Thursday, 15 February 2007

G. Love has always been one of my favorite artists. Starting with his eponymous debut CD in 1992, I was an instant fan. His Philly-Blues style never fails to please and always seems to improve my mood, no matter how dark.

The show was completely sold out. While waiting for the doors to open (so up could check my coat, grab a beer, and still get a good spot), I heard they had 30 tickets available. If you didn’t already have one, you weren’t getting into the show. The extra effort paid off, because I managed to get right up front, just left of center. The only way I could have done better would have been as a member of the band.

One of the things I always dread about concerts at First Ave. are 18+ shows. They tend to bring out all the club kids that think going to shows is all about being seen and getting as wild as possible. Back in my early days I left that stuff up to the drunks and the beautiful people. For me it is, and always will be about the music.

The opener was a group called Redeye. As rumoured before the show, they turnred out to be a white-boy reggae act. They weren’t half bad, doing 8 or 9 songs in their 40 minute set. Mostly original tunes, with a couple covers tossed in. I don’t know that I’d go see them as a headliner, but as a starter they were pretty good.

G. Love took the stage around 10:50 and did about 90 minutes. The show was filled with several songs from his latest album Lemonade (which came with a scratch-n-sniff sticker) and many of my favorites. Among them was “Cold Beverage” and “”.

After the show, the coat check line was huge. While waiting my turn I saw them escort Garrett out of the club. That meant no sitphraph for my picture from last time. The night could have been only slightly better — if I had had someone to share it with. It was Valentine’s Day, after all, and I’m not completely immune. Still, it was a fantastic night and I would certainly do it all over again.

Tuesday, 06 December 2005

You would think that, with rock-n-roll’s frantic, chaotic nature, there wouldn’t be much you could depend upon. But then, at least when it comes to the Reverend Horton Heat, you would be wrong. Not does he stop by the Twin Cities about this time every year, but we can also count on him to put on a hell of a show. It’s loud, crowded, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Normally, for a First Avenue show, I’ll skip the opening act, but a friend told me that I should really check them out. It was a group named the Supersuckers and he described them as a “speed-country” act. That really doesn’t do them justice, but if you check out their Web site, you can see the comparison.

Hailing from Seattle, the Supersuckers are Eddie Spaghetti (Edward Daly III) on bass and vocals with Ron “Rontrose” Heathman and Dan “Thunder” Bolton on guitars. They recently hired a new drummer, but he couldn’t make the tour. Then they hired a temporary guy, and he flaked out. Literally, as a last-minute fill-in, Scott Churilla from RHH helped them out. Blasting through an hour-plus set, they kicked ass and got the audience going.

At one point, Eddie looped his bass around the neck of one guitarist (I can’t remember whether Ron or Dan was first.) Holding the guitar out of the way, although still actually worn by the guitarist, they each played the other’s instrument. Eddie on guitar and the guitarist on bass. Then the other guitarist got his chance. Finally it was Scott’s turn. But instead of playing it like a normal bass, Eddie held it over Scott’s kit and Scott he used drumsticks. The whole thing was much cooler than I can describe.

With our primo spots, just left of center, maybe 20 feet out, Todd, Hjalmer and I held our places as the crew turned the stage. Then, shortly after 2300, Reverend Horton Heat took the stage with his intrepid, psychobilly travelers Jimbo Wallace (on the upright bass) and Scott Churilla (on drums). They laid right into a blazing set that didn’t stop for nearly two hours.

From what I can remember, they started with “Big Sky,” “Baddest of the Bad,” “Five-O Ford,” “Can’t Surf,” “Wiggle Stick,” “400 Bucks,” “Callin’ In Twisted,” “Revival,” “and “Indigo Friends.” Then a handful of Christmas tunes: What Child Is This,” “Santa Bring My Baby Back (originally by Elvis),” “Jingle Bells,” and “Run Rudolph Run” (where Rev plays bass and Jimbo plays guitar.)

After that, Rev talked about some guy that posted to their Web site saying that their set list “hasn’t changed in a decade.” The Good Reverend explained that “First off, it changes at least once every 2 years because they come out with a new album.” Second, they used to not bother with set lists at all. Their management said it would be a really good idea to put one together, so they did. And they never follow it. “So if you have an official Reverend Horton Heat set list — it’s wrong.”

As if to drive the point home, they took requests from the audience pretty much the rest of the night. We were treated to (in no particular order): “Big Red Rocket of Love,” “It’s Martini Time,” “Local Gringos Like to Party,” “Marijuana,” “Galaxy 500,” “Bales of Cocaine,” “The Jimbo Song,” “Psychobilly Freakout,” “F’d Up Ford,” “Like a Rocket,” “Theme from A Shot In the Dark” (originally by Henry Mancini), and a couple others I’m sure I missed.

After the show I hung around for a while hoping to get their new Christmas album We Three Kings, signed. I caught Jimbo first, he tends to appear before the others. Then, by pure luck, I saw Scott next — I’ve never seen him come out after a show. Finally Rev came out, signed stuff for a couple other people, then asked if I’d follow him to the merch table and he’d sign mine. No problem to me. I had all the time in the world. Along with the autographs, I got with all three guys too!

Final tally: 2 bands, 3 hours of music, 404 pictures, 3 autographs, 1 sore back (from being so close to the mosh pit and getting shoved around) and 3 hours sleep. A damn fine night, indeed.

I might be able to hold out for a whole year until they return to town.

Thursday, 13 October 2005

For those paying attention it might seem like Mike Doughty was here just yesterday. It’s actually been a couple months, but you’re pretty close. In July he did an outdoor show as part of the Aquatennial Block Party.

For that show, the crowd was packed in like sardines. Most of them were there to see Howie Day. The weather that day was the epitome of the dog-days of summer, or “balls hot” as Mike put it. Having other tickets that night, I didn’t stick around for Day, but Doughty got a 45 minute set and spent at least another couple hours signing autographs.

This time around was different. Doughty was the headliner, so that meant a full show instead of just a short set. Also it was inside First Avenue instead of outside. The weather wasn’t ungodly hot. Although crowded, there was at least a little room to breathe. Indoors on a rainy Wednesday night, there was actually room to breathe.

There were two opening acts. First came Oneida Fink, a singer/songwriter type with a keyboard player. In terms of stage presence and demeanor, it looked like an odd match, but not quite as weird as Excel vs. Isabella Antenna, but it was close. Even thought they weren’t bad, something about Fink’s music fell completely flat with the audience. It struck me as fairly depressing, almost a mopey/weepy quality to it. It just didn’t mesh with the rest of the evening.

The second opener was a woman named Erin McEowen. Armed with just a guitar, this spunky, cutie patootie put on a great set. She had trouble getting the audience engaged, but I think that was holdover from the first act. McEown was an accomplished guitar player with a fantastic voice. Very good stuff, indeed! I had never heard of her before, but based on the crowd size she was fairly well known.

Catching her at the merch table as she was packing up, I told her how impressed I was and that her set was a real treat. We talked for a minute or two and as I bought her CD. As I handed her a twenty, she said she didn’t have change. I told her she could keep the extra $5 if I could get her autograph and a picture. She not only obliged, but when she found change several minutes later, she tracked me down to return the $5. I listened to the CD on the way home and definitely want to hear more.

Minnesota has always been good to Doughty. Every time Soul Coughing played the Twin Cities, it was always packed. Now that he’s gone solo, it’s no different.

Soul Coughing was always very popular in the Twin Cities, typically selling out shows each time they played. By the looks of things, Minnesota is still good to Doughty. By the time he took the stage, the club was pretty packed. It wasn’t the worst I experienced at First Avenue, but I wouldn’t have wanted any more people to jam in there either.

I think his popularity stems from not just his witty lyrics and musical craftsmanship, but how he treats the fans. He always makes it a point to come out and sign stuff after the show. He takes the time to shake hands and talk with people as well as pose for pictures. It’s that extra something that really makes him stand out.

Doughty did most of the songs from Haughty Melodic interspersed with some old Soul Coughing tunes in his 90+ minute set. I was too busy getting pictures and enjoying the show to take notes, so there’s no way I remember the set list. “Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well” and “Busting Up A Starbucks” were in there, as was “Kansas City” from Ruby Vroom.

Near the end of the show he did a couple cover tunes that just killed me. Although it may help to be familiar with Doughty’s style, but imagine a bluesy, scat-rock version of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. I kid you not. It was hysterical and the audience even sang along with “Gambler.”

I can’t wait for the next time Doughty comes through town. Heck, I could see doing a road trip to see him again.

Sunday, 17 July 2005

Previously , the only prior exposure I had to Junior Brown came by way of a Gap jeans TV spot several years ago. No, really! Even though the commercial gave just the tiniest taste, I was drawn in by his rock n’ roll with a twang as well as his combo standard/steel guitar, “Big Red.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been big on country music, but this didn’t fit what I normally considered part of the genre. There was something about Junior Brown that I really liked. According to his Web site, he hears that more than anything else. Still, it hadn’t been enough to buy any of his CDs.

So with no real information to go on, I kind of bought the ticket on impulse. I figured that, if nothing else, it would get me out of the house for a few hours. And, who knows? I might even discover something good. On my way home, I bought two CDs, Greatest Hits and Down Home Chrome. The former because it could give me a glimpse into several albums worth of his work, the latter because I liked the title and the cover.

No amount of research, certainly not as limited as a single TV commercial two CDs could prepare me for what I was about to see—one really good show. I got there about 5 minutes before the show and was a bit worried, there weren’t very many people there at all. It was just going to be Brown the whole night, no opening act. And surprisingly, the stage was even more sparsely populated than the audience; just a simple drum kit, plus a few microphones and amplifiers.

Junior took the stage with a drummer and bass player and just laid into it. Seeing “Big Red,” his custom-built guit-steel, in pictures or on TV was one thing. To see it in person, or more importantly to see Junior Brown play it, was another thing entirely. His undeniable talent on the guitar, coupled with his baritone voice, and capable songwriting made for a great time.

The only song I recognized with any certainty was “Highway Patrol.” Based on audience reaction, he did several other hits through the evening, but there’s no way I could list them.

I never figured out why Brown had a cargo blanket over his stage amplifiers. Every so often he’d reach underneath and tweak a knob or two. If I had the chance, I’d ask him about it, but it didn’t really matter. The music was more than enough to keep my attention. I found myself really getting into it, constantly surprised by Brown’s guitar work and musicianship.

After the show I stuck around hoping to get an autograph. Eventually, one of the bouncers said Junior was out in the tour bus and probably wouldn’t come back into the club. Reluctantly, I went outside and found a few other fans waiting. Junior never did come back out. In that heat I don’t blame him. Luckily, one of his roadies was nice enough to take stuff onto the bus and get it autographed for us.

The final tally was 3 musicians, 90 minutes of kick-ass music, 290 pictures, and 1 autograph.

Happily, from humble beginnings came one hell of a night. I guess it’s best described by using a quote from Brown’s Web site: his music “combines the soul of country, but the spirit of rock-and-roll.” No doubt.

You can bet I’ll go see him again if I’m get the chance.

Thursday, 07 July 2005

Last night it was surf guitar at its finest when Los Straitjackets brought their Summer Twist Party to First Avenue. The Pontani Sisters were there, of course, with their burlesque/go-go revue; as was Kaiser George to pull double duty as announcer and part-time singer.

I was a bit surprised to see them back so soon. They had been here less than a year ago for their Christmas Pageant, which was the first time I saw them live. Previously I had only caught them a couple times on Conan O’Brien, but even then I was hooked.

The Twin Cities was the first stop on their summer tour. I was told they didn’t have much time to practice, but you wouldn’t have known. They were tight and put on a great show. And they have a new drummer too! Jason from The Hi-Risers recently joined the group after Jimmy Lester left the band.

The 90+ minute set included several old favorites, but unfortunately they didn’t do “Batman” or “The Munsters Theme.” On the flip side, they more than made up for it with several new songs along the way.

The opening act was a group called Chrome Johnson. The guy working the merch table described them as being similar to Reverend Horton Heat which, once I heard them, wasn’t quite accurate. What they are is still pretty cool. They’re a San Francisco four-piece that does a rockabilly, gypsy swing, twang sort of thang.

From just the opening song I could tell I was in for a treat. They did several songs off their one and only CD, including a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” I liked it well enough to buy their disc at the show and listened on the way home.

So far Los Straitjackets are 2 for 2. They’ve put on two great shows and introduced me to two bands I never would have found otherwise. You can bet I’ll see them every time they come into town.

Final score for the evening: 3+ hours of live music, 12 autographs (including Chrome Johnson), and 328 pictures. Most of the pictures are crap, but there are 10-12 decent ones with a couple real winners.

Monday, 25 April 2005

Could there be a more perfect place for Moby to play in the Twin Cities than First Avenue? No other venue could offer the right combination of atmosphere and occupancy to host a show by the venerable artist.

Hjalmer and I met up at our usual pre-concert stop: Copeland’s, then headed over to the show about 7:15. Doors opened at 7:00, so the initial crowd of club-kids had dissapated. Once inside, we discovered that there was no opening act (cool), and that Moby wasn’t scheduled to come on until 9:00 (not so cool). Realistically, that meant he wouldn’t start until almost 9:30, giving us a two-hour wait.

That was to be the only disappointment of the evening, although I did meet someone I’ll never forget.

Her name was Evelyn. She was fairly attractive, quite friendly, and talked my ear off before the show. At first I thought she was hitting on me, but then she mentioned her boyfriend with such emphasis that I realized 1) she was remarkably drunk, and 2) I’m not that hard up. She turned out to be fairly harmless. After a while, Evelyn’s friend, whom I’ll call Sheila (because I can’t remember her name, but it started with an S. Maybe.), asked Hjalmer for help finding Evelyn. Sheila had enlisted his help because he’s tall and would be able to see over the crowd. Almost immediately Sheila turns around and discovers that Evelyn is standing not 6 feet away, talking to me. Sheila had assumed we were a couple and walked right by. I won’t say she was quite as drunk as Evelyn, but Sheila had a good buzz on.

Mercifully, Moby took the stage and put on a great show. It was loud, but visually stunning and well worth it. Besides, I had my ear-plugs, so the noise level was no problem. The lighting was well done and he was an engaging performer.

What struck me most was that the show wasn’t as pre-programmed as I thought it would be. For some reason I expected it to be Moby, a DJ rig and some keyboards. Moby actually had a band (bass, drums, keyboard) and played guitar and did vocals.

I’d put a set list here, but I can never remember them after the show. Certainly not with any kind of accuracy. Sure, I could carry a notepad and keep a list during the show, but I’m not great at naming songs based on the music or lyrics. Some are easy, like when the song has a distinct chorus, but others don’t come so readily. Going from song title to lyrics or tune, no problem. The other way aroundhopeless. Besides, trying to take notes would preclude any dancing I might want to do in the unlikely event that I want to completely rock-out.

I do remember that Moby played several of my favorites including “Natural Blues,” “Feeling So Real,” “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?,” “Bodyrock,” and “Find My Baby.” He also did a couple of his more popular songs like “Southside” and “We Are All Made of Stars.”

Of course, since this was a tour to promote the new album, I’m sure he did a few songs from there, but since I haven’t picked it up as yet, there’s absolutely no way to recall what they were.

Hjalmer was able to fill in a few more from the show. He added “Go,” “Move,” “Next Is the E,” and “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver.”

At some point during the show, Evelyn wandered off. After that, Sheila gave me grief because I didn’t keep track of her. Excuse me! I just met the woman! You’d think the friend she came to the show with (Sheila) would be the responsible party here. I came to have a good time, not babysit strangers.

After the 90 minute set, we hung around the club for a little while. It was worth it, because Moby came out to talk with fans and sign autographs. It turned into kind of a madhouse with girls pushing their way through in an effort to give Moby a hug, profess their undying love, and call their friends over.

As I got to the front, another young woman started to shove in front of me saying “I’m going to have him sign my breast. Want to watch?”

I could only reply “Sounds tempting, but I just want to get his autograph and thank him for a great show. How about I go first then get out of your way?” I won.

Of course later I thought of other snappier, and more unseemly, comments. Comments which I shall decline to share at this time.

Thursday, 16 December 2004

Another week, another great show. This time it was Los Straitjackets at First Avenue with their Christmas Pageant. It was truly a banner night!

The opening act, The Hi-Risers, was fantastic! They’re a rock-and-roll act who’s sound I’d compare to Buddy Holly. I was so impressed that, right after their set, I hit the merchandise table and bought two of their CDs. Turns out they’re really nice guys too.

Los Straitjackets put on a great show, doing several Christmas tunes along with a bunch of normal tracks. You gotta love that 50’s surf-rock sound. Add to that the Pontani Sisters doing their Go-Go thing. The whole thing is a sight to behold!

After the show, all the bands came out and I managed to get autographs from all 11 performers: Los Straitjackets (4), The Pontani Sisters (3), The Hi-Risers (3), and Kaiser George (the announcer and part-time singer with Los Straitjackets.

The guys in The Hi-Risers were totally cool. I hit up Greg, the guitar player, for his autograph first. He saw me and said I looked like a "man on a mission." When I relized I fogot my Sharpie and only had a ball-point, he ran to get his own marker. We chatted for a couple minutes, then he pointed Todd, the bass player, at me (not the other way around) so I could get his autograph. Todd, in turn, caught Jason, the drummer, before he could sneak out. Admittedly, it was no big deal, but it’s the kind of thing that turns someone who simply likes your music into a fan.

Finally, a friend and I were standing in front of the club when "Pedro", the bass player from Los Straitjackets, came out and was getting directions from one of the club staff. I caught up with him at the end of the block and got a chance to chat for about half a block where we each headed our separate ways; me to my car, him to a cab.

I’m kicking myself now for not offering him a lift. I’ll remember next time.

Thursday, 09 December 2004

Saw the Reverend Horton Heat show last night and it kicked ass, as always. A couple friends and I went to dinner before the show, so we missed the opening act, but Copeland’s was worth it.

We hung around after the show and I was lucky enough to get Jimbo and the Reverend himself to autograph my Lucky 7 CD insert.

All in all a good evening. I even remembered my ear plugs this time.

Thursday, 18 September 2003

Went to the Reverend Horton Heat show last night and it rocked! I forgot my earplugs and may have done even further, irreparable, damage to my hearing, but I had a great time.

The two opening bands, Throw Rag and BR549, where pretty good. Throw Rag is best described as a punk outfit from Southern California. BR549 bill themselves as a country act, but it’s more a bluegrass, folk, rockabilly thing if you ask me. Personally, I liked BR549 better, while my friend, Hjalmer, like Throw Rag better.

In other news:

  • I’ve been working way too much.
  • I still find time to fly (kites) once every couple weeks.
  • I passed my driver’s test (yes, at 36 years old.)
  • I have a vehicle.