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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 2

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 2

7/2/03 Rex Hobart, Fred’s. Caught the last 3 or 4 songs by The Civiltones. Patty was up singing “Light My Fire” while B. D, K & G (Robin) laid down the groove. Here’s a band that’s been around forever and even though they’re the opening act on a Wednesday night in front of 30 or 40 people, they still play their hearts out and seem to have a lot of fun doing it. Then came Rex Hobart with another impressive mix of originals and covers. Covers included Wynn”s “If I Do Die” & Merle’s “It’s Not Love, But It’s Not Bad”. The only reason I wasn’t more blown away by this fine show was that I had seen a very similar set by Rex less than a month ago on this same stage. He rendered his catchy & clever originals with the same ease as before, reminding me of a solo Gary Stewart. Originals I remember: “Take It Back (Before You Mean It)”, “Bridge Burners Union” & “I Always Cry At Weddings”. For about the last half of his set, he was joined onstage by some guy named Barry, an old college buddy of his, who lives around here. Barry played electric leads to songs he had never heard before (“this one’s in G”). He had enough of a “verse, chorus, solo, verse” sense to pull it off. The encore consisted of 2 or 3 songs played by Rex and Fred (on spoons) from out in front of the stage.

7/3/03 Crossing America Listening Party, Geoff Seitz’ Fiddle Shop. St. Louis ex-pat Chris King has put together a CD highlighting “Crossing America”, a lengthy poem written by Leo Connellan (Connecticut’s poet laureate, who passed away in 2001). The poem is composed from drunken scribblings initially made as he hitchhiked across America in the 50s. This aint no feel-good “This Land Is Your Land” kind of travelogue, though. The overall tone of Connellan’s poem is pretty dark and disturbing; themes of drunkenness, petty larceny and sleazy sex among America’s impoverished underclass pervade this work, with only the occasional glimpse of something more hopeful. The CD alternates between spoken words (read by Leo himself) and musical passages inspired by the words; when the narration finds our hitchhiker off in some rural corner of New England, a cozy, comfortable folk song ensues, while a description of our protagonist grifting free drinks on the creepy side of town is followed by some cacophonous free jazz saxophone…and so on.

So about our listening session…After a few remarks by Chris about the inception of this project, Michael Friedman read the forward he wrote for the liner notes and then Chris pushed “play” and we were off…about twenty of us were sitting in chairs, just listening to the CD for the full 72+ minutes. Almost never do I (or most folks, I guess) get to just sit and only listen to a full CD; no kid wrestling, no internet, no ballgame on TV- just sit and stare off into space, with nothing more than occasional eye contact with my fellow listeners. So that aspect, in itself, was refreshing. Musical passages that stood out to me were: some song about Cheyenne (lyrics by Mr. Connellan, sung by Fred Friction who apparently doesn’t remember ever singing this song), some song about a Missourian who has to get over one more mountain to get to the ocean (Brian Henneman on banjo & vocals…I think there was a Donner Party undercurrent in this one), some improvisational “honks & squeaks” sax & bass (played live tonight by Dave Stone & Eric Markowitz), some nice pastoral fiddle pieces by Geoff Seitz (also live tonight) followed by a recording of some hypnotic operatic vocalizing by Heidi Dean, a Sousa march done up by the Gateway Brass Quintet, nature sounds (with airliner overhead) in a bog and some lonely sax wails interspersed with, and eventually eclipsed by, the sound of the highway. Somewhere along the way, the recently departed Pops Farrar and Roscoe Gordon can be heard singing and playing. I bought a copy of the CD and talked with Chris some about it afterward. It’ll be interesting to see: 1-how often I play this disc and 2-how these initial observations hold up to repeated listenings.

7/4/03 The Saps , Fred’s. I showed up in time for the last 8 or 10 songs by this Chicago 4 piece (B, D, E. GTR, & A. GTR + V). Guess you’d call ‘em one of those indie-rock bands…the overall vibe of this band is set by the tongue in cheek dramatic, yet self-deprecating songs and gestures by their frontman. They could be slow or super fast and played very LOUD. There were only 15 to 20 people in the house, but all seemed happy with what they heard. While many of the riffs in their songs referenced odd pop hits (the “Turn On Your Love Light” hook laid the groundwork for one song), the only actual cover I recognized was The Pretenders’ “Back On The Chain Gang”.

7/16/03 X, Pop’s. Deb and I drove over kinda early (by live music standards) for this show on the east side. Nothing like dusk in the mega parking lot shared by Pop’s, PT’s, Oz and other assorted strip clubs. The big X on the marquee outside of Pop’s was a little deceiving tonight…Saw the entire opening set by The Fags - they started out sounding all hooky and punchy like early Goo Goo Dolls, but eventually lost my interest as they drifted more into arena rock territory. Yeah, I know- lotsa folks would say its not a long trip from the Goo Goo Dolls to arena rock…

Between bands, Dan Durcholz told me that he was pitching a story to Rolling Stone about Vince Neil and .38 Special(?) playing at a theatre in Branson. He was going to play up the angle of aging rock fans coming out to see their heroes of 20+ years ago…while we’re waiting for X to go on; hmmmm. Right as X took the stage, we found a spot (semi) front and center…I was instantaneously ecstatic as they launched into a virtual non-stop string of songs from the first four albums. The overall sound was as vital, fresh and exhilarating as way back when. I had seen the band in the early nineties, but not in the earliest days, so this was my first time seeing them with Billy Zoom on guitar.

Their songs are often dark, hard, off-kilter, sinister and/or sarcastic. Billy Zoom always manages to apply these cool, tough and concise leads in all the appropriate places to jaw-dropping effect, all the while maintaining this calm grin and distant stare…kinda reminded me of that Chucky doll from the movies- like Howdy Doody gone haywire. Exene Cervenka might be a bit chunkier than back in the old days, but she still belts ‘em out and adds that oddly dischordant harmony to John Doe’s vocals. Early on, just about every song had me jumping up and down and grinning like a fiend. Songs like “I’m Comin’ Over”, “In This House…”, “White Girl” (!), “Blue Spark”, and “Los Angeles” all blew me away so much that I started to wonder how long this ass-whuppin’ could continue. By the time they finished “Breathless”, I was out of breath. They did throw in some slow and mid-tempo songs that didn’t disappoint- “The New World” (I can still see Billy Z delivering the trademark guitar tag with that deadpan grin), “The Have Nots”, “True Love” alongside the likes of “Beyond and Back” and “Hungry Wolf”. “The Unheard Music” has always been a slower, more obscure song that wouldn’t rank in my top five, but tonight the haunting and melodic vocal (“…on the car radio…”) superimposed on the dark creeping bassline left an impression. Just as I was caught up in the songs and watching the three people out front, drummer D.J. Bonebrake would do something to make me appreciate his part in all this. The home stretch, with it’s encores, featured “World’s A Mess It’s In My Kiss”, “Because I Do”, “Devil Doll”(!), “Johnny Hit And Run Pauline” and “Soul Kitchen”, the latter in encore number three. I was blowed away.

7/18/03 Two Cow Garage , Fred’s. I arrived in time to catch the entire set by this Columbus three piece…Started with a slow, raspy ballad, exposing the lead singer’s voice to be a virtual copy of that of Patterson Hood of The Drive By Truckers. A minute or two into this croaky weeper, the whole band punched it up and they rocked hard in that punchy/crunchy early Uncle Tupelo mode. I have their CD, but am not familiar enough with it to tell you which songs they did...presumably most of ‘em. The rest of the set sounded much the same. They, once again, covered the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down”. It would be interesting to compare this description to that from the last time I saw them, because I think both shows were quite similar. The only difference would be the crowd size, which was about twice that of last time.

7/25/03 Nadine, Off Broadway. I hopped in the car at around 9:45 with the Cards & Pirates tied 4-4 and headed east on 40; if the score was still tied as I got downtown, I would have gone to the game’s conclusion, but Mike Shannon told me all about the Pirates’ 4 run eighth inning as I approached the Hampton exit, so Off Broadway it was…I missed tonight’s first act, but heard most of the set by Chris Lee . Lee played an acoustic guitar accompanied only by a guy on stand-up bass. His voice was in the higher register. The songs had a vibe similar to what I remember of that duo Jason & Allison (guitar & cello).

Next up was a solo set by Will Johnson, who more often fronts the Denton, TX band Centomatic. He sat in a chair and played a telecaster, singing in a voice that sounded like a raspier Peter Case. His phrasing and tone were akin to what Richard Buckner does, especially on the songs on which he was accompanied by a steel player (from tonight’s first act, Summer Hymns). The songs tend to be from the slower, moodier end of the Centromatic spectrum, not unlike recent Jay Farrar records. And like Farrar’s recent efforts, there are those who love it, and those who find it a bit monochromatic. I didn’t hate what I heard tonight, but I’m probably closer to the latter camp than the former. How’s that for a diplomatic dance step? Toward the end of his set, he covered Cyndi Lauper’s “Money Changes Everything”.

Right around midnight, our hometown favorites, Nadine , took the stage. In front of maybe 200 people, they rawked their way through a set of mostly newer material. Not much I can add to what I’ve said about their recent shows- more of that polished, punched up pop-rock sound. It’s obvious that they’ve played together a bunch lately. Adam’s catchy songs really come to life with this full instrumentation; and… they even opened with an upbeat song this time! Songs I remember: “Tripping Through The Day”, “I Don’t Want To Lose You”, “Cold Chill”, “Different Kind Of Heartache”, “Inside Out”, “Poor Man’s Vacation”, “Beautiful” & “I Wanna Go”. (actual titles may vary)




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