THE ZAC AND THACK SHOW
I'm still speechless about last Wednesday night, so here's Chick:Wow. What a Wednesday night! The Blues Letter hit its 100th issue and my buddy Bob Caldwell hit his 60th birthday, both happening on what I am sure will become a legendary night in the history of the Outlook. It was Zac Harmon’s first show at the Outlook and damn, he proved to the Boulder crowd that he is one amazing performer. I had seen Zac at Blues from the Top a couple times and he was always great. I had seen him in Memphis as well at the 2009 IBC and he put on a show with Jonn Richardson that was just spectacular. But last Wednesday night surpassed everything else. There is something about seeing a performer up close and personal which is a sensation you can only get at the Outlook. Yeah, Zac got up close and in our faces and in our ears, and before the night was over he was in our hearts as well. Tearing it up with juke joint gospel (I assume there is such a thing, 'cuz that’s what it sounded like to me) mixed with deep blues, some blues rock for spice, some get up an move boogie, a dash of reggae and a whole lot of soul. With a stellar band worthy of his talents, Zac had Cory Lacey on keys, Cedric Goodman on drums and Mr. Buthel on bass and together they gave as good a first set as I have ever heard at the Outlook. He had Honey swooning with his cut “Honeybee” from his latest CD; not to be confused with the standard “Honeybee’ you all know, this is a rollicking driving song that is Zac’s all alone. I reached the point of no return when he kicked into “Mannish Boy”. Damn, I love that song! I’d seen Big Bill Morganfield do it a few weeks ago and it was all Muddy and fantastic and about as good as it gets. But I tell you, Zac doesn’t take a backseat to anyone when he does it. He added a little more ‘bounce’ to it, threw in a little French, and kicked it up a notch to make this version all his own. When he sings it, it’s almost like he’s a preacher ‘testifying the blues’. And at times it did feel like a revival in there, a blues revival. The crowd responded like one three times bigger than it was. People had that blues feeling in their soul. That’s what Zac does; he puts the music in your soul. Zac is a pure blues ambassador. When Patti and I saw him this winter in Memphis he was all over that town, from the kick-off at the New Daisy Theatre to the Finals, promoting the music, promoting the blues. I seldom went more than a few hours without running into him as he seemed to comb every bar and juke joint on Beale checking out new talent, putting back double what he received as the IBC 2004 winner. He exudes genuine warmth, at the Outlook before the show started he was out in the crowd going table to table, meeting and greeting every fan who came out to see him. The personal touch; you didn’t just sense it, you knew he cared about his fans as much as they cared about him. As I said that was as good a first set as I ever saw at the Outlook. No way the second one could get better, right? Well he managed to top it. He had a little help though. His Category 5 amp buddy, Jimmy Thackery, was staying at the Outlook for the Mile High Blues Festival so Zac called him on stage. Double WOW and Holy Crap, Jimmy played the entire second set with the band. Talk about a mesmerizing performance, two monster guitar players, Zac’s buttery voice and a sprinkling of Cory tickling the keys. Jeezus I’d died and gone to heaven. The evening turned into the Zac-Thack Show. Watching Zac and Jimmy smiling as they played you knew they realized as much as we did that this was something pretty darn special. I sat, I watched, I shook my head in awe but most all just soaked it in and enjoyed every amazing second of it. I was lost in some special place and didn’t want to find my way out of it. How do you beat a night like that? I’m not sure you ever can, maybe match it, but never beat it. I said it before and I’ll say it again, that’s the beauty of live music. You never know what magic moment is going to happen on any given night. Each show stands alone, each is unique and can never be reproduced. That’s what has me driving from Loveland to Boulder 2-3 times a week (or 5 times , like this last week!)…I don’t want to miss a thing.(Continues Next Column)
Gotta band? Need a gig?Drop Honey a note.
Fri 8/14 - Johnny O Band
Sat 8/15 - Deltasonics
Short Set @6:30 Young Bloods Blues Band
Sun 8/16 - Jazz Jam w/ Mark Diamond
Tue 8/18 - Tab Benoit ($20-Adv/$25-Door)
Thu 8/20 - Sammy Dee
Fri 8/21 -Easy Bill & The Big Beat
Sat 8/22 - Jake Loggins Band
Sun 8/23 - IBC Competition @ 3:30
- Blues Jam w/Lionel & Mark @ 7:30
(Continued)After the Zack & Thack show, it was my first chance to hear New Mexico’s Ryan McGarvey live. I had followed this kid for about a year listening to his MySpace. When I found out that stuff was done mostly when he was 17, I was dying to hear him now, at the ripe old age of 22. He didn’t disappoint me. Hell he exceeded anything I was expecting and I was expecting a lot. Hearing him, I got feelings like the first time I saw Joe Bonamassa; a rush went through me and I couldn't believe the sounds that he got from his guitar. Trust me, this guy will not be affordable very long so I am especially glad I got to see him. A lot of folks are going to regret not seeing him once they start hearing more of him. Their next opportunity might just be paying $60 to see him at Red Rocks, or something similar to that. Great voice, killer licks, a very inventive style of playing, at times as fast as Kellerman, flashy and creative while still being very listenable and easy on the ears. Plus he writes some killer material. From things like “Texas Special” a speedy blues boogie tribute to all the Texas slingers, to surrealistic blues with Far East undertones that send you into a dream world. And talking to him, he is a real nice kid, very humble and soft-spoken. He is a kid who cares about the music and respects it. Is he pure blues? No, he wavers into the far left at times like Bonamassa and Walter Trout. Is he talented? Hell yes, as talented as they come. A monster guitarist, no attitude, just super talent. How good? Well, at the Mile High Blues Festival BOTH Bernard Allison and Joe Bonamassa called Ryan to jam with them during their respective closing sets. This kid is going to be HUGE.
I know Guitar Town was a festival at Copper Mt. this past weekend, but I challenge them to beat Zac Harmon, Jimmy Thackery and Ryan McGarvey who covered such a wide range of styles. The only thing missing was a pure power trio. Well, that happened Friday night with Kelly Richey. Amazing all this guitar talent around and it's a girl who is pouring out the room shaking power licks! Whew, what a player. Her band kicks some major a$$. The deafening roar from her guitar had the ceiling rumbling, the walls shaking and heck, her drummer’s kit kept crumbling from the sheer power and it finished out the night held together by duct tape
(the world's universal tool). But a crumbling drum set didn’t slow the girl down at all. She cranked out gut-wrenching solos all night long, power laced tasty riffs that shook the room. A long killer version of "Hey Joe" filed with every Hendrix trick you could think of plus several of her own; a healthy serving of the Joe Walsh's "Turn to Stone" had me remembering my college days in Ohio where the James Gang seemed to be playing every other weekend. She finished off with "Crossroads" a fitting tribute to Clapton and the original power trio of my youth. In between she offered originals to show off her song-writing skills, all laced with her ferocious female guitar frenzy. This girl is a power packed guitar dynamo who knows all about rocking the blues!
This has been my “week of death”: from Loveland to the Outlook Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…then 2 days back and forth for Denver’s 1st Mile High Blues Festival (another John Catt induced guitar orgy with Bonamassa, Thackery, Allison, McGarvey plus killer shows from Rick Estin, Kid Anderson, Reba Russell, and Eden Brent), then back to the Outlook for Eden Brent Monday night…Whew! ” our van may qualify for the Federal Clunker program after all the miles we been putting on it between Loveland and ‘points south’!
Thanks Chick. It was one hell of a week. This week has been as well with Johnny Long returning and thrilling us all over again, and I will get more into that and who else is coming next week.
In closing, I would like to add a personal note. My former boss and one of my mentors in life, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics, The Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation, The Community of Caring and an inspiration to millions of people around the world, passed away at the age of 88. She was larger than life, not because of the Kennedy name, but because of her tireless efforts on behalf of those in need. She will be missed for a long, long time.
~~ SIDEBAR ~~
OK, I can’t have favorites, and don’t. We have had too many great performers, each of whom brings their own talents. But I have been thinking about Tommy Castro a lot. I also have been reading Stephen Hawking’s books again. I know I don’t really understand them but they do get me thinking. The randomness of quantum mechanics, Richard Feynman’s path integral formulation in which sub-atomic particles take every possible path from point A to point B, imaginary time, parallel universes, and Tommy Castro. I just know that in some parallel universe, only removed from this one by the flap of a butterfly’s wings over China, I would have Bruce Springsteen playing at my club and a picture of Tommy Castro hanging on my office wall. He is that good. And while I will again refrain from picking favorites, Tommy’s band brings the tightest act that we have ever had in our room. This time (real time that is, not the imaginary type I still can’t get my head around) he is here for two nights, Monday September 21st and Tuesday September 22nd. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. I hope to see you there, in this universe.
Author’s Note: If you think that you have already read this, it’s probably just a space-time continuum thing1.
1. Stephen Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell, (Bantam, 2001)