Monday, April 18, 2005

you may be sweet talking, daddy

I've been feeling kinda lazy about going to shows lately, especially when my friends ditch me, but I made it to this gig--and was incredibly happy I did so.

Crooked Fingers, Great American Music Hall, April 16, 2005: I realize that it's easy to fall into the trap of being a fan of so-called indie music when "your" band gets big and you scoff at the people who got into them after you (never mind the fact that, most likely, there were people who were fans before you). God knows I feel that way all the time. And it's not as if you don't want "your" band to get big; it's just that you want them to stay at a level where you can enjoy their music without a ton of other people getting in the way. But at the same time, it's nice to see little bands get more recognition, and it's great to be a part of that movement. And that's where Crooked Fingers come in.

I really, really like them, and for me, they're easily in the second tier of current active bands. I think I've seen various incarnations of Crooked Fingers at least half a dozen times by now, from the solo setup to a more fleshed-out arrangement, and this was the biggest version of the band I had yet seen: six people in all, including a trumpeter and a flautist, who did double duty with other musical responsibilities. Also, this was the first time I've ever seen them headline, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

Crooked Fingers, campfire styleThey opened with "Islero" from the new album, and I could hear strains of Calexico when the trumpet kicked in. Unfortunately, I didn't keep a setlist, but I recall that "Bad Man Coming" was pretty different from the very spare album version. Other highlights included old favorites such as "New Drink for the Old Drunk," "The Rotting Strip," and "Call to Love," which would be a huge summertime hit single in a perfect world. For the encore, they did that thing that I know they've done before, where they go totally unplugged and bring their instruments down to the crowd and play right there, as if we were gathering around a big campfire. I know I'm a big wuss, but it put a huge smile on my face and I loved it.

I left the concert with that old feeling of having witnessed something special. I mean, I always feel great after, say, seeing the bands I love, but I get such a thrill after going to a gig that you're not entirely convinced is going to be worth your time, then getting your socks blown off. Hooray for the little guy--and at the least, it'll keep this girl coming back for more of this band and bands like it for at least a little while to come.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

this is what i do

I'm slowly realizing that I'm still in the midst of a bout of PCD and in withdrawal from the wonderful events of March. But whining and moaning is the last thing I want to do (this post aside), so I figure you just gotta move on and get back on the horse. Fortunately, there are certainly opportunities to do so in this town.

Rhett Miller, Swedish American Hall, April 2, 2005: On the way in, I noticed that the little bulletin board by the entrance has a list of the hall's events posted--not gigs, mind you, but meetings of the Swedish Ladies Society and such. So cute. I have visions of a buffet of meatballs and, um, aquavit.

The hall itself is a gorgeous affair, looking like something out of, errrr, The Crucible. It has great wood detailing and clean, open lines. I always think it'd be a great place to have a wedding, but I've only been there for shows. I understand that it sometimes hosts readings as well.

I hold my breath every time a Largo regular shows up in San Francisco, in the hopes that Jon Brion will decide to tag along with them and jump onstage at some point during the show. Of course, I've been wrong every single time I've anticipated an appearance, and he instead shows up at the least likely shows (Critters Buggin', Polyphonic Spree), so I really should just give it up. This time, when I saw the baby grand still under wraps and pushed back in a corner, I knew this would be a truly solo show, though on certain songs I could hear Jon's backing vocals in my head (oy, I'm hopeless).

Last time we saw Rhett was with the Old 97's at the Fillmore last summer. Now, he's about to start his second solo album, which explains why he's making appearances at Largo again and why he's doing San Francisco. It also explains his setlist, which covered a number of new songs. I don't know who's producing his new record, so who knows how the songs will sound in their final incarnation, but they were pretty straightforward and patently Rhett. My favorite of the bunch was a country/western-style duet for which he has yet to find a female lead. I believe it was called "Firefly," and a local group has also recorded it. Of course, he did tons of old favorites too. The song selection for the encore were inspired by his friends' recent engagement. The tunes included "Question," "The New Kid," "Our Love," and "Erica the Beautiful." All the way through, he told numerous charming stories. It's hard not to get swoony over him. Swooooooooooooon.

By the way, he was as cute as a button. He cut his hair, he has bangs again, and he did that hip and arm thing. Rowr.

Inara George was the opener, and she was accompanied on acoustic guitar and backing vocals by a guy named Mike. It took me a while to remember that they play Largo all the time, and they certainly fit the mold. Inara has a lovely voice, and their set was fine and low-key.