Blum Braves Blizzard; Beachland Brings 5 Bands, 2 Songwriters, 1 Big Wet Kiss
February 19, 2007
My mission was to interview Peter Case. He was scheduled to perform at Cleveland's Beachland Ballroom & Tavern. It had been snowing for days; snowplow piles exceeded 6 feet; I was exhausted from telemark skiing.
Case's story, however, was too fascinating to miss. Here's a guy who as a teenager left Buffalo to sing on the streets in San Francisco. He slept in an abandoned truck in a junkyard and carried a fork in his pocket in case someone offered food. He went from punk to folk. Today he has almost 20 albums, and last year a 3 CD compilation was released in tribute to him with John Prine, Maura O'Connell and Dave Alvin singing his songs. He also has a new book called "As Far As You Can Get Without a Passport." Listen for the interview as a Folk Alley Extra shortly.
The journey through the whiteout was worth it. Not only was Peter's story worth capturing, I was rewarded afterward in 8 ways: 5 bands, two songwriters and 1 big wet kiss. Read on.
The Beachland has two rooms. The Ballroom seats around 300 and has a formal stage. The tavern is a small rectangle with a bar lining one side and it seats about 90. Jon Dee Graham opened in the Tavern. He was just awarded Songwriter of the Year by the Austin Area Music awards. Peter Case followed and the crowd silenced immediately as he sang and played with authority. Most notable was a new song about an older homeless woman. Case made it clear that this woman made no mistakes with drugs or the law. The song reveals that many homeless people are victims, not losers. It is reassuring to know that there are artists like Case who take notice, and that there are audiences who gravitate towards songs they haven't heard before.
I migrated from the Tavern through the kitchen into the Ballroom. "Abbey Rodeo" just finished their version of "Bus Stop" from the Hollies. Then "The Secret" came out of hiding after 30 years and revived songs from Neil Young, Cream and Hendrix. The room was packed with the same audience from the '70s, except everyone brought their kids. Parents wanted to show off the music of their childhood to their eager teenagers. Suddenly everyone was hip.
I went back through the kitchen into the Tavern. "Cats on Holiday" were swinging and they were followed by a new Honky Tonk band which featured the dog house base and a woman who played a washboard. I think they were called "The Pride of Earl."
Feeling as if I was at South by Southwest or The Folk Alliance, I wandered back into the Ballroom. All the members of "Abbey Rodeo" and "The Secret" were gathering for an all acoustic set. There were 10 musicians seated with music stands. Bob Yocum had his violin and there was an orchestral kettle drum.
It took them a while to set up, but it was worth it.
They opened with a medley of the Beatles "Because" and "Eleanor Rigby." They were note perfect and the sound was great. Next came "Helplessly Hoping," "Suite Judy Blue Eyes, and "Hey Jude." Parents everywhere were beaming that their kids were digging it. The whole room was singing along.
I remembered that none of us distinguished the difference between folk and rock and pop back then. We just took in the best of whatever was there.
Now I was really pleased that I came to the Beachland (kind of a nerd, I tend to stay home a lot working on the next Folk Alley program). I was not alone in my happiness as a complete stranger walked up to me and planted a big wet kiss. "Thank You," she said, and disappeared. (...like I had anything to do with the evening...) I was momentarily stunned. I didn't know whether to call security or get a phone number. It was already too late. Another old friend was tapping on my shoulder. I like this place.
I just saw 2 songwriters, 5 bands, and was blindsided by a kiss. Granted, not everyone has permission to graviate through the kitchen between Ballroom and Tavern. Everyone can, however, receive the gift of live music and today in Ohio, all bars are smoke free. Snowstorms won't stop me anymore.
Posted by Jim Blum at February 19, 2007 1:07 PM