Monday, June 19, 2017

i'm simple as a matter of fact

This show wasn't supposed to happen, but it did, and for that, I thank everyone who made it possible -- particularly Dr. Judy and the Tweedys, as well as all the old friends who filled out the audience and have brightened the day over the last 10-plus years.

Jeff Tweedy, Chateau du Polpettino, May 13, 2017: A dozen (!!!) years ago, 20 of us gathered for the first Jeff Tweedy basement show following the Second City/Letters to Santa auction. In 2017, 30 faces, some of them newer and some of them not, showed up under similar auspices, and it was like barely a day had passed. In fact, Susan Tweedy called us "OG," a label I proudly embrace.

As I've reported before, Jeff has crafted a template for these shows, so I sent in my requests on time and waited to see which would shake out. (I had a strong inkling of which would make the cut, but I held out hope for both alternatives.) Some of the gang hadn't been to the show for several years, and funny enough, they stuck with their favorites. Heck, there's no right request, especially if you're paying good money for the privilege, but I can't help but giggle at our consistency.

You always expect the gems and classics, and they came through as beautifully as ever, but of course after all this time, I'm going to point out the surprises. Our friends did well with newer tracks, including songs from the Tweedy and Mavis Staples albums, as well a new unreleased track. Even Wilco Schmilco showed up! I'm also going to talk up my selection, "Whole Love," mainly because I love listening to Jeff attempt the falsetto.

But Jeff's covers tend to leave you gasping, and this time out, he chose the Replacements, the Beatles, and Neil Young. Jeff jokingly spoke of his jealousy toward the Replacements for their prescience in writing "Androgynous," and I know it was especially sweet for the Replacements fans in our group. I apologize for going total dad rock, but the Beatles and Neil Young two-fer was a stunner. It sounded like the entire room sang along to "I'm So Tired" (long on Jeff W's wish list), myself included of course, and let me tell you -- whether or not you realize it, the song is cathartic and therapeutic. In a basement full of friends, it's even better.

Jeff then followed it up with "Cinnamon Girl," which I don't even know very well, but I could see, hear, and feel its effect on the room. The joy and cheers were a treat of their own.

Chicago 2017

In the mix, Martin stepped up to lead Jeff through Bill Withers' "Use Me," and we closed with the customary "Candyfloss."

To wrap up the Tweedys' portion of the evening, Jeff autographed the commemorative woodprint poster and we remembered to take group shots, among other fun pictures. That's the minimum for a successful show.

Fortunately, the fun extended several hours beyond as we enjoyed the generous selection of refreshments and snacks, as well as each other's company. Chicago rolled out perfect conditions for the weekend, so we were able to linger on the rooftop under the bright moon; the roaring fire pit didn't hurt either. By the way, shout-out to Tamala for not only the Replacements request but for bringing the Wisconsin delicacy known as torte. Thanks for letting me clean up the pan!

I've run out of words to discuss these shows, except to note I do everything in my power to attend and mark my calendar whenever the date is announced. The music brings us together, but it's worth remembering Jeff's set comprises only a couple of hours out of a long, delightful evening. But they all go hand in hand for what often amounts to one of the best weekends I get to enjoy every year. I'm thankful for each and everyone one of them.

The full history
» 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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

long shot

Use it or lose it -- and I need to maintain my editing skills now more than ever. Though I'm lagging, it's never too late for Aimee Mann at the Fillmore.

Aimee Mann, the Fillmore, May 12, 2017: Aimee Mann's records kind of sneak up on me. Mind you, she's my favorite lyricist, but her arrangements and production haven't soared to the same heights as I enjoyed in the past. But often a few years after their release, her albums are on my mind again, and this tour was no different. I've dived back into Lost in Space and The Forgotten Arm, and they haven't disappointed. Lost in Space, especially, is so beautifully crafted and a pleasure to rediscover. At this rate, it may take me a few more listens to truly appreciate Mental Illness, though that's more a comment on my attention span than on Aimee's skills.

The changes from tour to tour and album to album are subtle, but Aimee has a way of building on each iteration of her career. Mental Illness is notable for Jonathan Coulton's contributions, and if you've paid attention to Aimee's career, you know he was in the cast of her last round of Christmas shows. On this record, he co-wrote a few songs, including one in which he purposely tried to mimic Aimee's tone, starting from the very first line -- which Aimee took as a compliment and an insult. Otherwise, Aimee's band remained the same, though I didn't recognize the drummer.

The show somewhat favored Aimee's new record, but I was more struck by the old singles and album cuts she chose. In fact, she opened with a couple of classics: "4th of July" and "Little Bombs," both of which I happen to love. She sort of sprinkled the newer tracks among the older tunes, and only now has it hit me that it probably had to do with bringing Jonathan Coulton into the show (more on that later).

Aimee Mann, the Fillmore, 5/12/17

Nonetheless, the selections from her back catalog were stellar. I could go on about the older tracks all day, but I'll single out three: "Humpty Dumpty" because as soon as they struck the opening notes, I realized it had been in in my head for the previous week and my subconscious had been yearning for it; "Long Shot" because it's so rare on her setlists; and "Deathly" because it's often overshadowed by more famous tracks from Bachelor No. 2, and it has my absolute favorite backing vocal (read: Jon Brion) on all of her songs. OK, consolation prize goes to "The Moth," another dirge dressed up in pop splendor from Lost in Space.

Jonathan Coulton joined the band for a good section of songs on the new album and to chat with Aimee. It's no surprise that they get along so well as two of the brainier songwriters around. Aimee has come a long way from her self-proclaimed awkward early days; her dry wit is a treat if you can keep up. Aimee had joined Jonathan during his opening set for a few songs and to remind everyone that her label was releasing his new album. Hey, we all gotta pay the bills, but it's gotta be nice if you can do it with friends.

The concert drove me to the perfect outcome: I've been reacquainting myself with Aimee's records -- I mean, more than usual -- and guess what? They're fantastic! Thanks, Aimee, for framing our darker thoughts in the shiniest chords.

See also:
» winter wonderland

Thursday, June 01, 2017

someone's gotta help me dig

This blog bears witness to my adventures in rock tourism, but believe it or not, I have a lot more wisdom and knowledge (hahahahaha) from life on the road that I can't share in written form. However, I now get to impart some of these pearls to my best friend, as she has contracted the same condition. Thus, we both made our way to Humphreys by the Bay in San Diego for Father John Misty, ahead of his Coachella appearances.

Father John Misty, Humphreys by the Bay, April 12, 2017: I might as well play the music snob card and mention the time I saw Fleet Foxes open for Wilco in Boise, Idaho -- a great trip, by the way. As you may recall, Fleet Foxes were the It Band of that moment, but to tell you the truth, they never did it for me. I have my own preferences in Beardy Harmonizers (tm), though I loved witnessing the affectionate bond between the Fleet Foxes and Wilco. Since then, I recall seeing notices for Josh Tillman's solo career, but have mainly stayed away from the hype. As I've mentioned many times before, it's not a criticism on my part. My lizard brain simply can't handle as much music as it used to.

But when he became my best friend's favorite contemporary artist and ignited her own rock tourism bug, you know I had to be there! In fact, I'm sure I would've joined her earlier, but other events come up. Thus, the road led to San Diego.

I've seen Humphreys by the Bay has come up in itineraries for other bands, but every time I've checked, the shows have been seated, which is a no-no for me. Father John Misty was not, which was the first indicator I had to be there. It's a small outdoor courtyard in a resort-style hotel. Imagine a concert venue at the edge of an apartment complex. Got it?

Even better, it turned out the soundboard was stationed on our hotel room patio. Again, imagine your hotel room with a sliding glass door leading out to a wide patio shared by three other rooms. Then picture the soundboard sitting there. Yes, we did watch the soundcheck from the deck. I wonder what it would've been like to watch the entire show from there, but we had other plans.

Father John Misty, Humphreys by the Bay, April 12, 2017

As I indicated above, I haven't seen Father John Misty before, so I didn't know what to expect. I assume the setup (including a 7-piece string section) was a new development, as necessitated by the new record. From what I could tell, the new songs are mellower, but in my humble opinion, the 13-minute acoustic epic was the best tune of the night. I also loved one of the rockers, which I was later informed was his big hit "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings."

As an impartial observer, I'm here for the human drama, and one scenario I've never before witnessed played out: Apparently, some guy in the audience was pissing on people?! FJM interrupted the show to comment on it and to send security at him. I'm happy to report we were on the other side of the audience during this episode.

As for FJM himself, he wasn't particularly chatty, which isn't a concern for me, but longtime fans may have their own opinions. He did tell a funny story about a line he likes to throw out when he goes to other people's shows ("someone's been listening to Radiohead") -- it could be worth stealing.

The biggest revelation to me came toward the end of the set, as he prepped for his solo segment. As the other band members left the stage, I finally recognized some faces: Four of the members were the Section Quartet, whom I've seen at Largo several times. In fact, I saw group leader Eric Gorfain drop by Largo last April for a fantastic podcast taping. I probably shouldn't be surprised by the continued appearance of Largo-associated talent in my life, but it always warms my heart.

One of the other highlights of the night was in fact the opening act, Tim Heidecker. I have to admit I was never a "Tim and Eric" fan, but Tim's musical side was more straightforward than I expected. His songs verged on parody, but you could take them at face value too. Less ambiguous was "I Am a Cuck," for which FJM joined Tim for a rewrite of Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock." I liked it!

By all indications, I'm committed to attending more FJM shows for moral support. Those reports will come in down the line.

See also:
» i try to stay busy
» i was dreamin' when i wrote this