Saturday, August 25, 2018

your voice breaks every time

Hi! This thing is still on! Expect more of the content you know and love to follow, starting with Jeff Tweedy.

Jeff Tweedy, Chateau du Polpettino, June 23, 2018

I make no predictions on how these shows with Jeff shake out, but give me half a reason to go, and I'll be there. I had more than half a reason, and as always, the trip to Chicago was a treat. The weather even held for this climate wimp!

Our gracious host and hostess at Chateau du Polpettino set out a sparkling spread as always, and they unsurprisingly excelled at welcoming the new faces as well. I did my part at shaking hands and taking coats, but honestly, Paul, Jeff, and Elizabeth had it all under control.

In the past, Jeff and Susan's arrival has been both businesslike and familial. One group takes care of Jeff's equipment and ushers him downstairs, while another contingent often gathers around Susan for hugs and chatter. There was less of the latter this time, as perhaps she didn't know many of the patrons as well, but several of us were able to usher her in as well.

I've had the grand fortune of enjoying these shows with numerous people I consider to be close friends, so this was a new situation for me too. Of course, I was hardly alone, and in fact, I had helped recruit a couple of new faces to the group, but still, I was in relatively unfamiliar waters. I felt this newness most prominently in the banter. Look, I don't go to as many Wilco or Jeff Tweedy shows as I used to, and my rock tourism is mostly limited to California these days. I know very well that Jeff has pockets of loyal fans all over the country, but this was probably the first time in a while that I've been in it so deep. Needless to say, the enthusiasm was endearing to see.

Two fans played with Jeff this time: Candi, who accompanied him on acoustic bass (!) for "Handshake Drugs," and Joe, who played with him on "Misunderstood." They both did well, particularly Joe on a tough song that's known for a large improvisational swath. As someone with no musical talent whatsoever, I can only imagine the thrill of playing with Jeff. Still, the joy and glow on their faces after the songs tell you all you need to know.

I was pleased to hear someone else request "Either Way" for a change (thanks, Matt!), and I was more than happy to pipe up when Jeff almost forgot one person's (George's) request. As for my request, as you know I put a lot of thought into it, and it's a fine line between pushing the envelope and assuaging the artist. But I thought about the songs I haven't heard in an acoustic setting, sent out a couple of option, added a wing and a prayer for fun, and ended up with "Diamond Light" from the Tweedy record. It sounded awesome, by the way, though I know the drum and bass create the drama on the album version. Maybe we'll see it join Jeff's setlist in the future. If it does, know where it started. ;)

The full history
» i'm simple as a matter of fact
» name me a song that everybody knows
» i wish that i knew what I know now
» people say i'm crazy doing what i'm doing
» the message
» all the ladies and gentlemen
» that year
» springtime comes
» turn our prayers to outrageous dares
» every day is dreamlike
» it's been a while

Sunday, June 10, 2018

maybe it's time to live

I'm trying -- I'm really trying. Thus, I bought my ticket to see the eels at the Fillmore months ago ... and actually went to the show.

eels, the Fillmore, May 31, 2018

The wayback machine says I haven't seen eels since 2011, and it sure feels like it. E hasn't dropped in at Largo since the move to La Cienega, and I've missed at least one of their tours, if not more. It was time to turn that ship around.

On a related note, this drought meant I had no idea what to expect at the show. As I recall, eels have a penchant for the dramatic, and I guess we got a hint of that, with the risers and flood lights occupying the stage. But they left the flight suits, goggles, and whatnot at home, opting for a coordinated but workaday uniform. They emerged to the theme from Rocky, then jumped into a Who cover, followed by a Prince cover. I'll mention for the jillionth time that I've had the pleasure of hearing E perform "Raspberry Beret" several times at Largo, on some occasions with better recall than others. It doesn't get old.

Now that the eels have 20-plus years and more than a dozen albums under their belt, it's hard to know what songs they'd roll out from their catalog. And to be honest, I haven't kept up with the more recent releases, so it was a treat for me to hear so many selections across the discography. My favorite is probably Electro-Shock Blues, so "Climbing to the Moon" and "P.S. I Love You" are more than welcome. But the inclusion of tracks like "A Magic World" come as nice surprises too.

eels, the Fillmore, May 31, 2018

I had forgotten how much eels like to change up their tracks, so even the essentials and old-school hits such as "Novocaine for the Soul" and "I Like Birds." Going back to Largo memories: E always lit up at the prospect of Led Zeppelin covers, so when one particularly heavy intro rolled out, I wondered if we were dipping into some good ol' 1970s AOR. Instead, it was the former MTV hit video in an arrangement I can't recall hearing at previous gigs, though perhaps it was closer to Sabbath than Zeppelin. The overall effect was the same [insert rawk emoji].

One of the bigger surprises of the show was the fact that E has finally leaned hard into his love of Prince. Somewhere in the archives, I have a bootleg of a show at Largo where he sang "If I Was Your Girlfriend," and I've been there personally when he turned down the request, claiming he didn't actually know the words. He didn't do the song this time, but "When You Were Mine" was a fine substitute. Prince's death hit so many of us hard; I don't know if it's a tribute, but it's always a treat. We also heard the band take on "Love and Mercy," another song I'll never turn off.

Here's to 20-plus years of eels, in all of their weirdness and unpredictability. I hope that never changes.

See also:
» before i sputter out
» i'm offering this simple phrase
» i go for it every time

Friday, June 08, 2018

you must be an artist

There's been so much sad news lately, and I have no answer for it. But I knew I had made the right decision to attend Kevin Barnes' solo acoustic show when the first two songs I heard over the PA were by David Bowie and Roxy Music.

Kevin Barnes, Swedish American Hall, May 25, 2018

I have no concept of trends, upticks, downgrades, or anything these days, so I go by instinct on when to jump on tickets and when to let demand play out. My sense was Kevin Barnes doesn't tour by himself a whole lot -- at least not in the Bay Area -- so I might as well catch this show. And as recent experience has reminded me, don't pass up the opportunity to see special artists when you can.

It's been a while since I've seen Of Montreal, but I have fond memories of those shows, filled with spectacle and theatrics. However, the appearance I won't forget for a long time is a visit to the Little Room at Largo and a tearful rendition of "Mother." (Um, I saw Kevin at Largo at the Coronet twice?!) And really, a solo acoustic performance is like catnip to me.

Kevin informed the crowd that he has a new album and played several songs from the record. The audience happily went along for the ride, though once again, I'll profess ignorance of most of Kevin's work. But they sang with him, roared out the choruses, and of course proclaimed their love for him. I wouldn't have expected anything less.

I will always associate Of Montreal with ornate, florid production, so it was fantastic to hear the songs in their stripped-down form. Even in their most fundamental form, Kevin's songs probably wouldn't be classified as folk music; his melodies are still a little too baroque for the genre. This is not a bad thing; in fact, Kevin's trademark musicality remains untouched. In a couple of spots, he provided his own echoing backing vocals and a cappella synth sounds for the full DIY effect.

The other major contrast to his performances with Of Montreal was his appearance. He wore no makeup, showed little product in his hair, and donned jeans and a t-shirt -- albeit a bright print that he claimed was his mother's, along with a sparkly necklace. He fit right in among the clean lines and natural materials at the Swedish Music Hall.

Kevin bantered amiably, but I can't remember any of the exchanges, other than the intro to his closing song. He halfway apologized for one phrase and asked if it was acceptable. The song was, of course, "Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider" (a former favorite at Largo), and the phrase was "faggy girl." I'm sure someone out there will find offense, but I'm not one of them. Anyway, it was fun as hell to hear, especially with the audience chipping in all over.

I don't need to say it, but Kevin Barnes is absolutely legit, eyeliner or no.

See also:
» the only dancer i believe in
» everybody's gotta learn sometimes
» really quite out of sight