Blues Traveler
Live with Samantha Stollenwerck

At the House of Blues Anaheim
(Saturday, July 07, 2007)

Suck it in, Suck it in, Suck it in!Suck it in, Suck it in, Suck it in! Suck it in, Suck it in, Suck it in!Suck it in, Suck it in, Suck it in!

Not to mention Michelle and J.C.

Blue Side of the TRAVELERs!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

More adventurous than "Spring into Action", funnier than "Winter of Wit", stranger than "Operation: Sci-Fall" and in many cases, more frightening than "Summer of Horror" has been the most enduring and exciting of mainstays has been... THE ADVENTURES OF Michelle AND J.C.!!! Six words that entrance readers, frighten bartenders, shock onlookers and thrill merchandise counter folks, the Adventures of Michelle and J.C. have been... shall we say... due for a comeback?
The Ticket Brings you BACK!!! 

Leave it to Blues Traveler because "The Hook" brought us back to the House of Blues Anaheim... Yes, under the Monorail and through the Crowds to Jake and Elwood's house we went! Telling Tortilla Jo's to suck it (a lime, that is), Michelle and I hit Ralph Brennan's place for some faux-authentic Loozianner grub, which included (have we met?) a big ass bottle of wine.

By the time we staggered around the fountains to the front door our pre-purchased (from EBAY, no less) tickets already in hand, the line was packed with people, and we were sure to have a wait ahead of us. And thanks to Sweet Mistress Cabernet Sauvignon... we just didn't give a fuque!

"Okay, you behave this time!", slurred Michelle.

"What?" slurred I.

"You pu-..." she hiccupped and turned to the bouncer and said "He threw up last time we were here and-"

"Whoa, no! No, that's not-"

"And he got thrown out!"

"What? No! No! That was- I did not!"

"Did so." Then back to the bouncer, "He did, you know. Right on the floor. Threw him out!"

"Wrong! Don't tell him that!"

"What, you're saying you didn't puke on the floor here?"

"Well, yeah, I did!" I paused. "But that wasn't last time we were here! That was almost a year ago."

Suddenly a look of mixed shock and recognition entered the security guard's face. Clearly I'll never live down September 2006's Etta James concert. He stuttered out a thinly veiled warning "Tha-that's okay... it happens... but we do what we have to do when it does."

"Hey, you guys let me back in!"

"Because of me!" Michelle added.

Clearly we hadn't had enough to drink yet, so to the bar we went... for Margaritas. Man... it was like we were just doing a strip tease in front of Fate.

After boggarting "OUR SPOT" (we've beaten people up for attempting to claim it), we continued with our two-person stand-up routine until the opening act graced the stage. The show was good, and not just because the singer was lookin' pretty good. Like a Bizarro World version of "The White Stripes", the band consisted of a female singer on acoustic guitar and a male drummer with a Mohawk. But in spite of the obvious comparisons she might incur, you can't accuse Samantha Stollenwerck of any stolen work. Samantha (who introduced herself with her first name, describing her last name as "it's... it's long") really took control of the acoustic six string that hung just about waist high. Her music ranged from the "Lilith Fair"-reminiscent Folk voice to a stronger riotous voice to, at times, out and out punk (albeit punk on an acoustic guitar). Her drummer was no slouch either, doubling on guitar and tripling on vocals when needed (often while still keeping the bass and high hat rhythm with his feet). Samantha certainly had a way with speaking to the crowd, and kept us entertained (and, truly, interested in checking out with her interesting and diverse progressions and very fine voice. However, it was almost impossible to discern just what she was singing about while she was gracing that stage. Either due to a wanting sound mix, bad acoustics or just plain need for polish, I wanted to hear what Samantha had to say (I certainly liked the way she was singing it) but I couldn't tell you what it was. I'll chalk that up to a one-night thing... I could certainly stand to see her again. YYY1/2

Approaching the ATM Machine with the Merch Table in mind (because, you know, drink and ye shall buy), I saw that the screen showed a "Windows" symbol with the burnt orange lettering that read "It is now safe to turn off your computer." That told me two things 1) The ATM Machine was broken, and 2) This was no big surprise as it was running Windows! Thanks, Bill... Now I gotta run through Downtown Disney to...

Oh... wait... Thanks, Bill, now I get to run through Downtown Disney to another ATM Machine. You're a real Prince, there, Gatey-boy! Cash in hand was always a good thing (see last year's Long Beach Blues Fest for what happens when you don't bring Cash to a concert with Michelle. Luckily, when I returned she was holding yet another Margarita for me. Is it any wonder I'm Robin to her Batgirl? None.

There's also little question why both Robin and Batgirl are fans of Blues Traveler (meaning us... though I'm sure that Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon each have a worn copy of Four in their collections). The darkened stage lit up when the boys from New Jersey stopped giving us the Run-Around and graced us with their presence. Ben Wilson took the keys, Brendan Hill beat them skins in time with Tad Kinchla on four string (often many more than four) and Tad's big brother Chinchilla (oh, wait, no, that's Chan Kinchla) on guitar. But the Pop Lineup wasn't complete without the voice and harmonica of one John Popper.

Popper brought with him a little less hair and a lot less weight than the days when Blues Traveler were the darlings of the FM Top 40, but he also brought with him the cool mix of Jam Blues and Alternative Rock that gave them that darling status in the first place. Blues Traveler rocked the joint with enough power to keep us all wide-eyed (which is no small task considering the fact that HOBA doesn't water down their drinks) and an experimental bend that would have worked beautifully in the 1970s.

Their hit "Run-Around" was given an almost verbatim performance, keeping each one of us singing along and bouncing to the familiar rhythms that kept the blues light (no Counting Crows-esque surrogate band here), but this tune was virtually the only verbatim treatment we got.

Blues Traveler has been around for twenty years now (it's hard for me to believe that 1987 was 20 years ago... okay, I'm old). Because of this, many of their best known songs have been twisted and revamped in completely different, yet far from "blasphemous" ways. For example, "Hook", the song that got me into them, has gone from a poppy catchy fast song to a slowed down cool blues number that mellows its way through its Pachelbel Canon structure all the way up to Popper's Scat/ Rap that brings the song to a fitting close. Even with the tempo change, Popper can still twist the tongues of the audience just dying to sing along. The same treatment went out to several of their songs... Different, but the same. Innovated, not obliterated.

The musicianship here was fantastic. Each piece felt well rehearsed, yet still original and daring, never failing to experiment. Often Blues Traveler felt like one of those classic Jazz Bands in which each part plays its own solo, and the rest of the ensemble had just better keep up or get the hell out of the way. Popper himself sounded incredible. The great voice graced the tracks beautifully and when required he kicked ass on his guitar quite well, while the Harmonica...

Well, let's talk about the Harmonica. It's hard to say just what it takes to gain "Virtuoso" status on the harmonica, but "Virtuoso" is indeed the word that is most commonly applied to John's playing. John Popper's stage set up included a electrical tape-heavy microphone that he used only for his Harmonica playing. He had Harmonicas on his belts and suspenders, harmonicas on his signature hat and a case of Harmonicas on a stool right next to him as he jammed. For a quick change, Popper would alternate Harmonicas, holding more than one at a time (along with the microphone) when needed and still managing to sing into his alternate Mic without missing a beat. And when John was done with a Harmonica... into the crowd it would pop.

That's his showmanship. His playing truly was fantastic.

Harmonicas look like they're a lot easier to play than they are. What's so hard about blowing into a lil' closed comb, after all? As a Harmonica player myself, I can say... el-wrongo! The instrument is played with the mouth and tongue selecting and closing off reeds, while the hands flutter in a complicated actuation of sound. The technical side of this only serves to exemplify how amazing it is to hear someone like John Popper make that tiny instrument sing in a varied range that grabbed the spotlight with every solo or support measure. Bravo! YYYY

There were a few moments during which Blues Traveler didn't seem to maintain the audience's entrancement, which simply added up to more tips for the bartenders during those moments. I know that the Clan Michelle and I certainly raged against the dying of the last call a few million times ourselves. After that final encore, it was back up to the merchandise booth for what would prove to be the beginning of one of the more hilarious moments since... uh, the last adventure of Michelle and J.C. Let's just say this... it's not every band who counts among its souvenirs a pink pair of Thong Panties with the words "Good Kitty" on them. Damn, man. I gotta get my band back together.

Four collective Stars out of Five for Blues Traveler and Samantha Stollenwerck's SevenSevenSevenly show at the House of Blues, Anaheim. One trip to Denny's, then Michelle's house, then back to Denny's, then past a HazMat accident, then home, and that's just one more adventure under the belt. We do have fun don't we. But we vowed never to return to the House of Blues. Never.

I'm just bullshittin' ya. We were there six days later for Pat Benatar! Read that review next. See you in the next reel!

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Blues Traveler Live with Samantha Stollenwerck (7/7/7)
Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
who is solely responsible for the content of this site
but only half responsible for the fact that some of the funniest aspects of The Adventures of Michelle and J.C. are the parts I don't print here.
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