Archive

Concerts

Photo: City of Myrtle Beach

Last week, I had the opportunity to play a very interesting and serendipitous show with my brother at a really cool venue in the heart of Myrtle Beach.

The Historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot is a landmark brick structure that was built in 1937 and for 30 years welcomed both passenger and freight trains to the area. It later belonged to a beverage distributor and almost fell victim to the wrecking ball until the community went ballistic.  After painstaking restoration, it opened in its current beautiful state in 2004 and is now rented out for events.

 I officiated a wedding there not long ago, and was also on hand for the inaugural CreateSouth conference there more than a decade ago. I also played a fundraiser there with Sick Stooges, a cover band that I co-founded and played in for ten years.

Sick Stooges at the Train Depot (the longhair on the right is yours truly)

This wonderful setting is also home to the South by Southeast Music Feast – a regular gathering hosted by a nonprofit called South by Southeast (SXSE), which provides assistance and support to local music education programs. The organization is all about helping young people offset the costs associated with this – and as their website says – “to help young people in their pursuit of all the joys of music.”

South by Southeast was founded by Jeff Roberts, a guy I was happy to meet when I moved here. Sadly, he passed away in 2009. Ask anybody who came into contact with him, Jeff was the fountainhead from which a torrent of musical knowledge sprung. He owned a couple of longstanding independent record shops here, and one of his isms was, “You gotta hear this…” He was irreplaceable.

Roberts’ son, Hunter, was at the event. That was a full-circle situation if ever there was one.

Jeff invited us to play an opening slot at the music feast on the bill with Dangermuffin years ago – and we did 30 minutes of Chris’ original music – much like we did this time.

In October, The Yale Brothers did a fundraiser called Wicked Wishes at the Wicked Tuna in Murrells Inlet to benefit Make-A-Wish South Carolina. We were glad to see that our old friend Seth Funderburk was running sound for the event. Seth is an entrepreneur in his own right, with several businesses in operation as I type this. He’s also an organizer for the Waccamaw Getaway Festival and the IrieSun Reggae Festival. He’s also been involved with SXSE for as long as I have known him.

Fun fact: Funderburk and Roberts went way back – and Funderburk worked in his youth for Roberts at his first shop, Sounds Familiar Records.

When we finished our set at Wicked Wished, Seth invited us to play the SXSE show. We were excited about the prospect.

The idea of playing only originals was appealing, and the serendipitous part of this was the fact that we would be opening for a duo called Admiral Radio, made up of Becca Smith and Coty Hoover – both of whom attended College of Charleston and both of whom know my daughter, Taylor, through our friend Clyde Moser, who studied there as well. Admiral Radio recently played a series of shows in New York – and Taylor and Clyde saw them there. This in itself is cool, but the fact that we randomly got invited to play with them here is proof that this is indeed a very small world.

The Yale Brothers Photo: Tami Sluss Ashley

The vibe at a SXSE event is refreshing; the people come to actually listen to the music offered – and this coupled with a preshow potluck and New South Brewing‘s Chris Barnes set up at the back of the room with beer and wine makes for a welcoming experience for the musicians as well as the audience.

WAVE 104.1 radio personality and program director Scott Mann, our brother from another mother, introduced us in a way that solidified that point – and off we went. It was gratifying to feel the love from the folks in attendance, who responded enthusiastically to each song.

Admiral Radio delivered a great first set with originals and thoughtful covers. Their harmonies were ethereal and stirring. These two are seasoned pros, and it was an honor to share the bill with them. I am sure their second set was great, too.

It’s always nice to play a show in the presence of like-minded people, to reconnect with friends and to make new ones.

For more about SXSE, click HERE.

The Yale Brothers with Admiral Radio / Photo: Seth Funderburk
Roger Yale with Scott Mann and Seth Funderburk / Photo: Chris Yale

For the third year running, Bucksport Marina in Conway, South Carolina, will again be transformed into a wonderland of music, art and all-around good vibes as the Waccamaw Getaway Music Festival returns to this enchanting spot on the Waccamaw River over Memorial Day weekend.

A three-day lineup [May 24-26] features more than 20 musical acts, and the festival also includes vendors, flow artists, an art tent with live painting, food trucks (a new addition this year), disc golf (also new) and onsite camping.  With of this is this going on within an hour of the Grand Strand, it’s easy to see why the slogan, “Don’t go away – Getaway” makes perfect sense for locals.

But believe this – the Waccamaw Getaway Music Festival is indeed the perfect getaway for folks coming in from near and far. In fact, the event was recently written up online in The Jamwich, a magazine devoted to the jam band community. You can read that article HERE.

Scott Mann/Photo: Moon Daze

I spoke with festival cofounder Scott Mann again this year for what I hope will be a traditional, yearly update. Mann is also a radio personality and program director for area classic rock station WAVE 104.1. In addition to his weekday on-air shift, he also hosts two weekly specialty shows, “Scott Mann’s Headshop” and “Blues Hangover.”

Organized by Get Right Promotions, which also brought you Reggae on the Waccamaw, the festival’s sponsors are WAVE 104.1, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Chambers Law Firm, Jimmyz Hibachi, Bucksport Marina and New South Brewing.

Here’s the lowdown…

RY: What’s the headliner situation like this year?

MANN: Friday night’s headliner is The Mantras. Saturday night is a co-headlining deal with Nick & the Nomads – which features three members of Big Something, a member of Urban Soil and a member of The Mantras – and Dangermuffin. Sunday night is Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds.

Q: How about local music?

A: We’ve got Brian Roessler. We have Matt Parker and the Deacons and we have Oracle Blue again. Oracle Blue just signed on last-minute. They’re on tour, and will be rolling back into town just in time to play on Sunday.

We have The A+B’S, which is a relatively new band that hasn’t played out but maybe once – but they have been practicing for a year – former members of McDowell Shortcut, Pluto and The Envelopes.

We’ve also got an acoustic set from Brock Butler, who is the guitar player for Perpetual Groove – and a bunch of really good North Carolina and regional bands.

Q: I saw you raving about the art tent on Facebook recently.

A: A lot of our artists were there last year, and there are a couple of new ones this year. Smitty [Jared “Smitty” Smith] from Cornbread is going to be in there too. His artist name is J. Paul Smith. He’s done some decorating work for us, and he’s actually becoming very involved with the festival from a whole bunch of different aspects. There are going to be a lot of cool artifacts around the property, and two of them are things that he helped make.  Pretty cool.

Q: What else is going on?

A: We’ve got [flow artists and specialty entetainment] Over the Moon Productions back this year, of course – and we’ve got food trucks this year, which we had at the reggae festival last year.

We also have Innova Disc Golf this year. Their national marketing guy lives in Pawleys Island, and it turns out his kids and a friend of mine’s kids went to school together and they know each other well – and he’s a monster Dangermuffin fan. When he was approached about doing the disc golf facilities, he was like, “Oh! I already bought tickets,” so that was pretty cool.

Doug Kelly is bringing out a Jumbotron.

We’ve arranged for a boat shuttle service from the Waccatee Zoo throughout the weekend between Friday and Monday morning. Waccamaw River Tours is doing this for us several times with late-night return trips – and that’s going to be six bucks a trip. You can do it with camping gear if you want, and they’ve got a boat big enough for like 40 people. This is good for locals if they don’t want to drive for something like 45 minutes from Myrtle Beach or Socastee. They can go over to Waccamaw River Tours, slip onto a boat ride and leave their car there.

NOTE: Buy your TICKETS now. Advance (discount) ticket sales will end on Thursday, May 23rd at 11:59 p.m. Weekend passes will be available at the gate on Friday morning – and day passes will be available at the door on Saturday and Sunday.

We tried to pack as much as living as we could into our four days in New York City. Top of mind as we embarked on day two was the Elton John concert at Barclays Center later that night. Read all about that show HERE.

Before the trip, I happened to find a pair of low-top, old-school Adidas on the clearance rack at a shoe store and picked them up immediately. Divine providence, I figured, had sent me those shoes – just like the ones featured in the Run-D.M.C. video, “My Adidas.”

Now those fucking shoes were killing me, and I didn’t think to bring another pair. The toe boxes were so narrow that my toenails were digging into the sides of the adjacent toes. All I could do was stick Band-Aids on some toes and keep stepping, as it were.  

Some people gird their loins. I girded my toes, preparing for the frenetic pace about to be set by the taskmaster, AKA my daughter.

We woke up a bit late, considering the fact that we were supposed to be exploring – and the first order of business was coffee. As I mentioned in the first installment, there was no coffee maker in our room. So we did what most Americans do in any city. We found a Starbucks down the street from our hotel. Really , we would have ducked into any coffee shop – but lo and behold, Starbucks was the first one we saw. Big surprise, right?

Don’t judge. It did the trick – fortifying us for our stroll to Macy’s, a place Brenda wanted to check out. Hell, we still watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – and since I have heard the expression, “Kiss my ass in Macy’s window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses” so many times, I didn’t mind checking it out either. Incidentally, that quote is attributed to Lyndon Johnson.

I let my daughter know that we were headed in the direction of Macy’s, and she was heading in from Bed-Stuy to meet us.

It felt interesting to be planted in New York – following my GPS toward the iconic department store. I think we headed down 6th Avenue toward 34th Street. Pretty sure memory serves that I saw Radio City Music Hall down 6th in the other direction. Nonetheless, the walk was awesome. So much to take in. I now wish I took notes.

We made it to Macy’s, but Taylor hadn’t arrived yet – so I went back outside to vape and wait for her while Brenda struck up a conversation with a lady in fragrances.

Side note – that brings to mind Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” – when Mrs. Maisel, going through a divorce, had to work at a cosmetics counter at a huge department store in New York in the late 1950s. I highly recommend that show. Snappy dialogue (I actually appreciated the subtitles turned on in this case), fast-paced writing and a great ensemble.

Rachel Brosnahan as Mrs. Maisel / Amazon Studios

I am sure somebody will take offense – but Macy’s was, well, a department store. Perhaps the multiple floors and the sheer amount of upscale branding coming at you was interesting. My favorite part about the visit was watching Brenda interact with the fragrance lady, who had been to Myrtle Beach on vacation. She planned on coming again. It’s funny, and as evidenced by Carolina Forest – so many New Yorkers want to make the Myrtle Beach area home. Brenda got herself a bottle of Versace Bright Crystal and we ducked out.

Somehow I am over department stores, as I believe most Americans are.

Taylor, trouper that she is, got us to the Staten Island Ferry. We decided to take a ride back and forth and catch a glimpse of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty from that vantage point. We thought about going on the actual tour of both Liberty Island and Ellis Island, but we figured this Ferry would work for our purposes.

I must admit that I thought of my father arriving by ocean liner from London when he moved here in 1956. He was, like I am, prone to a good cry – and he told me he sobbed when he first caught sight of Lady Liberty. He loved America and everything he thought it stood for. Always called presidents Mister – like Mr. Nixon or Mr. Reagan. Such a wonderful guy. There was nobody else like him.

There were so many people gathering to take the ferry across that I got worried that we would have to push for seats. This shows how little I knew about the sheer size of those vessels. Unbelievable. Room to spare – and I spend a lot of time walking around onboard as well.

When we got to Staten Island, I was kind of pissed that we had to get off. We wanted to go right back across. But we hung out for about 30 minutes inside the terminal. I bought Taylor a beer and went outside to vape, of course. When I was out there, I saw some dude get out of an Uber and drop a shopping bag. He was grateful when I told him about it.

I thought to myself, where were all of the rude people?

Time seemed to compress. I think it was because we were getting excited about Elton. By the time we made it back to Midtown, it was time to grab a quick bite and change. We decided to pop into Shake Shack in the Theater District and take some burgers and fried up to our room – with Taylor, of course.

We took a train together to the Barclays Center stop, and I was amazed about how convenient that trip was. Tay ran off to have a drink with her friend Rachel Feldman, who lived nearby and was at a local watering hole. We hung around outside Barclays for a time, marveling at the huge digital sign at the arena touting the sold out show. The crowds were arriving from everywhere.

An employee directed a bunch of folks toward other entrances – and Brenda and I noticed an entrance for American Express Cardmembers. What the heck, I only have a Green Card, but that was enough – and we slipped into the arena. I guess we all didn’t have to be Tina Fey to enjoy a bit of a perk.

I bought myself a tour shirt and one for Taylor at 40 bucks a pop. At the end of the day, that didn’t seem nearly as outrageous as I anticipated. We found our seats, and Taylor met up with us in perfect time to make the beginning of the show. She was wearing an awesome red sequined blouse. Reg Dwight would approve.

For the next three hours, forget it. I cried from the downbeat, Hell, I cried when the place went black – that all-too-familiar anticipation. Hooted. Hollered. Cried again. Tried my best to be in the moment. This was the last time I would see Elton John play live. Read about it and see video HERE.

What a night!

Since Taylor lives in Brooklyn, there was no reason for her to have to escort us back to Midtown. We said goodnight at the subway station, and Tay went to the other side to wait for her train.

Brenda and I made it back with no problems. When we emerged from the subway, I swore I heard somebody calling me. Sure enough, it was Clyde Moser, who had come with us to Marie’s Crisis the night before. He and a friend had just gotten out of a show. In a city with more than eight million people, moments like this are priceless.

After a quick selfie, Brenda and I went to a corner pizza place and had a slice. We never say “slice” in Myrtle Beach.

We unwound in our room at Row NYC, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” still ringing in our ears.

Elton Sign Barclays

Electronic Sign Outside Barclay’s Center

The first time I saw Elton John live was at the bygone Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles in 1979.

This was a big deal for me as well as for my twin brother, Chris. We were 16. At that point the only other concerts we had ever seen were Fleetwood Mac on their Rumours tour in Miami [with Kenny Loggins and Chick Corea/Return to Forever] and Kiss on their Love Gun tour at the Forum in Los Angeles – while they were taping the Alive II album. Some upstarts called Cheap Trick opened for them, and we didn’t know what to make of them…yet.

We stole our dad’s ’67 Impala one night to check out the Kinks at the Universal Amphitheater a few months before the Elton show when they were out on their “Low Budget” tour. Dad is long gone now, and we never told him about that.

Anybody who knows me is aware that Elton John has been a major part of my life since I was a child – and my number one influence as a piano player. I have seen him seven or eight times.

The 1979 show was one of two early October shows at the Hollywood Bowl – part of Elton’s Back in the USSA tour supported only by percussionist Ray Cooper. I remember tripping out that the man himself was up on that stage – living and breathing – not very far away from where I was sitting in that  open-air environment. It was almost too wonderful for words.

If you ever told me that I’d be watching Elton perform on his farewell tour at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, I might not have believed it. But that’s what happened earlier this month. Call it full circle for me – forty years later. And I’ll be damned if Ray Cooper wasn’t there – this time with some of the other old guard, namely guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson.

Elton played for three hours. It was surreal. The sound was excellent, and from our perch we had a clear view of the stage. We were far away, but smack dab in the middle of the mezzanine. The fact that this was to be the last time I would see him live made me savor each moment as best as my undiagnosed ADHD would allow. But I tried to be in the moment as much as possible. What a night!

This is the first installment of a series of blog posts about my recent trip to New York. More to come.