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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 59

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 59

10/6/07 Brian Henneman and friends, House Concert.  This show was put together to raise money for our friend John Caspermeyer.  He’s the guy you always see videotaping live music around town.  John has had a bunch of medical bills accumulate as the result of a bad car wreck this summer.  John’s friend Don Hollenbeck got involved in lining up this show.  It just so happens that John’s brother-in-law is Bottle Rockets’ front man, Brian Henneman.  We maxed out on RSVPs about four hours after this show was announced.
There were about ninety people in the house tonight.  Generous donations from Don H, Joanie’s Pizza and Schlafly Brewery set everyone up with free pizza and beer. Brian opened with a few words explaining how we were raising money for his crippled brother-in-law.
Set one had a relaxed, acoustic feel.  Brian had long-time Bottle Rockets’ drummer Mark Ortmann sitting in on a spare kit (a tambourine replaced the kick drum tonight) and good friend Steve Chosich on acoustic guitar and vocals.  All seated on stools in our cozy living room, they opened with “$1,000 Car”.  An inspired acoustic lead rang out, where we’re used to hearing that ragged electric one. 
Right off the bat, Brian encouraged people to offer up requests… “Radar Gun” was instantly hollered out and promptly performed.  Steve then sang lead on a bluesy song, as Brian switched over to electric guitar.  After “Hey Moon” (my request), Brian explained how this one was written as if he were addressing Moon Unit Zappa.  Who knew?  “Lucky Break” is about a guy who’s been injured, but is comfortably covered by workmen’s comp; kind of ironic at a benefit for our injured friend who has no coverage.
Steve sang lead on the old Chicken Truck (Brian’s band from 18 years ago) staple, “Headin For The Ditch” (Brian on lead electric) as well as Doug Sahm’s “At The Crossroads”.  “Wave That Flag” reminds me (thematically) of “Southern Man” while “Slow Tom’s” reminds me (musically) of “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”.  The sound in the room was very clear and everyone was drawn in and attentive as set one wound down with “Get Down River” and “Sunday Sports” (another request).
In addition to the money collected at the door, we were able to come up with more money for John through the sale of posters made up for this show, as well as a raffle.  Lots of music-related businesses around town donated gift certificates, etc.  About a dozen prizes were raffled off and lots more money found its way into the John C fund.  Brian pulled the names from the hat just before set two began.
John Horton (The Bottle Rockets’ other guitar player) showed up in time to sit in for all of set two.  He was plenty relaxed, perched in a folding chair with his feet propped up on the monitor.  Brian opened by asking if there were more requests….“Kit Kat Clock” got things off to a lively jump-start.  The second request granted was “Kerosene”, John applying a mournful lead slide.  I never get tired of this haunting snapshot of rural poverty.  Steve took over lead vocals on Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel”, which wound out into an extended groove, Brian and John trading leads.  On “Welfare Music”, the combination of Brian’s clean acoustic leads & mark’s military style drum rolls imparted some kind of quasi-civil war feel while Brian and Steve traded verses.
Brian told a long, animated story about how he and Dan Baird co-wrote “Nancy Sinatra” before he and John got all gritty & greezy on this one. Someone requested “Coffee Monkey” and Brian requested some coffee.  Both requests were granted pretty quickly.  Doug Sahm’s “Give Back The Key To My Heart” was another highlight of set two.  John laid on more expressive slide while Walt and Jean Ann hopped around in those kid-sized chairs up front. 
When someone requested “White Boy Blues”, Brian apologized that he had forgotten how to play it (yeah, right), but remembered the words…he then proceeded to render a tongue-in-cheek dramatic recitation of this song adding pensive pauses, ala William Shatner.  He followed this with a string of loose and fun favorites: “Gas Girl”, “Indianapolis” (Steve on lead vocals) and “Love Like A Truck”.
Short of listing all of the songs they did, suffice to say that requests were offered up and granted all night long.  Toward the end, Brian slowed things down with the reflective “Mom And Dad”, his touching ballad about his recently departed parents.  Simple lines like “I still mow your lawn” and “I still get your mail” paint a striking picture of his loss.  So as not to leave us on a sad note, they ended with “I Drink Stag”…I’m not sure if there are fewer chords or words in this one.  In front of the Stag neon sign from Frederick’s Music Lounge (R.I.P) they rocked hard, bringing things down a bit in the middle so Brian could explain which verse was written by whom in this Farrar/Tweedy/Henneman collaboration.  When the dust (and beer bottles) had settled, there was a bunch of smiling faces and a big old pile of cash for John. 
10/13/07 Greg Trooper, House Concert.  (let me preemptively point out that this entry in my “concert diary” is more “diary” and less “concert”) Ray and I hung out at home, watching Kentucky knock off #1 LSU in an exciting triple overtime win before driving over to Dave and Angela’s place.  There was a good crowd…maybe 60 people; wouldn’t want to see it any more crowded than this.  I talked to GT a bit in the kitchen before the show started.  I wasn’t expecting to hear a sensitive singer/songwriter speak with a New Jersey accent…it was a little bit like talking to Christopher Moltesante from “The Sopranos”.  
I don’t have any of Greg’s records, and wouldn’t claim to be familiar with his music, but as soon as he started to sing, I recognized his voice from…probably KDHX.  Since I don’t know any of his songs, I’m only gonna be able to give a very general summary (in fact, this whole write-up ends up being more about friends, family and sports).  Early on, Greg’s overall loose, easy picking and blues-based vocals reminded me of Chris Smither.  He introduced one song as a collaboration with Dan Penn; not surprisingly, it had a soulful, R & B vibe.
With all of the seats in the front room filled, a few of us opted to hang in the TV room (sound turned down), where we could hear just fine.  With the undefeated home-state Missouri Tigers going up against Oklahoma tonight, a few people were surprised to see that the TV was tuned to the unranked Arkansas Razorbacks vs. the #25 Auburn Tigers…take it up with the hostess; she’s from Arkansas.
Greg’s between-song banter was very modest  and self-deprecating.  We got a colorful story in set two about his songwriting collaboration with the guy who played Jason on “The Waltons”.  Toward the end, our host, Dave Melson joined in on stand-up bass on a smooth, jazzy/bluesy song.  The only cover I recognized tonight was in the encore- Hank’s “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”…didn’t sound like no Jersey boy.
Ray (who turns seven at midnight) and Noah were having a good time watching the Indians/Red Sox LCS game two, so I was happy to hang out by the fire out back.  Greg settled up on the door/merch money and took off for his hotel around midnight, while Dave, Pax and I made a late night of it.  While standing by the fire, we could see through the window to the TV as the Indians came up with seven runs in the top of the eleventh to post a 13-6 win.  Since Ray was already crashed downstairs, I crawled off to sleep on a couch and drove my seven-year-old home the next morning.
10/27/07 Elizabeth Cook, House Concert.  After our typical domestic Saturday (soccer game, Burger King, birthday party), the doorbell rang around 5:30.  Elizabeth, husband/guitarist Tim Carroll and manager David Macias were very personable as they loaded in and hung out for a while.  David watched college football (and talked trash) with my seven-year-old while Nancy fed the whole crew salad and bar-b-q.  They then ran through a brief sound check and went upstairs before the “crowd” of around 60 people showed up.
Anyone who has checked out the “photos” page of Elizabeth’s website (http://www.elizabeth-cook.com/photos.html) knows that she can pretty easily present a pinup-worthy image, but when she came downstairs tonight, she seemed to intentionally go for a more modest, “smart” look.  A pair of nerdy Elvis Costello-style glasses complemented her stylish dress and cowboy boots.  EC and Tim opened with “My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy”…in case anyone had never made the comparison between Elizabeth and Dolly Parton, this DP cover made it hard to miss.  So many elements of what she does are similar: her charming, unassuming southern accent, her vocal phrasing and her sexy, sassy, yet independent persona all recall Ms. Parton.  She dedicated this one to Porter Wagoner (DP’s long-time singing partner who passed away this weekend).
“Times Are Tough In Rock And Roll” and “Gonna Be” were upbeat and spunky, while maintaining enough of that “aw shucks” modesty.  Tim added some nice ringing leads on his hollow body guitar to “Cupid”.  He also sang a couple of his own songs- the murky/moody ballad “What’ll We Do Til Then?” and the loose shuffle, “Poor Man’s Way”.  Elizabeth followed with the traditional waltz, “Rest Your Weary Mind” and her bluesy, vintage-sounding original, “Demon Don’t Get In Bed With Me”.  Throughout, Elizabeth provided modest, endearing introductions to her songs, throwing in stories of encounters with a few of her country music heroes.  At times she sheepishly looked to Tim for cues regarding key and capo positioning. “You probably think that being real uncomfortable is part of my act…” 
“Before I Go That Far” and “Heather Are You With Me Tonight?” both had a rich, mature feel, along the lines of Patty Griffin or Rosanne Cash.  A couple of covers toward the end of set one stood out: Merle’s “Today I Started Loving You Again” and Jessie Colter’s “Storms Never Last” were both clear and convincing.  She (intentionally) slightly diverged from the original melody on the former as Tim laid on the glowing leads.  The sound quality was pretty ideal all night.  Set one ended with “Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be A Woman”, giving us more of that feisty, “You Aint Woman Enough…” meets “9 to 5” vibe.
Set two opened with her Dolly-esque ballad, “Mama’s Prayers” (think “Coat Of Many Colors”).  Loretta’s “Fist City” fit perfectly with EC’s general aesthetic; Tim applying that repeated trademark lead riff.  More afield was “Sunday Morning”…she cast an innocent, southern tone to this Velvet Underground classic.  The whole room was drawn in…you could hear a pin (and possibly my jaw) drop.  Tim added chugging Albert Lee-style electric leads to the pumped and sassy “He Got No Heart” and some blues-based licks to the traditional “Awful Dreadful Snake”. Elizabeth excused herself to go eat ribs from the pot-luck spread while Tim did a couple of his songs- “After the Hurricane” and “Girl That’s Hip”.  Tim’s songwriting and playing are impressive, while his singing is fairly average.  Fortunately, he’s married to someone who gives his songs the dynamic vocal presentation they deserve.  Elizabeth came back up to slay us with Tim’s melodic and reflective “Always Tomorrow” and his up-tempo (and then some) “If I Could”.
The two-song encore also used the soft/hard, slow/fast pattern: the sweet ballad “You Move Too Fast” was followed by The Louvin Brother’s rollicking “Cash On The Barrelhead”.  After sticking around for a while to sell and sign CDs (they sold out of her current release, Balls) and say “goodnight”, Elizabeth, Tim and David (and instruments) all squeezed into the PT Cruiser and headed in the direction of West Virginia…they’re playing on Mountain Stage in Charleston in about sixteen hours!




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