Comparatively speaking, I didn't see too many Tweedy shows on this tour, but the date at the Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz helped assuage any regrets.
Tweedy, Cocoanut Grove, March 19, 2015: You'll have to forgive the nostalgic detour preceding the concert report, but I can't resist. You see, growing up in San Jose, we spent a lot of summers in Santa Cruz, particularly the boardwalk where the Cocoanut Grove is located. I have strong memories of my uncle packing me, my brothers, and the dog into the car (at first, a vintage convertible MG -- clearly before child seat laws! -- later giving way to a burnt orange Volkswagen Scirocco) for the drive over the mountains and out to the beach, where we happily jumped into the ice-cold Pacific waters. Later, as a teenager, my oldest friend moved to the woods outside of Santa Cruz, which brought a whole different set of memories. Santa Cruz, you will always have a place in my heart.
And for those of you who are a certain age: The Lost Boys was filmed here.
I decided on the title of this blog post long before I hit the freeway (I'm a managing editor -- so sue me for managing my own edits), but the concert itself felt like the exact opposite at times. In terms of square footage, the Cocoanut Grove might've been bigger than the Fillmore, but with the bar and another room (overlooking the beach) extending out from the main quarters, the usable space was a fraction of the total expanse. I imagine it would be good for wedding receptions or sales conventions, but not so much for a gig. In other words, it was not exactly an ideal concert venue.
But the stage was low, so if you were close to the front, the show felt strikingly intimate -- and the audience let the band know. From almost the first note, a woman a few rows in immediately, loudly, and repeatedly called out for "Gun," and numerous requests for birthday wishes followed. Jeff obliged them and engaged in a couple of exchanges about cheesemaking (it's Santa Cruz, after all) and other topics before preemptively wishing all of us a happy birthday, ad infinitum. I think the crowd finally got the message after Jeff said something to the effect that they still had a concert to get to.
The most egregious audience interaction came during Jeff's solo set, when apparently a guy to his far left called out his name, got him to look, and took a photo. Long story short: Jeff asked that the guy be removed, and after some confusion over whether security was taking any action all, someone was escorted out. For what it's worth, Jeff gave a long explanation about wanting to give us the best performance possible, and the guy's shenanigans wouldn't allow him to do so. I'm probably biased, but I don't think enough obnoxious people are removed from concerts. Later, Jeff made light of the situation, saying he hoped they got the right guy, but he'd leave it to the Innocence Project to figure out the guilt of the party.
Anyway, the music! First of all, yes, Jeff played "Gun" during his solo portion, and I was totally thinking of "Whole Love" earlier that day -- nice of Jeff to be on the same wavelength, even if he didn't get to "I Got You" until Los Angeles. (Boo!) Back in single-night mode, we got a mashup of the two San Francisco shows, with what I imagine as the favored tracks winning out.
The covers particularly stood out for me in Santa Cruz. I haven't mentioned the Diane Izzo track "Love Like a Wire" before, which is a major oversight. I don't know much about Diane Izzo or her tragic story, but in Tweedy's hands, the song is a gorgeous, soaring pop hit, complete with an irresistible melody and buttery harmonies. I hope a proper version is eventually released.
The Minus 5 added an unexpected touch to a handful of tracks. On his own accord, Scott McCaughey took over for the absent Sima Cunningham on "Low Key" and "The Losing End," perhaps surprising the members of Tweedy as much as the audience, judging by the goofy grins they gave each other as he snuck onstage. Then in the encore, Peter Buck threw on the Gibson for a resoundingly jangly "California Stars" -- probably one of the best guest contributions I've heard on the song (trust me, I've heard lots of them).
Speaking of the Minus 5, they worked a little Easter egg into their set: a cover of the Modern Lovers' "Roller Coaster by the Sea," which happens to be set at the exact same site as the show. Other than Scott, the other band members looks fairly astonished by the selection, and I heard Peter Buck say he had forgotten it was on the setlist. Kudos for them for the wink and the nudge!
And thus draws an end to my Tweedy dates, at least until Solid Sound. Given the means, I could probably go for a few more, but should the band never tour again, I can say I got to as many as possible.
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