10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 12, 1997
Rockets to explode at Fox
By Anders Smith-Lindall
Daily Arts Writer
"I want it to be like Foghat with Hank Williams singing,"
the gruff voice at the other end of the phone said, the speak-
er's slight drawl punctuated with a laugh. The voice in the
receiver was that of Brian Henneman, the singer, lead gui-
tarist, and chief songwriter of the Bottle Rockets, trying to
describe how exactly he wants his band to sound.
While the Bottle Rockets have been
their old buddies in Son Volt and Wilco
into the so-called "alternative-country"
or "No Depression" genre, they "never
aimed to be this little cult country-rock
band," Henneman said. "We're an old-
fashioned rock band - a BTO, Foghat
kind of thing, but without the stupid
lumped along with
Tomorrow at Thef
son,' Henneman said. "It's like, 'Man, it just can't get no
worse than this.' It becomes a funny moment to me when you
hit the rock bottom. I just keep that in me, and it comes out
(when I'm) writing lyrics."
In this way, his wry tales recall folk troubadour John Prine,
who Henneman cites as an influence. Other songwriters and
bands among the eclectic array of performers to whom he tips
his cap include Hank Williams, Tom Petty, the Kinks' Ray
Davies, Cheap Trick and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
"A lot of people just hear the name
Skynyrd and instantly write them off,"
E V I E W Henneman said. "But they combined it -
The Bottle a decent lyric with hard, good rock."
Rockets And so do the Bottle Rockets. In fact, it
is the lyrics that set the band apart.
ing for John Fogerty Henneman is known for not only his
Fox Theatre, Detroit humor, his plain-spoken observations on
Tomorrow, the Bottle Rockets appear
at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, continuing their cross-country
stint opening for John Fogerty's "Blue Moon Swamp" tour.
Fogerty, who made his name with Creedence Clearwater
Revival three decades ago, attracts fans of a demographic
unfamiliar to the thirty-something Bottle Rockets - senior
"It's interesting 'cause it's anywhere from teenagers all the
way to people like 60, 65 years old in the crowd," Henneman
said. "So you think, 'Wow, that's kinda weird,' but then you
realize, 'Well, if they were 30 in '67, they're in their sixties
But this hasn't stopped the Bo-Rox, as they are affection-
ately known by their fans, from taking advantage of the
chance to bring their brand of barn-burning stomp to a new,
broader audience. In fact, they're eager for the chance to play
the songs from their new album "24 Hours A Day," released
on TAG/Atlantic Records in August after myriad delays.
Turmoil at the label, which included the departure of the
A&R reps who signed the band and a complete reshuffling of
Atlantic's roster and priorities, caused the album to hit stores
a year after it was actually recorded. Although the album is
now out and the band is touring, their business difficulties are
far from over, according to their leader.
"Right now, it doesn't even feel like we have a record com-
pany," Henneman said. "I can't tell what the hell the deal is
with it.The record company has shown me nothing."
Of the Bottle Rockets' status as a critically acclaimed but
commercially ignored band on the giant Atlantic label, he
said, "It's kinda like being a janitor at the White House.'
Such self-deprecating, laugh-in-the-face-of-death humor
has been a trademark of Henneman's songwriting on all three
Bottle Rockets albums. His lyrics, often dominated by
poignant and precise depictions of hardscrabble, small-town
life, are leavened with healthy doses of laughter.
,"If things get really bad, I find myself laughing for no rea-
affairs of the heart, and his dead-on depic-
tions of rural Middle America, but also his intelligent and
incisive political commentary.
From the band's very beginnings, their songwriter's active
social conscience has been evident: The b-side of their first
single was the song "Wave That Flag," an anti-Confederate
anthem that included the couplet "Maybe being a rebel ain't
no big deal / but if somebody owned your ass, how would you
feel?" Other progressively themed songs would follow,
including "Kerosene ""Welfare Music," and the new album's
"This is redneck country out here," Henneman said of the
rural Missouri area in which he grew up. "I can't explain why
I don't just drink beer and hate everybody like all my friends.
It's not like I was exposed to anything different than they
were. But even in 'Wave That Flag,' I'm not going back to my
friends and saying, 'Hey buddy, you're bad.' It's almost like
casually talking under your breath at a party, wondering if
they're even thinking about what they're doing. I don't want
to preach about it ... it's never directed at anybody.
"The thing I can never explain is just why I feel that way,"
he continued. "There's no reason for it; I have no guiding
influences in that direction. I'm just trying to be, like, Rock
Dude. But because I'm this goofball in the middle of it, it
throws it into a weird, weird, weird place - which is very
much reflected in (our) albums," he concluded with a laugh.
Although the reasons behind Henneman's left-leaning
political views may be unclear, he does remember the band
that inspired him, at age 10, to pick up a guitar for the first
"I was a little kid and I just loved this Badfinger song,"
Henneman remembered. "I didn't even know who it was - I
thought it was the Beatles. When you're a little kid you think
everything's the Beatles."
By his mid-teens, Henneman had formed a "frat rock cover
band," he recalled. "We played at high school talent shows,
The Bottle Rockets, led by Brian Henneman (center), have developed an avid, diverse fan base while honing their music into
"a BTO, Foghat kind of thing, but without the stupid lyrics."
skating rinks, all those goofy places. We did 'Get Off My
Cloud,' 'Louie Louie,' anything you could learn when you
barely know how to play guitar."
The ensuing years spent writing, playing, and touring cul-
minated in the 1993 release of the Bottle Rockets' self-titled
debut and 1994's rollicking "The Brooklyn Side."
In the wake of the effusive praise for both records from
critics nationwide, Atlantic signed the band away from the
roots-oriented indie label ESD and re-released "The
Brooklyn Side." Last summer's recording sessions for "24
Hours A Day" were the first the band had ever done for a
major label and, according to Henneman, the process was dif-
"We were bankrupt, we had changed management, we
were making this record and the record company was just
turning us loose in the studio?' Henneman remembered. "We
didn't know if we were pleasing 'em or pissing 'em off. We
didn't know if they even gave a shit - (we thought), 'Maybe
we're just doing this and they're gonna throw it right in the
trash can.' So we were very, very confused; almost depressed.
It was almost like going back to the first days when you're
(recording) in a basement and you don't even know who
you're making it for."
"We went all over the board with it," Henneman said. "The
difference between this one and the others is that we record-
ed way more songs for this one. We recorded, like, 24 song
when we did this, and then we actually picked and choses Tha
made it difficult. ... But I like it."
And so, with new record in hand, the band is back on the
road, playing their songs and traveling towards an uncertain:
Henneman doesn't know when their leg of the Fogerty tour
will end, and the prospect of a headlining tour to follow i
equally cloudy. Complicating matters is the fact that the
band's longtime bassist quit only a week before the current
"I don't even know what our bass player situation is,"
Henneman said. "It's pretty freaky times for the Bottlerocke#
right now. And I'm always the last to know everything. Just
the other night, some guy from Atlantic was at the show and
he comes up and says, 'So! I hear you're going out with
Blues Traveler after this!' And I'm like, 'What? That is the
FIRST I've ever heard of this, all right? I ain't never ieat
ANYTHING about that.'
Laughing, he continued, "I hope that this guy's predictions
are not about to come true. But we got a good excuse, the per-
fect bail-out plan: 'Uh, dude, we gotta get our bass player sit-
uation straightened out.' It's good to have that emergency
parachute back there."
Instead of being subjected to John Popper for six weeks?
"That's right. I can't even imagine it."
Ontario's Stratford lies north of outstanding
By Christopher Tkaczyk
Daily Campus Arts Editor
Every summer the traditional
Shakespearean festivals start presenting
their annual fare of the Bard's master-
pieces. Among those that are more rec-
ommended on this side of the world is
the well-decorated and known Stratford
Festival. This prestigious theatrical cen-
ter has made it's home in Stratford,
Ontario, since the
early '50's, and R
offers an average 1
of 10-12 produc-
tions each season.
Presenting a mix of S
unique shopping day among its interest-
ing specialty shops, as well as first rate
entertainment in an attractive setting.
This season brings a large variety of
classic and modern plays by
Shakespeare, Sophocles, Arthur Miller,
and Sean O'Casey. In order to make
selection easier, should it be desired to
travel to Stratford, four plays have been
chosen as "Must
The University of Michigan
School of Music
Sunday, September 14
Arthur Greene, pianist; Hong-Mei Xiao, violist
" Music by Schubert, Hindemith, Britten and Brahms
Britton Recital Hall, E. V. Moore Bldg., 4p.m.
Tuesday, September 16
Faculty Recital: Fenwick Smith, flutist
Music of Copland, Marais, Brotons, Gubiadulina, Schubert
Britton Recital Hall, E.V. Moore Bldg., 8 p. m.
All events are free and wheelchair accessible unless
specified otherwise. The E.V. Moore Bldg. is located
at 1100 Baits Drive, North Campus.
Through Nov. 9.1997
See," and should be
regarded as highly
some to be one of
III" exhibits the
dies and tragedies as well as more mod-
ern pieces, the festival runs in repertory
in three separate theaters using experi-
enced Canadian players from the festi-
val's troupe of professional actors.
This year's theatrical season began in
May and will continue until Nov. 9. If
you and your group of friends are look-
ing for some sort of quick, one day road
trip, Stratford shouldn't be overlooked.
Student prices are offered for certain
performances, as well as other dis-
counts. The city offers not only theater
but delicious dining experiences, a
define an archetype of bitter power.
Serving well as Richard I, Stephen
Ouimette shined and proved that the
festival does indeed possess extraordi-
nary talent. The entire production was
visually dark with deep reds and mid-
night black serving to encompass the
sheer terror and ambition with which
Richard III seeks vengeance. The story
of Richard Ill surrounds a family of
monarchs who Richard conspires to
overcome in order to become king. The
one main problem that surrounds his
ambition is his physical congition.
Having a slight hunchback and half
crippled, Richard is physically handi-
capped and comes up short when the
image of Glorious King is bestowed
upon him. The entire company of this
production functions well; the acting is
enormous and powerful.
If you are not familiar with "Death of
a Salesman," then you haven't been
catching up on your University of
Michigan history. For those who aren't
catching on-this play was written by
UM alumnus Arthur Miller. After see-
ing Salesman performed by this extra-
ordinarily talented Stratford cast, one
cannot come away from the theater
without having had a moving experi-
ence. The story of Willy Loman fol-
lows the life of a salesman who is los-
ing everything he has ever earned and
achieved. Al Waxman as Willy Loman
911116 U11vu611 IIVV. 8 a1. 1110 *7a1aa1V1u rOauY4
proves to be the best Willy since Dustin
Hoffman performed the role for a
filmed performance a few years back.
The most moving performance of the
entire festival is given by Martha Henry
as Willy's wife Linda, the mother worn
by serving her husband and sons for her
entire life. Henry shouldn't be working
at Stratford; this marvelous actress
should be gracing American stages and
screens and should eventually be earn-
ing her share of Tonys and Oscars. If
you can only afford to see one play at all
this season - this is the one.
Each year the festival presents one
musical theater piece - this year
"Camelot" was presented. The story of
King Arthur is told splendidly by this
cast as the genius of Alan Jay Lerner
and Frederick Lowe is remounted in
classic American musical theater tradi-
tion. What is most impressive is Tom
McCamus as King Arthur-the leg-
endary king who both pulled the sword
from the stone and established his
round table of knights. "Camelot"
begins when Guenevere is brought to
Camelot to marry King Arthur.
Soon afterward, Guenevere falls in
love with the handsome French knight
Lancelot. Eventually the two lovers are
discovered and King Arthur allows
them to live happily without charging
them with treason. McCamus' Arthur
is respectable and likeable. You leave
the theater admiring the man for his
actions and the royal yet humble way in
which he handles his situation. Besides
the singing and acting, the costumes
and set are spectacular and keep the
r. V I IIn;IG!al.
tragedies is "Coriolanus," the story of a
Roman leader whose rise to power is
surround by constant struggle within
the Roman senate and the working
class. Eventually, Coriolanus is odtra-
cized by his supporters who turn 'on
him, and he joins forces with her past
arch-enemy. Political uprisings set he
mood of this production, as the et ;c
composed of iron rods that sprout from
the stage in different patterns that eon@
stantly change throughout when 'tie
actors use them both as props, and
Reflective glass mirrors are fixed to
the floor, creating a mystical world in
which these Roman politicians and
fighters are brought to a modern stage.
Costumes are very modern-,-&rmy
fighters are dressed in modern camou-
flage and the senators all wear suits.
The main aspect of this production lie
in its dramatic fight scenes that carry
the audience with excitement, and
Other productions include the fol-
Putting together a production -of
"Romeo and Juliet" so soon after-the
recent Claire Danes/Leonardo
DiCaprio Hollywood version was a
dangerous move. Unfortunately, this
production is disappointing and Teav°
much to be desired. The casting of this
new production of "Romeo and Juliet"
seemed the ill-fated factor that e at's
disappointment. The two lovers(por-
trayed by Jonathan Cromi atd
Marion Day) are sickeningly swet.
"Harks You shall worship me, for I am the lovely Canadian star of 'Camelot,' run-
nine thrnuaN N 9at The tratftord Fstival Do not make me wait."
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