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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 33

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 33

10/8/05 Sleater Kinney, Mississippi Nights. This was the Saturday night that the whole family (myself included) was out at a Cub Scout campout, but Nancy gave me the green light and I drove back into town in time to catch The Ponys’ opening set. This Chicago four-piece isn’t really breaking any new ground here, but all of their obvious influences are ones worth emulating and they play it like they mean it. They got off on the right foot with "Let’s Kill Ourselves", establishing that dark, hypnotic Velvets’ style electric guitar drone over which the lead vocal approximates that Tom Verlaine bored yelp. The second guitar would sometimes lay on a mesmerizing "Twilight Zone" pattern and at others would do that heady swirling thing. The drummer was locked in and hard-hitting, as well. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing; it got me jumping up and down pretty good. As their set progressed, there were a few lulls- some songs ("We Shot The World", in particular) stood out as distinctive and memorable; others not so much. I enjoyed "Sad Eyes", even though it’s very similar to "Chemical Imbalance" (one they didn’t do tonight)…a few songs later, they did one that sounded like a cross between the two.

As much as I liked this set, I was somehow more taken by their recent set at The Hi-Pointe. Even though the sound quality was way better tonight, they cut loose and got more "out there" last May.

I spent the first twenty minutes of the set by Sleater Kinney multi-tasking, my eyes on the Cardinals’ playoff game (on the TV above the bar) and my ears on the band. I saw this band once years ago, but wasn’t really that familiar with what they do. I was pleasantly surprised. This all-female three piece (two guitars (no bass) and a ferocious drummer) do an energetic, discordant wailing banshee thing. The spirited, borderline shrieking vocals rhythmically rise and fall as both guitars blare with abandon. Songs structures and tempos varied quite a bit, as well. Color me impressed.

10/08/05 Two Cow Garage, Frederick’s. I made it over from Mississippi Nights in time to catch yet another 2CG set. Even though they’re from Columbus, they somehow feel like the house band of Frederick’s Music Lounge. Nothing new to report about their sound- more of that grungy country rock as defined of Uncle Tupelo and perpetuated by bands like Slobberbone. They once again did their trademark cover of The Beatles’ "Don’t Let Me Down" and ended up singing a capella, arms around each other. I missed it, but before the band played, an independent film documenting this band was shown- it was the film’s "world premier".

10/12/05 Christopher Harrison, Fredericks. Another instance of stopping off to say "Hi" to Fred and there just happens to be live music…in this case it was three guys with acoustic guitars, all strumming their personal visions in front of a handful of people. Fred got up and accompanied Aaron Kyle on spoons for the last song he did. Following him on stage were Chris Lawhorn and Christopher Harrison. I’m typing this a few days after and am honestly not remembering much about any of these guys, so this couldn’t be any less informative if I tried…but I was there.

10/15/05 The Saps, Frederick’s. I heard the last 45 minutes or so. This Chicago four-piece does tough, gritty Midwestern rock. All instruments competent, none spectacular. I’m not humming the songs the next day, but they grind it out and keep people (all 35 or so) entertained.

10/19/05 Ray Maurice, Frederick’s. After lingering in the afterglow of the last ever game at Busch Stadium, I showed up in time to hear most of the solo set by this guy who fronts the St. Louis band Miles Of Wire. A "check the boxes" description might go something like: The guy writes songs with a dramatic, slightly pouty bent like Ryan Adams, sings them in a voice akin to The High Matrons’ Mark Stephens and plays his Telecaster in that ringing/stinging Billy Bragg style. I ended up staying out until really late.

10/26/05 Chris Scruggs, Frederick’s. As soon as the White Sox nailed down the four-game sweep of the World Series, I made my way down to Frederick’s. I missed the opening set by Kevin Gordon. To my total surprise, Rosie Flores had already played as well, and was sitting on the stairs. She wasn’t even listed on the bill…"Excuse me, Rosie, I gotta get to the bar".

When I made it to the bar, Greg Garing was up on stage. He and band wear these vintage-looking suits while playing and singing in a dreamy style that draws heavily from roadhouse/honky tonk music of the forties and fifties, much like Paul Burch does. GG was proficient at whatever instrument he picked up: guitar, fiddle, piano. He sings in a wistful tone, often dropping into falsetto. He sang the old George Jones classic "Seasons In My Heart" and an original that he co-wrote with Hank Williams III. The latter reminded me of granddad’s "Ramblin’ Man"…its slow, haunting tone typified what Garing does.

Chris Scruggs (ex-BR5-49 and grandson of Earl Scruggs) took the stage next. Damn, we don’t deserve four acts this good on one weeknight bill- any one of tonight’s acts should have drawn twice the number of people (including all the musicians not on stage, there might have been forty people In the house). Scruggs has those country and rockabilly chops and sings in a distinctive voice, as well.

A little while later, Rosie Flores got back up to do a few more songs. Since I mostly appreciate her sweet, expressive voice, I tend to forget that she’s an impressive lead guitar player, as well. She ran through a handful of songs including "Crazy Mixed Emotions", Joe Ely’s "Boxcars", Johnny’s "Country Boy" and "Crazy Arms". My personal favorite was the beleaguered but beautiful "God May Forgive You (But I Won’t)". Chris Scruggs added some leads, as well.

The night ended with most of the night’s musician’s ripping through a few upbeat classics including "Mama Don’t Allow". That’s the one where each verse begins with "Mama don’t allow no _____ (name instrument) playing ‘round here…", followed by an extended lead from said instrument. In addition to all of the instruments on stage, we got an especially inspired spoons solo from Fred Friction. I ended up staying out too late. My keyboard needs a separate key that types that last sentence with one strike.




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