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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 89
Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 89
1/22/10 Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles, Deluxe. Tonight was the last night ever for Suzanne Miller’s Deluxe club. It probably would have closed some time last week, but they stayed open a bit longer to honor the contract for this band. Nancy and I got there about halfway through the opening set by Nashville’s Last Train Home. From what I can tell, the band consists of front man Eric Brace and a revolving cast of side men…bass, keyboards, drums (also plays with the band, Daddy), guitar (Tim Carroll) and EB on guitar and deep, rich vocals. I’m not familiar with his country-rock originals, but I did recognize a couple of covers: “High On A Mountain Top” and “I Still Miss Someone”.
Attribute it to the draw of the bands, the major email blitz to get the word out, or the fact that this was the club’s final night, but the place was packed tonight. Every table was occupied, with lots of people standing, as well…lots of familiar faces. It reminded me of the last night at Frederick’s Music Lounge; if crowds like this could have shown up more often, the club wouldn’t be closing down.
Nobody knew when Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles booked this gig that they would be the last band to ever play this club, but SBBS proved to be a good fit…Sarah and band always put on an energetic show, but tonight they really rose to the occasion and helped Suzanne close things out on a high note. The dance floor was pretty full throughout their typically revved-up set, which included a good mix of originals (“Day We Met”, “Daniel Lee”, “Modern Trick”) and covers (Jack Clement’s “Just Between You And Me”, Tom Waits’ “Blind Love”, J. Geils’ bluesy “Cry One More Time”). By now, guitarist Lyle Brewer is an integral member of the band and Sarah and Binky (bass) were as pumped-up as ever.
Toward the end of this long, fun set, Sarah brought Suzanne up on stage to lead the crowd in call-and-response vocals to “Turn Your Light Down Low/Open Up Your Back Door”. As the song wound out, Sarah led Suzanne by the hand up onto the bar about halfway back in the room, where they finished the song standing high above the crowd in front of them. Once back on stage for the final song, Sarah invited anyone and everyone to join the band onstage…about 40 people obliged, all interspersed among the band and amps. SB orchestrated a couple of en-masse synchronized jumps…the stage shook, but didn’t collapse.
After the set, there was a little time for one more round of drinks and hugs for the band and the bar staff. It was a bit sad seeing the house PA being loaded out into a truck as we headed for the parking lot. Thanks to Brian and Lisa for the ride home.
1/29/10 The Wilders, Off Broadway. I got there shortly after The Monads started playing. This local four-piece (fiddle, guitar, banjo/washboard & stand-up bass) was much more spirited and blue-grassy than I remember them. They do this exuberant, shouted folk/punk/bluegrass thing that at times recalls The Pogues or Old Crow Medicine Show. I think that they brought in lots of the full-house crowd tonight.
I found a spot near the back of the fairly crowded room with Todd, Jim and Kenny for both sets by The Wilders. Their show was similar to the one at our place around a year ago- another vigorous romp through songs like “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy”, “Collard Greens”, etc. Their signature move is that lively, jumpin’/pumpin’ thing where all four band members (fiddle, stand-up bass, acoustic guitar & dobro/mandolin) hunker down…Phil (on dobro) leans backward, so that his torso is approximately parallel to Betse’s frantic bow strokes, resulting in a manic, synchronized sway. Somewhere in there, they came up for air and did a few slower ones, including the melodic “hit”, “Little Darlin”…sung by Ike, now sporting a long grey beard and some stylish shades. Their encore included Bryan Adams’ “Summer of 69”.
2/11/10 Freedy Johnston, Off Broadway. Freedy and his friend/tour manager/merch person, Elray (incorrect spelling) stopped by the house and dropped off their luggage before heading over to the club. I hung out with the family for a while and showed up about halfway through Freedy’s first set. He was playing Matthew Sweet’s “Waiting” when I walked in to the room…maybe 60 people out on a chilly Thursday night.
I had previously only seen him accompanied by other players, but tonight he was doing the solo acoustic thing- his abilities on guitar serve the songs just fine. It’s been so long since I’ve listened to those early albums that I found myself pleasantly surprised at how many strong, memorable songs from over fifteen years ago were instantly recognizable: “Bad Reputation”, “This Perfect World”, “Remember Me”, “The Mortician’s Daughter”, “Trying to Tell You I Don't Know”, “Tearing Down This Place” and (my personal favorite) “The Lucky One”. He also threw in a handful of songs from his brand new Rain On The City CD as well as a few covers by the likes of Joe Jackson, Paul McCartney and Jimmy Webb. I’ll wait and give a bit more detail on certain songs in my description of tomorrow night’s house concert.
After the show, I hung out talking to a few friends while Freedy and Elray sold and signed CDs, expecting that they would soon wrap things up and follow me back home. But around midnight, they decided to party with some friends over at their hotel room, while I headed on home by myself. Their luggage spent the night at our place, even if they didn’t.
2/12/10 Freedy Johnston, House Concert. Freedy had originally planned to stay at our place last night after his gig at Off Broadway, but he and his friend Elray ended up crashing at a friend’s hotel room, instead (I think it was a long night for them). They apparently made it in to the KDHX studio on time…I heard Freedy sing three songs from his new CD (plus “Wichita Lineman”) over the air around noon. A couple of hours later, he and Elray showed up at our place. I took Elray over to the gym while Freedy hung at the house getting ready for the show. He sang Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting” while I tweaked the PA levels in a brief sound-check. Nancy had flown with our nine-year-old to her sister’s place in Albany earlier in the day, so it was just me and Travis hosting the show tonight.
About 80 people were assembled on a chilly Friday night as Freedy opened with the mellow and moody “Cold Again”. Next came a couple from his current Rain In The City CD: “The Other Side Of Love” and “Don’t Fall In Love With A Lonely Girl”- solid, memorable new songs whose execution were slightly hampered by the fact that Freedy had a bit of a cold. He sheepishly apologized for his loss of range after one of these songs.
Other notable moments in the first set included “Evie’s Tears” (a less obvious treat from the old days), “The Kind Of Love We’re In” (struck a moody vibe ala Joe Jackson’s “Night And Day”), “Someday, Someway” & “”My Favorite Waste Of Time” (back-to-back Marshall Crenshaw covers!)
The general tenor of Freedy’s presentation had a haphazard, “shoot-from-the-hip” feel to it…he apologized a time or two for being out of tune, stopped to start one song over in a different key and took his time between songs, sorting out what song he should play next. In general, the crowd was receptive and appreciative, but some people found it scattered and unprofessional. I’m a big fan and have kinda got to be friends with him, so I’m not the most objective judge of these things. When he played “The Lucky One” and “Remember Me” (a couple of favorites from way back), I was willing to forgive a certain lack of technical precision just to take in the overall feel of these striking melodies. He closed set one out with “I’ve Been Waiting”, played with the confidence required to convey the uplifting feel of this Matthew Sweet gem.
Set two started in mellow mode, with the soft, dreamy “Neon Repairman”, followed by “This Perfect World” (the distinctive chord progression got a smattering of recognition applause) and “Night And Day” (much of Freedy’s material hits a similar spot to this moody, reflective Joe Jackson classic). “Delores” and “Until The Sun Comes Back Again” turned the tempo up a few clicks.
Freedy seemed to benefit from an added degree of confidence/familiarity as this set moved on to tried-and-true favorites like “Wichita Lineman” (probably his most notable cover…his voice strained a time or two), “The Mortician’s Daughter”, “Trying To Tell You I Don’t Know” (an RW request) and “Bad Reputation” (maybe the highlight of the evening). He closed the set out with the upbeat cover of that catchy Edison Lighthouse hit, “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” (the surprise factor was lost on me, having heard it last night). The one-song encore was also a recognizable radio hit- Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?, complete with the contemplative bump-ba-bump and audience participation: “Look over there…WHERE?”.
Things wound down with me saying “goodnight” to people as Freedy sold and signed a bunch of CDs. He and Elray headed out for their friends’ hotel right around midnight. I stayed up for another hour or two, cleaning up and winding down. The alarm woke me up at 5:30AM so that Travis and I could catch our early-morning flight to Albany. By coincidence, I heard Freedy’s “The Other Side Of Love” over the speakers at a Starbuck’s near the Albany airport.
Within a couple of days of this show, my friend Arthur Greenberg (a big Freedy fan from way back) emailed me some photos which I printed and posted on our house concert website. As it turned out, that night was the last time I saw Arthur, as he died suddenly of a heart attack a few weeks later. I’ll think about him whenever I look at these photos, listen to one of the many mix CDs he gave me or take my kid out to the baseball field where Arthur spent many hours cheering on his son’s team. He will be missed.
2/19/10 Brian Capps, Gramaphone. I spent the early part of the evening doing the family thing- we grilled burgers and watched some of the Winter Olympics on TV. I made it to the bar (the place was packed) a little after ten, which would have been fine, except it turned out that the band order had been switched around and Brian Capps (backed by Donnie, Lou and Bobby Lloyd of The Skeletons) were almost through with their set. I danced around up front with Kim and Kathy for the last couple of songs (one of which was “Wooly Bully”) and that was it. On the plus side, the cover charge was a mere $5 and I got to catch up with a few people before the next band started up. I’ve got a busy Saturday ahead of me (again with the family thing), so I didn’t stick around to hear Ten High.
2/20/10 Big Smith, Off Broadway. The early part of my evening was spent at a benefit dinner for a shelter for battered women. It was one of those suit and tie deals with a buffet, speakers and a silent auction. Shortly after the festivities, Nancy and Angela headed home while Dave and I drove down to OB. The place was pretty full (over 200) when we got there about halfway through the first set.
Tonight’s show featured a good mix of old favorites (“Back Water”, “Crawdad Hole”, “I Saw The Light” and “Don’t Call Me Trash”) and a bunch of songs from their brand new Root, Shoots and Wings CD (“My Overalls Don't Fit Me Anymore”, “Brady And Duncan”, “It's a Good Day”). Bassist Bill Thomas sang one that had a smooth, beatnik/Tom Waits feel to it.
After the show Dave and I hung for a bit and caught up with the band. We did the late night Del Taco thing and I finally got home around 2:30.
3/6/10 The Derailers, House Concert. Nancy and Ray were at a soccer tournament in Kansas City this weekend, so it was just Travis and me at home when the band’s van pulled up in the late afternoon. We met the band and helped them settle in, fed them dinner and helped with sound check. This hard-core Country & Western band is more at home playing in those big ol’ two-stepping dance halls, but was able to adapt what they do to our intimate, densely packed room (maybe 80 people on hand tonight).
They opened with a Buck Owens-style instrumental that led into “She Let Me Go”, with its hopped up call/response chorus. The current lineup of the band only has one original member- lead guitarist, Brian Hofeldt. The most notable departure is former lead vocalist, Tony Villanueva, but Austin is so ripe with top-notch instrumental talent, that they have found solid players all around. I knew that I was going to appreciate Brian’s lead Telecaster, but Basil McJagger was an unexpected treat of honky tonk and boogie-woogie style piano (Basil was friends with the late Johnny Johnson…he called Johnny’s widow earlier in the evening). Chris Schlotzhauer lit things up on steel guitar.
Set one also included “Lies, Lies, Lies” (a twangy, hard-core honky tonk number), Buck’s “Together Again” (Chris on weeping steel), “Just To Spend The Night With You” (a poppy song that borrows the “And Then He Kissed Me” bass line), “I See My Baby” (steady, driving percussion, dreamy steel and crooning vocals gave this one a Roy Orbison feel), “Mean Woman Blues” (speaking of Roy O…Basil on boogie-woogie piano, ala Jerry Lee) and “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass?” (a poppier Buck song with exaggerated sway to it, Basil on Adams family keys). Toward the end of the set, they did “You’re My Girl”, a “Suzie-Q”- style duet between Brian and bassist Kevin Smith.
Set two opened with Chuck Berry’s “Memphis”, sounding (not surprisingly) like Buck Owens’ version…nice interplay of guitar, steel and keys. They went on to do “The Sun Is Shining On Me” (a catchy pop song, complete with oohs and ahhhs), “Soldier Of Love” (ringing steel added an interesting layer to this Arthur Alexander classic), “I’m Your Man” and “All The Rage In Paris” (Jim Lauderdale). The latter is a great, classic-sounding song with weeping steel; it sounds like it could be a George Strait hit.
They closed things out with a non-stop marathon of a medley. The band never missed a beat as they ran through snippets of: “Scratch My Itch”, “L. A. Woman”, “What’d I Say”, “Batman”, “I’m A Believer” and onward… “That’s What I Like About You” got all spacey before morphing into The Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman” (as if done by Buck & The Buckaroos), into Willie’s “Whiskey River”, leading into a brief drum solo. From there, they went on to “Good Girls Don’t”, “I Feel Fine” and closed things out with “Johnny B. Goode”.
Since the band was staying at our place, there was no great hurry to wrap things up. A few friends hung out late and eventually, a couple of small groups gathered around the kitchen island and the fire out back. I was the last one off to bed at around 3AM…still managed to get up in time to feed everyone breakfast before they hit the road around 10AM. I’ll try to see them play when I’m in Austin in a couple of weeks.