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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 26
3/2/05 Slobberbone, Off Broadway. Tonight’s show was crowded; almost uncomfortably so- quite a contrast to when Slobberbone would play in front of 30 people at old Cicero’s years ago. Simultaneous to the loud, grungy country-rock of Two Cow Garage‘s last song was that "Oh shit, where am I gonna find a place to stand?" dilemma…you can’t really stay right there at the side of the stage and the whole rest of the bar is equally dense with people.
Eventually I fought my way to getting a beer (get two because you’re not going back) and found my way front and center on the floor right before Beatle Bob got up and gave one of his glowing testimonial introductions for Slobberbone. After ten or so years of touring and recording, frontman Brent Best is going to do something different, so they’re calling this their final tour.
They played a long, hard set that displayed all of the elements that this big crowd came to hear- Best’s ragged heartfelt vocals, blazing guitars and (usually) memorable melodies almost always delivered with an accentuated release on the beat. This might be the first time I’ve described them without mentioning Uncle Tupelo…doh! Without appearing to try too hard, Brian came up with some playful and inventive bass runs. For whatever reason, the second guitar (not BB) was once again low in the mix.
"Springfield, Illinois", "Give Me Back My Dog" (I personally prefer what Whiskeytown did with the same melody in "Excuse Me") and "I’m A Lazy Guy" all took the high road, tempo-wise, while "I Can Tell Your Love Is Waning" took the slower grungier route, ala UT’s "Looking For A Way Out". The relaxed tone and tempo of "Dunk You In The River" came as a welcome changeup. The combination of the roar of the guitars and the ache of Best’s voice nicely underscored the desperate message packed into The Bee Gee’s "You Don’t Know What It’s Like"- they make you believe it.
The encore featured The Gourds’ "Web Before You Walk In It", a song that lends itself to the slower, grungy thing Slobberbone does. They’re heading home to Texas to play their final show next weekend.
3/4/05 Rough Shop, The Studio Café. I showed up late to find a table full of friends as an abbreviated version of Roughshop (no rhythm section tonight) was up in that storefront window stage. A loose mood prevailed- they kinda shot from the hip with song selection and even instrumentation…almost like we were sitting in on a practice. I see these guys often enough that I don’t need to repeat all of the things I’ve noticed about them before. Nate’s keyboards were tucked way into the corner window and echoed around accordingly. In addition to RS staples ("Hairless Chihauhau", "Flesh and Blood", "Fences", "I’m Your Man" and "Everything You Love"), we got to hear Ann do John Anderson’s "Wild And Blue" and John sing Warren Zevon’s "Roland The Headless Gunner". At (approximately) the stroke of midnight, we all toasted Deborah’s birthday. Things closed out with Ann doing a touching version of (ex-bandmate) Adam Reichmann’s "I’m Gonna Sleep With The Radio On".
3/5/05 Bettie Serveert, The Duck Room. The Transmitters opened- that’s Kip Loui’s latest band…over the years (in a number of bands), Kip has always been able to come up with well-crafted melodies and lyrics, but I didn’t always feel emotional impact in his delivery. The guy has just gone through a tough breakup with his (now ex) wife- but there seems to be a silver lining to this experience- I (along with a few other people) am hearing more fire and passion in his singing and playing than ever before. The band is tougher-sounding than anything he’s done previously, as well. Electric guitar (from the local neo-garage band The Gentlemen Callers) and keyboards stood out, in particular. Toward the end of his set, they did a ballad that I thought would lend itself well to a country & western treatment.
When Bettie Serveert played this room in October of 2003, it was their first performance in St. Louis in a really long time; quite the welcome return. I was a little concerned that seeing them so (relatively) soon after that wouldn’t be as special. As it turns out, they actually might have changed more in the last year and a half than they had in the previous twelve years.
First of all, they’ve got a new drummer who’s not afraid to hit ‘em hard; quite a change from the subtle shimmer/rattle the percussion used to provide. They’ve also picked up a keyboard player who contributes an additional layer to their quirky guitar-band sound. He imparted a playful Euro-disco vibe onto one song while guitarist Peter Visser was his usual schizophrenic self, ranging from ragged Neil Young leads to Jimi-style wah-wah to VU buzz. Once again, lead singer Carol Van Dijk charmed us all with her distinctive, sensual voice.
Even without the benefit of familiarity (I don’t have their current "Attagirl" CD), I loved all of the new songs. They introduced one song as being from the (Carol-less) previous incarnation of the band- the basic song structure of this one offered glimpses of what would become "Palomine". This whole set galloped along at a pretty brisk pace. There were lots of familiar, smiling faces crowded onto the floor right up front as they ran through the dreamy "Ray Ray Rain" and an extended windout of "Tomboy" that managed to splice in bits of Liz Phair’s "Divorce Song" and The Kinks’ "Sunny Afternoon" as the melody melded into the drone of "Waitin’ For My Man". The set ended with "Leg", the opening track from their debut album. That song typifies the way their earlier songs would start off slow and build in intensity and urgency.
The encore featured some unrecognizable jam and "Palomine". As much as I liked these guys in 2003, they were even better this time around.
3/8/05 Kurt Crandall & band, Frederick’s. I heard both sets by this Atlanta-based four-piece. They’re a blues band with honking harmonica (Mr. Crandall) and proficient electric guitar leads. This isn’t really my thing, but they do it up just fine- kinda like what those classic country "period piece" bands do. A friend of the band’s was in the house tonight- he got up and played bass on one song. Somewhere along the way, they did a Muddy Waters song. During a slower song, Fred hopped up and played along on spoons.
I missed Cameron McGill’s opening set, but in between sets by the headliner, he ushered a handful of us upstairs to play us a couple of songs- he does a wide-eyed singer/songwriter thing with acoustic guitar and a harmonica around his neck. He did a couple of autobiographical/travelogue songs (one might have been called "Oklahoma") in a friendly, higher-register voice that reminded me of Todd Snider.
3/9/05 Scott Biram, Frederick’s. The Frederick’s experience begins when you pull into the parking lot across the street- based on how many (or few) cars are parked, you automatically begin to anticipate the level of intensity inside the bar. Tonight the lot was as full as I’ve ever seen it- I think KDHX had a lot to do with bringing the big crowd out.
The crowded crew inside the bar heard a long set by Austin’s Scott Biram. He sits in a chair playing guitar in a loose, scratchy, blues-based style while howling into one of those vintage distorto-mics. If you’re a fan of what Hasil Adkins or Mojo Nixon do, then you’re likely to like what this guy was up to. Like Hasil A., Biram gets a simultaneous percussive thing going by stomping on some mysterious, but simple contraption- it sounded like a tambourine, but I didn’t see one.
Through the din of the dense crowd and the ragged ruckus onstage, I was able to make out a few songs: "I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again", Woody Guthrie’s "Pastures Of Plenty" and Ramjam’s "Black Betty" (he doesn’t take things too seriously). An unfamiliar one seemed to borrow from Jim Carroll’s "People Who Died". Fred Friction was seated front and center for the whole set and whipped out the silverware at an opportune moment; his ragged clatter meshed well with that of Mr. Biram.
3/10/05 The Legendary Shack Shakers, The Way Out Club. Having been out late the last three nights, I was kinda draggin’ tonight, but Tim was up for going out, and you can’t let a friend down. We heard most of the set by The Tripdaddys from the bar room- the usual good time. They did "Fire Pie" and "As Long As It Rocks".
The Legendary Shack Shakers went onstage a little bit after midnight. If I had to describe them hybrid style, I’d say, "The Reverend Horton Heat crossed with Southern Culture On The Skids"…which is to say, "tough, ballsy rockabilly-influenced band (b, d & g) backing an energetic, if kooky frontman with a moderate-to-high corn quotient".
The front man/vocalist (J. D. Wilkes) is this skinny meth-lab/hillbilly-looking dude in a wife-beater t-shirt and a pork pie hat. He sings through one of those old-timey distorted microphones and blows on a harmonica some. His bag of schtick includes dancing, prancing, spraying water on the crowd and wrapping his head in duck tape. Everyone in the band was impressive; the drummer was especially ferocious. They got Beatle Bob up on stage a couple of different times- once to dance around and another to give J. D. a horsey ride for the better part of a song. Covers included "White Lightinin", "Shake Your Hips" and "Ghost Riders In The Sky".
3/11/05 LP, Frederick’s. I heard the last two songs by Roughshop, full band style. Spencer Marquard’s drumming adds some focused punctuation to what they do. They ended with "I’m Your Man".
I had no idea what to expect with L.P.- Roy’s write-up in the RFT played up the "she looks like a he, and doesn’t go for the dick" angle, so I was thinking we were gonna get some kind of overt, topical lesbian-agenda rock…wrong. What this frizzy-haired woman from NYC does is tough, ballsy arena-caliber rock. Tonight’s arena just happened to be a little dive bar in south St. Louis.
The band behind her (g,g,b & d) backs her up with all the requisite heroics. Lone Justice (mostly because of the female vocal/hard band combination) might be the closest comparison I can come up with. Someone else came up with Marc Bolan, but I’m thinking that applied more to her mop-top hairstyle. The band would often come down hard on an accentuated beat in a way that got most of the house jumping up and down. L.P. took several trips onto that wooden rail/tabletop that divides the stage from the floor, triumphantly strutting and loudly proclaiming to all 40 or 50 of us.
3/12/05 Centro-matic, Off Broadway. I caught the last song by The Lab. I have to admit I was saying "Hi" to a friend as the song went by without much to notice.
Centro-matic is one of those bands I’ve seen a bunch of times, and my impressions have varied for lukewarm to glowing over the years. Tonight, they struck me about like the last time. So just for the hell of it, I went back to see what I wrote about that October, 2003 show at The Hi-Pointe. With a few slight exceptions, that description pretty accurately fit my impressions of tonight’s show, so I literally used my previous write-up as a template, tweaking it, as needed:
Off Broadway was packed tonight; maybe four or five times the number of people who came out last time. They opened with an odd, mid-tempo rocker, Scott Danbom’s evocative violin and Will Johnson’s haunting raspy voice making their melodic, if quirky, vision materialize. From this first song on, these guys were making it happen. The presentation of each song varied, as Scott picked up an electric guitar for the second song, before swapping instruments with the bass player and eventually sitting down at the keyboards. Matt Pence’s emphatic drumming stood out, in particular, but whatever instrument anyone was playing was played with punch and conviction. I thought Will’s guitar could have been louder in the mix. The only songs I recognized by name tonight were "Spiraling Sideways", "Flashes And Cables" (the one that goes "Ba Da Da Da Da") and "Too Much Down Time", but there were plenty of people singing along to just about every song.
Among this big crowd tonight, there were those who like ‘em a lot, and those who have a near reverential adoration for everything they do- I’d have to put myself in the former category…Will’s voice, an acquired taste to begin with, can become a bit monochromatic over the course of an entire set, and while lots of their songs get me moving, not all do. I hope this doesn’t sound negative; I’m just not willing to say this is my favorite thing ever.