Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Steve Wynn Live at Cat's Cradle on 2009-09-26

Steve Wynn not only allows people to record his live shows for trading, he encourages it. So last Saturday's most impressive show from Cat's Cradle in Carrboro is now available online from LMA for listening and downloading. This is an excellent recording. At bottom, I've embedded just a few of the songs that stood out for me from that night: "Lies of the Living Dead," "Amphetamine," "Medicine Show," "Aw Shit Man," and "The Ballad of John and Yoko." Again, follow the link to get the entire show or to see the full setlist. Highly recommended.

Might be worth keeping an eye on the Steve Wynn LMA page to see if last night's show from the 40 Watt in Athens, GA might be posted because it sounds like it was equally exciting. That show featured both Mike Mills and Bill Berry (!!!) guesting during parts of the encore. Info, video, and pics available here and here.

As I mentioned earlier, Saturday's Cat's Cradle was an amazing show. Not only was the band in great form, but there was a considerable amount of energy flowing back and forth between performers and audience the entire night. I'd forgotten about this particular exchange until thinking just now about the various interactions from that night.

After the show, I was sitting outside the club reading a book because my ride wasn't going to be there for another 30 to 45 minutes. At one point, Peter Buck walked by and, after we chatted very briefly about how good the show had been, he noticed that I was reading Dennis Lehane's The Given Day, and let me know that he'd already read it and thought it excellent. My choice of reading materials was validated by a member of R.E.M.!!!

No, really, what struck me was just the fact that he'd make conversation about it. All four of these musicians were incredibly nice and easy to talk with and generous with their time after the show. And while they all clearly enjoy their jobs (part of the fun and the energy of the show, I think, came from the sense that they were enjoying themselves up on stage just as much as we were down on the floor), I think that must be especially obvious in Buck's case. I doubt that he needs the tiny amount of money he gets from this tour, and I can't imagine that he'd put himself in a position to be in another indy band, playing the small club circuit, hanging out with the audience after the show, and traveling across North America in a small van with four other people again at this point in his career unless he really loved the work.

(Oh, and as for his comment to me, he's absolutely right: it truly is an outstanding book.)

Lies of the Living Dead

This one doesn't hold up quite as well as I'd have hoped, but hearing/watching it live while pressed up against the stage was a thing of pure beauty. I'm posting it anyway. It's just too great a song not to. "I'm gonna live until the day I die." Indeed.

Medicine Show
Really, all of the Dream Syndicate songs from that night were outstanding, in part, perhaps, because I was so surprised to hear any: I would never have guessed that they'd reach back 20-some years when putting together the setlist given the approximately 200 songs that Steve's and Scott's various bands have recorded in just this current decade.

Aw Shit Man

The Ballad of John and Yoko

Monday, September 28, 2009

Disgust: A Pictorial Definition

Photo by Toni L. Sandys of The Washington Post

(want to scream and complain? great, go for it! want to do something that might actually have an impact? stop going to the games and stop buying the merch and stop putting more money in danny's pockets.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wynn, McCaughey, Pitmon, Buck

Back from seeing a great concert Saturday night at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, a show I've been looking forward to for months. The musicians: Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Linda Pitmon, and Steve Wynn. The bands represented: The Baseball Project, Dream Syndicate, The Steve Wynn VI, Gutterball, R.E.M., Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows. It was a real alternative music supergroup on stage without anybody ever using that label.

And as if those four weren't enough, hometown hero Peter Holsapple (of the dBs; most recently, he and Chris Stamey put out a new album named Here And Now that is worth checking out: it's one of the best new albums I've heard this year) was in the audience and joined the group for their encode.

What a great, awesome, fabulous, incredible, fun night.

To add to the fun, I tried a new service tonight. Zingo is a designated driving service: for a bit more money than having a taxi drive you home, Zingo will drive you and your car home, which means no hassles or 2nd taxi fare the next day to pick up your car again. Meant that I was able to enjoy the music tonight and enjoy several beers without having to worry about how I'd get home or how I'd retrieve my car Sunday.

Gutterball: Black & Gold/Lester Young (no embedding allowed on this one, damn it!). (The band tonight played Gutterball's "Trial Separation Blues" in memory of Bryan. Very damn cool.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Damn It, Google

Gmail is experiencing problems this morning. Again. This morning, contacts aren't available and the service is sloooow. It seems like Gmail has been having a tremendous number of problems -- including outright outages -- in recent weeks. In addition to the regular service access issues, spam has been creeping into my Inbox on a daily basis this month (up yours, Magic Jack and Kiwi Services).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


In a shocking development, MSNBC and local affiliate WNCN in Raleigh have uncovered evidence that...

No doubt, they had a team of their best investigative reporters on the case.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Libertarian Hypocrite

For years now, I've opposed government-imposed smoking bans, feeling they are yet another violation of individual liberties (not just against smokers, but against business owners, as well). And in an era when an increasing number of businesses are banning smoking on their own for economic reasons, it makes little sense to take the drastic step of a government ban on otherwise legal behavior. I'm convinced that I would have stopped smoking years before I finally did if it hadn't been for the obnoxious, holier-than-thou, self-righteous bullshit of the hardcore smoking ban mob.

But now that the smoking ban is just over 3 months away from being enforced here in North Carolina -- the heart of tobacco country! -- I have to say that I've lost the ability to rail against the prohibition. In fact, I have to admit that I'm looking forward to it, even if most of the places where I see bands these days already ban smoking from the main rooms.

I've sold out. I've given into the man and joined the system. I'm now officially part of the problem.

Fort Worth Blues

Saw some musicians tonight who left me so disappointed that I'd planned on writing a screed about bad music. (OK, technically, this first paragraph is very much a screed of that sort, but I'd planned on something much longer and with more of a George Will style of overly practiced righteous indignation.) The second set tonight was by a bluegrass band whose singer (a woman, which, for some reason, remains fairly rare for the genre) had a great voice; otherwise, the band seemed to have little else going for it: bluegrass is made for musicians of pretty phenomenal talent whereas these folks were simply bland, and bluegrass can be many things but it should never ever be boring. But they were far better than the guy who played the first set. The guy might be a decent guitar player if he slowed down; instead, he tries to show off what I guess he thinks of as his "chops" (and I'd bet $10 that the guy uses that very term), but what he ends up creating is just a loud, fast mess. Worse, the song choices were mostly predictable for a slide blues guitar set (the couple that weren't predictable -- "Come Together" and "Hey Joe" -- just plain didn't work), and he sang/shouted all of them in the same style, which he might not be able to help because he certainly looked the part of a white, 40-year-old, balding desk jockey in 2009 Raleigh who wanted to roleplay as a 50-year-old black former sharecropper from Mississippi playing the blues in a smoke-filled Chicago bar of 1950. I wasn't having any of it.

So I came home tonight and was going to find a video of Kelly Joe Phelps playing slide blues. Phelps is phenomenal and can absolutely play traditional blues, but he does it with enough of his own style that he's not simply covering other artists or trying to sound like someone he's not.

While searching for such a video (and they certainly exist), I happened upon this one, in which KJP is supporting Steve Earle on "Fort Worth Blues," a tribute SE wrote for Townes Van Zandt shortly after TVZ's death in 1997. Not at all what I had in mind, but it's quite a nice find. "Fort Worth Blues" is an amazing song in itself, but this is the first time I've heard a slide accompaniment -- in fact, I'd never even known that Earle and Phelps had ever crossed paths -- and Phelps' contribution adds quite a lot to the beauty. It really is a stunning song, and this performance might be the best I've heard over the years.

In Fort Worth all the neon's shining' bright
Pretty lights red and blue
They'd shut down all the honky-tonks tonight
And say a prayer or two if they only knew

You always said the highway was your home
But we both know that ain't true
It's just the only place a man can go
When he don't know where he's travellin' to

And Colorado's always clean and healin'
And Tennessee in spring is green and cool
It never really was your kind of town
But you went around with the Fort Worth Blues

And somewhere up above the great divide
Where the sky is wide and the clouds are few
A man can see his way clear to the light
Ah just hold on tight that's all you gotta do

And they say Texas weather's always changin'
One thing change'll bring is somethin' new
And Houston really ain't that bad a town
So you hung around with the Fort Worth Blues

There's a full moon over Galway Bay tonight
Silver light over green and blue
And every town I travel through I find
Some kinda sign that you've been through

And Amsterdam's always good for grievin'
And London never fails to leave me blue
And Paris never was my kinda town
So I walked around with the Fort Worth Blues

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Starbucks Now Offering Earworms

Recently, I've gotten in the habit of stopping at Starbucks every morning on my way to work for a large coffee or a red eye if I'm jonesing especially hard. It's money that I don't need to spend, but it's allowed me to sleep in an extra 30 minutes each morning, so in that regard, at least, it's a bargain.

Last week saw the release of the newly remastered Beatles catalog, and Starbucks has been pushing those CDs hard, playing all Beatles on their store sound systems. So every morning, I not only pick up my coffee, but I also get an earworm that stays with me until at least lunchtime, even on days when I'm able to listen to the iPod most of the day.

This morning, it was "In My Life" that was on a loop in my brain. Tuesday, it was "I'm Looking Through You," although that was especially nice since my brain kept switching back and forth between the original and Steve Earle's cover.

If they play "Run for Your Life" while I'm in there Thursday morning, I'm leaving a generous tip. Greatest stalker song ever.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This Love

is like celebrating the Fourth of July with dynamite.

What a fantastic show at Cat's Cradle Sunday night. Son Volt impressed me by being much more energetic (and rocking and LOUDER) than I thought they'd be given the more subdued nature of the new album. With the exception of some tuning problems on a couple of songs near the end of the first set, an incredible show. Overall, the band was tight, and I loved the effect on certain songs of having both pedal steel and lap steel. As I say, a pretty raucous affair.

But it was the opening act that blew me away. Sera Cahoone is out of Seattle and is currently with Sub Pop. It was just her on her acoustic (and occasional harmonica) and her pedal steel player, Jason Kardong. I'm a sucker for pedal steel, so I normally would have focused on that sound during her set, but this woman has an astounding voice. Crystal clear. Strong. Striking. Definitely worth checking out. I bought both of her CDs last night (both of her solo CDs, I should specify, since she's been in other bands over the years) and am excited to discover how she sounds accompanied by her full band.

Quite a number of videos of her on YouTube. Here's one of her playing live with her full band.

Monday, September 7, 2009