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Concert Review: Wilco – Murat Theatre, Indianapolis

music_3-08_wilco_05.jpgWe had three tickets to see Wilco and only to people to go. A friend who belonged to the other ticket had to cancel at the last moment. I had posted to message boards and asked friend to come, but no one responded.

Free tickets to see one of the greatest live bands playing today and no one responded. I think I need to find new friends.

So we arrived at the venue early, hoping we might find some hapless soul willing to buy the one ticket. Almost immediately we found some guys on bikes with signs saying they were buying tickets. There was a little haggling, and I found myself on the losing end of that. Ten bucks and I was free one ticket. That’s a lot less than I paid, but a little more than nothing.

The Murat is a beautiful old theatre in downtown Indianapolis. Having arrived early to unload the ticket and having already done such, we walked into the entryway of the theatre to await the doors to open. Many folks were already there. An odd thing this always was to me as we had assigned seats so there was literally no reason to arrive so early, but there we were.

Our earliness was paid off as a young man came out stating that the band had asked him take fan requests. My mind went racing. I was dying to come up with something obscure and unique – something that the band would see and love and no doubt talk about from the stage. Maybe even ask me to come on down and sing it with them.

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Instead I came up with something off the new album, something they would undoubtedly play even without my request. “Hate it here” is possibly my favorite song off of Sky Blue Sky, and I was most anxious to hear those Stones riffs live.

Sitting back down I encouraged my wife to choose something but she’s shy about these things, and couldn’t come up with anything. I suggested “Outtasite (Outta mind)” off of an older album, Being There, and she stood up to make the request.

“No, wait,” I said, “pick something off of the Woody Guthrie tribute.” “What’s the name of the one with the repeat? Oh yes, it’s ‘Walt Whitman’s Niece,’ choose that one.”

Yes, I know that’s one that Billy Bragg sang lead on, but Wilco played most of the music and they did the back up parts, which would be awesome live with all the audience singing the repeat.

The wife goes and makes the request coming back with a puzzled look. A few minutes later she begins cursing herself, when I ask why she says, “Walt Whitman’s Knees.”

What?” I ask.

“I wrote the song down as ‘Walt Whitman’s Knees.’ I knew that wasn’t right when I wrote it but I couldn’t think of the right name.”

We laughed and laughed at that. I hoped, I prayed Tweedy would see it and laugh with the band and say something about my silly wife from the stage.

We had quite literally the last seats in the house – upper balcony, last row, very last seats stage left. My view was a little obstructed by an archway, but overall the stage was quite visible.

A band I had never heard of, Low, opened. I won’t say they were bad, but I won’t deny it either. I normally do my best to dig an opening band. I usually get very angry at the crowd when they talk through the opening act. This time, I was kind of with them.

It isn’t that the music wasn’t any good, it was they were in the wrong venue, opening for the wrong band. They had a very relaxed, ethereal feel – think Mazzy Star or Luna and you’ll come close. For the wide-open acoustics of the Murat, they sounded too muddled. When we’re all jazzed to hear the loud, ruckus of Wilco, relaxed and ethereal is not what we want, or not what I wanted anyway.

Luckily their set was short and Wilco came out with a fury. I tried writing down their setlist, but it was so dark in my little corner that I quickly realized there is no way I would be able to read my scratchings. And looking at them now, they are all a mess.

This is the tightest band in show business. Even though half the members have only been with the band a few short years, they play like a well-oiled machine. Nells Cline, the guitarist, is especially amazingly awesome. They guy simply tore it up. The roof was on fire, let me tell you.

They stuck primarily to songs off of their last three albums. I don’t know if this was because Tweedy likes his newer stuff more, of that most of the band hasn’t been on board for longer than those albums, or these are just the songs the fans prefer to hear. This fan would have appreciated some more older stuff, bug I take what I can get.

From our in the rafter seats the sound was a little less than spectacular and I struggled to differentiate between some of the instruments, but the band was playing like Moses on fire. Enthusiasm oozed from everybody as they jumped and shook and moved like a giant, twitching snake.

About mid show they played “Hate It Here” and I had to poke my wife with a little “they’re playing this for me” even though most likely they would have played it without my request. Still it added a fun element to the show, which I would guess is the very reason they do the requests.

It was a darn fine version too, what with the big sing-along chorus and the fun lyrics about washing clothes and what-not. The whole show was filled with nice little moment and fun sing-alongs. Although, everytime I see Wilco I am reminded of how few of their lyrics I actually know.

I’m just not a lyrics guy. I have a terrible short term memory and as such I have difficulty remembering lyrics past the moment they are sung. Instead I concentrate on the music and turn into one of those flailing arms to the beat of the guitar riff guys.

There was a lot of arm pumping this night. After a double encore with the surprise old album shot of “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” we went home happy.

They never did play “Walt Whitman’s Niece” and no one but me made fun of my wife’s mistake, but even so it was a darn fine night of music.

Setlist:

1. A Shot In The Arm
2. Side With The Seeds
3. You Are My Face
4. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
5. Kamera
6. Handshake Drugs
7. War On War
8. Impossible Germany
9. Sky Blue Sky
10. Jesus, Etc.
11. Hate It Here
12. Walken
13. Shake It Off
14. I’m The Man Who Loves You
15. Hummingbird

Encore 1:
16. Sunken Treasure
17. Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Encore 2:
18. Heavy Metal Drummer
19. Outtasite (Outta Mind)
20. California Stars

Thanks to <a href=”http://wilcobase.com/index.php&#8221; target=”_blank”>Wilcobase</a> for the setlist.

Etree has the show up for <a href=”http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=507594″>download</a&gt; right now.

July 9, 2007 Posted by | Concert Review | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival Featuring IIIrd Tyme Out And Dr. Ralph Stanley

My wife and I have lived in Bloomington Indiana now for the last five years or so. While living here there are several things we have always planned to do: see an IU football game, not for the game (for no one wants to see the Hoosiers play football) but because my wife is a band geek, and she’d like to see the marching band perform. We’d like to go to a basketball game, as basketball is the one sport IU consistently does well. We feel we ought to see the Indy 500 and the Kentucky Derby just once, though neither of us can gather up any kind of excitement for that. And we always plan to attend the Bill Monroe bluegrass festival.

Until this week, we’ve seen exactly none of those things. Since we are headed to China in August, we finally decided to buckle down and attend the bluegrass festival. Even then, we had plans to attend every night of the eight-day festival, but due to problems of infinite proportions, we were only able to make it Tuesday and Saturday.

You could say bluegrass is in my blood, though I didn’t know it for many years. My great-uncle played with Dolly Parton when she was little, and my cousin plays guitar in Ricky Skaggs band. Most of my dad’s family plays some sort of instrument, and they say family reunions are a sight and sound to behold.

None of this information was actually known to me for many years. I thought we were a pretty boring family for most of my youth. In fact I can remember my parents deciding to go to a bluegrass festival when I was in my early teens an

d I had to ask what the heck bluegrass was.

“It’s like country, but faster and with more twang,” Mom told me.

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July 9, 2007 Posted by | Concert Review | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Ryan Adams, Paula Cole, Suzanne Vega, Charlie Louvin and Vietnam at the Brown Theatre in Louisville – May 19, 2007

 

After the whole Ryan versus Gillian debacle I had settled down into a wonderful Ryan Adams groove. I’ve been listening to his music for weeks and generally freaking out about seeing him. My mantra has been “I’m going to see Ryan Adams, I’m going to see Ryan Adams.” The world’s troubles melt away with these words.

But before I talk about the show, I must say a few words about Holly. She is my wife’s friend from college. I was also supposed to have married her instead -(acording to my sister anyway.) You see while I first started to date the girl who became my wife, my sister was then in college with Holly (a different college than the one my wife and Holly attended, but that’s another story) and she noticed some similarities between me and Holly (all of which have long since been forgotten) and decided we were perfect for each other. And she told us this information, separately and frequently. We both collectively shrugged our shoulder and moved on.

Somehow, a few months ago Holly and I became fast friends. It turns out we do have a lot in common, namely a great passion for music and Ryan Adams. Lots of e-mails have passed through our portals and a few phone calls, but the whole physical presence thing was absent (well except for a couple of weddings, but both of those were brief and pre-friendship weirdness.)

All this to say that I was looking forward to her coming and a little nervous about it all.

She came, it was a little weird, then it was fun and silly and great. There was one of those long, 3 am I’m-sure-I’m-going-to-regret-saying-all-this-in-the-morning conversations. Except I don’t regret it. Not at all.

We made a day of Louisville, eating some fine food at a Hookah bar, and digging through the record bins at Ear X-Tacy. The doors at the Brown Theatre opened at 6, so we arrived about 4:30. We weren’t the first. Fanboys and girls abounded.

As a general rule people tend to annoy me. As a solid, never-bending absolute truth, fanboys piss me off (well, excepting one.) I get fandom. I get solid adoration of an artist. I simply cannot understand slovenly devotion to a single musician. As we stood in the lobby waiting for the doors we had to stand the asinine fanboy conversations. One boy claimed he would not befriend anyone who was not a Ryan Adams fan. Another made the bold proclamation that the Eagles were better than the Beatles and the Stones, though all three really sucked and Ryan Adams blew them all away.

Someone please school these boys.

In ways the fanboys shaped my entire concert experience. We landed a seat in the third row, center, and the hardiest of fanboys were in front of us. I couldn’t help but gage their reactions and observe their behavior.

Paula Cole started the show. I’ve never much cared for her music, but she carried herself well. The voice wavered from time to time, but the band backed her up sufficiently and it was a good time. After some new songs, and some very awkward talk where she proved herself way to aware of her time out of the spotlight, and the audiences indifference to her come back she simply nailed “I Don’t Want to Wait.” I had never liked the song before, but it shimmered and glowed in this night.

The fanboys sang along, their faces tinged with irony and scoffing laughter. I may not like Paula, but I respect that she can write her own songs and have the balls to get up and sing them. With feeling.

Next was Charlie Louvin and he tore the roof off. He completely lives up to his legendary status. Even the fanboys were enjoying themselves, even if they were pretending that enjoyment was only in an ironic way.

Even with the irony and a few mocking laughs at his more sentimental songs, Louvin was the consummate professional. He made mention that some of the young people might not understand his type of music, but if they listened closely, they just might have a good time anyway. During “Cash on the Barrelhead” he leaned forward inviting one particularly obnoxious fanboy onto the stage to sing along. It was a brilliant moment – embarrassing the fanboy without being vicious or mean, yet still staying within character.

Suzanne Vega was up next and I wondered if most of the audience even knew who she was. She was very much the total professional too. Where Paula Cole seemed too aware of the precariousness of trying to make a comeback in this business, Suzanne let it all roll off her shoulders. She seemed to be saying that she had never left the business, and while the fans may have slipped away, she was always around making her music. Her performance was as unique and quirky as ever. She did a few songs with just her and her bassist and it was beautiful. She closed out with “Luca” and “Tom’s Diner” and the house did seem to remember.

A new NY band, Vietnam hit the next spot. I won’t say they were bad, but they were not what we needed at that point. We were all exhausted and ready for nothing but Ryan Adams. They had their 70’s era Allman brothers band schtick down pat. Except it wasn’t really schtick, but done completely serious. It was all rock, no subtlety.

And then he came. Stools were set in a half circle towards the back of the stage. The lights were incredibly dim. Mood I guess. The Cardinals came and then Mr. Adams in a shower cap, hoodie and dark sunglasses. The recently torn ligament and subsequent cast kept him from playing guitar, but his voice has never sounded better.

He played about half the new album, which hasn’t been released and I didn’t know, but it was all good. The record should be brilliant – kind of subdued and sad, more Heartbreaker than Cold Roses, but genius in the way only Ryan Adams can be.

Throughout everybody’s performances there was trouble with the monitor speakers. Every performer complained about it and was followed by stagehands running around on stage for a bit. During Ryan’s first song, you could tell it wasn’t fixed for he pointed at the speaker then his finger went into the air dozens of times. By the second song he had called a stage hand over to chew him out.

“Please don’t piss Ryan off,” Holly begged, for Ryan Adams is a bit notorious for walking off the stage early when he gets pissed. Pissed or not, the performance was magic.

The dim lights turned from blue to read and the shower cap came off. They played an Alice in Chains cover, “Down in a Hole” that turned the auditorium inside out. Just as I began to think this might be the most amazing concert experience of my life Ryan let out a “Thanks” and took off.

Twenty minutes and he’s gone.

Bastard. Son of a monkey. Words I cannot write for my mother might read.

Man, I know you have to keep up your eccentricities. I know it is part of your allure to pull this crap. But it is called being a professional. Did Charlie Louvin walk off because he couldn’t hear himself? Did Paula Cole or Suzane Vega? Man the Vietnam guitarist just moved over to the one working monitor. We paid good money, drove long distances, and generally did what we could to see you perform. You should at least do you freaking job.

Much cursing ensued during the drive home. But then a fanboy posted videos, and I watched, I listened, I teared up just a little, and I have to say, I forgave.

“Goodnight Rose” – Forgive the lousy video quality, as I said the lighting was terribly dim. But the audio is good.

“Rip Off”

May 22, 2007 Posted by | Concert Review | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Patty Griffin – Indianapolis, IN – April 28, 2007

pattygriffin1.jpgTraveling to Patty Grffin’s concert at the Vogue theatre in Indianapolis this past Saturday, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and my enthusiasm was not all that high. Truth was, I wasn’t overly familiar with her music. A friend, whose musical opinion I trust very much, is quite the fan of Ms. Griffin, but the two disks I had heard of hers, had not overly impressed me.

It wasn’t that they were bad, the songs were interesting, and I could sense some excellent musicianship in there, it’s just that none of her songs really spoke to me. Nothing really stood out as something magic.

But like I said, I trusted my friend’s opinion and bought the tickets.

Oh Patty, you broke my heart, and taught me to love again – and that within the first three songs.

Normally, when my wife and I make the 60-mile trek to Indianapolis for a concert, we head straight to the venue for the show. This time, being a beautiful Saturday we figured we would make a day of it. Noticing that the venue was in the district known as Broad Ripple, and that I had heard good things about this area, we made this our destination.

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April 30, 2007 Posted by | Concert Review | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Tea Leaf Green – October 19, 2006

I should have known better than to attend a concert while still recovering from a rather rotten head cold. “But it’s Tea Leaf Green,” my wife pleaded, and “we haven’t been out in so long.” And so there we went out in the cold and the rain, sniffling, sneezing and all.

To tell the truth, it was a bit odd to hear my wife excited to see Tea Leaf Green as she wasn’t at all familiar with the band’s material. Me either excepting for their recent DVD release, Rock N Roll Band of which I had recently played numerous times and reviewed right here. But she had enjoyed what she had heard, and the idea of going to a concert always has its appeal.

We showed up early, nearly half an hour, as it was general admission and we wanted to get a seat, instead of standing for the entirety of the performance. Early wasn’t needed, as the place was nearly empty.

We sat, the two of us looking ragged and full of head germs, and waited. Nine o’clock came and still there were but a few folks gathered about. We pondered the meaning of the sign announcing “56 Hope Road” and showing us a cute little deer’s head. “Could it be a brand of beer?” we pondered. “Or perhaps it is a new teen show on the WB.” “I know,” I declared, “It has to be Locke’s home address on Lost.”

As it turned out it was the name of the opening band. They played for the few folks standing about as if it was for Madison Square Gardens. I was duly impressed. They jammed out every song and had a good thing going, though it was hard to discern more than the electric guitar and drums from the distorted sound quality.

A few more folks came, including a large group of college kids who plumped down right next to us. I feel like an old man on a rotating record when I complain about the kids today, but dang they sure don’t have any respect for anything.

Though there was a band playing their hearts out right in front of them, and though they had surely paid good money to hear this band, they paid no mind at all to the performance. Instead the men applied their attention to the ladies, scooting their chairs right up against them so as to look deeply into eyes, and entwine legs like a spider. The ladies meanwhile, retracted their cellular phones from their purses every two minutes as if they were expecting a call for the next world summit.

Meanwhile some sparkling good music played on.

56 Hope Road played a good hour set and Tea Leaf Green came on around 10:30. The room had since filled up to about half capacity, but what was there was energized and ready for the headliners.

It is always an interesting thing to attend a concert where you aren’t familiar with most of the band’s work. There are no songs to sing-along to, nor grooves to groove along with knowingly. It’s all shake it as you can. We remained seated as our bodies were in no shape to groove anyway.

Seated it was still a darn fine groove thing. The band play like a well grooved machine and they know how to work the crowd. The thing is on the aforementioned DVD it kind of irked me to watch the lead singer, Trevor Garrod, work the crowd like a crazed cross between a Southern Baptist preacher and PT Barnum. Grabbing the microphone like a dagger he’d swagger and sway with the music while singing his lyrics like the Holy Word. It irked me because I tend to prefer musicians who approach music with importance and leave the posing to those on TRL. However, in person it is quite impressive, and it must be said that young Trevor hits the keys as much as he shakes it for the crowd.

Despite our illnesses, the wife and I both forgot everything and fell into the trance of great music. I got up into the crowd and swayed and moved like a teenager once again.

The darned kids were still at it with their cell phones and make-out moves. The two girls seemed to be texting each other back, while another guy somehow managed to talk to whomever, though standing but feet from a fat round of speakers.

Kids today and their rock and roll.

The first set concluded around midnight. It was a high performance and we’d had a grand time, but old age and illness took a hold. My wife declared that she could barely hold her eyes open any longer, and I knew I wasn’t long for this cognizant world, and so we headed home.

A younger me would have cursed they day I ever left a concert before the last note was played, but the older me has learned when I’ve had enough no matter how killer the show.

I’ll never know what madness occurred in the second set, but having seen the first half I’ll surely catch the band the next time they come around.

November 29, 2006 Posted by | Concert Review | Leave a comment

Concert Review – Lyle Lovett: July 28, 2006

lyle-and-hagen.jpgFor many a month, my father and I were planning a vacation to the Glacier National Park in Montana and parts of Canada. Being the generous, family loving man that he is, my father invited my two siblings. As with all plans that involve numerous people, hammering out the details proved quite difficult.

Timing was the hitch. The sister and her husband reside most of the year in Shanghai, China, visiting the states for a few weeks out of the year. This summer they were already planning a multi-state trek to visit friends, family and tour with Pearl Jam for several weeks. Finding time for me and the Glacier was proving problematic.

In the end they cancelled for fear of total exhaustion. The father figure then cancelled because he chooses not to miss seeing his daughter for the tall trees and the bald eagles. I cancelled because father had planned to pay.

My anniversary plans were ruined because I had planned on using the Glacier trip as the anniversary present. For what wife wouldn’t love to celebrate four years of marriage with a 7 day 2,000 mile road trip with her in-laws? With the trip cancelled, I had to actually come up with a real plan.

A little research found that Lyle Lovett would be doing a free concert in St. Louis. Praising myself for finding something quickly that would be on the way to my folks in Oklahoma, thrill the wife, and be cheap, I quickly booked a hotel room and let the wife in on my beautiful plans.

The concert was right on the river underneath the St. Louis Arch. A beautiful setting if there ever was one. After walking around downtown we debated on whether to branch out and see some of the gardens on the other side of the city, or stay close so that we might get a good seat. Knowing it was a free concert we expected the area to be pretty much packed.

Deciding to stay close we crept back to the motel for a nap. Afterwards with nothing else to do we headed in the direction of the Arch. They had begun to set up a perimeter around the stage area so we ducked in quick as to not have our bags dug through and our camera discovered.

lyle-bluegrass.jpgIt was still a good three hours until Lyle was scheduled to perform. We found some shade (which lowered the temperature to a moderate 95 degrees) and tried to enjoy ourselves.

We sped up time by ordering too expensive and too hot pizza, hastily made lemonade with the sugar still undisolved at the bottom, and by making laps past the merchandise booths and kiddie playground. Finally we buckled down and found a seat on the arch steps. The heat was excruciating. The wait was intolerable.

After two hours the time neared. The Large Band minus Lyle performed a rousing version of “She Makes Me Feel Good.” Without Lyle’s lead, but with the back up singers’ punctuations, the song took on a jazzy, New Orleans style improv.

Too quickly the performers left and the sound check was over. Then the rains came.

Two hours standing in the freaking heat and we’re going to get rained out. Many ran for cover, but I refused. No way was I going to lose my seat after getting fried like a worm on Sunday.

The rains let up and soon enough Lyle came out to play.

The show started softly with just Lyle with an acoustic guitar and a John Hagen on cello playing the tender ballad “Don’t Cry a Tear,” and then a cowboy song that I’d never heard before.

Slowly the rest of the band came out, adding new members after each song. The effect was quite dramatic as the number of performers increased and the music took on an increasingly bigger sound and feel.

The performers truly showcased Lyle’s different styles as a songwriter. The back up singers added a gospel feel, the horns brought in jazz and swing, and the mandolin player from the Chieftains brought old style bluegrass along. Lyle was at home in all of these settings.

The between song banter was priceless. As with many of his songs, Lyle has a dry, wry delivery that elevates everything that comes out of his mouth. At one point he decided, for whatever reason, that a portion of his audience was of the Lutheran faith. After discussing this idea for a bit he threw out this little nugget:

“Do you know why Lutherans are against pre-marital sex?
They think it will lead to dancing.”

Late in the set he introduced the entire band, then for his own introduction spoke, “I’m the guy who sits next to you,” which is the first line of the song “Here I Am” to which the band promptly joined in for a marvelous, souped up rendition.

As is the way things go for my concert attending, the audience wasn’t always into what was happening onstage. There was quite of bit of rambling chit chat going on when a middle aged lady walking past noticed what must have been a long lost friend. With a squeal usually reserved for pigs at a trough, she ran up the steps hugged said friend and they both began to reminisce with great volume.

There was no attempt at moving someplace where there chatter might not annoy. In fact, the first lady kind of pushed the innocent fellow sitting nearby out of her way. The squealing and the loudness continued for two songs when lady # 1 finally left.
Not but minutes later the young man sitting next to me received a phone call on his cellular and chatted through yet another song. Having seen that he can get away with loudness he began discussing the concert in progress with the lady next to him.

“That sounds like Scott Joplin on the piano.”

I know it is a free concert and all, but if you want to hang out and talk, go the freak somewhere else!

Moving closer to the front to get away from the chatter we found ourselves amongst more chatter, but at least the volume was loud enough there to drown it out.

The Large Band cooked something hot that night. The backup singers, especially Francine Reed, have toured with Lyle for years and are well greased in his tunage. On songs like “(That’s Right) You’re Not From Texas” and “Church” they swing and fly like a well oiled locomotive.

As I complain about the audience I must also say many were quite enthusiastic as well. There was much white-boy country boogy-ing going on and we all enjoyed Lyle allowing the audience to finish “Here I Am” by shouting “make it a cheeseburger.”

The concert employed two people to sign for the hearing impaired. It was a beautiful thing watching a kind looking young lady perform what may have been the world’s greatest air cello performance during John Hagen’s extended solo.

The show ended without an encore and an apology from Lyle for not being able to play longer due to a city ordinance. The band left the stage to a beautiful, if short, fireworks display over the river.

Cost of a free concert:
$120 per night hotel
$3.00 per gallon of gasoline
$15 average cost of five meals dined out
$8.00 seat cushion to fend off wife’s fanny from hard Arch steps
$4.00 drinks at the concert
$300 in total.

It was worth every penny.

Set list:
Don’t Cry a Tear
Old Cowboys Sang??
This Traveling Around
Instrumental
I Will Rise Up
It Could Be All Downhill From Here
(That’s Right) You’re Not From Texas
I’ve Been to Memphis
The Last Time
Cute as a Bug
My Baby Don’t Tolerate
San Antonio Girl
That Old Train??
I Live in My Own Mind
Bottomland
Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down
Down the Old Plank Road
More Pretty Girls
If I Had a Boat
Give Back My Heart
Here I Am
What Do You Do
Sugar in My Bowl
Church
Cello Solo
I’m Going to Wait
Here I Am (Instrumental)

August 3, 2006 Posted by | Concert Review | Leave a comment

Concert Review – Wilco (April 17, 2006)

wilco.jpgThe last and first time I saw Wilco in concert I walked out. That’s right, walked right out the door on one of the best bands playing rock and roll today. This was just after A Ghost is Born came out, so it was well into all the hoopla over Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Frankly, at the time I wasn’t much of a fan, I had only heard the Being There album and attended the show more out of something to do, than any real relationship to the band or their music.

They were playing a club way too small for them at the time. It was standing room only, and within a few songs into their set, the place was swelling. Everyone was jostling for position, pushing, squishing, and elbowing in every direction. It was more than my wife, and our friend could take.

The final poke was from an enormous young man who was not only pushing for the front row, but talking obnoxiously loud on his cell phone right in front of us. My two companions moved way to the back of the small club. I moved to a friendly section of the crowd but knew my time was coming. After a few more songs I found my people and we decided to walk out. The band was good, but not knowing any songs and the rotten crowd overruled anything our ears were hearing.

Fast forward to last night, I have since become a convert to the Wilco idolatry religion, and am very excited to see them again. Hoping to finally rid myself of the stigma of having once walked out.

This time the venue is much larger and more fitting to the band’s status. The IU Auditorium is a medium sized auditorium with lots of seats and space.

The opening band was local and an odd mix of the Meat Puppets, “Space Oddity” era David Bowie and Radiohead. They started promptly at 8:00 to a crowd at less than half capacity.

Opening acts are an odd thing to me. They say they are there to get the crowd jazzed and loosened up, but the crowds I’ve seen are usually bored by an opener and keep looking at their watches hoping those fools will get off the stage so the headliners will appear.

I guess it’s a good opportunity to hear bands you might not have heard before.

The opening band played a good 40 minute set. After a long 40 minute pause, Wilco finally took the stage at 9:20.

The crowd now at full capacity gave the auditorium a good holler.

They opened with a rumbling version of “Airline to Heaven” followed by a scorching “Kingpen.”

The crowd was pretty tame. My section of the balcony was half standing, half still in their seats. Songs from Yankee Foxtrot Hotel got the biggest cheers of the night, but songs from all of their other albums got noticeably less participation in the sing-alongs.

Actually my realization for the night is that Wilco has very little in terms of sing along lyrics. Sure, they have a few good belters such as the hillbilly bluegrass chanter “Forget the Flowers” and the nonsensicalness of “I’m a Wheel” is a hoot to scream a long with, but so much of their music has these sorts of odd tempos and changes that render any typical sing-along too difficult to enjoy.

They more than make up for this with the music. There are so many great hooks in their songs as to get lost in them trying to count. The quiet beginning of “At Least That’s What You Said” followed by the loud, pounding rhythm which is then followed by a louder, more pounding rhythm is a slice of pure rock and roll heaven.

More than once I reached the point of ecstasy where my body shook to the beat as only a white boy can, my eyes closed and my smile took over my whole person. Surely the sign of a great rock concert.

Lead singer/guitarist/primary song writer Jeff Tweedy goaded the audience by saying we were acting rather mild for an audience he had been pre-warned would be rowdy. This was the beginning of Little 500 week at Indiana University, the loudest, most party-rific week at a school which has often won the title of “#1 Party School.”

The audience responded by jumping over the rails at the front row and cramming right up against the stage.

The band closed a second encore with “California Stars” and we walked out into the cool spring night under lovely Indiana ones.

Setlist:
1. Airline To Heaven
2. Kingpin
3. Handshake Drugs
4. A Shot In The Arm
5. At Least That’s What You Said
6. Hell Is Chrome
7. Spiders (Kidsmoke)
8. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
9. Forget The Flowers
10. War On War
11. Jesus, Etc.
12. Hummingbird
13. The Good Part
14. Walken
15. Heavy Metal Drummer
16. Theologians
17. I’m The Man Who Loves You
18. Monday

Encore 1:
19. The Late Greats
20. I’m Always In Love
21. I’m A Wheel

Encore 2:
22. California Stars

July 25, 2006 Posted by | Concert Review | Leave a comment

Concert Review – Railroad Earth (March 10, 2006)

railroad earth liveIt has been over a year since my last real concert, something unheard of in Brewsterland. Sure, over the years my ability to go out and hear live music has decreased, but I’ve always managed to see a show at least once every few months.

I did go to the Strasbourg Music Festival last spring, but it was more about the madness and chaos of walking the densely populated city streets than really sitting and listening to one band play. Ah, a mad scene that was with local bands of all flavors playing on every corner, alleyway and sidewalk. You couldn’t hear one band for the three others playing down the road.

But other than that it was the summer of 2004 since I caught anything live or musical. Wow, just reading that makes me sad.

There is nothing like live music. With all the technical wizardry and beeps and gadgets they come up with in the studio, as amazing as some of it is, it just can’t beat the magic that comes from hearing a band playing live for all they’ve got. Standing in a crowd of people moving in one groove as the sounds pump right through your insides is nothing short of awesome.

I once saw Phil Lesh one hot Thursday afternoon in Oklahoma City. It was well over a hundred degrees and I was standing in a patch of ground that had been baked into dust. I came home drenched in sweat, sun burned beyond recognition and caked in dirt, dust. It was one of the best times of my life.

So, it was with great anticipation that I waited for Friday night to come and my chance to see Railroad Earth at the Bluebird in Bloomington, IN.

My wife laying low with a migraine I invited my friend and coworker to tag along.

Arriving I was a little trepidacious, having never been a part of the press corps, or guest list. I approached the ticket counter (actually a burly young man sitting in the first booth for the bar.)

“Do you have tickets?” he asked.

“Um, I should be on the guest list. It’s Mat Brewster.”

Scanning the two pages of guest list he asked me again what my name was. Peering at the same list I could see a Mat Hutchins listed with Blogcritics next to it.

“Yeah, that’s me, I’m from Blogcritics. “

Both relieved that I got in, and a little annoyed that they got my name completely wrong we went inside.

The Bluebird is an old country bar that saw its best days around a couple of decades ago. It is old and worn and best seen through a smoky haze, something you don’t get anymore since the city has outlawed smoking pretty much everywhere.

The stage has grown since the last time I visited. A couple of years ago I saw Sam Bush and his band could barely fit on the tiny platform. I’ve always loved the stage, though. It stands about waist high and is set up so that you can get within inches of the band.

I first came to know Railroad Earth, oddly enough, through a t-shirt of syndicated radio host, David Gans. After hearing him rave about them again on the Grateful Dead Hour I downloaded one of their shows on archive.org and found there really was something to rave about. Those boys can cook!

They are a hard band to describe. They play bluegrass instruments (banjo, fiddle, dobro, mandolin, etc.) but have a drummer and everything is plugged in and amped up. You can hear influences from bluegrass to jazz to straight up rock and roll.

In an age where musicians get more hype for their clothes than their songs it is refreshing to hear a band really getting off on music, without even a glance at the bottom line.

Even with six musicians on the stage I could clearly hear each instrument. The band came to jam, and the improvisations often extended a song out for more than 15 minutes. Yet unlike so many jam bands their jams never turned into noodle fests. They were unique and interesting extensions and transitions of the songs, while still maintaining the integrity of the melody.

At the beginning of the second set, another fellow coworker showed up with some buddies, drunk off their arses, all three. Suddenly, I was in the middle of what I absolutely despise at concerts – a group who would rather talk, and make loud, dumb comments than listen. I hate those people, and now I was one of them.

What could I do, what can you do when you’ve got three drunks shouting at you that the place smells like a toilet and that there are no cute girls? Thankfully, they left after a couple of songs.

The crowd was fairly small, with the venue about half full. South-Central Indiana is a bit far off from their normal fan base. But those who were there were full of smiles and white boy dance grooves. It was an odd mix of frat boys, middle aged couples and neo-hippies.

God bless hippies.

Several beautiful young hippy ladies were dolled out in flowing, blowing long skirts. They danced, whirled and twirled on the second tier floor oblivious to everything and everyone but the songs.

My drunken friends returned and I had to swear that I was on my second beer (though I had only taken a few sips of my first) to keep my coworker quiet and calm. At this point they were so zonked they pretended to dig the band so they could hit on the girls.

Ignoring them I continued let the groove move me to other worlds. The psychedelic outings of “Warhead Boogie” and “Like a Buddha” left me more than emotionally erect, and fully satisfied. On these songs the band was so tight, so connected they moved as if they were a cohesive whole of one organism rather than six distinct individuals.

We headed home at 1:30. The band played a full 2 and half hours of joyful, mind blowing music. I made it home exhausted, but completely satisfied.

July 25, 2006 Posted by | Concert Review | Leave a comment