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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 3
9/2/03Ten High, Frederick’s Music Lounge. I had no idea who was playing tonight, and mostly just stopped off to return some CDs to Fred. When I went into the barroom for a beer, there was this four piece band about to go on stage in front of about the same number of people offstage. Even though I hadn’t planned on sticking around, I felt like these guys could use an extra body in the room, so I sat at the bar next to Michelle for the entire hour-long set by this local alt. country band. Since they weren’t that different than when I saw them here last month, I’ll let my friends Cut and Paste reiterate last month’s observations:
When they did "Now I Wanna Be Your Dog", they were covering Tupelo’s version, not Iggy’s. Next came a couple of Bottlerockets covers- "Slow Tom’s" and "Indianapolis". The individual playing was competent, if not stellar. They covered The Gourds’ "El Paso", substituting "Del Taco" for the title- a little local late-night junk food reference. Slide guitar in this one conveyed the melody line and overall feel of the original just fine. The woman on keyboards joined in on a duet on one song featuring the phrase "Together Again", but it was not the Buck Owens classic. Near the end of their set, they covered the song they borrowed liberally from earlier- Uncle Tupelo’s "Flatness".
9/5/03Nadine CD release party, Mississippi Nights. After a brisk walk from Busch Stadium (a twelve inning Cardinals’ loss), I got to the show maybe 4 songs into their set. The place was pretty full and once again, Nadine was bringing the rock. Since I’ve seen these guys maybe six times this year, I don’t have much new to say about what they’re up to. I’ve always liked what Adam and crew have done musically, but early on, it had a more plaintive, personal, intimate tone to it- the kind of thing you’d be comfortable hearing in the friendly confines of the Side Door Club or Frederick’s Music Lounge. However, with this current lineup, and their most recent batch of songs, they have become big enough (sonically and visually) to fill the stage at Mississippi Nights. One song early on had a real melodic hook/vocal harmony part that reminded me of Badfinger. Their song titles rarely have much to do with the words in the lyrics, so I’m going to take a stab at listing some we heard tonight: "Inside Out", "Different Kind Of Heartache", "Beautiful", "Better Off Now", "End Of The Night", "When I Was A Boy" (tripping through the day), "Poor Man’s Vacation" and "Something’s Got To Give". Toward the end of their set, they were joined by Rami Jaffe of The Wallflowers, who took over Steve’s keyboards, allowing Mr. Rauner to pick up his electric guitar and trade leads with Jimmy Griffin.
Their encore featured "Back To My Senses" as well as a cover that I recognized, not based on my familiarity with the AC/DC catalog, but by Adam’s effected high, raspy scream.
9/5/03 The Woggles, The Way Out Club. Those people who enjoyed Beatle Bob’s absence at the Nadine show can thank The Way Out Club for setting up tonight’s "decoy show".The Woggles went on right around midnight, wearing matching red prom-type shirts and bustin’ loose with that sixties garage sound. This four piece (B, D, G & V) from Atlanta cover the range of sounds from the pre-punk era, bringing to mind bands from those Nuggets/Pebbles compilations. The crowd was on the thin side, but that didn’t stop the band from playing their hearts out. The lead singer and guitar player took frequent strolls out into the audience, sometimes standing and playing on tabletops, before dramatically jumping off.
The biggest negative about this show was the muddy, distorted sound quality, an obstacle that kept some folks from getting into what these guys were doing. Yeah, it was pretty crappy, but if I had to pick a genre of music to hear via a bad P.A., I’d go with 60s garage rock- "Hey, these fuzzy guitars sound all fuzzy".
Even when well executed, limited instrumentation and the use of only one singer can lead to things starting to sound the same, one song to the next. So it’s to these guys’ credit that they kept things varied, sounding like everything from The Blues Magoos’ "We Aint Got Nothin’ Yet", to The Thirteenth Floor Elevator’s "You Gonna Miss Me" to some early Stones blues-rock (The Professor laying on the harmonica). They did an upbeat tribute to their former guitar player (who died last May)…it’s a good-time party song whose only words seem to be "Montague, Hey, Hey, Hey". Several audience members got a turn to contribute a line into the mic as it was passed around.
A brief stop off at Nadine’s post-show party made for a way too early Saturday morning with the kids.
9/12/03 Old Number 8, Frederick’s Music Lounge. I made a brief stop over at the Pageant around 10 PM just to see if any extra tickets to the $65 Willie Nelson show were floating around, but nothing doing…so, Paul & I arrived at Fred’s in time to catch the last three songs byThe Highway Matrons….all three were newer songs sung by Mark Stephens. I didn’t really hear enough to form much of an opinion; just as I was getting my bearings (and my beer), they were finished. Pretty good crowd tonight.
Since Johnny Cash died just this morning, his memory was heavy in the air as we all talked between bands. The video player that goes non-stop at Frederick’s, played vintage footage of the man in black. A bunch of us were out back hearing the muffled sounds of some classic Cash songs coming from back in the bar, when someone figured out that what we were hearing was actually the first few songs by Chicago’sOld Number Eight…They opened with a good twenty minutes worth of songs that Johnny Cash wrote and/or recorded. The lead singer’s voice is an even baritone that was well suited to such a tribute. The songs I’m remembering a couple of days later are "Cocaine blues", "Long Black Veil", " I Got Stripes", "Ira Hayes" and "I Walk The Line". I’ve heard a ton of JC songs in the last few days, so that may not be 100% right. Just when I was suspecting that their entire set was going to be a Cash homage, they did a few unfamiliar (presumably original) songs.
So about their sound…to look at them, this bunch of long-hairs (one in dreadlocks) have all the makings of a hippie jam band…the lead singer plays a five string bass (I never saw him make use of that critical fifth string) and yes, they did "explore" a bit, but overall, they kept these tendencies in check…the lap steel player’s licks were decidedly more roots-rock than jam-band. The non-JC song that stood out as the most memorable was "Indiana Road", their contribution to the recent Fred Eaglesmith tribute CD.
9/12/03 R.I.P. Johnny Cash. Lots of better writers are writing about Johnny Cash and how he affected the world, so I’ll just write about how he affected me…
I became a Johnny Cash fan sometime in 1969, playing that "Live at Folsom Prison" 8-track tape through a good part of the sixth grade. So obsessive was my enthusiasm, that I’m pretty sure I can still recite a good deal of the between-song talk by Johnny, June and Associate Warden Faustman (sp?) a good 33 years later. Before we knew that Cash’s trademark sound was characterized by the phrase "boom-chicka, boom-chicka…", my little brother and I had come up with "Dune Daddy, Dune Daddy…" Our catch phrase never caught on, but we were observing the same thing.
Right around this time, Johnny Cash’s variety show became a mainstay of my TV watching, and he came to the Carolina Coliseum, in Columbia, South Carolina in February of 1970. The whole family went and sat in some pretty distant seats in this basketball arena for my first ever concert. It was one of those all-star lineups: The Carter Family, Carl Perkins and The Statler Brothers all preceded the man in black to the stage. Don’t ask me for a setlist, but I remember liking it. When he did his current hit "A Boy Named Sue" we were all wondering what he was going to do when he got to the part that was bleeped out on the record…if I remember right, they blared that same "bleep" sound, and at the end of the verse, Johnny said "you still can’t say "Son Of A Bitch"…" followed by much applause.
One day in seventh grade, our homeroom teacher got a big box of special ordered paperback books and started handing them out. When she said, "Ricky…The Johnny Cash Story" the whole class laughed out loud at my decidedly uncool choice in musical heroes. Oh well, fuck ‘em. I read that autobiography and got the de-mystified version of JC’s struggles with the law and substance abuse. One chapter was entitled "Downhill on Pills".
In eighth grade, everyone in our English class was assigned the task of finding ten poems and presenting them in book form, with illustrations. One of the poems I chose was JC’s "What Is Truth?", which I surrounded with collaged images of riots, protests and the Viet Nam war.
I saw Johnny Cash at the Fox Theatre in 1986, or so. In addition to a string of classic hits from over the years, he sang one song that I had never heard before. It had a sparse and haunting feel to it and I still remember how moved I was by it. I didn’t catch the song’s title, just a few isolated lyrical phrases. After a long search, I eventually found a copy of the 45 of "Any Old Way The Wind Blows", which unfortunately, was done up with lush strings in the background. So I’ll have to stick with that one time he played it live, as one of those elusive musical moments…
9/13/03 Porter Hall, Tennessee, Fred’s. This was one of those rare babysitter nights, so Nancy and I both showed up in time to hear the last handful of songs by Cincinnati’sHeartless Bastards. Not exactly a perfect pairing with any kind of country band, but I liked this noisy four piece (B, D, G & a woman on guitar/vocals) just fine. The singer’s voice was a distinctive wail, akin to one of the women from Sleater-Kinney. The drummer propelled the rise/collapse structure of one song that reminded me of The Beatles’ "Helter Skelter". Joyous discord. Too bad there were only 20 or so people in the house tonight, because either of tonight’s bands deserved a much better turnout.
This light attendance, combined with my enthusiasm forPorter Hall, Tennessee makes them feel like some kind of well-kept secret band; sorta like the way we used to be able to see Uncle Tupelo in front of crowds of similar size in 1988, or so…not that I’m expecting any kind of meteoric rise to fame out of these guys, but I sure loves ‘em. As Nancy & I sat at one table, and Fred & Kathleen sat at the other, PHT ran through a set of these tuneful original songs, highlighting the heartfelt vocals of both Molly Conley and Gary Roadarmel. The presence of two impressive singer/songwriters always helps to keep things varied and interesting. I was especially taken by the way Molly applies her angelic, break-your-heart country voice to these classic-sounding songs.
Original songs included much from their most recent CD ("Halfway There", "Golden Chain Of Hate", "Screwed Blue" & "Middle Tennessee"), as well as one from their first- "Broken Strings" (the one that reminds me of Uncle Tupelo’s "Nothin’"). They did their cover of UT’s "Whiskey Bottle" (from a soon-to-be-released tribute CD). Gary and Molly alternate lead vocals on different verses, adding their own personal flavor to the song. They paid tribute to the recently departed Johnny Cash by doing "Folsom Prison Blues", joined by Fred Friction on lead vocals. As is the pattern with a PHT set, the home stretch featured revved up covers by the likes of X ("Johnny Hit And Run Pauline"), Alice Copper ("18"), and Iggy Pop ("1969"). Gary broke a string somewhere near the end and had to make it to the finish line on five strings.
9/16/03Drive By Truckers, The Duck Room. (Earl opened, but I missed ‘em) Two guys go into a bar…they drink some beers. They hear a band. The first guy came to the show already a big fan of the band, and intimately familiar with their material and, in general, what they’re all about. The second guy had only heard that this band was worth checking out. So when asked how it was, the first guy was able to go into the nuances of what songs they did from what album, and how the addition of the new (third) guitar player has changed the overall vibe of what they do…and so on. The second guy, not having these reference points at his disposal, was left to characterize what he just heard by either describing the actual sounds in isolation, or by bringing up other bands that he’s familiar with in trying to put a finger on what these guys do. In one sense, you might expect to get a better assessment from the first guy, since he knows more about the subject at hand. But the second guy could offer a more concise description, benefiting from a clearer vantage point, with less pre-existing baggage.
Tonight I was literally, and figuratively, in between these guys. John G. was all about song titles and praising Jason’s leads as they related to Brad’s, while Mike H. was saying, "They got that Skynyrd thing going". I think I could name two of the band members and a handful of the songs they did, but with a day-after look at a CD tracklist, I can fill in some blanks and try to pass for the first guy.
Without digging deep into the particulars, I’ve noticed in some internet discussion that, in addition to a throng of adoring DBT fans, there’s a "what’s with this over-hyped ironic 70s shtick?" backlash faction as well. I’d have to say that from where I stood, the emperor’s clothes were usually visible. While always chock full of heroic multiple guitar leads, some of their material trudges along at slower tempos (e.g. "Decoration Day" & "Your Daddy Hates Me") and over the course of this almost two-hour set, there were a few points that didn’t hold my interest. Fortunately, these moments were soon broken by catchier songs like "Heathens", "My Sweet Annette" (these two have a nice Blue Mountain vibe), "Sinkhole" and "Outfit". Their lyrical content draws heavily from all things southern and seventies- Ronnie Van Zandt, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, George Wallace, Bear Bryant, NASCAR, alcohol, weed and firearms all get their mention.
The new guitar player (Brad, I think) has a voice akin to Charlie Daniels’. Jason played slide guitar some. It’s hard not to think of The Eagles’ "Already Gone" while listening to "Marry Me". One song reminded me of Neil Young’s "Let’s Go Downtown". Other songs I picked out of the lineup (in no particular order) were "Hell No, I Aint Happy", "The Deeper In", "Eighteen Wheels Of Love", "Let There Be Rock" and Jim Carroll’s "People Who Died", the latter was tonight’s only cover (I think) and done up as a fast and furious finale. And, they got that Skynyrd thing going.