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A musical knockout.
Monday, 30.03.2015, 20:20
oh what a night...
Grant-Lee Phillips
& Howe Gelb (USA)
After Laurence Olivier delivered what was arguably the best interpretation of ‘Othello’ of all time at the Royal Shakespeare in London, he was nowhere to be found. Until somebody saw him cowering behind his dressing room door, shaking, his hands covering his face. «Larry, the press is waiting for you, fer bloody chrissake, you know what you just did tonight!?» «Yes» answered Olivier «but will I be able to do it again?!»

We sympathize. It’s tough to perform again and again and on the same high level. Take Howe, the pine’s still hot from his last visit here as we welcome him back again. He’s been in these parts so often rumour has it he’s bringing his hammock with him this time and stringing it up right under the roof where the skeleton is.

Howe Gelb’s originally from blue collar Scranton, Pennsylvania where the winters are a hard grayblue and the sun beckons from way out West. Hearing the siren song of the hot desert winds he flew the coop in that direction and became the finest proponent of desert rock (combining and roots rock) the Southwestern plains have ever produced. He is the founder and leader of Giant Sand (originally Howe Gelb, John Convertino, Paula Jean Brown, Joey Burns) which evolved from his 70’s electro-pop Giant Sandworms (our italics). 40 albums in 30 years and counting tell the remarkeable story that keeps on adding new chapters. His approach to music is collaborative which opens things up for all kinds of casual and loose and ultimatively promising creative sojourns. For instance last year you could see him with two Danish partners at the venerable Willisau Jazz Festival. He’s a master of the unexpected and the wondrous, soaring escalation. There’s a photo that shows him throwing his Fedora perhaps in the direction he’s going to go next.

Except, it landed right on the head of Grant-Lee Phillips, metaphorically speaking. To you it means you’re going get to experience the two together tonite. And the show will go down like an overhead straight right followed by an uppercut leading to the same inevitable conclusion. A musical knockout.

Among the exceptional traits that make the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Grant-Phillips who he is today is one that’ll hang around here wafting in the air time after he’s packed his guitar case: his voice. «Soaring falsetto and nourishing drawl supported by an aggressive, stomping guitar» somebody wrote pointedly about his art. It’s this magnetic voice that is pure Grant-Lee and has always been with him in all his travels and travails  from the days in the early ‘90’s with his then band, Grant Lee Buffalo. The formation toured with Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and R.E.M. Actually, Michael Stipe called their debut album «Fuzzy» «…the best album of the year hands down.» Add the «Best Male Vocalist 1994» vote by Rolling Stone to that. Frustration with the lack of support from their label Warner Brothers led to Grant-Lee’s starting a solo career and the suit’s loss turned into our gain. His latest solo work is «Walking In The Green Corn» from 2012, and there’s also some stampeding on it. Grant-Lee is an accomplished visual artist as well which allows him to do his own album covers. He has also written contributions for a collection of contemporary Haiku poems. «It comes down to the purest form of expression that I can offer. I have to get off on my own, allow myself to disappear to do my best work.»

Grant-Lee Phillips & Howe Gelb. The charging buffalo and the soaring eagle together on tour, doing it again under the same hat.

el Lokal