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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 21

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 21

9/28/04 The Silos, Off Broadway. If this is my “Concert Diary”, then this entry is more “diary” and less “concert”. I ended up falling asleep with my kids in the early evening…by the time I woke up and made the groggy drive down to the bar, The Silos were playing their next-to-last song in front of maybe fifteen people. They brought Nadine’s Steve Rauner (lap steel) and Jimmy Griffin (lead guitar) up for the last song- Jonathan Richman’s “I’m Straight”. A few of my friends really love The Silos, but their records never really did much for me. The little bit I heard tonight was inconclusive- the song I heard was a cover, the instrumentation was provided by guys from another band (with an assist from the acoustic guitar player) and the singing was kinda droll and monotone.

9/28/04 Tracey Shed, Frederick’s. I stopped off on my home way home from Off Broadway…caught the last song by this band from Florida. They’re fronted by a woman singer- her somewhat discordant voice over top of a cacophonous drone drew a Sonic Youth comparison from Michele. I ended up staying later than I should on a school night.

10/2/04 Rough Shop, The Cabin Inn. Life is good. As soon as I showed up after working late, I was simultaneously hit with the cool and funky visuals of that area outside of the City Museum, a handful of friendly faces around a small outdoor fireplace, a cold beer and the warm and familiar sounds of Rough Shop. They played a couple of long sets, so they pretty much did all the songs we’ve heard before (“Hairless Chihuahua”, “Everything You Love”, “Flesh And Blood”, “I’m Your Man”, and the reworked “Fences”), as well as a few newer ones.

I’ve probably said some of this before, but here are a few things that hit me tonight. Anne sang Gram Parson’s “Sin City” as a simple, piano-driven waltz. John sang Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm” as the band applied an up-tempo shuffle more akin to “Jack Of Hearts”. During the few songs that Anne or John wouldn’t play or sing, they would come sit and drink at our table. Andy sang a new original that featured some classic-sounding country-rock licks. The newer “Final Wild Son” (about cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggert) has a moody groove along the lines of Bobby Gentry or Dusty Springfield. “I See Shadows” (right title?) sounds like it wants to segue into “I’m Your Puppet”. Toward the end, they honored Roy’s request for “Wild And Blue”. Their one-song encore was Andy’s cool take on Talking Heads’ “Heaven”.

10/5/04 The Pixies, The Hearns Center, Columbia, MO. By the time Paul, Lela and I made the after-work drive, we totally missed The Thrills opening, but found pretty good seats in this basketball arena right before The Pixies went on. It was nice to see a few familiar faces from St. Louis this far out of town. As much as I love certain Pixies songs, I never saw them back in their heyday.

Since it had been a good ten years or more since The Pixies were in heavy rotation on my CD player, it was fun to be reminded of songs as they appeared in the set (as opposed to having a pre-conceived checklist of “hits”). When they opened with their exhilarating cover of Neil Young’s “Winterlong”, I was instantly catapulted into a zone- give me an infectious melody, passionate vocals and a searing guitar and all is, at least momentarily, right with the world. They continued to keep things taut and tuneful on originals like “Holiday”, “Here Comes Your Man” and “Debaser”, all with particularly ringing, hooky guitar.

Somewhere along the way, these guys reminded me of X…they don’t exactly sound like them, but both bands feature an eccentric, slightly discordant male/female vocal thing punctuated by relentless, inventive drumming and crisp, concise guitar leads…and the vocals express themes of personal and/or political alienation with a somewhat resigned, almost cheerful tone.

Not all of their songs are hooky, hyper-pop…songs like “Caribou”, “Gigantic”, “In Heaven”, “Bone Machine” and “Subbacultcha” all offered up diverse facets of their quirky vision- sometimes moody and murky; playful and herky-jerky at others. The mood of some of the darker songs was enhanced by a fog machine and strobe lights.

I didn’t dislike anything they did tonight, but what really gets me jumping up and down are their poppier songs. Their cover of The Jesus And Mary Chain’s “Head On” was probably my personal highlight- a set of lights strung from a stage-prop tree began to flash as the line “I go around catching sparks from you” was sung…that’s right about the time they bust into the glorious chorus, “and the way I feel tonight, I could die and I wouldn’t mind…” This monkey’s gone to heaven.

10/16/04 Frederick’s Band Scramble Contest, Frederick’s. Here’s (approximately) the idea: around twenty people sign up, by name and instrument, and are then arbitrarily grouped into ad hoc bands. Each “band” gets a couple of weeks to work up a half hour set of music. Dana, the bartender, took on the duties of MC, dressed as some kind of prom queen of carpets and a handful of judges was asked to pick a winner (ala “battle of the bands”) that wins some cut of the door take. I got there after two of the four bands had already played and was not all that impressed with what I heard. The first thing I saw/heard was this duo that included Brian from Rocket Park and another guy on drums. They did this kinda loose and wild 60’s sounding blues rock thing, getting all sweaty and shedding their shirts, along the way- it was fun in an off-hand kind of way, but nothing amazing. Next came a “band”, fronted by Tony (often the doorman at this establishment) on lead, um, vocals…mostly shouted from behind a sloshing beer mug, while the other three guys put together a loose but smooth groove that had virtually nothing to do with what Tony was up to.

After this crew finished up, the judges were sequestered up in that upstairs room to choose a winning band. They chose a band that played before I got there- who then got to do one more brief set. They were fronted by a woman who sang and played fiddle. I wouldn’t dispute that they were “better” than the two acts I heard, but they still struck me as fairly unpolished and not especially tuneful. I guess it was an interesting idea (it was well attended, so there will probably be more of these events) but I came away with a renewed appreciation for actual bands who take the time to develop and execute a coherent sound/vision.

10/22/04 Diesel Island, Frederick’s. Been there, done that…but not in a while. Tonight I caught the whole second set, which opened with “Whiskey River”, done up more subdued than usual. In addition to tried and true DI staples like “Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone?”, “Wasted Days & Wasted Nights”, Louisiana Saturday Night”, “I Can Help” and “Take This Job And Shove It”, they busted out a few new ones. “Delta Dawn” sounded like it could have broken into one of those audience clap-alongs near the end and Brian used the little spoken intro part to “Poke Salad Annie” to go off a little low-carb rant. Kip sang “Amarillo By Morning” and “Drinkin’ Thing” back to back, allowing Brian just the right amount of time to smoke a cigarette.

There were a couple of guest appearances tonight- Brian’s buddy Steve (celebrating his birthday tonight) sang a couple of songs, including Steve Goodman’s “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”…on this one he revised the lyrics to state, “You don’t have to call me Jeff Tweedy/ You don’t have to call me Jay Farrar/ You don’t have to call me Brian Henneman/ even though I drive a thousand dollar car” (I guess you had to be there). Craig from The Tripdaddys got up and added some blazing lead guitar to “Folsom Prison Blues”. As much as I liked that classic lead run that Luther Perkins played on Johnny Cash’s original recording, I’ve always found it a bit odd that on the second break, Luther just repeated the exact same lead. Tonight, Craig’s leads were distinctly different, first from the second, as well as from Luther’s original.

10/23/04 Two Car Garage, Euclid Records. I brought the whole family to hear a handful of songs done up acoustically in front of twenty or so people. Micah and Chris on acoustic guitars, Shane on mandolin and the drummer, uncharacteristically restrained on snare with brushes. Micah belted out his weary, aching vocals without the assistance of amplification. They did “Alphabet City” and “Hillbilly” from the new record as well as covers of Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues” and The Lilybandits’ “Backhanded At The Gate”, the latter rendered in that slow, “Cortez The Killer” mode. The kids were ready to go before I was, but they managed to make it to the end of this brief set.

10/23/04 Guitar circle, Matt’s house. There was an odd assortment of musicians taking turns playing and singing, while game one of the World Series was unfolding (on the TV in the corner, volume turned down) in all of its agonizing up-and-down splendor. Even with this significant distraction, there were some nice musical moments: Al Caldwell (from The Travelin’ Black Hillbillies) plunked on a banjo and sang this cool Bill Withers song called “Grandma’s Hands”. A couple of home-grown rappers laid some rhymes on us- a guy named Bishop had us all caught up in some dense, clever wordplay until he reached the point where he couldn’t remember the rest (a modest, aw-shucks grin dismissing anything resembling disappointment) and Hunter (ex-Highway Matrons) cut loose with some rapid-fire imagery of his own. My familiarity with this stuff is limited, but I enjoyed what I heard. Kevin Orton sang a couple of originals in a deep voice akin to that of Leo Kottke, accompanied by some intricate picking patterns. Dave Landreth played his banjo in a rough, backwoods kind of way. Heidi Dean applied her sweet, unaffected voice to her original “Cars On Sundays” and Chris King sang a few of his originals including “Short Life” and “The Creepy Side Of Town, accompanied by Adam Long on cello. Tonight’s host, Matt Fernandez played guitar and sang an original about staying with his girl forever in his “Biodome”

10/23/04 Two Cow Garage, Frederick’s. I made the drive over after the Cardinals’ disappointing loss in game one of the world series…just in time to hear the last song by Austin’s Lil’ Cap’n Travis. They were finished playing before I could really notice much- five guys playing hard and grungy. Bass, drums, two guitars and steel guitar. I’ll have to catch more of them next time.

Frederick’s has become the home away from home for Columbus’ Two Cow Garage- tonight’s show was billed as their CD release party (one of a couple, I think). Between bands, the many TVs of Frederick’s were showing a video documenting 2CG, featuring live footage and interview material. The sound quality was muffled and barely audible, and besides, you gotta talk to your friends sometime, so a few of us went out back until the band took the stage.

I’ve seen these guys a handful of times- they always play hard and I always have fun, but I’ve never been especially impressed with their songs. So it was a pleasant surprise to be more moved by their latest batch of songs. Songs like “My Concern”, “Alphabet City” and especially “Make It Out Alive” add a swing (not like swing music, obviously) to the hard punch that they’ve always delivered. This time around, they’ve slid more toward the “punk” end of the country/punk spectrum…I found myself jumping up and down a time or two. As always, their manager, Chris, joined them on rhythm guitar for a handful of songs. Micah’s vocals are of that raspy, Midwestern blue collar style. They finally gave their two well-worn covers (“Don’t Let Me Down” & “Fuckin’ Up”) a rest and gave us a grunge/blues version of Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues” tonight. Things got a little blurry for band and audience, alike, as the tail end of the set found Fred Friction behind the drum kit and the drummer wielding a flying vee guitar.

10/28/04 Camper Van Beethoven, The Duck Room. It had been a long time since I first saw these guys open for REM (1986, if I remember correctly), but they’re back. A pretty big crowd packed into the Duck Room for a mix of songs from all points in their back catalog as well as stuff from their current comeback release, “New Roman Times”. Frontman David Lowery and band (b, d, g & fiddle) laid on the instrumentation, which I found to be (at various points, to varying degrees) moody, dopey, atmospheric, monotonous, fun and inspiring. I had a fine time drinking beer with my buddies, but the music didn’t blow me away, start to finish.

About midway through, they played “Eye Of Fatima”, as well as their “greatest hit”- “Take the Skinheads Bowling” (a song that has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity via Michael Moore’s “Bowling For Columbine”). Yeah, it’s dopey (how ‘bout those backing vocals echoing each verse?), but it’s hard not to smile when it’s playing…I had forgotten how short that song is. Late in the proceedings, they did an inspired cover of “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” as well as yet another dopey original, “Where The Hell Is Bill?”

Somewhere during this show, it hit me that my fond memories of this band were more of a “time and place” thing…I never had any of their records and consequently, only recognized a handful of songs all night. In discussing the sound of these guys, there’s really no reason anyone would compare them to X or The Pixies, but these two bands (from approximately the same time period) just happen to have reformed and begun to tour recently, as well- and those were the bands (along with the likes of Husker Du and The Replacements) that rocked my world back then…CBV, no so much. By and large, I prefer catchy melodies and ringing guitars to the clever/dopey, murky, mid-tempo thing. A couple of my friends had a more positive assessment of tonight’s show…I guess that’s why they make cars in different colors.




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