed, maybe they did not.
Which reminds me of a Charlie Hunter song that maybe Scott knows or does not know — It’s also recorded on a John Ellis album, and Scott has played with John — In this scene a lot of these guys play with each other and its very different to them, the different combos — jazz is like a conversation or a friendship. The dialogue between Scott and Jeff, for instance is different than between Scott and Charlie or Scott and Nels, or Scott and Jeff-and-Nels for that matter. And, with do respect to John Axson Ellis, I would have to say that when I was John’s manager shopping his 3-cd deal with Joel Dorn and Kevin Calabro Hyena Ryko and John’s day job was with Charlie’s trio — the drummer was Derrick Phillips — Scott has ten? sessions with Charlie? — that around the business office of Chris Trouz Cuevas, Charlie’s manager, and Stanton’s manager and Garage a Trois – Skerik was like a “God” while John was just a very good player and composer and person. So it’s great to finally meet Skerik, or I’m hoping to. And I hope he likes this play. And yeah I’d be that much more cool as a promoter — and “off the chains” — if I had booked a Critters Buggin’ show. So John had written a song about the people who dance at these shows called “One For The Kelpers”. I think “kelpers”with a K are dancers — I think “kelp” a type of seaweed and maybe tubular might be some kind of slang for marijuana — but in this use I think the concept was the music was a type of wave and it moved the dancers the way the ocean and moon move the fauna and flotsam on the beach or surf. (And not to be confused with Krys Dobrowski my Dartmouth schoolmate who was a student of Christian Wolfe who worked with John Cage who has a score that the first line says “go to the beach and find and dry a piece of seaweed then use that as the mouthpiece of your French horn”).
My point is that in these types of shows there is less of a wall between performers and observers. The audience is participant, you could argue. I did an Allison Miller show last fall at the new Mitchell Park Community Center El Palo Alto room and it was confirmed late – she’s a drummer -and I believe she and Scott have some players in common — Todd Sickafoose for instance — and they both do side-work for vocalists, of many stripes — and it was confirmed late so the word didn’t get out and virtually everyone in the house was another musician — I did an Ethan Iverson show once on the down low where the only guest was his guest — I said “next time everyone bring your axe and we will just jam”.
So as I was laying in bed half asleep and thinking about tonite I pictured the perfect concert moment and being earthwise; I was hoping to be able to say — in my fantasy intro that was in depth but not Herb Too Long — that became this, program notes – -and how I spent 2 hours of my “day of show” a golden hour and shabbat, type of sabbath — that not only are the 100 of you, or us, part of the show — and I’m guessing I can spot at least 10 musicians in the house — plus there is a guy named M_ who RSVPd and sort of turns the act of listening into an art form — he’s at every show — and I want to say that this is “earthwise” in that not only is the audience part of the show — the band can feel your or our presence — and feeds off of that — but I want to say that all of music and all of the audience is part of the show. Earthwise is a type of jam over 25 years that in some ways involves 60,000 Palo Altans and Bay Area peoples. Or maybe- -and this sounded better a 2 AM 25 or 6 to 4 but not in 4 composing in my head, maybe all 8 billion of us are part of this, and therefore Earthwise.
So what I learned after his death, Keith Flint, 45, or Prodigy is that the band leader and fountainhead is a keyboardist and dj type and he created beats or beds or types of sounds, some found sounds, some programmable or electronic. And he had a following in England in the late 80s or early 90s and these two guys in particular went to every show and danced and eventually they asked the guy “Can we dance on your stage, like as part of your show?” and eventually they were the vocalists and contributors and rock stars, too.
I’m saying the two dudes who famously asked to dance in the wings at Scott’s show 25 years ago — whether he remembers this or not – are like the two guys who danced their way into an act called Prodigy that had at least two hits — “I Am The Firestarter” and “Smack my Bitch Up”. And when the guy died I first thought, perhaps cynically, coldly or darkly that it was divine or karmic playback for that song — is it about violence to women? — Live 105 pulled it from its playlist – -and I wanted to post to my blog, Plastic Alto “Keith Flint, 45, Who Smacked His Bitch Up” and that didn’t even make his obituary. But as I’ve thought about it further, and listened to the song, and its source sample, Kool Keith or Kool HerC or something – and even that if you listen to its context is not necessarily anti-female or pro-violence — its more about class or race — but “smack my bitch up, turn my pitch up” is not obviously an act of violence as it is a comment on such — it exists — so I want to forgive him or give him benefit of the doubt. Rest in peace
So maybe those two guys dancing in the wings were actually Wli Blades and E- W- and they did join some bands.
And you can too!
What’s that quote about dancing at the revolution?
wait a minute: edit to add: his name is flint, and he is the fire starter?