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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 80
Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 80
4/2/09 Marshall Crenshaw, Off Broadway. Since MC is going to play a solo show at our place tomorrow night, I was inclined to pass on this show, just so things would sound fresh tomorrow…but it turned out that Marshall needed a ride from the club back to his hotel (just a few blocks from our house) and put me on the guest list, so things just sorta fell into place. I got to the club about twenty minutes before the music started, just enough time to get a beer and catch up with a few people (maybe 70 people out on a Thursday night) before Marshall took the stage.
Marshall opened with the moody lament, “Dime A Dozen Guy”. Over the years, he’s played with a band and at other times with just one other guitar player, but these days he’s become quite adept at conveying his songs in solo mode. He plays an electric guitar while seated in a chair and stomping on a piece of plywood...three separate microphones catching just the right amount of guitar, foot stomps and Marshall’s vocals. His voice is as consistent and recognizable as ever and he knows his way around his songs (many over twenty-five years old) so much that well-placed guitar parts rang out in all the right places.
He played one long set, without a prepared setlist…what came out was a scattering of classics like “Mary Anne”, “Cynical Girl”, “Someday, Someway” and “There She Goes Again” as well as a few newer originals, with a few well-chosen covers thrown in, as well: Buddy Holly’s “Party Doll”, Arthur Alexander’s “Soldier Of Love” and Grant Hart’s “2541” (maybe my highlight of the evening). “You’re My Favorite Waste Of Time” showed up in the encore. After the show, I hung out catching up with a few people until Marshall was all packed up. It was nice to get a chance to talk with him a bit on the drive to his hotel, just a few blocks from home. He’s pretty soft-spoken and down-to-earth. I got home around eleven…not bad for a school night.
4/3/09 Marshall Crenshaw, House Concert. Since Marshall recently had surgery on his foot, I became his designated driver for the couple of days he was in town (“Driving Mister Marshall”). I picked him up at his hotel (only a few blocks away) in the late morning and drove him over to KDHX where he recorded a couple of songs as well as a brief interview which I think ended up being played on Paul’s “Musical Merry-Go-Round” show. From there, we went over to the Schlafly Bottleworks for lunch and picked up the beer for tonight’s house concert. For being something of a pop songwriting legend, he’s a pretty modest, down-to-earth guy. We mostly talked about kids (mine and his are about the same age) and politics (we’re on the same page there, too). After lunch, I dropped MC back off at his hotel and got our place ready for the evening’s house concert.
A few hours later, I picked Marshall up and brought him over to the house to do sound check. We set up the same three-mic thing (vocals, guitar and miked kickboard) he had at Off Broadway last night. The room was full (maybe 85 people) as we figured out that the digital delay box that Mike Martin brought over wouldn’t interface with our modest PA, so we ended up routing Marshall’s vocals through the echo feature on our mixing board. It actually sounded fine and Marshall immediately started into his first set.
There was no dramatic entrance, as Marshall was already seated “onstage”, distinctively decked out in a hat and vest with a hollowbody guitar perched on his knee. Song selection tonight was very similar to last night’s show at Off Broadway; he once again opened with “Dime A Dozen Guy”, setting that dark, moody tone, punctuated by rich glowing jazz-influenced guitar, vaguely in the Django Reinhardt vein. The first of the “hits” from his earlier period was “There She Goes Again”. The sad, lonely tone of this one translates well in this spare, solo acoustic setting; he interjected a few slick guitar licks in a few spots.
Most musicians who perform solo sets in intimate settings like this have developed a charming on-stage presentation, with entertaining between-song banter and stories. For as long as Marshall has been doing this, it’s a bit surprising that he presents a relatively reserved persona. His classic songs are as catchy as ever, but his modest, low-volume (almost mumbled) song intros were fairly dry and businesslike. Some folks found this refreshingly un-slick, while others felt less entertained.
Marshall has always been a big fan/student of other noted songwriters. Set one included Joey Reynolds’ swinging, melodic “Endless Sleep” as well as Lee Hazelwood’s dark, disturbing “The Girl On Death Row”. This set’s generally dark tone was briefly broken by the upbeat, joyous (musically and lyrically) “Someday, Someway”…another of his more popular songs from the early days. He closed set one out with “Fantastic Planet Of Love”…more of that moody/jazzy/Django tone.
Set two began with another chestnut from the early days- the smooth and hum-able “Whenever You’re On My Mind”. A few newer songs (in that slower, subdued tone) followed before that familiar repeated riff introduced “Cynical Girl”. He got a little tangled up in the lyrics, as he has just recently gone back to singing “well I hate TV” instead of “well I hate GWB”. My favorite MC songs all have a lively jump to them, and this one is among his jumpiest. A bit further into the set, he busted out another- “Mary Anne”…there’s something very reassuring and life-affirming about this classic, catchy love song. He closed things out with “Television Light” (the tone of this song matches the feeling that the title evokes), “Reminiscing” (Buddy Holly) and “My Favorite Waste Of Time” (someone joked that MC should sell the rights to this one to the folks who run facebook).
Amid the applause, Marshall made his way through the crowd and up the stairs for a brief breather before coming down for a two-song (both covers) encore: “Kit Kat Clock” (a lively salute to local heroes, The Bottlerockets) and Ben Vaughn’s sad, but clever “I’m Sorry (So Is Brenda Lee)”. Here’s a link to Roy’s blog entry about the show (there’s a video clip of one of the songs):
After a bit of interaction with a few of his fans, Marshall packed up his guitars and I drove him back to his hotel. I was back bright and early the next morning to scoop him up and take him to the airport.
4/4/09 Tommy Womack, Ranch House Concert. Last night’s house concert featuring Marshall Crenshaw was fun, even if MC’s between-song banter wasn’t as intimate and engaging as his songs. Tonight, we got the full package- Tommy’s easy-going, self-depricating, tell-it-like-is persona is equally charming and entertaining whether he’s telling a story, singing a song or just hanging out between sets.
I forget Tommy’s names for his two sets (something like the sensitive singer/songwriter opening set and the rocking closing set), but his wide-eyed, bare-all, observational songs were sorted into two sets along those general lines.
Set one opened with my favorite TW song- “It’s Been A Nice Day”. It’s a modest account of a nice little moment in time where all was well with the family, told from the perspective of a prone-to-freakout dad. If I was a country, this would be my national anthem.
One unique feature about The Ranch House is that the host is a really good bass player. Dave Melson has played electric or stand-up bass with most (maybe all) of the artists who have played here. Dave spent a little time soaking in some of Tommy’s CDs last week in order to accompany him on a song or two tonight. Tommy was so comfortable with Dave’s playing during their brief sound check that he asked Dave to sit in all night long. Dave was up to the task, quickly picking up on the basic chord progression of each song, adding his own fluid, imaginative bass lines throughout both sets.
I’m guessing most folks here tonight weren’t familiar with Tommy’s songs, but were pretty much won over on the spot by his charming, funny, slice-of-life stories told in songs like “Vickie Smith”, “The Replacements”, “I’m Never Gonna Be Rock Star” and “Alpha Male”. One guy, in particular, responded to just about every line (spoken or sung) with a loud laugh of approval…it got a bit annoying, but didn’t spoil the overall good vibe of the evening.
Between sets, I got a chance to catch up with a few people…I like being at a house concert where I’m not the host. Set two held true to form as Tommy busted out a batch of songs in a bluesy/rocking vein. Dave is a natural at going with the feel of a song and fleshing out the low end. He doesn’t sound like a guy with a day job who does this as a part-time hobby. As always, the extended spoken story about the middle-aged chick ending up in Gene Simmons’ hotel room in “A Little Bit Of Sex” proved to be a crowd-pleasing high point. A couple of other songs I remember from set two were “Going Nowhere” and “Christabella Wilson”.
After the crowd cleared out, I navigated Tommy on a cigarette run to 7-11 and back over to the house for a nightcap with Dave. The next morning, Angela, Nancy and the rest of their book club met up at The Ranch House for breakfast to discuss this month’s book, “Elsie And The Lavender Boys” with the author, Tommy Womack.
4/11/09 The Linemen, Fred’s Six Foot Under. When I got there a little after ten, there were a few people dining (they use the basement bar as overflow dining for the increasingly popular Iron Barley restaurant upstairs). The band started up around ten thirty…maybe half of the twenty people were there for the band and half were finishing up their dinner. There was a bothersome amount of chatter from the diners; they were probably equally annoyed that someone was playing music over their conversation.
The whole band played seated in chairs and the overall feel of this set was very relaxed. This is one of a handful of farewell gigs these guys have lined up before frontman Kevin Butterfield moves to Montreal. His clear, rich voice (Kevin may be my favorite local singer) will be missed. Scott’s ringing steel and electric guitar was impressive throughout…I hope he finds another outlet after this band packs it in. John’s drumming often fell into that tick-tick-tick on the snare rim thing that sounded a bit like the rhythm track on a karaoke song…plenty steady, but I’m still not sure what to think of it.
All of the playing was fine, but the standout feature of this band is Kevin’s evocative voice/singing/phrasing. I’ll second this quote from Roy Kasten’s blog: “easily one of the best, most emotionally expressive singers, regardless of genre, in town”. A couple of Kevin’s originals that grabbed me were “Through Side One” and “You Stole Kansas City”. Lots of covers in tonight’s long set, including “The Grand Tour” (Scott providing a nice steel lick where that piano part is on George’s original), “A Song For You” (sung by bassist Greg Lamb), “I Fall To Pieces”, “Together Again”, “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, “Night Life”, “I’m Your Toy”, “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, “To Be Young And Sad” and “He’s Got You”.
4/17/09 Jason Ringenberg, Off Broadway. I got there while Rough Shop was playing, but by the time I had bought a beer and hugged and/or clinked bottles with a few friends, their set was over.
Tonight’s second act was the next installment of the “farewell tour” of The Linemen…their final handful of gigs before lead singer/frontman Kevin Butterfield moves to Montreal. The house sound was especially clear as they opened with the plaintive “You Stole Kansas City”, Kevin’s vulnerable tenor setting the tone. “Five Years Later” stood out, as did “This Time Tomorrow”. Kevin added a decent amount of emotion to The Burritos’ “Hot Burrito #1”. Toward the end of the set, Mark Chechik joined the band on lead guitar, imparting that bluesy feel to Willie’s “Night Life”.
Jason Ringenberg closed things out tonight with a set that was like a condensed version of last September’s house concert- he opened by doing a handful of songs in solo acoustic mode before being joined by Rough Shop for the lion’s share of the set. Since I wrote a pretty detailed description of last fall’s performance, I’ll pass on plagiarizing myself and just say that Jason was as charming and entertaining as ever and Rough Shop was even more confident and locked in, having played these songs with Jason once before. Here’s a link to Roy’s blog entry about this show (it includes a couple of video clips): http://kdhx.org/blog/2009/04/20/jason-and-the-rough-shop-scorchers
4/18/09 Record Store Day, Euclid Records. Today reminded me of a typical day at South By Southwest…after staying out hearing bands until 2AM last night, I was standing in front of yet another band by about mid-afternoon. The bands were originally set to play outside, but the threat of rain moved the proceedings to the stage inside the record store.
I only heard the last couple of songs by Bent. Fronted by Euclid employee (and ex-Ultraman singer) Rob Wagoner, these guys play some hard, loud punky stuff. Wish I could give a more nuanced assessment, but that’s about all I remember.
Between each band, there was a major mingle-fest…lots of friends (and their kids) out supporting the home team. The rains held off enough to allow us to get some lunch from the sidewalk vendor outside.
Next up was Troubador Dali. They’re young and local- Euclid Records owner, Joe Schwab has taken up their cause and is involved with producing their next album. Their first song had that loud, shimmering dual guitar thing going, kinda like my vague recollection of someone like My Bloody Valentine. For the second song, one guitar player switched over to keyboards. They eventually played more acoustic ballads that didn’t grab me as much.
The store was pretty full when Jason Ringenberg did his solo set. His inclusion in the lineup was a nice compliment to the continuum of ages/genres represented today (he’s almost as old as me). As always, Jason was very charming and entertaining, even without a band behind him. Song highlights included “Harvest Moon”, “Absolutely Sweet Marie”, “Bible And a Gun” and a new one from the forthcoming Jason And The Scorchers record. He ended with Merle’s “Rainbow Stew”.
By the time The Bottlerockets took the stage, the place was packed…this was apparently, the biggest day for sales (ever) at Euclid Records (keep those record stores going). I somehow ended up talking to a crew of people in front of the stage right as the music started up, so I was squeezed in beside Bootleg John’s tripod. The band was in a loose mood and fed off of the energy of the familiar faces in the crowd as they ripped through a string old favorites: “Every Kind Of Everything”, “Welfare Music”, “Love Like a Truck”, “Indianapolis”, “Get Down River” and few new one- the CD opener stood out…lots of engaging/exhilarating guitar interplay, throughout.
And just like a typical day at SXSW, here I am already a bit fatigued at 6PM, with the prospect of more live music in my immediate future…
4/18/09 The Nevermores, Highway 61 Roadhouse. In keeping with today’s SXSW analogy, after a brief pause to rest my legs (sore from standing in front of bands all afternoon; I’m old), I rallied to go back out and hear more music. By some cosmic occurrence, national Record Store Day coincided with the fiftieth birthday of my buddy (and owner of Euclid Records), Joe Schwab. Joe arranged for The Nevermores to play at this bar and grill around the corner shortly after the store closed.
The band (b, d, g & g + v) played a convincing brand of sixties-era nuggets/psychedelic/garage music, but all-in-all, this was a bad combination of elements…the band would have worked fine in a punk club in some warehouse space, but here they are playing way loud in this suburban restaurant while the clientele (especially our big party of 12, celebrating Joe’s birthday) would have preferred a break in the volume in order to catch up with each other (including a few of Joe’s out-of-town relatives).
Eventually, a bunch of us moved from our table to way back by the bar in order to converse… virtually no one was left in front of the band; a less-than-ideal arrangement for everyone concerned. On the plus side, I like the size, layout and sound quality of this club. I’m curious about its potential as a live music venue…it could work well with the right kind of band.
4/20/09 James Intveld, Off Broadway. I got to the club kinda late- just before they went on for their second set. They opened with “Folsom Prison Blues”. This set wasn’t much of a departure from the last couple of times James has come to town…the usual good time with his songs and vocals, sometimes dark and moody (“If You Say Goodnight”) and sometimes more upbeat (“Perfect World”), lit up by Storm Rhode’s bright leads. The crowd (30 or 40 people) was small but into it… I got up and danced with Janet and her crew of friends a couple of times. The set ended with a song that featured that “Stray Cat Strut” riff.