Concerts in Review: SRC

    icon Aug 11, 2011
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Concerts in Review:
Looking Back in the Rear-View Mirror
Letting Go of the Past

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress
-    W.B. Yeats

Three hundred fans can’t be wrong. SRC’s 40 Year Reunion Concert on July 30th was a transcendent masterpiece. Not that it was a perfect performance - far from it - but just the sight of our former heroes, now draped in the age of time, reached us in a deep soulful way.

It’s hard to explain to the uninitiated, someone who wasn’t there in 1969 and never heard the music in its raw youthful glory. SRC represents a marker of time when music was warmed up over an analogue fire. It was more than notes; it was all about sound, awareness, and the potential of the human spirit to love.

We were soul-deep into the message. We wanted to express ourselves in a different way - through creative living and experimentation, expanding the boundaries of our minds and bodies through music, poetry, dance, and literature. We embraced the arts as a means to create our own generation of scholars, lovers and outcasts.

SRC were part of a psychedelic network that included some of the greatest and most influential misfits in Michigan history – politicos such as John Sinclair and Pun Plamondon; tribal managers like Jeep Holland, Russ Gibb; our beloved and lionized musicians - Iggy Pop, Rob Tyner, Scott Morgan, Bob Seger; and poster artists Gary Grimshaw and Carl Lundgren.     These young radicalized insurgents offered themselves up as our counter cultural heroes, hoping to remake our decaying society through the promotion of peace, love and human rights. As their hair grew longer and their clothes became more colorful, our sixties icons freed themselves from the unseen shackles that paralyzed our elders and narrowed their perspective. It was their doorway into passion. SRC were our contemporary druids, lifting the veil of hypocrisy and creating their very own Stonehenge with enduring works of art and music.

SRC took the stage a little after 8pm, looking more like founding members of AARP than the Dionysian gods they once resembled. Gone is the long hair and lean physiques. They used to be beautiful in androgynous way, but now they have big bellies, spindly legs, and receding hairlines. These old geezers are more pug dog grumpy than pop star pretty. But beauty is only skin deep.

A slight rain delayed the show and as it subsided a multi-colored rainbow appeared behind the stage - a strange and wonderful sign. It was time…rebirth of the Rainbow Coalition.

SRC opened the show with the funky rock & roll of Badazz, a great instrumental in which the Quackenbush brothers – Gary on guitar and Glen on keyboards – flexed their musical muscle memory, trading off licks like swatting a fly. Pete Woodman the legendary and ageless drummer (formerly of the Bossmen with Dick Wagner and Popcorn Blizzard with Meatloaf) pounded those skins like a 15-year-old boy fantasizing about his best friend’s girlfriend. WICKED.

The second tune Checkmate is a love song from their superb LP Milestones. The lyrics reveal more than a little of Richardson’s sexual frustration using a game of chess as the metaphor. Great tune.

The old Motown chestnut Heatwave got the SRC treatment.- screaming organ and economical guitar.  What it lacks in soul is made up by a gritty performance and vocal help from Steve Lyman.

The next song I’m So Glad was SRC’s 1967 version of Cream’s version of an old Skip James blues song. The first time I heard it played on WKNX, the DJ was doing a giveaway contest. The listener who could identify the actual number of times Scott Richardson sang the word “Glad” won tickets to a concert. I’m So Glad was one of SRC’s earliest recordings and it was a minor hit in Saginaw. Richardson and the band nailed it good!

Glad’s B-side Who is that Girl followed. It’s a decent hook-laden rocker that initiated a trifecta of early pop songs that also included Get the Picture and After Your Heart. The music combined Richardson’s poetry and streamlined playing that nonetheless allowed guitarist Gary Quackenbush to tear it up in the intro and again at the coda. Once again Lyman provided excellent vocal support to Richardson’s unsteady pitch.

Onesimpletask from the LP SRC is a musically complex monolithic dirge that is difficult to sing and contains obscure lyrics. There are several tempo changes that are quite daunting but the band manages it all with good humor and aplomb. Gary Quackenbush’s phenomenal guitar work with the use of feedback, sustain and tremolo and brother Glen’s solid organ trills saves this brontosaurus from a dishonorable discharge.

Pete Woodman’s powerful Bo Diddley beat opens Eye of the Storm. Quakenbush’s guitar is prominent on the bridge and helps cover Richardson’s off pitch notes and allows Lyman to assist with vocal harmonies. Even with the vocal snafus this song is still a winner.

The next song Up All Night has always been a sexy fan favorite with many a nubile young lass dreaming to be up all night and doing it with SRC. Richardson hits his stride with this song. It rocks and rolls and recalls a time when we stayed out late and discovered a different world filled with shadowed night people.  It was breathtaking and exciting; beckoning and foreboding. Life was filled with new and exciting highs. SRC were one of those highs. Nowadays we are in bed by eight and asleep by nine, unless House is on the tube. Then we get up and go to work and something in the back of our mind recalls a time when we thought that automation would make the 40 hour work week obsolete and we would need to cultivate leisure activities. It was a lie, it always was a lie.

Midnight Fever from SRC’s last LP Travelers Tale makes a rare public performance. This is a funky soulful rocker with Motown bass and prominent organ accents that scream and moan in orgasmic spurts. This song has Ray Goodman’s stamp all over it, the economical use of notes, filling spaces and adding trills and runs – masterful, one of the best songs of the evening.

But the night belonged to the back-to-back luster of SRC’s two totally realized songs. Black Sheep was written about and for all the outcasts and forgotten people who live a life of quiet desperation. The biblical reference to Ishmael gives the lyrics a deep spiritual foundation. This is one of the best coming of age songs ever written. It is a time when we discover that our parents are not perfect and all powerful and that people can be dishonest and hurtful. It is a time of discovery; a search for love and spiritual connection. Richardson’s masterpiece. He sings his ass off, obviously inspired by the truth of the song. It is ageless.

The Hall Of The Mountain King/Bolero was a centerpiece of their late sixties performances and it is tonight. Not too many bands were doing Grieg back then (or now). It starts out nice and slow…percolating that syncopated rhythm, setting up the tension between the percussive cymbals, bass, and prominent organ trills. The excitement mounts as the ancient familiar music slowly builds momentum. The sound is hot and loud and louder yet. The tempo picks up…then Richardson screams, creating a space that segues to Bolero. The guitars join in creating a wall of sound with Quackenbush’s guitar soaring over top of it all. A second scream prompts another shift in tempo that brings it all back around to the beginning of Grieg’s indelible musical statement.

SRC finished the night with a well deserved encore with Gypsy Eyes and Eliza Green (The Shimmie Queen), a fairly obscure yet delicious taste of the soulful pop/rock from the unfairly overlooked Lost Masters LP. It ended on a high note. Many of us smiled silently, inwardly - knowing that our heroes pulled it off. It was a glorious dream; a lesson in love.

And in the aftermath of SRC’s luminous, loving show I’m flooded with all those sacred musical experiences from 1967 onward and I’m holding them gently in one symbolic memory.

For love…is the blood of life, the power of reunion in the separated
-    Paul Tillich

Peace & Love
Bo White

SRC is…
Scott Richardson - singer/poet
Gary Quackenbush – guitar
Glen Quackenbush - keyboards
Steve Lyman – guitar/vocals
Ray Goodman – guitar
Pete Woodman – drums
Ralph McKee - bass


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