Alejandro Escovedo @ the Taft Theatre Ballroom (5/3/16)

I went downtown on Tuesday night and saw Alejandro Escovedo perform a concert at the Taft Theatre Ballroom.  It was a great show, but a strange one for me.  You see, the concert marked the first time I’ve seen the singer in a venue that wasn’t the Southgate House.  I spent much of Wednesday night digging around in my black trunk in an attempt to determine how many times I actually saw him at my old haunt.  It took me hours of sorting through ticket stubs, scribbled setlists, and journal entries, but I eventually confirmed that I saw Alejandro Escovedo at the Southgate House seven different times going back to 1999.  I made a chart to help keep track of the dates and am including it in this post so I won’t have to redo my research the next time he comes to town.

escovedo timelineNot only was this the first time I’ve seen Alejandro Escovedo in a place that wasn’t the Southgate House, but it was the first time I’ve ever seen a show at the Taft Theatre Ballroom (or “The Ballroom at the Taft Theatre”, as it says on the ticket).

escovedo ticketDespite this fancy name, it’s really just the basement.

I think the fact that I was seeing Alejandro Escovedo in a new venue made this show unlike any of the others I’ve seen.  It was still a great performance, but it felt different.  Have you ever seen a person somewhere far away from the place you usually associate with them?  Like seeing your yoga instructor at the flea market?  Or catching sight of the librarian picking out a cantaloupe at the grocery?  It’s weird.  There’s a disconnect.  Most of this concert felt like that.

I did my best to get over the weirdness by doing what I always do at concerts: take notes in a Moleskine with a red pen.  Here’s what I came away with:

escovedo setlistThe words in parentheses are just reminders of the stories Alejandro Escovedo told in between the songs.  As you can see, he was quite talkative.  I usually find this annoying, but the man is a talented storyteller and I never drifted or wished he’d shut up and get on with it.  Did you know his band the Nuns opened up for the final Sex Pistols concert?  Did you know he wears Nudie brand jeans?  Did you know his niece was engaged to Prince?  All of this is true.

Here’s that setlist cleaned up with the story bits taken out:

Main set: Five Hearts Breaking / Bottom of the World / Sally Was a Cop / Rosalie / San Antonio Rain / Chelsea Hotel ’78 / Down in the Bowery / Arizona / Velvet Guitar / Always a Friend (contained a few lines of the Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears”)

Encore: Sister Lost Soul / Castanets

This show was officially billed as the Alejandro Escovedo Trio and featured cello, keys, and guitar.  Alejandro played an acoustic guitar on all the songs except for one, “Chelsea Hotel ’78”.  This song was definitely the low point of the evening, but it had little to do with the electric guitar.  It had more to do with the fact that he sang it with a strange microphone that muffled the words and made them sound like they were coming from a bullhorn.  That mic had been put to good use on parts of “Sally Was a Cop”, but I didn’t care to hear it for an entire song.

Fortunately, there were plenty of highlights.  The lovely version of “Five Hearts Breaking” that opened the show comes to mind.  I was also fond of “Rosalie”, “Velvet Guitar”, and the last song of the main set, “Always a Friend”.  That one featured a portion of “The Tracks of My Tears” near the end.  It was quite touching.  Strangely enough, it was as close as we came to a cover song during this entire show.  I guess that’s another way this concert was different from the ones I saw at the Southgate House; there were usually two or three covers at each of those.  Over the years I heard Alejandro Escovedo cover the Velvet Underground, David Bowie, the Gun Club, Mott the Hoople, and the Rolling Stones.  Those covers were always among the highlights of the night.

Perhaps the best song of this night was the very last song.  “Castanets” is such a fun one to hear live.  By that point, I wasn’t all hung up on the Kiwanis Club-vibe of the venue or thinking about how special those Southgate House shows were.  I was just having fun seeing one of my favorite singers perform and already wondering when I’d get to see him again.  I don’t care where the show is, I want to see Alejandro Escovedo a ninth time!

escovedo flyer (100)

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Mark Pickerel @ Sea-Tac Airport (4/7/16)

Beth was driving me to the airport on Thursday morning at the tail end of my recent Seattle visit.  As often happens, the conversation turned to musical topics.  We expressed our mutual disappointment in not having seen Mark Pickerel working at the Easy Street Records in West Seattle the day before.  If you’re not familiar with Mark, he’s something of a local music legend with a career that goes all the way back to the mid-80s.  He drummed in Screaming Trees, recorded with members of Nirvana, and was in the bands Truly and the Dark Fantastic.  More recently, he’s released three great albums under the name Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands.

Perhaps more important than Mark Pickerel’s many musical accomplishments is the fact that he’s officially Beth’s “rock star crush”.  It’s always a treat for her when we happen to be shopping on a day when he’s picking up a shift at the record store.  And it’s always a little disappointing when we go out to Easy Street only to find the regular, run-of-the-mill record store clerks working.  (I also enjoy Mark Pickerel sightings as he’s got a terrific sense of style and amazing hair.  Whenever I see him, I come away thinking that I should dress better and stop giving myself haircuts.)

So we were in the car talking about Mark Pickerel and wondering where he is these days. Then, little over an hour later, we said our goodbyes and I went through airport security.  The other side of security is usually the saddest of places, but I’d only walked a hundred yards or so when I came upon this guy performing outside of the Sub Pop shop (as part of Sea-Tac’s City of Music program).  It’s Mark Pickerel!

mark pickerel at the airport

(Mark Pickerel at the airport)

I talked to Mark for a couple minutes, told him about Beth’s crush and our recent trip to Easy Street, and bought a copy of his latest album.  Then I stood around for 35 minutes and listened to him play for passersby and their rolling suitcases.  I ended up hearing eleven complete songs.  Most of them were covers, but there were at least three originals in there, including a new one that mentioned “throwing rattlesnakes at rocks”.  I’d forgotten how much I like Mark Pickerel’s voice.

Here’s the setlist:

Setlist: … / Back Room of the Bar (Young Fresh Fellows)  / Crescent City (Lucinda Williams) / Be Here to Love Me (Townes Van Zandt) / One More Cup of Coffee (Bob Dylan) / You’ll Be Mine / Rattlesnakes at Rocks / Don’t Look Back / Waiting on a Friend (Rolling Stones) / Back to Black (Amy Winehouse) / Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone (Willie Nelson & others) / Diggy Liggy Lo (Rusty and Doug Kershaw) / …

I kept looking at my watch to make sure I didn’t miss my flight.  I eventually decided I was cutting it too close, so I thanked Mark for his songs and headed to my departure gate.  The rest of the day consisted of two attempts at a landing, rushing through the longest airport ever only to find myself faced with a two-hour delay, and Delta baggage handlers crushing the shit out of my Jimmy Stewart suitcase (RIP).  Needless to say, stumbling upon Mark Pickerel singing at the airport proved to be the highlight of my day.

Oh, and the last thing Mark said to me as I was walking away was, “Say hi to your girlfriend for me.”

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Luluc @ the Cincinnati Masonic Center (3/20/16)

Last weekend at around this time I headed off to see one of my favorite bands perform a concert in the most mysterious building in town.  Yes, I went to see Luluc play at the Cincinnati Masonic Center (a building I’ve wanted to see the inside of for almost 20 years).  I drove downtown, found my usual parking space on Sentinel, and then got in the long line outside the building.

cincinnati masonic center (exterior)

I eventually got in and found a good seat in the auditorium.  I was at the end of the aisle up near the front and had a clear, unimpeded view of the stage.  Luluc came on at 7:30.  Some New York radio DJ interviewed them for a couple minutes and then they began their set.

Luluc was just as good as I remembered them and sounded great in the large auditorium.  The audience was quiet during the performance and generous with the between-song cheering.  Unfortunately, Luluc was the first of three performers on the bill, so they were only able to play an eight song, 40 minute set.  They performed seven songs from Passerby (my #1 album of 2014) and “Little Suitcase” from Dear Hamlyn.  The whole set was wonderful, but the highlights for me were “Reverie on Norfolk,” “Small Window,” and “Tangled Heart”.

Here’s the setlist:

Setlist: Winter Is Passing / Reverie on Norfolk / Little Suitcase / Without a Face / Small Window / Senja / Tangled Heart / Star


The next performer was Sam Amidon.  I listened to two of his songs, but it soon became apparent that the building was more interesting than he was.  I got up to wander around.  The first thing I saw out in the main hall was a confounded-looking usher eyeing a fresh splatter of pungent vomit soaking into the masonic carpet.  I sidestepped that and explored the parts of the building open to the public.  It’s a splendid place that seemed like a combination of a labyrinth and the Nazi castle from Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade.

I later headed back toward the auditorium to catch the first song of the Punch Brothers’ headlining performance.  I lost my taste for it almost immediately when a green-faced hipster wannabe walked by and proceeded to collapse to his knees and vomit a watery puke all over the carpet.  He went on and on and on.  Whatever the Punch Brothers were doing onstage couldn’t drown out the sound of the vomit splashes playing on repeat in my mind.  I went home and watched Elementary.

Bonus interior shots!

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Jimmy Webb @ the 20th Century Theatre (2/24/16)

Written Before the Show
After much debate, I have decided to walk the two and a half miles to see Jimmy Webb put on a concert at the 20th Century Theatre tonight.  Jimmy Webb, of course, is something of an American songwriting legend.  He’s responsible for a lot of songs you know (even if you don’t know you know) and a few songs that I hold in very high regard.  His “If These Walls Could Speak” and “Rosecrans Boulevard” are both on my current list of 100 all-time favorite songs.  His much more famous “Galveston” is one of the first songs I remember hearing as a child.  I was probably five-years-old.  It made me sad.

Here’s the stuff I’ll be bringing with me to the concert:

concert supplies

(concert supplies)

I might also have to bring an umbrella as it’s supposed to rain tonight.

(I’ll write the “review” down here when I get home.  You know…the setlist, marquee shot, tales of annoying audience members, etc.  Stop back if you’re interested in such things.)

Written After the Show
Well, it turned cold and rainy, so I ended up driving to the venue.  I got there about a half hour before showtime and staked out a table toward the back.  I read until Jimmy Webb came out at a little after 7:00.  He sat down at his piano and proceeded to play “The Highwayman”, a song about reincarnation that I’d developed an appreciation for only a few hours earlier.  The fact that he opened the show with a song I’d been analyzing earlier in the day felt like a sign that I’d made the right choice in buying my ticket.

I learned something about Jimmy Webb after the first song that I hadn’t known before and never would’ve guessed…he’s a talker.  He told a story about Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Farm Aid, and the song he’d just played.  It was a good story with some humorous bits, but it seemed to go on longer than necessary.  It ended up being one of the more concise stories of the night.

I was happy when Jimmy stopped talking and started playing “Galveston”, a song that I mentioned above as being important in my early years as a music fan.  He followed that with a lengthy tale about his childhood spent performing in his father’s church and how his mother used to threaten him with a stick if he didn’t practice his piano.  This, of course, led to an instrumental version of “Amazing Grace”.

From there, the stories picked up again with a young Jimmy Webb moving out to California and developing his skills as a songwriter for Motown.  He played brief snippets of songs that were important to him at the time and talked some about Glen Campbell and Johnny Rivers.  Both singers recorded successful versions of one of Jimmy’s most famous songs, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”.  It took him awhile to get there, but that was the next full song he played.

I zoned out a bit while Jimmy Webb talked about the power of prayer, but came to when he began discussing his work with the 5th Dimension.  He played a version of their big hit, “Up, Up and Away”.  It’s a goofy song about riding in a hot air balloon, but it’s clear that he’s still proud that it won all those Grammys back in 1968.  He followed the song with a funny story about how his father squashed a rumor that the song was about drugs.  All it took was a gun and a bible.

The next story was a long, convoluted one about meeting Richard Harris and going over to England to help him with his plans for an album.  I think everyone in the theatre thought this story was leading up to “MacArthur Park”, but Jimmy got sidetracked by all the women he met in England and was soon going on about Art Garfunkel, of all people.  This eventually led to a performance of Art’s hit, “All I Know”.  This was a song I enjoyed as a teenager back when I used to check out Garfunkel from the library every other week, so it was nice to hear it performed live.

The next story was an incredibly sad one about Glen Campbell accidentally singing “Wichita Lineman” two times in a row during a concert in Australia.  The story made me uncomfortable, so I was very happy when Jimmy finished it and played the song himself.  It was probably his best performance of the night.  It definitely overshadowed the song that followed, “Do What You Gotta Do”.

Jimmy then picked up where he’d left off with his Richard Harris story.  This time it did, in fact, lead to a performance of “MacArthur Park”.  This song takes a lot of heat and often appears on lists of the worst songs ever.  All I can say is that Jimmy Webb’s live solo version was quite good.  I missed the harpsichord from the original, but Jimmy’s piano playing was impressive.  “MacArthur Park” is a pretty good song if you disregard the fact that it was originally recorded by Albus Dumbledore.  And there really was a birthday cake left out in the rain.  He didn’t make that up.

There was a brief encore break.  Jimmy Webb shook some hands and the audience clapped a bunch.  I also clapped, but I spent most of the break trying to figure out how he’d only managed to perform nine songs in over an hour and a half.  Our Jimmy…he’s a rambler.  He sat back down at his piano and closed out the night with an audience request of a song called “Campo de Encino”.  It was the only song of the night that I wasn’t familiar with.  As such, it wasn’t the ideal ending for me.  I’m sure the woman who requested it walked out thrilled, though.

jimmy webb marquee

(Jimmy Webb marquee)

Here’s the setlist:

Main set: The Highwayman / Galveston / Amazing Grace / (My Christmas Tree) / (Poor Side of Town) / By the Time I Get to Phoenix / (Turn Around, Look at Me) / Up, Up and Away / (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing) / All I Know / Wichita Lineman / Do What You Gotta Do / MacArthur Park

Encore: Campo de Encino

The song titles in parentheses were just snippets of a line or two played to emphasize something Jimmy was talking about in between proper songs; they weren’t full, official performances.  The four of them added together probably took no more than a minute.  So if you’re the Danish dude who likes to cut and paste my setlist notes into that famously inaccurate website, you should definitely leave out the snippets.

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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 Theater (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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