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Bill Dickens

Icons of Funk - Highline Ballroom, NYC, 2.5.13

by Michael Sherer

The nicely-renovated Highline Ballroom, with its couches and tables on the sides and inviting atmosphere, was an ideal venue for these Icons of Funk. From start to finish, the audience was enveloped with the deeply resonating, bad-ass bass grooves of Bill Dickens. It was this that struck me first, especially as it shook the house much like the old elevated trains that used to inhabit the area would have while they ripped past.

While some casual listeners of music aren’t aware of just how literally fundamentally imperative the bass is, and completely so in black orientated music, this listener couldn’t be more cognizant. Dickens knows it so well that he was armed with a white, gold pegged, SEVEN stringed extended bass. (Probably custom made) This provided ranges above and below what a standard four string allows. Bottom line? (Pun intended) MF’s like Dickens unleash seemingly rather simple bass lines that are the most responsible element of the sound that makes people move and dance. In reality, cats like Dickens, and the number one influence on them all, the late, great and sometimes uncredited James Jamerson of the Motown house band, make it seem easy to play like this, but it isn’t. If one doesn’t have the right feel and funk within, one just can’t do it right.


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Al Schnier of moe. Feb. 8, 2013, at the Capitol Theater in Madison.

moe. - back in the Madison saddle again!

Feb. 8, 2013, at the Capitol Theater in Madison
by Sal Serio

Sometimes bands are like sports teams, and when one member of the team is under the weather (or injured in a sporting contest), someone else has to step up and give more than 100% to make up for the loss. This was the scenario when the progressive rock jam band moe. came back to Madison after an eight year absence.


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Dweezil Zappa at the Barrymore in Madison 12-8-12

Zappa Plays Zappa

Dec. 8, 2012, at Madison's Barrymore Theatre
by Sal Serio

I have no way of really adding up all the bands that I’ve seen over the years at the Barrymore, but I would guess it would have to be well over one thousand at this point. There’s been some incredible events to be sure, many of my favorite bands… the Meat Puppets, Butthole Surfers, Todd Rundgren, Cheap Trick, Emmylou Harris, Hawkwind… way too many to list. However, there was something really special about the Zappa Plays Zappa concert that took place December 8th. For one thing, I don’t think any concert has ever sounded this crystal clear and pristine in the Barrymore, which generally has pretty good acoustics, but this was just exemplary. There was also a genuine buzz in the air, like all the attendees knew they were in for something truly special and unique.


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Lzzy Hale of Halestorm 12-5-12 at the Majestic in Madison


Dec. 5, 2012, at the Majestic in Madison
by Sal Serio

Lzzy Hale, came out blazing in a sexy tight black leather jacket, SHORT black hot pants, and mouth-watering detailed black nylons with studded heels… can you tell I was watching her every move?? As if coveting her stunning good looks and ballsy vocal delivery didn’t already have me in the palm of her hand, the guitar geek in me wanted Lzzy’s killer white Gibson Explorer as well! The opening song was “Mz. Hyde” from the new ‘Strange Case Of…’ CD, and the moment everyone in attendance was waiting for skyrocketed right through the roof of the Majestic! Drummer extraordinaire, and Lzzy’s brother, Arejay Hale, wore some weird old man rubber mask as he started the song, but quickly threw it off to reveal his metallic red hair dye. If you’ve never seen Halestorm, be ready for quite the drum calisthenics display… Arejay makes Keith Moon look like a mellow dude! From the very first beats, through to the end of the show, Arejay was jumping around behind the drum kit, flailing his arms like a man possessed, and throwing his sticks EVERYWHERE. And… it didn’t even look like he broke a sweat! The guy is an animal.


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Tony MacAlpine

PSMS - BB King’s, NYC, 11.18.12

by Michael Sherer

On occasion, a group of musicians from various bands, which may include a solo artist or two, join together and form what’s often called a “super group.” The common denominator should be musicianship that’s off the charts, but often big egos match it, which can cause issues. If things go right though, there’s no stopping a colossal force like many such experiments turn out. PSMS most certainly are everything a progressive, heavy rock fan could hope for, and are such a super group.

The initials stand for Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine and Derek Sherinian. These are all crack musicians that are at the top of their game. Drummer Portnoy, 45, was a founding member of Dream Theater 25 years ago, and left the group in ’10. Bassist Sheehan, 59, was a founding member of Talas in the ‘70’s, as well as Mr. Big in the late ‘80’s. MacAlpine, 52, has been a solo artist since the mid ‘80’s. Sherinian, 45, has been a professional session and touring man since the late ‘80’s. They’ve all been heavy, progressive rock players in their own right, and together they continue in that genre, with enviable ferocity and combined skill level. Their cohesive abilities push each other even higher than usual, and they clearly love playing together. This show concluded what I trust was an exhausting 22 date tour of Europe, Israel, Russia and Asia. It was their only U.S. gig.


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Greensky Bluegrass 9/28/2012 at the Majestic Theatre

Greensky Bluegrass 9/28/2012 at the Majestic Theatre

Goodbye, Blue Skies... Hello, Greensky!
by Sal Serio

I like living in the capital city of Madison, Wisconsin, but it sure is “feast or famine” sometimes when it comes to cultural offerings. Last Friday, September 28th, the feast was definitely ON, and quite a bounty it was! The evening got off to a rocking, lubricated start with a free concert on King Street by The Hold Steady, and well before their set had reached it’s last crunchy, eardrum-rattling, power chord, the fragrant jamgrass faithful were lining up in front of the Majestic Theatre to see the late night Greensky Bluegrass concert.


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