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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 90

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 90

3/11/10 Return Of The Byrne, The Tap Room.  Tonight’s show was set up to coincide with a visit to St. Louis by Richard Byrne.  It featured a handful of bands that were on the local music scene during Richard’s tenure as music editor of the Riverfront Times in the mid-nineties.  I got there slightly late, and picked out the unmistakable sound of Chris King’s singing as I was coming up the stairs.  I entered the bar in time to catch the last couple of songs by Chris’ band Three Fried Men.  They were all decked out in suits and Dave Melson was playing mandolin.  My general impression was that it was joyous, somewhat raucous and none-too-precise…pretty much what you get with most CK projects (Enormous Richard, Eleanor Roosevelt, 3FM).
This event was billed as a reunion and there was a scattering of familiar faces from back in the day.  Blame it on a handful of other events around town tonight, but we all would have expected more of a crowd than turned out (maybe 40 or 50 people, including the bands, at its peak).  Never mind who wasn’t there, I had a great time catching up with people I hadn’t seen in years.  Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1996…
Next up was Stillwater.  I got to know and appreciate these guys (as a band, but also as friends) when they contributed to the Out Of The Gate Again compilation CD.  To give them a look and listen, they seemed to have aged the least of all of us over the past fifteen years.  As soon as they started up, I moved up close onto the almost-empty dance floor.  “Falling Again” has a soaring, guitar-driven, indie-rock sound that had me jumping up and down.  “Stutter Step” erupted with a noisy sway at the end of each of its ballad-style verses, just like I remember from the old days.
Free Dirt played next and rocked hard, as well.  I don’t know any of their songs by name, but they caught a confident, melodic vibe ala Faces. 
Next on the bill was Brian Henneman (although the full band was the entire lineup of Diesel Island).  It was somehow leaked that they were gonna do a set of Neil Young covers.  Knowing that Brian was raised on Neil, it wasn’t surprising that he passed up the obvious covers (no “Mr. Soul” or “Cinnamon Girl” tonight), opting instead for obscure gems representing a wide chronological span:  “World On A String”, “T-Bone” (w/ extended jam), “Farmer John” and “Prisoners Of Rock And Roll”.  I wanted to hear more.
Magic City (tonight’s only band that doesn’t date back to the mid-nineties) played next.  This local five-piece (b, d, k, g, g + v) does a vast, sweeping “rock show” thing with searing guitar, swirling keys and trippy vocals.  I liked it OK, but I felt like much of what they were trying to convey was lost to the crappy glass/brick/concrete acoustics (especially the vocals) and the lack of a critical-mass crowd size.  This being a school night, I headed on home before the last band went on.
3/14/10 Deer Tick, The Wedge.  This was a hastily arranged show…Johnny Vegas fielded the call from the band, who was looking for a Sunday night gig on one day’s notice. Johnny books this smallish, south city venue (capacity maybe 60 or 70). The place was packed with urban hipsters as I made my way upstairs a little after ten to hear the last handful of songs by Titus Andronicus (from NJ).  Not knowing anything about this band (b, d, g, g, k and a woman on guitar/violin), they impressed me pretty good- all haphazard and intense.  There were movies playing on a screen behind the band.
Deer Tick took the stage just a little after eleven.  This five-piece from Rhode Island (b, d, g, k/sax and front man John McCauley on g/v) is my current favorite band- first and foremost, they’ve got catchy, hummable songs that are delivered over ragged, but righteous, somewhat southern-sounding vocals (similar to that of The Jayhawks’ Mark Olson).  They opened with a ringing, ragged electric version of “Spend The Night”…I was immediately catapulted into a zone.  Whenever they did a song I was familiar with, it as always done up in a fresh way that somehow cast a new, energized tone to it.
The order of the songs is by now a blur, but my cryptic memory and scattered notes come up with: “Ashamed” (minus the arpeggio applied on the record, it’s more a rock ballad ala “Willin”) and “Standing at the Threshold” (the live electric treatment added to the dark, enigmatic tone), “Cheap Sunglasses” (ZZ Top cover…JMc wearing cheap sunglasses) and a new one that seemed to be a Chuck Berry knock-off (this one morphed into “Maybelline”).  At one point J Mc introduced a new ballad as a collaboration (I didn’t catch with whom) that might be called “Daydreaming”…I loved it.  Toward the end of their relatively brief set, they busted out a spirited (is there any other kind?) version of John Mellencamp’s “Authority Song”.  It had me (along with the rest of the full house on a Sunday night at midnight) jumping up and down to the point you could feel the floor sagging/bouncing.  If I was still in the habit of listing my top ten shows of the year, this one would be in the early lead.
3/16/10 John Doe, Off Broadway.  John and Marie gave me a ride down to this early (7:30) show.  Maybe 80 people out on a Tuesday night.  This was a rare solo show by JD; he came out looking a bit older (don’t we all?) and dressed all classy in a stylish suit, opening with a handful of songs on acoustic guitar before switching over to electric. 
If the crowd was a bit light on quantity, it was long on quality…lots of people were pressed up close to the stage, locked in to hear this legendary performer.  John’s distinctive voice has a world-weary, but reassuring quality to it and his body of work is so deep and solid that he can easily fill a good long set with A-list material: songs from his days in X (“Burning House Of Love” and “Poor Girl” both had a spirited sway to them, even in solo mode), The Knitters (“Still Miss Someone Like You” and Merle’s “Silver Wings”…always melts my heart) and his more recent solo records (“A Little More Time” and “Golden State”).  The encore ended with the rompin’, stompin’, irreverent “Wrecking Ball”.  I gotta admit it felt weird to be home from the show at 9:30.




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