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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 49

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 49

11/18/06 Magnolia Summer, Lucas School House. We showed up about halfway through the set by The Dirty Thirties. They’ve got that southern rock thing going. The deep growling/howling vocals on one song sounded like a Southern rock take on The Misfits. I recognized one cover song that I’m not remembering the next day. Sound quality was an issue all night long. Sometimes it seemed like the vocals were OK, but the instruments were muddled. Other times it was just the opposite. The band stepped away from their mics a couple of times, seemingly at a loss for how to deal with the sound. There was a good-sized crowd, pretty much right from the beginning.

Tennessee’s Glossary (b, d, g, female vocals, steel) played next. At various points, they jangled ala REM and boogied like the Drive By Truckers. Their melodies soared and were catchy. Steel guitar and female backing vocals added nice layers, too.

Closing out tonight’s show was Magnolia Summer. Their "revolving door" lineup has, at least for the moment, stopped spinning. Guitarists John Horton and Joe Thebeau have plenty of other musical projects to keep them busy, so they’re out for now. Meanwhile, Chris Grabau (guitar) and Kevin Buckley (fiddle & occasional guitar) are more than able to keep things interesting and engaging. Their sound is more subtle and textural than in previous, dual-guitar incarnations. At times, Chris’ gentle, but character-rich voice can sound quite a bit like that of Freedy Johnston. As always, I’m not going to be able to come up with specific song titles.

A bunch of us ended up over at John and Marie’s place (Glossary was staying there) for the after-party. Seemed like a good idea at the time; not so much the following morning.

12/5/06 Scott Miller, House Concert. When we scheduled this house concert a couple of months ago, we had no way of knowing that an ice storm would leave us without power for most of the first week of December. But with an assist from our gas-powered generator, we had plenty of heat and light, so we decided that the show must go on, power or no. We were all set to light a bunch of candles and shut off the noisy generator right before Scott’s set and go unplugged…it would be a bit rustic, but would also be very intimate and memorable.

But the "unplugged" show wasn’t to be…our power came back on around mid-afternoon. So instead of placing candles all over the house, we shut down the generator for good and plugged in the PA system. Just over 50 people showed up on a Tuesday night, including a few devoted out-of-town fans. Scott’s train from Chicago was running slightly late; we had a guy waiting to scoop him up from the station and deliver him to the house ASAP. Scott arrived right around 8:30 and immediately tuned up and took the "stage".

From the first song on ("Amtrak Crescent", appropriately enough), Scott’s clean picking and easy vocals drew the attentive crowd in. In "solo acoustic" mode, his set list tends to be heavy on his sensitive, reflective material. "I’ll Go To My Grave" and "For Jack Tymon" showed up early…the latter always hits home- it expresses the wish to a child that he have "the laugh of your father, and the courage of your mom", which pretty much sums up what Nancy and I bring to our family. "Summons" is one of my favorites from Scott’s current Citation CD…the way he reminisces about making out in a cheap American car reminds me of Springsteen; the melody is pretty catchy as well, as his voice lifts into a falsetto at the end of each verse.

As always, there was a brief re-beer break before the second set. Rather than attempt a chronological song-by-song recap (couldn’t remember the specific order, even if I tried), I’ll sort tonight’s songs into three broad categories:

Reflective songs about interpersonal relationships/self-realization: "Bastard’s Only Child", "Daddy Raised A Boy" (harmonica added a nice layer), "Across The Line" (a whole different vibe minus the full band treatment), "Pounding Heart" and "Lie I Believe" (might be the most striking of tonight’s show).

Songs that tap into Scott’s fascination/obsession with American (more specifically, southern) history: "Dear Sarah" (this one is written as a Confederate soldier’s letter home…sounds like it would fit on Steve Earle’s Train A Comin’ album), "Say Ho" (about Sam Houston) and "The Only Road" (a few in the crowd added backing vocals, like on the CD).

And upbeat, devil-may-care rockers (as much as "solo acoustic" mode would allow): "Mess Of This Town", "Jody" (about his friend fucking his girl while he’s away in a middle eastern war) and "Eight Miles A Gallon" (there’s a middle eastern reference here, as well).

Without a clear backstage option, he pre-announced there would be no encore and ended with The Stones’ "Street Fightin’ Man". Although he was initially a little uncertain about this "house concert" thing, Scott finally seemed relaxed and grateful for the warm, appreciative reception he got. He sold lots of CDs after the show. After the show…

Scott and I met through a mutual friend whom we’ve both known since the seventies; after the show, we called him at his home in Virginia. After that I was looking forward to more good-natured hanging out time around the fire catching up. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. While I was playing host to people and saying "goodnight", one of my friends and Scott got into some kind of antagonistic exchange. I didn’t witness how it started or hear all that was said…in hindsight, I wish I had done a better job of sizing up the situation and intervening instead of just standing there watching things get ugly. Nancy (who was awaken by the commotion downstairs) was upset and couldn't get back to sleep when she learned that Scott had chosen to sit outside in the cold waiting for a cab to take him to his hotel at around 1AM. This was our first house concert where the entire evening wasn’t 100% enjoyable.

12/8/06 Mike Ireland And Holler, House Concert. This was the second annual KDHX/Twangfest holiday party. We had lights strung across the bushes, Schlafly Bottleworks donated beer (& dessert), there was a big fire blazing out back and the Christmas tree was set up next to the "stage". In addition to the usual set of familiar faces in the house tonight there were a few people KDHX had specifically invited…nice, appreciative folks who felt more like extended family than strangers; maybe 70 people in the room, all told.

Mike and band (d, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, steel guitar and Mike on bass/vocals) opened with a set of Christmas-themed songs…but this aint no "Hark The Herald" stuff. Leading off with "Daddy’s Drinking Up Our Christmas", it quickly became apparent that things weren’t gonna be entirely merry. Merle Haggard’s "If We Make It Through December" painted a touching picture of a poor family trying to get by while Mike’s own "Christmas Past" gave us glimpses of a relationship’s journey from good to bad in much the same way as George Jones’ "The Grand Tour". On one, Nate’s steel guitar rang out a faint, melancholy echo of "Jingle Bells" as the song faded out.

Of course, any true country music fan knows that hearing a sad song doesn’t have to throw you into bouts of depression…it’s hard to describe, but think of Gram and Emmylou’s version of "Love Hurts" or (to hop genres) Smokey’s "Tracks Of My Tears". These songs hit a sad spot, but somehow produce a smile. Tonight Mike’s pure country tenor provided plenty of ache and the band provided the right amount of emphasis in all the right places…more impressive than you’d expect from guys with day jobs.

Things weren’t all sad- they got upbeat, and even a bit silly on "Holly Jolly Christmas" and The Band’s "This Must Be Christmas" provided imagery from the first Christmas.

Mike introduced set two by saying, "Now we’re gonna play a bunch of songs we know." The set opened with his original "House Of Secrets"; on this one, a trance-like shuffle/groove provides the backdrop for the harrowing tale of a man going off the deep end when he finds out his wife is cheating on him. With the holiday theme absent from set two, they took even sharper aim at that melancholy spot. "Cold, Cold Comfort", "Some Things You Lose" and "Banks Of The Ohio" all rang sad and sweet. The interplay of Nate’s steel with Gary’s electric and Dan’s acoustic leads was seamless throughout. For a couple songs, Nate switched over to dobro while Gary picked up a mandolin…sounded great through the PA. Mike put his own low-key spin on the one-song encore- "Harper Valley PTA", not as overtly sassy as the original, but poignant, nonetheless.

As is the pattern with these house concerts, people took their time filtering out. Eventually, it was just Dave, Matt the drummer and me sitting around the fire until way late. Nate, the steel player stayed up late upstairs playing my kids’ video games. Unlike other bands who have stayed at our place, these guys all woke up at a decent hour, all within an hour of each other on Saturday morning. I fed them all breakfast burritos and sent them on their way back to Kansas City around 10AM.

12/9/06 Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel, Off Broadway. After a late night on Friday and an early evening power nap, I made it to the club right around ten. Around 30 people showed up…kinda disappointing for a Saturday night. The opening act was a no-show, so the soundman opened with a short-notice solo acoustic opening set; not especially memorable.

Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel went on around eleven. They played most of their brand-new Go CD. My internal "voice reminds me of…" bell went off a couple of times tonight: on certain songs, Anna’s dramatic, mannered phrasing reminded me of Natalie Merchant and I got glimpses of Kelly Willis on "Further Along" and the sassy "Romance". Scott Ligon was impressive on lead guitar and keyboards…sometimes both on the same song (as on their soulful cover of Gram Parsons’ "She") In addition to country rockers and Patsy-style torch ballads, they covered "Perhaps, Perhaps, Pehaps", which I seem to remember from some musical.

All-in-all it was nice enough, but I have to admit to being a bit fatigued and the light crowd never developed a critical intensity. Coincidentally, Scott later claimed to be a little tired and off in his playing…not that a non-musician like me would know.

2006-12-16 Rough Shop, The Focal Point. This local folk/acoustic/electric/eclectic, variable-size, fun-loving combo hosted their third annual Christmas show tonight…maybe 50 or 60 people on hand to hear them do two sets. Singer/guitarist John Wendland is something of a Christmas music aficionado. Every December he lovingly collects Christmas songs (a very broad definition, BTW) onto these cool compilation CDs, cleverly entitled K-Yule. With a wealth of knowledge in this particular sub-genre, they did lots of holiday-themed songs tonight; a few I remember: "Daddy’s Drinkin’ Up Our Christmas", "This Must Be Christmas" (both, coincidentally, were covered at last week’s Mike Ireland house concert) and that piano-based instrumental from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Nate’s keyboards and Andy’s electric guitar rose up and rambled in a way that recalled the less heavy moments of The Allman Brothers. It’s always a treat to see and hear Anne play and sing. It’s also fun to watch her get more comfortable on mandolin and guitar. The drumming was split about 50/50 tonight between Spencer Marquart and Sean Anglin. In addition to the holiday-themed material, they did a few originals from their debut CD ("I Wonder What I Means" and "I’m Your Man" stood out). Andy sang a new original that I think is called "Harbor From The Storm". John dedicated their version of Nick Lowe’s "Cold Gray Light Of Dawn" (definitely not a Christmas song) to me. After the show, a bunch of us adjourned to the Schlafly Bottleworks. I was feeling a bit rough by the cold gray light of dawn.




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