First things first. If you happened by our offices Monday morning, you probably heard cheers spilling out onto the Downtown Mall. We just couldn’t contain our joy at the news that Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello are coming to JPJ on September 27. Tickets go on sale Saturday at 10am, so we’ll see you in the box office line.
It’s not every day that you pick up the phone and the voice on the other end responds in a quaint English accent, "Hello, this is Peter Frampton." But last week that’s just what happened, and Feedback had a delightful chat with the legendary guitarist.
Staying alive!: Peter Frampton trades in sex and drugs for exercise and bottled water
Frampton was a member of the seminal hard rock group, Humble Pie, and is best known for his 1976 solo live album, Frampton Comes Alive!, but he’s been chugging along ever since. Last year he released Fingerprints, which received a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album, and on August 22 he’ll play The Paramount Theater.
We were curious about Pete’s perspective on rock music, so we asked him how things have changed over the last 30 years. "Well, now it’s exercising and bottled water as opposed to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll," he says with a laugh. "We still do the rock ‘n’ roll, but without the sex and drugs…so much."
Frampton describes rock’s evolution as a cycle. In the ’90s he embraced the grunge movement as a return to the guitar (there’s even an instrumental version of Soundgarden‘s "Black Hole Sun" on Fingerprints). "It has weaved around," he says. "It just got so keyboard-y in the ’80s and it drove me insane. Guitars were taking a back seat. Now you’ve got so many different stratas of rock these days, so I feel pretty good about it. There are some great new bands on many different levels. Death Cab for Cutie is a favorite of mine. Their songwriting is supreme."
It’s great to see Frampton keeping up with current acts like Death Cab, but when you’ve been rocking as long as he has, there have to be some good stories. Feedback asked him for some of his favorite moments.
One, he said, was playing on former Beatle George Harrison‘s first solo album, All Things Must Pass. "In between overdubbing on a track they had to change to reels in those days, so there’d be 10 to 15 minutes and we’d just sit there and jam. Jamming with George was pretty cool."
Frampton’s friendship with another rock star began much earlier in his life. He was classmates with David Bowie (then David Jones) at the Bromley Technical School in southeast London. "My father was head of the art department," Frampton says. "He’d leave the door to his office open at lunch and we’d sneak our guitars out and sit on the stone steps playing Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran numbers together."
Feedback is still finding it hard to believe that we actually talked with Peter Frampton. But it happened, and, if you feel like we do, you can see him in person at the Paramount on Wednesday.
A rocker of a different breed will be returning to town on Friday, August 24. Jeff Melkerson played in raucous Charlottesville punk band The Counselors, as well as a number of other local acts, including the spastic, ironically-named Civil War Re-enactors, who regularly flailed around the dirty floors of the old Tokyo Rose and Pudhouse.
Punk rockin’: Jeff Melkerson freaking out with the Civil War Re-enactors
Melkerson now lives in Philadelphia, and his duo the Richmond Flowers Five will play at the Tea Bazaar (along with Italy’s Jennifer Gentle and San Francisco’s The Dodos). The duo’s other half is guitarist Joseph Zehner, and Melkerson plays drums ("I’m not the greatest drummer in the world," he admits, "but I really like to drum"). Their name includes Melkerson’s characteristic mix of the historic and absurd. Richmond Flowers was the Alabama Attorney General that supported the Civil Rights movement in the ’60s and Melkerson "appended the number five on the end because there are two members in the band." Fair enough, we say.
Since he was a longtime regular in the local music scene, we couldn’t resist asking Melkerson for a favorite musical memory. "Seeing Elliott Smith at the Tokyo Rose," he says. "There were literally like five or six people there. It was the Either/Or tour and he signed my album. That was great." Oh, how Feedback longs to have been one of those half dozen people. But we can’t really complain. We just got to chat with Peter Frampton, and we’re glad to see Melkerson rock out in Charlottesville again.
Bringing it back
Another local musician is picking her guitar back up after a lengthy silence. Shannon Worrell made a pretty big splash back in the ’90s with a couple of solo albums and Lucky Shoe, a major label release with her band September ’67. The group landed a spot on the Lilith Fair tour and opened for acts like Wilco, Eels and Ben Folds Five. But in the new millennium Worrell decided to stop strumming and turn to filmmaking. She founded Light House, a local organization that helps kids learn how to shoot, edit and produce their own films. Though she’ll still be doing some work at Light House, Worrell has decided to focus more energy on her recently revived songwriting. Her performance at Gravity Lounge‘s fourth anniversary show in June proved that, though she took a long break, she’s definitely still got it.
What exactly prompted her return to music? "I was meeting with a friend of mine trying to write fiction, and I just kept writing songs," she says. "We’d meet every week and instead of writing fiction I’d write another song. I think part of the problem was I bought an electric typewriter, and that’s what I used to write music on before."
Well, whatever led Worrell back to her guitar, we’re happy that she’s taking the stage again (she’ll open for Corey Harris at Gravity this Saturday, August 25), and we’re even more excited to hear that she’s going to record some new songs (Sam Wilson and Brian Caputo of Sons of Bill, along with an impressive list of other locals, will be helping out). "I’m going to try to record six or seven in two days," she says, "It’s ambitious, but I feel like I’ll understand them better." What will she do with those tracks? She’s not sure quite yet. "Songs feel like children and you have to put them in the water to see if they can swim. That’s about all I can do."
An extraordinary musical
Lit-rockers The Extraordinaires dropped by Feedback HQ to tell us about their upcoming tour, Ribbons of War: The Musical, which is coming to Live Arts on August 24 and 25. The band first released Ribbons of War as a CD/handmade book and now they’ll present it as a fully staged musical (there’s also a graphic novel version in the works, we hear). The formerly Charlottesville-based group was featured on NPR’s "Open Mic" showcase last week, so don’t miss this special chance to see these upcoming-and-coming folk rockers.