Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bill Kirchen @ Jammin Java

On Monday March 3rd, I headed to an early show at Jammin Java - to see three guitar wizards on the same stage: Eddie Angel from Los Straitjackets, Mark Gamsjager of the Lustre Kings, and Bill Kirchen. As expected a large crowd greeted me; people were grateful to hear true rock n' roll - or as now known - Rockabilly - the music of Sun Records. There were more people on this Monday night than the previous two Saturday night shows I had attended. Eddie Angel and Mark Gamsjager took the stage first, accompanied by Todd Wulfmeyer on bass cello and Jason Smay on drums. I have been following the Lustre Kings since Shoot the Messenger, but this is the first time I heard Eddie Angel. What a treat. Eddie and Mark alternated songs - from a fast dance tune to a slow lady's choice, with lots of Tex Rubinowitz. But always the guitar playing was outstanding. The music reminded me of old Danny Gatton shows and I was starting to get nostalgic to the old Washington music scene when Eddie started playing "University Boulevard". That did it - I started reminiscing about the days when you could see Tom Principato on Wednesday, Bill Kirchen on Thursdays, Whop Frazier whenever, and Danny Gatton on the weekends. My neighboring listener, Ed, declared that those days are long gone, although he did know a few choice spots where you could still hear great music. My new Washington D.C. historian and planner. Remember when....

After a short intermission, Bill Kirchen took stage with Jack O'Dell on drums and Claude Arthur on the electric upright. What an interesting instrument. He started with Rocks into Sand and included Working Man, Womb to the Tomb, and a little Nick Lowe and Bob Dylan later in the set. You could tell the ease in which Mr. Kirchen plays; as fans yelled requests he'd say okay, and the trio would start in immediately. That's how we heard Prison Band. It seemed like old times - several faces looked familiar from nights out long ago. And his trademark interpretation of the Commander Cody's Hot Rod Lincoln was classic. For fifteen minutes he played signature rifts from historic groups - although he still couldn't mimic Angel's behind the back, point, and play rift. The closest I had gotten to that kind of fun was XM12 XCountry - who play Kirchen fairly regularly. Thanks Jessie Scott.

After another brief intermission Mr. Kirchen brought everyone back on stage for another 45 minutes of rocking music. Everyone took center stage - sometimes dueling, sometimes playing together - but by the end everyone was dancing, clapping, or yelling for more. The show ended uniquely with a dueling drums. One after another each person left the stage until the two drummers were left. They played together for about 5 minutes as Kirchen, Angel, and Gamsjager walked to greet friends and fans.

What a night. The music of Sun Records is slowing dying away - so thanks to these artists for keeping it alive. If you want to help their effort Mark Gamsjager has a relatively new CD out, Way out There and Bill Kirchen released Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods last year. But if you want a feel for Monday night, try Hot Rod Lincoln Live!

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