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by Haven James
Artist: Phil Void & the Dharma Bums
Well, I just finished an hour-long conversation with Woodstock's number one wandering yogi-bum bandleader, Phil Void, regarding the amazing adventures of the Dharma Bums including news of their upcoming appearances both locally and afar, and I still barely have a clue as to what exactly to report. Eliciting anything specific or complete from Phil is about as fruitful as the product of an existential discourse. A lot of ideas, notions, projections and perspectives offered in the spirit of tertiary abstraction intertwine with recollections told through incomplete bits of stories and references to vague and undelineated events. "Void" is certainly an appropriate appellation--not that there isn't anything there; it's more like the void of outer space, packed with stars, planets, asteroids, comets, and galactic dust swirling with cosmic chaotic dynamism. It's a grand array, but one that is very challenging to chart.
For starters, the Dharma Bums will play the Tinker Street Cafe this Saturday, June 27, precisely at 10:30, or maybe 11. Phil loosely describes the music as "raga-reggae-rock" with a little folk and sort of bluegrass thrown in. Exactly what the lineup will be and how they're all going to fit on the stage is also up to conjecture, but the personnel will include Phil Void and all or part of the following roster of Bums. Odds are high that Mark Dan will be on bass, Peter Buettner will play sax and flute, and Woodstock's Attila the Hun guitar emperor, Ted Orr, will play electric guitar, extended effects, and maybe tablas. Howie Wyeth will not play drums. He would if he could and maybe he'll be there in spirit; we miss him still.
Renowned jazz drummer Franklin Kiermyer has recently joined the Dharma Bums, and this acquisition was a definite score for the group. He's been written up in Rolling Stone, Jazztimes and Entertainment Weekly for his Franklin Kiermyer Quartet, of which he's the lead instrumentalist. In a recent review, Downbeat magazine declared, "Kiermyer plays with volcanic authority." To this Void added, "Basically, it's kind of like playing with Ginger Baker. It's nice to have a drummer [to] who you really can say, OK, take it Franklin, and he really does, no problem."
From here on the lineup gets a little iffy. Either Joe Flood or Craig Thaler will play violin, Ben Sebastian may do congas, and a very big question hangs on the keyboard department. Sam Terant plays this position frequently; however, recent recording endeavors as well as upcoming major venue appearances are said to include the Grand Chancellor of the Woodstock University of Music himself, Garth Hudson. It's well known that Garth's Law #7 includes some statement of reticence about playing at home, but, stranger things have happened. You didn't read it here, but we're told that currently the prediction stands one step above rumor and one step below likely.
Garth has recorded tracks on six cuts for an upcoming Dharma Bums album or albums which center thematically around a song titled "Rangzen Free Tibet," which Void wrote while in Dhamasala, North India, in 1989. The project appears to be two-fold: First, there'll be an album/CD release of DB material, both previously released stuff remixed and added to, plus some altogether new songs with the primary content of the album focused on the Tibetan situation. Void and the Bums are very active in the Free Tibet movement and play many concerts around the world designed to aid the cause. As recently noted in a New York Times article, it's odd that with all the big-time talent devoted to this cause, none of the major artists have composed material which speaks directly to the crisis. The Dharma Bums are, in fact, one of the only acts whose songs actually address the issues head-on.
This factor is the key to part two of the current project. "Rangzen Free Tibet" will be released alone in a special international edition CD that will include multiple versions sung in a wide variety of languages. The goal is to enlist major international stars to fill in the vocal track in their native tongues and to distribute the compilation worldwide with substantial proceeds going to the movement. So far the song has been translated into 12 languages including Tibetan, that version to be sung by Dadon, "the Madonna of Tibet."
Dadon will be on the bill with the Dharma Bums and additional artists plus special guest of honor, Yoko Ono, at the gala opening benefit show of World Artists for Tibet on Tuesday, June 30, in New York City. On July 5 they'll both share the bill with Arlo Guthrie at the Free Tibet Day concert in Central Park. The evening before that (July 4 at 7:30 p.m.), the Bums will play the World Culture Concert being held at Hunter Mountain on July 4 and 5.
As is always the case with Phil Void, there is more to the story, so the best way to get the breaking news on all the upcoming events is to catch the Dharma Bums live at Tinker Street this Saturday night. There'll be no void of music and you can bet the house will be filled. Call 679-2487 for more info if you need it, or stop by the Wishing Jewel in the mews across the street, where posters and flyers on things Tibetan abound--you can pick up your very own Free Tibet hat, shirt, flag, bumper sticker, button, or tape.
Haven James has been a consistent contributor to the Music & Arts scene around the Hudson Valley and beyond for almost a decade through his column, Werewolves of Woodstock, published weekly in the Woodstock Times
A writer, musician, philanthropist, and Mac addict; he lives reclusively, high atop Overlook Mountain with his son and a menagerie of animals, both wild and domesticated. Though currently unmarried, rumors abound as to his intimate relationships with Madonna, Sandra Bernhardt, and Eli Bach; though he insists these notions to be pure hearsay. His identity has remained a mystery to all but the closest of friends as he often travels in disguise and appears unannounced and undercover at concerts and venues in a dedicated effort to get the real story.
Posted on June 25, 1998
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