Kate Pierson (of B-52’s)
The Mike + Ruthy Band
Jul 18, 2015 at 8:00 PM
Doors open 7:30 PM
This is an all ages event.

Listening to Kate’s solo record with her soaring, hovering, levitating voice sometimes steely, sometimes glowing neon, you suspect there is something really new in the 21st Century.
This is saucy, rocking music that has a lot of relevance to classic American pop of the fifties/sixties, like Carol King and Phil Spector, but it sounds completely now—we’re not just walking on the moon anymore, we’ve got robots on Mars and we’re landing on comets. This is sort of Brill Building song-crafting goes Now Age. Rock and roll with orgone energy and third eyes wide open.
Event Schedule

The Mike + Ruthy Band

8:00 PM

Kate Pierson (of B-52’s)

9:00 PM

In 1976 Kate Pierson founded the famed Athens, Georgia band The B-52s along with her pals Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson and Keith Strickland. It was the era of punk and new wave, but the B-52s were almost a whole new genre unto themselves.

The B-52 changed everything with their fantastic fusion of Surrealism, lurid sci-fi, kitsch-spitting Americana realism and forbidden dance party music. Kate’s part in the B’s was musically prominent, making her one of most distinctive and soulful female voices defining the point break of the new wave.
Over the years Kate Pierson has explored many collaborations outside the B-52s, working with such artists as Iggy Pop, REM, David Byrne, and Matthew Sweet, but finally it’s time for Kate Pierson, solo artist. We always knew there was something special about her, and now with this record, the genie in the B-52s bottle reveals herself.

Listening to Kate’s solo record with her soaring, hovering, levitating voice sometimes steely, sometimes glowing neon, you suspect there is something really new in the 21st Century.
This is saucy, rocking music that has a lot of relevance to classic American pop of the fifties/sixties, like Carol King and Phil Spector, but it sounds completely now—we’re not just walking on the moon anymore, we’ve got robots on Mars and we’re landing on comets. This is sort of Brill Building song-crafting goes Now Age. Rock and roll with orgone energy and third eyes wide open.

Kate has always been a sort of anthem singer, and she crafts and voices real statement songs, poetic explorations of serious human emotion. The writing is clever but never preachy, with poetry taking the place of rhetoric. The seamless words and music seem to come straight from the heart and the lungs. They are personal and even sassy, but they have a truly universal relevance that anyone can relate to.

But at the same time this is true pop, where profundity comes seamlessly bonded to fun. Kate’s songs are rife with girl group wit, drama—rejecting stereotypes and preconceived ideas at every turn. This is not delusional celebrity mania, this is humanism and feminism out for a real good time.

This is an album of manifestos you can dance to. It offers wisdom on transcending cosmically dark days, on being who you are and loving it: a crowd surfer, an artist, a show stopper.

I asked Kate about how this unusual and delightful album came about:

“In 2011, during a B52s break, my partner Monica suggested to our friend Sia that she could help me get this solo thing going – since I was forever saying I had to do this!

Sia said yes! And Monica and I went to L.A. with our dogs, Athena and Zeus.

At the beginning of this process, Sia was actively beginning to write for her own album so while she was in the studio with Chris Braide they wrote a song that she felt was great for me, called ‘Bring your Arms’, based on a sea turtle rescue we witnessed while Sia, Monica and I were all on vacation in Tulum, Mexico. Two other Sia songs followed that she wrote for me – “matrix” with Sam Dixon and “Crush me with your love”, a title Monica came up with, again with Chris Braide.

We started writing together with people that Sia had collaborated with before -Dallas Austin for “ Throw Down the Roses” and “Pulls you Under” -Chris Braide for “Guitars and Microphones” and “Time Wave Zero” with Tim Anderson

Sia is a huge Strokes fan, so we worked with Nick Valensi who played guitar on Sia’s album “We Are Born “ and wrote “Bottoms Up” and “Mister Sister”.

Sia got busy with her own album so I then did some writing sessions on my own, “Wolves” with Chris Briade and “Sting the Bee” with Bleu and John Fields (to be released as a special vinyl edition)

When we had more than enough songs, I asked Tim Anderson to produce the record. Tim, also known as ‘Timmy the Terror’, is hardly that! He’s a laid back kind of guy who had his own band, Ima Robot, and is now a writer and producer. His studio, Werewolf Heart Records is in a house in L.A.—kind of a man cave but I felt very much at home there.

Tim provided great guitar parts and also played bass and keys. I really liked his musical sensibility and I added some stuff on keys and percussion too. We had a very easy going and fun vibe during the whole process “. Nick Valensi came in to do guitars on “Bottoms Up” and “Mister Sister”, which was thrilling and I know I could have asked a lot of other musician friends to play on this but I didn’t want it to be that kind of record - I just felt it was best to stick to basics and just get it done and make it a project I truly felt was my own . I was in the studio every day with Tim so it was another great collaborative effort!

To top it all off, Steve Osborne, who produced the B52s “Funplex”, did an amazing mix and after mastering by Emily Lazar at The Lodge, Guitars and Microphones is ready for the world to hear.”

By Glenn O’Brien more >>>
Bright As You Can, the rocking new album from The Mike + Ruthy Band, celebrates the grit and glory of kinship, blood and otherwise. As with previous Mike + Ruthy endeavors, the rootsy material covers much ground, but the through-line remains family. And this time out, the tempos are brisker, the playing more fervent than ever before. The atmosphere crackles with the excitement of a kick-ass, seasoned band of road warriors, a gang hunkered in the Catskill Mountains, laying down 14 road-tested tunes of radio-ready acoustic pop, broody rock, country soul, and boot-stomping porch folk.

“Word on the street: you’re my family / I’m not just talkin’ to Ruth, I mean everybody / The big and the proud and the soft little sound / Every last lost believer the whole world round.” “Word On the Street” – Bright As You Can.

Over countless miles on the ribbon of highway, playing gigs in wood-stove-warmed living rooms one month and Carnegie Hall the next, husband-wife singing songwriters Mike Merenda (guitar, banjo) and Ruthy Ungar (guitar, fiddle) have built a troubadour life inclusive of family. Ruthy, daughter of GRAMMY-winning Jay Ungar (“Ashokan Farewell” – “That song put me through college,” she says) and folksinger Lyn Hardy, was born to it. She first appeared onstage at age three, and joined her dad on A Prairie Home Companion at twelve. After studying theater and living the thespian life, she met aspiring playwright and fellow floor-sleeping New York denizen Mike Merenda. An erstwhile guitar thrasher of the punk and ska variety, Mike was grieving the loss of three close friends in succession. Mike + Ruthy heard and felt the songs in one another, and two paths leading away from music became one consumed by it. They headed for the hills, embracing life as a duo – musical and otherwise.

From the start, they wrote what they knew, weaving ardent friendship, warts-and-all couplehood, bittersweet loss, unabashed joy, and modern gypsy domesticity into song, while keeping an edge consistent with the scrappier end of the folk spectrum. They’ve always been an open book; fans have borne witnesses to – and often participated in – Mike + Ruthy traversing the world for seven years with Tao Seeger (Pete’s grandson) as The Mammals, embarking on their own musical path as Mike + Ruthy (first post-nuptial release: The Honeymoon Agenda), scoring an Americana hit with third release, 2010’s Million To One, and bringing children into the fold.

Nora Guthrie, daughter of Woody and keeper of his legacy, was so moved by Mike + Ruthy’s performance at a benefit for Huntington’s Chorea research, she gave them unrecorded Woody lyrics entitled “My New York City,” and asked them to complete the song for the collection My Name Is New York: Ramblin’ Around Woody’s Town. An epic ballad, telling Mike + Ruthy’s tale as much as Woody’s, was born. The song, buoyed by a band, became the centerpiece to 2011’s acclaimed The NYC EP, and its dramatic scope further set the stage for the swinging-for-the-fences sonics of Bright As You Can. No Depression editor Peter Blackstock wrote, “Quite a few folks have done this ‘set-Woody's-lyrics-to-music thing’ over the past couple decades. I'm not sure anyone's ever done it better than this.” Soon after, Canadian neofolk supergoup The Duhks, fans of the The NYC EP, hired Mike + Ruthy to produce their well-received 2014 Compass album Beyond the Blue, recording it at Mike + Ruthy’s own Humble Abode barn studio in upstate New York, and further inspiring our heroes to do the same for themselves with Bright As You Can.

While writing songs for Bright As You Can, Mike + Ruthy produced an ongoing biannual music festival, designed with their distinctive ragged-but-right family template in mind. With toddler Opal and youngster Willy in tow – the kids accompany them everywhere – they put their nurturing energy into The Hoot, drawing acts like Josh Ritter, David Bromberg, Natalie Merchant, and none other than Pete Seeger, who sent them a postcard not long before he passed: “Your Hoot was one of the best song gatherings I’ve seen in all my 94 years. I hope next year I can be there for more than one day.”

“I love to make you laugh. This guitar’s all I have / Empty pockets, topped off jars, makin’ love beneath the silvery stars / What are we waiting for, when do we leave and where do we go?” “What Are We Waiting For” – Bright As You Can

In May, 2014, Mike + Ruthy decided to make a high octane record, comprised of songs they could tour with a band. They tapped drummer Konrad Meissner (Brandi Carlisle, Tracy Bonham), bassist Jacob Silver (Emmylou Harris, Arlo Guthrie) and pedal steel man Charlie Rose (Elephant Revival, Josh Ritter), and enlisted master engineer-producer Adam Armstrong to capture it all on an eight track recorder at Humble Abode Studios. Guests include Jay Ungar, Amy Helm (Levon’s daughter), and ace keyboardist Marco Benevento, all adding texture, intensity, and family love.

Single “Rock On Little Jane” written for daughter Opal, taps into Ruthy’s deep soul well; a vintage-y horn-and-string-section complements her most impassioned vocal yet.

Because the Bright As You Can repertoire has been road-tested, the songs are already on YouTube, captured by fans. Three unexpected cover versions of their Carter Family-ish “Simple and Sober” are already viewable, courtesy of teen sweethearts, a young golden-throated woman, and a gray-bearded grandpa in recovery, who thanks Mike + Ruthy at the end of his touching, much-viewed performance. The tune shares an almost-eerie timelessness with “The Farmer,” which could’ve been written a century ago. By contrast, “Golden Eye” creates a new genre, funk folk, and the autobiographical “Chasin’ Gold” is offbeat swagger, while Mike’s cinematic “Cigarette” bestows on him heavyweight singer-songwriter status.

Mike + Ruthy, like most folkies, love ghosts, particularly songs about ghosts, and especially “The Ghost of Richard Manuel,” written by their friend Joshua Davis. They’ve performed this ode to the tragic genius of The Band many times at Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble in Woodstock, NY, to rapturous response. Here, it fades into fuzz-rock companion piece “Legends Only Appear In Black and White,” a tune that would not be out of place at a Pink Floyd arena show.

“Bright As You Can” not only kicks everything off, it sums everything up. Over churning acoustics, driving rhythms, and keening pedal steel, Mike + Ruthy jubilantly sing of those who have loved them – mothers, fathers, lovers, children – who gave them words of strength, placed their hands on strings and steering wheels, inspiring them to make make music filled with as much love as possible and take it to a world in dire need of connection, joy, and family. And that is what they have done.

“O my lover he once told me you gotta be as sweet as you can, yeah you gotta be as sweet as you can / My love comes to me like a sword of light / On this battlefield you’re a flag of white.” “Bright As You Can” – Bright As You Can more >>>