Memories to Hold

In August, I went on vacation to New York City for the first time in my life. I had decided in the spring that I wanted to make visiting that city a priority. There were two time slots I had available to travel during the summer and wouldn’t you know the second one coincided with one of my favorite bands, Toad the Wet Sprocket, playing at City Winery NYC. Of course, by the time I had made my decision to take the trip, there were only VIP experience tickets left, so I sprung for that without hesitation. Within days, the band added a second show to the venue that same night, as well as announcing that New York would be one of the places where they would celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of their album fear by playing it through in its entirety. I bought tickets for the second show right away and secured a seat next to the stage. I also decided I would get a ticket to see Toad at the Bergen PAC in New Jersey the following night. I’m going to summarize all three of those concerts in this one post.

I’m a member of a Facebook group for Glen Philips fans and so I had made some online friends through the group who I knew would be attending the concerts too. On Monday, August 22, 2016, I arrived at City Winery just before the doors were opened to VIPs and immediately ran into one of the ladies from the group who was sharing in the VIP experience.  As part of the VIP experience, I received a signed Toad lanyard, fear poster, got to say hello to the band, and had a great photo taken with them, and then listened to a couple songs played acoustically, “Nanci” from Dulcinea and one of their best known songs, “All I Want” from fear. My seat for the first show was at the far right corner of the stage, which wasn’t ideal, but of course, I was feeling so happy to be there it didn’t matter. I was sat at a table with three ladies, who each came on their own, and we made small talk before opener Luke Wade took to the stage. Toad fans are fairly friendly.

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Luke Wade at City Winery NYC

I’d seen Luke play once before when he opened for Toad in San Diego in July. This time, I decided to buy a couple of his albums at the show, because I like his voice and song interpretation.  Pressed for time because of the back-to-back show schedule, he played just a few tunes from his forthcoming album, Of Ghosts. He introduced his first song “Passenger Side,” noting it represented, “working to keep your love young” no matter your age. Commenting on “While I Was Away” he mentioned about that song’s origins, “Being on the road and trying to make it work, it can be a tough thing.”  He followed that with “Kiss and Make Up.” He finished with a song called “Til the Fighting Is Through” from his previous album The River. I love the line in this song, “The things that make you different are the things that make you great.”

 

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Toad the Wet Sprocket Performing at City Winery NYC, First Show

It was strange to see Toad the Wet Sprocket begin their show with “Walk On the Ocean” as this is often the closing song of the night, but that’s what they did as Glen announced, “The first twelve songs are going to be fear, in album order.” That first show I spent some time trying to take some good pictures (including moving around to the center aisle and with mixed results because of the lighting), but sitting in rapt attention whenever they got to a song I hadn’t heard live before. Here is the set list for that early show:

  1. Walk On the Ocean” I borrowed a line from this song for the post title.
  2. Is It For Me
  3. Butterflies
  4. Nightingale Song
  5. Hold Her Down” Glen took a moment to say, “We don’t play this song except when we’re doing the fear shows because the subject matter isn’t fun.” He also talked about how Tori Amos helped with the creation of the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) and how Toad the Wet Sprocket was an early supporter of RAINN and were supporting a fundraising campaign for RAINN to coincide with the summer #fear25 tour.
  6. Pray Your Gods” At the end of this song, Glen turned to bassist Dean Dinning and asked, “Dean, do you want to flip the record?” To which Dean perfectly mimed the actions of turning over a record with accompanying vocal sound effects.

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    Dean Dinning (and Randy Guss) of Toad the Wet Sprocket

  7. Before You Were Born
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    Glen’s Black Shoes

    Something to Say” After this one, someone in the audience had something to say, “Why are you wearing shoes Glen?”  Glen is known for performing barefoot at the majority of Toad concerts. To which he replied, “The floor was wet in the green room…I’m making a political statement. I’m wearing black shoes to convey my sadness.”

  9. In My Ear” There was a brief interruption of the set list as Dean, drummer Randy Guss, and Glen (whistling), provided an impromptu teaser of Stevie’s Wonder “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”
  10. All I Want” Glen commented regarding this song, “I’m so glad we didn’t put all the singles at the front of the album. It would make these shows so weird. We were really smart.”
  11. Stories I Tell” This was probably my most anticipated song of the night. I’m surprised they don’t play this one more often live. Guitarist Todd Nichols’s playing and tone on this one was absolutely superb.  Toad could have been a grunge band if they wanted to.
  12. I Will Not Take These Things for Granted” On fear, the transition from the noisy, bleak, fuzziness  of “Stories I Tell” to the exquisite beauty of this anthem has to be one of the most genius moments on the album. It felt that way in the concert too, and especially for me, connecting with the lyrics of this song and feeling absolutely blessed to be on vacation in New York and seeing my favorite band. It was a moment of pure bliss. Final song of the fear album.

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    Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket

  13. Architect of the Ruin” from Architect of the Ruin EP
  14. Amnesty” from Swallowed By the New. Glen took a moment to announce his new solo album Swallowed By the New, which was on sale during the tour and now available for pre-order from his website. When I first heard this song played solo acoustic by Glen, I thought that it should be a Toad song and was so glad the band decided to play their own arrangement of it live, because it kicks ass. The band needs to record this track in the future.
  15. Brother” from In Light Syrup. Good friend of the band, Jonathan Kingham always adds some cool playing on the keyboard during this song.

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    Jonathan Kingham Played Various Instruments to Back Toad the Wet Sprocket

  16. ENCORE “Nothing Can Stop My Love” This is a Roger Miller song that they’ve recorded for a forthcoming tribute album. After this one, Glen announced, “We’re out of time, so we’re going to play one more.”
  17. Fall Down” from Dulcinea

 

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Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Second Show at City Winery NYC

There was a fairly quick turn around between the two concerts, but I had the chance to talk to a few more friends I’d met through the Facebook group.We were all seated near each other at the front of the stage, just left of center. When Glen stepped up to the microphone he joked, “I have the feeling of deja vu.” Me too. He seemed extra chatty in the second show, more like one of his solo shows. I’m speculating he enjoyed some of City Winery’s fine beverages.  The band once again played through all of the fear album. After “Walk On the Ocean” Glen remarked, “We’re playing the album according to Dean’s copy that has skips in it. ‘In My Ear’… the chorus goes on for 30 minutes!” My first CD version of fear, I got second hand (a stoned guy was trying to give away his whole CD collection late one night.  I just took the one CD, but it skipped during “Nightingale Song,” so this comment made me laugh.)  Once again before “Hold Her Down” Glen made his announcement about RAINN and noted, “We had a song about rape culture before we had the phrase; and we still have the same damn problem!” Too true.  After “Pray Your Gods” Glen again noted it was time to switch sides, “Now the cassette comes out of the player. Take out a pencil and tighten it up. Flip it over.”

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Todd Nichols Playing a Custom Guitar He Built (“Nichols” on the Headstock)

Before “All I Want” Randy started drumming a Latin American-spiced rhythm while the other guys were getting ready for the song (there seemed to be more guitar changes than seem usual when playing straight through an album, I guess because you can’t just do blocks of songs that get played on one instrument). Anyway, Glen responded to that with “There’s an extra samba track on the original.” After the song finished, Glen stated, “I wanted to do a Christmas album all in the style of the X Files,” as he began slowly whistling the beginning of “Winter Wonderland.” On conclusion of “I Will Not Take These Things for Granted” he commented, “Put the cassette back in the case.”  The songs played after the fear album were:

  1. Fly From Heaven” from Dulcinea
  2. Crazy Life” from Coil,  Todd Nichols sings lead vocal
  3. “Amnesty” from Swallowed By the New
  4. “Architect of the Ruin” from Architect of the Ruin
  5. “Brother” from In Light Syrup. After this song, Randy came to the front of the stage for a couple minutes to thank the crowd for their support that night and the preceding years.
  6. “Nothing Can Stop My Love” Roger Miller cover
  7. Something’s Always Wrong” from Dulcinea
  8. “Fall Down” from Dulcinea
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Glen Phillips Performing “Stories I Tell” at City Winery NYC

The following night, August 23, 2016, Toad the Wet Sprocket performed at the Bergen PAC in Englewood, New Jersey. I was pleased with myself for figuring out how to travel there on public transit from my hotel room near Times Square in New York, including getting on the correct bus from the Port Authority Transit Station. Arrived early and had dinner with some more fan friends (and Todd and Dean ended up dining in the same restaurant), but missed the first act, Daisie Ghost-Flower. This was another show that Toad was playing with Rusted Root and I found my reserved seat about six rows back from the stage (but not anywhere near my friends) shortly after Rusted Root’s set started. I was extremely tired from all the tourist activity (so much walking) I had been taking in over the past few days, the late night out the previous night, as well as the 8 mile run through Central Park that I had done that morning, that I actually dozed through most of their set.  This show was not one of the fear shows, so there were a few different songs added to the Toad set list. However, as Bergen PAC had a curfew of 10:30pm, the band only played 15 songs, even with limited breaks for comments from Glen.

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Dean Dinning of Toad the Wet Sprocket Performs at Bergen PAC

The set list from that night was:

  1. Good Intentions” from In Light Syrup
  2. Rings” from Coil
  3. The Moment” from New Constellation. Glen says, “Did you all have a very good time with Rusted Root? This is a song that we play.” Was that the most obvious/worst introduction to a song ever?
  4. “Fly From Heaven” from Dulcinea. When that finished, Glen said, “We’ll head back to the fear album for a second.”
  5. “Something to Say” from Fear
  6. “Amnesty” from Swallowed By the New
  7. “Architect of the Ruin” from Architect of the Ruin. Glen gives the song title and mentions that it is on the EP of the same name that Toad recorded. He continues and says, “This is that. Not the EP. The song. I am doing a huge (job?) of rock ‘n’ roll banter.” Continuing with, “I’m going to scale the lighting and fly through this room.”  Randy says something from behind the drum kit I didn’t quite catch, but might have been, “We’re going to do this?” to which Glen responds, “Randy’s got fighting words happening right now.” Haha, I love the weird band banter. Just reminds you that these guys are regular people with varying personalities trying to get through playing a rock concert together (you know, in front of a few hundred people).  I was almost waiting for it to go full Spinal Tap. How appropriate the song after that then?

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    Randy Guss of Toad the Wet Sprocket

  8. “Something’s Always Wrong” from Dulcinea
  9. Come Back Down” from Pale. Glen said an interesting thing relating to fear and Toad — that the ages of his children were like a map for his experience with the band. His youngest daughter is currently the age he was when the band formed and his oldest daughter is the age he was when they finished the fear tour. That put some perspective on that passage of time.

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    Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket Performing at Bergen PAC

  10. “Nightingale Song” from fear
  11. “All I Want” from fear
  12. “Fall Down” from Dulcinea
  13. ENCORE: “Nothing Can Stop My Love” Roger Miller cover
  14. “I Will Not Take These Things for Granted” from fear
  15. “Walk On the Ocean” from fear
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Toad the Wet Sprocket at Bergen PAC

 

 

 

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Beam of Light

dsc06834Saturday, August 13, 2016 I was at the Troubadour to see Rhett Miller, lead singer of the band Old 97’s, perform a solo show.  Trapper Schoepp was handpicked by Rhett to open the show. Trapper, a self-acknowledged Rhett wannabee, noted half-jokingly, half in vexation at the start of his set that night, “I can’t do all the stage moves I stole from him!”  However, he had the talent to successfully assume the position of Rhett-lite, as well as demonstrate his own charm and talent for laying down some catchy, story songs and clever lyric phrases spun over straightforward chord changes. Trapper brought along fiddle player, Gina Romantini, who looked like she borrowed her fashion-sense that night from Sara Watkins. They performed a perfectly entertaining set of roots rock, barreling through 11 songs as Trapper had a late night flight to catch back to his home state of Wisconsin immediately after the show.

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Trapper Schoepp and Gina Romantini Perform at the Troubadour

Trapper began his set by covering the old Jimmie Rogers song “Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas).” The next song Trapper played he introduced saying that he had written it “on a hospital bed in Rochester, MN before having spinal decompression surgery.” With lines such as “I’ve got a bad, bad back; Pins and Needles in a stack; won’t you please tell the nurse; medication makes it worse,” you believe it. The song can be found on his album Run, Engine, Run recorded under the name Trapper Schoepp and the Shades. Another original song followed that he had written last Valentine’s Day, “Talking Girlfriend Blues,” which is on his most recent album Rangers & Valentines.  He played another from Run, Engine, Run, “Tracks.” Having come to this concert in a familiar venue and meeting up with friends and seeing other concert-goers there that I’ve seen before at Old 97’s or Rhett’s shows, I identified with his line, “When you feel like you know everyone you meet and your walking up and down the same old street.”

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Trapper Schoepp at the Troubadour

Trapper played a few more songs from Rangers & Valentines, including one called “Tornado Alley.” He was loosening up by this point and was more talkative about his songs, giving a long introduction for “Dear Prospect” about letters his friend, baseball player Paul Hoenecke, got from MLB scouts. The next story was about Trapper being stranded in Ogalala, Nebraska during bad winter weather when a jack-knifed truck blocked off the highway and inspiration came to him after taking Nyquil and watching The Hobbit movie to write the song, “Ogallala” about his experience. Next up was “Lost Cowboy,” which he referenced as part two of the Ogallala story.  He then delivered some family history and played, “Ballad of Olof Johnson.”

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Trapper Schoepp at the Troubadour

Keeping with the theme of family history, he talked about his grandfather and his classic Mercedes Benz before playing the song on that subject, “Run, Engine, Run” from the album of the same name. He closed his set with a Merle Haggard cover, “Sing Me Back Home.” He also hopped off the stage and sang among the crowd briefly. His set was enjoyable and he got the crowd nicely warmed.

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Rhett Miller Performs at the Troubadour

Rhett is one of my favorite lyricists and he is so much fun to see live. Rhett descended to the stage from the upstairs green room bursting with energy that he conducted into his songs with gusto. He is such a powerhouse of a player, by the end of the show he had broken three strings on his guitar. I’ve done a few blog posts on Rhett’s solos shows during this past year, so I’m going to keep this section short. Please enjoy the photos as Rhett gets progressively sweatier. The set list was skewed toward Old 97’s songs, but he mixed it up pretty well among various albums:

  1. Melt Show” from Old 97’s album Too Far to Care
  2. Book of Poems” from Old 97’s album Satellite Rides
  3. Nashville” from Old 97’s album
  4. Lucky Star” from his album The Traveler. He prefaced this one with “There are a few songs I never play; songs that should have been huge hits.” He then referenced Elvis Costello, “They all sound like hits to me.” I’ve used the phrase “beam of light” from this song for the title of this post.

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    Early on in Rhett’s set at the Troubadour

  5. Rollerskate Skinny” from Old 97’s album Satellite Rides. Link to video I shot at the show. One of my favorite songs by the Old 97’s. One of his “Hollywood” songs, written when he lived there. “This one was born at the top of Doheny.”
  6. Just Like California” from Old 97’s album Too Far to Care
  7. Things That Disappear” from his album The Instigator. Link to video I shot at the show. He introduces it by talking about how he and Jon Brion played the song on Zach Galifianakis’s show, which had just been cancelled.
  8. What We Talk About” from Old 97’s album Fight Songs
  9.  “Bad Luck Charm” This is a new song listed on the set list as “Charm,”  that was done with Caitlin Rose for the Old 97’s next record. Lyric: “You know I was trouble from the start.”

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    Front Row at a Rhett Miller Show is the Splash Zone

  10. Big Brown Eyes” from Old 97’s album Wreck Your Life
  11. A State of Texas” from The Grand Theatre Volume One. Rhett remarks about his merch and his new “I Texas New York” shirts (because he’s from Texas but lives in New York).
  12. Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” from Old 97’s album Most Messed Up. Rhett dedicated this one to a fan and his so-called Astral Queen.
  13. Stoned” from Hitchhike to Rhome. Rhett asks the audience if we know who John Doe is and then comments that he had received advice from John, “Don’t ask the audience, ‘How y’all doing?’ because it’s insincere.” Rhett said he was just going to intuit how we were.
  14. Lonely Holiday” from Old 97’s album Fight Songs
  15. She Hates Everybody”  Link to video I shot at the show of this new song.
  16. Most in the Summertime” from his album The Traveler
  17. Lost Without You” from his album The Dreamer
  18. Jesus Loves You” Link to video I shot at the show of this new song (I had heard him perform this one in 2015 at Largo not too long after he had written it).
  19. Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On” from Old 97’s album Most Messed Up. First broken string happens on this song. He changes this one pretty quickly.

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    Replacing a Broken String

  20. Our Love” from his album The Instigator. Second broken string. Tells joke while changing strings as he’s having problems getting the strings unwound.
  21. Question” from Old 97’s album Satellite Rides
  22. Doreen” from Hitchhike to Rhome,
  23. Designs on You” from Old 97’s album Satellite Rides he asked a girl in the audience for a request and she chose this song. He noted that he had written this one when he lived on the corner of 6th and Hauser in L.A.

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    Hey there, Rhett!

  24. ENCORE: “California Stars” from his album The Interpreter
  25. Timebomb” from Old 97’s album Too Far to Care. Third broken string and he just plays through almost the whole song while it is dangling from the guitar.
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Rhett Miller and the Third Broken String During Timebomb

 

 

 

 

 

To See How Far We’ve Come

Hotel Cafe announced a benefit for an employee battling cancer just a couple weeks before the date of the show, August 12, 2016, which would feature members of Dawes playing solo acoustic.  The musicians waived their fees and the bar staff donated all their tips for the fundraiser. While not just being a rare opportunity to see some great songwriters in an intimate setting, it also was a night of feeling the love and support for another person as everyone involved in organizing the night showed their generosity and caring for one lady. Opening the night, Joe Purdy summed it up well, “This is the kind of night that reminds me of what’s good about us.”

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Joe Purdy at Hotel Cafe — Soundcheck Before the Lights Were Dimmed

This was my first time seeing Joe play live, though I did catch part of an online concert of his a few months back.  He exudes a calm demeanor and an ease on stage as if he is simply telling stories at a table or around a campfire. He mixed a heavy helping of explanations into the presentation of his songs, which were like short stories themselves. He introduced the first one, “New Year’s Eve” from his latest album Who Will Be Next?, by noting that it was the last song he had written at the end of last year and that it was about his “hopes for the future of all of us.”  It was a perfect song to begin with as it contained the line, “It only takes one to make a difference in another one’s life.” Though this night there was a crowd of people making that difference, but the idea must have sprouted from some one. Continuing with a song from the same album, he said “Kristine” was the first song he wrote this year and joked, “It’s gonna go in chronological order.”  Some lines include, “Maybe I’ll play for all the people I can find…maybe I’ll change the world just like my momma said…maybe I’ll just get stoned.” Immediately after singing that line he quipped, “My mother doesn’t like the part where I get stoned.”

Joe then played a favorite of the lady of honor for the evening (I know her name, but want to respect her privacy); it was the first time he ever played it on stage at Hotel Cafe, “StompinGrounds,” from the album of the same name. He had some fast guitar work on this tune — check it out at the link to a video taken that evening. The following song also tied into the venue. Joe explained that every time he played a show at Hotel Cafe, he would write a song that day.  He then played a tune he called “Mother’s Prayer,” (presumably written that day as I can find no record of it from before then).  He also explained that his mother gave him some advice that if he wanted to make a positive difference with is lyrics, he needed to take the anger out of his writing and “see the world with more compassionate eyes.” That’s some advice that all of us could benefit from.

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Joe Purdy at the Hotel Cafe Piano

He prefaced his song “Outlaws” from his album Canyon Joe, with a don’t-try-this-at-home warning, “Falling in love is not a reason to go on a bank robbing spree.” Next was a forlorn song called “Can’t Get It Right” from You Can Tell Georgia, which he played on piano and added harmonica. He talked about how he had written the song at the Hotel Cafe on the old piano, noting that it, “Gets requested a lot; I don’t usually play it.” The lyrics drip with a heavy, heart-aching confession and upon finishing Joe stated, “I don’t have any happy songs.” Which was a perfect transition into his next song, “Ba Girl,” from Eagle Rock Fire, with opening lines “People often tell me that all my songs are sad…but good times, they don’t sound as good as things that make you blue.” He played one last song dedicated to the lady of honor, “Surgery,” another one from StompinGrounds. Joe Purdy is an absolute gem and I’m looking forward to another chance to see him play live and spending some time until then checking out his catalogue of music.

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Lee Pardini, Taylor Goldsmith, and Griffin Goldsmith of Dawes at Hotel Cafe

Dawes was represented by lead singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, percussionist and background vocalist Griffin Goldsmith, and keyboard player, Lee Pardini, who also provided some harmonies. I had the good fortune to be seated right next to the stage by the piano. I like to be close where I can not only hear the music and see the musicians well, but also feel the vibrations coming off the stage. This allows me to feel fully immersed in and connected with the songs. I didn’t know that I needed to hear an acoustic set from these guys so badly until they started their set.  Many of my favorite songs were rendered into beautiful acoustic versions with harmonies that came alive due to their increased clarity and not being buried under multiple instruments.  For me, it was absolutely an exquisite experience.

  1.  “My Girl to Me” from North Hills, Taylor played this one solo. He is one of those singers with a flawless voice, every note perfect, nuanced, resonant, and imbued with meaning.

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    Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes

  2. Moon in the Water” from Nothing is Wrong, this one had come up on shuffle play on my iPod recently and when taken out of the context of the rest of the album, where more powerful songs seem to overwhelm it, it turns into a truly beautiful song, that I had overlooked before. I was hoping that it would turn up that evening as I thought it would be great for an acoustic set and I was so pleased when Taylor started singing it.
  3. Hey Lover” a Blake Mills song that they cover on Stories Don’t End,
    Griff got on the stage and the brothers shared singing lead on this song. Cool to see him out from behind the drum kit. He has a very quiet, watchful presence and I wonder if it is a little boring for him to not be drumming with these songs and just handling vocals and a shaker. Taylor commented after the song, “Straight back to the sad stuff.”
  4. Something in Common” from Stories Don’t End, link to video from this show — what a gorgeous rendition of this song! “I find that sorrow I’ve been chasing way too often.” Indeed.
  5. Somewhere Along the Way” from All Your Favorite Bands, this is one of my favorite songs by Dawes
  6. Coming Back to a Man” from Nothing is Wrong, Taylor introduced this one, “This is a song about telling myself how grown up I think I am now despite all the evidence.” Some beautiful flourishes on piano from Lee on this tune.

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    Lee Pardini of Dawes

  7. Now That It’s Too Late Maria” from All Your Favorite Bands, again another song that fits well into an acoustic setting, so touching to hear this one
  8. Roll Tide” new song from We’re All Gonna Die, with Griff taking the lead vocal. Beautiful song and a treat to hear live before the album release.
  9. Million Dollar Bill” from Nothing is Wrong, another lovely rendition on this song. So impressed how just the bare bones of the song still sound so good — the mark of a well-written tune.
  10. Just Beneath the Surface” from Stories Don’t End, Dawes writes some of the best lyrics, whether conveying a story or being introspective. Brilliant lines in that bridge, “Between the thoughtless words and the wordless thoughts, between my plot-less fears and my fearless plots, between the parts of me I keep from you and the things that I’m just not, the center keeps on drifting, the music never stops.” I was wishing the music would never stop that night.
  11. How Far We’ve Come” from Nothing is Wrong, here’s a personal lyric to add to this song, “Why I write this blog tonight is to see how far I’ve come.” I love that this song acknowledges the markers in a person’s life.  A lot of change has been going on in my life in the last few years and I can link time and place to concerts attended. What will I think when I look back on this entry in a couple years? What does time have in store for us? I’ve used the main line from the song for the blog post title.
  12. Take Me Out of the City” from North Hills, surprised to hear this one from their first album live. Wasn’t on the set list either!
  13. A Little Bit of Everything” from Nothing is Wrong, link to video from this show. This is one of my favorite Dawes songs. They can play this at every single live concert and I will not tire of it; though the buffet verse can trigger hunger pangs and by the end of the show I’m ready for a little bit of everything — the biscuits, the beans, the mashed potato, and the extra chicken wing!
  14. ENCORE: “All Your Favorite Bands” from All Your Favorite Bands,  the audience sang along in full voice to this song. There was so much genuine appreciation and good vibes flowing through that room at that moment it was liable to make one’s heart burst. Check out the link to a video clip from that night. You can sense the camaraderie in the air.
  15. When My Time Comes” from North Hills, link to video from this show. Given the cause, I think everyone in that room was thinking a little bit about when their time comes. I was anyway. At this stage in life, where it feels like many friends and family have been diagnosed with serious or terminal illnesses, I am ever grateful for evenings like this to escape into the world of music and witness the creative beauty that these gifted entertainers offer.
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Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes

Thank you to Joe Purdy, Taylor Goldsmith, Griffin Goldsmith, Lee Pardini, and the Hotel Cafe staff for making this one of the more special and memorable shows that I have attended. As the young ones say, “All the feels.”

 

 

 

So Bright For a Night

dsc06748On August 12, 2016 I headed to Junior High in Hollywood, CA to hear young singer-songwriters Matt Minigell and Annabelle Lord-Patey perform. Matt and Annabelle, who hail from Boston, were on their first ever tour of the West Coast, with Los Angeles being their final destination. Junior High is a non-profit that promotes “artistic pursuits of marginalized voices through events and arts education.” It’s a small space, but provides an opportunity for new musicians to polish their live acts in a supportive place. The space had good sound quality and the audience attending that evening was respectful and quiet. One thing the venue could improve on is front lighting for the musicians, which would make it easier to take better quality photos and video. Though the neon pink lighting from the Junior High sign did bathe the performers in rosy glow that night.

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Matt Minigell Performs at Junior High

Indie singer-songwriter Matt Minigell played the first set, marrying pleasing chord sequences and a rhythmic fingerpicking style to lyrics that painted vignettes of people, places, and feelings. His presentation was in earnest, and though sounding a little nervous while talking between songs, once he started playing guitar and singing he exuded a quiet confidence.  His lyrics touch upon the topics of enigmatic girls — the ones he wants and the ones he doesn’t; yearning to travel and the association between people and locations, as well as the ever in vogue themes of angst and apathy.   He played a handful of new songs and a few from his most recent independent album, Destructive Testing. I purchased a copy of the album before I left for the night and am really enjoying one of the songs he didn’t get to that evening, “Life is Bleak.” Musically it makes me think of a mash-up between Big Star and Oasis (especially that guitar solo) in their heyday.  Matt’s set for the evening included the songs:

  1. Midnight
  2. Pipe Dreaming
  3. If You Bring Me Flowers (Watch Out)” from Destructive Testing, link to video from this show
  4. Songs in G
  5. Nancy Says“from Destructive Testing, link is from my attempt to Periscope this song
  6. I Don’t Care About Anything” from Destructive Testing
  7. Even in my Dreams I’m Falling
  8. Game of Pricks” Guided By Voices cover
  9. A is for Corndogs” link is video of my attempt at using Facebook Live
  10. Big Empty Shoes
  11. Happy All the Time
  12. Sunday #1” link to video I took from this show
  13. Sappy Song” from Destructive Testing
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Annabelle Lord-Patey Performs at Junior High

Annabelle Lord-Patey released her album Polaris during the summer following a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. She was touring in support of the album. The lead single, “Oxytocin, Serotonin & Me” has been getting radio play on some of the more singer-songwriter friendly stations like KEXP and KCRW.  It’s a catchy song and I’d love to see it get picked up for the soundtrack of  a quirky indie coming of age film. Annabelle sings seemingly effortlessly with her soft, pretty, breezy voice. Her guitar playing style is similar to Matt’s, though she has a lighter touch.  Each song feels like a little gift wrapped with ribbon – a delight on first experience, but something is hidden inside on further investigation. She is starting her senior year of high school this year — it will be interesting to watch her career progress and see how her music develops as she matures. Annabelle’s set included:

  1. Killing the Blues” cover of a Rowland Salley song (link to his version)
  2. Fifteen (Little Freezing Clouds)” from Polaris
  3. Oxytocin Serotonin & Me” from Polaris, this links to the video I took at this show. Used a line from this song for the post title.
  4. Polaris” from Polaris, link to video I took at this show, you can see what I mean about the lighting
  5. Doomsday” from Polaris
  6. Wish You Well” from Polaris, link is from the Facebook live stream of this song and includes this song and the following two songs
  7. Jesus on the Dash” from Polaris
  8. Where I Get It From” from Polaris, cover of an unreleased Elliott Smith song, but if you search the Internet you can find his version on the Grand Mal compilation
  9. Sonnet 116” from Polaris

Encouraged by the crowd, they performed a quick encore together with Matt on guitar and Annabelle singing a cover of Paul Simon’s song, “Cloudy.”

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Matt Minigell and Annabelle Lord-Patey Performing “Clouds”

 

I’ve Been Having Me a Real Fun Time

On Tuesday, August 9th I was back at the Greek Theatre, this time to see Dawes and Alabama Shakes. I’m afraid this post is not going to have as much attention to detail as I would like to have, but I wanted to include that I attended this show and have a record of the set lists here. I was seated up in the right terrace, so I didn’t take very many photos of this show. Plus, once Alabama Shakes got going, people were standing up in front of me and dancing, obstructing my view for photos.

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Dawes Performing at the Greek Theatre

Dawes opened, with Taylor remarking after the first song, “Hello Greek Theatre! Thanks for coming early.” I’m not sure if Taylor was being sincere or sarcastic because there were still a lot of seats open for this sold out show. It was a pretty good set of songs and nice to see they played at least one from each of their four albums. I’m not sure about closing with “From a Right Angle.” I would have liked to have heard one more song after that one. I guess they had their time limit though. It seems a shame to have such a stellar band play such a short set, especially as people were still arriving as they were finishing. Glad to see Duane Betts joining them on guitar for the tour again. Here is set list for Dawes:

  1. I Can’t Think About It Now” from All Your Favorite Bands
  2. Things Happen” from All Your Favorite Bands
  3. If I Wanted Someone” from Nothing is Wrong
  4. When My Time Comes” from North Hills
  5. Most People” from Stories Don’t End
  6. When the Tequila Runs Out” a new song from forthcoming album We’re All Gonna Die (to be released on September 16)
  7. All Your Favorite Bands” from All Your Favorite Bands
  8. From the Right Angle” from Stories Don’t End
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Alabama Shakes Performing at the Greek Theatre

I’ll be honest that I mainly went to this show to see Dawes. This was my first time seeing Alabama Shakes. I purchased the album Sound & Color and listened to it a few times before the show but had a hard time getting into it. I love that the band explores different styles — one number is soul, one is rock on the heavy side, another is blues, etc.  I am a big fan of listening to whole albums, but listening to Sound & Color  — it would keep slipping out of the range of music I was in the mood to listen to at the time, so it was difficult for me to find a foothold on this album. Nevertheless, given the Grammy Awards the band has been nominated for/won, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was pretty impressed with their live show. Brittany Howard is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Wow! What a talented woman! Every note she sang was perfection and every word had passion and intensity behind it, even when she was singing softly. She was a fierce and fearless guitar player too. Brittany started out the show by saying to the audience, “You gonna give me something, then I’m gonna give you something, then you gonna give me something back. And we’re gonna do that all night long.” This was received with much applause and cheers from the crowd, which showed much enthusiasm throughout the concert. Alabama Shakes played the following songs in their set:

  1. Future People” from Sound & Color
  2. Dunes” from Sound & Color
  3. Hang Loose” from Boys & Girls
  4. Rise to the Sun” from Boys & Girls, lots of cheering after this one to which Britney responded, “I love you too.” This was one of the highlights for me from their set.
  5. Guess Who” from Sound & Color
  6. Heartbreaker” from Boys & Girls, very powerful performance on this one, so much emotion conveyed in the vocals, another highlight
  7. Boys & Girls“from Boys & Girls
  8. Miss You” from Sound & Color
  9. The Greatest” from Sound & Color
  10. I Ain’t the Same” from Boys & Girls
  11. Always Alright” from Boys & Girls
  12. Hold On” from Boys & Girls
  13. Joe” unreleased song
  14. This Feeling” from Sound & Color, borrowed an appropriate lyric from this song for the post title
  15. Sound & Color” from Sound & Color
  16. Don’t Wanna Fight” from Sound & Color
  17. Gimme All Your Love” from Sound & Color, I loved this one too.
  18. ENCORE: “Gemini” from Sound & Color
  19. Over My Head” from Sound & Color
  20. You Ain’t Alone” from Boys & Girls

 

 

I’ll Follow You When the Stars Go Blue

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Ryan Adams & The Shining Playing The Greek Theatre

On August 5, 2016, Ryan Adams and The Shining played the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. Tickets sold out before I could buy one, but my friend ended up having an extra one that I bought from her. I almost resold it when I discovered he was playing on a Friday night and not a Saturday night as I originally thought, as on Fridays I have to pay for a babysitter on top of the concert ticket. Going to the show, I thought, I hope this is worth it, Ryan Adams! Little did I know. I’ve been listening to Ryan’s music on and off for the last two years and own a few of his albums, but never got really deeply into his music, having been distracted recently by other artists. Several other of my music-loving friends are huge fans of his, so I figured it was about time I saw him live — this would be my first time attending one of his concerts.

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Ryan Adams During “When the Stars Go Blue”

It has taken me almost a month to post about this concert. First, because my children have been at home for summer break and I’ve had less time at the computer, second because I attended a bunch of concerts in early August that ate up a lot of time, and third, I took a week-long vacation. But also, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to write about this concert, so I’ve been putting it off. I like to share my thoughts about shows, including musicians comments and as much of the set list as I can, but I leave out a lot of the personal details of my experiences, such as not sharing information about the people who attend shows with me. Also, I don’t mention if I talk to the musicians before or afterward and what I say to them if I do get a chance to meet with them. I try to blend into the crowd as much as I can at a show, despite having to juggle my camera and my little notebook and a pen. But I didn’t know that Ryan Adams was going to make this one personal, which left me with a conundrum on how to write this. I’ve decided to include the personal part, because it is a great story, even if embarrassing to yours truly.

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Nice as Fuck Performing at the Greek Theatre

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Jenny Lewis

Opening act was Nice as Fuck, a trio of ladies playing music in the post-punk pop vein, led by Jenny Lewis on vocals and synthesizer, Erika Spring on bass, and Tennessee Thomas on drums. They recently released their debut LP and proceeded to play through all of its tracks. While pleasing enough to listen to, the lyrics felt simplistic, as if derived from the writings of teenagers and were sometimes delivered in the style of a high school cheer set to music (see “Homerun” and the “NAF Theme”). The music was straightforward and sparse, just bass, drums, and occasionally synthesizer, with Jenny’s lovely vocals dominating the tunes, though not much to be heard in the way of harmonies. As a start to an outdoor summer concert it was satisfying, like a tall glass of lemonade on a warm day. The songs played at the show (performed in album order):

  1. Runaway
  2. Angel
  3. Homerun
  4.  “Cookie Lips” — Tennessee introduced this song by saying it is about, “When you’re given crumbs of affection instead of cookies of affection, and you want cookies; you can’t survive on crumbs.”
  5. Higher
  6. Mall Music
  7. Door
  8. Guns
  9. NAF Theme

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I was very lucky to be in the front row of the pit for this show and had positioned myself slightly to the left of Ryan’s microphone stand; he performed most of his guitar solos directly in front of me. There was a microphone in the front middle of the stage, wrapped with lights, that was never used, whether a decoy, a decoration or meant for something that didn’t come together, I don’t know. I was thrilled to be where I was standing. Ryan Adams and the Shining took the stage and immediately showed me why so many of my friends are faithful followers. Commencing with solid polished rock/alt-country music from the band and blazing, face-melting guitar solos from Ryan, I was immediately sold on the live show. I was also ecstatic that he played three of the songs I wanted to hear within the first four numbers. Everything after that was a gift.

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Ryan Adams at the Greek Theatre

Somewhere in the middle of the show (I believe around the 12th song), I was taking photos with my camera as I usually do for this blog. In between songs, Ryan looked up and told me to turn off my flash, but my flash was not on. At first, I thought maybe he meant someone behind me and had seen my camera and thought it was coming from me.  On my camera (a digital Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 III), I have to physically pop the flash up before using it, so I knew it wasn’t flashing the typical big bright white light. I looked at the front of the camera and there was a red light on that would turn on every time I focused a shot and I couldn’t figure out why, as red eye reduction was turned off. So Ryan is talking to me for about 5 minutes between songs (and through the mic) telling me to turn the flash off and I’m saying, “It’s not on…”. I figured the red light must be bothering him (another friend in a different location in the theatre heard him mention a “Sith flash”, so that must have been the case). So I put my camera down behind the rail to try to signal that I wouldn’t take any more photos, but then he remarked, “You don’t have to hide it, just turn it off.” And then something like, “You wouldn’t want me to throw up on you because then you would be traumatized and re-live that every time you hear one of my songs.” I was so embarrassed by this point and especially because I would never intentionally want to disturb anyone performing on stage, much less THE Ryan Adams, who suffers from Ménière’s disease.  I really did not want to be responsible for causing an attack and hadn’t realized that this red light might trigger him. One of the techs even came over to me with a piece of black electrical tape I could use to cover the light. 

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Ryan Adams

I was determined to figure out this problem.  I looked through every setting in my camera menu until I found the one I needed to turn off the red light — it was called the AF Illuminator (it’s a feature that helps the camera focus when the subject is poorly lit).  My apologizes again to Ryan for disturbing him. I felt badly about it for the rest of the show.  But this story has an unbelievable ending! At the end of the show, Ryan came straight up to me, ignoring all hands around me that were reaching out to him, and handed me the E flat Hohner harmonica he had just been playing on “Come Pick Me Up.” It was still warm. I was shocked and dumbstruck. Thank you, Ryan! All I could think at the end of that show was, “What just happened?” And yes, I’ve played the harmonica.

 

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Ryan Adams Playing Harmonica at the Greek Theatre

The band played straight through to the finish. I believe there was a brief mention toward the end that they were starting the encore (since they didn’t go off stage at all). I’m not going to say much about the music — the energy and quality live was fantastic, I was totally into it. If you are unfamiliar with Ryan’s music, check out some of the links in the list below.  Here’s the full set list from the show.

  1. Trouble” from Ryan Adams
  2. Gimme Something Good” from Ryan Adams
  3. New York, New York” from Gold, so excited to hear this as I was about to travel to New York for the first time
  4. When the Stars Go Blue” from Gold, one of my favorites of the evening, so I’ve borrowed a line for the title
  5. Let It Ride” from Cold Roses
  6. To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” from Heartbreaker, following this song Ryan joked, “Thank you so much you guys, good night, that was great!”
  7. Cold Roses” from Cold Roses
  8. Fix It” from Cardinology, an audience member was screaming rather loudly and prolonged after this song. Ryan commented, “There’s no need to scream, you’re all right. Tomorrow you’ll be hoarse.”
  9. Shakedown on 9th Street” from Heartbreaker, prior to this song, Ryan spent a few minutes talking about The Outsiders and the crickets that are twice as loud as the dialogue. The clip missed it but he finished off with “F those fucking crickets!”
  10. Everybody Knows” from Easy Tiger
  11. Magnolia Mountain” from Cold Roses, link is to the video I shot. Before this song I was thinking, I’ll just record whatever song is next…didn’t know it was going to be one of the longest of the set!
  12. Stay With Me” from Ryan Adams
  13. Dear Chicago” from Demolition
  14. She’s Not Me” from Jenny Lewis’s album, The Voyager, Jenny returned to the stage to sing this song of hers with the band.

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    Jenny Lewis Performing with Ryan Adams and The Shining

  15. Oh My Sweet Carolina” from Heartbreaker, Jenny stayed on stage to sing this as a duet with Ryan.
  16. Peaceful Valley” from Jacksonville City Nights, after this song Ryan introduced the band (Mike Viola on guitar, Charles “Chuck” Stavish on bass, Frederick Bokkenheuser on drums, and Daniel Clarke on keyboards) and remarked about “some T-shirt flannel weirdo playing some sad version of jazz.”
  17. Halloweenhead” from Easy Tiger
  18. I See Monsters” from Love is Hell
  19. This House is Not For Sale” from Love is Hell
  20. Come Pick Me Up” from Heartbreaker, video link is from that concert. So great to hear that harmonica that was about to become mine!
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Ryan Adams’s/My Harmonica

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Ryan Adams Going for Some Feedback at the Greek Theatre