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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 53

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 53

3/10/07 Todd Snider, The Duck Room.  Somehow, I’ve become more familiar with the culture of Todd’s fun-loving fanbase, than with his songs.  Through a mutual friend, we were able to afford Todd a little hometown hospitality, for which we were rewarded with the guest list treatment.  Lots of people had come a long way to be here for tonight’s sold-out solo show…quite the community vibe.
Todd came out and did what he does best- clever, observational lyrics over fluid picking patterns…the kind of stuff that would make John Prine proud.  Resentment of “the other side” was voiced early on in “You Got Away With It” and “Looking For A Job”.  Ironically, resentment of folks that don’t get it hit a little too close to home when some drunken “party dudes” persisted in requesting “Beer Run”, even as Todd started into “If Tomorrow Never Comes”.  When Todd’s annoyed glances weren’t enough to shut these guys up, he stopped, mid-song and immediately obliged their request, racing through “Beer Run” TWICE, staring in the direction of these annoying louts the whole time.  Immediately afterward, he said, "There's two of them for you. Now you don't have to come next time."
From that point on, Todd went about the businesslike execution of his set, but was clearly pissed and not his usual easy-going self.  Songs that stood out were those that relied on his modest but pointed observations; stuff like “Ballad of the Kingsmen” (with a brief segue into “You Sexy Thing”), “Alright Guy”, “Conservative Christian Straight White American Males” and “Enjoy Yourself”.  After the show, the community vibe continued as Russell introduced me a couple of people who needed a ride back to their hotel.  This simple task somehow evolved into hanging out in their hotel room and drinking beer until sunrise…at which time I drove them down to the Amtrak station for their 6:30AM train ride back to Chicago.
3/15/07 The Hold Steady, Off Broadway.  This show was my consolation prize for not being at SXSW this year.  If I’m only gonna see one band this weekend, it ought to be one I really like.  Dan and I squeezed into the sold-out room (didn’t recognize many faces in this younger crowd) right before the band went on.  We somehow found a table in the balcony…not the best vantage point, but given the density of the crowd, we’ll take it.  The folks at OB were smart enough to set up a limited bar upstairs, as well.  When Beatle Bob got up to give his typical enthusiastic testimonial/introduction, it struck me that he, too, wasn’t in Austin this weekend.  
The Hold Steady came on and launched into their loud and spirited thing.  It gets mentioned all the time, but it’s hard not to draw the early-Springsteen comparison…raspy working class vocals and muscular instrumentation (b, d, g & keys) playing anthemic songs that feature dramatic pauses and explosive releases.  Tonight lead singer Craig Finn was all over the place, caught up in the moment, flailing about and tossing off haphazard gestures as he howled out vocals that were so impassioned and expressive that it didn’t really matter that you couldn’t make out the lyrics.  (Being marginally familiar with their current Boys And Girls In America CD, it’s icing on the cake to know that there is substance to these lyrics).  Dan pointed out a similarity in Finn’s vocals to those of Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz.  Songs that stood out were “Chips Ahoy”, “Girls And Boys In America” and “Southtown Girls” (tonight’s set closer).  During the encore, they invited people up on to the stage, which quickly became as crowded as the rest of the room. 
3/22/07 Justin Townes Earle, House Concert.  The Get Out section of today’s Post-Dispatch featured a preview of this show as well as a brief blurb about Dave and Angela’s house concerts, and house concerts, in general.  About 30 people showed up to hear this guy whose recognition (albeit limited) owes a lot to the fact that he’s Steve Earle’s son.  Throughout the show, I found myself comparing several aspects of what he does to those of his dad. 
Accompanied by bassist Steve Poulton, JTE ran through an opening set that alternated between retro rural blues songs about stuff like chitlins, rounders and jellyrolls and introspective songs that are hard not to compare to those of his famous father.  The former was typified by an old-timey ukulele strum ala The Cheap Suit Serenaders, the latter making use of pensive picking patterns ala “Goodbye” or “Ft. Worth Blues”.  One that might be called “You Can’t Leave” (written when he was 16) echoed dad’s “I’m never gonna let you go, no matter what you do..”  His distinctive voice came through especially strong in “Yuma”, the title track to his current EP.  Somewhere in there, they covered a Doc Watson song about trains.
Set two gave us a few vivid images of America’s seedy underbelly (“Rogers Park” and “Christmas in Detention” would be my guess at song titles).  He saved a couple of his most catchy songs for the home stretch; these songs could stand along songs like “More than I Can Do” or “You're Still Standin' There”.  This being a school night, the after-show hang-out was more limited…probably for the better. 
3/24/07 Dwight Twilley, House Concert.  About 75 people showed up to hear this legendary pop musician…a real changeup from your typical “sensitive guy with acoustic guitar and harmonica” house concert.  Usually, we ask around $10 or $12 per person at these house concerts, but in order to make it worthwhile for this five-piece band to make the trip up from Tulsa, we had to ask $17 per person this time around.  But to quote the heroin dealer character in Pulp Fiction, “now this costs more, but when you shoot it, you’ll see where that extra money went…”  
This was the first time at one of our house concerts where the featured artist waited outside (in a rented Hummer convertible, no less) until it was time to take the “stage”…when he did, he was met with adoring applause as the band lit into the instrumental intro to “Twilley Don’t Mind”, which quickly morphed into “Betsy Sue”.  Things stayed up-tempo with “TV”…in this one, DT got to strike some “rock concert” poses as the band hit it hard.  The bass (David White) was punchy and prominent on “The Luck” as Dwight switched over to acoustic guitar.  Twilley then moved to keyboards to sing the mid-tempo “Music”.  Throughout, Dwight’s vocals were run through an Alesis Midiverb to achieve his trademark vocal echo effect.  Dwight’s longtime lead guitar player, Bill Pitcock wasn’t on hand tonight (his mom recently passed away), but Sean Standingbear is familiar enough with the DT catalog to add the right part at the right time.  If this seems like more detail than one should remember, I should point out that I’m cheating and writing this while watching the DVD that Bootleg John made.  The new mini-spotlights that Nancy came up with worked out nicely. 
I initially pursued having Dwight play here on the recommendation of a few friends who are long-time fans.  Once he agreed to play, I bought a few CDs and took something of a “crash course”…I liked the records OK, but tonight I was really won over by Dwight’s songs (melodic pop, done up harder and tougher in this live setting) and his natural, magnetic stage presence.  The rest of set one finished with more hard yet melodic material, including “Baby Girl”, “10,000 American Scuba Divers” and “Runnin”.  Set one ended with one of his “hits”- “I’m On Fire”, complete with multiple layers of backing vocals.
The band reached cruising altitude pretty quickly in set two…“That Thing That You Do” and “You Better Watch Out” kept a continuous uptempo groove going.  “Alone In My Room” showed up somewhere in the home stretch…it’s one of my favorite DT songs- dramatic and tuneful, it hits that spot.  This set ended with his other big hit (I’m still picturing the MTV video from 1984)- “Girls” has a catchy guitar hook somewhere in that Roy Orbison “Pretty Woman” zone.  Dwight struck some dramatic poses down on his knees during this one…right in front of his biggest fans perched on the couch up front.  When the second set ended, the crowd laid it on the band with a standing ovation…the band gave the love right back to the crowd- three band members pulled out their cameras and took pictures of us!
They came back for a one-song encore…”Crying Over Me” has a rumbling, tumbling drumbeat ala X’s “Hungry Wolf.
Obviously, Dwight & band typically play much bigger places than our family room.  With a limited capacity, we could only come up with a modest amount of cash for them, but it was a nice perk that one of their biggest STL fans is also a caterer.  Neal did it up for the band, laying out an impressive spread of brisket and ribs just before midnight.  
Dwight and his wife, Jan stayed at a hotel a few blocks away, but the band stayed in three different bedrooms upstairs. They were all very grateful and down to earth. After we fed them breakfast, we sat in the computer room watching the DVD of last night’s show as they "talked shop" about what was going on in various songs.  After that, everyone adjourned to the back yard for whiffleball.  There’s a picture of Dwight up in our kids’ treehouse on this myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/dwightt I loved how the band was as excited to be here as we were to have them...taking pictures of the front of the house, the turtle, the adoring crowd, our whole family, etc.  Their families must have got the full slideshow/story when they got home.
3/26/07 The Silos, Off Broadway.  I got there in time to hear about the last half of the opening set by Rough Shop.  Maybe sixty people out on a Monday night…lots of familiar faces.  Without going in to yet another description of this familiar local band, suffice to say they were a bit more electric than usual. 
The second act on the bill was Jon Dee Graham.  The first half of his set was a solo-acoustic thing: “Broken”, “Rosewood” and “Beloved Garden” stood out.  After a few songs, Jon Dee was joined by The Silos.  His songs lend themselves to that hard, dark, urgent treatment and The Silos lit into “Tie A Knot”, “Swept Away”, “Holes”, “Something Wonderful” and “Laredo”.  They switched instruments all around between songs and Jon Dee jumped in and out of the intense lead swapping.  JDG came back for a one-song acoustic encore- a Green On Red song about Mohammed Ali.
My general preconception of The Silos was (approximately) “great musicians, not especially memorable songs”.  They apparently have a new CD out that folks are raving about, but this being a Monday night (with a babysitter home with the boys), I didn’t stick around to check it out.  FWIW, I got favorable reports from those who did. 
4/14/07 Thee Dirty South, Off Broadway.  Dave and I showed up about midway through the set by Bad Folk…Tim on guitar & banjo, Johnny on guitar & steel that squealed ala Sneaky Pete, Adam on accordion, Anne on drums and Bruk on bass (first time I’ve seen her play with them). They ended with a slow one whose chord structure reminded me of “Hotel California”…might not have been wise to tell Tim that after the show.
Thee Dirty South is apparently disbanding; this was their next-to-last show ever.  As always, the band: Bob (guitar & vocals), John (drums) and Marc (lead guitar) played seated.  The overall feel was loose and ragged…kinda fits with where frontman Bob Reuter is these days.  Tonight they did “Birda” (the set opener), The Stones’ “This Could Be The (next-to?) Last Time” and Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul”.  Neil references crept into a couple of Bob’s originals tonight, as well; one opened with “I hit the city and I lost my van…” and he threw in “I hate them worse than lepers and I’ll kill them in their cars” toward the end of another.  John and Marc left the stage while Bob did a solo acoustic reading of a brand-new song that mixed fiction (two people sharing one pair of pants), stark reality (riding the bus among a bunch of people on their cell phones) and fantasy (I dreamed I broke into your house and pistol whipped you). This haunting, venomous screed was the most gripping moment of the evening.  I was relieved to learn, after the set, that this song was not about me (don’t flatter yourself). 




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