The SpotLight

Story G. E. Light

Noted D.C. scenester, legendary musical front man (Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up), raconteur and interviewer (Soft Focus TV), pretty boy and cover hog (1990’s “Sassiest Boy in America” according to Sassy Magazine) Ian Svenonious brought his new project, Chain & the Gang, to Columbus’ Elbow Room on the Tuesday after July 4th.

Toning down his usual Marxist polemics, he was still the mile-a-minute performer of old. Svenonious dubs his new music “crime rock” and according to their Dischord Record’s website, they update “rock ‘n’ roll, blues and gospel music or vocal quartets from the late-’50s/early-’60s for the discerning few.”

To understand his quartet, envision the bastard love children of a Nuggets-era psychedelic garage band and some Swinging London mods dressed by a Carnaby Street fashion house.

One highlight of the show was the manic Svenonious’ extended rant on gentrification and suburbanization including complaining about a fictional gelato shop in Columbus, which served to introduce the band’s “Devitalize.” He closed by saying “We are the No. 1 devitalization group. If we show up in your neighborhood, property values plummet!”

The evening honored Hartle Road’s recent record release. The four local lads performed a set of their fascinating Krautrock and minimalist-inspired guitar noise and instrumentals, with the occasional echo-effect vocal. Opening were Florence, Alabama, horror punks, The Invisible Teardrops, with their Farfisa-heavy sound, demonstrating their devotion to The Cramps.

Including another recent concert with Hartle Road and the Japanese punk band, Your Pest Band, the Elbow Room is well on its way to legendary status as a small (48-capacity) music venue.

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The Dillards (better known as the musical hillbilly family the Darlings from “The Andy Griffith Show”) presented a bluegrass and gospel concert at Starkville First United Methodist Church on July 24.

FUMC Music Director Peter Infanger has long-term plans for an extended Bluegrass and Baroque festival in Starkville featuring visiting groups as well as the Starkville Symphony Chorus. The Dillards played classics as well as originals, and Rodney Dillard and his wife Beverly Cotton-Dillard told a lot of funny stories about Andy, Barney, Opie, Ernest P. Tubbs … even a slightly risqué one involving Aunt Bea’s leg and Rodney’s Malamute relieving himself. Percussionist and show MC Ken Lingad handled percussion from a simple snare with steel brushes to the wooden box cajón he sat on. George Giddens fiddles and plays mandolin, Jeff Gilkinson handles the cello and harmonica, while Gary Smith plucks a double bass and Tony Ray plays lead acoustic guitar and banjo.

The show closed with two pieces involving the FUMC Choir — the Carter Family’s “Gospel Ship” and the old standard, “I’ll Fly Away,” which provided a soaring ending.

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Law of Nature made their semi-annual return to where it all started for a few shows at Corinth fine dining establishment smith. and the hometown Slugburger Festival, and — closer to their college stomping grounds in Starkville — at Tupelo’s Blue Canoe. Fresh off recording their third album, Automagic, this version of Law of Nature (Chapman Welch, vox/lead guitar; Jennifer Knight Welch, vox/acoustic guitar; Andy Sherman, bass and Michael McGrath, drums) has been going strong for two decades now.

The upstairs smith. show was an acoustic gig featuring Chapman, Jennifer, and a cameo by her younger sister Hannah. The outdoor Slugburger Festival gig was a brutal hour under the blazing Mississippi sun.

The highlight of the weekend was the third show at the Blue Canoe, Tupelo’s newish urban update of a classic juke joint, down to the slightly raised Cathead stage. A SRO crowd of all ages expectantly cheered as Chapman played the opening riff of Automagic’s first track “Anything That I Want.” The set featured originals from across their career concluding with as its penultimate number, the absolute crowd favorite “Noise in the Hallway.”

They also sprinkled an interesting array of covers throughout the set; Johnny Cash and June Carter’s “Jackson,” The Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang,” The Pixies’ “Gigantic” and “Where is My Mind?,” Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” and Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song).”

Law of Nature will return to Starkville in December, probably with a gig at Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern.

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I wrote about the Golden Triangle’s burgeoning craft brewing scene in these pages (Summer 2015) just a bit before Starkville’s latest craft brewing enterprise, Mayhew Junction, got up and running in the old Wasson’s Fish House location.

Given seven years without occupants, if you don’t count the raccoons and two or three feral cats, the place, not surprisingly, needed some work, and the roof isn’t fully repaired from raccoon damage at egress points yet. But they’re selling their Mayhew Mild locally in a variety of restaurants and country clubs. If the Mississippi Legislature cooperates next session, they’ll be able to sell directly from their brewery site.

Recently I attended one of their tour/teasing sessions. For $20 you get a 6-ounce logoed taster glass, six chips redeemable for different beers (they were offering more than 20 varieties the day I was there), and a tour of the brewery. I decided to save the tour for another trip as I’ve taken dozens of similar ones in England, Germany, and at Anchor Steam on Potrero Hill in San Francisco.

All six beers I tasted were well above average for American craft beers. The surprise best of session was La Saison de Chihuahua ( a 7.9% ABV-25 IBU-Jalapeño Saison). Not too hot, and I was salivating at the food combinations that would go with it, like say, Belle Chèvre with Honey and Striplings Raspberry Pepper Preserves on Dare Table Water Crackers with Black Pepper, or say, Sweet Grass Dairy’s Green Hill or President Brie on a crostini made from Troy DeRego’s baguettes, or even the goodies a quartet of young-at-heart ladies brought to the tasting, including pimento cheese spread, Ritz crackers and phyllo cups with tomato, Parmesan cheese and basil. Yum Yum!