Rock and roll aficionados need no introduction to pop songwriter Tommy Keene and pioneer punk guitarist Ivan Julian. However, what even the most dedicated listener might not know is these two Washington D.C. area natives need no introduction to each other. In fact, the two were briefly in a band together in New York in 1980. While that partnership was not destined to last, Tommy and Ivan have joined forces again for a dynamite acoustic solo tour double bill.
To get to the roots of this relationship, we have to go all the way back to 1978. Ivan was playing guitar with the seminal New York punk outfit Richard Hell and The Voidoids. Tommy was working in D.C. with The Razz, a legendary local rock and rock outfit. One night, along with Razz bassist Ted Niceley, Tommy drove up to NYC to see Cheap Trick at The Bottom Line. Arriving to find out that the show had been cancelled, the two headed to Max’s Kansas City, where Ted introduced Tommy to his friend Ivan.
The two hit it off. Two years later, Tommy got an invitation to come to New York to join Ivan’s new group, ultimately called The Outsets. Tommy rehearsed and hung out with Ivan in the early part of 1980, taking in the whole New York East Village scene, including such historic haunts as CBGB’s and The Mudd Club.
Tommy, however, was not destined to remain an Outset. Instead, he formed his own group and in the ensuing decades has released acclaimed albums on the Dolphin, Geffen and Matador labels, while occasionally playing sideman for Paul Westerberg and Robert Pollard. Ivan continued The Outsets for a few years, worked with The Clash and Shriekback, and later played extensively with Matthew Sweet before releasing his own solo album in 2011.
Having headed their separate ways at the dawn of the ‘80s, this current KeeneJulian double bill is, to say the least, an unexpected surprise. But when you also consider that only a short time ago, Ivan fought his way back to good health after nearly succumbing to cancer, then this 10-city tour, in which the two will perform solo and together, is nothing short of miraculous.
Eleven full-lengths, four EPs, three compilations and one live album into the game, Tommy Keene is in the midst of a creative roll that, in the space of just six years, has yielded four studio albums — five, if you count 2010 career overview Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009. The rock savant’s new offering, Laugh in the Dark, is the latest in a fruitful partnership with North Carolina’s Second Motion Records label, comprises ten fresh Keene nuggets meticulously assembled over the course of six months, a period in which his “unobvious covers” record Excitement at Your Feet saw release to unanimous critical acclaim.
Adam Levy is regarded by many to be one of the great American songwriters of his era. His newest solo endeavor might be his best and most original work to date. Levy is probably best known for his nearly 20 years of work as lead singer-songwriter for The Honeydogs. Levy’s songwriting has always been musically expansive, exploring styles as diverse as American roots music, psychedelia, soul, world, jazz, and classical music. His lyrics have always been thoughtful, literary and provocative, and have garnered him international critical accolades and fans.
“I started playing in bands when I was 13 years old, and that’s when I decided that music would be my life,” states Ivan Julian. “It’s always been important to me to be what I do, and not leave it behind at 5 o’clock.” Although his latest release The Naked Flame is his first album under his own name, Ivan Julian has been one of rock’s most celebrated players and most in-demand collaborators for more than three decades. The album, Julian’s first collection of his own songs in more than 20 years, finds the veteran guitarist / singer / songwriter / producer effortlessly stepping back into the role of frontman/bandleader.