THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
One of Our Areaâ€™s Most Gifted Bands Raises the Sound Bar
11th March, 2010 0
Like the ancient meteors that brought life to earth, Maybe August has helped birth a renewed vitality to the music scene in the Great Lakes Bay region. We are in the midst of a shifting cultural zeitgeist that is at once both turgid and exciting; and Maybe August is the organic link between the wistful golden age of the sixties and the new millennium culture of greed and instant celebrity. There is room for everything in-between the spaces, from the voyeuristic interest in Tiger bites and NASCAR folly to White Crow and new releases from Cornpone and Sprout.
We have witnessed the gunman kill and go free and kill again - vinyl to 8-track, cassette, to CD, to cell phone, downloads and back to vinyl.
Rock & roll is dead. Long Live Rock! But it’s not really dead at all. Great music is still being created here in mid-Michigan and across the globe. It thrives in small pockets across the nation. Michigan has several of those pockets.
As an eternal outsider, I realize that as soon as I observe, listen and write about something, I forever change it. It’s like looking at an old photo and not knowing what is behind the frozen smile. It’s just a moment in time – before or after something else happened. And its actual meaning is forever obscured.
Writing about Maybe August is like grabbing a blade of grass, sticking it in my mouth and chewing it without appreciating its true flavor. Their music and lyrics are complex enough that you may miss something on the first listen. But whenever I attend one of their shows, their SOUND gets me twirling like a wide-eyed owl doing’ an eerie 360 when the lightning strikes. The music is just that good. How does Rosco get that harp sound, anyway?
Maybe August can sift and extract astonishing musical ideas like a Burlese funnel and in the process create world-class songs. They are the Atticus Finch of rock & roll – principled. And through their craft they show us a glimpse of Heaven that scaffolds a belief in the goodness of the human spirit.
At their best Maybe August helps us satisfy a deep hunger for meaning – to love life, love each other and love the planet. Just listen to I’m Alive or Sale on Salvation if you think I’m blowing smoke.
And then there’s the Maybe August Presents Series. It started with guitar wizard Monte Montgomery and led to other great shows with Hello Dave, Pinky Lee and the Coal Men cranking out authentic Americana - rock, folk, country, blues and roots music -splendid. Maybe August hosts these shows as a means to introduce us to phenomenal out-of-town bands that remain relatively obscure despite their enormous talent. I attended each of those shows and left a bit awe-struck by this almost sacred covenant of generosity, humility and wicked humor.
In the Maybe August world everything is sacred; nothing is serious
Nowadays Maybe August is revitalized by the addition of Bill “I got some pretty big sticks and tiny little tom-toms” Silverthorn. Bill is their 23rd drummer in the past six months or so. I’m not saying the band is hard to get along with, but you can’t argue with the facts. What can I say… it’s not all their fault. Drummers are known to be a rather eccentric lot. Just look at ‘em- sweating, grimacing, eye-bulging and beating on them skins like a lonely teenager with a Beyonce poster taped to his ceiling.
Yep, been there myself. Only I was a crappy drummer. Silverthorn, on the other hand, is one of the premier time keepers in the tri-cities.
I was able to sit down with Bill and harpist extraordinaire Rosco Selley before a recent performance. This is what they had to say:
Review: Bill, I remember when you played with Tim Dunn in Boom Shanka. You were considered one of the best back then. Where did you learn your craft?
SIlverthorn: My cousin Brad Silverthorn was the most influential. I was just a kid, about 12 years old, when my family took me to his high school graduation party. I wandered off and found myself in his bedroom and a full set of drums set up in there, so I got behind the kit, grabbed the drum sticks and started banging away. Well, everyone could hear me, and it interrupted the party, so everyone kinda gathered around me laughing and enjoying the show. I vowed right then and there to learn the drums. I took lessons from Brad for about a year when I was thirteen…the only formal I’ve had.
Review: What Bands have you played with through the years?
SIlverthorn: There have been so many…the Cover Boys, Typhoid Mary, Hard Rocks with Keith Carolan, Valentine, Jitters, Jedi Mind Trip (5 years total), Poke, Mr. Sunshine…too many to mention.
Review: Can you talk about some of the more memorable performances? Recordings?
Silverthorn: One of the best shows I remember is the Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson Show. I was a gigantic complex in an old converted Lowes store. They had a huge stage and a world class PA, a restaurant, recording studio and great lighting. The hospitality was superb – a fantastic time. We were doing Voodoo Lounge, a Rolling Stones review.
In terms of recording I was proud of the Poke CD. They - Nick Andros and Dean Vanston started out real folky and light. Well, I auditioned, just playing what I do and they rejected me – at first. But then Nick called me back and it worked out. I bring what I bring.
Review: How did you hook up with Maybe August?
Silverthorn: The first guy I met was Mike Robertson. I knew him from way back when he was in Mr. Hyde. We were mixing it up in Bay City. It was my Rod Stewart period, a time of big hair and tight spandex and mistaken identity. Saginaw in the meantime was doing punk when I met Keith and formed Typhoid Mary. So…we’ve known each other for a long time. They asked me to join before but the timing wasn’t right for me.
Review: What were the rehearsals like?
SIlverthorn: It was awesome.
Rosco: Bill’s preparation was outstanding
SIlverthorn: Rehearsals were fun. I felt pressure but it was self-induced. I tried to come in as prepared as I could. I knew they’ve been through a lot of drummers and that they have been through the audition process before …it can be tedious. But right away we knew we were a good fit.
Rosco: I knew Bill would be a good fit. Silverthorn is #1 around here. He is a first call guy. When Nathan (the original drummer) left years ago, Bill’s was the first name we thought of - but we couldn’t work it out at the time.
Silverthorn: It was almost inevitable. I used to play for the money. Now I play for the music. I was sick of just doing covers, playing wedding, festivals and anywhere that would pay. Now I play for the love of the music. Every band I played with stirred a dramatic change in me. I would like to think it’s for the better. And at this point in my life, just as I thought my career was over Maybe August called.
Review: How did your first gig with MA go?
Silverthorn: FAST…and loud. It was better than I expected
Rosco: The excitement level was so high for all of us. We were thrilled
Review: Are you and the band writing new material?
Rosco: Absolutely, that is the reason we exist…and it’s also the reason we don’t make money.
SIlverthorn: That’s the reason we WILL make money.
Rosco: One thing that I hope sets us apart is the quality of the songwriting. There are not too many throwaway lines in our songs. We are trying to be more organic – to convey that a band came up with this…it isn’t just a Mike or Scott Robertson or a Rosco Selley song.
The songwriting bar is pitched very high. Out of a dozen new songs we write, only five or six make the grade and now our sound is changing with Bill’s style. He’s both a drummer and a percussionist. It’s the Silverthornification of Maybe August.
Review: Are you incorporating any new or different sounds instrumentation or styles?
Rosco: Bill’s a rock drummer so even our acoustic pieces will have a stronger drive and rhythm. He’s good at working around the dynamics. I look for dynamics and sonic layers.
Bill’s bringing us a new sound
Silverthorn: I like to be a drummer and a percussionist without anything dropping out, using cymbals, bongos, toms percussively while keeping the beat. I can incorporate this aspect with the Maybe August sound and their original music. This is what I live for.
Rosco: The combination of Keith Carolan on bass and Bill on drums is outstanding.
Bill would bring a tin can and cardboard box to get a certain sound or feel. Our secret weapon is Keith. He comes up with those little fills and breaks – stops/starts and catches that make our music more complex – but interesting.
Review: Are you recording new material?
Rosco: We have five or six songs in the pipeline that have been percolating for a few years…songs we are starting to place in our live shows such as Summertime and Shut up and Go to Sleep. We hope to get something out in 2010.
Review: Rosco – you are a unique harp player. I’ve never heard anyone sound like you.
Rosco: In the harmonica world there is only a very small cohort that does not play the blues. I try to fit the capabilities of the instrument into rock and pop forms.
Review: Do you have any final comments?
SIlverthorn: When I started to dig into the band’s material I realized that I hadn’t done anything like this in the past fifteen years. It was REWINDING. I put a lot of time and effort in this. The reward is being tight and impressive.
Rosco: Maybe August have been together for awhile and have known each other for 20 years and we’ve had this fantasy – a rock/pop project – where we could create great original music in the tri-cities at a high level and also live real lives. In the past six months or so, due to drummer problems, we could have crashed and burned. How it happened that we all hooked up just in the nick of time is just incredible luck. We consider ourselves to be very lucky. I’m a part-time musician in an obscure band and yet people on other continents know and buy our music. It blows me away
SIlverthorn: I feel blessed. We have fun.
Rosco: The best feeling on earth was when Michael, Scott and I went out into a noisy audience and sang Wait a Minute acappella and the crowd quieted down and …listened. And at the end they roared. A drug could never give you a rush like that. Give it up for Live Music!
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)