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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 72

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 72

9/6/08 Jason Ringenberg, House Concert.  This was a rare repeat performance at our house…since we only host about a dozen shows a year, we generally try to keep new acts coming through.  But when Jason said he was interested in playing here again, I couldn’t say “no”.  It’s been almost three years since he played here, so what the hell?  What made this especially fun for me was that my brother, David made the trip up from Atlanta to be here.  He and I were big fans of Jason And The Scorchers back in the mid-eighties.
 
Shortly after we iced down the beer, the members of Rough Shop showed up …Jason had arranged for them to back him for his second set.  Jason showed up a little while later, charming and gracious as ever.  David and I had a great time hearing Jason and Rough Shop run through a handful of songs during sound check. “Trail Of Tears” stood out. 
 
A couple of hours later, the house was full and Jason took the “stage” for the solo acoustic first set, opening with Merle’s “Rainbow Stew”.  The overall tone of this set was similar in feel to the one he turned in here in 2005 (our second, ever, house concert), as he did a scattering of songs from his solo records (“Goin’ Nowhere”, “Erin’s Seed”, “Tuskegee Pride”), his Farmer Jason material (“Guitar Pickin’ Chicken”, “Punk Rock Skunk”…Ray (my seven-year-old) and Matthew (his cousin) were locked in and singing along) and his days in the Scorchers (“Help! There’s A Fire” and “Broken Whiskey Glass”). 
 
When we have a repeat performer play at our house, we like to make sure that things are different enough the second time around to keep things interesting and unpredictable.  Tonight Jason achieved this by having the local band, Rough Shop back him for set two.  These guys did their homework and rose to the occasion as they provided fresh and impressive accompaniment to songs from all periods of Jason’s career. 
 
This full band set opened with “Trail Of Tears”, Andy’s dobro adding a unique character to this catchy and dramatic Guadalcanal Diary classic.  They then gave a nice country-rock treatment to “Rebel Flag In Germany”…apparently, it was the first time Jason has ever done this one with a band.  Spencer established the shuffle tempo and pauses on “I’m A Gypsy Now” while Andy nailed the tone of the original on electric guitar…one of my personal highlights of the evening.  “Shop It Around” had an easier, less grungy feel to it than the original…no one is gonna outscorch The Scorchers, so it was nice to hear the band impart their own feel to this one.
 
The instrumentation was stripped down for “Bible And A Gun”…a rich, haunting blend of banjo (Andy), accordion (Anne) and acoustic guitar (Jason) was a good match for the tone of this civil war story-song (co-written with Steve Earle).  Spencer slapped a simple tambourine beat while Andy laid on some glowing chords to “Camille” (a warm love song written for his daughter, Jason’s typically big grin growing momentarily bigger).  Being the modest, gracious guy he is, Jason yielded the stage to his backing band for one song, while he took a seat in the crowd, next to Matthew.  Rough Shop’s original “I See Shadows” had a loose, dreamy, jazz/swing quality to it; Andy’s mandolin and Spencer’s brushed snare blending well with John and Anne’s vocal harmonies.
 
Jason re-took his spot, front and center for the home stretch: “Still Tied” (Andy with the bent-string licks on this later-period ballad), “Harvest Moon” (Spencer adding a reworked shuffle beat while Andy provided his own distinctive guitar lead) and “Far Behind” (Andy’s dobro perfectly nailed the high lonesome feel of this ballad and gave me goosebumps).  A nice story preceded “Absolutely Sweet Marie”…Andy’s rhythm (and then lead) guitar casting a different light within the approximate tempo/framework of The Scorchers’ take on this Bob Dylan classic.
 
When he played here three years ago, Jason closed things out with The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”.  Tonight’s encore was a classic from a totally different time and dimension…Hank’s “I Saw The Light” was given a joyous, rollicking dobro/accordion/mandolin treatment.  Andy sang the second verse while Jason hopped around, most folks in the crowd on their feet. Another fine night of entertainment…
 
…but wait- just by coincidence, Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles were on their way from a Friday gig in Ohio to a Sunday gig in Nebraska.  I invited them to stop by, if they could, and sure enough, they were in the house all night long, hanging out and taking it all in.  Once Jason had wound things down and held court at the merch table, Sarah and the boys plugged in and treated everyone to a nightcap set.  Lyle (Sarah’s new guitar player) kicked things off with the unmistakable intro riff to “The Day We Met”.  This brief set also included “Modern Trick”, the upbeat “Glory Be” and Dylan’s “From a Buick Six”.  This bonus set made things run later than usual.  David and I were the last ones up…we made a bet on the upcoming election (he predicted Obama, while my money was on McCain…each of us hoping we would lose) over one last beer.
 
9/10/08 Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, Off Broadway.  I spent the early part of the evening tending to family stuff.  By the time I got to the bar, this duo was well into their “an evening with…” set (no opening act)…maybe 50 or 60 people out on a Wednesday night. 
 
When Amy and Eric last came to town (2006), each played separate shows on separate nights.  This time around, they have a new collaboration CD out and are fully locked into being a duo…each providing backing instrumentation and vocals on each other’s songs.  After liking each on their own for quite a while, I’m still not sure what to think about this.
 
It certainly didn’t help that the sound was atypically bad tonight. The guitars were too loud and distorted and the vocals were low and unclear.  This was a problem on Amy’s songs, in particular… her clever, plaintive lyrics were probably lost on anyone not already familiar with them. Over the course of one long set, Amy played keyboards, acoustic and electric guitar while Eric played bass, acoustic and electric guitars.  They did most of the songs from their current CD: “Here Comes My Ship” and “Astrovan” provided a nice contrast between Amy’s gentle, if twisted, observational lyrics and Eric’s rich, Brit accent chorus.  “Taste Of The Keys” has a pleasant, hummable melody.  It was only when I heard the lyrics on the new CD the next day that I got the counterpoint of the cynical lyrics.
 
On a few songs, they made use of pre-recorded (by them) rhythm tracks and found vocals.  A laptop computer was perched on a stool between them.  Amy songs that stood out included “All I Want” (Eric on backing vocals), “Men In Sandals” (tonight, that would include the bar owner) and “Last Night I Was Dancing w/ Joey Ramone” (a catchy, up-tempo highlight of the evening).  
 
From our vantage point near the back, Jim and I were thinking that Eric looks a bit like Graham Parker and sounds a bit like Robyn Hitchcock.  Eric gave a nice shout-out to The Flaming Groovies before he and Amy did “You Tore Me Down” and delivered his big hit, “Whole Wide World” toward the end of the set.  Their one-song encore was an endearing, if slightly off-kilter version of Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone”…it was backed by a beatbox rhythm track and had a reggae-fied feel to it.
 
After an hour or so of selling and signing CDs and loading out, Amy and Eric piled into their rented Toyota Highlander and followed me home.  We had a nice late-night catch-up session around the kitchen table.  I heard about each of their daughters as well as Eric’s amusing encounters with Alex Chilton and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  The next morning, I helped Eric add a backing panel to his guitar amp before they hit the road for Memphis.
 
9/11/08 Liam Finn, The Billiken Club.  I showed up a little after ten…missed the opening band, but caught all of the headliner’s set; maybe eighty people on hand on a Thursday night.  I was totally unfamiliar with LF’s music, so it all just unfolded right in front of me.  The “band” was Liam Finn playing all manner of instruments (guitars, bass, drums, all enhanced/modified/repeated via electronic effects) backed only by a woman who added vocals, minimal percussion and an autoharp on one song.
 
I was initially taken in by LF’s process…he effortlessly moved about from instrument to instrument, establishing patterns that would then be repeated via tape loops (or whatever…I never figured it out) while he accompanied himself on the next instrument.  His drumming was especially lively and inspired.  He has obviously done this enough that he can stay focused on what he has to say, musically, rather than bog down on the procedural execution of this one-man-band thing.  I eventually gave up trying to understand what was going on with the technical wizardry and just enjoyed the music…
 
…which often reminded me of Magical Mystery Tour- era Beatles.  It’s all melodic, grand and sweeping, with playful bits floating in and out.  Knowing that Liam is from New Zealand helped conjure up images of Brett from “Flight Of The Conchords” during an acoustic ballad. Toward the end of the set, he added theramin to the mix and a third member (maybe his brother?) joined in on drums and guitar.  The encore featured a full band (presumably the opening act).  I didn’t like it as much as the minimal incarnation.
 
9/12/08 Diesel Island, Deluxe.  This was my first visit to Suzanne Miller’s new place in Maplewood.  She’s put a lot of effort into transforming an old laundromat into a cool new restaurant/bar.  I wish her the best…we could use another small-scale live music venue in town.  And they have PBR on tap.  Lots of familiar faces in the room.
 
I got there too late to get dinner, but heard all of the music.  Pretty much your basic Diesel Island show.  This is the first time I’ve seen them since Dade Farrar has replaced John Horton on bass…it’s nice to have an additional lead singer in the band.  Dade sang a Hank, Sr. song (can’t remember which one).  Not that it matters, but scattered staples included “Tulsa Time”, “Amarillo By Morning”, “Louisiana Saturday Night” and “I Can Help”.  My wife claims “Good Hearted Woman (In Love With A Good Timin’ Man)” to be her theme song.
 
In the second set, Steve Chosich got up and sang a few songs, including “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” and “Wagon Wheel”.  We also heard “Only Daddy”, “Looking Out My Back Door”, “She Just Started Liking Cheating Songs”, “Take This Job And Shove It”, “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights” and a handful of Merle songs.  Suzanne got up and sang “Walking After Midnight” and toward the end of the evening did “Dead Flowers”…when she had trouble coming up with the lyrics, Kip stepped in for the assist.  I hope this new venue catches on and that this was the first of many nights of live music here.
 
9/26/08 Prisonshake, Bluebird.  I was totally surprised when I showed up around 10:30 to find only about 30 people in a venue that could probably hold as many as 350.  Two of tonight’s three bands had yet to play.  Given the crowd size, it wasn’t hard to find the people I knew in the room.  Carrie pretty quickly led me to the Green Room…ironically, it was pretty crowded with maybe 10 people. 
 
We all emerged to check out all of the set by Psychotronics.  My vague memory from the last time I saw them (a couple of years ago) was that they did a loose, jazzy/jam thing, more along the lines of The Allman Brothers than The Grateful Dead.  Since that set in early 2006, they’ve added a sax player and a guy on conga/percussion.  Things sounded surprisingly different, song-to-song, at various times reminding me of Steely Dan, Santana, Brian Eno, free jazz of the “honks and squeaks” variety and some swanky funk like you might hear on a porn soundtrack from the seventies.  “Miles At Fillmore” was Scariano’s reference point.
 
There were maybe 40 or 50 people on hand (lots of familiar faces) when Prisonshake went on right around midnight. Since people weren’t exactly streaming into the club at this point, it caught my eye when a couple of long-haired rock-looking dudes passed through the door just as the music started.  I didn’t recognize them, but it turns out that they were Dave Pirner and Tommy Stinson, from Soul Asylum, who will be playing at the big outdoor festival downtown tomorrow.  They stood off to the side of the stage taking in the whole set.
 
This was one of two or three CD release shows for Prisonshake’s new Dirty Moons CD.  It’s an ambitious double album, with full-on rock songs segueing in and out of dreamy instrumental passages, discordant explorations and even bits of curious found dialog.  In this live setting, they didn’t bother with the more precious moments and stuck to the hard stuff. 
 
I still don’t know that many songs by name, but a few that stood out were “Favorite Hospital” (loud, spirited guitars), “Year Of The Donk” (this one goes off on some badass riffage ala QOTSA or Sonic Youth) and “The Cut-Out Bin” (whose lyrics say something about bands putting out shitty record number four).  Memorable older songs included “Kick Up Your Heels” and “Hey Culligan Man”. 
 
The band was loose, but locked in and seemed to be having fun.  Doug was all over the place, sometimes belting it out onstage, sometimes on his knees, motionless during the instrumental breaks…he came out onto the floor to sing at one point.  During the extended instrumental workout on “Year Of The Donk”, he left the stage, altogether.  For as much as the band put into it, the light crowd lacked a critical mass and kept things from reaching full intensity…not like seeing them twelve years ago in the smaller, denser Cicero’s Basement Bar.  Their set was typically brief; no encore, as Robert opened up the box of CDs for sale on stage. 
 
9/28/08 Rough Shop, Pig Roast, Hillsboro, MO.  A couple of months ago, someone asked if I could recommend a band to play for a bunch of their friends at this casual Sunday afternoon party out in the country.  I immediately suggested Rough Shop and things fell into place from there.  We piled the kids into the car and made the 45 minute drive out to the home of Janelle and Mark Rickermann.  They have a real pretty piece of land that extends downhill to an old grass airstrip (cleared off by the previous owner).  The four members of the band were the only people we knew, but all of the guests (maybe 30 or 40 people) were friendly enough.  Travis (our ten-year-old) got to ride a horse and Ray (seven) played soccer and badminton with a few other kids.
 
We ate from the generous spread of roasted pig (they put lipstick on it!) and side dishes and heard all of the band’s first set…the usual fun mix of originals and covers, giving everyone a turn to sing lead.  Songs I remember: “Hairless Chihuahua” “Catfish John” “You Aint Goin Nowhere” “Fences” and “Cold Gray Light Of Dawn”.  The crowd paid partial attention…not surprising for this kind of social setting. 
 
Apparently, Janelle and Mark are interested in hosting bands with some frequency once they get their back yard/courtyard area fixed up…I hope it works out for them.  On the drive home, Ray and I surfed around on XM radio, as the small-market Brewers beat out the big-spending Mets for the NL wild-card spot on the last day of the season.

   

 

 

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