On Sunday evening, Michael Nesmith's First National Band Redux opened their mini-tour at Pappy & Harriet's in Pioneertown, California. Here is the night's set list, courtesy of Andrew Sandoval:
The Monkees Tour Facebook page shared live footage throughout the performance:
The First National Band, Michael Nesmith's early 1970s post-Monkees outfit that consisted of Red Rhodes, John London, and John Ware, is returning as The First National Band Redux for a limited run of shows beginning this evening in Pioneertown, California. Let's take a moment to meet the members of the new configuration of the group as they were recently profiled in an email from Videoranch:
Christopher Allis / Drums
"Christian [Nesmith] and I have been friends for over 15 years at this point and we have backed up many a singer-songwriter in that time. One night early on we were hanging out talking about music and he asked me if I was aware of any of Nez's post-Monkees stuff. I admitted that I wasn't. So, he played me some of the FNB stuff. I was immediately drawn to it. Great tunes. Great vibe. Fast forward a bunch of years, a gaggle of Circe Link records together and even more time in the saddle, and I guess Christian very kindly expressed to Nez that 'Topher is the the guy you want when you need a drummer.' So, when the FNB Redux thing started being discussed, I got the call.
"FNB Redux for me is the start of another chapter. One with a narrative through line that has been around for nearly 50 years! I don't think we are claiming to be anything other than a new start. A next phase. It's a real joy: the opportunity to work with my friends, AND support a true luminary within the music community. It doesn't get much better than that. Dig?"
Jason Chesney / Bass
"I met Circe, Christian, and Jonathan Nesmith at Christopher Allis' birthday party in December 2007. The first conversation I ever had with Christian and Jonathan was about the triptych that opens up Magnetic South, as my current project at the time was navigating our way through "Calico Girlfriend." It wasn't long before Circe and I began turning each other on to our favorite outsider artists. A year and a half later, I was playing bass in Circe & Christian's band.
"The music of Michael Nesmith & The First National Band had been informing me before I even knew it existed, through bands and songwriters that I had played with in my youth who were big fans and heavily inspired by them. When I eventually heard the albums, I loved them straight away. What's not to dig?
"Getting to play with Nez and the FNB Redux is an honor and an absolute joy. It's all medicated Jif and wiggle bar loveliness. It's family and friends. It's American music at its finest...and it's so very surreal and more fun than you can imagine. A dream come true, to be performing this stellar catalog with its creator and this super fine musical outfit...I'm still pinching myself!"
Pete Finney / Pedal Steel Guitar
"I first met Nez in the Spring of 2014, when I filled in for Chris Scruggs on pedal-steel and guitar for the last few weeks of the Movies of the Mind tour. The '70s albums Nez made with Red Rhodes and the First National Band had been long-time favorites of mine, so of course I really enjoyed the experience musically, and also really enjoyed the hang and the conversations that ensued during our travels.
"At that point I was well into co-creating and writing the Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit (and book) on "Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats," which included quite a bit (music, video, photos, and text) from the sessions Nesmith did in Nashville 1968 with many of the musicians who were the main focus of our exhibit. Nez came to Nashville in 2015 for the concert that went with the exhibit opening and we reconnected then, as well as performing together.
"Needless to say I was both flattered and excited when Nez called me some months back to tell me about his plans for the First National Band project and to ask if I would be interested in trying to fill the giant shoes required to recapture the brilliant musicality and adventurous spirit that define Red Rhodes' contributions to those records. All the players (and singers) in the new version of the band are really good, and I’m as excited about these upcoming shows as anything I’ve ever done in several decades of playing for a living, which includes tours with the Dixie Chicks, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, and many, many others."
Circe Link / Background Vocals
"My name is Circe Link and I was hitchhiking through the Mojave dessert one dry and sage blown night when I held out my thumb looking for a ride to the cosmic destination unknown. Just then some chugging heap of speed and metal stopped at my side and a door fell open. Behind the wheel sat a long nailed mellow eyed man named Christian Nesmith who told me together we could make beautiful music. That sounded just about right to me, so I climbed in and we’ve been driving ever since. Looks like this next highway has headed us straight into The First National Band Redux with the Cosmic Crooner Michael Nesmith at the helm, heck I don’t even need to kick the wheels to know that this is one hell of a vehicle built for interstellar delight, rhythm and serious groove.
"Oh wait I mean…Howdy I’m Circe Link and I have been the musical partner of Christian Nesmith for the last 15 years. Together we have released over twelve titles spanning from Cowboy Jazz to Pop Rock. I’m delighted to be along for the ride for this historic and grooving as all get out The First National Band Redux!"
Jonathan Nesmith / Guitar and Piano
"A lot of people ask me, 'Jonathan, just how DID you come to be in the First National Band Redux?' Well, when I started 'Jonathan Nesmith & Michael Nesmith & The First National Band' I had been showing up to rehearsals for about a week with my trash can lid and wooden spoon. I'd wail for about 90 minutes into the nearest microphone, pat everyone on the back and leave, then come back and do it all again the next day. After about the fourth or fifth day of trying to hide his surprise when I would walk in the room, Dad pulled me aside and said, 'I'm glad you're here, but…how about referring to us as 'First National Band Redux'?' I said, 'Why the look of resignation?', but he just said, 'And maybe try playing some guitar and a little keys.' It's all taught me a very valuable lesson: It sure is nice to play good songs."
Thank you again to Videoranch for almost all of the photographs and biographies of members of the FNB Redux featured above!
Courtesy of Videoranch, here is a preview of some items that will be available at the merchandise table at the shows. Videoranch also has a lot of other new pieces for sale, too.
In the brand new issue of Mojo (#292/March 2018), Bob Mehr talks to Nez about the First National Band era, joining forces with Ben Gibbard at the upcoming FNB Redux show in San Francisco on January 28, and provides an examination of Michael's discography. You can find this issue of Mojo in bookstores or by ordering it online.
Here's the complete schedule for Michael Nesmith and The First National Band Redux. Meet & Greet opportunities are available for most of the shows. And don't forget to vote in the Live Almanac's current poll where you can choose your favorite First National Band album!
January 21: Pappy & Harriet's / Pioneertown, California (SOLD OUT)
January 23: The Coach House / San Juan Capistrano, California (SOLD OUT)
January 25: The Troubadour / West Hollywood, California (SOLD OUT)
January 26: Rio Theatre / Santa Cruz, California
January 28: The Chapel / San Francisco, California (With Special Guest Ben Gibbard)
Michael Nesmith's First National Band is returning in early 2018 with a new lineup, performing a limited run of shows in California. And now, Meet & Greet opportunities have been announced through Videoranch. Check out the different options below.
Michael Nesmith previously announced that a revamped First National Band would return to the concert stage this January, and now three more shows have been added to the itinerary. Click each poster below for more information and to purchase tickets.
The Troubadour sold out in less than an hour. I am amazed and grateful thanks to all of you.
The Troub has 500 saleable seats and it was at the Troub that I was Hootmaster for the first year I was in LA. I hung out there while working around LA, and it was the place of a very important event in life.
I write about it in Infinite Tuesday.
I had struggled along as a singer/writer and was wondering if I had made the right choice for my life -- and consequently my wife, then pregnant with Christian.
I had returned from a weird trip playing high school assemblies across Texas -- to a crooked manager who stole my money -- so Phyllis was broke and starving and I was too. I went into a kind of meltdown, where everything I thought was up for grabs, and reconsideration. I was also physically sick, with what I will never know, so sick I couldn't get out of bed.
Slowly I pulled back together, and by the inspiration of Love, Phyllis for me and me for Phyllis, and a Life force beyond the veil, I lifted up enough to write, to think, and to pray.
When I was well enough I went down on a Monday night to the Hoot, met the new hootmaster, and secured a spot on that evening's roster.
I played four songs: Different Drum, Papa Jean's Blues, Nine Times Blue, and Propinquity. In IT I describe , in some detail that night, but the gist of it was to experience the elements of a live performance I had not known existed.
The audience gave me a rising approval throughout the set, each round of applause louder and more appreciative than the last, until by the end of that short set they were screaming for more -- but I had no more, so I bowed low and walked off stage grateful -- and as a changed man.
That show made me sure I was on the right path toward a distant light, gave me and Phyllis hope, led me to the events that followed, and has since guided me in the arts.
Those 500 people in those 500 seats, on that night, opened a door for me.
500 seats does not seem like a lot in the scheme of stadium rock, but as a friend said to me yesterday, the same who gave me the news of the rapid sell-out, those are a special 500 seats, the "right 500" seats.
I can't wait to see you there and play those four songs one more time and to thank you yet again for what has been given to me.
Hot on the heels of yesterday's announcement of the More Of The Monkees super deluxe edition by Rhino Records, Michael Nesmith has unveiled his first concert engagements for 2018 with a brand new lineup of The First National Band.
The First National Band was Nesmith's initial post-Monkees outfit that consisted of Red Rhodes, John London, and John Ware. The group released three acclaimed albums between 1970 and 1971, but their live performance history was fairly limited. Sadly, both Rhodes and London have passed away. The 2018 edition of the First National Band will consist of Christian Nesmith (guitar), Jonathan Nesmith (piano/guitar/vocals), Circe Link (vocals), Christopher Allis (drums), Jason Chesney (bass), Amy Spear (vocals), and Pete Finney (pedal steel).
In January, for two dates in California, Nesmith will bring the music of The First National Band back to the live arena with a series of shows focused on his early 1970s RCA recordings, including a concert on January 25th at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where he debuted the First National Band in March 1970. A press release on Monkees.com reported the following: "Songs like 'Different Drum' (a Top 20 hit for Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys), 'Listen to the Band' (re-recorded by the FNB in 1970), 'Some of Shelly’s Blues' (covered by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), and 'Silver Moon' will join lesser-known but equally transcendent album sides in a rebirth of what was labeled by critics as 'the greatest music that you never heard.'" It is expected that dates will be added nationwide.
Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval confirmed on Twitter that he will be involved in these concerts, and that he hopes live recordings will become a reality. "For me personally, this is the music of Michael's that I always come back to - revelatory, heartfelt and transcendent," Sandoval wrote on Facebook. "The albums - Magnetic South, Loose Salute, Nevada Fighter, Hits Keeps Coming, Ranch Stash & Tantamount - are brimming with brilliance. Those of you who have followed his story know that 'Papa Nes' became Nez, and went in new directions after this phase of his solo career. For these shows he will at long last call back to these records with full-blown country-rock backing and I am so excited to hear the results." Sandoval also noted on Facebook that John Ware is contemplating a cameo appearance.
Tickets for the California shows will go on sale on Friday:
January 23, 2018: The Coach House / San Juan Capistrano, California
January 25, 2018: The Troubadour / West Hollywood, California
Here is the full press release about the new activities surrounding the First National Band, courtesy of Monkees.com:
Almost fifty years ago, in May 1968, Michael Nesmith ventured to Nashville to record a series of groundbreaking sessions with local musicians. What they produced is now recognized as the foundation of the country-rock and alt-country movements.
"I could just feel this happening, that there was this 'thing,'" recalled Nez. "So, I headed off to Nashville to see if I couldn't get some of the Nashville country thing into the rock'n'roll or vice versa."
Nez's intuition was correct; he was on the leading edge of a new genre. His exploratory work caught the attention of legendary RCA A&R man Felton Jarvis who had produced the Nashville sessions with Nez. In February 1970, Jarvis signed Nez and his new band, the First National Band (pedal steel virtuoso Red Rhodes, bassist John London, and drummer John Ware), to a deal with the venerable imprint and produced their first record, Magnetic South.
Despite the eight innovative country-rock LP's Nesmith created between 1970 and 1978, he is one of the less heralded architects of the genre. The First National Band's three classic albums -- Magnetic South, Loose Salute, and Nevada Fighter -- spawned four charting singles, including "Joanne" which reached #21 on the Billboard Top 100. However, live success for the fledgling band was harder to come by and the musicians Nez collected to bring his country-rock dream to market soon scattered. Nez played out his remaining RCA albums with Red Rhodes and toured with him throughout the '70s. Yet the full-blown sounds of the First National Band were never to be heard on the concert stage again.
In January 2018, Michael Nesmith will bring this music back to the live arena with a series of shows focused on his RCA recordings, including a show on January 25th at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where he debuted the First National Band in March 1970. Songs like "Different Drum" (a Top 20 hit for Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys), "Listen to the Band", "Some of Shelly's Blues" (covered by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), and "Silver Moon" will join lesser-known but equally transcendent album sides in a rebirth of what was labeled by critics as "the greatest music that you never heard."
UPDATE 11/8/2017: Michael's Videoranch3D website has taken a moment to look back at the First National Band:
The Original Band
"[John] Ware wisely pointed out that if he and John [London] were my band, we could not only record but could tour in support of the records we made, something the Nashville first-call session guys seldom did for a new band. We would be a real band rather than a pure studio effort. ... [John] wondered who I might like to approach, and my first choice was Red Rhodes. I had no hope of him accepting, but he was my first choice. A pedal steel guitar player -- especially a magical-reality player like Red -- was critical-path for the music in my head."
-Michael Nesmith, Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff
Pedal Steel Guitar
Nez first came across Red at The Palomino Club, a popular country western spot in North Hollywood, where Red was in the house band. Red played with Nez throughout the 1970s. It is impossible to imagine Nez's music without Red's playing. Red's final performances before his death were with Nez on his ...tropical campfires... album and tour in 1992.
John began working with Nez as a duo before they left San Antonio for Hollywood in the mid-60s. After joining The Survivors with Nez, he was Nez's stand-in on The Monkees. He met John Ware while working as a bass player for Linda Ronstadt.
Prior to joining the First National Band, John attended Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and met John London while playing in Linda Ronstadt's touring band. Years after the First National Band dissolved, he joined Nez for Live at the Palais, recorded at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, Australia, in 1977.
UPDATE 11/21/2017: The concert at the Troubadour in Hollywood sold out in less than an hour, and as of November 21, there are no longer tickets available for the performance at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
Dolenz & Nesmith to join forces on concert stage in 2018; Nez to revive music of First National Band (UPDATED)
This past weekend, Michael Nesmith signed autographs and posed for pictures at the Chiller Theatre convention in Parsippany, New Jersey. Fans, including Scott Catton, who relayed details about his conversation with Nez at the event to the Live Almanac yesterday, have been reporting that Michael was informing everyone of his touring plans for 2018, which include spotlighting the music of the First National Band and pairing up with his fellow Monkee, Micky Dolenz. Jodi Ritzen, event coordinator for both Nesmith and Dolenz, confirmed the buzz on Facebook:
The First National Band was Michael's initial post-Monkees outfit that consisted of Red Rhodes, John London, and John Ware. The group released three acclaimed albums between 1970 and 1971, but their live performance history was fairly limited. Sadly, both Rhodes and London have passed away, but Nesmith has discussed in recent interviews the idea of reviving the music of the FNB, noting that he was encouraging his son, Christian, to put together a band for such a project.
Both Dolenz and Nesmith have performed for fans in recent weeks with Nez joining Micky at two of his solo shows in California. The duo has taken the stage together only two other times as an act, in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, during The Monkees' 50th Anniversary tour when Michael subbed for Peter Tork. Nesmith has discussed touring with Dolenz as far back as the 1990s.
Stay tuned to the Live Almanac for more details as they become available. Since these events are seemingly in the earliest of planning stages, no official announcements have been made and details about dates and venues for both projects are not available at this time.