Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Music · Dan Hicks
. . . .

Dan Hicks

Robert Downes - May 9th, 2011
For Dan Hicks the Licks Still Click
By Robert Downes
When you ask Dan Hicks what to expect from his upcoming show in Traverse
City, he counters by asking if the concert hall is big enough to
accommodate his band’s elephant. “We travel with a live elephant and I’ll
be riding him out onto the stage,” he says.
One can assume that this master of funny, thoughtful songs dredged up
from the muddy currents of Americana, swing jazz and cowboy music is
kidding. But elephant or not, at the very least you can expect to hear
some choice pickin’ and vocals clickin’ when Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks
perform at the InsideOut Gallery in TC this Monday, May 16.
Hicks, 70, has been called a “National Treasure” of the American music
scene by the San Francisco Chronicle for good reason. When Hicks strums
his acoustic guitar, the reverberations echo back 50 years or so to the
dawn of a revolution in music.
As a drummer with The Charlatans, playing free-form experimental music as
early as 1965, Hicks was one of the early pioneers of the psychedelic era
in San Francisco during the ‘60s. The Charlatans performed with such
iconic groups as the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, The Family
Dog, and Big Brother & The Holding Company at a time when they were
packing the Fillmore Ballroom, Golden Gate Park, and the hippie-filled
Haight-Ashbury with the sounds of acid rock.

ACOUSTIC U-TURN
But at the height of that electrifying era, Hicks took a U-turn deep into
the roots of Americana, serving up acoustic cowboy ballads, western swing,
jazz melodies and funny songs about getting drunk, stoned and
disrespected.
It’s an affliction from which he’s never recovered.
“I had always been interested in folk and jazz since my junior high school
days, and I was also playing as a solo folk act around the Bay area along
with being involved in the psychedelic stuff,” he says, speaking by phone
from his home in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco.
He launched his Hot Licks band with violinist David LaFlamme in 1968 as a
warmup act for The Charlatans and soon found himself going with the
acoustic flow. On songs such as “I Scare Myself” with its flamenco chord
progression and seductive violin solo, Hicks gave hippie-era listeners a
new avenue of mind-blowing sound to explore. And his addition of two
female singers (The Lickettes) harmonizing on songs such as “Canned Music”
and “You Gotta Believe” added a Lennon Sisters quality, which -- combined
with a stoner sensibility and the wry outlook of an R. Crumb comic -- took
folk music to places it had seldom, if ever, been.

BIG INFLUENCE
Since then, Hicks has influenced scores of other bands, including The
Grateful Dead and Asleep at the Wheel. You can hear echos of his humor
in the work of artists such as the Rev. Horton Heat, and he presaged the
modern, post-traditional bluegrass trend by decades, exemplified today
by such bands as Greensky Bluegrass and Railroad Earth.
But Hicks isn’t resting on his laurels. These days he has a number of
projects in the works, or is at least thinking about getting started.
“I’m working with someone on a lyrics thing -- it will be a book of poetry
with just the lyrics of 30 of my tunes,” he says. “I’m also working on
some songs for a new album, but first I’ve got to get through some gigs
with the band throughout the Midwest.
“I’ve also just finished something I call the Kollege of Music
Knowledge, where I do a show that goes into the history and styles of
various forms of music,” he adds. “I like to do these ‘concept’ things
now and then -- it’s a narrative that goes into the history of the
blues, swing and folk rock.”
Then there’s a stage play being considered in New York City called “Feel
Like Singing,” which would hinge on some of Hicks’ most popular songs,
assuming he gets it together to make it happen. “A lot of it has to come
from me, and then with someone to improve what’s been started.”

SONGWRITING CHALLENGES
What about new songs? Is it hard to write new stuff when there’s such
high audience demand for songs written 40 years ago, such as “I Scare
Myself”?
“I’m not in the shadow of them,” Hicks says of his oldies. “But it’s hard
to come up with new stuff. I’m not as active as when I used to write
songs every day all fresh and new. My enthusiasm isn’t what it used to
be. When you’re writing a song, you want to be fresh and different and
new. The words I’m good at, but with melodies you might feel that you’ve
done that a million times already, and that can be an obstacle to getting
things done.”
Plus, Hicks adds, a great riff or a zinger of a lyric might amount to only
seven seconds of a new song. “You can come up with a nice groove, but
finishing out the song is where the work is.”
Speaking of songwriting, many folk artists tend toward mopey, lugubrious
themes, but Hicks is invariably upbeat and funny.
“That funny stuff sort of comes more naturally,” he says. “But I’ve got
one love song in the works and I’m going to keep it going and be more
serious. Like one of the girls in the band said, the songs don’t all have
to be hilarious.”

LOOKING BACK
Does Hicks keep in touch with any of the musicians he knew from the
psychedelic days? After all, he’s a bit of a “last man standing” on that
scene with the passing of Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin and many others.
“Just by chance I might meet someone every now and then from that Summer
of Love thing,” he says. “I played a gig in East Bay and Peter Albin, who
was the guitar player in Big Brother and the Holding Company, showed up.
But our number is getting fewer.”
In terms of what to expect at his upcoming show, Hicks says the band will
feature his iconic female backup singers, who will also be performing on
percussion; along with a violinist/mandolinist and himself on rhythm
guitar.
Then there’s that elephant he mentioned -- if he shows up, presumably, he
will be playing trumpet.

Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks perform at 8 p.m. Monday, May 16 at the
InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City. Tickets are $25 advance (Oryana, the
InsideOut and treatickets.com) or $30 at the door.
 
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