So last Thursday was the benefit show for my friend, local Nashville musician Chris Tapp, and Cold Stares guitarist and singer Chris Tapp.
It was a magnificent night. We had a full venue, a ridiculously talented lineup of artists, and a house band that meshed with each act like they’d been playing together for years. It was a little surreal at times to watch, then remember back to just a few months ago when we came up with this idea over drinks at the Irish bar down the road.
Jamie Kenney, a producer, songwriter, musician and enormously gifted guy put the band together. Jamie and the great singer/songwriter Matthew Perryman Jones assembled the talent. We also got some great auction donations from the Nashville Opera, Merchants restaurant, Nashville designer Manuel, Dave Johnson photography, and others. We raised a nice little sum of money for Chris, mostly due to the time and talent of people who have never met the guy. That says a lot about this town.
The surprise of the night was 80s pop star Tiffany. First I guess that she showed up. She’s a cancer survivor, and asked to play when she heard about the event. The second surprise—and I mean no disrespect by calling it a surprise—is that Tiffany can wail. She started off with a righteous cover of Etta James, then closed the night with the finale, along with some backing from the night’s other artists. The song was Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” It was grand.
Here’s a rough video of her performance of “Sunday Kind of Love,” starting with my awkward introduction:
There really wasn’t a down moment the entire night. Jeremy Lister and Gabe Dixon kicked the show off off with CCR’s “Down on the Corner” and Freddy King’s “Tore Down,” respectively. (Dixon is an insane keyboardist, by the way.) And only in Nashville will a nurse (in her day job) step on stage and do what Besty Ulmer does here:
That wasn’t even her best song. Her “Bring It on Home to Me” had a few people in the crowd dancing. That’s amazing, because nobody dances in Nashville.
The crowd favorite was probably Emily West. She got a standing ovation after her soaring rendition of Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.”
Personal favorites: The fetching Courtney Jaye unleashed some sultry Dusty Springfield. Perryman Jones had the place entranced with the old spiritual, “Motherless Child.” Jason Eskeridge’s soulful, stripped-down ode to Stevie Wonder was magnificent. Mailie Misajon’s strutting, sexy “Love Me Like a Man.” Thad Cockrell and Jaye singing Cockrell’s beautiful song “Rosalyn.” The raspy, Americana blues of Mark Huff, pictured here. (Photo by Nate Ulmer.)
Here’s a shot of your humble Agitator, playing host. I’m comfortable with public speaking. But I usually say things like, ” . . . and then the cops killed him.” This was a little different.
A few more of my own photos from the show:
I’ll leave you with Lee Broderick, a Brit with amazing pipes you’ll likely be hearing more of soon.
Can’t say enough how gracious a lot of people were in helping put this thing together. A number of people told me after the show it was one of their favorite nights out in Nashville. That’s saying something in a city where there are a couple dozen live music shows every night. Chris is reaching out to the artists himself to thank them, but I don’t think he’d mind my saying that he’s humbled and grateful. He suggested we make this an annual event, though obviously for a different cause next year. I think it’s a great idea. The Cold Stares could open the show.
You can still donate to help Chris out. Details here.
I turned thirteen in 1989. At that age the mind kind of imprints on music — you notice it. Cosmically.
Everyone is at least a little crazy then, and sometimes more. Nothing fits. Nothing makes sense. You stand uncomprehending before the cruel, matter-of-fact changes of puberty. And the music starts talking to you.
What is it saying? You have no idea. No one’s ever said this stuff before.
The idiom varies. For whatever reason I never took to grunge. Rather the stuff that came right before it. When no one else was home I’d tune the family stereo to 97X — yes, that 97X (bang!) the future of rock and roll — and listen. And for once I wouldn’t have any words of my own.
My mom would get mad about 97X, which she hated. But I think you always remember the music from around that age.
I learned only today that 97X isn’t playing anymore. Neither broadcast nor online. There’s a song about that kind of loss, too:
ZZ Top’s hard rockin’ ode to the Chicken Ranch, the famous and long-lived brothel in La Grange, Texas which was also immortalized in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. For the lyrics to this and three more songs from Tina Turner, Cher and Nick Gilder, see my column of September 4th, 2011.
Due to upcoming professional commitments and the imminent (thirteen hours) return of my wife from a long trip overseas, this may be my last guest post at the Agitator. If it is, I’d like to thank Radley Balko for the opportunity to guest blog at this site. Radley is one of the best writers on the web, and as important a journalist as any I can name.
My wife and I went to see George Jones, at the Dorton Arena, a weird semi-geodesic dome in Raleigh, North Carolina, for our first date. I suppose it’s strange for a married couple to consider this “Our song”, but we do.
We met working as DJs at WXYC, a freeform radio station in Chapel Hill, the first radio station ever to broadcast on the internet. Radio is fast becoming obsolete, in no small part due to the internet, which is sort of a shame. I love iPod shuffle as much as the next guy, but it can’t teach me anything, as a top notch radio disc jockey can. When I met my wife, she was playing a cover of the classic moonshiners’ tune “Mountain Dew”, by the Country Rockers, a delightful old pair of geezers who sounded a lot like Grandpa Jones, of Hee-Haw fame. You can’t find it on Youtube, but you can find their cover of Ernest Tubb’s “Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin”, which is almost as good.
Finally, it’s been a pleasure writing at a site where readers, some of them anyway, appreciate the work of Billy Joe Shaver. Shaver is mainly known as the muse for Waylon Jennings’ best songs, but to my knowledge Waylon never covered Shaver’s best song, “Ragged Old Truck”.
It’s possible that I’ll be able to post again before The Man returns, but if not, enjoy your summer vacation.
Here’s one most people don’t even realize is about a whore; indeed I myself didn’t until my husband pointed it out when he said it made him think of me. But in the New Musical Express of November 2, 1974, the late Freddie Mercury stated it explicitly: “It’s about a high class call girl. I’m trying to say that classy people can be whores as well.” For the lyrics to this and five more songs from Bob Seger, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Blondie and Cole Porter (sung by Ella Fitzgerald), see my column of October 25th, 2010.
The Champs. Forced by the Man’s fascist intellectual property conventions to abandon their name when it was discovered that the guys who recorded “Tequila” had a prior claim. So they became “The Fucking Champs”.
I first heard “Thor Is, Like, Immortal” on a 45 rpm record that cost me three dollars. They were three dollars well spent.
This week’s selection is one that will be familiar to you if you’ve ever lived in New Orleans, but probably not otherwise. Here’s LeRoux performing “New Orleans Ladies” on Midnight Special on October 13th, 1978. If you’d like to see the words (and those of the other songs I picked that time) you can visit my column for September 5th, 2010.
What makes this news isn’t that he did it, but that he’s being prosecuted for it.
I’m very glad to hear that yesterday’s “destroy the pyramids” story turned out to be a hoax; however, I’m sad that similar recent actions by radical Islamists in Timbuktu and Afghanistan actually made it believable. Also, thanks to those who pointed out (in respect to yesterday’s clam video) that what I (and obviously, the person who labeled it) took as a nonhuman creature tasting a substance was actually something entirely different. It just goes to show how we all unconsciously project our own experiences and mental constructs onto phenomena with which we’re unfamiliar; sex workers have to deal with the same thing, as I explained in this early column about how outsiders perceive just about every non-customer male in a hooker’s life as a “pimp” (with all that entails). You might also appreciate this column in which I answer the burning question “How are pimps like chupacabras?”, and this entirely clam-free video of “What a Wonderful World” performed in 16 different Western musical genres:
Yes, it’s 3 a.m. on Saturday in Washington, DC. Too late for an addition to Five Star Fridays? I think not. After all, it’s still Friday night somewhere (Hawaii?), right?
Thanks to a bit too much coffee today I’m awake and reading my fellow Agitator guestbloggers’ posts at this lovely hour. In honor of that fact–and the dual prodding of Maggie McNeil’s invite and the challenge laid out by an anonymous fellow guestblogger below (“I suspect, a couple of Radley’s guest-bloggers don’t roll that way.”)–here’s a great, steaming, screaming (the guitars, at least), messy, ode to coffee and overcaffeination–Caffeine Blues–by the seminal post-hardcore D.C.-based band Gray Matter.
Never heard of them? Fix that sorry problem here and here.
I think it would be FANTASTIC if we really made these “Five Star Fridays” by each posting a video!
I’m not sure that’s going to happen because, I suspect, a couple of Radley’s guest-bloggers don’t roll that way.
But, that’s how I roll. Lester Bangs, or someone like him, wrote something to the effect that if the Devil ever went into a recording studio, he was there while The Stooges were recording their best album, “Funhouse”.
“1970″ is, in your humble narrator’s opinion, the best song on the best album of the 1970s. I fully expect a number of you to hate it. That’s fine. The 1970s were a decade of hate, and The Stooges were one of the most hateful bands ever to go into a recording studio.
In 2005, I was stopped by a Virginia Highway Patrol officer going down the infamous Mount Vernon speed trap with my friend D. on the way to his bachelor party. We were playing this. The first question he asked me was how much I’d had to drink. (Nothing, yet.) The second was, would I turn that racket down? For once in my cowardly life, I said “no”. (Actually, I told him I couldn’t hear him and that he should just write the ticket.)
If the Pharaohs sound like a grittier, funkier version of Earth Wind and Fire, that’s because they were. A Chicago jazz band assembled by Maurice White, who would go on to found EWF, the Pharaohs moved on to funk but never to make it to Soul Train. Instead, they were known for making the background music on early 1970s Afro-Sheen commercials.
The song you’re hearing, “Pharaohs Love Y’all”, comes from In The Basement, which is sadly out of print. If I didn’t already own a copy, I’d gladly shell out the thirty dollars Amazon resellers charge for it, for this and for a stellar cover of Al Green’s “Love and Happiness”.
There are lots of songs about working girls, and I’ve done a number of columns on the subject; I’d like to share a few of them with you while I’m here, and this is my favorite. Here’s Bobbie Gentry performing on The Johnny Cash Show of January 21st, 1970; if you’d like to see the words (and those of the other songs I picked that time) you can visit my column for September 4th, 2010.
The Agitator.com’s favorite kickass blues band releases their first professionally-produced album today. There’s great stuff remastered from their earlier EPs, some terrific new songs, and a couple great covers, including Jimi’s “If 6 Was 9,” and a killer, quick-and-dirty rendition of Peter Green’s (Fleetwood Mac) “Oh Well.”
And “Fire in the Sand” will be your new favorite roll-down-the-windows-and-drive-fast song.
Since I first saw them about a year-and-a-half ago, I’ve been pretty relentless in touting Nashville band the Cold Stares here. I won’t bore you here with yet more breathless tales of their blues-rock badassery. (For breathless fanboyishness, read my Huffington Post write-up of them here.)
I think I’ve seen them about 10 times now. In that time I’ve also become friends with Chris (Tapp, the guitarist and singer) and Brian (Mullins, the drummer). What’s so impressive about these guys is that they know how incredibly good they are, but at the same time, until you’ve actually seen them on stage for the first time, you’d never know that (a) they’re musicians, and (b) they really are that damned good. The guys wear suits on stage. When they’re finished playing a show Nashville, they drive two hours back to their homes in Henderson, Kentucky. When women flirt with Tapp after a show, he tells them about his wife’s casserole. These guys are far more into music than into being musicians.
It’s been fun to watch their rise. I scan crowds when I go to see them play. You can sit at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley and watch one by one, as people who haven’t seen them before slowly come around. Earlier this year, they started working with Nashville superlawyer and music kingmaker Kent Marcus. They’re expecting the master of their first full-length, professionally produced album to be finished next week. It comes out in about six weeks. They were planning a national tour to promote it.
I saw them in Evansville, Indiana a few months ago, just across the state line from their hometown. In Nashville, they still open for other bands. They’re still winning converts. Back home, everyone is converted. The place was sold out. There was a label rep at the Evansville show. He told them he wanted to see if their live show was as good as they sounded on tape. After the show, he told them he wanted to make their recordings sound more like their live show. Watching the steady of success of these two genuine guys, playing original no bullshit, straight-on blues rock, well, it was a beautiful thing to witness.
And then. This week. Well, bloody hell: On Monday, Chris Tapp put up a status update on Facebook that he has cancer.
He’s facing some tough odds. As he explains it, he had some spots removed from his back in 2009. Lab tests for melanoma came back clean. He has since discovered that the lab reports were wrong. Someone fucked up. Which means that over the last few years, as Tapp and Mullins have been winning battle of the bands competitions, blowing headline bands off the stage, and rattling bar glasses around Nasvhille, as they’ve inched their way to the brink of breaking through, the entire time, cancer has been growing in Tapp, dropping a smothering shroud on all of this just a few weeks before it was about to blow up.
(A little side note: The outpouring of support for Tapp on the band’s Facebook pages is enough to make you forget about all the company’s negative press in recent weeks. Facebook is perfect for this sort of thing. Tapp’s been posting test results shortly after he gets them, at which point he’s smothered with encouragement and expressions of faith from friends, family, and fans.)
Awful as this is for those of us who know and like Chris, for Cold Stares fans eager to see more from him and Brian, none of that is nearly as important as this: The guy has a wife and two kids. Ages 10 and 5.
I’m a writer. Words are how I make my living. And I guess this is the part where I run out of words.
If you’ve become a fan of the band through this site, you might take a minute to send Chris some encouragement, either on his Facebook page, or via email. That’s the point of this post. Give him some support. Chris is a devout Christian, so if that’s your bag, send some prayer his way.
There’s a bit more, too. Over the last ten years, I’ve built a pretty nice platform with this blog. We have a core community of loyal and regular readers here. I hope y’all don’t mind if I exploit that a bit for a friend who could use some help. As I mentioned, Chris is facing long odds. But not impossible odds. But his treatment will be expensive. The way I see it, the last thing he ought to worry about over the coming months is his family’s financial security and his kids’ future. So we’re working on setting up a fund to help with his medical bills, his day to day bills, and whatever other expenses that may come up. I don’t know what sort of fundraising ability this blog has, but to the extent we can help, I’d like to try.
I’ll let you know how you can help once the fund is up and running. This was my idea, by the way. Chris has signed off (reluctantly, I would guess), but he didn’t suggest it. Nor would he, from what I know of him.
The Nashville music community has a nice history of rallying around musicians in Chris’s situation. So we’re also looking into the possibility of some sort of benefit concert. So if you’re in the music industry, or live here in Nashville and think there’s some way you can help, let me know in the comments, or drop me an email.
Finally, I should add that Chris is pretty adamant about welcoming encouragement, but not pity. In an email, he writes: “I’m going to survive, and when we come back musically it’s going to be an extremely powerful event.”
They committed months ago to play my book release party—which I’m hoping will be next spring. As I wrote in an email to him, that gives him about a year to kick this thing in the ass, and then get back into playing shape.
It is Friday, so it seems right to keep with tradition here, and end this post with some music.