Mid-Week Beat: Happy Birthday to Daniel Johnston

chapterone2Most people know singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston from the 2006 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston but this one-of-a-kind musician was influencing underground musicians well before the celebrated documentary came out.

Johnston became initially known within the Austin, Texas music scene in the early to mid 1980s. He recorded all his material on a $59 Sanyo monaural boombox, singing and playing piano, guitar and chord organ. He would hand out his cassettes to pretty much everyone he met and eventually gained attention from the press, developing a large and devoted fan base through his quirky, yet heartfelt, compositions.

Johnston self-released his cassette-only releases for almost a decade before he actually entered a real recording studio in 1988 to record 1990. However, it’s these early, lo-fi recordings that he’s best known for and which contain some of his best-loved songs like “Speeding Motorcycle” and “True Love Will Find You In The End.”

These early recordings have earned him a reputation as a seminal artist in the so-called “lo-fi” and “outsider” genres, but Johnston’s method of recording was more based out of necessity than a desire to achieve any sort of artistic aesthetic. It goes without saying though, that Johnston’s primitive recording techniques did give his songs a certain vulnerability that is often hard to achieve in a “professional” recording studio. The songs were recorded “as-is” complete with out-of-tune guitars, instrumental flubs and background noise! The definition of D.I.Y.!


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The Mid-Week Beat: Rockin’ in the New Year!

imagesHappy 2014 everyone! I’m sure many of you are nursing some healthy hangovers today after last night’s festivities but the beat goes on. Why not start planning for your next night of musical festivities. Dick Clark may be gone but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a rockin’ new year.

2013 was a great year in music for Brown Paper Tickets. We ticketed a ton of shows featuring up-and-coming and well established artists, as well as a whole slew of great festivals, tours and house shows.

2014 is already looking like another banner year and today on the Mid-Week Beat, I thought I’d share some exciting shows that are happening in this first month of the new year. Doesn’t matter what kind of music you dig: folk, blues, metal, singer/songwriters, r&b, classic rock or ska; we got you covered.

Check these out, enjoy the tunes and then get back in bed. New Year’s day is all about recovery.

Saturday, January 4 I Ramblin’ Jack ElliottSan Francisco, California

One of the last direct links to the great folk traditions of this country, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott is one of the legendary foundations of American folk music. In the tradition of roving troubadours Jack has carried the seeds and pollens of story and song for decades from one place to another, from one generation to the next.

In 1950, he met Woody Guthrie, moved in with the Guthrie family and traveled with Woody to California and Florida, from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters. Along the way he learned the blues first-hand from Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, the Reverend Gary Davis, Big Bill Broonzy, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, Jesse Fuller and Champion Jack Dupree. So it’s fitting that in 2011, he received a Grammy Award in the Traditional Blues category for his album, A Stranger Here. He received the National Medal of Arts award and was honored with a special dinner at the White House.

Recently the award-winning film The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack introduced a new generation to his timeless music and yarns.  SF Live Arts is honored to have this national treasure start their concert year.

Americana/country/rockabilly singer Vikki Lee opens the show.

Monday, January 6Keb’ Mo’ and Friends with Beth Nielsen Chapman, JT Hodges and Casey WasnerNashville, Tennessee

Keb’ Mo’ is a three-time American Grammy Award-winning blues musician. He is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter, currently living in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Robbie Brooks Moore.

He has been described as “a living link to the seminal Delta blues that travelled up the Mississippi River and across the expanse of America.” His post-modern blues style is influenced by many eras and genres, including folk, rock, jazz and pop. The moniker “Keb Mo” was coined by his original drummer, Quentin Dennard, and picked up by his record label as a “street talk” abbreviation of his given name, Kevin Moore.

Join Kind of Blue Music for an intimate night of music in the round to benefit the Abrintra Montessori School, hosted by Montessori dad, Keb’ Mo’ himself.

Other artists will be: BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN, JT HODGES and CASEY WASNER.

Raffle will include a beautiful Bedell Acoustic Guitar signed by the artists.


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The Mid-Week Beat: Paying Tribute This Weekend

elvis-impersonators-590x310As many musicians out there know, a large portion of learning to be a instrumentalist or songwriter is learning to properly steal from your influences. Many musicians struggle to be original but chances are, someone has played the combination of chords and notes that you “wrote” before. That said, if you really get down to it, the actual notes and chords don’t really matter. It’s what you bring to those chords that matters; your unique perspective and individual playing style. No matter what you do to differentiate your sound from sounds of the past, there’s bound to be a little of your influences in there somewhere. That’s okay, as long as you also bring a little of yourself into the mix as well.

With that said, there are two very different ways to approach a tribute show. Some artists attempt to re-create the exact sound of the artist they’re paying tribute to, others choose to re-interpret an artists songs in their own unique way. I find the latter to be more enjoyable because it really distills music down to its pure form and pays homage to the folk tradition, where songs were passed down over the years; constantly changing and being re-interpreted. By interpreting a song in their own voice, a musician ensures that those songs will continue to grow and change for years to come. Songs by revered songwriters like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen are constantly being changed and re-interpreted by musicians, while artists like Elvis or Neil Diamond often get impersonated, with musicians donning their cadence, look and stage presence.

Today on the Mid-Week Beat, we feature both kinds of tributes: impersonations and interpretations. If you’re a fan of the original artists, chances are you’re going to enjoy hearing the songs you love regardless of whether they’re done straight or in an entirely different style. What matters are the songs.
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The Mid-Week Beat: Here’s to the Singer-Songwriters!

Bob_Dylan_All_Along_the_Watchtower_single_coverOn this day, in 1967, Bob Dylan recorded “All Along the Watchtower” during a three-hour recording session at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Dylan would perform ‘Watchtower’ live more than any of his other compositions in the 45 years since its release. It would be covered by countless artists in a variety of genres, most famously by Jimi Hendrix for his 1968 Electric Ladyland release.

Other artists who have covered the song include the Dave Matthews Band, U2, Neil Young, The Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton, Supetramp, Van Morrison, Paul Weller, T.S.O.L., Bobby Womack and countless others.

While Dylan may be widely praised as a singer/songwriter, with countless artists covering his songs, he is just one in a long line of troubadours that have braved stages armed with little more than their words and an acoustic guitar. In Dylan’s day, singers that wrote their own tunes were relatively rare in popular music. Most pop singers sang other people’s songs or, occasionally, co-wrote their own songs.

What separates the “singer/songwriter” from other musicans is that they often provide the sole accompaniment to an entire composition, typically using only a guitar or piano and the compositions are written primarily as a solo vehicle. While in Dylan’s day, singer/songwriters were largely associated with the folk tradition, Dylan influenced many in the rock community to follow a similar path. As a result, singer/songwriters became a powerful force in popular music in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the success of artists like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, James Taylor and countless others.
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