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Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 66
Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 66
3/22/08 Chatham County Line, House concert. There was something very cool about hanging out watching basketball on TV on a Saturday afternoon and having my seven-year old shout from the front room, “The band’s here!”
Their load-in/set up/sound check was among the more unique we’ve witnessed. Shortly after hanging their big ol’ North Carolina flag in the window behind the “stage”, they had us put away our mics, stands and monitors, setting up their trademark, solitary high-quality microphone, front and center. Their sound-check version of “Whipping Boy” sounded fine from the back yard, where Ray and I were throwing the baseball around.
This being the Saturday of the first round of the NCAA tournament, these North Carolina boys buddied right up to the cooler and the TV shortly after their sound check. Nancy fed them barbeque and shortly thereafter, about 70 people filled the place up.
The band (upright bass, banjo, mandolin/fiddle and guitar/vocals) instantly won everyone over with their musicianship and the warm feel of the interplay of the acoustic instruments huddled round the one microphone. Early on, they did my favorite song from their current IV album, “The Carolinian”, John’s high harmonies adding to the lonesome feel of Dave’s sad story-song. I think I heard Vickie say “I got a little tear” at the end. Another sad one followed; the slower “One More Minute” featured bowed bass while the banjo kept quiet. Things picked back up (and then some) with the speedy mandolin-driven instrumental, “Butterwheel”. These guys mix their sound in the traditional bluegrass way…instruments get louder (and softer) in the mix by how near (and far) they are from the microphone. This has led them to develop some smooth choreography, as they move in and out while steering clear of each other.
Next came “Route 23”. Vivid imagery, tight harmonies and breathtaking instrumental interplay flesh out this sad song about a rural gas station that slowly goes under after the new interstate highway diverts all of its customers. When Dave sings “with that new highway, no one stops here any more…” it could also metaphorically apply to all of the mom and pop book stores and record stores that have given way to the likes of Amazon and iTunes. Would it be ironic to point out that there’s a nice video of them doing this song on youtube? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaedjXB4Foo&eurl=http://www.chathamcountyline.com/Films/Route%2023.htm
Other highlights of set one included “Gunfight in Durango” (this fiddle/banjo instrumental reminds me of the livelier moments on Dylan’s “Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid” soundtrack), “Engine No. 709” (Greg got that tick, tick, tick sound going on his upright bass) and “Come Back To Me” (Dave with impressive flat-picking leads). They closed out set one with “Chip Of A Star” the opening song from IV. It has a delicate, dreamy quality akin to The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Ripplin’ Waters”.
Set two opened with the traditional-sounding “Lonesome in Caroline” and the peppy “Nowhere To Sleep”. “By The Riverside” was preceded by a nice dedication to John Hartford…toward the end of it, Dave threw in the chorus to his original, “Song For John Hartford” and closed it out with a few harmonica lines. Other set two highlights included “Paige” (a solo mandolin instrumental that sounds like one of those traditional reels), “Whippin’ Boy” (Dave on mandolin, Chandler on vocals & guitar, John on fiddle), “Speed of the Whippoorwill” (Greg bowed his bass, John on mournful fiddle), “WSM (650)” (another of Dave’s rich, tuneful story-songs), “Let It Rock” and “Big Creek” (a fiddle-driven instrumental). This was one of those rare moments when I was hearing a band right at that peak period of time, just as I’m falling in love with their material, but haven’t reached a saturation point yet…at many points, I was lost in the moment, not much caring about what else might be going on around me. They ended this set with “Birmingham Jail”, the dark, dissonant fiddle supporting the disturbing tone of the lyrics.
Given the tight quarters, they passed on exiting and re-entering the room and almost instantly reassembled for a two-song encore: a warm, glowing version of The Travelling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care” and “Thanks”, the closing track from their current album. Immediately after, they genially held court, selling and signing merch and saying “thanks” to all the praise being heaped on them.
At about midnight (or so), after everyone had left and Chandler had gone to bed, Greg (bass), John (mandolin) and Dave (guitar) came back in from the fire out back, stood around the mic and sang another 6 or 8 songs in street clothes...a bunch of "work-in-progress" originals and Neil Young's "Out On the Weekend", complete with those haunting harmonica parts. The "audience" was just Nancy and me. The following morning, we fed 'em all burritos. They were all very gracious and seemed to enjoy the gig and the setting. They hit the road around 9AM. 14 hours back to Raleigh.
3/28/08 Rough Shop CD release party, Schlafly Bottleworks. By the time I showed up, there was already a pretty big crowd of familiar faces and the band had already played a set and a half. Apparently, they dedicated this set to me for lending them the PA head through which their sound was being amplified. I’m not sure what the parameters/protocol was…attribute it to the fact that there was no cover charge, or that this space is a bar first and a music venue only secondarily, but everyone (myself included) was freely yakking away with the music playing in the background. The band seemed OK with it and nobody was being shooshed.
Scattered songs I remember through the chatter and the beer: “Everything You Love” (Anne), “Roland The Thompson Gunner” (John), “Catfish John” (Andy) and “Cold Grey Light Of Dawn” (Spencer). Spencer and Anne sang “Hearts On Fire” (a tune-up for their participation in tomorrow’s local Gram Parsons tribute night). Now I gotta buy the new CD they released tonight and give it a proper listen.
3/29/08 Gram Parsons tribute night, Off Broadway. Tonight’s event (a benefit for KDHX) was the brainchild of Scott Swartz (steel guitar player for The Linemen). Apparently, there was much organizational wrangling and many emails went around sorting out who would play which GP songs. By the time Nancy and I had done a bunch of family-related stuff, Rough Shop (glad I got to hear Spencer and Anne sing their GP songs last night) and a couple of other bands had already played and the place was packed. Off Broadway is probably the most awkward club in town, when it comes to arriving late to a crowded show; you walk in right beside the stage and can’t really go to where the (occupied) seats are or hang where the (occupied) barstools are, so you just kinda have to make your way to that back corner and hope you can stay out of people’s way. Fortunately, people tend to be less territorial when you know them; lots of friendly faces in the room tonight.
(band names and songs emailed to me by Scott…my memory isn’t this good, so this may not be 100% accurate):
The first couple of bands we heard applied fairly standard country-rock, bar-band treatment to songs we all love: Auset/Kevin Bilchik did “Sin City”, “Juanita” and “I Am A Pilgrim”. Kip Loui/Cosmic Cowboys- “Older Guys”, “Christine's Tune”, “Dark End Of The Street”, “You’re Still on my Mind” and “Brand New Heartache”. (the loose definition of a GP cover included songs Gram covered). Tenement Ruth (the band features two women singers)- “Blue Eyes”, “You Ain't Goin' Nowhere”, “$1,000 Wedding”, and “Ooh Las Vegas”.
At this point, Nancy and I were feeling a bit tired and thinking about leaving, but the set by Caleb Travers (backed by The Linemen) turned things around and gave us a second wind. I had never seen/heard him before. This young guy (hell, everyone’s young when you’re almost 50) had a good feel for the material and really made it come to life. He sang “Still Feeling Blue”, “In My Hour of Darkness” and “Return Of The Grievous Angel” (pick it for me, Scott).
Marc Chechik delivered a gentle, solo “singer/songwriter” version of “God's Own Singer” before being joined on stage by the rest of Melody Den. They gave the full-band, hard electric guitar treatment to “One Hundred Years From Now”, “Sing Me Back Home” and “Luxury Liner”.
Scott’s band, The Linemen closed things out tonight with “A Song For You” (sung by bassist Greg Lamb!), “Hot Burrito #1” (I’m Your Toy), “Hot Burrito #2” (Jesus Christ), “Brass Buttons” and “You Don't Miss Your Water”. Kevin Butterfield's vulnerable, country-friendly voice is well suited to GP songs.
Hats off to Scott Swartz who organized the whole thing...he says he's got ideas about doing another local tribute/benefit show.
4/5/08 Diesel Island, Saratoga Lanes. My buddy Russell Brightman decided to do it up for his fortieth birthday…he rented out Saratoga Lanes and got Will Kimbrough and Diesel Island to play for around a hundred people (an interesting mix of Russell’s family, accountant friends and live music buddies). He borrowed my PA system, so I showed up in the late afternoon to hook it all up and walk him through how it works. Then I headed off for dinner with family and friends. By the time Nancy and I showed back up at the bowling alley, the place had filled up and Will Kimbrough was well into his solo set. The clear highlight of the handful of songs we heard was his cool solo take on The Small Faces’ “Ooh La La” which featured an impressive extended instrumental workout.
After WK finished up, we got a chance to wander around the bar and catch up with a few people before Diesel Island started up. This place isn’t laid out as a live music venue…the band plays in front of the pool tables (which were in use), so there were only limited, isolated corners for people to stand to hear the band. Most people were happy talking amongst each other and bowling.
So about the band…they played two long, fun sets, pretty much drawing from the typical DI playbook. Kip Loui and Steve Cosich traded time at the second mic, opposite Brian. What differed from a typical DI set, was the presence of Will K on second guitar. Brian and Will traded licks throughout, getting all Allmans on us, at times. Too bad John Horton couldn’t jump in and lay on some leads, but he was hanging in the shadows, playing bass.
Songs I remember: “Tulsa Time” (their opening number), “Good Hearted Woman”, “”You Never Even Call Me By My Name”, “Take This Job And Shove It”, “I Can Help”, “Louisiana Saturday Night”, “Are Sure Hank Done It This Way?” (to the tune of “When the Whip Comes Down”), “Headin’ For The Ditch”, “Roll Another Number” and “Wagon Wheel”, to name a few. The birthday boy brought the PA back to my house late Sunday morning. His memory of the load-out was a bit patchy.
4/9/08 Todd Snider, The Sheldon. “Happy Birthday” to me. The place was pretty full, but not sold out (maybe 400 people?) tonight…lots of familiar faces in the crowd as we looked around from our third row seats. After Nico’s brief introduction, Todd came out and did a nice long set (no opening act, tonight). TS was his usual barefoot, smiling, charming self.
Having seen TS a few times lately, I’ll make this description more brief. Todd’s clever, observational songs were delivered over warm, acoustic picking patterns. Scattered songs I remember: “Beer Run”, “I Think I’m An Alright Guy”, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “D.B. Cooper”. Along the way, he threw in a few stories from his humble beginnings when he was sleeping on people’s couches and staying up late, making up songs. I find his between-song banter to be as entertaining as his songs. It all works with Todd’s “good-hearted, fun-loving, fuckup” persona. “Opinionated? I’m not here trying to change anyone’s mind about anything, I’m just trying to ease my own mind about everything”.
Way back in college, a professor told me that good poetry should show, rather than tell. That pretty much explains why I prefer Todd’s “Looking For A Job” to his “Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males”. The former provides a vivid glimpse of socio-economic stratification through the eyes of a “use ‘em and lose ‘em” construction worker while the latter is a simplistic, flag-waving (albeit the flag of our side) sing-along. Coincidentally (or maybe not), I get more excited about the melody in “LFAJ” than in “CCRWRSWAM”, as well.
Todd came out for a one-song encore- “Play A Train Song” and an even shorter second encore- an a capella version of “What Made Milwaukee Famous”.