From sweet and smooth classics, to new names, to old names with new music...the focus here, is to shine a little light on some damn fine music.

I'll find it. You can listen, review, or tell me I wouldn't know good music if it kicked me in the ass. I personally don't give a shit.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

For John

Thirty-five years.

If you were alive when John Kennedy was assassinated, you will never forget where you where when you heard the news. The same is true for 9/11. Indelible moments, time and date stamped into your memory.

Thirty-five years ago tonight, I was home and somewhere in the background of a four-way conversation in my living room, we heard the news on Monday Night Football. John Lennon had been shot.

No one had to tell me he was gone. My heart knew it, my soul felt emptier. Something that had been part of my being was lost.

John Lennon was not a hero to me. By most accounts he wasn't even the beautiful human he's transformed into since his death. To me, he was a Beatle and the Beatles were as much a part of my life education as any class or direction of my parents. As Bruce Springsteen said it years later, "I learned more from a 3 minute record baby, than I ever learned in school." John Lennon was one of four who gave my spirit the wings to fly.

Those wings were broken 35 years ago. They have healed with the passage of time, but the scar from that day is still there.

Over the years, the words "For John" were said as a candle was lit. Just a small symbol to bring light to the darkness. There's way too much darkness in the world today, so maybe just for one day we can light a candle and Imagine.

"There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all"


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

For Paul Simon, Whenever I May Find Him.

It's been a while since I've done anything new in this space, but I couldn't let the day pass without giving recognition to the songwriter who changed the way I listened to lyrics. Yes indeed I was a Beatles girl, and enjoyed all of those bands from the British Invasion. But for a very young girl,just learning to write, hearing 'The Sounds Of Silence," was like having a switch go off in my brain.

Living just across the river from NYC, it was so close and yet so very far away, both in distance to a pre-teen and by the promise of what it was about. "The Sounds Of Silence," only enhanced all those feelings I had about the city. I never bought the album it was on, only the 45. My best friend at the time had Wednesday Morning 3 AM, and along with a few other albums, we played it non-stop,

Then came Simon & Garfunkel's "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme" and it set my gold standard for excellence. "Homeward Bound" became the big hit, deservedly so, and then there was "Feelin' Groovy" and "Scarborough Fair/Canticle." But the song that got my juices flowing was another song about New York. About the dark part of New York, the New York Subway.

Now at that time I had never been on a subway, that privilege would come several years later. At this point all I knew of it was what was talked about on the evening news...and it wasn't pretty. Muggings, stabbings and graffiti. And here on this new album, right alongside songs as beautiful as "The Dangling Conversation" and "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her," was this dark and gritty song; Side 2 Song 5: "A Poem On The Underground Wall."

I had no idea what imagery was at the time, all I knew was this song's vision was sent to that part of the brain that goes "holy shit." And it was clear. And it was unnerving. And it was stunning.

This video has an interesting lead-in story to go along with the song. But let the lyrics take you down to the shadows of the 60s New York City subways. Happy Birthday Paul.

"The last train is nearly due
The underground is closing soon
And in the dark deserted station
Restless in anticipation
A man waits in the shadows
His restless eyes leap and scratch
At all that they can touch or catch
And hidden deep within his pocket
Safe within his silent socket
He holds a colored crayon
Now from the tunnel’s stony womb
The carriage rides to meet the groom
And opens wide and welcome doors
But he hesitates, then withdraws
Deeper in the shadows
And the train is gone suddenly
On wheels clicking silently
Like a gently tapping litany
And he holds his crayon rosary
Tighter in his hand
Now from his pocket quick he flashes
The crayon on the wall he slashes
Deep upon the advertising
A single-worded poem comprised
Of four letters
And his heart is laughing, screaming, pounding
The poem across the tracks rebounding
Shadowed by the exit light
His legs take their ascending flight
To seek the breast of darkness and be suckled by the night"

Copyright by Paul Simon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Arlo Guthrie @ Newton Theatre: A Night of Songs and Stories

For a November night in northwest New Jersey, the weather could not have been better. A light jacket was enough to keep you warm, but not crowd you in your seat. Tonight you wanted to be comfortable for it was to be a night of songs and stories. Arlo Guthrie was in town, and we weren’t the only ones celebrating. With this year marking the 100th birthday of Arlo’s father, legendary folk singer and documenter of mid-century America, Woody Guthrie, Arlo was performing many of his dad’s compositions.

The Newton Theatre is a reclaimed from the edge of destruction movie theatre. Small and intimate, you get to share the experience with 604 new friends. Though we were lucky to be sitting up front, it’s hard to imagine a bad seat in the house.

With no opening act, Arlo and his three-piece band took their places onstage. With each member dressed in black, there would be no distraction; this night was about the music and the stories that inspired it. Arlo sat center stage next to his guitar rack with four beauties waiting to be picked.
Arlo began the evening speaking of Woody, and the joy he felt being able to spend nights such as this, singing the songs of his father, the songs of an America past, the songs of justice and injustice, the songs of his family. His voice is filled with more gravel than before, as if age and life’s journey has settled in. But every once in a while, the familiar sound of the Arlo from another time, punctuates a sentence of a story, and all those memories when you heard him say “Officer Obie” or “you remember Alice,” come flooding back. And you smile.

 Arlo Guthrie is a superb storyteller. Pulling a beautiful acoustic Gibson out of the rack, Arlo began telling the story of Woody’s “Oklahoma Hills,” and you realize just how different the world was back then for a songwriter. You might not even know your song had been recorded until you heard it playing in a jukebox.

One of the wonderful attributes of the writing of Woody Guthrie was his ability to put down words explaining injustice, hard times, or the beauty of this country, in the most simple of words. Their simplicity making them universally relatable.

Growing up Guthrie meant you had the most interesting of extended families. Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, Cisco Houston to name a few, were household regulars. Their songs and their stories were exquisite as told by this grown man who had known these legends when he was a child.

Though storytelling and song is his forte, Arlo Guthrie can play a real pretty guitar, though this night he battled with keeping them in tune. As a little tweaking of the strings went on longer than expected, Arlo blamed it on the blue light overhead. The audience laughed as the lighting guy quickly changed the color. It didn’t help, but it did make the evening even more real; this was no rock star with a technician handing him a perfectly tuned guitar for every song. This was just a musician sitting in someone’s living room trying to play his best for some new friends.

 Listening to the songs of Woody Guthrie is like riding on one of the filled-with-family-and-belongings trucks Steinbeck wrote about in The Grapes of Wrath. In fact Guthrie wrote a song condensing the 600 pages of Wrath into a song with twelve verses. This was something over which Steinbeck took umbrage. The combination of the songs and the perspective Arlo brings to them is a history lesson so interesting, you wish this was how it was taught in school. After an hour of enjoying the songs and tales of times long ago, Arlo and the band took a short break.

Coming back onstage the music catalog shifted to Arlo’s own. Now it wasn’t only Woody’s songs which were prefaced by a story. “Coming Into Los Angeles” began with a story of his late wife Jackie’s arrest for marijuana at the airport, after a long-forgotten gift from a fan to Arlo, was found in her bag.

He then talked about his early memories of Leadbelly in his home, and his search for Leadbelly’s grave somewhere in Louisiana. Leadbelly, who wrote among many others, “Midnight Special” and “Goodnight Irene,” was buried in Shreeveport, and they found the grave with guitar picks scattered over the tombstone. So he pulled out his guitar, sat there, and played some songs for the man he remembered as a two-year old. One of those songs “Alabama Bound,” was Arlo’s next selection.
One highlight of the evening was Steve Goodman’s “City Of New Orleans.” Lyrically, you can’t write much more of a poignant ballad. It is a testament to his songwriting that a song so moving, is about a train. The story of how Arlo and Steve met is priceless, making his loss at such a young age, even more lamentable.

Relating how he first laid eyes on his future wife and singing “Highway In The Wind,” which he wrote for her, must be more than a little bittersweet, a little over a year since the death of the woman to whom he was married for forty-three years.

 Getting close to the end of the show, Arlo pulled out arguably Woody’s most recognizable song, “This Land Is Your Land.” As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, the imagery of the words was not lost on the audience. Considering there is not another song which embodies the greatness of this country more than this, it is a song that should be taught in every school in this country.

Of course since we are so close to Thanksgiving, you can be sure there wasn’t a person in the crowd who wasn’t hoping to hear the familiar first few notes of “Alice’s Restaurant.” Arlo did not disappoint.  As he began to play, the audience sang along to the beginning chorus. At this point Arlo said “You don’t think I’m really going to sing this whole freakin’ song do you?” And no, I don’t think we really did. And just that one chorus, while a tease, was enough of a taste to keep a smile on everyone’s face. He picked the melody while talking about what the song has meant to him and his family over the years… the good and the not so good.

As all of our storytellers get older, the danger of losing important parts of our past, grows. Arlo Guthrie not only lived some of the stories first-hand, he grew up surrounded by legends with their own stories to tell. Never miss a chance to hear them because you’ll never forget them once you do. And that keeps them alive.

This evening with Arlo Guthrie pickin’, singin’ and tellin’ stories was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve ever spent in a music hall. It was an honor to hear him speak of his father, and all those who came before.  And hopefully by writing about it, the stories keep going just a little longer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Many Years with Henry Diltz

A long, long time ago, when I was about thirteen years old, the world of music was everything to me. That hasn't changed much, but how I see things, specifically through a camera has.

As a kid growing up before any of today's technology existed, a camera was usually only brought out for birthday parties, special events, and family vacations. Then as I entered my teenage years, a photographer by the name of Henry Diltz, made me look at the world in a different way.

Henry's work was featured in all the teen fan magazines of the day. His name became legend with fans of The Monkees and David Cassidy. He later went on to photograph some of the most important rock albums of the 70s, along with the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock, and the later Woodstock anniversary festivals. I loved how he shot pictures. Sometimes fun, sometimes serious, but each one perfectly captured the moment.

But what opened my photographic eyes was a couple of layouts of rural mailboxes and fire hydrants. They were not your standard issue objects but ones that had been fixed up or painted in some imaginative way. I began to look at ordinary things around me and see the possibilities of some interesting shots. My favorite subject turned out to be mushrooms.

Anyway, last week I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Henry Diltz and it was all I hoped for and more. He was funny, interesting and gracious in his conversation and his time.

Here is some of the interview, there will be more about Henry soon.

Seeing Stuff with Photographer Henry Diltz

Some storytellers communicate with their words, others through their music. Henry Diltz tells a story by capturing the fleeting dance of what his eye sees as his finger presses the shutter button on his camera. A moment in time artfully preserved, and forever shaping how that moment is remembered.

Starting out as a musician with the Modern Folk Quartet, fate played a hand in his eventual career path. While on the road with the band Henry bought a used camera and the rest, well let’s just say the history of the musical world would be a little different today had Henry Diltz not found his true calling.

Slideshows became a weekly ritual for his friends and neighbors whose names included some of the most important singer-songwriters of the era: The Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, Stephen Stills and many others.  He took pictures of his friends, and eventually created some of the most unforgettable album covers of all time. James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James, the first album from Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Doors Morrison Hotel, Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne. He documented the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, Woodstock in ’69, Woodstock ’94, and Woodstock ’99, creating a photographic statement of entire generations in musical history.

It is not an exaggeration to say he has photographed nearly everyone of musical importance in the last fifty years. With some partners, Diltz opened the Morrison Hotel Gallery (NYC and LA) where exhibits of his work and many other of today’s important photographers can be seen. Henry is taking some of his work on the road beginning next month as he and fellow photographer Pattie Boyd begin a limited run multi-media tour featuring historic photos and what no doubt will be extraordinary stories about them.

Having followed Henry’s work since I first became a teenager, it was beyond surreal to interview him. His life is fascinating and he is surely one of the coolest men on the planet, if not the universe. And Henry, thanks for the title.

Kath Galasso: Your first camera came from a second hand shop, you bought some film for it, took the photos, had it developed and only then learned it was slide film not print film. You then went on to have slide shows for your friends, and eventually that cycle was how you became a photographer.  In the game called “what if?” do you think you would have become as interested in photography if you would have picked up developed prints rather than slides?

Henry Diltz: You know, I may not have become a photographer. I don’t say that I thought it would be prints, I had no idea what it would be. We bought these cameras at a junk store on the road and then one of the guys in the group said “pull into the next drugstore and I’ll get film.” He handed everyone a yellow box, I still didn’t know what it would turn out, I never even thought about it. I just said ok and then I said, well how do you set these numbers on the lens and on the camera and he said “look on the box.” Kodak just told you how to set it. Whatever it was I just set the camera that way and it worked out. And when I picked them up, I said “oh look, they’re little tiny pictures, they’re little slides.” And at that moment I said hey let’s get a slide projector and have a slide show. And that was the magic moment right then, actually when the first slide hit the wall, I went “oh my god.” These things could be twelve feet across and glimmering and shimmering in the light. If you have the right conditions in a dark room and your audience is all your stoned, hippie friends, it could be pretty intense. And before I really had a whole collection of music photos, before I got into that really, it was pictures of old junk trucks, pickup trucks, cats sleeping in the afternoon, snails on the ivy or mailboxes. I would just photograph everything and try to make it real interesting, the weirder the better. I wanted to get a response from people. That’s what I went for; to always get a reaction when the next slide hit the wall. And that was what propelled me into photography; I just wanted to have more slide shows.

But isn’t that the coolest thing that you could trace how your life turned out to that one moment?

Yes! I know, I know. I think about it, I think about it in many ways. One way is to say “hey life is a happy accident” you know… and then right away I have to think well, or maybe not. Maybe it’s not such an accident. Maybe my spirit guide or guardian angel said this is what you actually signed up to do, so we’re going to put a camera in your hand. You never know. When you live long enough and really think about life enough, you start to get some answers as to what life might really be, it gets very interesting.

For the rest of the interview, please go over to "Seeing Stuff with Photographer Henry Diltz" at


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Little River Band @ Bergen PAC, Englewood NJ

The evening’s weather forecast was at the very least, ominous. Severe thunderstorms would be passing through close to showtime, and again at the end of the show. Most of us were lucky, having beaten the raindrops into the comfort of the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, New Jersey.

The Little River Band opened the night with a little a capella intro into “It’s A Long Way There,” just in case you may have forgotten just how strong their five part harmonies can be. Though the band has gone through many changes of personnel over forty years, the integral sound is still very much alive.

Bass player Wayne Nelson has taken over most of the lead vocal duties, though Greg Hind gets plenty of lead time as well. The LRB has a deep catalog of hits with hooks that you can’t get out of your head. All the songs you remember would be played this night, with “Man On Your Mind” as the next in line.

After greeting the crowd and asking if they were ready to sing, the band launched into “Happy Anniversary.” While the set list was heavy on the hits, they didn’t ignore their most recent album, Cuts Like A Diamond, with fine versions “The Lost And The Lonely” and “I’m An Island.” But with an older crowd, the night would indeed be about “Reminiscing.”

For the rest of the review and additional photos, please jump over to Little River Band @ Bergen PAC, Englewood NJ at


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Leaders In The Clubhouse Debut Album "Won" Reviewed

Late last year, Spud Davenport and Charlie Recksieck got together in San Diego and started creating fun music filled with satire and written with a “jaundiced eye.” It resulted in the formation of a band called Leaders In The Clubhouse (LITC) and a debut album titled Won.

Let’s just say their music is a little quirky. At times, you could almost imagine a Seinfeld episode coming out of their song lyrics, but don’t get the impression that they are about “nothing.” Actually Won is about a lot of things, many which are extremely relatable: sex, technology, long-distance romance, getting along with your fellow man, and oh yeah, the end of the world.

For the entire review, please step over to Leaders In The Clubhouse Debut Albun "Won" Reviewed at

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Got It Covered: Everywhere I Go

It's been a while since I posted an installment of Got It Covered, hope you enjoy this one.

In 1993, Jackson Browne released his tenth studio album titled I'm Alive. On it, Browne returned to the familiar territory of love lost, while easing away from the political flavor that marked Lives in the Balance and World in Motion, his previous two albums.

While I'm Alive didn't break any sales records, it did become certified gold, and more importantly, it gave back to his fans the music they wanted to hear. The song "Everywhere I Go," features Browne's initial foray into a reggae beat, with Scott Thurston on backing vocals.

A little over a year ago, Music Load Records released a Jackson Browne tribute album called Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne. It's a two-disc set and it's highly recommended. It would seem all of Jackson's friends lined up for a chance to be included: Keb Mo doing "Rock Me On The Water," Lyle Lovett singing "Rosie," Joan Obsourne with "Late For The Sky," "Lucinda Williams on 'The Pretender," and Don Henley with "These Days." Yeah, it's real nice.

My favorite of the collection is the cover of "Everywhere I Go," sung by Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley. It's a light, airy version and of course, there's Bonnie's voice.

Take a listen.

For a little peek into the recording of it, check out this video.

Fun, don't you think?


Gary U.S. Bonds Birthday Bash at B.B. Kings NYC

The night was billed as Gary U.S. Bonds with Special Guests, and it was a celebration of Gary’s 76th birthday. This was his seventh B.B. King’s birthday party and it didn't matter who the guests would be, this crowd was there to have fun.

Fun was to be an understatement.

As the band played him onstage to the opening notes of Springsteen’s “Action In The Streets,” Gary, obviously enjoying the moment, had a twinkle in his eyes and a huge smile on his face. That smile did not leave his face all night. And why would it? Bonds still commands the stage, has a natural ease about him as a man who feels right at home in his own skin, a sense of humor, and on this night, was surrounded by beautiful and talented women. On this night, with the exception of two local guitar rockers, Gary’s special guests were all of the female type, and he clearly appreciated every minute of it.

He spent a few minutes talking about some of his dear friends who couldn’t make it to the show:  Ben. E. King, who passed away in April; Springsteen, who apparently was in Europe watching his daughter participate in her equestrian events, and Southside Johnny, for whom he thanked God that he wasn’t there, before getting the crowd going with his rendition of “New Orleans.” It was then time to bring up the first musical guest, singer-songwriter Christine Martucci, who offered a couple of her own soulful tunes before joining up with Gary on another Springsteen treasure “Rendezvous”

For the rest of the recap of the show, please go over to Gary U.S. Bonds Birthday Bash at B.B. Kings NYC at

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Somebody's Darling @ Hill Country NYC

While the voice of Amber Farris started off the night somewhat smooth and reserved, carefully waiting for Wade Cofer to get his bass pounding, soon enough Somebody's Darling was ready to bring on the heat. Opening the show with "Bad Bad," from their 2014 release Adult Roommates, Somebody's Darling brought to New York City that Southern blues-rock which the state of Texas has been happily endorsing for several years.

Originally from Dallas, the band has now relocated to Nashville to take in the musical influences, write some new songs, and record a new album. It appears the Lone Star State's loss is a benefit for other areas of the country, as the move allows the band a road more easily traveled. Their current tour has taken them into the Northeast, for the first time since they appeared at the CMJ Music Marathon in October, before taking the southern route back to Nashville, Texas, and points... many points west. This night the vibe of Somebody's Darling fit right in with the Texas BBQ being served at Hill Country in NYC.

 For the rest of the review and more photos, please jump over to Somebody's Darling @ Hill Country NYC


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

“Who am I to judge?”

“Who Am I,” a video from New Jersey based Jutaun, asks that question throughout an artfully edited video which makes you take a hard look at your individual biases and ingrained expectations. Director Guy Davies takes the haunting tune and weaves a story of inner city life into seven minutes of apprehensiveness, where nothing is as it seems.

Jutaun has released “Who Am I” as the first single off their soon-to-be-released debut EP Back To Life, which is set to drop on June 8th 2015. "Who Am I" features clear harmonies, a melody with enough tempo changes to keep the ride interesting, and lyrics that will make you think... isn't that a refreshing concept?

The band was formed by brothers Jake Evans (percussion & vocals), Jamie Evans (guitar & vocals), and Samoeun Cheng (vocals). Growing up in a musical family, the Evans brothers were exposed to all types of music, and took influences from many of them. Cheng, who eventually ended up in South Jersey by way of Cambodia, Thailand, San Francisco and Memphis, brings along his own musical influences. Together their sound is anything but predictable and more than a little difficult to categorize into one genre.

Named one of the “30 NJ Bands You Must Hear in 2015” by, Jutaun appeared at this year’s SXSW and are hitting the radio station circuit promoting their upcoming release.

Watch the video and look at real life a little differently.

First published as Jutaun Releases Thought-Provoking New Video "Who Am I"  at Onstage Magazine


Monday, May 18, 2015

Losing Another Legend: B.B. King Dies at 89

“There are so many sounds I still want to make, so many things I haven't yet done.” __B.B. King

He was born Riley, established his legend as the Blues Boy, and earned the love and respect of every successive generation as B.B., or Mr. King if you will. After 89 years of good times and bad times, B.B. King has died; his fifty+ year conversation with Lucille is now over.

B.B King did not have the easiest life, none of the Blues musicians of his era did. But he took that life, played it on his strings, and it was called the Blues. Isn’t it strange how pain can sound so beautiful.

He played for kings and queens, those of the real world and musical royalty as well. B.B. King not only influenced blues players, but rockers from The Rolling Stones, to Jeff Beck to Eric Clapton, have all lined up to act as second fiddle when they let B.B. take the stage with them.

A member of the Blues Hall of Fame, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the recipient of NARAS Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, B.B. King was not only respected throughout the industry, he was loved by those in it, and by most anyone who heard his signature style of guitar playing.

"When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”

If you’ve never seen B.B. play, you might not understand the conversation he had with his guitar, Lucille. He would sing or play, but not at the same time. He would sing a line then play her. It was the most intimate of conversations, but he shared it every night onstage.

We may have lost a legend, but his style, influence and music will always remain. That Thrill will never Be Gone.

Easy Journey Mr. King.

Photo by Larry Philpot

First published in

For More Concert photos of B.B. King check out B.B. King in Indiana and B.B. King in Indiana 11.16.13 at


Scruffy City Film and Music Festival Highlights

The votes have been tallied and the awards presented. The Scruffy City Film & Music Festival has closed shop for another year, but even as we look back at the highlights of this year, work has already begun on ideas to grow the festival and continue to improve it for next year. With the way the festival has evolved over its years of existence, there is little doubt of its shining future.
Knoxville's Market Square
Knoxville’s Market Square, where the festival takes place, is a vibrant open-air space surrounded by retail shops, eateries, pubs, and Scruffy City Hall, a three-floor cine-pub where film showings were followed by music performances. While the Market Square is a constantly changing activity zone, Scruffy City Hall is the chill zone, with seating and a bar on every level including the roof.
Everyone is welcome
Outside, the very dog-friendly atmosphere creates a natural camaraderie, while street performers vie for attention. Some fare better than others. This year the weather was more than cooperative, creating very few empty tables at outdoor restaurant seating where all those dogs were sitting with their owners. Each evening, the festival began with the Knoxville Mercury Mixer where attendees would gather in anticipation of the upcoming events.
For the rest of the Scruffy City Film & Music Festival story, go to Scruffy City Film and Music Festival Highlights at

Danny Says: A Documentary Film About Punk’s Godfather

The New York City music scene of the 1970s exploded with bands whose impact is still felt today: Lou Reed, Patti Smith, The Ramones, and Iggy and the Stooges, to name a few. If you weave in the influence of Andy Warhol’s Factory and the ever-present drug scene, it’s more than surprising that anyone who was in the midst of it could remember the highlights, the lowlights, the truth and the fiction of those seminal moments in music history. Not only did Danny Fields live through those moments, he was responsible for many of them.

For the full story of Danny Fields and the documentary Danny Says, check out Danny Says: A Documentary Film About Punk’s Godfather at


Knoxville to Host the Scruffy City Film and Music Festival

A city with a music festival is one thing. A city with a film festival is another. But if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the city of Knoxville, Tennessee anytime from April 28th-May 3rd, you can enjoy the best of both of those worlds along with a large portion of fun and Southern hospitality. The Scruffy City Film and Music Festival  is a five-day event filled with Feature and Short films, Music Documentaries, Live Regional Music, Short Animations, Musical Competitions, Panels, Workshops and an abundance of social activities.
Now entering its sixth year, the Music & Film Fest received over 380 film submissions from thirty countries. Films entered into the competition were required to either have a musical theme or a strong musical score or soundtrack. Getting those submissions was the easy part. Narrowing the list to those fifty films which will be shown was a whole lot more difficult. According to Festival Director Michael Samstag, because the quality of the films submitted was so strong, the last round of decisions was “brutally painful.”
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Michael Samstag about those decisions and what’s in store for those attending the Scruffy City Film & Music Festival.
Michael SamstagKath Galasso: How many years has the festival been going on?
Michael Samstag: We’ve been producing a festival for six years. The first four or five years we did a 24-hour film competition here in Knoxville. It was a very beloved festival. Three years ago we started doing a Film & Music Festival. We’re no longer doing the 24-hour festival, instead we’ve added Film Score which is this celebration of music and film, and that has just really sort of rocketed the festival. The amount of submissions is slightly more than last year, but the quality of submissions has just been incredible.
How did the 24 Hour Challenge work?
Filmmakers had 24-hours to make a complete film. We’d give them all kinds of ringers and secret elements that had to be included, so they couldn’t shoot it in advance. It was a complete and total format film in 24 hours. And some of our 24 hour submissions went on to play at the National Film Festival, which is an Academy Award qualifying festival. It was pretty unbelievable the level of work that was being done.
And what made you change the format?
We just thought that it was time to do something new. For me, once something is up and running… is successful and perfect, I lose interest pretty quickly. When we started there was nothing like it. Five years later there’s like five different shoot-outs happening in town. So it was time to just break apart and do something totally different.
Tell me about this year’s Film Score Challenge.
Composers had five trailers to choose from that didn’t have music and they scored them. And we chose the sixteen best of those. Our panel of judges will then narrow it down to determine who the actual winner of that is. Our music judges are award winning composers, and I hate those words “award-winning,” because there are so many awards that don’t mean much, but these are some big cats.
Scruffy City-1This year you seem to be focusing a lot on students, with free screenings, chair massages and therapy dogs. It’s a very interesting concept, how did that come about?
Well, we moved our festival this year so we could be more accessible to students. In the past our festival was in June, so there are only summer classes going on. So we moved into April to include them better. Unfortunately the best week for us that didn’t have another festival going on was the last week of April, which is sort of the week after classes and some people are starting finals. If they were students like me, they are going to be partying and looking for something to do. And for those students who actually study and work hard, bless them, it’s a perfect stress breaker. If you need a break, just come watch a movie, get a chair massage, and settle up with a Great Pyrenees while watching a film, having a beer, eating something. Anything we can do to attract an audience (1) and students (2), we’re always interested in doing.
This year we grouped our Shorts into very marketable blocks for different audiences. We’re using different organizations to promote our feature films. So half of my job is to select the best films, and the other half is to attract as big an audience as is humanly possible.
Scruffy City-3Tell me about some of the panels and workshops that you’ll be having.
I can tell you about one called “The Future of Live Rock and Roll Shows.” I just have this belief that not much has changed in the rock show world in fifty years. But we’ve seen crowdsourcing, digital and social media shake up everything, and I have the feeling it’s only a matter of time before it shakes up rock shows. And it’s begun to, but the show itself, I think, still hasn’t felt the full ripple effect of what this is all going to be. So we’ve got lighting people, sound people, video wall people, interactive media type people, who are going to have a panel about that.
The other panel is going to be something for filmmakers and composers… work flow-work process collaboration. A lot of our filmmakers here in town are just starting to get to that point; they’re maybe working with a composer, working with a sound designer or in a larger context. Those are the two workshops we have slotted.
For someone who will be visiting Knoxville for the first time, what can they expect.
Scruffy City-2Knoxville is really an emerging city and our downtown area is tremendous. The Festival takes place in the very, very thick of it which is Market Square. During the weekends you’re going to see musicians, a magician, and farmers markets going on, with tens of thousands of people walking the streets. It’s a place where you can park your car and walk to dozens of restaurants, bars, great shopping, and nearly all of it is still local-regional. It’s a very beautiful city right on the Tennessee River. If you’re flying in, you can take an Uber from the airport to down town and never need a car the rest of the trip you’re here. The restaurants are phenomenal, there are all kinds of different breweries and great bars, and our facility is in the thick of it. Probably the most popular pub in town is the Preservation Pub and that’s owned by the same owners as the Scruffy City Hall where we hold the festival.
Scruffy City Hall is a large hall that fits about 100 people downstairs and another 40-50 people upstairs in the balcony. There’s a bar and patio on the first floor, a bar and patio on the second floor, and the third floor is an outdoor rooftop bar. That’s opening just in time for the festival this year, it’s a new addition. The whole building was built just in time for the festival last year. It’s intimate, it’s cozy, it’s awesome. You can have a beer or cocktail in your hand, order some food and enjoy the movie.
For the rest of the interview, please go to Knoxville to Host the Scruffy City Film and Music Festival at

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lesley Gore: Voice and Attitude

As a girl of not even ten, I remember listening to Lesley Gore and thinking there was something about her attitude that made her different than most of the other girl singers from that time. Though I was years away from heartbreak, even the puppy love kind, I could relate to the hurt she sang about in "It's My Party."

But what I really enjoyed was the sequel where she got back her guy," Judy's Turn To Cry." While I seem to recall thinking that I wasn't sure if I would take the jerk back, the song did have a great "kiss my ass" attitude that was kinda cool.

Then she came out with "You Don't Own Me."

"And don't tell me what to do
And don't tell me what to say"

That was a game changer for me. I wasn't like most of the other girls I knew, especially cousins and those within the family circle. I didn't play with dolls, I wasn't dreaming of the six kids I wanted to have. I didn't know a lot about myself, but what I did know was that no one would be telling me how to live my life. Were there repercussions from that attitude... yeah, many. But I did find my truth, probably most closely related to another song, this one from the 70s and The Animals.

"It's my life and I'll do what I want
It's my mind and I'll think what I want"

My lifetime of fierce independence began with a singer-songwriter from Tenafly NJ. Lesley Gore died yesterday, leaving us way to soon. Her career not only included her singing and writing, but also acting and activism.

Though not as well known as so many of her songs, this was my favorite.

Easy Journey Lesley. I hope her party is still going on.


Monday, February 9, 2015

The Grammys: The Main Event

And it started out with such promise. AC/DC blowing out the hall, devil's horns, and even Blake Shelton singing along to "Highway To Hell."  And truth be told, it wasn't that bad.

A few quick thought on the evening.

Tom Jones. Still has the pipes. While Jessie J was a little over the top, their duet on "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" was very strong and a pleasant surprise.

Miranda. Yes you are still winning awards, but it's getting real close to the time when you should be rethinking the Daisy Dukes image.

Kanye. Meh. Nothing. Not good, not bad, kinda boring. And really, stop thinking you have any right to judge who should win an award. Just stop.

Madonna. It may be time to reinvent yourself again. This persona is looking a little...sad.

Hozier and Annie Lennox. Dynamic. Annie just said "bitches, this is how it's done."

I like Pharrell's old hat better.

Would it have killed them to have just a little more Stevie Wonder?

Brandy Clark. Poise and talent. And who is cooler than Dwight Yoakam?

Sam Smith and Mary J Blige. Well worth the wait, but wouldn't a mashup with Tom Petty singing "I Won't Back Down," have been really fun?

"Albums still matter, like books and black lives"... Prince

So is orange the new purple?

The Android commercial was worthy of an award.

Just an idea, but wouldn't it be nice for the Grammy's to take one or two winners from the early show and showcase them on the late show? Let the possible winners in a previously decided category...say the Best Roots Album, or Bluegrass, rehearse once or twice beforehand and let the winner do a song at the main event. Instead of hiding so many talented musicians and music genres under the cover of a streaming only event? Just a thought.

Another year done. Time to make some new music.

For my post on the Premier show which was held earlier in the day, click here: The Premiere Show


Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Grammy Awards: The Premiere Show

Cut me a little slack if my Grammy rant has a few incoherent moments. I've been really sick for the past 4+ days and hadn't really even looked at my computer during most of that time. But watching the red carpet of the Premiere show of the Grammy, better known as the early telecast, well there was a moment I just felt the need to discuss.

As the way too perky British woman interviewer was introduced to the two creators of Best Children's Album nominee Appetite for Construction, a third person, a woman, was added to the group. After the two men answered a question or two, the woman was allowed to introduce herself. She very proudly announced she had been privileged to be the voice in the recorded version of I Am Malala. Wow. As someone who does interviews, my ears perked up and ten questions ran through my mind. Did you meet her? How do you set your tone for your work? What about her words touched you the most? On and on.

So what did she ask her? Nothing. She let her finish her sentence of who she was, then giddily went back to the two men and said "I just have to ask you about the cardboard pocket scarves you are wearing." Cardboard pocket scarves. We really need to get better than this people. We really do.

Once the daytime awards began things were better. If you never seen the early awards, it's just awards and a few musical performances. No commercials, no stupid banter between presenters, no over the top music extravaganza. It's a lot of awards given quickly.

After seeing Mike Farris play in NYC a few months ago, I knew he deserved to win a Grammy, Well, he did. Shine For All The People took home the award for Best Roots Gospel Album, well deserved for his music, even more appreciated for his road getting there.

It was bittersweet seeing Edgar Winter pick up the Best Blues Album award for his brother Johnny's Step Back. Johnny Winter was one of those guys you never expected to live as long as he did, but were still shocked when you heard he had died.

Nice for Rosanne Cash to have her Bonnie Raitt moment and win three Grammys about a hundred years since her last one. And damn, if you haven't seen the Old Crow Medicine Show live, just do it.

It's almost time for the main event to begin. Last year I was in the building, this year I'm in my pajamas. My feet hurt a lot less this year, but it's not quite as exciting.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Deal Casino @ Bowery Electric NYC

Over the past two months, the buzz surrounding New Jersey’s Deal Casino has grown into a low roar. In December, they won several honors at the Asbury Park Music Awards including: Top Pop/Rock Band, Top Live Performance, and Top Male Vocalist. Then last week, named them one of 35 New Jersey Bands You Need to Hear in 2015. After spending the past year playing the Jersey shore/Philly circuit, Deal Casino made their New York City debut on a cold, winter night downtown at the Bowery Electric.

Opening the set with “Tomorrow,” a cut off their second EP, The Runaways, it is easy to see why Deal Casino has been working non-stop; the band is fierce. Not only do they rock it out, they do it with attitude and fearlessness. This night, much of the set list focused on their last two EPs, especially the newly released Heck. Listening to their progression from their first EP Cocaine Love, through The Runaways and now Heck, the songs and the band itself are constantly evolving. While love found and lost remains a pulsating theme, the stories told have become more complex and interesting.

For the full review, jump over to Deal Casino @ Bowery Electric NYC at OnStage Magazine.