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Saturday, January 29, 2011


scott, edwin, sandy, willard

Skeeter and the Skidmarks lit up the sky last night over Woodlawn, Virginia. They kicked off with Scott Freeman's composition, Groundhog Shuffle, a brief explosion of a tune that sets the stage, lets you know the band does not intend to let up until the last note of the night. Skeeter starting a concert with this tune is as right as VanHalen opening with Unchained when Roth was with the band. You might say it makes a statement. The statement last night was we, the audience, were in for a couple hours of no letup Skeeter & the Skidmarks full blast. They were ready and the audience was ready. Justin Smith, a lifetime friend and friend of a lifetime I've known since he was 3, went with me for his first Skeeter experience, and was possibly the only one there who'd never heard the band. I think I played video of a song or 2 a few months back to give him an idea of what they do. No two ways about it, they blew his mind last night. He wanted cds, but they're out of print, so I'll let him make copies from mine.

This was the band's 3rd time at the Front Porch, and the very most dynamic. Their second time was dynamic, but not like last night. Before the band started, the people who are regulars were anxious in anticipation of what the band would do, and when it was over, all had big smiles on their faces. Total, perfect satisfaction in a musical concert. Doesn't matter the kind of music; it's the kind of satisfaction I experienced seeing Peter Serkin play the Goldberg Variations around 1967, a Jane's Addiction concert in 1991, and Ralph Stanley in 2009. Unforgettable concert moments, the kind that take me beyond mind. Skeeter did it last night. They actually blew the lid off the place, or like George Clinton would put it, tore the roof off that sucka. Everybody in the seats was locked into the present moment.

I'm so accustomed to seeing the bands on the 2" x 1.5" tv screen of the video camera, it's like operating the camera is so automatic it's no interference. Last night I was able to anticipate when Scott would start his break on the mandolin or fiddle, or Edwin play his ad lib of the tune, or Willard singing. I was better able this time to be there with the visual when one of them started. I like to focus on whoever is taking a break, who is singing. I like to keep the camera moving, will gradually straighten my arms out nearly straight up or over to the side, focused on the same place so if Edwin is playing his banjo, the others around and behind him would slowly move in relation to him. Always looking for little things to do to keep the visual interesting. Have already found I don't like the stillness of using a tripod. Would rather hold it by hand and move it around at will, trembles and all. I like to move it back and forth, left and right, focusing so it only gets 3/4 of the band, and go back and forth from the 3 on the left to the 3 on the right, sometimes the 2 in the middle. Not trying to make "good" videos, but as unselfconsciously as possible to represent the music, flaws and all, as in life.

The band played Skeeter songs from their albums, Alternate Roots and Hubbin It. Last I looked, amazon had copies of Hubbin It. These are some high energy old-time albums. In the early 90s when they were playing, a reviewer called them "progressive old-time" and it stuck. I think Scott likes that description. They Skeeterize (jazz) old-time into a music that is their own, like Bill Monroe jazzed old-time to make his own style of music, no notion he was starting a movement. Their particular style of playing is their own, as bluegrass was Bill Monroe's own. It's a sound particular to the four of them together playing an old-time tune like Whiskey Before Breakfast. They Skeeterize it, take it the next step while keeping the integrity of the original. They play the tunes note for note, and like a fiddler playing in his own style, they lay it to it in their own style, Skeeter, as distinctive a sound of its own as Monroe's bluegrass when his was the only band playing it.
If you'd like to hear their sound, go to YouTube and write Skeeter & the Skidmarks in the Search box. Then pick whichever title you want to hear. Or google them. Google has links to the videos at YouTube.

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