Tag Archives: Big Head Todd

One last look back at 2011

Here’s my 2011 list of concerts.  A little shorter than some years, but I had a lot of work distractions in the past year, so it’s actually a pretty good tally all things considered.  There’s a lot of quality there and a few once in lifetime shows.  I’ll make a few individual notes where appropriate  (But, of course there’s a review of each if you’re so inclined to read more.

Phil Vassar – A nice little private show at the PCMA conference for people with a CMP designation.  Fun and loose show.

Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Chromeo – A bit of a letdown, but I’m still hoping to see them again and see how they evolve.

Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine

Delgado Brothers

Jeff Beck & Imelda May – Once in a lifetime and one of the best shows I saw all year.

Prince – Another show that for all the hype was a bit of letdown.

Doheny Blues Fest – Tedeschi/Trucks, John Fogerty, Experience Hendrix, Mavis Staples, The Blasters, Funky Meters, Big Head Blues Club, (Plus others) – Two great days on the beach.  A couple misses, but mostly hits. Tedeschi/Trucks being the very best of day 1 and the Blasters the best of Day 2

KSBR Birthday Bash – Brenda Russell, Kieko Matsui, Brian Bromberg, Dan Siegel, (Plus others) – A really cool gift from my friend Eliott.

Eels – Confounding and complex.  It was great in some very unexplainable ways.

U2 & Lenny Kravitz (2x) – Night 2 was the better of the two nights, both were strong but night 2 has the edge (pun intended).

Weird Al

Kansas & Blue Oyster Cult – Not very good, one of the most disappointing shows of the year for me.

Rock Candy Funk Party – Going back in January, a top five evening and surprisingly it’s not once in a lifetime, looking forward to it very much.

Barenaked Ladies – Good, but not great.  More and more I miss Stephen Page.

Return to Forever & Zappa Plays Zappa – I’d say that along with Jeff Beck this were the most amazingly talented musicians I saw all year…or in many years.

Frank Turner – My best find of 2011.  Seeing him in February once again!

Fountains Of Wayne – I wanted this to be better, bit it wasn’t up to the pervious levels I’d seen them perform at.

Airborne Toxic Event – Another cool find of 2011 and this was the Filmore show in SF that was really cool.

Big Head Todd w/Ruthie Foster and Charlie Musselwhite – Again, a sort of letdown show and slightly disappointing overall.

Airborne Toxic Event, Tokyo Police Club, Built to Spill – Good headliner, the rest of the bill was hit and miss.

Bob Segar – Just reviewed, the man still has it!  Great show.

So there you have it.  My 2011 in a nutshell.

Looking ahead to 2011 I already have four shows slated.  Joe Bonamassa, Frank Turner, Social Distortion and Roger Waters.  Plus, I know Springsteen is touring.  So, lots to be excited about in the coming year.  Thanks as always for reading!  Happy New Year!


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Wrap up reviews Pt.2 – Big Head Todd/Big Head Blues Club – Belly Up Tavern – October 22, 2011

We come to the second of my clean up reviews.

This show was advertised as the Big Head Blues Club.  A group I’d seen at the Doheny Blues Fest in May and totally loved.  They took a bunch of old Robert Johnson era material and totally rocked it on a warm spring afternoon on the beach.  But on a rainy fall evening some of that magic just wasn’t there for me.

We had great seats, just off to the left edge of the stage.  It was a terrific view.  The music selections were solid and the sound was even good.  So why didn’t it click?  Well, the promised guests all showed up, but each one only did a few numbers and then left, there was no real jam feeling and frankly it pretty much felt like a what I assume a Big Head Todd and the Monsters show would be with a few guests.  It’s a very fine line to try and draw, but there was a difference from the vibe in May.

A guy named Hadden Sayers opened with a competent set of blues.  He even brought out Ruthie Foster to do one song with him.  (She was a part of the reason we’d decided to see the show.)  His stuff was okay, but noting I rushed to the merchandise stand to buy and take home.

Just after 10pm, Todd came out and strummed a solo version of “American the Beautiful” then was joined by Cedric Burnside for “Honeyboy Edwards”.  The full band with Charlie Musselwhite did “Come in my kitchen” and “Last Fair Deal”.  A version of “Highway 61” came next, the Charlie rejoined for “Cashbox”.  Surprisingly though, once Charlie left he didn’t reappear.  I’d expected a bit more interaction (as their show had been in Doheny).  This was a series of guests and not really a “blues club” I don’t think.

Todd and the band did “I’ll play the blues for you” and then according to the printed set list swapped out “Hoochie Choochie Man” for a Big Head Todd song (and minor hit) “Please Don’t Tell Her”.  Cedric Burnside came back out for two songs (“Groove me’, “Dirty Juice”), then Ruthie Foster for three (It’s Alright”, “Kind Hearted Woman” and “When You Got a Good Friend”)  But, sadly that was the last we’d see of Ruthie who seems to play pretty infrequently around So Cal and is a favorite of Julie’s (We saw her a Doheny a few years ago and this was only the second time I’d seen her playing back this way.)

Cedric Burnside came back out for “Traveling Riverside Blues” and then the band ran through a few more songs ending with John Lee Hookers “Boom Boom”.  I expected a bit more from the encores, “Rock Steady” and “Black Betty”, mainly some of the other folks coming back out (not to harp on that or anything….)

The show wrapped at midnight exactly, which may have been a curfew that inhibited things a bit?  (Not really sure.)

In retrospect…I’m sort of mixed on the whole show.  It wasn’t a bad show…it just wasn’t exactly the show I’d hoped for and in the flurry of work that was going on I just never got back to sit down and document it.  They were great at Doheny, but I doubt that I’d go back and see another club date of the “Big Head Blues Club”.  What was magic in the sun, sort of wilted  in the dark a bit.  (But, you sure couldn’t tell that they aren’t great from the You Tube clips I went back and watched while writing this….so, what do I know anyway?)

Here’s a nice version of “Come on in My Kitchen”


And a version of “Boom Boom”

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Doheny Blues Festival Day 2 – May 22, 2011

What a difference a day makes….

Looking back, I was a bit cranky about yesterdays show and I’m still not sure why?  It had high points as I noted, it just didn’t connect as deeply as I’d hoped.  Well day 2 was a whole different story.  Something in the air?  Something in water?  I don’t know, but today was just one highlight after another, with a few surprises tossed in for good measure.

The parking situation was better (early arrival I guess).  And I was in place a few minutes early for the Back Porch kick off by Cesar Rojas and Dave Hidalgo of Los Lobos.  I’ve been loving these guys for close to 30 years and I’ve seen them tons of times.  They never disappoint.  The tool the stage with Cougar Estrada of the band on drums and fellow named Sal on bass.  They dove right into the blues with “300 pounds of joy”.  A couple songs in they pulled the first Los Lobos cut “The Neighborhood”.  They sounded great, trading licks and vocals with the ease of a couple guys who’ve been playing together for around 40 years….(wow)….

The fifth song was a smokin’ version of the Sonny Boy Williamson’s (via the Allman’s) “One Way Out” followed by what they called some latin blues the song was, “Cumbria”.  Then, a nice version of “That train don’t stop here anymore” and cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She about a mover” with a fun audience sing along.  The last two songs featured a special guest in the form of Terrance Siemien (who I’d missed the day previous).  His great accordion playing highlighted a couple of older Los Lobos tunes.  “I got loaded” and “Don’t worry baby”.  The set was everything I’d hoped for and more.  Seeing a chunck of a band that I’ve loved for a long time, up close, relaxed and playing a cool selection of their material and covers.  I loved it.

I walked to the second stage as Ana Popovic was just starting up.  I have to say, she was pretty good.  A confident singer and decent guitar slinger with an international band (she’s from Yugoslavia I believe.)  I stayed for about half her set and shot some nice photos.  Here’s a couple samples of my shots:

I left her set a little early and headed to the main stage to wait for Mavis Staples.

Mavis came out and boldly started with an a cappella version of “Jesus is Mine”, she was joined by a three piece band and three back up singers including her sister Yvonne for her next numbers “Wrote a Song for Everyone” and “Creep Along Moses”, both from her new album.  Then came her version of the Band’s “The Weight”…brilliant.  The sun had come from behind the clouds and I sat back on the grass feeling the ocean breeze and listening to one of the phenomenal voices of the 60’s/70’s.  Yeah, I was having a much better day to say the least.  She closed her set with “I Belong to the Band” from her new album and then jumping back to 1970 “Ill Take You There” from the Staples Singers.  It was a brilliant set of old and new material (The new stuff is really strong) and sort of what I’d hope the Funky Meters might have been like the day before.  Well, that was yesterday, and this was Sunday at the church of gospel and blues lead by a legend.  All thumbs up so far for the day.

Here’s a nice acoustic version of one of her new songs:

Walter Trout was up next, I went a checked him out, but it wasn’t really connecting in the same way as the last couple acts.  Although, his song “Working Class” stood out in my mind.  I opted to go and grab some lunch…(event that was better today).

I moved back to the main stage for the first big surprise of the day for me.  The Big Head Blues Club with Big Head Todd, Cedric Burnside and Charlie Musselwhite flat out floored me.  Opening a cappella (hummm, a theme today?) was Big Head Todd Mohr. with the Son House number “John the Revelator”….wow.

This set was everything that the Hendrix set could have been for me yesterday.  These guys just tore it up.  They didn’t stick to Robert Johnson, adding in a really great cross section of classic blues.  I can’t say why they connected when other bands didn’t, but they just clicked for me.  I can’t want to go find some of their music.  Total surprise, and totally  awesome.

Here’s an older video of one of the songs that they did that pretty much had an entire field of folks up and shimmying in the sun…John Lee Hooker”s “Boom Boom”….

Okay, one more….”Come on in my kitchen”….

I skipped the last number to go grab a good spot for the Blasters…sure glad I did.  I ended up right at the edge of the stage in front of Dave Alvin.  I may have shot some of my favorite concerts shots ever.  The light was perfect, the expressions were awesome.  And, I felt about 30 years younger bopping around in the crowd.  Here’s some shots first.

The Original Blasters

Dave Alvin - I love the reflection of his guitar in the glasses

Dave Alvin and John Bazz

Phil Alvin

Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin

Thumbs up from Phil Alvin

Here’s the setlist: “Red Rose”, “Border Radio”, “Poor Fool”, “Hollywood Bed”, “Troublebound”, “Help You Dream”,”I’m Shakin'”, “Baby Don’t You Lie to Me”, “Crazy Baby”, “Come Back Baby”, “Goodbye Baby So Long”, “Please, Please Please” (James Brown cover), “American Music”, “Dark Night”, “Blue Shadows”, “Marie Marie” and “One Bad Stud”.

Not a weak cut, not a bit of filler.  Just 100% revved up rock and roll.

Maybe there were never top of the charts, but they (along with Los Lobos and Joe Jackson in that era) totally opened me up to different styles of and types of music.  To see them all on the same stage and be standing in front of them was a huge thrill.  It was a reunion that fully lived up to my expectations and hopes.  I’ve not had that much flat out fun at a show in a while.

I went over to listen to John Fogerty headline with some trepidation.  I was buzzing from the Blasters set and I’d seen John a few times.  He’s a Hall of Famer for sure…but, I just wasn’t sure he’d bring anything new to the table.  Well, he did.  Anytime you’ve got a band powered by Kenny Aronoff and you’re playing songs that almost all are in the DNA of the crowd, it’s hard to miss.  And he didn’t.

“Green River” swirled with swampiness as did “Born on a Bayou”…”Who’ll Stop the Rain” was accompanied by a story about going to Woodstock.  “Suzie Q” and “Lodi” were tight and memorable and “Looking out My Backdoor” took me back to being 10 years old and hearing it on the AM radio in my mom’s car.  Like I said, these songs are in our DNA.

He interspersed some cuts from his recent work, and they held up better than I thought.  “Don’t you Wish it Was True” sparkled for one example.  “Have you ever seen the Rain” lead into a solid version of “Pretty Woman”.  But, even though it was sounding great…I was tired after a long day and didn’t relish standing in a huge line to get a shuttle bus.  So, I split a little early and listened to “Keep on Chooglin” and “Nighttime”b efore I was whisked onto the bus.  As I passed the park on the way to the freeway I rolled down the window and caught the last few notes of “Fortunate Son”.

A heck of a day….really no let downs or disappointments at all.  It was the complete opposite of the day before.  That’s why you go to to see the shows folks.  Some are great, some not so great.  But if you want consistency….buy a CD…otherwise, see a show and enjoy it!

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