One of the best individual issues of any magazine I’ve ever read was issue #10 (July-August 1997) of No Depression, the alternative country bimonthly. It had a Whiskeytown cover, a Jayhawks story, and introduced me to the music of Alejandro Escovedo. I subscribed to the magazine and kept it going until around 2004. The magazine lost its focus somewhere around then and I lost interest. No Depression finally shut down last year, but it’s back as a website I’ve never visited.
In addition to the website, the No Depression gang recently put together the first annual No Depression Festival, an all-day celebration of twang, bad tattoos, and babies in western wear. Having nothing better to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, we decided to give it try. We rented a ZipCar and drove out to Redmond’s Marymoor Park.
2:00 – No Depression All Star Revue – We got to the park at around 2:15, so we didn’t get to hear everything. Sera Cahoone’s song was good, but we missed Mark Pickerel. Boo!
3:00 – Jessica Lea Mayfield – I liked her first few songs, but she quickly became repetitive and slightly boring. Fortunately, she managed to liven things up at the end with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love”.
4:00 – Justin Townes Earle – My concert-going partner thought he was cute and rushed out the very next day to buy both of his records. I liked his cover of “Can’t Hardly Wait” by the Replacements, but I kept wishing those in charge of booking had sprung for Steve instead of his son.
5:00 – Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter – I saw this band a couple years ago opening for Sparklehorse in Boston. If I recall correctly, I fell asleep standing up at that show. At least I had a blanket spread out on the ground for this one. I read Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix and tried to ignore Jesse’s caterwauling.
6:05 – Patterson Hood & the Screwtopians – Patterson Hood was cool, but he’s much better with his usual band, the Drive-By Truckers.
7:25 – Iron & Wine – This hour-long set was, by far, the highlight of the entire No Depression Festival. Iron & Wine blew every other performer right off the stage. The highlight of the set was getting to hear Sam Beam sing the greatest Iron & Wine song of all, “The Trapeze Swinger”. It just a beautiful song. It was one of the best live performances I’ve ever witnessed…even if he did flub up the lines a bit at the end. Here’s the setlist:
Setlist: Such Great Heights/Woman King/Naked As We Came/A History of Lovers/Fever Dream/The Trapeze Swinger/Jezebel/Lion’s Mane/New Song (“yonder come a dead man singing a song…”)/Upward Over the Mountain/Boy With a Coin/Sodom, South Georgia/Flightless Bird, American Mouth
“Flightless Bird, American Mouth” finished up and, for the first time all day, the crowd was into it and calling out for more. Instead of an encore, though, the festival’s organizer came onstage to tell us her life story. No one cares. Put on a bra.
8:45 – Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – I have never heard anyone say anything negative about Gillian Welch. I think everyone likes her. She writes beautiful songs, has a tremendous voice, and is smart enough to bring David Rawlings along wherever she goes to keep things interesting. Still, after Iron & Wine’s set, listening to Gillian Welch felt sort of anti-climactic. We stuck around for four or five songs and then decided to call it a day. We headed back to our car, found a raspberry sitting on its antenna, and then drove back to Seattle.