Of Rodney and Rundgren
A Skagit sojourn
What: An Unpredictable Evening with Todd Rundgren
When: 8pm Fri.-Sat., Nov. 15-16
Where: Skagit Casino Resort, 5984 N. Darrk Lane, Bow
Who: Lone Pinon
When: 7:30pm Fri., Nov. 15
Where: McIntyre Hall, 2501 E. College Way, Mount Vernon
Who: Rodney Crowell
When: 7:30pm Tues., Nov. 19
Where: Lincoln Theatre, 712 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Last week, I touched on some of the many events taking place at the Mount Baker Theatre during the days before it becomes Bellingham’s ground zero for holiday happenings.
Not so fast, say Skagit County’s siziest venues. Because the Skagit Casino Resort, McIntyre Hall, and the Lincoln Theatre would like to lure us to points south for entertainment offerings all their own.
I suppose it says something about my age that my main point of reference for Todd Rundgren is the fact that Liv Tyler spent the first eight or so years of her life thinking he was her father before her undeniable resemblance to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler made plain that he was the source of half her genetic code.
Obviously that does Rundgren, a visionary musician and producer, an injustice.
Recently, he earned his second nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and that, coupled with his upcoming shows at the Skagit Casino Resort that take place Fri.-Sat., Nov. 15-16, prompted me to give myself an impromptu refresher course about the man and his music.
As I listened my way through his hits—such songs as “I Saw the Light,” “Bang the Drum All Day,” “We Gotta Get You a Woman,” and others—I realized, as so often happens, that I was more familiar with his work than I thought. And as a perused photos of Rundgren from the early 1970s, all long legs, long hair and soulful eyes, while “Hello It’s Me” and “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” played in the background, I could kind of see what all the fuss is about.
But from his earliest days, Rundgren was much more than a pretty face with a pretty voice who could write pretty songs. He was one of the first artists to fully embrace all that technology had to offer when it comes to making music, earning a reputation as a psychedelic high-tech wizard of sorts. His breakthrough release, the 1972 double album Something/Anything?, was pretty much a solo effort, with Rundgren writing, playing, singing, producing and engineering everything on three of the album’s four sides. It wasn’t long before other bands recognized his studio skills and he then became one of the first musicians to become a sought-after producer as well, with Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band, the New York Dolls’ New York Dolls’,, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, XTC’s Skylarking, and more to his credit.
Sounds like a Hall of Fame career to me, but Rundgren, ever the iconoclast, was mostly nonplussed by the honor, saying to Billboard magazine, “I’m not looking for some organization to acknowledge me, somehow… I’ve never really taken the whole thing seriously.” If that’s not an on-brand statement, I don’t know what is. At press time, Rundgren’s shows were darn near sold out, which is likely an honor he finds to be more relatable.
If you slept on getting tickets to Rundgren or he’s not your musical flavor of the moment, the show happening Fri., Nov. 15 at McIntyre Hall might be more to your liking. According to their bio, “Lone Pinon is an acoustic conjunto from Northern New Mexico whose music celebrates the integrity of their region’s cultural roots.”
If we’re being totally honest here, I had to Google “conjunto,” although my remedial Spanish led me to believe it was some sort of band or group, which the internet confirmed for me. In this case, said conjunto consists of Noah Martinez and Jordan Wax, who play not just instruments we’re familiar with like guitar, mandolin, fiddle and accordion, but also have a commanding grasp of the bajo quinto and quinta huapanguera, as well as lyrics in English, Spanish, Nahuatl, and P’urepecha.
Their skill set might be intimidating, however their music is anything but. Embracing the practice of all great folk movements, Lone Pinon first learned from their elders in an effort to preserve the disappearing string music of New Mexico before adapting those songs and sounds to suit a more modern audience. In doing so, they not only ensure an entire way of life continues to survive and thrive, but they also are able to bring that tradition to wider audiences. Plus, Lone Pinon is pretty darn entertaining, which is the key to longevity for music of any origin.
Not to be left out of this mix, the Lincoln Theatre will take a break from performances of Pray the Gay Away to host a Tues., Nov. 19 concert featuring Rodney Crowell.
I do not love all country music (like, what are you even, Florida Georgia Line? Do you only exist to afflict me with secondhand embarrassment?), but anyone who cites Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark as his biggest influences and was part of Emmylou Harris’ band automatically bypasses my personal barriers to entry. But Crowell’s country bona fides go far deeper than that. As a songwriter, he’s written hits for everyone from Crystal Gayle to Keith Urban. As a producer, he put his own career on hold for a long period to bring albums by his then-wife and sometime-collaborator Rosanne Cash into the world. And as a recording artist, he cranked out five consecutive number-one songs—“It’s Such a Small World,” “I Couldn’t Leave You if I Tried,” “She’s Crazy for Leavin’,” “After All this Time,” and “Above and Beyond”—in just slightly more than a year and a half, an effort that won him the first of his two Grammys.
As with many country stars of his era and ilk, Crowell fell out of favor for a bit, only to once again gain traction—and renewed respect—during recent years. However, he’s never stopped writing, producing or touring, and you can expect him to be in fine form when he hits the historic Lincoln Theatre stage.