Nothing But the Moment

DSC06412I headed south to The Observatory North Park in San Diego, CA on July 9, 2016 to see one of my favorite bands, Toad the Wet Sprocket, on their summer tour. I’ve been a fan of Toad since my first year of university and saw them in concert a couple of times at the height of their popularity in the mid-90s. As they are local to Southern California, it has been easy for me to catch their shows multiple times over the past few years. This summer they are on the road with Rusted Root, co-headlining shows and taking turns with the opening and closing slots. On some stops of the tour,  The Voice performer from the 2014 season, Luke Wade, joins them to play a short opening set.

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Luke Wade Performing at The Observatory North Park

Luke Wade took to the stage with his guitar and filled that cavernous space with six of his original songs and one cover. When he sings you can understand why he was on The Voice, his vocals being well-controlled and resonant, with a slightly raspy quality that distinguishes his sound. He played a pleasing set and helpfully introducing each song, saying a few words regarding what they were written about. He played:

  1. Passenger Side
  2. This Fire” — from Tomorrow’s Ghosts (as Luke Wade & No Civilians).  Luke commented that this one came to him in a dream, in which the dream people were requesting songs he didn’t want to play, and he began writing this song in a dream. When he woke up part of the song was fresh in his mind and he felt that it was a good one, so sat down to write it.
  3. Kiss and Make Up” — He prefaced this one by noting, “The more you can show people who you are, the more you’ll find yourself surrounded by the right people.”
  4. Morning View” — Luke remarked that this one is based on that striking feeling, “When you see someone for the first time and you know you want to wake up next to that person for the rest of your life.”
  5. “Runaway” — The most recent song that Luke has written that he performed and which will be on his next album, is a reflection on dating in your 30s, at a time when people have gone through previous relationships. It conveys the idea that this time things will work out differently, “This time its going to be okay.”
  6. Maybe I’m Amazed” — A cover of Paul McCartney’s classic song, which Luke said was one of his favorites to sing and which he also performed on The Voice.
  7. ‘Til the Fighting is Through” — from his most recent album The River.
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Rusted Root Performs at The Observatory North Park

Rusted Root is one of those bands that managed to fly below my musical radar for nearly all of the 26+ years they’ve been in existence. When they took the stage, I was most impressed by the skills of the musicians and how tightly the sounds of the instruments and vocals were woven together. Their incorporation of various percussion instruments and rhythms into their songs made their tunes infectious, even on hearing them for the first time. A few of their songs seemed fairly lengthy and being new to their music, I wasn’t sure if they were going for the long jam or if they had segued into the next tune and I’d missed the transition. I struggled to understand the lyrics from lead singer Michael Glabicki and I am not sure if it was clarity of singing or the poor sound mix at the front. Regardless, if you were there to get pumped up by some groovy music or bust out some dance moves, then Rusted Root delivered the goods.

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Rusted Root Lead Singer Michael Glabicki

Drummer Cory Caruso kicked off their set in high gear as the rest of the band (also including Liz Berlin, Patrick Norman, and Dirk Miller) made their way on to the stage. Songs played included:

  1. Drum Trip” an abbreviated version
  2. Martyr” from Cruel Sun
  3. Cover Me Up” from The Movement
  4. Suspicious Minds” cover of the Mark James song made famous by Elvis
  5. Save Me” new song
  6. Blue Diamonds” from Welcome to My Party
  7. Laugh as the Sun” from When I Woke
  8. Rebel Rebel” David Bowie cover
  9. Drum Trip” full version from When I Woke
  10. Ecstasy” from When I Woke
  11. Rain” from When I Woke
  12. Voodoo” from Remember
  13. Send Me On My Way” – their best known song that everyone in the audience seemed to know the words to except me, from Cruel Sun and When I Woke
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Lead Singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Glen Phillips

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Todd Nichols of Toad the Wet Sprocket

There was much anticipation as to what Toad the Wet Sprocket would cover in their set as they celebrate the 25th anniversary of their breakthrough album fear. The band continues to be comprised of its original line-up of Glen Phillips on lead vocals and guitar, Todd Nichols on lead guitar and vocals, Dean Dinning on bass, tambourine, and vocals, and Randy Guss on percussion, and supported by regular utility player and good friend of the band, Jonathan Kingham, on multiple instruments. Their last full album, New Constellation, is already three years behind them and last summer saw the release of their EP Architect of the Ruin. They ended up playing a few more songs from fear than usual and a mix of tunes running through the back catalog (though nothing from their first album), as well as one off of Glen Phillips’s brand new solo album Swallowed By the New (now available for pre-order), and a cover from a forthcoming Roger Miller tribute album by multiple artists. It is near impossible for me to write about Toad’s set in an objective manner, having met and talked with the band members a few times after shows, so I’ll just get on with sharing the set list. The set was comprised of:

  1. Fly From Heaven” from Dulcinea
  2. Good Intentions” from In Light Syrup
  3. The Moment” from New Constellation (borrowed a line for the post title)
  4. Something’s Always Wrong” from Dulcinea
  5. Butterflies” from fear
  6. Architect of the Ruin” from Architect of the Ruin
  7. I Will Not Take These Things for Granted” from fear
  8. Nothing Can Stop My Love” Roger Miller cover
  9. Amnesty” from Swallowed By the New, link from the title is to the official video, there is also a video of Toad playing this song from this concert
  10. Crazy Life” from In Light Syrup

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    Happy Birthday Jonathan Kingham!

  11. Before You Were Born” from fear
  12. Come Back Down” from Pale
  13. Nightingale Song” from fear
  14. “Happy Birthday” in honor of Jonathan Kingham’s birthday
  15. All I Want” from fear
  16. Fall Down” from Dulcinea
  17. New Constellation” from New Constellation (first song of the encore)
  18. Windmills” from Dulcinea, my favorite Toad song, any way it is arranged
  19. Walk on the Ocean” from fear

 

 

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Let Life Overflow

July 7, 2016 saw Sara Watkins in concert at Largo at the Coronet for the release of her new album Young in All the Wrong Ways. It is beautiful album that shows an edgier side of Sara than we’ve seen on her previous releases. The album was produced by Punch Brothers member Gabe Witcher and supported on the recording by other musicians who have also frequented the Largo stage, including Jon Brion, Sean Watkins, Tyler Chester, Jay Bellarose, and Benmont Tench.

At the show, Sara played through the album in order and then tacked on a few favorites as a bonus at the end. Musicians rotating on and off stage for various songs included: David Garza on guitar and piano, Tyler Chester on bass and Mellotron, Mark Stepro on drums, Erica Canales and Andrea Blunt providing background vocals, and Benmont Tench on piano. Dan Wilson, who co-wrote a couple of the songs on the album, also performed as did Gabe Witcher and The Section Quartet. Sara mostly played her guitar dubbed “Pat,” as well as her fiddle. The set list included:

  1. Young in All the Wrong Ways” This album title track confirms Sara is doing things a little differently this time around. Check out the official video for this song at the link.
  2. The Love that Got Away” This tune is one of my personal favorites on the album.
  3. One Last Time” Before starting this number Sara remarked, “It’s that time of the night where I realize I left off stage something I desperately need on stage — let me get my fiddle.” This number was co-written with Jon Foreman. Dan Wilson appeared on stage to perform.
  4. Move Me” The “featured track” from the album. Check out the official video at the link.
  5. Like New Year’s Day” Sara described the inspiration for this song as heading to the dessert on New Year’s Day, specifically referencing the Kingston Mountain range and Calico ghost town in her story. This was co-written with Dan Wilson.
  6. Say So” Sara remarked that this was a story of trust, also performed with Dan Wilson.
  7. Without a Word” The Section Quartet joined in this one. Sara switched guitars and had some issues getting plugged in and remarks, “I’ve been doing this all my life” in reference to chasing cables, and perhaps also the small mishaps and delays between songs. As long is the music sounds good, none of that other stuff matters.
  8. The Truth Won’t Set Us Free” Sara wrote this one when she couldn’t get the infectious 2-step shuffle of Rodney Crowell’s songs out of her head.
  9. Invisible” Sara told how when she was developing this song, she sent it to her friend, musician Glen Phillips, and received some good advice back that she should make the song more about what it is actually about, causing her to re-write the song.
  10. Tenderhearted” The final song on the album was inspired by two important ladies in Sara’s life, her grandmother and a family friend named Nell, and more broadly anyone who generally has had a lot of hardship but “came through with gold coming out of them.” I’ve borrowed a part of the lyric from this song for the title of this post, “It’s the tenderhearted that let life overflow.”
  11. Unnamed John Hartford fiddle tune performed as a duet with Gabe Witcher
  12. Long Hot Summer Days” popular singalong tune available on her self-titled album
  13. From a Buick 6” (Bob Dylan cover)
  14. Where Is Love Now?” (Sam Phillips cover) Pretty version performed live with the Section Quartet. The recorded version is on Nickel Creek’s album A Dotted Line.
  15. You and Me” from Sara’s solo album Sun Midnight Sun.

 

 

I Bleed You and I Know You Know I Do

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Beta Play at The Hotel Cafe

I was thrilled that Beta Play booked another L.A. show just a couple weeks after their previous one at The Troubadour. They played on The Hotel Cafe main stage in the middle time slot on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.  They were once again playing with new drummer Joshua Daubin and so the set list was the same as at The Troubadour to cover all the songs he has already learned. No matter, it was a fantastic and energetic set list, including their best and newest songs:

  1. The Way We Play,” recently released as a single on iTunes
  2. Innocent,” from Only Human (as Tommy and the High Pilots)
  3. I Am the Prey,” from the Beta Play EP
  4. Heaven is Under the Sun,” from the Beta Play EP
  5. Do You Love Me,” from the Beta Play EP, borrowed a lyric for the post title
  6. Electric 22,” from the Beta Play EP
  7. Somebody Make a Move,” from Only Human (as Tommy and the High Pilots)
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Beta Play’s Lead Singer Tom Cantillon

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Beta Play’s Bassist Mike Dyer

Lead singer and guitarist, Tom Cantillon was once again in top form, commanding the stage and delivering the bands appealing, catchy tunes with panache. He has a fascinating stage presence — dancing, talking with the audience, and losing himself in the songs he performs. If you want to know what the X factor looks like, look no further than Tom on stage. Mike Cantillon on keyboards is the musical magician in this show, providing the core of the instrumentation that supports the lyrics, as well as harmonizing effortlessly with his brother. Bassist Mike Dyer continues to provide dynamic support on the low end and adds his own energy to the performance, constantly moving side to side as he plays, while maintaining an intense look of listening and concentration on his face. Drummer Joshua Daubin asserted himself from the back of the stage, attacking the beat on these songs in a more aggressive manner than was seen from Beta Play’s previous drummer and with fresh enthusiasm.

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Drummer Joshua Daubin Performing with Beta Play

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Brothers Mike and Tom Cantillon

There was a good-sized audience there for the show and at least half the audience left after Beta Play finished, suggesting the band was able to bring a lot of their fans out to see the concert. It is always much more exciting to see a band play for committed fans and so it was satisfying to see fellow audience members grooving and singing along to the band’s tunes.  My favorite moment of the night was hearing “Electric 22” because I find the live version of this song to be jaw-droppingly awesome. There was one odd moment when the guitar amp began emitting a high-pitched prolonged tone prior to the final song, but the band just turned it off and carried on without the guitar for “Somebody Make a Move.” Tom gave it the full interactive audience treatment, as well as adding in some dance moves, and so it seemed to not matter that the guitar was dropped from the formula — it was handled completely professionally.

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Opening Band Everett Coast at The Hotel Cafe

 

Just want to give a quick mention to the other two bands on the schedule that night. I only caught a few songs from the opening band, Everett Coast, which remarkably plays exactly the style of music you might expect when you hear their name. The band is anchored by duo singer-songwriters Danny Byrne and Josh Misko, who swapped guitars and Ohana ukuleles in and out during the set, and supported by a stand-up bass player and drummer. You can listen to their last two EPs Lift Off and Hey, Hey, California on Soundcloud.

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Newton and the Fates at The Hotel Cafe

Recently formed band Newton and the Fates played in the final spot of the night. They delivered some hot soul with three ladies providing solid powerful harmonies, supported by the jazzy tones of the piano, guitar, bass and drums. They have a few demos available to listen to on Soundcloud.

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My Favorite Photo of the Night: Beta Play’s Tom Cantillon