Malcolm Holcombe at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck – July 12, 2016

holcombe1For over 2 decades and 10-plus albums, Malcolm Holcombe has treaded right on the cusp of notoriety and infamy.

One of my favorite quotes on Holcombe has always come from Steve Earle, who said he was “the best songwriter I ever threw out of my studio.” That follows the intensity and controlled chaos that is a Malcolm Holcombe set.

The years have seen less unpredictability from Holcombe. He rarely rocks his chair to points where most people would lose their balance and crash into the floor. He also no longer wanders the stage during songs while singing bent over the mic with the back to his audience. However, he maintains an intensity that would leave an audience of punk rockers in awe. There is not a moment Holcombe does not seem to be pouring himself out on stage through songs or meandering stories that seems like nonsense until the song joins it.

With a new album, Another Black Hole, out in the world for consumption, Holcombe rolled through Houston for his second stop at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck. Sensing he was in classier quarters than usual, Holcombe held back most of his colorful language and stories for the latter half of the set, when he found a rapport with the audience and a sense of comfort.

The first thing one notices at a show by Holcombe is the extraordinary amount of sound coming from the small, fragile looking man that walks on stage and his acoustic guitar. Once he throws his hat to the ground and begins his fingerpicking, any thought of fragility disappears. He beats notes out of the guitar, frails all 5 fingers across the strings to bring percussion, lead and rhythm all out at once. A stare that looks nothing short of crazed and haunted comes across his face, then the stories begin.

holcombe2The music comes from a breadth of experiences. There are reflective songs like his opener for the past few tours, Mountains of Home, and downright bitter songs lamenting the average man being left on his own like the upbeat Papermill Man or the slower Savannah Blues .

The songs rolled forth for a little over an hour before Holcombe exited the stage to calls for an encore. As he ducked outside, pulling his pack of cigarettes from the pocket on his t-shirt, the cries carried on for a few more songs. Then, as people began to give up, Holcombe’s cigarette must have burned to its final drag as he came through the front door to finish out the show with a 1-2 punch of The Music Plays On and A Far Cry From Here.

If you’ve never heard Malcolm Holcombe, be sure to get that changed up real soon. He’s not getting younger, his cigarette intake is forever unwavering and the road keeps calling him out on it. Don’t miss your opportunity to see this man up-close and personal.

For more information, check out his website:


Caleb Caudle, Porter and John Calvin Abney @ Club 603

Caleb Caudle at Club 603
Caleb Caudle at Club 603

Living in Baltimore there sadly hasn’t been a good venue to see acoustic that was worth bands playing so most of those shows went to DC or skipped our area as a whole. Enter Club 603 which is actually a house venue that’s been putting on shows since at least 2013 and with appearances from bands like Centromatic, John Moreland and Mike Doughty you can tell it’s not your average house show. I discovered the place when Will Johnson was playing there and finally went to my first show there last year to see John Moreland. The furniture is moved out of the living room, a bunch of chairs are moved in and with that the room can hold 50-60 people depending on the band’s setup which makes for a perfect setup for acoustic performances.

John Calvin Abney was the first to play on this night and since I knew absolutely nothing about him I was glad I got there just in time for him to begin. The crowds at these shows are interesting because they’re a mix of people that know about one or more of the artists and are there to see them, or it’s one of a dedicated group that comes to shows here trusting that they always book acts worth hearing. John’s set was full of what I tend to identify as Texas storyteller songs even though he is in fact from Oklahoma but either way one song in I knew I was buying his record as soon as this show was over. I talked to John after the show only to find out that he’d not only played on John Moreland and Samantha Crain’s records but that i’d seen him play with Crain in DC previously. His solo record Better Luck, which Moreland plays on, is just as great as his set was so give it a listen.

Porter and John Calvin Abney at Club 603
Porter and John Calvin Abney at Club 603
Up next was Porter who I hadn’t seen since his days as Some Dark Holler but I’ve enjoyed his new solo record, that Will Johnson produced, This Red Mountain since its release earlier this year. His set included songs from that record and new songs as well as some from previous projects like The Back Row Baptists which all flowed great together and were very well received by the crowd that was largely new to him. He then brought up John for a few songs and we were treated to some of their tour stories from his Natural Disaster run including a sleeping pill and ibuprofen mishap that resulted in a perilous drive to the next stop. The songs they played together were fantastic and left me wanted to see them together again.

Closing out the night was North Carolina’s Caleb Caudle who had previously played this venue in January so most of the audience was at least familiar with him. He started off with some songs from last years record Paint Another Layer on My Heart which it was obvious the crowd new well and loved. We were then treated to a mix of new songs off his forthcoming record as well as more songs from the previous two records. This room is dead quiet and with hardwood floors a voice like Caleb’s just fills up the place beautifully. It’s a rare treat to be able to sit/stand and listen to songs like these without the artist fighting to overcome some sort of crowd noise. I’m looking forward to all of these guys next stop through Club 603.



21 flips

I’m gonna come right out and say it: I hate music festivals. I hate that they’re always in the middle of the fucking summer. I hate the bugs. I hate the sweat. I hate the direct sun and lack of ample shade. I hate the shitty food and beverage choices. I hate the set times and the oft-lacking-in-quality lineups, and, last but not least, I hate the wannabe everybodies that inevitably populate every single inch of the festival grounds to the point WHERE I JUST CAN’T FUCKING GET AWAY.

That being said, I really enjoyed last weekend’s Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa. Other than the nasty sunburn I acquired on my neck (gingers, man) and the lack of hard cider options (Celiacs, man), GMF shone in almost every aspect. I was impressed by the lineup, in that there were actually more than two bands I wanted to see, AND that I discovered new music I ended up liking (Atlantic OceansSwimm, and Good Graeff). I especially love that it’s held in March, pre-intense Florida sun and humidity (the sunburn was completely my fault – forgot the SPF, sigh), and that the food options were aplenty, varied, often fancy, and reasonably priced. It also didn’t hurt, from a whiskey lover’s point of view, that George Dickel Tennessee Whisky was there.

All the locals (I’m new in town) told me that GMF doesn’t “feel” like a typical festival, and the natural skeptic in me just didn’t want to believe them. However, I gave it a shot, and not only was the crowd great, but the lineup was fantastic (Flaming LipsJason IsbellMatt WoodsJ Roddy Walston & The BusinessHave Gun, Will TravelThose Darlins, and Benjamin Booker, to name a few). I was pretty happy to be proven wrong. Tampa should be damn proud.

Official photos below courtesy of Drunk Camera Guy. Unofficial photos courtesy of my drunk ass.