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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 15
5/4/04 Graham Parker and The Twang Three, The Duck Room. He’s got a new CD out of roots-oriented material called “Your Country”. Backed by Drew Glackin on lap steel, Tom Freund on bass and Konrad Meisner on drums, he opened with the older “Over The Border To America” setting the evening’s theme- this veteran British songwriter pays a stylistic visit to the music of “our country”. Songs from the new album included “Cruel Lips”, “Anything For a Laugh”’ “Tornado Alley” and Jerry Garcia’s “Sugaree”. The lap steel leads added to certain of these songs in the same way that David Lindley’s playing fleshed out some of Jackson Browne’s more memorable recordings. Yeah, I know...I just referenced Jerry Garcia and Jackson Browne in consecutive sentences.
Mixed in with this newer material were scattered songs from all points in his long career, almost all of which contain some degree of lyrical venom- hell, the GP tribute CD is called “Piss and Vinegar”. Songs like “The Three Martini Lunch”, “Love Gets You Twisted”, “Cryin’ For Attention” (I’ve always thought Roseanne Cash should cover this one), and “Force Of Nature” were all impressive. At times, Glackin would switch over to bass, allowing Freund to play guitar, mandolin or keyboards, as each song was given it’s own unique treatment- way more inspiring than his brief guitar & bass set at SXSW a few weeks ago. A personal high point for me was “Mr. Tender”, a song from the nineties that, to paraphrase, states, “For you, baby, even a cynical fuck like me will tone it down some”, over an old-school soul/pop melody, like a slightly reggae-fied Sam Cooke.
“You Can’t Be Too Strong”, the stark ballad about an abortion, hit with sobering impact, even to this life-long pro-choice guy. On another of his mid-tempo pop/soul songs, “A Nation Of Shopkeepers”, he got the audience to contribute the backing “doot, doot, doos”. The biggest “hit” he did tonight was “Fool’s Gold”, enjoyable enough, even if the lead guitar (played by Freund) didn’t ring as bright as it did on the original recording. Toward the end of the set, he did his revisited take on “Crawling From The Wreckage”, with that quirky mid-to-fast tempo…just like on the new album.
But my personal favorite moment came in the encore. They ended with “Tell Me”, an older, lesser-known Stones cover. Man, how has this one escaped my attention until now? It’s got this instantly warm and familiar feel to it- it’s like a more understated “Eve Of Destruction” lamenting the loss of a girl, instead of the end of the world. I went home that night and found it on disc one of “The Singles Collection” box. I’ve been listening to that disc, in general, and that song, in particular, almost non-stop for a couple of days, now. I love these unexpected discoveries.
5/5/04 Supersuckers, The Duck Room. I wasn’t sure I was gonna make it out tonight, but it was Marie’s birthday, so I got up off the mat and partook of Hefeweizen and Supersuckers. The average age of the crowd appeared to be about twenty years younger than that of last night’s Graham Parker show.
There was only one act on the bill, but tonight’s “opening act” was the “Country Supersuckers”. The first hour or so of the show featured the basic 4-piece lineup, plus a new guy on bass, allowing frontman Eddie Spaghetti to play rhythm guitar and sing a nice long set of country-flavored songs- quite a few from their “Must’ve been High” CD- “Roadworn and Weary” and “Barricade” come to mind, as well as “Creepy Jackalope”, from that EP they did with Steve Earle. The sound of the twin lead Telecasters ranged from deep spaghetti-western twang (think “Ghost Riders In The Sky”) to some of that funky wah-wah sound that always gets my friend Evan to mention Peter Frampton. While the guitarists played like they meant it, there was something of a tongue-in-cheek tone to the proceedings- kinda like The Beat Farmers in that regard. It had to be pointed out to me, but they countrified a Commodores song- something about “I’ll Be On My Way…” somewhere in there as well.
The “second act” on tonight’s bill was a set of acoustic ballads featuring Mr. Spaghetti on acoustic guitar accompanied only by a simply brushed snare drum. He did pretty faithful covers of “All Of Me” and “Sea Of Heartbreak”, as well as a couple of Kristofferson songs- “Best Of All Possible Worlds” and “Help Me Make It Through The Night”. One of the ‘suckers’ guitarists came out and added some nice acoustic leads on a couple of these songs.
Finally, the “headline act” came on- the electric Supersuckers. Having swapped their Telecasters for Les Pauls (including Eddie on his cool Gibson bass) they ripped through a set of the punk rock they’re most known for. They got all revved and manic on songs like “Good Luck”, “Marie” (tonight’s birthday girl), “I Want The Drugs” (Eddie used the intro to this song for his customary solicitation of the audience for pot donations) and “Pretty Fucked Up”. Fast, furious and fun.
5/11/04 Angie Heaton, Fredrick’s. No, I wasn’t at the Bowie show at The Fox tonight, but round two (of, like 8) of the NBA playoffs didn’t hold my interest, so around 10PM, I headed to a familiar bar for some unfamiliar music. Counting bar staff and the musicians yet to play, there were maybe a dozen people in the room as a woman named Petrocovich played keyboards and sang. I think she’s from San Francisco. The keyboards featured some spooky effects. Her singing reminded me of that woman named Lois (Maffeo?) both in it’s register, as well as it’s quiet, eerie, confessional quality.
I felt like we (Steve Carosello, Mark Stephens & I) were attending a private concert as Gina Villalobos and Angie Heaton sang and played acoustic guitars, both separately and together. There was a kind of innocent, wide-eyed wonder to what they do, along the lines of my limited familiarity with Indigo Girls or Kaia. Gina seemed more confident and assertive in her stage presence than Angie. She sang Neil Young’s “Barstool Blues” and Big Star song I’m not remembering.
5/14/04 Waterloo CD release party, Lemmon’s. I got there in time to hear the last couple of songs by Stephan Bayley (of North Carolina’s Hungry Mind Review). What I heard sounded nice enough- a guy singing and playing acoustic guitar backed by a woman on violin. I honestly didn’t hear enough to get a strong impression. His voice jumped into a falsetto a one point. Tonight there were so many familiar faces in this packed room, that I found it somewhat frustrating- I would have been perfectly happy hearing these bands in a crowd of strangers, or socializing with this roomful of friends, but there really wasn’t time to do both. Somebody needs to host a party where these same people can all get together with a little more time to talk, because it was soon time to shut up and listen…
…The Love Experts were on tonight. I always enjoy what they do, even on those nights when the band seems less than pleased with their own performance. But tonight even they seemed happy with how things went. I’m not sure I can add to the reference points I’ve used before (impressive, stylized vocals akin to Brian Ferry/Guy Keyser, mannered song structures along the lines of Roxy Music and an animated 2 guitar thing ala The Soft Boys and/or Television), but beyond the blah, blah, blah I could go into, there were a few times when I was just lost in the moment when the two guitars would lay on the joyous, shimmering leads. Drums and bass stood out at times, too…and that’s quite a compliment, given how stellar the guitars were. In addition to the always pleasing “Your Shining Hour”, they did “I’m Sorry” and “Troubadour”. Somewhere in there, they covered “Desiree” by The Left Banke (I had to ask). They ended with “Bright Red Carnation”, allowing the guitars to once again, send me reeling and smiling.
Closing out the evening was Waterloo, opening with the instrumental “Picture Start” (if I remember correctly) from their last CD. This song was a good vehicle for introducing the audience to what these guys do- things begin with a slow, moody song structure (this particular one always reminds me of Badfinger’s “Day After Day”) …from there, the various players added on the layers as things got into a groove. Dave Melson’s bass playing can no longer be considered a pleasant surprise, as I’ve come to expect his inventive input. Marc Chechik’s keyboards fluttered and Chris Grabau’s guitar leads added a unique, jagged feel to Mark Ray’s gentle, melodic songs. I think that’s probably the greatest appeal to what they do- the songs sound modest and understated, while somehow burning with some kind of urgency. I’ve had the CD (available to all for free tonight…how’s that for a generous CD release party?) for a while, but still haven’t learned song titles. I seem to remember a couple of the newer ones having a similar structure to “Picture Start”. The one song that sounded like a cover turned out to be by Crowded House.