Holy crap--so much for the idea that this would make it easier for me to remember shows and stuff. Ha! Maybe I was better off writing things in my little notebook. Well, one of these days, I'll catch up with the tons of shows I attended between September 2004 and January 2005, but here are summaries of at least a couple of them I saw in January.
Jan. 13 and 14, 2005
Great American Music Hall
I can't think of another time when a new band on an indie label managed to sell out three nights at the Great American Music Hall in no time flat. The ticket saga on craigslist was a soap opera in itself. That hype, combined with my friend's warning that Win's voice was really awful at their show here in December, made me a little wary, but I knew it was something I had to see for myself. I couldn't justify seeing all three shows, but maybe that was right decision, as Win was reportedly strying to shake off a bug on that first night. However, I did miss Will ramming the wall and taking out a nice chunk of the plaster with him. His scuff marks were all over the wall as well--alongside the big cut-outs of the Victorian ladies and other artwork.
There weren't many changes to the setlist, but what was merely intense on Thursday went apeshit on Friday, including Richard and Will's tussle on "Laika" (after they had borrowed another helmet to replace the one that was stolen/lost after the first night) and a version of "Crown of Love" that could not be more moving. The second night, "Tunnels" was also mindblowing. Their epic sound filled the Great American beautifully, and I could see people standing up in their seats, all the way in the back balcony. They managed to hurt themselves both nights; Will and Win were bleeding from, respectively, a percussion-related injury and running into the mic stand. The second night, Richard split his pants when he tripped over Will's collapsed form. (I'm not sure how Richard did this, as he has the patented Indie Ass--that is, none at all.) His attempts at surreptitiously pinning the seat of his trousers back together were comedically useless, but he was eventually outed by Win. And the handful of shared Win-Regine vocals were wonderful to hear, especially on "My Heart Is an Apple." They did one new song each night, the second of which seemed to have a jauntier, poppier air. The second night, they seemed to go all out, buying a truckload of flashlights for the audience to wave around when the lights when down for the encore of "Un Annee Sans Lumiere" and "Power Out."
If there's anything I'll take away from this show, it's the way the band seems to enjoy every moment. I love that they all sing along to the songs, adding to the choir effect when needed but belting it out even if there's no microphone near them. Right now, I can't stop thinking of the little details that jumped out at me that weren't so obvious from listening to the record, such as that wonderful guitar lick from "Une Annee" and the overall percussive domination to their sound.
And for the starspotters out there, the indie rockers were in full force, as John Vanderslice as well as various members of Beulah and Sleater-Kinney were taking in the tunes on Thursday.
After the show, the band was just kinda hanging out around the floor and fielding questions, conversations, requests with everyone who asked. Hype or no, they couldn't have been more down to earth and unaffected. Regine even told us the tragic story about how they forgot her beloved boots in the taxi that day. I've decided that the next time they come to town, I'm going to every single show, even if it kills me. Yes, they're that good and that fun to watch.
Nels Cline Singers
What a difference three months makes. This Nels Cline Singers appearance saw a bigger, livelier crowd, but everyone listened raptly to the actual performance. The group itself concentrated on songs from The Giant Pin but threw in a few older and newer tracks as well. I think it was during "Fly Fly" that Devin Hoff turned in an intense bass solo, only to be answered by Nels's equally emphatic guitar-and-whisk work. One very cool and very artful new song, "Mr. Real," was dedicated to a 71-year-old jazz guitarist living in Florida whose name escapes me, but the tune is not to be missed (whenever it's properly recorded, anyway).
We said hi to Nels after the show, and he seemed surprised to see us there. I guess that after seeing us all over the country at Wilco shows, he had no idea where we were from. He gave us a couple of posters and we left for home before we fell asleep on our feet.
Cafe du Nord
I'm still not a huge Decemberists fan the way that a lot of people are, but I recognize their charms, and deciding to see this show was a no-brainer. I kinda have that rule about seeing the main singer/songwriter from bands I dig doing the solo thing, w/o the others. Sometimes, you get blown away by the power of the stripped-down tunes. Other times, you end up wishing the whole band was present.
Colin came out all by himself, except for a couple of guitars. I can't tell you the set list, but he did a numbers of tunes from the new album, all the while goodnaturedly cursing those of us who've downloaded the album as pirates. I find this incredibly ironic, considering half of the band's songs are about pirates. Go figure. Of course, he did a bunch of songs from the catalog, including the divine "Grace Cathedral Hill," perhaps my fave of their songs--the San Francisco angle doesn't hurt, either. He also did a song that didn't make it to the new album, and I think they chose wisely, as it was the narrative of the nine-fingered bandit queen. I dig their narratives, but that's a bit precious for me.
I ended up picking up four copies of the EP they were selling at the show, of Colin doing Morrissey covers. I find this so delightful for a number of reasons. First of all, the Decemberists seem to be one of the few bands who have any right to cover Smiths and/or Morrissey songs, now that the original band seems to be such a staple. I'm not really sure why I think that, but maybe Colin's lyrics at least have the same spark of creativity and uniqueness that Morrissey's did way back when. Also, I love that Colin did Morrissey covers, and not Smiths tunes. It's just so easy to proclaim the Smiths as gods these days; I love that Colin chose fairly obscure tunes from the Moz catalog instead. I had Colin sign them for the various peeps, and he couldn't have been more gracious.
...and then the day arrived. I got into Chicago on Friday evening, where Sooz and the gang picked me up from the El stop. Obviously, I had been looking forward to this day for a number of weeks at that point, but I guess the full import hadn't hit me. I knew I was gonna see a show and that I was gonna hang out with my buddies. Otherwise, it didn't feel that weird. And overall, it never felt weird over the whole weekend, except for maybe at the very moment Mark announced that the Tweedys were trying to find a parking space in front of Sooz's house. I made sure Heidi didn't slink away and instead stood her ground in the kitchen.
It took a little while to load in and set up Jeff's gear. He may have done a soundcheck too, but I was upstairs, gorging on the yummy stuff that everyone had brought. I can't remember the exact time the show started, but it was definitely an auspicious beginning with intros and intros for the intros. Thax Douglas and Tim Tutten were present, so we had the full Chi-Town rock treatment. Finally, Jeff took the "stage" and kicked off with "Laminated Cat."
I could go on for a very long time about how wonderful that night was, but I don't think I'd do it justice. The music was a delight, even when we marred the otherwise lovely tunes. The Tweedys were as sweet as can be, and the friends--they weren't just the icing on the cake, they infused every morsel of joy that evening. I try to explain it all the time, but it's impossible these days. It's like everyone who tries to differentiate between the heart and the head and realizes how futile it is. It's not just the music anymore, it's the friends as well, and neither would be as strong w/o the other. When I think back on it years from now, perhaps I will remember finally hearing "Lost Love" (my unsubtle hint in the voting obviously worked) or, more likely, I will think of me and Heidi squealing for the Split Enz songs. Regardless, it was one of the greatest nights in my life, and the following week of "real life" was the biggest drag ever. But now that I've had some distance from it, I'm appreciating it more for the awesome experience it was. You know what they say about it's better to have loved and lost? Well, maybe this isn't completely analogous, but I try to tell myself that just the experience is enough.
The full history
» 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