MUSIC REVIEW | Real Phonic Radio Hour at the James J Hill Library

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On Thursday night (Aug 15, 2013) Real Phonic Radio Hour rang in their third season at the James J. Hill Library. The Real Phonic Radio Hour is a mostly monthly (summers off) concert that is recorded and posted online. The show is emceed by Thom Middlebrook and Molly Maher. Erik Koskinen is the house band with Paul Bergen, JT Bates and Frankie Lee. The August show included performances by Tim O’Reagan and Jim Boquist with Dean McGraw. It was, and often is, a big celebration of local musicians.

The headliners (Tim O’Reagan and Jim Boquist) started off with an Everly Brothers’ cover (“Gone, Gone, Gone”) and continued to play a range of original and cover tunes, including a couple of songs from O’Reagan’s former band the Jayhawks. They also played Cozy, a Slim Dunlap song from the Songs for Slim album produced to raise funds for the former Replacements guitarist medical costs following a stroke in February 2012. Original songs included “Bottomless Cup” by O’Reagan, which I especially enjoyed.

Dean McGraw was a bonus find for me. I had never seen him before. He played with JT Bates (who also plays with Koskinen). There was something almost jazzy and folky about his music. A favorite was a song he called the Bone Marrow Transplant Blues, because it was a song he could always play even when undergoing a transplant four years ago. There was something in the way the music seemed to bump off the books on the shelves and the collaboration between guitar and percussion that caught me. And I choose the word percussion over drums because Bates’ draws from all angles of the drums bringing in different sounds with cymbals, shakers and other instruments.

The evening started and ended with Erik Koskinen’s band. I have seen them play many times because I like them. My only sadness about the Hill Library is that it’s not really a dancing atmosphere, but the sound is good and the place is so ivory tower that I think everyone brings their A game to the stage. They played a few songs, including “I Like to be Used,” which is a slow sultry song and they played it well.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should admit that I have a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. So a concert in a library, especially a library sas prestigious as the Hill Library, is always like a dream come true. But that doesn’t take away from the genuine talent on the stage. There was a good crowd–even on a school night and folks seemed to have a good time. And they couldn’t all have been librarians.

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