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Stomp 2006 Review: Embrace 'Them Changes,' CONTRA COSTA TIMES

DENISE SULLIVAN: THE SHOW GOES ON
Embrace 'Them Changes'

"Well, my mind is going through them changes ..." The old Buddy Miles record has been my theme song lately: Working as a guardian of the history of rock 'n' roll past and worrying about its future had finally gotten to me and it was time for a vacation. So what better way to recharge but with a trip to the birthplace of rock 'n' roll, Memphis, Tennessee?

I knew I was in the right place when I arrived at the Gibson Auditorium earlier this month and the band was playing "Them Changes." Now when was the last time you heard anybody actually play "Them Changes" rather than just joke about playing it? But Little Buck and band played it in Memphis, during one of their long sets at Ponderosa Stomp, at the festival billed as "Three Nights of Insane Rock 'n' Roll." It's part of the reason that Memphis seemed like an attractive destination. The Stomp turned out to be the most inspiring event of its kind that I've ever attended, and that was quite simply because I felt like I had a little more strength to carry on doing what I do after I'd been there. Some festivals I've returned from feeling sucker-punched (and you know which ones I'm talking about). But the Stomp was different. It was like getting a shot of pure voltage, or at least some mighty powerful vitamins with nutrients I didn't even know I'd been missing.

Watching the performers at the Stomp -- rockers like Bo Diddley guitarist Lady Bo and Sun Records artist Sonny Burgess; the way-out Roy Head; soul men William Bell and Syl Johnson and bluesmen Billy Boy Arnold and Lazy Lester -- was part of what did it for me. No, they aren't, for the most part, your average household names in music and yet all of them are crazy-skilled, and I mean off-the-scale cool and together. And after some 40 or 50 years in the business, you know these folks have gone through some changes of their own. Of course, it would appear they're on the other side of all that now. Yeah, they may have been marginalized, desensitized, compromised and downsized along the way, but these musicians bring extraordinary joy to their work today. (Plus, they looked slick and their voices were strong.) If anything, they came to prove that not only is there life after rock, there's life after 60 (and don't worry, I still have a ways to go before I'm reporting from the senior perspective). And I like to believe we could all use a little rock 'n' roll rejuvenation once in a while, no matter what our ages on paper (which explains why folks from their 20s to their 60s could be found in the crowd).

In further coincidences: When I returned to my e-mail box at home, there was a letter waiting for me. It said: Buddy Miles and Billy Cox have reunited for "The Band of Gypsys Return," a CD and DVD.

Details: Meanwhile, for those seeking a road trip, Lady Bo appears this weekend at the Boulder Creek Art, Wine & Music Festival, May 27 and 28, off Highway 9 in Boulder Creek. Music starts at 11 a.m. Admission is free. Contact 831-338-2578 or www.bcba.net/art-wine.html. You can also look for Lady Bo this summer at the People in Plazas concert series in San Francisco. For more on "Them Changes," please visit my brand-new blog at www.them-changes.blogspot.com.
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