Birds of a Different Feather

P.D. Kelley 

I finally met two fans (short for “fanatics”) who define the term.  Darryl and his lady told me they have followed The Black Crowes and now The Magpie Salute for the past thirteen years and calculate they have been to over 100 performances including the one this past Monday, September 25th here at the Rogue Theatre.  These folks were not bug-eyed, did not drool or twitch; they appeared to be a normal couple who just really love this band in any of its incarnations.  Darryl touched my heart when he said that when he was coming of age in the 90’s “there was just no true rock and roll anymore” until he started listening to The Black Crowes.  Dude, I’m so sorry you missed Woodstock.  I did too, although I was a mere 400 miles away.  Still regret not going.  Original BC member Rich Robinson led the troupe on this evening with some stellar lead guitar.  Robinson’s philosophy must be “a guitar for every song and a song for every guitar”.  Darryl’s lady showed me a play list which mapped out 14 guitars for the 20 plus songs Magpie played in a little over two hours, without a break, I might add.  This is one hard-working band.  If you are a guitar nut you would have been privileged to see Robinson play a gorgeous hollow-bodied Gretch, a variety of Telecasters, a Gibson Les Paul, and an acoustic electric.  I’m sure I missed a few.  Another former Crowe and also playing lead and whatever else was called for was Marc Ford, a prolific composer and consummate professional.   Former BC member Sven Pipien on bass held his own with style and grace.  Such a solid player, the kind the rest of the band knows they can count on.  According to Darryl, when the insanity of drugs and alcohol started shredding the Crowes in the last decade, Pipien was the one “nobody had issues with.  He was good with everybody.”  New Magpie members were Joe Magistro on drums and either Michael Bellar on keyboards or Chris…?  I thought that’s the name Robinson said on stage and my research could not confirm this.  Damn, Darryl would know!  Also on  guitar was Nico Bereciartua and another guitarist whose name I could not find.  Sorry guys but I can certainly say, “Fine job one and all.  Hiding almost off stage was Enrique on congas and other percussion instruments.  Again, could not confirm a last name.  A talented group of backup singers and lovely to look at as well were Charity White, Katrine Ottosen and Adrien Reju.  New lead singer straight outta England was John Hogg, an energetic and dramatic vocalist, very stylish in short dreds, vest and hat.  His voice seemed strained at times and I think Robinson and Ford have better pipes than Hogg, but I quibble here.  The music overall was vibrant, rich, sometimes bold.  I didn’t like all but I liked most and loved some. There was variety from hard driving rock to ballads to a folk rock sound a time or two.  They did some cover stuff: Little Feet’s “Fat Man in the Bathtub”, for instance, but most material seemed original.  What impressed me the most was how professional these birds were and how much thought and effort went into the show.  The Magpie Salute left it all on stage on Monday and it didn’t matter that they weren’t playing to a full house.  So where were you, Rogue Valley?  A musical banquet was served but there were empty seats at the table.  Legend has it that if you see a magpie and you want good luck, give a salute.  Here’s my salute to those fine feathered new friends of mine. 


Please don’t miss Rogue Theatre’s next show this Friday, September 29th when Dave Mason will be in the house.  Think of the biggest names in Rock/ Popular music and Mason has been part of their band or has played on their albums.  This is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as co-founder of the band Traffic.  I hear his voice and his playing are as strong as ever.  Clean living, probably.  See you there. 


Catch you on the flip side… 

Black Moon Rising Plus More Zen

P.D. Kelley

Ottmar Liebert and his band Luna Negra thrilled the Rogue Theatre house on September 16th with a mix of Latin, pop, jazz, and so called “Nouveau Flamenco”. The band itself is fluid and kind of like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never know who will be on stage or how many or what kind of instruments will be supporting Liebert’s classical guitar. This night it was Jon Gagen on bass and Chris Steele on drums. This trio was absolutely mesmerizing and here’s one reason why. Every musician on the stage is a consummate artist in his own right. Gagen has several albums under his guitar strap and is a gifted composer and arranger. His bass line sometimes provided the traditional rumbling background and sometimes came to the forefront for a sound that was both supportive and stunning. Chris Steele has played on an album or toured with everyone from Kenny Burrell to Barry Manilow to the Glenn Miller Orchestra. He has a Bachelor’s in Classical Percussion and a Masters in Jazz Studies and is simply the best percussionist I have ever seen perform live. He has all the bells and whistles on his set and is fascinating to watch. Liebert sat in the middle of these two, barefoot, with clean-shaven face and head in the simplest of shirt and pants. Sometimes a gentle smile would appear as he appreciated the talents of Gagen and Steele and he was generous in sharing the spotlight. And a true joy to listen to. Wonderful melodies and rhythms emerged from his guitar, mellow at times, sometimes robust and surprising, always in tune with the other players with smooth, seemingly effortless transitions. Not so effortless from a physical standpoint. He requested a bucket of ice at the end of the show to soak his fingers in. The best make it look easy and pay the price. Thanks, Rogue Theatre for bringing such a class act to Grants Pass.

Next up on September 25th is the newly birthed Magpie Salute. Former Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson put together the band last October along with former BC bandmates Marc Ford and Sven Pipien. I checked them out on You Tube and there should be a host of other talented musicians on stage, some of whom Black Crowe fans will recognize. This is classic rock and roll and it brought me back to my 60’s roots. They’ve played to sold out shows and have had success with their eponymous first album which came out in June of this year. Put your money down now for a show that promises some great fun for rockers of all ages.

Catch you on the flip side. . .

Zen and the Black Moon

P.D. Kelley
As I sit here listening to Ottmar Liebert and his band, Luna Negra (Black Moon), my enthusiasm is building for his show at the Rogue Theatre coming this Saturday, September 16th. This guy is all about fusion. Mix classical guitar with a modern Latin beat, a hint of jazz, and more than a pinch of flamenco and maybe the essence of his style can be defined. If one is not careful, his music could be dismissed as simply easy listening. A mistake. Just as the listener settles back for a relaxing ride, Liebert does something surprising, often impressive in skill level and technique. There’s fusion in his personal history as well. Of Chinese, German, and Hungarian descent, he traveled Europe as a kid and became interested in various cultures and musical styles. In 2006 he was ordained as a Zen Buddhist Monk. In an interview earlier this year he explained, “I have played the guitar since I was 11 and sat in meditation since I was 15. The two practices are so connected in my mind, I can’t tell where one stops and the other begins.” Yep. Fusion. With over 40 albums and several grammys in his discography, I’m thinking this show is not one to miss. He has dedicated fans all over the world and a chunk of them are right here, based on my conversations with local music aficionados. Get those tickets now.
Catch you on the flip side.