Tag Archives: blues

Live, loud and underground

I have to admit I don’t go to concerts as often as I used to (or would like to, for that matter). But lately I’ve been trying to get back in touch with Amsterdam’s vibrant music scene. I’m not talking big names or venues here, but mostly intimate gigs of lesser-known local bands.

One such case is the blues/garage rock duo The Shady Greys. As both their name and songs suggest, their ‘grey’ sound lies somewhere in between The Black Keys and The White Stripes, marked by fuzzy guitar riffs and the use of the cajón.

I recently had the chance to meet and jam with them during a late night session in one of the city’s blues bars. In that same session I also bumped into a musician friend I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I was glad to hear that he’s busy doing gigs and playing guitar for The Crowns, an Amsterdam-based rock group built on the “foundations of Dutch liberty & freedom.”

More on the psychedelic side of things, The Full Wonka is another local band whose atmospheric, experimental sound produces a hypnotizing effect. Watching them live and listening to their tunes brings to mind bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Velvet Underground.

Only a fragment of Amsterdam’s alternative rock music scene, these bands nevertheless capture most of its essential qualities: energy, enthusiasm, spontaneity and -perhaps most importantly- genuine expression of feeling coupled with lots of fun.

Ray(s) of genius

Pondering on the special relationship between music and colors I remembered an interview of Ray Charles for Rolling Stone (published in 1973),  where he speaks -among other things- about his loss of sight, his memories of colors, the notion of beauty and, of course, music. Below are some excerpts offering us an insight into the personal universe of this truly unique artist:

“Each day for two years my sight was less and less. (…) I guess I was too small to really care that much. I knew there were things I liked to watch. I used to love to look at the sun. (…) I used to love to look at the moon at night. I would go out in the backyard and stare at it. It just fascinated the hell out of me.”

Ray Charles“And there were colors. I was crazy about red. Always thought it was a beautiful color.”

“And naturally I remember my mother, who was pretty. God, she was pretty. (…) To me [physical] beauty is probably about the same thing that it means to most people. You look at them and the structure of their face, the way their skin is, and say like, a woman, the contour of her body, you know what I mean?”

“I guess you could call me a sentimentalist, man, really. I like Chopin or Sibelius. People who write softness, you know, and although Beethoven to me was quite heavy, he wrote some really touching songs, and I think that Moonlight Sonata -in spite of the fact that it wound up being very popular- it’s somethin’ about that, man, you could just feel the pain that this man was going through.”

“Gospel and the blues are really, if you break it down, almost the same thing. It’s just a question of whether you’re talkin’ about a woman or God.”

In the track that follows, you can listen to excerpts from a conversation between Ray Charles and Dick Cavett that took place in June 1972.  Ray’s astonishing response when asked if he would welcome the prospect of having his sight restored (assuming such an option was available) is both  incredibly sincere and extremely topical…