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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 19
8/3/04 Good Looks, Frederick’s. I showed up kinda late and this Austin, TX four-piece was taking a break, having just shot a video onstage. They came back up for a brief set right around midnight. They played fairly simple, not-too-serious rawk with a swagger and a slight blues influence (harmonica honking out in places)…a little bit like that Eagles Of Death Metal CD I’ve been listening to. One guitar player and the bass player swapped instruments a time or two. Even though they had two guitarists, actual leads were rare. The two covers I recognized were Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime”. This aint no disco.
8/4/04 Solo Acoustic Sets, Frederick’s. Micah Schnabel (of Two Cow Garage) was a late scratch due to car trouble somewhere in Ohio, so tonight’s lineup was hastily put together. Kevin Butterfield was the first guy I heard- he’s got a great country voice that breaks in all the right places. Accompanied by his 12-string guitar, he did covers by Hank, Lefty, Merle, Brian Wilson. He also did Bob Reuter’s “When Love First Comes To Town” (accompanied by the author on backing vocals).
Fred Friction closed out the evening with a handful of originals, alternating between spoons and an out of tune guitar. In addition to old favorites like “Little Baby Dreams”, “Whiskey I Drink”, “Foolish Heart” and “Richer Than The Soil”, he did a new one about the devil.
8/9/04 Charliehorse, The Gypsy, Fayetteville, AR. This was a nice introduction to this off-beat college town in northwest Arkansas. My buddy, Walt took me to this cool outdoor courtyard bar on Dickson Street (Fayetteville’s version of Delmar). After being introduced to almost all forty of the locals in attendance, Angela and I found a table up front to hear a couple of sets by this acoustic trio (acoustic guitar/vocals, stand-up bass/vocals and a guy who alternated between lap steel and banjo). They usually play with a drummer, but not tonight. I think this Monday night gig was put together just because we were visiting from out of town.
These guys have a real down-to-earth stage presence; they reminded me of St. Louis’ own Cumberland Gap. Their setlist could have come from my record collection- they covered The Bottlerockets (“Get Down, River”), Gram Parsons (“Sin City”), Lefty Frissell (“Gone, Gone, Gone”) and Lyle Lovett (“L.A. County”), among others.
I got the full Arkansas experience when my hosts provided a place to crash for the night to a meth-addicted acquaintance- it kept her off the streets for at least one night.
8/20/04 Lucinda Williams, The Pageant. We arrived right as The Bottlerockets were doing “I Wanna Come Home”. The place was packed and the sound quality was good. I liked the handful of songs I heard, but I’m a bit spoiled from seeing these guys in more intimate settings (The Duck Room, Frederick’s). In these smaller rooms, they’re the headline act and get to go off a bit more; tonight the two-guitar interplay wasn’t the jaw-dropping experience I’ve witnessed at other times. The end of their set featured “Get Down River”, “Blue Sky” and “Welfare Music”. The latter is a gripping slice of life story song about rural poverty. Mark’s drumming works really well on this one, as snare rolls flow into accentuated punches.
After squeezing through the crowded floor to say “hi” to a few people, I found my way to my little crew near the stage as Lucinda Williams opened with “Drunken Angel”. This time out, she was backed by a relatively spare three-piece band. The guitar leads weren’t as unique as those provided by Gurf Morlix years ago or as dazzling as the dual guitar pyrotechnics of Lucinda’s more recent tours, but they were just fine, nonetheless. The lead player switched to steel guitar a time or two.
Ultimately, Lucinda’s strong suit is her ability to pair personal, confessional lyrics with appropriately distinctive and soulful melodies…so the fact that her voice is less than technically precise and the band is merely good (not drop-dead amazing), isn’t necessarily a problem. No one seemed to mind that she needs to read the lyrics (to songs that she wrote and has sung hundreds of times) from sheets on a music stand…she’s a freak, but she’s our freak and we love her.
Tonight’s setlist drew almost entirely from her most recent three albums (read: longer, groove-based songs, as opposed to the more concise pop of her 1988 album). She packed a lot of emotion into “Right In Time”, “2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten” and “Those Three Days”, each passionately expressing very different themes. Add this band to the list of hundreds of acts that show the influence of Neil Young and Crazy Horse- on the hypnotic “Out Of Touch”, in particular. “Concrete And Barbed Wire” was obviously written by the same person who wrote “The Price You Have To Pay”. “Pineola” hit me with additional impact in the wake of a friend’s recent suicide. Lucinda’s set ended with the bluesy “Joy” which turned into an extended blues-rock jam, assisted by the guys in The Bottlerockets. In the encore, she dusted off “Big Red Sun” from her 1988 self-titled CD- a totally tuneful and pleasant surprise.
8/24/04 Palookaville, The Cabin Inn. The only thing nice about having to work until 10PM tonight was being able to go downstairs and grab a couple of beers with a few friends and hear Palookaville in the cozy confines of the log cabin bar. The “crowd” varied from three to maybe eight people as the latest incarnation of this band played a very informal set. They recently got rid of Joe, the electric guitar player- what he does isn’t what this band needs.
Now the only lead instrument is Kevin’s fiddle…so the “Desire”-era Dylan feel they could occasionally touch on is much more prevalent throughout- not a bad thing at all. Mike is surprisingly inventive on just a snare drum and brushes. Songs that grabbed me tonight included “It Just Does Not Speak To My Soul”, “I Can’t Look Away”, “Outside Of Your Class” and a handful of covers. “Me And Charlie Floyd” is a sweet and melancholy remembrance of time spent with a bright but misguided teenager…the ache it invokes is even stronger now that the kid Bob wrote that song about is dead. When Bob was finished singing, Jenna did her odd but endearing cello/spoken word song (poem?), “Kissing In The Bushes”. The title is repeated after each moody instrumental passage. Somehow, it is simultaneously innocent, mischievous and sexy.
8/25/04 Waterloo, Frederick’s. This show was hastily put together- some of the band members didn’t even know about it until yesterday. Kevin Butterfield opened with another solo acoustic set, accompanied only by his twelve string guitar. His original songs hold my interest right alongside covers by Don Gibson, Merle Haggard and a totally reworked version of Brian Wilson’s “Help Me Rhonda”. His expressive pipes were just made to sing country music- it might be my current favorite local singing voice.
About thirty people were on hand when Waterloo took the stage. They jump started things with a very punchy, spirited opener providing a tension to the quiet vocals of Mark Ray. My characterization was “gentle yet urgent” while Mr. Carosello came up with “Soothing but insistent”…either way, you get the idea. Chris Grabeau’s jagged guitar and Marc Chechik’s swirling keyboards combined in a way reminiscent of those early Green On Red records.
Mark and Marc have been busy doing some video/short film projects…they shared some of this with us tonight. Their buddy Adam manned the machine as these gently impressionistic images of the band were interspersed with scenes from inside Fred’s bar as well as from some more natural settings. Eventually these sparse, almost ambient images didn’t hold my interest (at least in a bar, on a small TV screen).
The overall tone of tonight’s set was especially loose and casual. Marc gave a little piano tease of Badfinger’s “Day After Day” between many of the songs. They covered a Flaming Lips song toward the end and were eventually joined by Adam Reichmann (on drums!) as things got looser, still. I was out late last night (see 8/24/04), so I began to fade before the band finished playing. Blame it on my fatigue, or the loose, improvisational vibe, but I found the last little bit of this set somewhat slow and less focused.
8/27/04 The Misses, Frederick’s. Plaid Cattle opened- their first gig since 1995 (Curt and Ann took a long hiatus from playing out and have been busy raising reptiles- I’m not making this up.) Several people from the old days came out to hear ‘em. Even though their songs are somewhat dark and moody, their pleasant, easy-going stage presence rendered the overall feel upbeat. They alternated between songs sung by Curt and those sung by Ann- the latter tend to be a bit more melodic. One of Ann’s slower songs reminded me of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”. Curt can nail a groove with fluid chord progressions as well as lay on the leads. Ron is steady, not flashy on drums; he gets an amusing zombified look in his eyes while playing. I never was familiar enough with their songs to come up with titles.
Next The Misses took the stage, dedicating tonight’s show to the memory of Mike Shelton, Carrie Lindsey and Emily Shelton who were tragically killed in a car wreck last Sunday.
The Misses are an all-female four-piece with roots in the rural corners of the St. Louis area. They play up this trashy, rural thing- the lead singer wore Daisy Duke cutoffs and pigtails and made references to meth labs. Her vocal delivery had a kitschy, ironic tone to it. Shortly after Joe and I joked about this band being a hillbilly version of the B52s, they covered “Give Me Back My Man”. Somewhere in the middle of the set the rhythm section (Debbie from Vintage Vinyl & Ann from Plaid Cattle) left the stage, while the guitar player and lead singer got all “Lillith Fair” on our asses. Say what? Sexual references abounded as the home stretch featured Heart’s “Magic Man” and Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plan Pour Moi”, rewritten to declare, “You Give Me Head”.
8/28/04 The Patsys, Frederick’s. The Phonocaptors opened. I’ve seen them a few times before; they impress me more each time. I’m not sure I’m gonna be any better at describing their sound…my usual M.O. is to reference elements of other bands that remind me of the band I’m trying to describe, and/or mention the genre they play in and list any covers I recognize. Well, there may well be a band that these guys sound just like, but I haven’t heard ‘em…I didn’t recognize any covers.
I usually try to mention another singer, whose vocal range/register is similar, but tonight the microphone was only working about half the time and even when it was, the lyrics were drowned out and unintelligible. Jason usually crunches through the chords in a most ragged, yet purposeful way, seamlessly slipping in the occasional lead run- it’s like the antithesis of that meandering, noodling hippie kind of playing. This shit is balls-out, blaring and badass (spellcheck informed me that there is no hyphen in “badass”). Even through this lousy sound setup (the sound must have been pre-tweaked to the headliners’ settings), I was jumping up and down, lost in the moment a time or two. The rhythm section held up their end as well, but Jason’s songs, playing and general stage presence are what make this band.
Frederick’s was pretty full when The Patsys took the stage. This Columbus four piece (G, G, B, D, & K) is more classifiable than The Phonocaptors- they draw quite heavily from the golden age of Nuggets-era 60s garage rock. I’m no aficionado when it comes to this genre, but even with my limited exposure, all of the trademark elements were loud and clear. The sound quality was much better than for the opening act, although the lyrics (sung by bassist Tutti Jackson) were still largely unintelligible…but that’s not really the point with this kind of music- it’s all about the fun and furious swirl of the two guitars and surging keyboard fills (provided by Mark Wyatt who would switch over to harmonica or maracas on certain songs).