Bill Palmer – The Dinosaur that roars
“…I know I ain't perfect, but God knows I try, I think I'm an all right guy.” Todd Snider
First of all, I need to start off with a few disclaimers. Number one, this is my blog – I get to say what I want. Anyone wants to take issue, you are free to comment at the bottom.
Number two – I consider Bill Palmer my friend. We don't always agree on things (how many of your friends do you always agree with?), and our politics and philosophies may differ a bit, but I respect his honesty and passion – especially about music. He is something of an “agent provocateur”, stirring things up when he feels he needs to -- “balls to the wall, no retreat, no surrender” – but always with a smile. His tactics may sometimes be a bit heavy-handed for my tastes (people have used the expression “pulled a Palmer” in front of me, when describing someone doing something over-the-top), but so what. As if anyone really cares. I’m here to talk about music, not personalities.
Mr. Palmer may call himself a “Dinosuar”, but he’s certainly no fossil. He is a living, breathing force of nature, and Santa Fe is lucky that he calls it home. For those of you who are not as familiar with him as I am, he is one of the most creative and talented musicians I’ve ever met. He is a great engineer (according to the folks that have worked with him), a killer producer, (check how many of the favorite CD’s in your collection of Santa Fe artists his name is on), and an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist (although I’ve only seen him play guitar live, I’ve heard recordings of him on almost everything else). Not to mention that he’s gotten two of the most amazing women in Santa Fe to marry him. OK, maybe I’m not only his friend, I’m a bit of a fan, too.
Bill is one of the founders of Frogville Studios and the key person behind what a lot of folks here call the “Frogville Sound” -- found on the CD’s issued by the label of the same name, among others. He was a member of Hundred Year Flood (who OWNED the stages here for many years), and currently plays guitar with Stephanie Hatfield and the Hot Mess, in addition to fronting the band Bill Palmer and the Dinosaurs (A.K.A. “The TV Killers”).
I first met Bill when I went to Frogville for a meeting with Big John Treadwell, the head dude of the studio and label. I was very new to the music scene here, and really didn’t know anyone. There were a bunch of guys sitting on the front porch, having a break, drinking some beers. Bill greeted me with his thousand-watt smile, introduced himself as “Bill”, and showed me to John’s office. I figured he was just one of the members of the band recording that day, and really thought nothing more than he seemed like a cool guy – obvious Texas accent notwithstanding. (Having lived in Dallas for a while – you’d know that if you’ve been reading my posts – I can spot ‘em a mile away…not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
It wasn’t until much later that I found out that he was one of the “top dogs” in the Santa Fe music community. I saw him at a few shows, caught one of the song swaps he does with Stephanie, and began to understand where he was coming from musically.
Fast-forward to Frog Fest Five last year. I had volunteered to help the cause by being Stage Manager for the day. Again, being a fairly recent Santa Fe transplant – I had never seen most of the bands performing that day. The big buzz that day was a reunion show by Hundred Year Flood. Also scheduled to play that day – Bill Palmer and Stephanie Hatfield duo. By the end of that day, I certainly understood who “Bill” was, and how much I was impressed by his performance with both acts.
Jump ahead to Frog Fest Six, a few months ago. By then, I was writing for SantaFe.com, had been around most of the bands and venues in town, made a few more friends, and was covering the show for this great website.
And it was then I got to see the real “Bill”. Although they were on too early in the day for most of the audience to catch them, I witnessed the debut performance of Bill Palmer and the Dinosaurs. Wow. It was a truly magical set and you’ll hear in the video above of my backstage interview with Bill after the set, how impressed I was with what I saw. He tells the rest of the story himself.
He and his band (which has a classic rock vibe, without being a throwback or a cliché) is powerful. Melodic. Lots of tasty guitar work. “Shake-your-ass” fun. Trust me, it was as good as all that – and more.
Not too long ago, Bill gave me one of his solo CD’s “DINOSAURS”, on which he plays all of the instruments, in addition to writing all of the songs. (Again, see the interview above for more details on the CD – plus he fills in some of the blanks about the label and the studio -- correcting some information I’d gotten wrong in one of my earlier articles).
On most of the CD he comes off like Tom Petty, if he had been born in Texas instead of Florida – especially on the songs “Lonely Heart” and “Care About”. Other favorites of mine include “Shake It Down”, the title track “DINOSAURS” and “The River”. Don’t take my word for it – go to one of their upcoming shows – September 8th at El Farol or September 10th at the NM State Fair -- and buy the CD. Tell him you I sent you. With a smile.
Now for the Billy Bob Thornton story. My lovely wife Kelly and I headed to the Santa Fe Brewing Company to see Billy Bob perform, after reading some positive reviews of his CD and shows. I recognized one of the members of his band from my days on the road (again, you need to go back to post # 1 if this does not make sense), and went backstage to say hi. Billy Bob introduced himself, and we had a nice chat about some mutual friends (including the late Warren Zevon), and had one of his folks take the photo above. He’s a nice guy and a great musician. Truly.
Next time: David Byrne and the backstage beer.
Onstage photos of Bill Palmer & the Dinosaurs and Billy Bob Thornton by Eric Davis.