The passage of time is both a beautiful and scary thing. Beautiful, in that it stops, while you're soaking up whatever experience is keeping you diverted at that particular moment; scary, because once that moment is done hanging in the air, and disappears into our memory banks, it's a reminder of how we've grown a little bit older with family members and friends, right alongside our favorite bands, books, cartoon shows, films, TV shows, you name it. Another hour or so older, another 12 months away from sweet 16 on the calendar, like or not.
So it is with White Summer, that charter member of Berrien County's musical legends, who just missed the brass ring, but remain forever imprinted on its musical culture, periodically regrouping for another show or two, for the faithful and the newcomers to the party alike. Tonight marks the latest chapter in that mission, with an encore show from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. tonight at the DANK, 2651 Pipestone Road, Benton Harbor, MI (also known as "The House of Gemutlichkeit," for those in the know).
The band will return, anchored by drummer-singer-co-founder Jimmy Watkins, along with Rick Lowe Sr. (guitar, vocals); his wife, Edie (bass/vocals); and son Matt (lead guitar), who'll put their stamp on the usual eclectic list of songs, bringing them alive in ways that their creators probably never contemplated, in ways that the audience surely won't forget.
Tonight's song list, according to the band's Facebook page, features numbers from Jimi Hendrix, Lyrnyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company, Bob Seger, Journey, Eagles, ZZ Top, Def Leppard, The Police, Heart, Foghat, Eddie Money, Black Crowes, Robin Trower, Stone Temple Pilots, CCR, Collective Soul, Fleetwood Mac, John Mellencamp, Martina McBride, The Band Perry, Tommy Tutone, Joe Walsh, and Ursa Major.
This show marks the second in a whole new era for White Summer, following the death of lead guitarist Jimmy "The King" Schrader, at 65, in February 2019, in Orlando, FL. Schrader's biting, aggressive style -- one bearing a strong dose of Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others -- pushed and pulled the various reunion shows that I've chronicled here, for the last decade or so, to beautiful peaks of inspiration. His presence always guaranteed that the energy levels would stay up, both onstage, and in the audience.
The new era began last fall, on 11/30/19, with an opening set from Second Chance, the Lowe family's acoustic band -- and then, doing double duty in the latest White Summer lineup, one that changed periodically through the original band's career. However, it's not a question of replacing Jimmy Schrader, though, because that can't be done -- what he did can't be duplicated. Nor would anybody care to try.
The analogy that I use in these situations is the transition that Gene Vincent had to deal with in the '50s, after his original lead guitarist, Cliff Gallup, forsook the road and further recording fame, for a normal life and family, according to Britt Hagarty's epic bio, The Day The World Turned Blue. Enter Johnny Meeks, who said, after hearing his predecessor's handiwork: "I don't know if I can play that way." To which Gene replied, "I don't want you to."
So it is with Rick Lowe Sr., who co-founded the band with Watkins in 1973 -- essentially, the act of "a trio of eighteen-year-olds who shared a mutual love for Hendrix, Cream and Grand Funk among others," say the liner notes from their self-titled first album, reissued on Guerssen Records. Lowe appeared on that album, released in 1976, as part of a 1,000-copy pressing self-financed and distributed by the band themselves, long before technology made that idea more common and feasible today. It's affectionately known as "The White Album," due to its plain white cover. (Schrader joined shortly after the album's release, in 1976-77.)
Rick's vocals on the Joe Walsh standby, "Rocky Mountain Way," provided one of many highlights on that particular fall evening. However, the Lowes didn't lag far behind, with Matt taking his own suitably high-energy vocal turn on Tommy Tutone's power pop classic, "867-5309," with Edie providing strong backing vocals.
That energy didn't flag for a minute, as the Tutone song led straight into "I Think I'm In Love" (Eddie Money), this time with Edie taking charge of the vocal this time, while Watkins, who kept a crisp and firm hand on the beat throughout, and Matt's equally commanding leads rose to the fore.
Watkins, in turn, contributed his own distinctive vocal on "Just What I Needed," a signature song from the Cars, that put them in the map in 1978...after they'd made a splash with their first hit, "Let's Go," whose guitar hook (DERR, DERR, DERR/DAH-dah-DAH) had already burned its way into my teenage brain that particular summer. Hearing these power pop flourishes proved particularly surprising, coming from a band most commonly associated with classic and progressive rock.
Yet it's another reminder of their adaptability and versatility, especially when you're bringing other peoples' songs to life -- don't forget, though, these are the guys who enjoyed playing "stump the band" competitions, armed with a 1,000-song list! When it's all said and done, making and sharing music is all about community and creativity. What we do with those last notes, once they've rung out of the amps and microphones, and into our brains, is up to us. Look for all these qualities to be present and correct tonight.