Friday, January 30, 2015

Sayonara, Uzuhi!

We bid adieu to your sweet lovely ongaku!

United We Smile: Uzuhi's Final US Tour

"We are UZUHI! We play Music! We want to make you Happy!"

I am so glad that Amy Linthicum and I were able to say sayonara to NYC-based Japanese rock band Uzuhi ("oo-zoo-hee," the name means "sun" in Japanese) on their "United We Smile" Farewell US Tour, which stopped at Baltimore's Charm City Art Space (1731 Maryland Avenue) last night. The tour marks the end of Uzuhi's 10-year run playing music stateside with various lineups since forming in the Big Apple in the fall of 2004.

Uzuhi always take a picture of the audience at their shows; here's a shot showing the large turnout (pretty good for a Wednesday night!) at last night's gig, where they headlined a 4-band lineup that also included Dead End Lane, Clockbreaker, and The Street Parade:

Uzuhi singer Gosha took this photo of the audience at Charm City Art Space after their final Baltimore appearance on January 28, 2014

Singer Gosha (Takeyoshi Gosha Oba, a Curly Howard of Three Stooges clone) and keyboard-playing wife Tsubasa (Tsubasa Matsuda, who joined in 2007) had a baby and are returning to Tokyo on the "Island of Sushi" to carry on. Here's wishing them a great life back in Tokyo, where Tsubasa promises to keep making music while new dad Gosha will bring home the bacon (or sashimi) as a Salaryman.

Baby Uzuhi

As a musical concept, Uzuhi mixes punk-pop energy with unabashed sentimentality, a formula that successfully engages diverse and disparate people with its simple message: Smile, dance and be happy. It works - even the slam dancers last night were a respectful & happy lot. Uzuhi also believe that music has no borders, being able to transcend cultural and geographic differences to unite all people - especially young people who have not yet grown old and cynical (celebrated in songs like "This Is Our Generation" and "The Braves") - the world over with life's simple pleasures, which include love, dancing, eating, kids, and so on. Lyrically, their songs are not deep, but then a band that hopes for global appeal, regardless of language and beyond borders, must keep its message simple (as in their tune "S.O.S. - Simplicity of Satisfaction"). In a nutshell, that zeitgeist is "just do it," "go for it," "live your dream." As Gosha confided to the Charm City Art Space audience, he initially disappointed his father when  he told him he wanted to come to the US and be a "rock star." But, he added, he got to live his dream, playing countless American cities and meeting and connecting "with all you out there, and making you smile."

At their best, Uzuhi channel the anthemic punk energy of Japan's Blue Hearts and the J-Pop cuteness of a Puffy or Shonen Knife. Keyboardist Tsubasa Matsuda is the glue that holds together the band's sound (which they call "Positive Pop Punk" and "Japanese Energetic Punk Rock for This Generation"), one hand playing the melody while another works the bass lines that anchor the pop-punk beat. Not that the other players - drummer Yukiyoshi Kurata and blue-haired guitar shredder A-Key (Takaaki Ando, who also plays guitar in Shinsei and bass in Harlots Vice) - aren't aces on their respective instruments. The original drummer (Shu) and guitar player have long since departed (the drummer returned to his native Miyagi Prefecture in Japan following the Fukajima earthquake-tsunami disaster of 2011), with Tsubasa and Gosha remaining the core (and spirit) of the band.

Uzuhi keyboardist Tsubasa bonds with Amy Linthicum at Charm City Art Space

Gosha's voice will never be compared to Freddie Mercury's, but like the Queen frontman, he is a charismatic stage presence, one whose humor and joie de vivre cannot be denied. He's a fun and energetic guy, one who will suddenly jump off stage to dance with the crowd and grab fans to come onstage and sing with the band. As I said before, physically he reminds me of Curly Howard of Three Stooges fame (especially since he shaved off all his hair), frenetically scooting across the stage with whoops and hollers and always willing to play the clown. Resistance to Gosha's energy is futile. He's a force of positive vibes to be reckoned with!

Send in the Clowns: Me, Gosha & Chris Schatz @ Ottobar, September 2010

Tsubasa, Gosha & official mascot Peach Matsuda @ Sakura Matsuri festival

Amy loves what she calls Uzuhi's "broken but heartfelt English," as evidenced in song titles like "Sweet Lovely Chocolate Smile" and "Dear My Honki Friends." And new songs like "Kids Are the Future" from newbie parents Gosha and Tsubasa are almost embarrassingly innocent and wholesome for a band inspired by the Sex Pistols and punk rock - but then that's what makes these guys and gal so appealing. They are unabashedly positive and friendly in a jaded age of cynicism and irony. Or, as (half-Asian) Amy says, "It's a Japanese thing to be kinda corny about that sort of thing." (No wonder Japan is the land of kawaii, or saccharine-sweet "cuteness.")

Amy and I first discovered Uzuhi when they played the April 10, 2010 Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) in Washington, D.C.and have been fans ever since. We liked them so much, we caught them when they came to Baltimore for the first time (a great show with Peelander-Z) at the Ottobar in September 2010, as well as their return appearance at DC's 2011 Sakura Matsuri (alas, we missed them there in 2014 thanks to a bathroom malfunction!).

We will miss seeing Uzuhi, who leave behind two CDs worth checking out,  2008's self-titled Uzuhi (containing their best - and most complex - composition, "The Braves") and 2009's Ongaku (it means "music" in Japanese). Most of the set performed at Charm City Art Space came from Ongaku (theme song "Uzuhi," "This Is Our Generation," "S.O.S. - Simplicity of Satisfaction," "Pura Vida!," "Sweet Lovely Chocolate Smile").

Related Links:
Uzuhi @ 2010 Sakura Matsuri
Uzuhi @ 2011 Sakura Matsuri
Uzuhi/Peelander-Z @ Ottobar (a Flickr set)
Uzuhi on Facebook
Uzuhi on Bandcamp
Uzuhi on MySpace
Uzuhi on Twitter

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Of Chick, Coddies & Camaraderie

Reflections on Chick's Legendary Retirement Party
Saturday, January 17, 2015
The Ottobar

Chick Veditz went out with a bang at The Ottobar with help from The Yachtsmen, Chelsea Graveyard, Garage Sale & The Stents

Harry "Chick" Veditz's retirement party last Saturday night at The Ottobar was a textbook example of how to say goodbye to the working life with a BANG!, not a whimper. Four fantastic bands - The Yachtsmen, Chelsea Graveyard and The Screams at Midnight, Garage Sale, and The Stents - provided a rockin' musical backdrop to what was not just one man's farewell to the 9-to-5 rat race but a reunion of all his friends past, present - and future.

The Yachtsmen took Ottobar landlubbers on a smooth-sailing Sea Cruise

Chelsea Graveyard: Steptoe, Fernando and new guy Professor Henri Van Lingenfelder

Yes, in addition to all the old rockers (you know who you are!) in the audience who gathered to pay homage to the man who ran Chick's Legendary Records in its two Mount Washington locations between 1978-1992, there were some youngbloods (including a few 20something hipster chicks decked out in all their clubland finery - and I'm sure their red heels did not go unnoticed by Chelsea Graveyard frontman Steptoe T. Magnificent, author of the randy chestnut "Red Shoes") scattered throughout the teeming throng - and not just kids there with their parents (like Rachel Milstein, who lent her familial support to Chelsea Graveyard guitarist Stevie Squeegee).

From the balcony, Rachel Milstein kept a close watch on her dad (white shirt) in Chelsea Graveyard

There was a huge turnout for Chick's Retirement Party at The Ottobar

It was great to see a Who's Who of vintage local musicians, music fans, and music critics on hand for the festive occasion, including: Skunkpuppies bassist, the Outrageous Gyro J. Scope (aka Ed Barker), his little bro Ronnie Barker, George Wilcox, former City Paper scribes Michael Anft and Michael Yockel (Mr. Yockel having a "quiet" night out away from his Mr. Mom duties at home with his indefatigable twin baby boys, Castor & Pollux, er, I mean, Tex & Miner)...

Open Mike Night with Anft and Yockel

...yet another CP alumnus (and, like Chick, yet another record store alumnus) Jim Maher, Mindi Siegel (Buck Subtle & The Little Planets), Cindy Borchardt (The Beaters, The Monuments), Rod Misey (former WCVT-Towson U. New Wave DJ '77-'90, whose current WVUD-Delaware U. podcasts are essential listening) , honey-sweet award-winning Maryland apiatrix Beth Sherring (there to cheer on her hubby, new Chelsea Graveyard bassist Professor Henri Van Lingerfelder)...

Professor Henri Van Linglefelder prepares his notes for Chelsea Graveyard

...Sharon Rudolph, Mike & Gail Maxwell, and three-quarters of The Slickee Boys - Kim Kane, Marshall Keith, and (Yachtsmen bassist) Mark Noone - in attendance. It was strange to see former Slickee Boys vocalist Noone sharing vocals with the other Yachtsmen, but reassuring to see him belt out the Slickees classic "You Gotta Tell Me Why" (a highlight of an impressive set). The Yachtsmen's caps, blazers and khakis evoked the sartorial spirit of their inspiration, millionaire Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island, but the coup de grace of their show was the placement of two martini glasses on a barstool. Very swank, Yachtsmen!

The Yachtsmen: Maximum martini rock & roll

"A long long time ago The Slickee Boys played at Harry Chick Veditz's record store in Baltimore. It was a hot summer day. But just as we set up a thunderstorm rolled in. Most of the people that were there to see us ran for their cars and split. But we squeezed into the store wherever we could fit. A few people stayed around to see us and peruse the records. Even with the rain it was still hot. But a fun memory." - Marshall Keith

Mark Noone of The Yachtsmen

Chick knows all too well the unifying power of rock & roll, regardless of era. Besides paying homage to his fave bands of the past - The Yachtsmen being a trio featuring Mark Noone of Chick's all-time favorite retro-psych-garage rockers, The Slickee Boys, and Chelsea Graveyard being an oldies hit parade of various Dave Wilcox-led Marble Bar ensembles (Poobah, Rockhard Peter, The Alcoholics, Problem Pets) over the years -  Chick has never closed his lobes to new exciting sounds around town. Case in point, Chick has only recently discovered and become a devoted fan of groups like Garage Sale and The Stents.

Garage Sale

The Stents

I only regret that I could only stay to catch The Yachtsmen (who, in addition to having great outfits, are great musicians to boot!)  and Chelsea Graveyard (who never sounded better!), missing Garage Sale (who have now been performing for - gasp!- 20 years!) and The Stents because my beloved Amy had to get up for work the next day. (Oh well, we will catch The Stents when they strike next, with The Idle Gossip, February 7 at Stoneleigh Duckpin Lanes in Rodgers Forge.)

Oy to the world! Suburban House Deli's menu includes a Basic Yiddish Dictionary

But Chick has also discovered the great unifying power of "Coddies," the codfish and potato delicacy (served on saltine crackers with a mustard topping - and often without any codfish!) that was a  common after-school snack in 1950s and 1960s Baltimore. They were easily the highlight of the food spread - catered by Suburban House Deli - on offer Saturday night, even spurring Chick to suggest that The Coddies would make an excellent band name. I heartily concur!

Coddies, crackers and mustard!

As Chick posted on Facebook the next day:
"Once again The Coddies were the #1 food item people were talking about. Some new band should call themselves The Coddies - then again, maybe not." - Chick Veditz
 Watch the Levy brothers reminisce about eating coddies below:

Baltimore brothers remember coddies from American Food Roots on Vimeo.

 Chick continued his shout-out thanks to attendees and performers alike:
And of course; the four bands- The Yachtsmen, Chelsea Graveyard and the Screams at Midnight, Garage Sale, and The Stents- you all were incredible. You all gained a lot of new fans. I can't thank everyone enough. For those of you who had to leave and could not see The Stents, they will be Playing at the Stoneleigh Bowling Lanes on Saturday February 7th with the Idle Gossip opening. Some rock and bowl. I will be there so come on out. - Chick Veditz

Bowling with Stents is good for your health!

Besides Chick's retirement from work and strife, it was also a night that saw Dave "Dr. D" Zidek retire from his 10-year tour of duty with Chelsea Graveyard. Dr. D handed the four-stringed reigns over to Professor Henri Van Lingerfelder at the close of Chelsea Graveyard's set, as the Z-man is now set to gig full-time with The Harlan County Kings.

Chelsea Graveyard bid adieu to bassist Dave Zidek (far right)

Dave Zidek: "Hey, now that I'm retired, I can watch Chelsea Graveyard from the audience!"

Head bowed, a vaclempt Steptoe reflects on Dave Zidek's departure from Chelsea Graveyard

Chick not only provided a night of free booze, food and music, but also dished out custom t-shirts to the performers.

"If any of you are wondering who made the two T-shirts shown in other posts they were done by Adam Turkel of Altamont Records. He is based in Florida but is from Pikesville. The first party shirt was loosely designed by me and then Adam did his artistic magic and you see how it turned out. It was 90% Adam and 10% me if that. - Chick Veditz

Adam Turkel-designed t-shirt commemorating Chick's August 31, 2014 Ottobar party

The other shirt was from a poster from that show that was on the Stents site. I really like it so I had some made for The Stents and Garage Sale.

Chick gave The Stents and Garage Sale got t-shirts of this classic poster

Go on the Altamont web site and you can see all the great items they have. Adam started  hanging out at my stored when he was about 10 and was working for me when he was in high school. Besides being a great artist he is a really good musician as well and is in a band down in Florida. Thanks for the great shirts Adam; everyone loved them" -ChickVeditz

(FYI, besides his Chick's Legendary Records and t-shirt design connection, Adam Turkel used to play in the local band The Beatings. Check out his '90s Baltimore rock days recollections in the Sleazegrinder book Gigs From Hell: True Stories from Rock and Roll’s Frontline.)

Stents buttons: "Bargain-priced Beauties"!

And speaking of those Stents posters, they are truly awesome. I don't know who their designer is (perhaps bassist Scott Sugiuchi, he of Hidden Volume Records), but everything they produce - be it buttons, 45 rpm record sleeves, stickers, whatever - is hip from toe to tip! I'd buy their records even if I didn't like the music, just for the art and design. The influence of vintage retro clip art and the design aesthetics of record labels like Norton, Estrus and Blue (labels where everything from the design to the recording was/is part of the whole package) is unmistakeable. And that's another thing they share with the like-minded power-garage-surf-pop & sounds-that-jangle souls in Garage Sale, whose guitarist Alex Fine is responsible for some of the "Finest" graphic designs in the Land of Pleasant Living (and drummer Skizz Cyzyk is no slouch either when it comes to boss fliers).

"Maximum Rock & Bowl!": Yet another collectable Stents poster

Thanks again to Chick, his lovely wife Arlene (who tirelessly runs around greeting everyone and making sure everything runs smoothly), and everyone who made his retirement party a blast! But the last word must, by rights, go to Chick himself - the man of the moment who made the occasion so special:
Once again THANK YOU< THANK YOU< THANK YOU to everyone involved who made the party such a good time and a success-especially the weather."-Chick Veditz

Related Links:
Chick's Legendary Retirement Party (Flickr set)

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chick Calls It Quits, Heads Home To Roost

Chick's Legendary Retirement Party 
Saturday, January 17, 2015
The Ottobar
2549 N. Howard Street

Chick's Legendary Retirement Party (flier by David Wilcox)

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Harry "Chick" Veditz - ertswhile owner of Chick’s Legendary Records on Sulgrave Avenue in Mount Washington Village back in the day; longtime City of Baltimore and State of Maryland employee; and indefatigable collector of, well, everything  - is once again hosting a party for friends, co-workers, and legendary local musicians at The Ottobar in North Baltimore.

"This Chick is coming home to roost, baby!"

Last August, Chick threw a big bash (food, drinks, music!) at the Ottobar just to catch up with past, present and future friends and to feature three of his favorite local troubadours: Garage Sale, Chelsea Graveyard, and The Stents. That "Chicks-a-palooza" throw-down was such a success that Chick decided to hit the replay button and celebrate his official retirement this year from the 9-to-5 grind of gainful employment with those three groups at a Ring-in-the-New Year party this Saturday night. But the highlight of the evening may well be the addition of a fourth ensemble, Washington, DC's The Yachtsmen, whose line-up includes the charismatic and sartorially resplendent Mark Noone.

The former Slickee Boy singer has been in various bands over the years (The Wanktones, The Wranglers, The Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, Hula Monsters) but his latest group finally lets him act out his fantasy alter ego of millionaire Thurston Howell III from Gilligans Island while plucking away on bass guitar as well. His shipmates include Joel App and John Penovich, and like Noone, they are inspired by all able-bodied seamen, from Jack Kennedy to The Love Boat's Captain Stubing.

Thurston Howell III: A Well-respected Man About Yacht

I haven't been this excited about hearing some sea-faring rock & roll since the maiden voyage of Towson's Little Toot & The Boatniks back in the early '80s!

Watch The Yachtsmen play "You Gotta Tell Me Why" (Surf Club, 7-16-2011)

The retirement party is Chick's way of saying thank you to his family, friends, every customer over the years, and the bands. His sage advice to those he knows is always simple and true to his (vinyl at) heart: "Support local music and go play a record!"

Related Links:
The 2014Chicks-a-palooza Party (Baltimore Or Less)

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