When we last left White Summer, drummer-vocalist James Watkins, bassist Paul Stuckey and guitarist Jimmy Schrader were barreling through the collected works of Creedence and Jimi, Pink Floyd and ZZ Top, among others, as part of their latest "last next" reunion show. With "Comfortably Numb" rounding out the first set, the natural question arises: what'll the boys cook up, once they make it back from break?
The answer flies thick and fast, with a double-time romp through "Crossroads," the Robert Johnson remake that graced Cream's third album, Wheels Of Fire (1968). It takes a power trio to bring something from rock's original power trio alive, allowing plenty of room for Schrader's paint-peeling guitar flourishes, and Watkins to bring his own muscular brand of Ginger Baker- and Mitch Mitchell-isms to the fore.
How do you follow that, exactly? By radically shifting down the gearbox a notch, to "Time," a keynote from Pink Floyd's conceptual blockbuster, Dark Side Of The Moon (1973). (The world's longest-charting album reappeared in 2009, and has racked up an additional 900 weeks to a 15-year/741-week run that ended in 1988 -- what, nobody checked with San Marino, and Yemen? But seriously...) David Gilmour's guitar solo ranks among rock's most familiar, and oft-quoted, yet Schrader pulls off the tricky task of matching its original hefty Stratocaster bite, while finding for a few of his own flourishes.
But it doesn't take long for the mood to get rowdy again, as the massed dance floor rally ignited by "Gimme All Your Lovin'" suggests. Then, without skipping a beat, it's off to further barn burning pastures with "Roadhouse Blues" -- with Watkins stepping out from behind the kit, to deliver the Doors' famous opening command ("Oh, keep your eyes on the road, and your hands upon the wheel" -- ah, if only Jim Morrison's tipple of choice had been Hawaiian punch? The possibilities are endless.) This option allows his son, Adam, to ably fill in the percussive blanks, while Stuckey keeps the beat moving at his respective station.
That configuration holds true for a storming version of "Hard To Handle," done Black Crowes-style -- their 1990 version surely ranks among the best known of the many, many takes on Otis Redding's soul crusher -- and it's fair to say the energy here doesn't let up an ounce.
But, with Lisa getting tired, that's where we must leave this year's reunion writeup, having compromised on the point of our exit. But we're still feeling plenty of the energy ourselves, as you'll see in our post-concert conversation, in which we cover the play-by-play via guitars and drums (as opposed to, "Should they have run or passed?", on whatever down we blinked and missed). Time will tell how the "next last dance" pans out, but if it's not so...well, it's fair to say that the road to a good night out next year runs through Hidden Pointe.
CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): All, we're coming out of the White Summer show, here at Hidden Pointe. Lisa's fresh from her first experience of hearing White Summer live: what did you think?
LISA D. QUINLAN (LDQ): Oh, I liked them a lot. Cover bands are usually just so-so, but they pretty good.
CR: Okay. Well, what lifts them above the standard issue cover band?
LDQ: I don't know, they had a lot of energy. The music was pretty good, the singing was more powerful, they kept to the notes better. I've heard cover bands screw up music, but I only see so many (laughs). I've only seen a few.
CR: You know how they screw things up? A lot of them pick songs they like, but can't really sing.
LDQ:Yeah, that's what I'm saying. These people, I could tell, picked songs that they could sing, and keep the notes on, so...
CR: Of course, Jimmy Schrader, plenty of liveliness there -- he sounds like a white Hendrix, at times.
LDQ: Yeah, he was pretty good. I always like it when bands cover Pink Floyd. They're not the easiest songs to play, but if people can pull them off, that's a good sign. I liked their versions of the Floyd songs, and the ZZ Top songs. I used to listen to ZZ Top in the '80s, so that brought back memories. That's going way back, on that: I know some people still listen to them, even.
CR: What other songs did you like?
LDQ: The Lynyrd Skynyrd song was all right. I'm not as much versed on classic rock. I knew some basic classic rock. I've always been a Pink Floyd fan, and I really was into ZZ Top. I'm less familiar with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a couple other songs they played, but recognized them from the radio.
CR: Any other high points for you?
LDQ: No, they were pretty good. It sounded like they stuck mostly to the '70s, maybe the early '80s. Pushing to the later '80s, I think, would be an experiment, but I think they had a pretty good overview of the '70s and early '80s.
CR: At their peak, they had 1,000 songs on their list...
LDQ: Wow, that's a lot! That would be cool, to know that many songs. That's even more than people could do in karaoke (laughs).
CR: Yeah, well ,it'd be a test of your memory, for sure.
LDQ: So, no, it's good to see some real bands here, every now and then, even though we live in a small town. We didn't have to go to Chicago to see them.
LDQ: I (also) saw the Five Emprees a couple times. I'm hearing impaired, so music's a different kind of phenomenon for me.
CR: It's good to see you embracing it again.
LDQ: Yeah, I can hear just enough to get the basics out of a song, but some parts are probably missing, even with the hearing aids.
CR: Well, why do people gravitate to music in the first place? Because it's one of the things that helps keep us human.
LDQ: Oh, yeah, that's true. I always liked music, you know that. It's one of the major arts for a reason.