My Favorite Things (2018) aka “Violet Brown & I on bikes”

I was sitting around thinking about ways to quietly knock the mirrors off the SUV that’s been parked in front of my house for eight days when I decided my time would be better spent making some end-of-year lists. I scribbled them down on whatever paper was handy. So here are some of the best things I heard, read, or watched in 2018:

I have also included a vintage photograph of two women riding ridiculous bicycles. The photo is here to make this post worthwhile for those of you unable (or unwilling) to read my handwriting.

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“I’m trying to bite a great big icicle in the back yard in this picture.”

(click photo to read the back)

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James Taylor & His All-Star Band @ Key Arena (6/6/18)

Beth and I saw a James Taylor concert at Key Arena a few weeks ago.  It was her first time seeing him; I believe it was my 18th.  It had been a long time for me, though.  My previous show was back on June 11th, 2008.  That’s one week shy of a decade.

The truth is I don’t listen to James Taylor that much anymore.  I purchased his most recent album, 2015’s Before This World, but it soon got filed away and I doubt I could name a song off it right now if you asked me.  I guess my fandom has waned a bit.  Still, it was lovely to see him live again after so much time.  I take great comfort in knowing James Taylor is still out there doing his thing and that his voice sounds exactly the way it did when I first caught up with him in the summer of 1992 (at my third concert ever!).  Three members of the current band–Jimmy Johnson, Kate Markowitz, and Arnold McCuller–were on stage at that concert 26 years ago.  There was a setlist overlap of 17 songs between the two shows.  Heck, some of JT’s stories and jokes from the Key Arena concert were the same ones he told back in 1992.  I like that kind of consistency and reliability…although I must admit it might be time to update a couple of those jokes.

Here’s the setlist:

First set: Carolina in My Mind / (Andrea Zonn fiddle intro)–>Country Road / Jump Up Behind Me / Never Die Young / Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight / (I’m a) Roadrunner (Jr. Walker & the All-Stars) / Nothing Like a Hundred Miles / First of May / Copperline / Handy Man (Jimmy Jones) / Mexico

Second set: Something in the Way She Moves / Sunny Skies / Walking Man / Up on the Roof (Goffin & King) / Steamroller / Sweet Baby James / Fire and Rain / Your Smiling Face / Shower the People / How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Holland-Dozier-Holland)

Encore: Shed a Little Light / In the Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett) / You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King)

As far as highlights go, I was happy to realize that the live version of “First of May” is a ba-ba song.  I also really enjoyed “Jump Up Behind Me,” “Copperline” and “Sunny Skies.”  Oh, and the hits.  So many hits.  It was such fun seeing James Taylor again that I’m even considering driving to Columbus in a couple days to see him for the 19th time.  It probably won’t happen, though.  Unlike James Taylor, my car isn’t very reliable.

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Yo La Tengo @ the Neptune Theatre (6/1/18)

[NOTE: Beth and I saw Yo La Tengo perform concerts on consecutive nights at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle a few weeks ago.  I did a quick post about the first show the morning after, but I’m just now getting around to writing about the second concert.  In situations like this, I tend to use my pen and paper journal to refresh my memory.  Sometimes I’ll even copy down what I’ve written there word-for-word.  That’s basically what I’m going to do here.  Let’s pick it up at dinner.]

Beth had bananas and rice for dinner.  I had a breakfast burrito.  Then we headed out.  Tonight’s show was 8:00 doors/9:00 show.  That’s an hour later than last night.  We bypassed the traffic and got down to the University District at around 7:20.  We went straight to the Neptune and got in line.

We were the fifth and sixth people in line and that allowed us to get even better seats than last night.  We were still in the front row of the balcony, but we were on the aisle this time and on the other side of center.  As far as seats go, ours were just about the best in the house.

I’m not usually a fan of seeing a band perform two nights in a row.  It can get repetitive and boring, especially if they play the same set both nights.  Well, I’m glad we decided to go to both shows.  Although there was an overlap of a half dozen songs between the two nights, the shows and the individual sets managed to feel entirely different.  Whereas last night’s concert was loud and full of feedback, there seemed to be more of an emphasis on quieter songs tonight…especially in the first set.  The first set highlight for me was the stretch where they played “Tears Are in Your Eyes,” “Deeper Into Movies,” and “I’ll Be Around” in a row.  It was just lovely.  Beth’s highlight was probably “Detouring America With Horns.”  She got very excited when they started playing that one.  Me, I barely recognized it.

The second set was also pretty amazing.  It opened with Georgia Hubley playing an instrumental on the acoustic guitar.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Georgia play guitar before.  I didn’t know what the song was at first, but it gradually turned into “Dream Dream Away.”  That was something to see.  Then the band continued on with some of my all-time favorite Yo La Tengo songs.  They even played two–“Sugarcube” and “Ohm”–that I’d wished for aloud during the break.  They closed out the set with my favorite of their long songs, “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind.”  I can usually do without ten-minute songs, but I like that one a lot.

Here’s the setlist (the asterisks, the little pointy thing, and parentheses mean the same thing they did in the previous post):

First set: You Are Here / She May, She Might / Detouring America With Horns / Ashes* / Let’s Do It Wrong / Tears Are in Your Eyes* / Deeper Into Movies / I’ll Be Around / Here You Are

Second set: (Instrumental)–>Dream Dream Away* / (And the Glitter Is Gone) / Upside-Down / Stockholm Syndrome^ / For You Too / Shades of Blue* / Sugarcube / Decora* / Ohm / Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind

Encore: Tell Me When It’s Over (Dream Syndicate) / Be Thankful For What You Got (William DeVaughn) / Hanky Panky Nohow* (John Cale)

The show ended with an encore set consisting of three cover songs.  Yo La Tengo stumped me with one of their covers last night, but I knew all three of these.

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Yo La Tengo @ the Neptune Theatre (5/31/18)

Beth and I headed off to the University District for the first of two nights of Yo La Tengo concerts at the Neptune Theatre.  We got in a traffic jam on the way, but still ended up arriving just as the doors opened.  We rushed upstairs and staked out the two best seats still available in the front row of the balcony.

I went to the merch table and bought us each a t-shirt designed by James McNew.  In doing so, I said something I never thought I’d say outloud.

I’d like an extra-large octopus and a large turtle.

I got a chuckle out of that.

We sat for about an hour and fifteen minutes until James, Georgia Hubley, and Ira Kaplan came on out.  They started in on “You Are Here,” the opener off their latest album, There’s a Riot Going On.  The first five minutes were nothing but jingle bells.  Then Georgia and James both started playing the drums.  Ira joined on guitar.  It went on a long time and was loud, trippy, and a lot of fun.  The same could be said for just about the entire show.  Especially the loud part.  I’d forgotten how loud Yo La Tengo can be having last seen them a couple years ago on their largely acoustic Stuff Like That There tour.

Here’s the setlist:

First set:  You Are Here / Forever / The Ballad of Red Buckets / Ashes* / She May, She Might / The Crying of Lot G / Black Flowers^ / Nowhere Near* / Here You Are

Second set:  (Out of the Pool) / Before We Run* / Moby Octopad / For You Too / Shades of Blue* / Autumn Sweater / The Story of Jazz / Nothing to Hide / Tom Courtenay / (I Heard You Looking)

Encore:  Accident^ (Electric Eels) / The River of Water / I Still Miss Someone* (Johnny Cash)

It was really a wonderful show.  Perhaps the best part is that we’ll get to do it all over again on Friday night.  I’ll bring earplugs for that one.

[NOTE: Songs marked with an asterisk were sung by Georgia Hubley.  Songs marked with a little pointy thing were sung by James McNew.  I haven’t officially confirmed the two songs in parentheses.  Those are best guesses for now.]

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Richard Buckner @ the Columbia City Theater (5/24/18)

So this old guy came up to me in the pizza restaurant all nervous-like and said “Richard” with a question mark at the end.  Confused, I gave him my best “back-the-f-up” stare and continued walking to the cash register.  Then a few seconds later I figured it out.

I was wearing my top western wear shirt at the time.  You know, the cream-colored one with the blue flowered pattern on it and the purple glass buttons.  Pretty great shirt.  I also had my hair down and it was kind of all over the place.  This is apparently what that old guy thought Richard Buckner looked like.

So he was just a fan trying to approach a musician he liked, and I basically said something very rude to him with my eyes.  Sorry, old guy.

But anyway, the real Richard Buckner was great.  He played at least one song from each of his nine solo albums, placing special emphasis on Impasse, Meadow, and Surrounded.  It had been so long since I’d heard the Impasse songs that I actually marked three of them down in my setlist notes as being new.  Richard also told a long story about trying (and often failing) to track down information about the poet Kenneth Patchen in a small Ohio town.  It was one story that he broke up into a half dozen or so chapters and told in between the songs.  There were tiny cliff-hangers and everything.  I’d never heard him do anything like that at a concert before, but I liked it.

Here’s the setlist:

Main set: Lucky / Portrait / When You Tell Me How It Is / Lil Wallet Picture / Thief / Beautiful Question / Town / A Chance Counsel / Escape / Boys, the Night Will Bury You / The Tether and the Tie / Before / (A Year Ahead)…& a Light / Ariel Ramirez / Song of 27 / Gauzy Dress in the Sun / Surrounded / Loaded @ the Wrong Door / …& the Clouds’ve Lied / Once / Count Me in on This One! / Julia Miller / Blue and Wonder

Encore: Collusion / Ed’s Song

And here are a few pictures relating to the concert:

By the way, I saw the old guy from the pizza restaurant talking to the real Richard Buckner after the show.  I’m glad he still went, realized his mistake, and learned that the real Richard Buckner isn’t as big of a jerk as I am.

[NOTE: This post was originally published on June 13th, 2018, but I have altered the date so that it fits in with the other concert write-ups chronologically.]

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Buffalo Tom @ Neumos (3/1/18)

Less than twelve hours after seeing Buffalo Tom perform an in-studio session at KEXP, Beth and I went to see them put on a proper concert at Neumos.  The venue was crowded, but we still managed to get our spot against the wall over by the bar.  Back support and access to free water are even more important than sight-lines these days.

We only had to wait a few minutes until the show began.  Buffalo Tom played two sets with no opener.  The first set consisted of hits and songs from the band’s new album, Quiet and Peace.  That set looked like this:

Hits & New Songs: Sunflower Suit / Sodajerk / Roman Cars / Tree House / Summer / I’m Allowed / Rachael / All Be Gone / Birdbrain / Kitchen Door / Tangerine

“Roman Cars” and “All Be Gone” are both new songs; they’re also two of my favorite songs so far this year.  I especially like “Roman Cars” as it’s fun to sing along to the “lights have changed” bit.  As far as the rest of the set goes, it was pretty much one, non-stop highlight.   It was especially nice to hear three songs from Big Red Letter Day.  A lot of fans swear by Let Me Come Over, but I’ve always preferred the album that followed it.  I also enjoyed hearing “Kitchen Door” and “Tangerine” close out the set.  I like Sleepy Eyed a lot, too.

During the break between the sets, Beth and I went over and bought Quiet and Peace from the merch table.  We took turns going over so that one of us was always guarding our wall space.  Valuable real estate that.

The second set consisted of Buffalo Tom playing their album Let Me Come Over in its entirety.  It should be pretty obvious what they played, but here’s that setlist all written out anyway:

Let Me Come Over: Staples / Taillights Fade / Mountains of Your Head / Mineral / Darl / Larry / Velvet Roof / I’m Not There / Stymied / Porchlight / Frozen Lake / Saving Grace

They apparently played Let Me Come Over all the way through to celebrate the album’s 25th anniversary.  Although I like Buffalo Tom enough to fly 2,000 miles to see them play, I don’t like them so much as to have memorized the release dates of their individual albums.  Still, I’m fairly confident that 2018 is actually the 25th anniversary of Big Red Letter Day.  I’m not sure why they’re still doing Let Me Come Over celebration concerts.  Maybe they had too many posters of that man in the red chair left over from last year.  I don’t know.

Regardless, the Let Me Come Over set was something of a disappointment after all the hits and excellent new songs that opened the show.  Although there are a lot of great songs on the album–“Taillights Fade” and “Velvet Roof” immediately come to mind–there are also a few weak tracks, particularly on the b-side.  I found myself kind of tuning out once “Porchlight” had been played.  I started imagining the encores.  Unfortunately, the encores were also a bit disappointing.

Encore: Crutch / The Only Living Boy in New York (Simon & Garfunkel)

The band started off the encores with the extra track from the CD version of Let Me Come Over.  Then they wrapped up the concert with the cover of “The Only Living Boy in New York” that appears as the last song on Quiet and Peace.  Buffalo Tom did a great job with it, but I seriously doubt anyone in the audience was standing around hoping they’d end the  show with a Simon & Garfunkel cover…especially when the band was still sitting on great songs like “Late at Night” and “Postcard”.  Let’s face it, the only band who should end their concert with a Simon & Garfunkel song is Simon & Garfunkel.

But anyway, here’s a picture of all the Buffalo Tom-related stuff I had sitting around once we got home after the concert.  You know, new album, old album, setlist book, and ticket stub.

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Buffalo Tom @ KEXP Studios (3/1/18)

Beth and I got up, skipped our showers, skipped our breakfasts, and hustled down the hill while still wearing at least half of the clothes we’d slept in.  Maybe we changed our socks.  So why did two people who are usually hygienic and stuffed with pastries and egg sandwiches in the morning drop their usual routines and hustle down the hill in their pajamas?  Well, we needed to get to KEXP by 7:30 to get free tickets for Buffalo Tom’s 9:00 in-studio performance.

We got tickets #2 and #3.  Woo!

Beth is more hygienic than I am, so she went back home and took a shower once we’d secured the tickets.  I just loitered at KEXP and thought a lot about mocha muffins.

Beth got back down the hill with plenty of time and we were led into the secret studio viewing area at a little before 9:00.  We then spent the next 35 minutes watching Buffalo Tom play a five-song set and talk to a radio personality-type about their new album and upcoming tour.  The whole thing was a lot of fun and a great preview of coming attractions.  That tour I mentioned actually starts tonight at Neumos.  We’ve also got tickets for that.

Here’s what the band played for the radio session:

Buffalo Tom setlist: All Be Gone / Taillights Fade / Kitchen Door / I’m Allowed / Least That We Can Do

The first and last songs are from Quiet and Peace, the new Buffalo Tom album that officially comes out tomorrow.  I’m hoping they’ll have copies available for purchase tonight, though. 

Now for that shower.

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Shelley Short, Tomo Nakayama & Tom Brosseau @ the Fremont Abbey (2/23/18)

[NOTE: Now that I’ve caught up with all the forgotten concert write-ups, I can finally concentrate on the posts documenting the shows I see going forward.  This post right here is the first of those.  Like most of my recent concert posts, this one was largely based on an entry I wrote in my pen & paper journal.  No reason to write the same thing twice in completely different styles, right?  Let’s pick up this one mid-entry.]

Eventually it was time to get up and go see Shelley Short at the Fremont Abbey.  Before that, though, we needed some dinner.  We decided to go to Domani.  It was a good choice.  We split a salad, a margherita pizza, and a slice of chocolate cake.  It was all tasty and the smooth jazz wasn’t loud enough to be distracting.  And perhaps just as important, we only had a couple blocks to walk afterwards to get to the garage and Beth’s car.  The weather was kind of iffy.

We drove to Fremont, parked, and walked over to the Abbey.  We’d seen Luluc there a couple years ago, but this show took place in the larger space upstairs.  The cathedral space, I think they call it.  We got there early enough to get one of the four tables in the back.  I bought a cider and a ginger beer–because I think you should buy something if you take a table–and we waited for the show to begin.

Shelley Short was the first of three performers…and the one we were most familiar with, having seen her open for or perform with Darren Hanlon a few times.  She came out and played a ten song set, placing special emphasis on her latest record, Pacific City.  She actually played eight of the eleven songs from it.  Pacific City is one of my favorite albums from 2017, so it was nice to hear most of it live.  The two non-Pacific City songs were folk covers, one an old standard and the other a cover by a mysterious singer from the 50s named Connie Converse.  Here’s the setlist:

Shelley Short setlist: Muddy River / Hares on the Mountain (traditional) / Fearless / Simple As That / Wagoner’s Lad (a cappella) / Hills and Tracks / Death / Trouble (Connie Converse) / Fool Babe / (guy goes into the library and orders fish & chips joke) / September

Shelley Short was great.  This was the first time I’d seen her without Darren Hanlon on the bill, but I found that I didn’t miss him as much as I thought I might.  Shelley’s a fine solo performer; the only time I thought of Darren was during the song “Hills and Tracks”.  He contributed vocals to that song on Pacific City, so there was a bit of a hole there during the live performance.  No big deal, though.

The next performer was Tomo Nakayama.  I think I once saw his old band Grand Hallway at a Capitol Hill Block Party.  I don’t remember much about them, but I really enjoyed his solo show tonight.  He covered one of Townes Van Zandt’s best songs and then broke my heart a little bit by singing a song about his recently-deceased cat, Gilda.  He claimed to have written the entire song during Shelley Short’s set.  Here’s what Tomo played:

Tomo Nakayama setlist: Bright and Blue / Darkest of Seasons / Fallen Cedar / If I Needed You (Townes Van Zandt) / Cold Clear Moon / Pieces of Sky / Song For Gilda (work in progress) / Roscoe (What a Gift) (Grand Hallway)

Tom Brosseau was ostensibly the headliner, but quite a few people left after Tomo Nakayama’s performance.  Tomo’s from Seattle, so it makes sense that he’d have a local contingent who’d come and pack his performance.  Tom’s from North Dakota and I guess there aren’t many of them in Seattle.  Those who stuck around–and it was the vast majority of the audience–definitely made the right choice.  Tom Brosseau was a lot of fun.  He’s more of a troubadour, storyteller type-of-singer.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that he was talking at least a third of the time he was up on stage.  I would normally find that kind of thing annoying, but Tom was charming and had a way with words and presentation, so I didn’t mind.  Although all of his songs were enjoyable, I found myself occasionally wishing he’d finish whatever he was playing so we could get to the next story.  That’s never happened before.  Here are the songs he played with little notes about the stories:

Tom Brosseau setlist: (Lock, CA–>Ace Hotel–>introduction–>tuning) / My Favorite Color Blue / I Wanna Be a Van Zandt (unreleased) / Love Cannot Die (new) / Rope Stretchin’ Blues, Part 1 (Blind Blake) / (weather–>bought a sweater) / “I feel something that I can’t explain” / Today Is a Bright New Day / Jane and Lou / (no time for the cave diving short story–>”lotta sad songs on this list”–>family stories) / I Found a Horseshoe

Tom Brosseau encore: Soldiers Beyond the Blue (Carter Family – duet with Shelley Short) / Walk Through an Autumn Day (new) / Jingle Bells Help Me Get Drunk (wtf)

We’d thought about calling it a night after Tomo Nakayama’s set and skipping Tom Brosseau entirely, but I’m glad we stuck around for him.  Although I’d never even heard of him before, I enjoyed his performance and now consider myself a fan.  And I know I’ll never forget that totally absurd song he closed his set with…no matter how long I live.  It was also nice to hear Shelley Short sing a little bit more during the encore set.

All told it was a great night of live music.  My only regret is that we didn’t stick around at the end and buy that lovely tour poster at the merch table.  I’m sure the singers would’ve been happy to sign it.  It would’ve been a fine addition to the collection.  Oh well.

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Bootleg Yeti and the State of Things

2017 is over.  It’ll go down in my history as being the year I forgot to get any haircuts at all, and for that time I mucked up my knee in the Lego Store while trying to make a Darren Hanlon minifigure out of spare parts.  It was also the year Beth made me a Bootleg Yeti Uglydoll.  It took six months, but we’re both quite happy with the results.  Here it is:

2018 is here.  So far, it’s the year everything with a battery–phone, garage door opener, car–konks out all at once.  It’s a good thing Bootleg Yeti is full of fluff.

That’s all I have to say about the past or the present.  I’m here to talk about the future…specifically the future of this website.  I’m going to start a new series of posts in the upcoming weeks called The Forgotten Concerts of 2017.  The series is going to deal with the shows I attended last year that I never got around to writing about.  There should be six or seven of them (some of which might actually be of interest to a couple of you).  I’ve got the marquees, setlists, ticket scans, and blurry stage shots ready; I’ve just got to come up with the blathering.  The concert write-ups were always some of my favorite posts, so I want to fill in the gaps in the history and concentrate on those going forward.  I wouldn’t expect much else to happen around here.

I’ll add the forgotten concerts down here as I write and post them:

And here are the two forgotten concerts from 2012:

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