Grammy-winning Americana artist Dave Alvin roars into Levitt tonight



Dave Alvin, performing at Levitt Pavilion in Dayton on Friday June 30, has built a rich musical resume over the past 40-plus years. He came roaring out of Downey, Calif. in the late 1970s with the Blasters, the group he founded with his brother, Phil.

Since leaving the roots rock act in 1986, Alvin has pursued a solo career while working with a wide variety of artists in the Americana realm and beyond. He was briefly a member of X and the spinoff group the Knitters. He has worked as a sideman for Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Little Milton, Syd Straw and others and continues to collaborate with Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

Alvin, who won a Grammy Award in 2000, recently answered some questions by telephone about his current musical exploits and his recent battle with cancer.



Q: How are you today? Anything fun happening in your world?

A: Oh, um, sure. (laughs) I wake up every morning, man. That’s the best thing you can have. I had stage IV colorectal cancer, and I shouldn’t be here but I am. I did chemo radiation for one cancer and then they misdiagnosed me so a year later I did chemo for a cancer I did not have. (laughs). All you can do besides get angry is laugh because that’s just part of the nature of having cancer. I really like my oncologist who made the wrong call. We get along great so I’m not angry. The surreal nature of going through cancer treatment as well as the disease is it’s emotionally exhausting for everyone, the person with cancer and the loved ones around them.

Q: How are you feeling these days?

A: I have good days and I have bad days, but I feel pretty good. Overall, I’m kind of back to normal but I lost a lot of weight during the treatment. I lost about 20 pounds and I’ve gained back about eight so I’m eating all the donuts I can put in me. I’m trying get that other 12 pounds happening and I will.

Q: Are you on a strict diet?

A: Well, if I am I’m ignoring what they’re telling me. No, there are certain things but part of it has nothing to do with cancer. Part of it has to do with having sepsis. I had a couple of infections a little over three years ago and that’s how they found out I had cancer. The damage from that changed certain things. There is damage to my stomach lining and stuff like that. I used to love drinking beer. I can’t drink beer anymore. I can’t drink any alcohol. I can’t have caffeine so the closest I get to caffeine is Gatorade. You know, 40 years on the road will do some damage to your system.

Q: How have the health issues affected touring?

A: In the past, I’d go out on tour let’s say a month nonstop, or a month-and-a-half. I started touring a little bit here and there last year. I’d do a gig and then try two gigs and then three. I was slowly building up to it. We’re doing five shows this time, four in Ohio and one up in Chicago. Instead of doing Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Illinois, we’re just doing a few here. We’ll come back in a few months and catch the other places so it’s good.

Check out “Borderland,” the current single from Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore:

Q: You have dates with Jimmie Dale Gilmore coming up. What’s it like working with him?

A: It’s really easy going. We’ve known each other at least 30 years but we’ve never really played together. We’ve done the occasional singalong thing at the end of a show, but we never sat down and played guitars together. It was just like, “Oh, wow, we have all these old blues and songs in common that we both knew.” It just made sense and it was, for lack of a better word, fun. I’ve always tried to keep fun, I wouldn’t say at the forefront, but always part of the package. If you’re doing this for 40 years, especially playing music that’s not the most commercial music, if you’re not having fun, why are you doing it?

Q: You and Jimmie Dale have a new single, “Borderland,” that’s out. What’s next for you musically?

A: Jimmie Dale and I are about two-thirds of the way done with our next album. I was actually in the studio this week working on that. We did the last album out here in California. This time around, we’re making this album in Texas. I’ve been spending a lot of time driving my guitars and gear back and forth from California out to Austin and back. We’re going to go back in early September and finish that up between our various schedules. That should be out, I don’t know, spring of next year.



Q: What else is going on musically?

A: I have this other project called the Third Mind that’s kind of strange. For lack of a better word, we’re calling it the psychedelic band. It’s not a jazz band but it’s spontaneous improvisation-slash-arranging. A lot of musicians don’t like to play that way. They especially don’t like to record that way. One of the great things about the digital revolution is that you can do that easily, so I wanted to take advantage of that. The only thing we decide upon in the Third Mind is the key it’s in. Then we turn on the machines and everybody, with the exception of maybe me, is such a great musician it works.

Q: Is there another Third Mind album coming?

A: The new album is coming out in October. The Third Mind has never played a live show. We have some lined up for the fall. I don’t know what it’s going to be like if the whole show is set up that way. With the recording, it’s great. It’s liberating, you know. We put out the first Third Mind album right before the pandemic hit. We were going to go out and tour on it but unfortunately the pandemic hit and then my cancer was diagnosed so that all got shoved aside. I had several goals going through all the cancel treatment. I wanted to do another album with Jimmie Dale and another Third Mind album and do some touring with that. After I get done with those, I’m going back in and making another Dave Alvin record. I have one down, almost two down, and then one more to go and then we’ll see what happens.

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Who: Dave Alvin & the Guilty Ones with local opener the Mulchmen

Where: Levitt Pavilion, 134 S. Main St., Dayton

When: 7 p.m. Friday June 30

Cost: Free

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