Over the course of this year I have had the opportunity to see some outstanding concerts, meet new people who share the same passion as I do about music, and shed some light on my opinions and thoughts about the world of music in the creation of this blog. I'm disappointed that I've not been able to update this site as often as someone like Heather's, but satisfied that I've had the ability to reach out to so many viewers.
Instead of doing a top ten albums or top ten artists of the year I have decided to create a list of the best song heard live from each of the concerts I attended this year. Some of these artists appear twice (311 and Pete Yorn.... an odd pair), and I will include a short recap of each show. It's been a great year, I've seen an outstanding lineup of bands, and now it's time to share what I feel is the highlight of each show.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club played at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis back in February. Their studio work is outstanding, but they've got major issues with the sound engineers while touring. At first I thought the venue just didn't provide a good live sound, but I've attended two other shows since then that had wonderful acoustics. The sound was so bad that the only recognizable song I could tell was played that night was Ain't No Easy Way, so this is all I've got.
March 11, 3/11, 311
Five guys, one Elvis impersonator, twenty-man drumline, SIXTY-FIVE songs......... all in a day's work. Known as 311 Day, the city of New Orleans has adopted March 11 as 311 Day for the last few years. But since Hurricane Katrina took its toll on the city, the band took a short drive up I-55 to the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. After being inside this venue I am convinced it is older than the Colosseum in Greece. My friend Steve and I have seen 311 a few times before but had never been to a 311 Day show. The show was a whopping five hours long. Steve's favorite song is Gap. It's a rarely played, relatively unknown, short, simple, song with a decent blend of pop and punk. Five songs into the show Steve decides to brave using the facilities. First song played after his departure? Gap. I sang away with an empty seat next to me while others around me wondered how I knew the song so well. It takes me back a few years whenever I hear it, and that's why it's my choice of this show.
Pearl Jam/My Morning Jacket
I was at work in the middle of running cameras for the 10 o'clock newscast when I got the phone call. Brennan and Tyler were at Pearl Jam, Night #1, Chicago. I couldn't tell what song was being played in the background but I did hear "Ha ha ha, we're rocking out to Pearl Jam tonight and you're stuck at work! Sucker!" Now, I had no intentions on making it to either show because I couldn't afford it, didn't ask off from work, and didn't ask anyone else if they were interested in going. But when I got that phone call everything changed. Less than twelve hours later I was on the road. I bought tickets that morning, so of course I didn't get priority seating from my Ten Club membership. Instead I got one hell of a view..... from behind the stage. My Morning Jacket opened and rocked. Flat-out rocked. Of course they played One Big Holiday, but the best of the bunch was Off the Record. I got to see Hammond B-3'er Boom hanging out with the guitar techs during songs he wasn't involved with, drummer Matt Cameron has two "personal assistants" sitting behind him throughout the show, fetching water or drumsticks, and I got a great view of guitarist Mike McCready's guitar closet. It's huge. The most vivid highlight of the show seeing a girl behind me who seemed uninterested in the majority of the show instantly explode; screaming every syllable to every word of Crown of Thorns. I posted the video clips from my digicam on Youtube. Here is Elderly Woman, Insignificance, and the end of the show. (Yes, I cheated and layered the audio from the bootleg with the video from my camera. Or do you think you would like to hear distorted garbage instead?)
Just a few days later I was in St. Louis to see HIM. HIM is a heavy metal band that play ballads, smoke lots of cigarettes, and drink heavily. If you've ever seen Viva La Bam or anything Jackass related there is a good chance you've heard something from these guys. The opening act, Aiden, will be remembered for having the lead singer with the ability to swing his microphone cord all over and not hit anyone onstage, including himself. Unfortunately, HIM's lead singer, Ville Valo, smokes too much and had to end the show early because he had an asthma attack. Only nine songs were played, but I did manage to hear what I wanted. Right Here in My Arms isn't too harsh on the ears.
Black Crowes/Robert Randolph/Drive-by Truckers
The only show I attended in the month of June was all I needed. It was the trifecta of great American rock and roll. The Black Crowes were in town, with The Drive-by Truckers and Robert Randolph and the Family Band as supporting acts. DBT played a short set of only eight or nine songs, with The Day John Henry Died being the highlight. Even though it wasn't as powerful as their Bonnaroo performance from a year earlier it still drew a caring response from the crowd. Robert Randolph soon followed, playing long extended versions of Going in the Right Direction, Nobody, and several others. The biggest jam of the night was Squeeze. The Black Crowes came out with a roaring Virtue and Vice. Soul Singing, A Conspiracy, Jealous Again, and even The Seeker were stretched from their normal durations into nine to ten minute long jam sessions. Their setlists are short because the songs are rarely less than six to seven minutes, so the chances of getting to hear one particular song that isn't a radio hit are pretty rare. During a long transition from Ballad in Urgency into something new, I realized I was about to hear Wiser Time. Make fun of me, call me a weirdo, whatever... but I often think of the phrase "fourteen seconds to sunrise". No one ever tracks it down to the second. They do, and I love every second of this song. (pun intended)
During my day in University City (St. Louis) to see Pete Yorn, I met some of the greatest people I've ever met on the day of a concert. Blueberry Hill was the venue, and I spent much of the afternoon soaking up the A/C, watching the Cards game, and drinking beers with regulars and newbies like myself. We complained about the game and the heat, but were anxious to see some Yorn. Earlier in the day Pete finished up an in-store performance at a record shop down the street and was signing autographs afterwards. As he signed my cd liner I asked him to play Undercover. Before he handed my new piece of rockabilia back to me he looked at what he had just written, as if he was studying the name he just signed. Later on that night he explained his actions in the middle of the show. "I had a friend ask me to play a song earlier today, and after looking through my setlists from all the other shows I realized I haven't played it yet. So here's a rare one... this song is called Undercover." He didn't say my name out loud (that would have been really cheesy, a guy dedicating a song to another guy), but he spotted me in the crowd and gave me a nod. I gave an approving reply. I want to thank the person who took a picture at the same time as I did. Their flash provided excellent lighting for a great shot.
This show was my least favorite 311 show. It was chock-full of their radio friendly songs and offered little variety. Perhaps seeing them play over 60 songs last time creates high expectations from that point on. Keeping the ball rolling, I have to pick a favorite song from their setlist.... so.... You Wouldn't Believe will do. I got to see Pepper, a Hawaiian band with a rough So-Cal sound reminiscent of the Sublime days. They garnered a loud ovation and cleared off the stage to make way for The Wailers. Great rasta-reggae music from a legendary band. It was pretty hard to avoid the contact-high after they hit the stage! (another pun intended)
I've done this review already. It's right here. I will tell you the best song Jon played that night was Three Doors. Download it NOW. Don't ever give Mardo a dime of your hard-earned money because they are arrogant assholes who don't deserve the attention, let alone the royalties. Supporting Murder Happens would be like supporting the goth-kids hanging out at the mall so they can go to Spencer's and buy the newest Slipknot poster.
I'd rather focus more on Minibar than Pete this time around. I did a little bit of a review last month and was much more intrigued by his supporting band. Minibar consists of Simon Petty on vocals, Tim Walker on guitar. Sid Jordan plays bass while Malcolm Cross smashes away at the drums. I didn't realize until this night that Minibar is more than just a band that plays around Pete, but they've got two of their own albums. Trouble is, these albums are scarce and difficult to get a hold of. From what I heard them play this night, they have a crafty way of blending a soft country ballad with an upbeat rock song that has every muscle in your body pulsing to the beat. I can't tell you the name of a single song they played that night. But I can tell you that when they came back out to backup Pete, they gave every ounce of energy to Alive. This show was partially blurred by lots of draft beer so this review won't be much clearer than the one I attempted the morning after.
Old Crow Medicine Show
The review I attempted for this show has proven to me that I just need to keep it simple and provide the high points of the show.
What did I love the most about this show?
The bands' opening song, Tear it Down. Pure acoustic energy. It gets the crowd fired up fast. I loved the age gap in the audience. Beside me was a man in his mid 60s, another well into his 70s standing in front of me with a tall draft beer in hand. I loved seeing the couple that brought their six-year-old, wearing headphones to protect his ears so he can enjoy fine live music like this for a long time coming. I love the fact that I could have taken my grandparents to a concert and we all would have come home satisfied and thirsting for more. I love the fact that Kevin Hayes' played his guitjo with such intensity he had to step away from the mic two or three times per song to silence the howling feedback. I loved seeing the guy wearing a Dimebag Darrell shirt because it says hey, anyone can like these guys. I loved the song on their new album, Let it Alone. I love the chorus line:
let it alone
let it alone
if it don't concern you let alone
if you don't know say so
mind your own business and let it alone
And finally I love that they ended the show with a cover of Dire Straits' Walk of Life, with the cheesy electronic keyboard replaced with an accordion.
While standing in line for this show my friend Tyler spotted Andrew, the lead singer, standing in front of his bus and talking on his cell phone. Having had a few drinks in his system already, Tyler urged me to join him in going over to say hi to Andrew. I reluctantly agreed and we made our way over to greet him. I "pounded knuckles" with him as Tyler told him they were going to be awesome. He seemed annoyed. Anyway, there was an opening band that nearly put me to sleep and I can't tell you their name. The Silversun Pickups, intended to be the second act, bailed out for some reason. That meant the first band got to play an extended set, which was really unfortunate. Wolfmother came out and the crowd exploded. They open with Dimension, scream through their entire album, and even play Communication Breakdown. Colossal was the highlight for me though. It was full of keyboard solos, long electric guitar breaks, and a moment with Chris Ross playing bass and keyboards at the same time. Wow.
That does it everybody. I've met some great people on this blogspot community that I feel like I've known much longer than the six months I've been doing this. To Heather, Kraig, all of my friends in South America, thanks for keeping me motivated to make something out of this blog. It keeps my writing skills fresh. I'll sign off the year with one song from a show I dearly wish I COULD have seen. Ryan Adams, August 2. It is the inspiration behind the little quote below this blog's title. This is it, everybody, this is it. Happy New Year.