Monday, March 27, 2017

ain't that enough

Pioneertown was a lovely refresher, but Teenage Fanclub at the Great American Music Hall back in San Francisco turned out to be the main course. What a feast it was.

Teenage Fanclub, Great American Music Hall, March 21, 2017: Before the show, I reviewed the previous Teenage Fanclub posts on this blog and found only two (from 2005 and 2010). Because the Fannies don't tour here often, I figured I might as well recap a few of my preblog memories since I don't know when I'll get to do this next.

Teenage Fanclub

• Teenage Fanclub has toured with a number of bands that kind of leave you gasping if you didn't already know (Nirvana and Uncle Tupelo, to name two). I happened to catch them when they opened for Radiohead on the OK Computer tour, but we locals got an extra treat: a free show at Jupiter in Berkeley sponsored by Mod Lang Records. I actually videotaped the gig on a nice little video camera I had at the time, but don't ask me where the tape is now. Anyway, the most memorable moment of the day came when someone in the audience passed around a bottle of Buckfast. (I think Norman was the only band member who actually drank it.) I then learned a new refrain, though I can't do it justice. The gist of it goes, "Buckfast makes you fuck fast." Since then, I've shared this nugget of wisdom at every possible opportunity.

• As for the Radiohead gig itself, I sat in the balcony at the Warfield and felt myself getting more resentful as the show progressed. The Fannies' set was good, albeit sparsely attended, and I still can't tell you what happened during Radiohead's portion of the show.

• On another occasion, I saw Teenage Fanclub at Slim's. Per usual, I had arrived too early and, this time, ended up hanging out with a dude who was equally twitchy. We probably weren't the only two people there, but that's how it feels in my memory. Anyway, as we waited, he earnestly relayed his concerns for the Fannies and their livelihoods. As I recall, he was less worried for Raymond, whose wife was a lawyer (maybe?), but he had devoted a significant amount of thought to their prospects. Mostly, I recall his consternation and a real hope on his part that they would do OK.

• I think at the same show, a small group of us (random fans) ended up discussing who was the best songwriter out of the group. After much friendly back and forth, we were kind of surprised to land on Gerry as the favorite. I still believe this to that day.

I had a wonderful time at Pioneertown, but this was more in line with how I do a Teenage Fanclub show. There was no rush, but tonight was not a night to hang to the side. Instead, I took my place alongside Lila and Noreen at the front. The crowd for this sold-out show filled out nicely, and only once did it feel anything like a crush, but that was entirely due to a drunk dude who threw himself at the front of the stage. We were OK, but Noreen got the worst of it.

Teenage Fanclub

I've never followed the Fannies' setlists, and in fact, Pioneertown was the first time I've traveled to see them. For some reason, I assumed they stuck to one order, so I was thrilled to hear different songs at this show. I mean, the good stuff was still there, but for one, they finally brought in Man-Made. The most memorable changes were in the encore, where they did the fast version of "Starsign" (as opposed to the slow version at Pioneertown) and brought in "Everything Flows," which got us all jumping up and down.

However, the biggest difference for me at this show wasn't the song selection, but rather the general spirit of being back at the front. We sang along, we cheered like maniacs, and we egged on the band at every turn. Norman has always been the charming and cool one, and he made us smile with a few awkward moments, such as when his guitar didn't work right away. In fact, I loved being so close to the stage to hear each guitar lead. I'm going to sound like a complete idiot, but I haven't appreciated Raymond's guitar skills enough. Also, Norman's big chords on "About You" are gorgeous.

Teenage FanclubThere are no bad songs in a Teenage Fanclub set, but tonight's encore was extra special. As mentioned earlier, we got "Starsign" and "Everything Flows," as well as a Grant McLennan cover, "Easy Come Easy Go." They had done this at Pioneertown, but I hadn't heard it well. In San Francisco, it came through in all its glory, and holy cow, the guitar intro sounds so much like Wilco's "Always in Love"! I've since gone back and listened to the original, which is more distinct, but in the Fannies' hands, it offered a familiar ring -- I mean that in the best way possible.

This account does no justice to the ridiculous elation I've enjoyed since leaving the show. Teenage Fanclub is always in rotation to some degree, but I've been listening to them nonstop since the gig. I'm going to ride this wave for as long as I can, but I hope I get to live it again whenever the band returns to the West Coast.

I should probably also mention Ben Gibbard was hanging out to the side during the show, but alas, he didn't join the band.

Britta Phillips opened for all the shows on the tour, and it was the first time I've seen her live. She was kind of the reason Evonne wanted to see the Pioneertown show, but no matter. She was fantastic, and I now totally understand how she and Dean Wareham have earned a devoted following. For whatever reason, I never got into Galaxie 500 or Luna, but on the other hand, I recall very clearly driving down Beverly Boulevard on the way to Largo and seeing Dean and Britta get out of a car (hahaha). They make great music together, and it doesn't hurt that they're both still insanely cool.

Britta Phillips

p.s. I hope that guy from Slim's is smiling somewhere and maybe even singing along.

See also:
» start again
» we get older every year
» if these things make your day

Sunday, March 26, 2017

start again

All hail the evergreen Teenage Fanclub, forever and always the greatest Scots in songdom. The band's return to the West Coast also offered the perfect opportunity to hit a rock 'n' roll destination I've been dreaming of: Pappy + Harriet's out in Pioneertown. I'm beyond glad I made the trip.

Pappy + HarrietsTeenage Fanclub, Pappy + Harriet's, March 18, 2017: I've said it a million times on this blog, but I'll say it again: I love LA! I was already excited about this trip, but it turned out to be a perfect weekend with all the flavors that comprise the ideal Southern California experience. For me, it covered comedy, food, nature, and friendship -- and a celeb sighting, to boot.

It was also a decidedly nontwitchy weekend. That is, we rolled out of Los Feliz at a reasonable time, drove out to the desert, stopped for beverages and a breather, and wandered around a perfectly temperate Joshua Tree all before pulling up to Pappy + Harriet's. I love Teenage Fanclub, but I knew very well this was not a venue I'd need to sweat over. In fact, we ended up eating dinner there, and our table was exactly the vantage point I wanted for the evening.

Let's back up, though. As a rock tourist, I have to talk about the venue. Pioneertown itself is about three hours east of Los Angeles, depending on traffic, so I guess it counts as a tertiary market. But if you read the New York Times story, you probably know Pioneertown is no longer a secret. Still, it's almost everything I imagined. Basically, you drive out on 29 Palms Highway, take a left on Pioneertown Road, drive a few miles down a two-lane road, and there you are. The obvious parallel from my travels is Marfa, though not as remote, but it also brought to mind the Cellar Door in Visalia, where I saw British Sea Power.

Inside, Pappy + Harriet's is basically a rustic bar. The stage inside is tiny and a few inches off the ground, though there's an outside stage for bigger acts. After last year's headlines, it's hard not imagining Paul McCartney on the stage. I sort of wondered how it compared to, say, the Beatles' Hamburg days. But I digress!

As I mentioned, I felt no need to get to the front, so I hung out to the side. The room was small enough that it didn't particularly matter. As a bonus, the staff ended up pushing our dinner table to the wall to create a walkway out to the back patio bar (for smokers, I guess). The surprise and delight is that they actually enforced the rule, thanks to a huge staffer that we decided to call Hagrid. He was incredibly vigilant for the first half of the set, shooing the interlopers back to their previous spots, until he decided to partake of the nicotine as well. By then, our dear Evonne had taken it upon herself to keep the sight line clear, and trust me, she's quite effective.

The only downside to our spot was the sound, as I couldn't understand much of what the band said. On the bright side, the songs needed no translation, and I was jumping and hollering for all my favorite tracks. We made the acquaintance of the couple seated next to us, and I ended up talking to the guy for a long time. He had loved the Fannies forever, but had never seen them live. I'm happy to report that he too agrees Gerry Love is the man, and I reminded him of our consensus with every Gerry tune. In fact, they opened the set with "Start Again," and my biggest whoop might've gone out for "Don't Look Back." However, there was plenty of love for such Raymond and Norman tracks as "Your Love Is the Place Where I Come From" and "Mellow Doubt," to name two.

Another benefit from watching the show from our spot: We had a nice view of about half the room -- or more accurately, the joy therein. No surprise, there were plenty of singalongs, and Evonne and I appreciated the guy on the other side of the stage playing air guitar and air drums to a number of songs. Britta Phillips and her band flitted in and out, enjoying the gig as well. In fact, Britta took a quick run around the perimeter of the crowd, videotaping the proceedings on her phone.

Funny enough, I left the gig with a greater appreciation for the venue than for the concert. Don't get me wrong -- the Fannies were exhilarating, but due to our spot and maybe the sound, the music wasn't the top draw for me that night. Instead, I was thrilled to finally see Pappy + Harriet's for myself, and I loved sharing the experience with Evonne, as well as our new friends. We listened to Grand Prix on the relatively speedy trip home, but the true impact had yet to set in. I guess in a way, it was merely an appetizer for the San Francisco show.

Still, one takeaway was clear: If any of your favorite bands ever play at Pappy + Harriet's, do everything in your power to get there. You won't regret it.

See also:
» let your helmet warm your skull
» fans of alcohol