Memories of a Mentor
Author: Kevin Stuart Swain, Vancouver Lower Mainland
When I was about 14 I was walking with my bass to the local music store. I didn't have a case for my semi acoustic Raven bass that I bought at the flea market. I would hang around Troy Music on Lower Lonsdale in North Vancouver and try to learn from real musicians. Anyway, I had got about as far as The St Alice Hotel and a guy came down the stairs from a beat up old place across the street. This would have been around 1976. He invited me to come upstairs and see his bass and amp and to hang out. I was wary as in those days I seemed to be a magnet for creepy men trying to get me into vehicles etc. I trusted my gut and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
The man was a bass player from Sacramento named Danny O'Connell. I became family with him and his girlfriend. He took me to sessions, introduced me to Mike Clarke from Herbie Hancock and taught me that funk music is as much a part of a person as breathing. He also introduced me to Nichiren Buddhism which has been with me my whole life. His conduct as a Buddhist man was so inspiring. One of the first things he did was come to meet my parents. He said they must meet him and approve if I was to be able to be free to be his friend. I learned the connection between the spirit and music. How groove and feel are everything. I was in awe of him and his friends and still to this day strive to be anywhere near as good as they were.
I had keys to his apartment and could come and go whenever I pleased. One day I went and let myself in and everything was gone. He and his lady had disappeared leaving little behind. It looked like a hasty exit and it sacred me so I got out of there. To this day 41 years later I still wonder what happened. I still have a 4 LP collection called "The Bass " which he had lent to me because I feel it is not mine to give away or get rid of.
Last Saturday night we opened for the band that used to be known as "War". The combination of being authentic living and breathing funk gods, they also had a spiritual message of peace and unity that took me right back to being a 14 year old in North Van. I'm tearing up typing this, because it is so amazing to have been transported back to a such a beautiful part of my life. "The Lowrider Band " did for me that night what they set out to do in the 70's with " Why Can't We Be Friends ". Please check out and support these amazing people as they continue to spread love and funk around the world. It's the same thing.
Author: Rob Shoemaker, Portland OR.
I was gonna say seeing Vancouver BC musician Harpdog Brown again for the first time in 22 years felt like it had only been since late last week. But the truth of it is, it was really a lot better than when he often visited the Candlelight in the '90s. The band had such a terrific grasp of the style of Muddy Waters' first rise to prominence before Otis Spain joined Muddy. Pat Darcus' extremely muscular bass playing recalls the drive that Willie Dixon imparted to fill dance floors in the days before the Fender bass made volume just a matter of turning the knob up. Seattle drummerboy Jeff Hayes is on hand for Brown's US dates, and he fit like a glove. In guitarist Jordan Edmonds, introduced by Harpdog as "my right hand man", Brown has the perfect foil for his harmonica and vocals, meshing the way Jimmy Rogers telepathically supported Mud to a "T". Edmonds' playing also strongly evokes the styles of John Lee Hooker and especially Eddie Taylor, the guitarist who provided the iconic grooves to all the influential Jimmy Reed songs. I bought Harpdog's new CD at the show, it is far and away his best yet. But I can happily report that the live band sounded even better. The Birk was the ideal venue for his show.