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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 85
Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 85
8/21/09 Deano Waco & The Meat Purveyors, House Concert. Maybe 70 people on hand tonight to see Dean Schlabowske of Chicago’s Waco Brothers playing with three of the four members of Austin’s The Meat Purveyors: Bill Anderson (acoustic guitar), Pete Stiles (mandolin) and Jo Walston (vocals). The first handful of songs presented a true hybrid of both bands- Deano’s electric guitar adding a slurry/blurry edge to the clean and perky acoustic picking of Bill and Pete while Jo provided fairly modest backing to Dean’s vocals…quite the contrast to the way she belts it out when front and center in The Meat Purveyors.
After a handful of songs, the rest of the band left the “stage”, leaving Dean to run through a few songs on his own. The pairing of plaintive vocals and solo electric guitar made me think of those early Billy Bragg records. “Little Autocrat” furthered the analogy as it blurred the lines between politics and interpersonal relationships. When Bill and Pete came back, Bill swapped his acoustic guitar for Deano’s electric, imparting his own tone on things. They closed set one out in trio mode (no Jo) with “Gravel Yard”, a new collaboration.
Set two began in “Meat Purveyor” mode…Bill and Pete backing Jo on a handful of TMP favorites, beginning with the feisty “More A Man”. You better believe it when Jo belts out, “I’m more a man than you’ll ever be and more woman than you’ll ever get”. From there, we were treated to the fast and furious “Car Crash”, “Liquor Store”, “I Don’t Like The Look On Your Face” and “Circus Clown” (this heartbreak ballad features fluttering mandolin and a George Jones reference). The Meat Purveyors segment ended with Deano joining in to add slide guitar to “Biggest Mistake” (“my biggest mistake was when I left you…in a shallow grave”).
Deano took over lead vocal chores for the home stretch which included “Box Store” (more blending of mandolin with electric & acoustic guitars over a workers’ theme), the slower, twangy “Bottle Of Wine” (Dean works in a wine store in Chicago) and the moody “Taken”. They closed the set out with the rollicking “Vacant Lot”, one of the more memorable of their current collaborative batch of songs. Lacking a clear exit from their corner of the room, they did that “fake encore” thing and gave us three more songs: Merle’s “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down” (sung all sassy by Jo), “My Brain Is Cloudy” (a traditional “Milk Cow Blues” style song with nice guitar/mandolin interplay) and “White Lightnin” (this George Jones rave-up is a staple of The Waco Brothers’ live sets).
A few people stuck around for a while and we fed the band some late night bar-b-q. Everyone headed off to bed right around midnight. Surprisingly, the whole band was up by 7AM and out the door by eight. They had to play a mid-afternoon gig in Madison. Hopefully, we’ll stay in touch and get The Waco Brothers and/or The Meat Purveyors to play here some time.
8/22/09 Sally Crewe, Off Broadway. I got there in time to hear the last few songs by The 75s. I had never heard (nor even heard of) this local trio before…it’s two girls (b/v & g/v), in their early twenties (if that) backed by a guy on drums. There are probably better reference points, but the punchy pop/punk thing they do made me think of sassy female-fronted bands from the 90s like The Muffs and The Fastbacks. It came as a totally unexpected pleasant surprise and had me jumping up and down.
I’m guessing that there were around 40 people in the house tonight; a quality crowd, if not long on quantity. It was great to hang out with a bunch of friends I rarely see. Finn’s Motel played second (probably the most desirable timeslot, given how late things run). Now that FM’s Escape Velocity CD is over a year old, the band is familiar enough with the songs that they’re able to take more chances, wind things out and light things up. Things got plenty hard and intense in places; I was lost in the moment a time or two. The guitars roared and soared on “Dramamine For Engine 3” and I was struck by Steve’s bass playing on “Concord Village Optimist Club”. This song seemed especially poignant as Joe T sang, “I can see the possibilities” as his teenage son (an aspiring rock singer) sat front and center at the closest table to the stage.
Closing things out tonight was Sally Crewe And The Sudden Moves. Backed by a drummer and pop legend Tommy Keene on bass, this woman from UK (by way of Austin) plays crisp, upbeat pop. The vocals weren’t especially clear in the PA, so tonight wasn’t the time to assess the lyrical content, but the songs/hooks/melodies were bright and catchy. The only cover I recognized was Roxy Music’s “Love Is The Drug”. Tonight’s smaller-than-expected crowd had a better-than-expected time.
8/27/09 Anti-Wrecking Ball Benefit, Off Broadway. With the current state of highway construction in St. Louis, I have to really want to go to make the half-hour drive down to Off Broadway. No problem, tonight- if Rough Shop is playing a benefit organized by Toby Weiss for an architectural preservation group, I’m there. I got there as a burlesque dancer was doing her thing up on stage in front of a pretty full house…flesh shook and pasties twirled. After the usual between-set gabfest, Toby got up and introduced The Red-Headed Strangers. Based on the band name and size (8 onstage), you might guess that these guys do a loose 70s country-rock thing with a casual, hippie/communal vibe…and you wouldn’t be far off. This local “family band” opened with A.P. Carter’s “Hello Stranger”, which I learned through Emmylou Harris’ version…maybe the band did, too. From there they did a Waylon Jennings song and one by The Pogues. Nice enough sound, but I ended up out in the outdoor courtyard talking to a few friends before their set was over. Between sets, I met one of the burlesque dancers.
A little while later, Toby introduced Rough Shop (the four-piece version) who lit into bunch of newer, less familiar material. Anne sang a TVZ song and a couple by Michael Freidman (I’ve always liked her version of “Everything You Love”). This being a school night, I took off about halfway through their set. I think a good amount of money was raised for the cause.
8/29/09 Charliehorse, Gramaphone. The early evening found a bunch of us over at Dave and Angela’s place. At around 9PM, six of us piled into Dave’s van and headed down to the club. Our crew accounted for almost half of the crowd (?) as Corey Saathoff (and band: b, d, g, steel/mandolin & CS on g + v) opened. His voice is in the higher register. A remember a few covers: Wilco’s “Shouldn’t Be Afraid”, The Byrds’ “Wasn’t Born To Follow” (complete with trippy/blurry middle part) and TVZ’s “Lookin’ For You” (sounded a lot like “Buckskin Stallion”?).
Between bands about half of the bar (maybe eight of us) hung out in the outdoor courtyard catching up with the guys in Charliehorse. After a while, Lizzy came out to get the band inside and up on stage. My memory of this set is foggy…I’m way behind in my write-ups and I can’t find the scribbled notes I made on the night of the show. So rather than try to bullshit through this, suffice to say that a good time was had by the relatively light crowd. The band featured the usual mix of song styles (and lead vocals). The only song I remember they did for sure was “Come On”. Some combination of our posse was up front and dancing, pretty much through the whole set. Unlike every other time this band has played STL (?), they were not the house guests of Dave and Angela, so we didn’t have to linger too long after the music finished up. Pax was an excellent designated driver (even obliged the detour to Taco Bell).
8/30/09 Amy LaVere, Off Broadway. There was a decent crowd (maybe 60 or 70?) on hand for this Sunday night early show. Eric and Lisa brought their 12 (?) year old daughter, Charlotte. Amy opened set one with Carla Thomas’ “That Beat”, with it’s slinky, hypnotic tone. From there, she and band laid into their now-familiar set list. Playing two sets tonight meant that they would do most of the songs from both of Amy’s CDs, stuff like: “Killing Him”, “Pointless Drinking”, “Washing Machine”, “Take ‘em Or Leave ‘em”, “Lazarus” (sung by guitarist Steve Selvidge, written by his father, Sid) and Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Remember You” were all well received. Amy seems to be getting a pretty decent following in St. Louis. This being an early show, I wasn’t out too late on a school night.
9/9/09 Two Cow Garage, Off Broadway. I was on the fence, but decided to make the long Wednesday night drive, more to see friends than to hear 2CG (for the something-teenth time). I got there as Austin Lucas played his last handful of songs. He’s a nice guy from Indiana with an expressive voice, ala Billie Jo Shaver. He was joined by 2CG for the last 2 or 3 songs…nice combination of country-sounding vocals and electric band backing.
As it turned out, I didn’t recognize as many faces from the old days as I might have guessed, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Two Cow Garage. Having changed drummers and added a keyboard player some time ago, they now seem to take their cues more from The E Street Band, than the grungy shades of early Tupelo, Slobberbone, etc. The keyboards most typically emulate the piano sound (vs. organ). “There Aint No Shame” and “Should Have Been You” stood out as heartfelt, electric anthems, both dealing with the struggle between conviction and doubt that seems to be more relevant as this small-time touring band enters their eighth year.
These themes and their current sound meshed nicely when, near the end of the evening, they covered Bruce’s “No Surrender” (this song struck me as especially poignant, hearing it just a few hours after Obama’s national address on healthcare). I jumped around some and got to bed later than I would have liked to…just like the old days.
9/12/09 Malcomb Holcombe, The Ranch House. Maybe forty people at the Ranch House to take in this solo acoustic performance by this ragged, self-styled singer-songwriter from western NC. His most accessible songs are right up the alley of what folks in the house concert crowd can appreciate…stuff like “My Ol’ Radio” and “My Baby Likes A Love Song” convey a hearty, life-affirming message over a comfortable melody and cleanly picked blues-based guitar. His voice is gruff, but somehow gentle (think early Guy Clark).
“Gruff” also would describe his appearance (balding with ponytail, disheveled clothing) and his overall persona (his muttered between-song banter seemed as much for his own entertainment as that of the audience). In a strange way, the fact that he didn’t exactly warm up to the crowd, gave me a sense that I was seeing this odd, askew original talent for exactly who he is, without any filter of convention or diplomacy. I liked his song “The Shade”. Over a simple picking pattern, he conveys his desire to stay sheltered from the harsh sun…“I don’t need to think when I’m in the shade”. I can just picture him in some dark holler.
Malcomb took off shortly after playing and selling a few CDs. I hung out for another hour or two with a few other people around the fire out back.
9/18/09 Amy LaVere, House Concert. A few months ago, the folks at KDHX asked if they could host a party at our place for the higher-level donors to KDHX…we pretty quickly said, “sure”. The station invited all of their sound investors and hired the band. Since this was a special show, presented to a completely different crowd of people, we made an exception to our loose desire to avoid repeat acts at the house. KDHX also pulled some strings with some of their sponsors for food and drink donations. A big old SUV full of copious amounts of beer, wine and food plates showed up around 3PM. The band showed up around five. It was good to see them and to catch up some as they ran through a sound check that included Johnny Nash’s “Hold Me Tight”.
The guests (all sound investors of KDHX) started showing up around seven. I only knew a handful of them (nice enough folks), so there was a good amount of glad-handing and FAQ about having bands play in our house. I think there were around sixty people on hand when the band started up at around eight.
Given that I had just seen Amy (and band) three weeks ago and that their catalog isn’t broad enough to allow great variation from show-to-show, I’ll forego giving a song-by-song rundown/characterization. It’s all quality, worthwhile stuff, but I would just be repeating myself. Songs that stuck in my memory are Carla Thomas’ “That Beat”, Dylan’s “I’ll Remember You”, her creepy, slinky original “Killing Him”, “Pointless Drinking”, “Cupid’s Arrow” (one of my personal highlights) and “Hold Me Tight” (lively, fresh and new to Amy’s catalog). They ended the second set (no encore) with the hard, bluesy “Washing Machine”.
After the usual amount of socializing/cleanup (there was a ton of leftover beer, wine and food tonight) I had some quality late-night hangout time with Dave M and the band. We fed the band breakfast the following morning and they hit the road around 10AM.