Torch and Twang Fest Wrap-Up
All of us connected with the first Torch and Twang Fest (Doug and Jamie, Norm and Kenny from Etch) would like to thank all of you who came out to the show, as well as all the staff at Mac's and Paul, the stalwart soundman.

We had a great time and it was fun to meet so many folks that we've only talked to on the phone.  Overall, it was a smashing success and judging by the comments we've received, you all thought so as well.

If you didn't purchase a T&T Fest t-shirt at the show and decide you want one, just drop Jamie a line.  They're handsome white, 100 percent cotton heavy t-shirts with a black Progressive Torch and Twang logo over your heart on the front and the complete two-day line up on the back.  The cost is $10.  They're a limited edition and we've only got about 20 or so left.

Thanks again and keep your eyes open for more Torch and Twang Nights and info on the next T&T Fest!

The reviews:

These reviews are all from folks who subscribe to a mailing list known as Postcard 2.  It’s a list for fanatics of this type of torchy-twangy, alt country type music.  If you think you might like to subscribe, just drop Jamie a line.

The photos from Night #1 were taken by our new friend David Besonen who drove up from Dallas (not to go to the Fest, but he was pleased when he found out it was the same weekend!)  Thanks David!  Doug took the photos from Night #2 with a disposable camera -- not too bad for a beginner!!  The phots from Night #2 were posted on Dec. 17, so make sure you scroll down to check e'm out.

From Steve Kirsch, a resident of New Jersey who drove in for the show:
Subject: Night #1 of Torch & Twang in Lansing-- A review

Wow. What a great weekend of music Doug & Jamie put together in Lansing.  Like the guy from Holler said, who would have thought that Lansing would have such a vibrant alt-country scene? And it's all apparently thanks to Doug & Jamie's radio show and T & T nights at Mac's.

Doug, Robbie Fulks and Jamie mug for the camera.
 
 

So here are some of my thoughts on the whole thing. I'm a little fuzzy after a 10-hr drive home, so excuse me if I get a little disjointed....

The Drive: Fuzziness aside, it really was just too easy, even solo like I did it. After 900 miles to Twangfest in June, 670 miles was child's play.  I'm gonna be headed to a new career in truck driving soon, I think....

But do they always time it perfectly so when you pass the first sign that says "Detroit" on the OH Turnpike that the radio is playing Ted Nugent? :)  I swear I passed the "Detroit" sign just as whatever tape I was playing ended, and I turned on the radio and there was "Stranglehold."  Jesus. That song went out of rotation on Rawk radio years ago in Philly.  So I cruised thru a bit of Ohio in a state of oneness with the Nuge ("Sometimes ya wanna get higher. Sometimes ya wanna start low..."). But, no, that feeling didn't last past the end of the song. I didn't feel the need to hunt later....
 
 

David, Robbie Fulks and Doug at Mac's. (Doug still doesn't look too awake!)
 
 

The Motel: Oh Lord. The Oak Grove it ain't.....There are a few too many permanent residents of the Lansing Motel6.  Apparently the cops warned another one of our fellow P2ers not to stay there. (He can step up and be recognized if he wants. ) But I survived the stay by taking the advice of that same P2er and loudly saying goodbye to an imaginary roomate whenever I left.  :) ("Seeya Mike! Ya sure you don't wanna come along?")

The Venue: Mac's is a great bar. I like it even better than the Off Broadway (the site of TFest in St Louis) if only because the beer selection was better. They serve Guiness on tap in glasses **way** bigger than a pint. It's a beautiful thing. Nothing like a Big-Gulp-sized Guiness. They have pool tables, beer and cool bands. I was happy.


Ruthie and one of her Wranglers after their scorching set.
 
 

The Bands:

Night #1 began with the Gigantics, who were a garage-y Replacements-with-twang bunch that rocked my world. I loved 'em. Next came The Steam Donkeys, from Buffalo. I liked, but didn't love, their acoustic-y approach to Gram Parsons-esque songs, but they played a cool medley at the end that included "Mystery Train," and even a smirk-filled "Pinball Wizard" for a few seconds. Great fiddle player, too. The Deans, a Lansing band, were up next, and I loved their surf sound. The guitarist/singer is an adequate vocalist but a talented guitarist who was giving Dick Dale a good run for his money. I'm not the biggest surf-guitar fan (I tend to tire of it after a few songs) but the Deans kept my attention the whole time during their set. Hard-driving stuff.


Doug and Jamie at the end of Night #1.  That's a T&T Fest t-shirt in the background (still some left!) as well as our friend Joe, who came up from Toledo for the festivities.
 
 

Everyone but me seemed to love Ruthie and The Wranglers. I thought they were OK rockabilly/swing, but they played too long and Ruthie's stage demeanor annoyed the hell out of me. She put on this cutesie Pepsodent smile that got on my nerves. But Mt Pilot (subbing for the absent Volebeats) followed Ruthie with a  hard, gritty, kinda-acoustic-with-guts set that I really enjoyed. They set up Robbie Fulks well.  Robbie walked on stage and I started freaking out 'cause there, right in front of me, stood Lou Whitney and Donnie Thompson from the Skeletons (my vote for world's best bar band) as, respectively, Robbie's bass and guitar. Yowzers. What a set. They even did "30 Days in The Workhouse," one of my fave Skeletons songs. It's all been said here before about Robbie. He's the real deal. (Although Annie Stack and I were both agreeing that "asshole" woulda worked a lot better than "faggot" in "Fuck This Town." Bad choice of lyrics, Robbie.)


Jamie, David and Doug.  That's one of the great things about putting on a show -- you get to be in all the photos!
 
 

All in all, a wild night #1. About 7 hrs of music...Hung out with/met lots of nice P2ers that first night too: Annie, Gary Wilson, The Babooski himself, Eden (ex-P2 for now), Anders (from P1), Bob Sovine, Matt Benz, Doug & Jamie.
(Uh-oh....who did I forget?).


Robbie Fulks, perhaps doing "Cold Stateboro Ground" from his new album, South Mouth.
 

I'll talk about night #2 tomorrow. For now it's off to get some
sleep.....
 

Two of the guys in Mount Pilot, mid song.

From Matthew Benz, the guitar player for The Sovines:
Subject: Lost in Lansing again

Yep, that subject line could be the Sovines next tune, as we seem to always end up wanderin the back streets front street side streets hiways and biways of that midwestern jewel. Did learn that Yahoo! maps seem to be maps of anything but the city you're in. Anyway, 3 of us SOvines came up early to try anc catch as much of T&T as we could. Checking into that fine Motel 6 along the highway, I come bck from the office to find two of Lansing's finest pulled up next to Bob and Pete. "Good lawd, it's only been 5 minutes. What could those two have done to attract Johnny Law?


Ruthie and the Wranglers, wrangling the crowd.
 

Well, turns out Lansing has a anti-loitering law, and the Sovine duo were defiantely resisting this tyranny by waiting for me to get the room key.  Actually, the coppers were politely telling us that this particular Motel 6 was "dangerous" and "they wouldn't stay here" and "to be sure to lock up all our gear" which their spotlights were lighting up for all the world to see. Anyway, after a couple nights there, I can say while far from a Motel6 that leaves a light on for ya-unless its a red one-"dangerous" seemed to mean a thriving prostitution market (unless there was some kind of bizarre early in the school year prom going on), and maybe the fact that not many suburban types were there. So us Sovines fit in well enough. Tho at first, the fuzz scared us enough to, as Steve K. said-leave the lights and tv on and say "see ya big Tony, when we get back". So we were a tad nervous leaving our gear behind.....

At Mac's, the joint was in full swing with Ruthie & the Wranglers by the  time we showed up. Quickly ran into Steve and Annie, Chad, the T&T crew, and a mini p2 summit was called into session. Talked a long while to the Wranglers bass player, a fine gentleman who waxed enthusiastically about Bill Kirchen more than I do, and us Sovines made the round hobnobbing and enjoying the music until we realized we had drank too muc, and we were all sweating out what the cops had told us. So we bolted for the door during Robbie Fulks fine set, a decision that I regret now, cos our room was not ransacked, nor we have any trouble at all that weekend. Aw well.

Ed and our "roadmanager" showed up at the motel about 4:45 in the morning, starting up a new round of drinking which left me crawling off to the bathroom to sleep.

Later that day, we trucked off to the land of Babooski-Ann Arbor, MI- for a brief radio show, which of course we were totally unprepared for, other than having two acoustic guitars with us. Immediately got a parking ticket upon arrival, which I promise I'll pay. Found Mr. Chad sitting on a cushy leather chair, secured in his own private radio booth, with attendants and yesmen, a gaggle of women drinking champaign. A man in suit with a bulge under his arm told us to take our shoes off, and then we were frisked and allowed into the presence of Babooski. He was dressed in a smoking jacket, chatting with Casey Kasem.

No, that just ain't true. Except for the smoking jacket. Anyway, Chad put up with us Sovines trying to be clever on the air, and fumbling thru several tunes. I'm sure the radio audience was in thrall.
 

Bob Sovine tears up on saxophone with the Lilybandits.
 
 

Back in Lansing, we show up at the club and find out we are playing first, not second, and there's no drums. Yet. And our clock is running out. I spent a while in a snit, thinking we were gonna get screwed out of playing, working myself into a Ryan Adams rage (this is Mac's after all), when....it all worked out. So we had to play fast and furious, with Pete whizzing Slim Jims out to the "crowd" from behind the drums, and by the time we ended with Whiskey Bottle Now, I was caught up enough to try a little guitar-theatrics, spinning in place, which of course got me tangled up in my cord, but hey, give me a C for effort. I must say we looked fine in our matching light blue polyester jackets, and we sold a couple tee shirts, and good hearted Norm gave us a pile of beer tickets-which got ya 24 fluid ounces-so we slaked our thirst, while enjoying One Fell Swoop, a great band. Then....we were asked to play AGAIN to cover the late arrival of p2's very own Kip Loui and his traveling Belle Starr band, somewhere between Lansing and CHicago, so we played our drunk set, of which I remember little, other than it was loud. Belle Starr showed up soon enough, I wished Kip well, but explained I really had to eat something (hell, we'd been in that club since 4), so while Belle Starr played, we regretably trudged across the street to get susitance at the place we were warned not to eat at. Made it back to see our friends the Lilybandits play a nice laid back set, with Sovine Bob playing sax on one tune, and his vocal on Folsom Prison Blues bringing down the house, seemed to me.
 

Belle Starr, after winning the award for fastest set-up, wows the crowd.
 

Eventually, the food took its toll on me, and all the 24 ounces of beer in the world couln't-as Homer Simpson sez-put out that fire-so After hearing a bit of Holler's set (the band to watch? Could be), I convinced Ed to leave the nice bass player from One Fell Swoop alone, gathered Bob up from the Lilybandits RV, and we went back to the Motel, where those two sat up drinking and smoking in Ed's car, until the security guard "Cletus" came by to tell em they were getting complaints. So, at the mean ol Motel 6, it was the Sovines who cause the most trouble. Next morning, a call from Doug Neal saying you guys want your money? (oh yeh....) got us movin out the door, met Doug and Chad for breakfast, then it was off for home. A fine time, a great lineup of bands, and I dare say the work of Doug and Jamie, Norm, Babooski, and the whole Lansing/Ann Arbor crowd are making Mac's a premier place for the alt-country scene. Good work guys, all around.  Makes the Columbus scene lokk like the joke it is. Look forward to seeing you again on the 18 of October. Enjoyed hanging out with John and his One Fell Swoop crew, the infamous Clutter's of Lansing, and who ever that woman was in the red skirt. Good lawd.

Best moment? Probably when we sold a tee shirt to a guy who proudly told
us he "drove a truck" and he and his wife dug our music. Hell, what could
be better than that?
 
 
From Annie Stack, who drove in from Indiana for the show
Subject: Re: Night #1 of Torch & Twang in Lansing--a review

Doug and Jamie did a helluva job putting T&Tfest together.

Steve pretty much nailed the first night, so I'll just add that on night 2, the Sovines rocked a llama's ass with a whip and  Belle Starr was tight as hell despite a rather drunk and distracting flapper on the dance floor.  For two days, I'd kept hearing about how Holler was better than the cat's pajamas, and how they were God's gift to honky-tonk. They are very good at what they do, but what they do just isn't my thing. The best part of night 2 was an impromptu Parking Lot Acoustic Jam with the Funky Farmer.
 

Was there ever a better front man than Bob Sovine?
 

I had a great time in Lansing, meeting all the wonderful  folks from the list and trading farm stories with Baboo. (Hey, the first vehicle this Nebraska girl ever drove was a tractor!)

Hope we do it again soon...
 
 

From Chad L. Williams, host of the Down Home Show on WCBN (88.3 FM) in Ann Arbor:
Subject: Night #1 of Torch & Twang in Lansing--a review

…Ruthie and the Wranglers played their allotted time slot and were getting ready to stop when the stage manager/event producer asked them to play longer (most likely due to the tremendous response they were getting to their great show) and then the crowd demanded an encore…

... which was unfortunate, because many folks were stretching themselves out to stick around and hear Robbie Fulks, and I think the "extra time" given (not to fault the band by any means or take away from their fine performance) pushed a few folks over the edge to leave...

speaking of Fulks, some of those knew tunes... man, quite something!  That song about Williams Hayes or whoever was mind-blowing.

Not one single band who played got a lukewarm reception, and that's an attribute to Doug and Jamie's fine job of booking some of the finest and best bands across the country.  The biggest surprise for me was getting to hear One Fell Swoop, who after their stellar air-tight  performance, are making a strong run at dethroning the Sovines as my favorite band across the land (sorry mr. benz)<g>.

Many thanks to Belle Starr for not realizing that there would be a time change!  I missed the Sovines opening set, and was furious to find out they had already played when I arrived.  But due to this faux pas, the mighty Sovines got to play again, and nearly chainsawed down the place they call Mac's Bar.  Then thankfully, Belle Starr arrived... what's with these St. Louis bands anyway?  They actually sound like they spend time rehearsing their music or something... They're nearly as tight as the Calexico show I saw a few weeks ago.

Anyhow, I've said a little more than I had intended, back to work...
 
 

From Steve Kirsch again
Subject: Night #2 Torch & Twang Fest--review

OK, so after much delay here are my thoughts on night #2 in Lansing.

If there was one tough part about night #1 it was sitting in a bar for 8 hours straight, ultimately causing me to alternate between those 24 oz Guiness drafts and glasses of coke to stay awake. Sorry I never did that shot of Jaegermeister with you, Annie, but they don't call it Liquid Quaaludes for nothing.....

So, occasionally aware of my limits, I vowed to skip the first band, The Clutters, on night #2, if only to make sure I'd be awake at 2 am. They were s'posed to start at 5 pm (!) according to the ticket so I showed up at 5:45 figuring I'd have a few minutes before those rig rock legends The Sovines hit the stage. Well wasn't I surprised to walk in and see the Sovines onstage already. Shit shit shit. Fortunately I only missed 10 minutes or so of their set, and the rest was their usual awesome roar of PBR, big rigs and guitars. Never really did find out why they went on first that night, but at least I caught most of 'em. Those boys need to come East and blow the doors off some club in Philly.

May I suggest a marketing ploy even better than TShirts.....The Sovine Bob Doll...wind him up and he sings like Cash, gets that leg goin' like Elvis (OK, maybe Mojo Nixon), dodges drummer-thrown beef jerky, refers to the audience as the "soon-to-be-drunk people," rocks like a man possessed and says things like "MMMMMERCY!!" right before Matt Benz launches into a monster solo. Support this band, folks. They're a fuckin' inspiration.

I skipped the Clutters and One Fell Swoop, in an (ultimately futile) attempt to stay awake for Holler later on that night (god I'm old sometimes :)).But dammit if I didn't miss that second Sovines set too, which was allegedly louder, drunker and more Sovines-esque than the first. I was bummed.

But when I arrived, Kip and co. in Belle Starr played a nice set, complete with perfect harmonies and one barnburner of a "Stillhouse" closer. Next were Gladys, who I liked enough to buy their CD (just listening to it now for the first time). If that band would just drop a few out-of-nowhere stops into their songs they'd be Still Feel Gone-era Uncle Tupelo. As is, without those stops, they were still a fine twangy
Westerbergian addition to the night.

The Lilybandits were also a fave of mine. They played a sort of twangy indiepop, complete with Sovine Bob on vocals on a killer Folsom Prison Blues and as part of the Tower of Bob horn duo on a couple others. A great set.


Also hailing from Columbus, Ohio, (home of the Sovines) the Lilybandits made their second Lansing appearance at the T&T Fest.
 
 

The Riptones lost me. I just wasn't feeling like straight-up rockabilly (which they did well, however) so it was off to the parking lot to listen to an impromptu acoustic jam from Babooski and two others. Good stuff, including guest harmonies from Kip.
Earl, the outstanding bass player in the Riptones -- don't touch his hair!!
Finally Holler took the stage. I regard this as a complete and utter failing of mine, not theirs, but I just couldn't get into them. I was on Sovines/Gladys/big-guitar-thang mode and just was not at all prepared for hard-core honky tonk. God they were good at what they did, but it was just 180 degrees from where I was at. I was beat, and headed back to the lovely Motel6 to get some rest for the long ride home.

What a great weekend. I already recited the litany of folks that I met on Night #1, so I won't repeat their names, but I will mention that it was nice to see Kip on Sat and great to meet Paul (Ameritwang) from Pop Booking that nite too. He's Gladys' booking agent and someone I had spoken with offlist a number of times. It's always good to put a face on a name.

Can't wait till next year. :)
 
 

From Doug Neal, one of the hosts of Progressive Torch and Twang:
Subject: Torch & Twang Fest '97, a retrospective
 
Well, now that the dust has settled, and my mind is just now beginning to  emerge from the haze that consumed my thoughts directly following the week end, I give you my scattered thoughts on T&T Fest '97:

From Friday's opening set by the Gigantics to Saturday's closing set by  Holler, each band played great and was very well received by the wonderful crowd.  Thanks to everyone who came out for the fantastic support.  Our intent was to showcase the various musical styles that comprise the so-called "Americana" genre, but what suprised me most is how incredibly great fans of this music are.

The Gigantics put on a riveting set of midwestern twang-filled rock and roll.  Their lead guitarist plays a mean telecaster that nicely complements their dirving crunch, capped off by a great lead singer whose voice has some serious range.  Plus their drummer plays like Animal from the muppets.  These guys have played a few "T&T Nights" here and have quickly developed a solid fan base.
Folks came from all over the country to the first T&T Fest.  Rusty and Denise were in from Australia; Steve drove in from New Jersey and Annie came up from Chicago.  (Unfortunately, we didn't snap and photos of them. :(   )  Here are three friends we did manage to get pictures of: Joe, from Toledo; Mark, Lansing rock critic and purveyor of fine music at Elderly Instruments; and Rae, former promotions diva at 89X and CIDR, she just took a job with Virgin Records.



The Steam Donkeys were a nice surprise.  I like their CD, but the live set came off much more solid.  As Steve mentioned, the fiddle player was really good and after he turned up his amp, he added some great parts to their songs.

The Deans, who have been talked about on here, tore up the joint.  These guys are one of the tightest three-piece bands that I have seen since the Minutmen broke up (well, Huevos Rancheros played here in the summer, but aside from them).  These guys upped the ante on the evening as they played their mixture of surf-esque instrumentals, rockabilly and twangy pop.  They even threw in an Eddie Cochran cover for good measure.

Ruthie & the Wranglers took the stage and promptly turned the crowd upside down.  People were going nuts for their brand of rockabilly & honky-tonk.  Their Tele player, whoever he is, is one fine guitarist and this band is smokin'.  I talked quite a bit with the bass player (Bud?) who was hilarious and looked like a demented Colonel Sanders.  I heard great comments all night from people about their set.

Mount Pilot was also stellar, with their nifty brand of flat-picking twang.  Again, these guys are another band that come off better than the CD, which in itself is a fine production, yet they definitely step it up a notch when they play live.  Their guitarist had this funky little 6 string contraption that sounded beautiful and he played the heck out of it.  Several people asked him about it after their set and he had regretfully said he didn't know much about it, having picked it up somewhere second hand.  Mount Pilot's label, Doolittle, wins the PR award for interacting with the local papers, which really helped us out.

Robbie Fulks surprised us all by bringing his back-up band, the Skeletons!  Apparently the "touring" band couldn't make it, so he imported the back-up back-up band.  Robbie stumbled in, told Norm (from ETCH Magazine) and I an amusing story about getting delayed by a less-than-capable staff at a McDonald's in Indiana and took the stage.  These guys did the very difficult task of topping the night off, playing a one hour set that seemed to captivate the crowd and left everyone screaming for more.  Robbie could have played three hours and it simply would not have been enough.

He featured many songs from his excellent new CD, "South Mouth".  Not much more needs to be said about Robbie, except besides being a dynamite songwriter, singer and guitarist; he is also a wonderful person.  Everytime we have worked with him, whether it be an on-air interview, setting up shows, or just talking to him after his set, he is always a complete class act.  I hope he continues to have a long and very successful career.

It seemed like Friday was still ringing in my head when I woke up, grabbed a plate of Blue Corn Enchiladas at a fine local Mexican place (El Azteco), sucked down a magherita, and headed off to Mac's.  With a couple of quick brews at Mac's, I was well on my way to a long, long night of drinking - it was only 4:00 PM.

The Sovines started it all off on Saturday.  These crazies immediately started tearing into a beer and sweat soaked set as the crowd started filing in, gazing with dropped jaws at the lads on stage with their matching blue blazers (complete with price tags still attached).  I got a little bit nervous when an actual trucker and his wife (who were at T&T Fest celebrating their wedding anniversary) walked in.  This guy knew the real thing, could the Sovines deliver?  Indeed they could as I watched him enthusiastically clap and order round after round.  He confirmed my observations when he came up and bought a snazzy Sovines "Owner/Operator" shirt at the conclusion of their set.  He explained that he didn't actually own his truck, but the Sovines rocked his world so he had to get one.

Local boys the Clutters played a damn fine stomping set of country/garage, complete with fiddle.  I ducked out to get a camera, so I missed the end of it, but judging by the amount of Clutters merchandise that I saw people carrying around, they also impressed.

One Fell Swoop came next and put on a great set of acoustic-based folk-twang.  I liked their self-titled EP, but the live show is dynamite.  The crowd seemed to really take to the female lead singer, who is extremely charismatic and has a wonderful voice, even adding some keyboards to a song or two.  These folks brought in the first bass fiddle of the night, with Dade Farrar playing it.  Add some dobro, mandolin, harmonica and acoustic guitar (courtesy of P2-er John Wendland) and we were treated to a delightful set.

Then things got peculiar.  The 8 o'clock hour had struck and Belle Starr was nowhere to be found.  Norm, Jamie and I looked around nervously at the hungry crowd, what could we do?  Read poetry?  Tell jokes?  Should I run home and grab my mandolin and team up with the Great Babooski for a set of tunes?  Then we looked over at the Sovines, who had nearly dried up their drink tickets, with about 3 or 4 of the 24-ounce beers in them apiece.  We layed the idea on them and they bit, literally *running* outside to grab their gear and easily nailing down the fastest setup time of the whole fest.  For those who didn't catch the second (now termed the "Drunk" ) set of the Sovines - I do indeed feel sorry for you.  They were even more loose and rockin' the second time around, shouting out drunken rambles to the crowd, praising the Clutters' set, and tearing through song after song, without repeating any from set #1.  Treating them as though they were another band on the set, we gave them another round of drink tickets.  I think they used them all and were later seen running in and out of the bar, with Bob Sovine drinking Busch in the Lilybandits' camper, and sucking down whatever he got his hands on inside the bar.

Belle Starr showed up around 8:30, nearly fainting when they realized that they had forgotten about the time change to the Eastern Time Zone.  We quickly shuffled things around, and they performed the second fastest set-up of the fest and proceeded to lay into a wonderful set of country rock, featuring some songs from their CD and other (presumably new) tunes.  The highlights here were their own song "Santa Fe" and a damn fine cover of "Tear My Stillhouse Down", which capped off their set.  The crowd really took to them also.
The gentlemen in Gladys always dress for the party
Gladys came on stage wearing the best hats of the whole event - a rather sharp looking collection of beat up Stetsons.  I was about 7 sheets to the wind at this point, but they played yet another fine set.  These Kentucky boys are stalwarts at Mac's, having been the first band on the Whiskeytown debacle bill and playing numerous other nights before the Mac's faithful.  The crowd again loved them, and they seem to have a solid fan base here in Lansing.

Next were another repeat Mac's performer, the Lilybandits.  They drove up in a ready-to-party camper/RV and produced a rock solid set of countrified rock.  They managed to get Bob Sovine even more drunk (via the cans of Busch in the camper), and bring him on stage to play saxophone for a couple of songs, with their keyboardist adding a trumpet.  Then they (as Matt Benz indicated) brought the house down when Bob took the lead vocals on a wonderfully gritty rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues".

After the Lilybandits, I feared the Riptones would not be able to come on and keep up the intensity level.  However, these guys delivered and more, tearing through a set that mainly focused on their new Bloodshot CD "Extra Sauce".  I liked their first two records, but Extra Sauce takes the cake.  Additionally, this one also best captures their energetic live sound.  The crowd was mesmerized by bass player Earl's hair, and his furious energy as he grinned from ear-to-ear, delightfully plucking the bass fiddle.  They also threw in a couple of stellar instrumentals, including "Extra Sauce" and finishing out with "Don't Touch My Hair".  The crowd around their merchandise table afterwards indicated that other people were equally impressed.  They even had their own brand of hot sauce, i.e. for "Extra Sauce".
The Riptones easily win the "Best Hair and Hot Sauce Award."
Then came the final band, and one of my perennial favorites, Holler.  Having played at Mac's back in May and falling in love with it, Holler was the impetus for the whole T&T Fest, being the first band to commit.  Mike Ireland was dumbfounded by the enthusiastic full house, saying he was a little nervous to cap off the whole deal.  I'll be curious what others think (I'll wait for Gary Wilson's review), but they put on a killer set of hard-driving honky-tonk.  Mike Ireland's voice is simply made to sing country music and the band is top notch, not to mention tremendous songs.

They made for a perfect closing act and captivated me, which was a difficult task considering all the amber liquids I had guzzled down.  After their set, which again left the crowd yelling for more, Mike Ireland hugged me, saying he loved it at Mac's, and went straight over to Jamie and bought four "Torch and Twang Fest" T-shirts, one for each band member.  Afterwards, the Holler boys, Babooski and myself stood around talking about music for a long time, until I decided I had best hit the hay.  It was a grand weekend for sure.
From left: Mike Lemon, Mike Ireland and Dan are three-fourths of Holler.  They brought the house down and left everyone begging for more, more, more.  Watch for an album from these gentlemen in February 1998.

Thanks to everyone who attended, and it was particularly great to meet Rusty and Denise from Melbourne, Australia on Friday, and Steve Kirsch, Annie Stack, Eden Shafer, the two really drunk guys from Indiana, Chris (the truck driver) and his wife, and Kip Loui and John Wendland from St. Louis (and the excellent bands Belle Starr and One Fell Swoop).

Also thanks to No Depression, Tar Hut Records, Bloodshot Records, E-Squared Records, Tangible Music, Quigit Shims, the Riptones, Whiskeytown, SubPop Records, and Warner Bros. for supplying us with lots of great "Swag" to put into the Swag Bags.  These seemed to be a huge hit with the attendees and a great way to showcase other labels, bands, and magazines that are making Americana/twang/alt-country a happening thing.
 
 

From Gary Wilson, a loyal T&T listener who came out to both nights even though he had to be into work at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning!
Subject: Torch & Twang Fest

I'm on the run, but can't let the day go by without thanking Doug Neal, Jamie DePolo and Norm Zebrowski (editor of T&T Fest co-sponsor, Etch Magazine) for bringing two nights of great music to Lansing.  These folks deserve a Babooski award, at the very least, in recognition of the months' worth of time, energy and passion (not to mention cash) they have invested in this event, all for love of the music and its audience.  On the radio and in the clubs, Jamie and Doug work like zealots to keep roots music alive in mid-Michigan, and we're grateful for their commitment.

A few other thoughts:

If you guys had listened to me months ago about lodging at Janet's Rooms, you could have missed the Motel 6 *and* caught free breakfast at the Salvation Army mission next door.

Eden, Steve K. and Annie S. all deserve substantial roadtrip credits for rolling in from Minneapolis, Jersey and Chicago, but Rusty and Denise elevated our little festival to international status by jetting in from (I'm not kidding) Australia!  Do you hear that Bob Soron?  Australia!  Really terrific people too, the whole lot of them.

Work commitments limited me on Friday night to sets by The Deans, Ruthie and the Wranglers, and Mount Pilot.  Ruthie was working her Wanda Jackson mojo overtime and really struck a chord with the crowd.  I couldn't stay for much of Mount Pilot, but liked what I heard.

The Deans, though, are just too cool--surf/garage guitar rock loaded with reverb and attitude.  Watch for news of their forthcoming debut CD on Kingpin.

The Sovines' Saturday matinee was good, but their much drunker surprise set subbing for the time-zone challenged Belle Starr was great, featuring a raging Between the River and the Railroad Track that just might land them in court with the Yardbirds.  I think it was the Sovines what drug in them go-go dancers.

Belle Starr's brief set was a downright revelation as far as I was concerned: great songs, beautiful duet harmonies, a stinging RickenFender guitar attack that just *sings*, and a smoking cover of "Tear My Stillhouse Down" that was one of the highlights of the night.  If the partially completed new album that Kip and Buddy were talking about last week sounds as good as the band sounded here on Saturday night, some label should scoop them up in a hurry.  Are you listening, Bloodshot?  Checkered Past?

I was sorry to screw up and miss One Fell Swoop, but heard glowing reviews from other members of the audience, some of whom were only partially inebriated.

I enjoyed sets by the Lilybandits and Riptones, but man, Mike Ireland and Holler make hardcore honky tonk so beautiful it hurts.  I don't know whether or not this band represents the future of alt.country, but I hope so.

And just like Lollapalooza, T&T fest had a "second stage" going in the parking lot on Saturday night, featuring our own Chad Williams and guest vocalist Kip Loui.  Next year: Orbital.