The Month in Music & Books (1/16)

Last December marked the end of my long-running “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” and “Adventures in Music Acquisition” posts.  I don’t miss them but I realize now that I made some musical and literary discoveries in January that I’d really like to tell somebody about.  Maybe you.  So I’ve decided to start a new series of posts that I’m going to call “The Month in Music & Books”.  It’s basically my two old series mashed up into one monthly post, but with more of an emphasis on the highlights and less of an emphasis on saying mean things about the stuff I hated.

To give you an idea what I’m talking about, this first post is going to feature half of the books I read in January and about 20% of the music I got.  No more standing on a ladder to get it all in the picture.

january music & books

(January music & books)

The two records with geometric patterns on the covers are the first releases by Lightning in a Twilight Hour, the latest band featuring one of my favorite songwriters, Bobby Wratten.  As you may know, he was the guy responsible for the Field Mice, Northern Picture Library, the Occasional Keepers, and Trembling Blue Stars.  I loved all those bands and was quite sad when the most recent of them, Trembling Blue Stars, called it quits back in 2010.  I didn’t hear anything about Bobby Wratten for years and thought he might’ve retired.  Then I recognized his voice on an Elefant Records sampler late last year.  I dug a little deeper and learned he’d managed to sneak two releases by me in 2015.  Before I knew it, I was $40 poorer.  Vinyl sure is expensive.

The CD with the flowers on it is the full-length debut from Tiny Fireflies, a band out of Chicago that formed when the woman from Tiny Microphone got together with the guy from Fireflies.  I guess the naming formula went something like this: Tiny Microphone + Fireflies – Microphone = Tiny Fireflies.  I wonder what they did with the microphone.  Regardless, it’s gentle indie pop that’s pretty much been my soundtrack for January.

The book up at the top right is The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  It’s a non-fiction book that tells the story of the Chicago World’s Fair held in 1893.  Much of the book is about the people who planned and built the fair and the issues they dealt with to successfully pull it off.  Embedded in and around that primary story is a secondary one about the serial killer who built a hotel a few blocks from the fairgrounds and used it to lure his many victims.  I don’t usually read much non-fiction, but I’d had my eye on this one for much of the last decade and finally decided to give it a try.  I’m glad I did.  Both stories were interesting and the author did a great job of knowing when to switch from one to the other.  I’m also happy to say that the serial killer side of things never got too lurid, which can potentially happen with true crime stories.

(Let’s go over to the bottom left now.)

There aren’t many musicians who are interesting enough to merit a 670 page autobiography, and I wasn’t sure Elvis Costello was one of them when I bought his Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.  Well, it turns out he is.  Although it took me three months to read, I thought this was one of the best musical biographies I’ve ever read.  It’s right up there with that crazy book Ray Davies wrote back in the 90s.  Elvis tosses chronology out the window and jumps all over the place, but his stories are compelling whether he’s talking about his childhood, recording with Chet Baker, or throwing records out the back of a flatbed truck in a sad attempt to get some publicity in Tokyo.  My favorite part, though, was when he called smart phones “pocket oracles”.  I only mention it here because I’d like to remember that term.  Oh, and I also liked the Desmond Dekker story.

The best novel I read in January was Jane Gardam’s Old Filth.  It’s the first book in a trilogy about a retired lawyer and judge who returns to England after spending his career in Asia.  (FILTH stands for Failed In London Try Hong Kong.  As Beth mentioned, why isn’t it FILTHK?)  I decided to try this series after reading and enjoying the author’s The Hollow Land last year.  I don’t have much to say about Old Filth as it doesn’t really feel like I’ve finished it yet.  It felt more like the first part of a larger book than a stand-alone novel.  Normally that kind of thing annoys me–getting to the end of a book and realizing I have to buy another one–but I find that I’m excited to get my hands on The Man in the Wooden Hat.  That’s the best thing I can say about Old Filth: it made me want to find out what happens next.

The next two CDs are five-song EPs by the singer from the Decemberists.  The first one is Colin Meloy Sings Sam Cooke while the one beneath it is Colin Meloy Sings the Kinks.  I found the Sam Cooke one at Everybody’s Records for $3.99 and bought it because I used to really like Sam Cooke and because I thought the cover art was charming.  I was investigating my find later on and learned that there are three other EPs in the series.  The first two are out-of-print, but the fourth one was still being sold on the Decemberists’ website.  I immediately bought it when I saw it was the Kinks and featured cover art that was even more charming than the Sam Cooke art.  Zoom in on those cartoon Kinks…they’re great.  Oh, and all ten songs across the two CDs are very well chosen and performed.  Even “Harry Rag”, which I’ve never cared for.  I can never remember what it means.  Is it doobies?

The last thing I’d like to share in this post is the LP at the bottom right, Listen to Formation, Look For the Signs.  It’s the debut record by a singer from New Zealand named Nadia Reid.  I read a review in a recent issue of Mojo and knew I had to investigate.  I’m not usually a fan of listening to sound samples, but I went over to Bandcamp and previewed a couple songs.  I liked what I heard and ordered the LP.  I don’t know how to describe the music despite the fact that it reminds me of a lot of other stuff I’ve heard.  I guess Listen to Formation is essentially an acoustic folk record, but there are a couple songs that get a bit loud.  I wanted to skip to the quiet ones at first, but now I find that I look forward to that occasional burst of electric guitar.  Either way, it’s a great album all the way through, and one that somehow gets better with each new listen.

Well, that’s all I have this month.  Check down below to hear some of the stuff I rambled on about.

  • Download a free Lightning in a Twilight Hour song from Elefant Records.
  • Download a free Tiny Fireflies EP from the group’s Bandcamp page.  This three-song EP includes a lovely version of the Skeeter Davis song “The End of the World”.
  • Last but not least, have a listen to Nadia Reid’s record.  Or buy the LP here.
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Andy & the Shitbird

It turns out that the quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals really does live about ten houses up the street from me.  I’d heard rumors to that effect, but had always dismissed them as unlikely.  Although I live on a respectable street in a nice neighborhood, an NFL quarterback who makes eight figures a year could easily afford a fancier house in a more exclusive part of town.

But there he was getting into his truck as I was walking up to the library earlier this week.  I waved at him and he waved back.  He also said something that might’ve been “hey there”.  I couldn’t really tell as I was listening to June & the Exit Wounds on my iPod and had the volume up too loud.  Or loudly.

i'm walkin'Later on in that walk I almost got into a fist fight with a toothless old shitbird driving a truck with a utility trailer attached.  He stopped at a traffic light so that the trailer blocked the crosswalk I was trying to use.  Instead of going around or waiting for him to move on, I just climbed over the trailer and gave him the finger as I hopped down.  He didn’t like that one bit.

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Front Door of the Day (FDotD)

david bowie door

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Yo La Tengo @ the Neptune Theatre (11/20/15)

Beth and I went to see Yo La Tengo at the Neptune Theatre last night.  We’ve both been big fans of the band for many years.  I don’t remember exactly, but I’m fairly certain one of the first times we communicated online was in the comments to a Yo La Tengo concert review I wrote back in the Vox days.  Although we’ve both seen the band perform multiple times, this was the first time we’d seen them together.

As such, this show was highly anticipated for us and we got there early.  We were maybe sixth and seventh in line.  The doors opened and we hustled upstairs and snagged the two middle seats in the front row of the balcony.  We had to then wait an hour for the show to begin, but it ended up looking like this:


(concert photo by homebody)

That’s a great view.  The concert was the second-to-last stop on Yo La Tengo’s Stuff Like That There tour and included a fourth band member, Dave Schramm, on electric guitar.  (That’s him sitting over on the left in the picture.)  The rest of the band was James McNew on upright bass, Georgia Hubley on a stand-up drum kit, and Ira Kaplan on acoustic guitar.  They played a lot of songs from the new record, a few from Fakebook, a series of other covers, and a selection of originals from the band’s 30+ year career.  These songs were broken up into two full sets and a three song encore.

Here’s the setlist:

First set: You Tore Me Down (the Flamin’ Groovies) / The Point of It / Rickety / My Heart’s Not in It* (Darlene McCrae) / I Can Feel the Ice Melting (the Parliaments) / Naples* (Antietam) / The Ballad of Red Buckets / Somebody’s in Love (Sun Ra) / Corona+ (the Minutemen) / Tom Courtenay* / A Song For You (Gram Parsons)

Second set: Friday I’m in Love* (the Cure) / Season of the Shark / I Can Hear Music+ (the Ronettes) / All Your Secrets / Butchie’s Tune* (the Lovin’ Spoonful) / Awhileaway / Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind / Today Is the Day* / Can’t Forget / Griselda (the Holy Modal Rounders) / Ohm / Our Way to Fall

Encore: Double Dare / Ruler of My Heart* (Allen Toussaint) / Speeding Motorcycle (Daniel Johnston) –> The Whole of the Law (the Only Ones) –> Speeding Motorcycle

I should mention that the songs marked with an asterisk featured lead vocals by Georgia, while songs with a plus sign were sung by James.  The rest were sung by Ira or a combination of him and Georgia.  I was particularly happy with the seven Georgia songs.  She’s recently become one of my favorite singers (see: Georgia Sings!, the two-part comp I made a few months ago), and it was nice to hear her contribute so much to the show. Other highlights included James McNew doing the Minutemen’s “Corona”, everything from Fakebook, and a beautiful version of “Ohm”.  There aren’t many songs out there that I like more than “Ohm”.

Overall, it was just about a perfect night of music.  Yo La Tengo at the Neptune Theatre is definitely the best concert I’ve seen so far this year.  As I don’t have any additional shows scheduled, I’ll go ahead and declare it Concert of the Year.  Hurrah!

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Daniel Martin Moore @ Sawyer Point (10/10/15)

This morning I went to the (poorly named) River Grill Before the Big Chill barbecue festival in downtown Cincinnati.  I don’t eat pig products, so I wasn’t interested in the food-related festivities.  I was there to see Daniel Martin Moore and his band perform a concert.  He’s one of my favorite singers, but I’ve been pretty bad at keeping up with his touring schedule.  In fact, I haven’t seen him live since that in-store at Shake It Records back in 2009.  That show celebrated the release of Daniel Martin Moore’s first album; yesterday saw the release of Golden Age, his sixth.  It’s been a long time.

(Hey, the mayor just jogged by my house as I’m tapping away writing this on my front porch.  I don’t know what to think of that kid.)

Daniel Martin Moore and his band had the 12:30 – 2:00 slot.  There weren’t many people at the festival at that early hour, but the band still put on an inspired performance.  They played a twenty song set that included 8 of the 10 new songs from Golden Age.  I’m still waiting for my CD copy to come in the mail from the PledgeMusic campaign, but it sounds like it’s going to be another good one.  They also played a selection of older songs from Daniel Martin Moore’s other releases including one song from Farthest Field, the amazing album he did with Joan Shelley.  If you haven’t heard Farthest Field, then you need to get on it.  It’s probably my favorite music of the last five years.

Here’s the setlist.  I’ve broken it up into three mini sets to reflect the change from band performance to solo performance (and then back again).  It was really just one long set, though.

First band set: Stray Age/Our Hearts Will Hover/Needn’t Say a Thing/That’ll Be the Plan/On Our Way Home/To Make It True/Something, Somewhere, Sometime

Solo set: Every Color and Kind/The Months of Winter/Flyrock Blues/You Are Home (from a forthcoming lullaby album)/By the Beams

Second band set: We Two/Anyway/How It Fades/”It was never for lack of want…”/The Old Measure/Golden Age/In Common Time/Proud As We Are

It was a lot of fun getting out of the house and enjoying the great music and absolutely beautiful weather.  Sure, my fleece now smells a bit like cooked pigs, but a run through the washer will take care of that.

I took a few pictures while I was downtown.  Just look at that sky!

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Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift @ the Southgate House Revival (9/23/15)

I’m happy to report that I just became the first person in the history of music to see concerts by Nellie McKay, Pugwash, and Robyn Hitchcock in less than a week.  In three different states, too.  Who else would do such a thing?  Nobody, that’s who.

I almost didn’t achieve this glorious milestone as I didn’t find out about the Robyn Hitchcock show until less than 10 hours before it was scheduled to begin.  I’m not sure how this information managed to slip by unnoticed until then…especially when you consider that I’m on the venue’s mailing list.  Perhaps this is the result of not being on Facebook or Twitter.  And not having a phone.  And not paying attention to anything.

I went down to the Southgate House Revival across the river in Newport, KY.  I found a decent seat in a very uncomfortable chair.  Emma Swift soon came out for her opening set.  She was also the opener when Beth and I saw Robyn Hitchcock perform earlier this year at the Columbia City Theatre in Seattle.  Her 6-song set was similar to what she did for that show except she changed around the order a bit, switched her Gram Parsons cover from “Brass Buttons” to “Hickory Wind”, and played “Woodland Street” instead of that song about the 5 Spot.  I liked Emma’s music a lot more this time, and I chalk that up to getting a copy of her mini album at the Columbia City show.  I always like music more if I know the words and can sing along in my head.

Here’s Emma Swift’s setlist:

Setlist: Bittersweet/Woodland Street/Hickory Wind (Gram Parsons cover)/Seasons/James/Shivers (Rowland S. Howard cover)

Robyn Hitchcock came out about twenty minutes after Emma Swift left the stage.  It was just him and his acoustic guitar.  He started out with a slightly creepy version of “Luminous Rose” and then played a song I don’t remember ever hearing before called “I Pray When I’m Drunk”.  I’m not sure if that’s the proper title, but that seems to be what the internet is calling it.  It might be new.  “The Devil’s Coachman” came next and had the audience laughing with its closing line about finding the devil in his bed and making him coffee and toast. “Madonna of the Wasps” doesn’t mean anything more to me than any of the other songs, but it got the first big cheer of recognition from the audience.  Maybe it was a radio hit back when there were radio hits for people like Robyn Hitchcock.  I don’t know.

Okay, this is the fifth time I’ve written about a Robyn Hitchcock concert on this site, so I’m not going to go through it song by song.  It’s too much.  Let’s just say Robyn continued singing his songs and telling his stories until he eventually got tired of doing it alone and called Emma Swift back out to add some backing vocals.  The two of them closed out the main set with three songs performed as a duo.  The final one of these was “Queen Elvis”, another song that the audience knew.  The guy sitting next to me sang along but didn’t know where to put the “aah-aah-aahahs”.  It was annoying and funny at the same time.  Robyn and Emma left the stage after that.

There was a brief interlude of clapping after which Robyn Hitchcock came back out by himself.  He mentioned that we’d come to the part of the evening where he played songs from his record collection.  He also mentioned that Bryan Ferry’s 70th birthday was coming up.  That, of course, served as an introduction to a mini set of Roxy Music covers.  The first song was “More Than This”.  Emma Swift brought out some tea and joined Robyn for the second song, “Oh Yeah”.  (That’s the one that goes “there’s a band playing on the radio.”  You probably know it even if you don’t recognize the official title.)  I’d say that Robyn and Emma’s version of “Oh Yeah” was one of the highlights of the evening.  Of course, I forgot all about it when they closed the show with a cover of Neil Young’s “Motion Pictures”.  That’s what I wanted to hear.

As always, here are my scribbled setlist notes:

robyn hitchcock setlist

(red ink setlist scribbles)

And here’s the setlist cleaned up and typed out:

Main set: Luminous Rose/”I Pray When I’m Drunk”/The Devil’s Coachman/Madonna of the Wasps/Bass/Victorian Squid/Sometimes a Blonde/Full Moon in My Soul/N.Y. Doll/Dismal City/Nietzche’s Way (w/Emma Swift)/Linctus House (w/Emma Swift)/Queen Elvis (w/Emma Swift)

Encore: More Than This (Roxy Music cover)/Oh Yeah (Roxy Music cover w/Emma Swift)/Motion Pictures (Neil Young cover w/Emma Swift)

As I briefly touched upon above, this was my fifth time seeing Robyn Hitchcock in concert.  You might think it would get boring after awhile, but I dug out my old setlists and ran the numbers.  Of the 86 songs I’ve heard him perform live, 61 of them were only played once.  There were only three songs overlapping between the two 2015 shows.  And that right there is one of the main reasons why I’ll see Robyn Hitchcock a sixth time if given the chance.

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Pugwash @ the Warehouse (9/19/15)

I woke up on Saturday morning with a stuffed nostril and a headache, but that didn’t keep me from driving to Carmel, Indiana later in the afternoon to see Pugwash perform a concert at a club called the Warehouse.  A surprise autumn cold had me feeling like garbage all day long, but I decided to make the trip anyway.  I knew it was now or never for me and Pugwash.  It’s not every day when a band from Ireland makes it anywhere near where I live, and I don’t expect Pugwash will be returning anytime soon.  So I shot up my favorite cold remedy, packed up the essentials, and headed off.

And by “essentials”, I mean this guy:

sailor babo roadtripIt was a nice day for a road trip.  This is I-74 heading west.

74It took me about two hours and fifteen minutes to get to Carmel and find the Warehouse.  It’s a cute little building in what appeared to be a cute little town.  The venue had a well-tended front yard made out of pebbles.

the warehouseAs you may have noticed, I’m a big fan of concert advertising whether it’s fancy marquees all lit up Broadway-style or just small sidewalk signs done up in chalk.  Either way, I’ll take a picture.  I didn’t realize it until I got home, but I may have caught Tosh Flood (Pugwash guitarist) having a smoke in the background of this shot.

chalk sidewalk signI went on in the Warehouse, changed from driving clothes to concert clothes, stole a Pugwash sign from the bathroom, and looked around a bit.

little posterI went into the actual performance space when I heard the opening act playing.  I snagged one of the last tables.  The Vinyl Cats are a local band made up of a man and his son and–for reasons that were never fully explained–the touring guitarist from the Rutles.  They played a few originals and some interesting covers and closed out with two songs featuring Thomas Walsh, the Pugwash singer.  Those songs were the Duckworth Lewis Method’s “Boom Boom Afridi” and ELO’s “Evil Woman”.

It wasn’t long before the Vinyl Cats left the stage and Thomas Walsh came back out with the rest of Pugwash.  And my nose was barely stuffed!

pugwash performsIf I thought it was a bad idea to drive 4+ hours while sick to see Pugwash, then I was wrong.  They were a lot of fun to see live.  Not only did they sound good, but the venue was great and the audience was into it without being obnoxious (unlike the last time I saw a show in Indiana).  Pugwash played a few songs from their new PledgeMusic-supported album, Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) and a bunch of stuff that can be found on their other American release, a highly-recommended career-spanning compilation called A Rose in a Garden of Weeds.

The highlight for me, of course, was getting to hear “It’s Nice to Be Nice”, a song that has somehow been stuck in my head since November of 2010.  Not only did I get to hear my favorite Pugwash song, but I also got to hear them perform an XTC cover.  This was especially significant for me because I bought my first Pugwash album–an earlier comp called Giddy–because it was released on Andy Partridge’s Ape House label.  Sure, I could’ve come up with about 75 XTC songs I’d rather hear than “Making Plans For Nigel”, but it was still an XTC cover and it was awesome.

The setlist looked something like this.  Okay, the setlist looked exactly like this.

Main set: Kicking and Screaming/Kings and Queens/Keep Movin’ On/Hung Myself Out to Dry/Finer Things in Life/Apples/(Soon Be Home–>Singin’ in the Rain)/Be My Friend Awhile/There You Are/You Could Always Cry/Answers on a Postcard/Anyone Who Asks/Here (w/Rutles guy)/Making Plans For Nigel (XTC cover w/Rutles guy)/Fall Down/(Hush, Little Baby)/Emily Regardless/It’s Nice to Be Nice

Encore: The Fool I Had Become/Take Me Away

Those two instances of titles appearing in parentheses were spur-of-the moment songs that probably shouldn’t even count.  The first combined a bit of the Who’s “A Quick One, While He’s Away” with “Singin’ in the Rain”.  That came about spontaneously while they were talking about being on tour.  The lullaby came later in the evening when a child in the front row fell asleep.

I definitely made the right choice in going to the show.  It was a great evening all around.  The only potential downside was the between-song banter that sometimes suffered from cultural differences (steamers?) and dumb, repeated jokes (21 Pilots?).  When the band was actually playing, though, it was a lot of fun.  And fun is important.

Remember: It’s nice to be nice…it’s good to be good, and it’s fun to be fun.

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Nellie McKay @ the 20th Century Theatre (9/17/15)

I stepped outside of my house and crossed the street.  Then I turned right and took the sidewalk down the hill.  I continued along this sidewalk going up and down the various hills until I reached the railroad tracks.  Once I was on the other side of the tracks, I headed across the street and turned left.  Then I walked about 50 feet and took a right up that one street I like.  I walked along that street for about eight minutes until I got to the square.  Once I got there, I took a right, leaned up against a light post for a few seconds to take a photograph…

nellie mckay marquee…and then headed a few more feet to my destination.

Yes, I went to the 20th Century Theatre to see Nellie McKay perform a concert.  This wasn’t my first time seeing her.  Beth and I saw her at Neumos on my very first trip out to Seattle.  That show ended up being a disappointment for a number of reasons–inappropriate venue, a crowd full of jerks, and an off night from the singer–but I told myself I’d give Nellie another chance if we ever happened to be in the same town at the same time.  So I was happy to see she was coming to a venue within walking distance.

This second concert was better in just about every way (the only exception being my lack of concert-going companion).  Nellie McKay is touring behind her latest album, a collection of songs from the 60s called My Weekly Reader.  If you ever want to hear Herman’s Hermits and Frank Zappa covered on the same album, then My Weekly Reader is for you.  She played most of the songs from this new release, a wide range of other covers, and a selection of her own songs.

Although Nellie really just played a main set and an encore song, her set was divided up into piano songs and ukulele songs.  They felt like mini sets to me, so I’ve written out the setlist to reflect the change in instruments.  All she really did was leave the piano, pick up the ukulele, and stand over by a different microphone.  But anyway, here’s the setlist (with tiny-print notes where appropriate):

First piano set: Sunny Afternoon (the Kinks)/Beneath the Underdog/The Dog Song/Pennies From Heaven (popularized by Bing Crosby)–>piano–>Toto Dies/Hello, Hello (Sopwith Camel)/Poor People–>Justice (Alan Price medley)/Cupcake

First ukulele set: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (popularized by Cab Calloway)/Bold Marauder (Richard & Mimi Fariña)/Quicksilver Girl (Steve Miller Band)/¡Bodega!/Clothes Line Saga (Bob Dylan)

Second piano set: Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine (Country Joe and the Fish)/Compared to What (popularized by Les McCann and Eddie Harris)/Sunny Goodge Street (Donovan)/Did I Remember (popularized by Billie Holiday)

Second ukulele set: Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying (Gerry and the Pacemakers)/Red Rubber Ball (the Cyrkle)/Caribbean Time/One’s on the Way (Loretta Lynn cover written by Shel Silverstein)

Third piano set: I Cover the Waterfront (popularized by Billie Holiday)/Inner Peace/Suitcase Song/Hungry Freaks, Daddy (Frank Zappa)

Ukulele encore: If I Fell (Beatles)

The entire evening was lovely with a polite crowd, good sound (especially for a venue that often has issues), interesting song selection, and a charming, spot-on performance from Nellie McKay.  Highlights included songs from My Weekly Reader like “Sunny Afternoon”, “Quicksilver Girl”, and a fantastic version of “Red Rubber Ball”.  I also enjoyed some of Nellie’s own songs such as “¡Bodega!”, “Beneath the Underdog”, and “The Dog Song”.  What really surprised me, though, is how much I liked the songs I’d never even heard before like “Hello, Hello” (by something called Sopwith Camel) and “Clothes Line Saga” (one of the strangest Bob Dylan songs ever).  I usually dislike live performances of songs I’m not already familiar with, but I enjoyed these and left the show with a list of new music I’ll need to track down.  Oh, and did I mention the standards?  They were all great, but I’d probably choose “Did I Remember” if I had to pick just one.

20th century theatre ceilingIf it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s probably because I am.  I don’t want to be all positive, of course, so I’ll end this post on a negative note.  The woman sitting next to me tried to start a mid-song audience clapping-thing.  No one joined in and she soon stopped.  It bothered me for about 15 seconds.  Grrr.

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Darren Hanlon @ the Columbia City Theatre (7/23/15)

I have seen four Darren Hanlon concerts since I started writing here on WordPress.  That means there are already three write-ups floating around the internet (#1, #2, #3).  Do I want to write a fourth?  Do you want to read a fourth?  The answer to both of those questions is probably no.  Therefore, I’m going to keep this one quick and simple.

Beth and I stopped by Tutta Bella for a pre-concert pizza.  It was a nice evening, so we got a table outside.  Beth saw Darren Hanlon come strolling up the sidewalk and enter the venue a couple doors down.  I didn’t see him as I was too cool to turn my head.  I did, however, see Lydia & Aaron Lavender standing on a corner across the street.  I was about to run after them when I realized they were coming our way.  We had a loud sidewalk reunion.  It turns out they were also going to see Darren Hanlon.  We ended up sharing a table with them for the concert.  It was a big surprise and a lot of fun.

Here’s the setlist.  Songs marked with an asterisk featured Shelley Short on backup vocals:

Main set: Don’t Cheat the Future/Happiness Is a Chemical/Electric Skeleton/He Misses You Too, You Know/2480 (the Simpletons)/I Waited For the 17/Butterfly Bones/Folk Insomnia/Halley’s Comet, 1986/Salvation Army*/The Duet*/Modern History*/All These Things*/The Chattanooga Shoot Shoot

Encore: The Last Night of Not Knowing You/Wrong Turn

After the show, we waited for Darren Hanlon to finish talking to his fans (including one guy who appeared to be dressed up as Darren Hanlon).  We were hoping to buy some backup tea towels, but those sold out earlier in the tour.  I think Lydia picked up a couple CDs, but Beth and I couldn’t find anything we didn’t already have.  All we could do was thank Darren for the show.  I’m not sure, but I think I may have awkwardly gushed about how “Halley’s Comet, 1986” is my favorite song of the year.

Here are some of the usual concert-related photos:

Also, thanks to Shelley Short for giving me the scoop on the second song she and Darren sang together.  That’s the one where they sing about all the different places they could live and Shelley mentions wanting a good library.  According to Shelley, the song’s working title is “The Duet”.  They haven’t recorded it yet, but she suspects that Darren will give it a better title if they ever do.

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Sloan @ Fountain Square (6/26/15)

What do I do when a band I’ve liked since the 90s comes to my town to play a free concert ten minutes from my house on a Friday night when I’ve got absolutely nothing else going on?

I pray for rain.

I’m not kidding.  The local weather prophets were raising a hubbub about severe thunderstorms all Friday night, and I found myself hoping they’d be right so I wouldn’t have to leave the house and accidentally have fun.  I didn’t want to drive downtown.  I didn’t want to look around for a parking space.  I didn’t want to be anywhere near people.  I didn’t want to hear some fuckwit use the word “whatever” three different times while introducing one of my favorite bands.  I didn’t want to get wet.  I didn’t want to do anything.  All I wanted to do was sit in my front room where it’s nice and dry.

But if I paid attention to everything I tell myself I want, then I’d probably never do anything at all and eventually turn into a poor version of Howard Hughes sitting around sorting peas.  So I set an alarm for 9:20 p.m.  I decided if it was raining when the alarm went off, then I’d stay at home.  If the weather still looked good, then I’d go see the all-time greatest band from Canada down on Fountain Square for free…driving, parking, bad announcers be damned.

9:20.  No rain.  I headed off.

I didn’t have any problems with the drive or finding a parking space.  I got down to Fountain Square with plenty of time to spare before the 10:00 show.  I took a picture of the WKRP fountain all lit up with red lights.  It was probably for the Cincinnati Reds, but it made me think of that scene in The Shining where the wave of blood comes out of the elevator.

fountain square

(blood bath)

I looked at the merch table and bought a copy of The Double Cross, a Sloan CD I somehow overlooked when it came out a few years back.  It’s the yellow one in this picture.

sloan merch table

(No, I didn’t buy the deck of Sloan playing cards.)

Sloan came out a couple minutes later and started playing “If It Feels Good Do It”.  That’s when something unexpected happened.  All my grumbling and whining and anti-social tendencies disappeared and I felt the urge to do a celebratory rock ‘n’ roll kick and stick my hands in the air and maybe wave them around a little bit.  I didn’t do either of those things, but I did tap my toes.

It turns out that I really like Sloan.  They’ve been doing it a long time and still do it well.  Sometimes people call it power pop, but I consider Sloan a rock band with far more talent than most of the groups in that genre.  Wonderboy, anyone?  All four members write and sing their own songs.  I noticed they were taking turns singing in concert.  It went Patrick, Jay, Chris, Patrick, Jay, Chris.  What about Andrew?  Well, he only took one turn.  It was some turn, though.  He left his drum kit and picked up a guitar about halfway through the show and proceeded to sing “Forty-Eight Portraits”, his entire 18-minute-long suite from last year’s Commonwealth album (that had each of the band members contributing one side of a double LP).  It sort of killed the flow of the show, but I knew the song and was happy to hear it live.

sloan on stage

(Patrick, Andrew, Chris, Jay)

As soon as Andrew’s turn ended, the members of Sloan went back to their usual instruments and began cramming in as many songs as they could before the 11:00 curfew.  They got in four more.  Highlights from this portion of the show included “Losing California” and the last song of the night, “Money City Maniacs”.  I’m writing this post a little over twelve hours after the show ended and I’ve still got that perplexing “Money City Maniacs” chorus stuck in my head.  It was the last thing going through my brain when I went to sleep last night and the first thing I thought this morning.

And the joke is when he awoke his…

As always, here’s the setlist:

Setlist: If It Feels Good Do It/C’mon C’mon (We’re Gonna Get It Started)/Carried Away/Keep Swinging (Downtown)/Who Taught You to Live Like That?/Ready For You/Forty-Eight Portraits/Losing California/I Hate My Generation/The Other Man/Money City Maniacs

I should probably bring this post full-circle by telling you that it never did get around to raining and that I’m glad I went to the show.  Or maybe I should make another reference to sorting peas.  I don’t feel like it.  I’ve written enough.

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