It was a sweltering Independence Day weekend a week ago here in the southern US and isn’t much different this week. But one thing that’s great about living here – besides air-conditioning and sweet tea – is the musical creativity of our community. Among the great things I did last weekend was go listen to indie music god, Peter Holsapple, in the first of his weekly shows-in-residence at Motorco Music Hall in Durham, NC.
Peter will be playing Bloody Brunch (so named for the Bloody Marys being served) at 1 pm each Sunday in July in a free show. Here’s a description at the Motorco website. Grayson Currin of The Independent Weekly also has a nice interview with Peter to launch this series.
This week, Peter played until 3 pm this past Sunday and I reveled in his musical prowess from 15 feet away on one of the sofas in front of the stage. Scroll to the end of this post to see my video of him performing “She Was The One” from Mavericks, his 1991 album with long-time mate, Chris Stamey.
Why I idolize Peter
Yes, yes, there is great music everywhere but there seems to be something special in my college age-group (1980s) that came out of the southern US indie music scene. R.E.M. comes to mind for most internationally, maybe Ben Folds Five for the 1990s gang. But my move to the South in 1985 for doctoral work in pharmacology was associated with bands like The dB’s, Let’s Active, Love Tractor, The Vulgar Boatmen, The Silos, and The Connells. Some of these “southern” bands were actually formed in the north/northeastern US, but the real guitars, not-so-perfect voices, and a willingness to incorporate folk instruments like mandolin, fiddle, and banjo represented the increasingly hip southern creative scene that I’ve grown to love.
If you don’t know Peter Holsapple by name, even young folks are likely to know that he played for a time with both R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish. (Here is his ReverbNation site.) But it was Peter’s unmistakeable voice and songwriting on The dB’s 1984 album, Like This, that seared his talent into my cranium. Tight, melodic songs like “Love is for Lovers,” “A Spy in the House of Love,” and an early song-for-the-dumped, “Amplifier,” are only a couple of the standouts from that album.
Here’s the old video for “Amplifier” – definitely worth a look despite the low levels on the audio:
And here’s one for “Neverland,” with stills from the video taken for the cover shots of Like This.
The dB’s, in my humble opinion, should have been as big as R.E.M. In fact, I even thought that back in 1984 when I saw both bands at Philadelphia’s Tower Theatre on the last night of the US tour in support of Fables of the Reconstruction. Fables was the cassette tape (yes, cassette) that became the daily play on my Walkman (yes, Walkman) during my 20-minute walk to and from lab during first year of graduate school at the University of Florida.
I’ll only scratch the surface when I speak of Peter’s work since. He toured with R.E.M. after Green and playing on several R.E.M. songs from Out of Time such as “Losing My Religion” (and reported in Marcus Gray’s It Crawled from the South as doing some songwriting but not receiving credit). Then there was the touring gig with Hootie & The Blowfish before frontman Darius Rucker went on to even greater fame as a country artist.
In 1991 Peter teamed up with his boyhood friend and dB’s compatriot, Chris Stamey, to record Mavericks and again in 2009 for hERE and nOW. In between was a stint in the Continental Drifters with then wife, Susan Cowsill, former Bangles Vicki Peterson, and a slew of other noteworthy musicians. I absolutely love the Drifters, especially their 1998 album, Vermillion.
But to me, Peter is at his best with Chris. Stamey is an accomplished producer with a an audio production facility, Modern Recording, here in nearby Chapel Hill, NC. I suspect – but am not certain – that Chris being here might be one reason that Holsapple relocated to Durham from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
One of my favorite songs from Mavericks is “She Was the One.” On the record, it’s played with a 12-string guitar and features a typically lush production by Chris Stamey. With Peter’s permission, here’s my video of his solo six-string version this past Sunday.
And thanks again, Peter, for indulging me with “Love Is For Lovers” despite your being worried it’s a tough one to pull off solo. Judging from the response of the crowd, it was stellar.
Peter Holsapple will be in residence on Sundays at 1 pm during the month of July at Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee St., Durham, NC. KoKyu food truck will be there serving up Korean-inspired international BBQ. (The Duck Fat Tater Tots and accompanying sauce were phenomenal.) Last week also had The Parlour mobile ice cream truck and Don’s Classic Ices. You’ll find me on one of the sofas at the front of the hall.
And eternal thanks to my grad school compatriot, Dr. Don Roger Marckel, for turning me on to The dB’s during another steaming summer in north Florida almost 26 years ago.