Thursday, December 14, 2017

Keithmas 2017, part two: the Bad Beats, the Pointed Sticks, the SLIP~ons, Rich Hope and Adrian Mack, and Keithmas co-founder/ organizer John Hewer

Keithmas 2017 is upon us, this Saturday, and I'm finally going to go!

Part one of my Keithmas feature deals with whether people prefer the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band or the Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request - and of course, it gets contentious. To heck with Tarantino's "you can be a Beatles or an Elvis person, but not both" - I have both Beatles and Elvis records; I think THIS is the contentious false binary to discuss.

But like I say, that's part one.  Here we have more general interviews, with headliner Rich Hope and Adrian Mack, fellow newcomer to Keithmas Nick Jones (of the Pointed Sticks), the SLIP~ons (whose tagline could be "more than just the best fuckin' Replacements cover band you ever heard!"), and organizer and co-founder John Hewer! I asked them all similar questions - favourite Keef moments, favourite Keithmas moments, plans for the Saturday show (at the Rickshaw, and NEARLY SOLD OUT: you might still be able to get tickets at a local record store but there's not much left at the Rickshaw or online, I'm told). Also was curious about the pecking order: with so many bands having to pick Keef-related songs, without duplicating any, what strategies do people use? How is a pecking order established?

1. The Bad Beats (and Adam Payne's Dad!)

But first of all, the Bad Beats. I had interviewed Adam Payne of the Bad Beats, prior to the band's first European tour, a few months ago, without having ever seen them live; they're one of the strong draws for me to Saturday's show (I haven't seen La Chinga live, ever, either!). His Vengeful Hand is a real delight, if you're into vintage garage rock. Payne won't spill what songs his band will be doing on Saturday, which "would be like telling you what you are getting for a Christmas present," but he will say "we aren’t doing anything recorded past 1971."

Payne got into the Stones through his Mom ("I have many memories of being at home in bed and hearing it blasting from the stereo while the adults were partying downstairs.") And better yet, he continues, "my dad (who was a broadcaster) interviewed the Stones at in Ontario in what might have been their first ever interview in Canada, probably 1965. He said they were very nice to him. He still has the tape and I’ve been trying to get him to digitize it!"

Wait a second, there, Adam: your Dad interviewed the Stones in 1965? The year that Bev took her photo of the Stones at Maple Leaf Gardens (discussed in Part One)? I briefly get my hopes up - I love a good, weird coincidence - that Adam's Dad might actually BE the media guy in Bev's photo, but it quickly turns out that a) Adam's Dad is black - no black people in Bev's picture! - AND... he wasn't at the Maple Leaf Gardens at all, but the Ottawa Civic Centre (or was it the YWCA Auditorium? That's how it appears on the ticket. Maybe the venue got changed, or maybe it had more than one name? Hell, I dunno.)

So in an interview first, for me, my conversation with Adam leads me to interview his Dad, Robert Payne, by email. (This is almost as entertaining to me as the time I ended up with Peter Stampfel's ex-wife Antonia because he'd given me the wrong phone number and I'd had to scramble to directory assistance, not finding him, but... hey, there's Antonia! And then there was the time I ended up interacting with inspirational singer and burn victim  Merrill Womach because Nardwuar thought he was dead and I had to fact check the piece to find out, finding no obit, but an active email address for Mr. Womach, who was surprisingly funny, joking in response to my somewhat awkward question - "are you dead?" - that he had died a few years ago. So far, though, no other interview has led to me talking to the parents of the person I was interviewing, unless, as with the New Creation, one of them actually IN the band... Note, all links in the above are to interviews I have done, except for Merrill Womach, which is him singing to other burn victims in a burn ward about how they will be happy again someday).

Anyhow... Robert Payne writes:
Hi Allan,

Great to cyber-meet you.

Your friend Bev was in a different city (Toronto) than I was. While I am now in Toronto - and have been since 1968 - my interview of the Stones took place in Ottawa 1965 - the second stop on the Stones' first ever North American tour. (Montreal was their first stop, then came Ottawa a day later).
I was assigned by CKOY, the Ottawa radio station I then worked for, to interview the Stones. Being a radio guy at the time, I carried a bulky tape recorder. No camera.

So the interview took place in the bowels of the Ottawa Civic Centre (at the time being used mostly as a hockey arena).

As I've told Adam, my most vivid recollection is that while I was chatting with them (the Stones), a voice in the bowels of the auditorium (where the interview was happening), someone (I'm assuming the stage manager) yelled "SHOW TIME."

I being the polite guy I was almost immediately got out of the way, at which point Mick yelled
"Aren't you gonna say goodbye?!!"

Things aren't that nice anymore.


Note: re: the contradictory venue names, Robert adds:

Seems to be named the YMCA centre here, BUT ... I've never known the YMCA to accommodate a band like the Rolling Stones. 
See here. You'll notice it claims the concert took place in the "YMCA Auditorium."  
The only thing that might explain this is that the local arena was named the YMCA Auditorium. 
In my mind, it can't be. Nothing called an auditorium could accommodate such an event, and I swear this was a hockey arena with ice machines in the bowels of it - where I did the interview. 
Granted, it was Ottawa ... but no "auditorium" could possibly accommodate the Stones who, on the previous night, had played the Montreal Forum - also a hockey arena. 
Whatever ... 
(He does further research and apparently the YMCA auditorium was used for hockey games. So there).
2. Nick Jones (Pointed Sticks)

The Pointed Sticks in Japan, 2006: Hey Nick, is that the hat?

Nevermind this one-degree-of-familial-separation stuff: at least one person playing Keithmas this Saturday has plenty of direct contact with the Rolling Stones, that being Nick Jones, singer of the Pointed Sticks, who has one of the most rock'n'roll straight jobs ever, as a tour merchandiser, selling t-shirts and stuff, including for the Rolling Stones. "I was on the road with them for every tour from 1989 Steel Wheels to 2006 Bigger Bang," he writes. "Probably upwards of 300 shows. During that time we grossed hundreds of millions of $ in merchandise sales, I've bought them a few houses. As for direct interaction, mostly with Charlie, as he had the most interest in the swag, but with all of the others as well. Keith actually lent me a hat to wear in Japan on our first gigs back."

How was Keith?

"Very friendly, but almost unintelligible . His guy Tony Russell is kind of an interpreter. He lent me the hat so I could look like a cool rockstar, of course! No photo of the hat" (...unless I just found one in the tour photos from Japan that the Pointed Sticks sent me back in the day - here's another few!).

Allan: So what are your favourite Stones moments on record?

Nick: I was hearing their singles on my transistor radio right from the very start, but the first actual LP I bought was Get Yer Ya Yas out. Still a master class in the art of playing rythmn guitar. I saw Gimme Shelter when it came out at the Totem theatre in North Van, and that also made a huge impression on me. I believe that the studio version of "Gimme Shelter" is the apex of rock and roll recordings. It simply has every element in spades. 

I know we disagree about the cleaned up Exile on Main St, that you like the glorious swampiness of the original while I like it cleaned up, but... Have you tried to listen to the remaster and actually not liked it - or is it a "disagree in principle" kinda thing? 

No, I did hear it. Jaggers' vocals are way too loud. The record was recorded in a swamp, so it should sound that way. I saw that show, btw. June 3rd, 1972 at the PNE Coliseum.

Whoa! (I was four). So what will the Pointed Sticks be doing on Saturday? I assume Stones covers are the order of the day - how are they portioned out? Which band gets which? Have the Stones ever been part of the Sticks set before? 

Ah, the old Sticks and Stones joke... perfect title for our EP of Stones covers. Way back when, in the Cave days, we played "Stupid Girl" and "Ride On Baby," and we recently (2009) played "Out Of Time" in Calgary with Art Bergmann singing it with us. None of those are on the list for Saturday, but the era is correct. There was a group message where all the bands claimed their choices, we got in very, very early, and claimed the ones we wanted. That being said, we picked a couple of pretty obscure songs. Keithmas John said he thought that at least two of our songs had never been attempted at previous Keithmas shows.

Any big news besides the upcoming European tour and the show at the Fox tomorrow? Any special plans for that...? 

The Fox show is going to be a gas. We always make sure that we have a great roster of support acts, and this time is no exception. Vanrays are pretty hard charging soul stylists, members from Swank, Big Top and some other bands, and the Murphy Brothers are legends in the roots/ rockabilly community in Vancouver [Sean Butch Murphy is a veteran of the Nervous Fellas, but I don't know the others]. I have only seen the two bands on video, but both look amazing, and the bill is very diverse. Our European tour, after 40 years, is set to start in Spain in March. We still can't actually believe this is going to happen, but there are 14 dates booked, so I guess it is. So many of our friends have offered their skills as roadies, we'd need three tour buses to hold them all. I'm surprised you haven't put in a bid to be our embedded journalist! We know that the people coming to see us over there will be 99% fans of the original records, so our set at the Fox this Friday is kind of a warm up for that. We've made two LPs and two 45's of new music since 2006, and to keep ourselves interested, we always play a good amount from those records, as well as a few covers. But this year, its gonna be the greatest hits, baby! All your favourites, banged out in inimitable PS style. Oh, and maybe a Polly cover at the end.

Just out of curiosity, are you at all self-conscious that you're going to be performing "The Marching Song," with its lyrics about "Germany in '43," to a German audience? 

I hadn't thought about that, but no. Ok, maybe now you brought it up. Thanks Allan....jeez...

3. The SLIP~ons 

I love the SLIP~ons. I've even shot some video of them! If I could have programmed the opening acts for Slow, a couple of weeks ago, they would have been way up there, along with maybe a resurrected Jolts (no word on which yet, but we miss you, Joey! Come back!). The Slow encore set in particular - including "Pills," which, speaking of Polly, the SLIP~ons did an awesome version of at the Paul Leahy memorial event at the Rickshaw awhile ago - was very much the sort of thing the SLIP~ons excel at, though they throw in more contemporary covers, too (or at least contemporary for guys in their mid-to-late-40s, like, say, the Replacements, a staple of their covers and a band they very much bring to mind when playing live). 

Rob of the SLIP~ons, pictured left, says his favourite Keef moment was "seeing the X-Pensive Winos play on Saturday Night Live in 1988. Best SNL performance - blew my mind!" He is partial to "Take It So Hard" of Keith's solo material, and, Stones-wise, Out of Our Heads, Sticky Fingers, Some Girls, and Tattoo You.  As with Adam Payne above, he's never had a chance to see the Stones live, but says Keith (Keef) "seems like the coolest dude" based on the documentary about him. "I would like to have a  beer with him and talk Fender Teles and amps!"

Brock, meanwhile (pictured center) agrees with Nick Jones, above, about Exile ("I generally prefer murky originals to remasters - overcompression and extreme equalization alter how things were meant to sound, to my ears." 

While the band was pretty socialistic about which songs to do for Keithmas, Brock insisted on "Ruby Tuesday," "as it was the Billboard #1 the year I was born." Publicist Joelle May, Brock's girlfriend, suggested "Tumbling Dice," which Brock thought would be awesome with "Miss Quincy and a couple of big singers" (alas, Miss Quincy is in Australia at present, so she won't be joining them; I am actually not sure if that means they're going to scrap the song, but the SLIP~ons doing Exile-era Stones would be a delight). Rob was wanting to do some '60's stones, so "Last Time" ended up a pick (with Jay Solyom on drums, as regular SLIP~ons drummer Shane is unavailable for Keithmas). But finding out what songs the SLIP~ons are going to do is not going to ruin the surprise at all of HOW they will do them... there's a degree of real rock'n'roll anarchy to their performances that suits the material perfectly. 

And as for zero-degrees-of-separation stories of the Stones, Brock recalls "working beside Charlie's drum riser at BC Place one of the last times they played here. I noticed Charlie's kit had an old Speed King bass drum pedal. The heel plate was flipped over, as they often do on those old pedals, and I thought to myself, "this guy could have any gear in the world, and yet he still has the crappy old Speed King that probably came with the kit in 1965!"

The SLIP~ons have a new album coming out next year ("Way overdue" Rob chimes in) but for merch on Saturday will have shirts and hoodies at Keithmas. Brock adds: "Brian is mixing two songs which we plan to press up some vinyl of as soon as he's done, and Johnny Wildkat masters them." Meantime, see the SLIP~ons live!

4. Rich Hope and his Evil Doers

Rich Hope and Adrian Mack, by Cindy LeGrier, at Richards on Richards, opening for the Modernettes in 2007

I don't have enough hair left for a haircut, so I will never look as cool as Rich Hope's clientele - I just break out the clippers and ask Erika to shave me, when the time comes - but I've enjoyed his fiery blues-rock a ton, so much so that I actually brought my parents out the Railway to see him (in a slightly different permutation, the Blue Rich Rangers) when they were both still alive (I interviewed Rich about that unit here, quite some time ago). He's a kickass showman and a man who refuses to let a crowd slack; he'd be a great teacher, actually, because I bet he would motivate even the shyest, sleepiest students to give their all (especially if he was teaching a class in tappin' your foot, clappin' your hands, and whoopin'). And it's just perfect that Rich has done every single Keithmas to date (eight of 'em) and is closing the show at the Rickshaw on Saturday. I can't think of a better guy, locally, for the job. 

I put the usual questions to Rich and Adrian - have they seen the Stones? Any favourite moments? Anything special planned? And besides arguing with Mack about the merits of Sgt. Pepper's versus Their Satanic Majesties Request - see Part One, wherein I win, because it's my blog - we had the following interaction, with Mack and Rich responding to each other.

Adrian Mack: 
Never seen the Stones. The closest I've come to an encounter is thru Toronto-based musicians who have opened for them or been at rehearsals, but the stories have all been told -- Keith getting into a fist fight with Ronnie over the chords in "Gimme Shelter." Keith wandering around obliviously dropping hundreds of dollars of per diem cash in his wake. And I'm not even sure that I believe them anymore! I used a couple for a GS feature over 10 years ago and received a very mysterious letter from people claiming to be from the organization; it was so confidently scathing and seemingly well-informed that I took it to be the real thing. Maybe it was Nick!
Speaking of: I think both versions of Exile have their merits, actually. But I'll go further than either of you or Nick Jones: I prefer Sticky Fingers
The one track that nobody has ever done at Keithmas, but should have by now: "Mixed Emotions". Oh, and also "Connection", from Out of Their Heads. I'm very proud that we did "Undercover" a few years back. That was incredibly ballsy, and I think we nailed it.
Rich Hope:
I stand by the same stories as Mack - we heard 'em from the same people… 
My whole introduction to open tuning was listening to Keith. 
[Favourite Stones?] Exile. And I like the original on vinyl and the spruced up version if you’re listening to digital. I mean, why not? That’s why it was done.
Nick Jones: 
[He's] wrong, but what the hell. 
Allan: Rich, Adrian, any memorable moments from Keithmases past? 

Adrian Mack:
Most memorable performances for me: the Jolts doing anything, any year; the Prettys about three years ago were magnificent, and they stuck to '60s stuff, which I really appreciated (I think "19th Nervous Breakdown" was in there); La Chinga's "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" from 2016 was insane; Johnny DeCourcey in 2015 (I think), showing up with his underage band and then leaving in a limo -- so good!! The Highway Kind finding the magnificence in "Doom and Gloom" back at the Fairview. Not an easy task, but they fucking did it. Whatever year it was that John Hewer grabbed a guitar and encored with us. I think we did "The Last Time"? It was very touching because his kid Evan (a former Jolt) played bass. I know it was a big moment for John. Maybe 2013? Rich? 
So many Kiethmases. My memory is shattered.
Rich Hope:
Yeah lotta great moments in there. I loved doing Some Girls album last year.

The Johnny De Courcey thing was so good.

 Rich Hope at Keithmas 2016, by Adam PW Smith, not to be reused without permission

5. John Hewer

Allan: I was reading that Keithmas was co-founded by James Hayden - that's Floor Tom Jones to DOA fans, right? (Best DOA drummer since... Dimwit? Card?). Is he still involved - is he playing in any bands? Are you? 

John: James aka Jimmy aka Floor Tom Jones played Keithmas last year as part of Greenback High. He was/is the lead singer/songwriter. They are a great power pop style band but alas are in hiatus of sorts and not performing this year. I am not in any of the bands. My claim to fame is that I played “The Last Time” with Rich Hope at Keithmas V. On that note my son has played six Keithmas’s so we keep it in the family.     

James Hayden with Greenback High, Keithmas 2016, by Adam PW Smith, not to be reused without permission

Have you ever seen the Stones play live? Any favourite Stones or Keef moments? Your own favourite album or period by them?

I have seen them two or three times, but unfortunately it was in their enormo dome phase. Favourite Stones song no question is the 45 of "Jumping Jack Flash." My sister had it when I was a kid and I used to play it on one of those record players with the penny-on-the-stylus self contained units. I defy anyone to write a more perfect rock and roll song than that. that riff, non-sensical lyrics hinting at rebellion and it’s in/out 3/12 minutes. Cannot be topped.

As for period, I fluctuate between ’72 Madison Gardens, Mick Taylor w/Jim Price and Bobby Keys, and the ’78 Some Girls Fort Worth era. Both rock and roll to the bone.

How many bands asked you to play this year? How did you select the final lineup? Are there any bands you haven't seen live before? 

Well we end up with nine bands. We definitely had a bunch of bands that asked that don’t make it for one reason or another. I’m the ultimate arbiter so what i say goes for good or bad. This year I have actually seen all the bands. That is not always the case. Originally we had Dopey’s Robe, a cool '60’s garage/reverb/surf but totally now type band but they dropped out at the last minute. I’d never seen them but I dug their stuff. I always try and get some “younger” bands because I don’t want this to be an oldies/ cover band show. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. This year’s lineup top to bottom is really heavy. Only bummer is the aforementioned lack of “hip” new band(s).

I love that Rich is a constant. He's perfect. Any favourite memories of his performances? (Ever get your hair cut by him? I would, except I don't have any). 

First, yes to the haircut. Yesterday in fact. Rich has become a good friend and I just was getting to know him when we started this eight years ago so that right there is a great memory. Performance-wise I think last year was pretty special. He did all Some Girls-era and it was like he got shot out fo a cannon. Otherwise, probably more favourite, is this, from Keithmas 3, "When the Whip Comes Down." As good as seeing the Stones.

La Chinga also seems perfect for this... they've done it a few times, right? 

As early as Keithmas 1, when it was the Poolhall Gospel. Has really stepped it up this year.

Who or what are the Knast? Have Seattle bands applied before? (Has the Keithmas tradition caught on in Seattle, or anywhere else, or is this still just a Vancouver thing? ...because I could see it spreading...). 

The Knast are the first out of town band we have had. Really good Who/Mod meets Manchester rock band who also love the Stones. I booked them with James a number of years ago when we were doing Fairview Pub shows and have always kept in touch. Their new record is fantastic.

Re: out of town shows, we almost had a Calgary Keithmas a couple of years ago but the guy bailed. Victoria has been looked at and we have support but we are all really busy and it’s a lot of work to put this together and keep it at the level and quality we want. Once people realize how much work it is generally they don’t follow up (not complaining!)

The Slip Ons are an AWESOME inclusion - is it their first year?

Yeah - they played Seger De Mayo this year and killed it so they were an obvious choice.

Is it the Pack AD's first year? (I know it is the Pointed Sticks...).
Yes and Yes, very excited about both. The first ‘punk” singles I bought as a high schooler were the DOA toetag single and "Out of Luck" by the Pointed Sticks and I loved that Pointed Sticks single to death - one of my fav songs from that era.

How do you ensure that people don't duplicate songs? Do people have to submit their picks first? Is there a pecking order as to who gets to choose first? 

It’s a free for all with me as referee if there are duplicates. Once I announce it bands just start picking. The running joke the first couple of year’s was La Chinga had their song choices in like July. I offer suggestions and ideas for some bands and the weird thing is they occasionally actually listen. Which is quite nice on their part.

How many years has Keithmas been at the Rickshaw now? (It was at the Fairview first, then the Electric Owl... has it been the Rickshaw since?). How did you convince Mo to waive the room rental? (Or did he volunteer?). 

Three years at the Fairview, two at the Electric Owl and three at the Rickshaw. Mo is just a really good guy with a good heart. He wants people and bands to be successful. And the fact that I believe we broke the drink sales record that first year, or so I’ve been told, didn’t hurt either.

I gather that there were prizes in the past including some of Keith Richards' pants! Any other acknowledgment from him? Does he know Keithmas exists? 

Re: Keef the closest we have got other than a pair of his pants was an acknowledgment from his Twitter Account last year...which I’m pretty sure he doesn’t monitor

Are there any cool prizes this year? 

There are a lot of great prizes like concert ticket packages, etc., but the best raffle prize is a Rolling Stones Lips logo PiƱata !

100% of Keithmas proceeds go to the Vancouver food bank! Phone your nearest record store to see if they still have tickets, it's almost sold out! Keithmas set times below - doors at 7pm, show at 8pm sharp! 

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