Rise Up and See for Yourself

DSC09648I spent a few days mulling over the idea of going to see Foxygen at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood (Saturday, April 8, 2017). Obviously, since I’m writing a post about it, I eventually decided to go! I’m not particularly familiar with their music, though I remember checking out a couple of their songs on YouTube after the album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic came out they were being hyped in the music press. More recently, I’ve been impressed by Foxygen multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado producing Do Hollywood, a fantastic debut album by my latest favorite find, The Lemon Twigs. I spent some of Saturday streaming Foxygen’s newest album Hang, finding the music, or even parts of the songs, at some moments appealing and at others boldly challenging my perception of the song’s aesthetic. I understand filtering your music through the influences from musicians whose footsteps push deep into the mud of music history, but I feel that parts of this album are so superficially contrived and slickly produced that I am left wondering if it is meant to be serious or satirical. Are they paying homage and creating a musical statement or cramming as many references into the album as they can as if checking items off a grocery list? Whatever, it is a swirling calliope of an album, alive with colors, textures, and depth and listening to it will definitely leave you feeling something. After seeing the live show it seems that the album is much like the band. The musical talent is clear, but I wonder if the eccentricity of the multi-faceted, enigmatic Sam France is authentic or put-on for the audience, like Bowie’s Thin White Duke. But again, whatever, it is fascinating to watch.

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Sam France of Foxygen

The show was scheduled to start at 9pm with opening band Kingdom of Not. I missed most of their act, but I caught their last song as I was entering the venue and let’s just say I didn’t feel too bad about missing their set. If the majority of their songs were anything like the last one, I have to say it was not my taste at all.

I positioned myself on the left side of the house so I would be in between Sam and Jonathan, but with my lateness and the eager crowd already in position, I was probably a half dozen rows of people back from the stage.  I actually managed to be behind a pocket of people who were of average height, so I did get a few photos of the musicians, but between the enthusiastic dancing of the crowd around me and the random taller person it was difficult to take any well-crafted shots.

Opening act Gabriella Cohen. #gabriellacohen #fondatheatre #livemusic #opener #fender

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The second opener was Gabriella Cohen, who started out on stage with bandmate Kate “Babyshakes” Dillon. They were all right, playing in an indie pop style with Gabriella’s distinct vocals straddling that edge of interesting and tiresome and Babyshakes providing consummate high harmonies that added flavor to the songs. The lyric writing was simplistic and youthful – such that I wanted Gabriella to have greater life experiences so that she could write more in-depth and complex lyrics. She played her Fender guitar adequately, but there is definitely room for growth there too. The addition of Victor on drums and Igor on bass after the first song, improved the listener experience, especially Igor’s smooth bass lines, and by the end of their set the audience was grooving and receptive. Thankfully they were better than Kingdom of Not! Their set, as I could make it out, was as follows:

  1. I’m Miserable Baby” link is to a different live performance of this song, but it aptly encapsulates the sound.
  2. Downtown” this was a sleepy sort of song, particularly reminiscent of teen songs from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Example of lyrics, “Please don’t ever let me down again because I don’t know what I’d do.” Gabriella and Babyshakes were doubled up on guitars.
  3. Sever the Walls” from Full Closure and No Details or “Updated Regurgitated Sever” from updated regurgitated sever, not sure which it qualifies as. This song continues with the same musical vein.Close up your eyes and think of a time that was better.” Babyshakes played on the keyboard.
  4. Couldn’t figure out what the next song was but it started out with her calling out the city names Dallas, New York, and LA and with the repeated lyric, “He’s got a good reputation to have.”
  5. The next song she introduced by saying, “Here comes the pop stuff.” Remarking that she had tailored the set list for LA.” That sort of irritated me because L.A. has much more than pop music going on. I’m not sure what this song was called but it had lyrics such as,  “When I see you will you see me too? … Lost and confused…I wanted to die … I wanted romance.” There were a lot of bouncing chords on the guitar and its performance helped to build the momentum of the show.
  6.  The next song was one of the more interesting ones of the night. Lyrics mentioned, “Saw you in remission, saw you going in.” At the end of the song, Babyshakes took over, speaking a brief story about the futility of trying to be something you are not with a fruity analogy. “It’s impossible to be a banana if you are a plum. Be yourself.”
  7. I Don’t Feel So Alive” again from updated regurgitated sever or from Full Closure and No Details, however you want to look at it. Lyrics, “Well I don’t feel so alive I might break down and cry, I read a book…do you get high on a Saturday night? Why don’t we get together.” This one is oddly catchy and its performance was the best of the bunch.
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Foxygen: Jonathan Rado on the Keyboard while Sam France Sings

Foxygen filled the stage with a five person horn section, percussionist, bassist, guitar player, and keyboard player. Jonathan started out the night on an additional keyboard, occasionally swapping over to a Fender guitar. This was an impressive group of musicians who successfully interpreted the recorded versions of Foxygen’s songs to create dynamic and entertaining renditions for the captivated, ardent audience.  As ringleader, Sam danced, posed, swaggered, and punched the air as he belted out the numbers. Shape-shifting in style and voice from one iconic rock star to the next, a little Bowie here, a little Elvis Costello there, moves like Jagger sometimes, then sounds like Lou Reed or is it Todd Rundgren?   Adding vocal support and having lots of fun, playing the girl that everyone would like to dance with, was the talented Jackie Cohen. She released an EP on Bandcamp last year that Jonathan Rado and the Lemon Twigs played on, which sounds pretty great, so check that out:  Tacoma Night Terror.  Foxygen’s set list was as follows:

  1. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic” from We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, an audience member created this live music video from this performance at the Fonda. The band kicks off the concert with their mission statement.
  2.  “San Francisco” from We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, Jackie Cohen joined them on stage during this song.
  3. Shuggie” from …And Star Power
  4. Follow the Leader” from Hang, the group of people in front of me were passing around a joint and enthusiastically jumping up and down to this song. They were well into it, but I’m not sure why smoking was being allowed inside the theatre (there was more than one person/group doing this). Where was security? They made people throw away their gum and sharpies upon entering the theatre, but apparently it was okay for people to light something up. The theatre manager inside me was screaming, “Fire hazard!”
  5. Avalon” from Hang, the link is to another show during this tour, but will give you an idea of how the song sounds live and the stage set up
  6. Mrs. Adams” from Hang
  7. America” from Hang
  8. On Lankershim” from Hang, i.e., the song that has a piano bit at the opening that sounds like they are about to play Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.”
  9. Upon a Hill” from Hang, this song followed seamlessly from the previous one
  10. Trauma” from Hang
  11. Rise Up” from Hang, link to a fan shot video from this concert. I’ve borrowed a lyric from this song for the title of this post. I chose this one because I respect what I think is the message of this song, to honestly experience and actively participate in life. Furthermore, I suggest that you listen carefully to this band and see what you think about them yourself. After this song the band left the stage without comment.

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    Jonathan Rado on Guitar for Foxygen

  12. ENCORE “On Blue Mountain” from We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
  13. No Destruction” from We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic,
    One of the highlights of the show was hearing this song that I didn’t know and found myself thoroughly enjoying live.
  14. How Can You Really” from …And Star Power

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Sam France of Foxygen on Acoustic Guitar

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I Started to Smile Again

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Once again I went to see the band Dawes as they tour supporting their most recent album, We’re All Gonna Die. They’re calling this set of concerts “An Evening With Dawes” and it is just that. No opening band and a lengthy set that is broken into two parts by an intermission (or you could call it two sets).  Last time I saw them was in Santa Barbara in January, which I recapped in the post “Take Me Out of the City.” This time I saw their sold out show at Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on April 1, 2017. My experience was colored by my disappointment in both AXS and the theatre’s lack of handling a ticketing/seating issue to my approval despite repeated attempts in the weeks before and on the day of the show (made worse as I watched others around me get re-seated), which I won’t go into detail here.  I felt dejected and invisible as I sat in the second to last row in the theatre as the band kicked off their show. This was also night four of my going to concerts four nights in a row and I was pretty tired too. As I was so far back, I ended up not taking very many photos of the band.  When the show began, I realized that now that no one was sitting behind me I could stand during the show if I wanted and it wouldn’t bother anyone else, so it turned into a mixed blessing.  Soon the band’s music was pulling me out of my personal funk and making me grateful that I had the opportunity to see them live once again.

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Dawes Performing at Theatre at Ace Hotel

Dawes is comprised of band members Taylor Goldsmith on guitar and lead vocals, Griffin Goldsmith on drums, Wylie Gelber on bass, and Lee Pardini on piano. Trevor Menear brings additional support on lead guitar and they also had another guy (possibly named Mike, I was too far away to be able to tell if it was the same person that was with them in September) playing various percussion instruments. The set list for the night was as follows:

  1. One of Us” from We’re All Gonna Die
  2. Fire Away” from Nothing is Wrong, after the song Taylor commented, “We got a long night ahead of us” before introducing Griffin Goldsmith.
  3. From a Window Seat” from Stories Don’t End
  4. Right On Time” from All Your Favorite Bands, this link (and a few of the other links for this set) is to a live version the band recorded and released from this “An Evening with Dawes” tour called We’re All Gonna Live and includes the gorgeous introduction on piano by Lee Pardini. After this song, Taylor said, “So we put out a new record” as they launched into the next song from the new album.
  5. Picture of a Man” from We’re All Gonna Die, this is the song I like least from the new album, but there is something about the arrangement on the live version that makes it more palatable.
  6. Now That It’s Too Late, Maria” from All Your Favorite Bands
  7. Roll With the Punches” from All Your Favorite Bands, Taylor described this song as, “About the minutiae of departing.” Since it was a heavyhearted subject, he noted they tried to “make it as dance-y as we could.”
  8. Somewhere Along the Way” from All Your Favorite Bands, they probably should always play this song after the previous song, because at some point most people are gonna break up with someone and this song sends the much needed message that eventually it’s gonna be okay. I really love these lines from the song and have borrowed a phrase from them for the post title: “Somewhere along the way, I started to smile again, I don’t remember when; somewhere along the way, things will turn out just fine, I know that it’s true this time.”
  9. A Little Bit of Everything” from Nothing is Wrong, the crowd really started getting into the concert at this point, I found it a bit of a buzz killer that they played a new song immediately after it and then took a short intermission (really short, I think at last a third of the audience was still in the lobby).
  10. Less Than Five Miles Away” from We’re All Gonna Die

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    Griffin, Taylor, and Lee of Dawes On Stage After Intermission

  11. INTERMISSION “Crack the Case” new song sung by Taylor alone on stage with his acoustic guitar, link is to video that someone took at this concert. Really thoughtful lyrics, please check it out.
  12. Roll Tide” from We’re All Gonna Die, Griff came to the front of the stage to sing this one, Lee also joined for added harmony and tambourine, link is to video that someone took at this concert (not the best visual, but audio is decent enough, apart from a moment of talking).
  13. Bedside Manner” from North Hills, great to hear a deep cut, link is to video that someone took at this concert.
  14. Quitter” from We’re All Gonna Die, this is my favorite song from the new album and it sounds fantastic live every time I’ve heard it.
  15. Coming Back to a Man” from Nothing is Wrong
  16. From the Right Angle” from Stories Don’t End, Taylor prefaced this one by saying the song was, “About getting hit on by someone in a rock and roll band. Maybe after listening to this song you will feel more prepared in how you want to deal with the situation.” Hmm.
  17. If I Wanted Someone” from Nothing is Wrong, Dawes was playing in their hometown and Taylor started listing all of the family members that were attending the show, such as his mom, brother, cousins, etc. Then he said, “That’s how we sell this shit out, half this place is fucking family!”
  18. When the Tequila Runs Out” from We’re All Gonna Die
  19. Things Happen” from All You’re Favorite Bands
  20. Most People” from Stories Don’t End, Taylor then said something like, “Live music is the only experience (where you can be) dancing and being weirdos and making friends. I feel like we did a lot of work tonight.” He then mentioned that it had been about a month since Chuck Berry had passed and that if it weren’t for Berry, there would be no Rolling Stones (and he listed various other influential bands too) and definitely no Dawes. He played a few of Chuck Berry’s runs on his guitar. Then Taylor said, “If you remember anything from tonight let it be this…” as he played the next tune.
  21.  “Still Gonna Die” the live intro to the following song, the link is to the version from We’re All Gonna Live
  22. We’re All Gonna Die” from We’re All Gonna Die, turned out to be the last song of the set. Come on guys, you can’t end on that depressing note.
  23. ENCORE “All You’re Favorite Bands” from All You’re Favorite Bands, that’s more like it.  When they came back onstage for the encore Taylor noted, “We only have time for one more (or) they’ll fine the shit out of us! Thanks for making our dreams come true.” Nice piano introduction to this song by Lee, which you can hear on the link to the live version they’ve been doing on this tour. The whole audience were on their feet and singing along for this final anthem.
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Dawes Performing at Theatre at Ace Hotel

It Wouldn’t Be Make-Believe

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Stage Set Up for Jon Brion’s March Show

I couldn’t bear the thought of missing Jon Brion at Largo at the Coronet after seeing his fantastic show the previous month, so on March 31, 2017 I was back at Largo for another installment of his show. The stage is set with two projection screens, a MiniKorg on the ledge of the piano, a full rack of guitars, a chair for a guest with a gorgeous violin and a mandolin next to it, and at the center of the stage, a celesta. The show began with the longest wait ever in between Michael making his house announcements and anyone coming on stage (I didn’t time it but it seemed like 10 minutes). Largo-owner Flanny eventually appeared and remarked that we’ve been listening to Artie Shaw & His Gramercy Five, who have been opening for Jon for 20 years. Jon always comes on after a track called “Scuttlebutt.” Just listening to that has triggered a sort of Pavlovian response and I’m half expecting Jon to magically materialize.

Finally Jon appeared on stage, wearing his fedora, gray trousers, a fine line vertically-striped shirt, and his pin striped jacket. He sat on the chair in the middle of the stage and remarked, “All of our nervous systems have been glued to TVs around the town.” He pulled some faces in simulated reaction to watching the news, miming shock and mouthing “motherfucker.” And I bet since the show he has been doing that in reality twice as often! But on with the show.

  1. Jon moved to the piano, set down his half full glass of Guinness and said, “Middle C is a good place to start” as he began with some piano improvisation, which at one point consisted of patterns of ascending and descending notes falling after each other like so many dominoes, then progressed to sequences of chords placed on the beat.
  2. Next, Jon began working through some jazz-style chords on piano, which lead into his song “Strings That Tie to You” from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  At the beginning of the vocals he points to the microphone and then up to have the vocal volume increased, though honestly the vocal volume already sound pretty strong through the speaker. He was singing this song very softly and delicately and perhaps that was why he asked for the volume to be turned up.
  3. Following that tune he receives a simultaneous delivery of Guinness, one from stage left and one from stage right. Jon jokes, “I like stereo!” He plays a fast flourish on the piano followed by some chords and here I really notice his fingers choosing the notes that he is playing as there is just a second of hesitation and slight movement to the left or right of certain keys. This is something I never noticed before. He played his unrecorded song “Someone Else’s Problem Now” and for some reason this version on this particular night feels especially empowering, like becoming unencumbered.
  4. He then stepped away from the piano and walked across the stage to look at his rack of guitars and headed toward the orange Gretsch, which brought some positive sounds from multiple people in the audience – not just the front row this time! Jon remarked, “I like the response any time I get near this….you know you’re getting snowed ’cause it’s just so pretty.” Then he played a popular song from the ’50s, “I Don’t Really Want to Know.” I was in the hot seat again in front of Jon and was snowed in the figurative sense — being overwhelmed by the beauty of the guitar tone and the Brion tractor beam. He kept the song short and sweet, with a pretty ending.
  5. Jon adjusted the tuning and went in the opposite direction with the tone, going for fuzzy flange, playing bass notes that resonated in my chest. Then he switched that tone off and proceeded into The Grays song, “Same Things.” I wondered at the way he was playing it if he was angry or filled with regret that he was doing the same things. It’s amazing how his songs take on subtle changes of meaning when viewed in different contexts. Jon changed tones a few times during the song, adding in an interesting effect that I’m not sure how to describe and frankly I couldn’t keep up on the notes with all the alterations he was making.  At the end of the song he called out to the sound booth, “Is there a vocal compressor?” Then he spoke to the audience, “Now there’s inside banter going on, not an inside joke, more like inside cranium,” as he gestured toward his head.
  6. He moved back over to the piano and we get the Jon Brion vamp music as he’s figuring out what he is doing next. He puts Percy Grainger playing “Maguire’s Kick” on the right screen and starts at the talking intro (you can hear it at the link). Jon notes, “This is the educational portion of the show…you’re not going to have PBS any more, so this is what you get!” On the left screen goes a guy playing piano and Jon introduces him “That is Brad Mehldau.” Referring back to the Percy Grainger description on the film clip he adds that Brad, “Does not jog to gigs, did not get married at the Hollywood Bowl, you might have seen him when PBS used to exist.” Jon fiddled with the MiniKorg and switched to tack piano and announced, “Greg (?) used to request this a lot.” He played “Stop the World” with high notes on piano and bass notes on MiniKorg, which rumbled through the room.
  7. It was request time and Jon played half of The Turtles’ “Happy Together” with the audience singing and it started well, but train wrecked on the second verse. Jon shut it down and said he was “pulling the plug” for the audiences lack of knowing lyrics. Felt like playing one of those music video games like Guitar Hero and you fail midway through because you suck!
  8. Somehow from the ashes of that song arose a surprisingly decent audience singalong rendition of  “867-5309/Jenny” originally by Tommy Tutone. Someone in the audience knew all the lyrics! At its conclusion Jon commented, “So it’s THAT kind of evening.” Pause. “It’s better we know now.” “Sebastian Steinberg is in the building, if he wants to make his presence known in the vicinity of the stage.” Sebastian eventually appears carrying his upright bass. Jon gives him a great big bear hug and remarks that he hasn’t seen Sebastian in a long time.
  9. Jon tells him, “I’ll play an intro of some type,” without saying which song he is playing. It was a very jazzy type of intro. We all learn on the first line that it is “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” Jon said it is “my favorite Cole Parter song if you put a gun to my head and I had to chose.” Though he would rather not be in that situation! Sebastian played along on bass.
  10. Switching over to tack piano, Jon played his own unrecorded song, “Please Stay Away From Me” with Sebastian still on bass. As the song finishes Jon changes it back to the regular piano sound.
  11. Paul Cartwright joined in on stage on violin. Jon announced that they were going to play what he referred to as “Pseudo Classical European in C Minor,” which was actually “Strangest Times” from I Heart Huckabees. At one point in the song Jon called out for a “group solo” and everyone launched into their own variation on the theme.

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    Paul Cartwright’s Beautiful Violin

  12. Jon took another request, this time for The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” to which he added MiniKorg with heavy voice distortion through the microphone. He sang the lyrics but they were barely comprehensible because of the considerable distortion. Perfect song choice as he has an excellent violinist on the stage.
  13. Another request from the audience and Jon announces that they are going to be a “Modern ass acoustic 3-piece Karaoke machine. Time for a  “Dancing Queen” singalong. Jon added, “Feel free to sing keyboard and synth hooks.” Not the best vocals from the audience as again people are struggling for lyrics in the second verse.
  14. Following that nonsense, Jon, still on piano, launched straight into his song “Here We Go” from Punch-Drunk Love, receiving a big spontaneous cheer from the crowd in the back when Jon starts playing it.
  15. Something I hadn’t seen before, Jon took the upright bass from Sebastian and played it, while Sebastian played on the Epiphone guitar. Paul switched to the mandolin. They cover an old George Jones song, “She Thinks I Still Care.”
  16. Sebastian then took his bass back and Jon got out the “French guitar” and sat down to play, while Paul is back on violin again. Jon said they are doing the “Gypsy Jazz version,” which was for a cover of Prince’s “Controversy.” Link I’ve found is actually to a bootleg version of Jon performing this song at a different time and in a different style.
  17. Still on the French Guitar, Jon played a straightforward, pleasing rendition of “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” This feels like a quintessential Largo song — if the venue had a theme song, this should be it. There’s something that is so brilliant about Largo performances that in the days following a show there one begins to wonder if the experience really happened.  One almost needs to hold to the belief that it happened — I try to capture these quixotic moments in my blog, but feel my writing can’t quite ever effectively latch on to the fleeting occasion. I’m condensing this fitting lyric for the title of this post, “It wouldn’t be make-believe if you believed in me.”
  18. Then Jon stands up and does something I have been waiting for him to do since I started attending Jon Brion concerts somewhat regularly a couple years ago. He plays the celesta! The song he chose to perform was “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” Finally! Such a pretty, yet aching rendition.

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    Well-loved Celesta Still Sounds Pretty

  19. Then the audience chose the key for the next song by show of applause for the keys of C and D. There was more enthusiasm for D and Jon said, “I’m a big fan of D from way fucking back.” He headed back to the piano and set up his videos. The orchestra goes up on the right screen and the opera singer on the left screen. He also superimposed someone driving through a city and the Ritchie sisters sitting on the porch singing “Four Marys.” He twiddled around with synth noises and played “Gigantic” by The Pixies. At some point after singing the word “gigantic” only the orchestra is left up on one screen. He used the vocal distortion on the MiniKorg and  the opera singer went back on screen, of which he scratches the music and slowed it down to a somber tempo, as he concluded the piece and his set.

But wait, there’s more! Not on the main stage, but we had been promised a set by David Garza and Sebastian Steinberg in the Little Room. It’s already after midnight and most of the audience heads straight out the door. The Little Room is barely half full, but it is an appreciative group. David takes the lead and the musicians knock through a short set of seven songs. First up, David and Sebastian pay tribute to Chuck Berry with a cover of “Rock and Roll Music.” They follow it with a bluesy number “My Babe.” I couldn’t place why I knew the tune so well (it was late at night and this was my third night out in a row and I was tired) until I realized when listening again that it is the same tune as “This Train.” Not sure what the next song was, maybe one of David’s, but Paul joined in on violin. They followed that with one David sang in Spanish, which I don’t know either. Then completely changing course, something I thought I’d never see, Devo’s “Whip It” played on acoustic guitar, violin, and bass in the Little Room. Pretty on point vocals courtesy of Mr. Garza. David then called out that if there was a piano player in the room whose initials rhymed with “Hey Vee,” he should come to the stage. Jon Brion obliged and the now quartet played David’s groovy song “Summer Love Jam,” followed by a smooth jam on his heavily-lyric laden song “Drone.” David referred to the four as “The Clash of the Little Room.”

At the conclusion of the set, people filtered out of the room except for about dozen of us — mostly Largo people and their friends are left, plus one random couple. David and Jon are still there. Then a really special moment happened. The door to the Little Room was shut with us inside. David lent his guitar to a young guy, Malcolm McRae, to let him check it out, but all of a sudden he was performing a song for this intimate group circled around him next to the Little Room bar. He possessed a very pleasant, soothing kind of crooner voice as he nervously began his song, but within a few measures he eased into the comfort of it. We were all transfixed in the moment. Later, Paul attempted to play “Kathy’s Song” on David’s guitar; well he nailed the guitar part, but couldn’t remember the lyrics. I could have sung them if I could have remembered how the song started. I tried to pull them up on my phone but the moment passed. David took back his guitar and the next half hour cycled between pieces of conversation and infusions of song. David played a few more, including his tune that references “April fool” (“Two of a Kind“?) as it was now April Fool’s Day, though this was no joke, but a beautiful serendipitous gift. David also played a life affirming cover of the Rolling Stones, “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)” and his reggae-themed song “Last Skank With You,” to which the small group provided rhythm through clapping and tapping feet and Jon used the bar for a percussion kit. This unexpected after-the-after-show gathering was absolute magic. Does it ever get better than that? I don’t think it is possible. I basked in the blissful moment before reality kicked in and everyone had to call it a night.

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New Jon Brion Poster in the Largo Courtyard

 

Do You Want to Dance With Me

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Ha Ha Tonka Performing at the Fonda Theatre

The night of Thursday, March 30, 2017, I was out again to see Ha Ha Tonka and Old 97’s, this time at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, CA. Some people may question seeing the same bands at shows on consecutive nights. I find that if I see the same bands and even if they keep to the same or a very similar set list, there are elements of the performance and the overall experience that still make it worthwhile for me.  The previous night I had seen the bands at the venue nearest to where I live, Saint Rocke, which you can read about in my post “Remember Back When You Got Lost With Me.”  Hollywood is somewhere between a half hour and an hour’s drive away from me, depending on the traffic. There were a few of the same fans there, but mostly it seemed like a different crowd. Still, being L.A., people rolled in late to the show, even though it started after 9pm.

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Lead Singer Brian Roberts of Ha Ha Tonka

The most notable difference in the two concerts was that during the middle of Ha Ha Tonka’s set there was a power failure. I immediately took out my phone and shone the flashlight toward the stage. My phone has a ridiculously powerful flashlight and on its own it lit most of the center of the stage. Pretty soon other people were getting out their phones to provide additional light.  The members of Ha Ha Tonka took it in stride and headed for the front of the stage to perform an a capella song and when the lights were still not back up after that one, they played another old song that worked fine with acoustic guitar and handheld percussion. That moment where it all went dark brought the audience together. People who had been talking in the back stopped doing so and the whole room got very quiet and people huddled closer to the stage area. It brought focus on to these performers and I believe sparked greater appreciation in the audience members. Ha Ha Tonka announced that they will be playing again in Los Angeles in November.

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Lead Guitarist Brett Anderson of Ha Ha Tonka

Their set was as follows:

  1. Race to the Bottom” from Heart-Shaped Mountain
  2. St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor” from Buckle in the Bible Belt, after the song they mention they are from Southern Missouri
  3. Everything” from Heart-Shaped Mountain, link is to the recently released official video for this song
  4. Height of My Fears”  from Heart-Shaped Mountain, Brett on mandolin
  5. LIGHTS OUT, band goes to front of stage for “Hangman” an old folk song, sometimes called “Gallows Pole,” sung a capella, from Buckle in the Bible Belt
  6. Old Bill Jones” still at the front of the stage with acoustic guitar and tambourine, lights came back on after this song
  7. 12 Inch 3 Speed Oscillating Fan” cover of a Red Meat song
  8. Rewrite Our Lives” from Lessons, the band encouraged everyone to sing along to the “yeah” part of this song.
  9. Usual Suspects” from Death of a Decade, after the song Brian remarked, “Not everybody knows our band so we’re going to close on a song that everybody knows.”
  10. Proud Mary” cover of the Creedance Clearwater Revival song
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Bass Player Luke Long of Ha Ha Tonka

If you’ve got a good formula, why mess with it? It didn’t bother me that the Old 97’s went on to play nearly the same set as they had the night before — this was spectacular set of some of their best songs, including a chunk of songs from the new album. The band appeared to be even more energetic and enthusiastic than the night before. Ken seemed to be in a happier mood, Philip’s demeanor was subtly more confident, Murry was both as reliable and as vibrant as ever in his bright red western-style shirt, and Rhett was bursting with exuberance and having fun moving around the larger stage.

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Bassist Murry Hammond of Old 97’s

The set list at the Fonda for Old 97’s included:

  1. Four Leaf Clover” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Too Far to Care
  2. Dance with Me” from Blame it on Gravity,  I’ve used a line from this song as the post title because of a dream a few nights after this show where Dream Rhett said to me, “Never mind those people, come dance with me” with the implication to not be afraid to have fun, no matter what is going on around you. Even Dream Rhett provides words of wisdom!

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    Lead Singer Rhett Miller of Old 97’s

  3. Nashville” from Most Messed Up
  4. She Hates Everybody” from Graveyard Whistling, link to someone’s video clip from this show
  5. Salome” from Too Far to Care
  6. W. TX Teardrops” from Too Far to Care, old video at the link
  7. Lonely Holiday” from Fight Songs, this song was added to the list for this show.  I appreciated it because this tune has been in regular rotation as a song I play on my own guitar.
  8. All Who Wander” from Graveyard Whistling, link is to video I shot at this show, though the sound quality isn’t great because of my close proximity to the stage and for some reason my camera had trouble focusing when I first pressed the record button.
  9. Big Brown Eyes” from Too Far to Care and Wreck Your Life
  10. Good with God” from Graveyard Whistling. After the song, Rhett talked about seeing X when Old 97’s were on their way up and how the Old 97’s toured with Ha Ha Tonka 10 years ago when they were starting out and how he enjoyed seeing them grow as a band. How he really felt now like he was a part of a cycle of music history.

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    Guitarist Ken Bethea of Old 97’s — love the sound he gets out of this Gretsch!

  11. Longer than You’ve Been Alive” from Most Messed Up
  12. Stoned” from Hitchhike to Rhome
  13. Valentine” from Fight Songs
  14. Buick City Complex” from Satellite Rides
  15. Bad Luck Charm” from Graveyard Whistling
  16. Barrier Reef “from Too Far to Care
  17. Nobody” from Graveyard Whistling
  18. Rollerskate Skinny” from Satellite Rides
  19. Jesus Loves You” from Graveyard Whistling
  20. Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On” from Most Messed Up
  21. Doreen” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Wreck Your Life
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    Drummer Philip Peeples of Old 97’s

     

  22. ENCORE “Question” from Satellite Rides
  23. Victoria” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Wreck Your Life, this replaced “The Other Shoe” that was played as the middle encore number at Saint Rocke
  24. Timebomb” from Too Far to Care

I’m keeping this post short. I’ll just leave you with one last photo.

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Ken Bethea and Rhett Miller of Old 97’s

Remember Back When You Got Lost With Me

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Old 97’s Perform at Saint Rocke: Rhett Miller, Ken Bethea, Murry Hammond

Thrilled to see one of my favorite bands, Old 97’s, at my local venue, Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, CA, on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 and with an opener I’d heard of before, Ha Ha Tonka! Doors opened at 6pm, but the show wasn’t scheduled to start until 8pm. This is a small venue and it is absolutely fantastic to see the Old 97’s play here. There was still plenty of space open in front of the stage when I arrived at 6:45pm, but by the end of the night the place was packed and pulsating.

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Ha Ha Tonka Opening at Saint Rocke: Brian Roberts, Luke Long, & James Cleare

Ha Ha Tonka opened with a solid batch of songs, and though the crowd was slow rolling in and had that laid back Beach Cities vibe, the band effectively pumped up the people by the end of their set with their driving roots rock. Lead vocals and rhythm guitar (a 12-string) were handled by the personable Brian Roberts, who while up front, never upstaged the other band members. This is one of the more cohesive bands that I’ve ever witnessed play. Brett Anderson commanded the lead guitar and sometimes swapped over to mandolin. Curly-haired bass player Luke Long steadfastly covered the lower end of the music while looking a bit like Slash minus the hat, while drummer Mike Reilly kept the train on its tracks, though it sometimes felt it might jump the rails at any moment as momentum was built. A special shout out for the versatile James Cleare for his work on keyboards, additional guitar, and backing vocals. In fact all the guys in the band joined in the singing at some point in the night, leaving me impressed with their tight harmonies and vocal blending. They’re on the road promoting their new album Heart-Shaped Mountain. The set list was as follows:

  1. Race to the Bottom” from Heart-Shaped Mountain
  2. St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor” from Buckle in the Bible Belt
  3.  “Everything” from Heart-Shaped Mountain, link is to the recently released official video for this song
  4. Arkansas” from Heart-Shaped Mountain
  5.  “12 Inch 3 Speed Oscillating Fan” cover of a Red Meat song
  6.  “Hangman” an old folk song, sometimes called “Gallows Pole,” sung a capella, from Buckle in the Bible Belt
  7. Height of My Fears”  from Heart-Shaped Mountain
  8.  “Usual Suspects” from Death of a Decade
  9.  “Proud Mary” cover of the Creedance Clearwater Revival song, began as a slow grind, then kicked up the tempo including a drum solo, during which all the other band members amusingly made quick dives for their drinks.
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Ha Ha Tonka Singing “Hangman”: James Cleare, Mike Reilly, Brian Roberts, Brett Anderson

I’ve written about Old 97’s once before (one of the first concerts I saw after starting this blog) and a bunch of times about Rhett’s solo shows, so if you come across this post and your a fan, please feel free to check out my other posts.  I don’t have lot to add about the band. I love their music: Rhett’s smart, storytelling, image-painting lyrics, dynamic vocals, and enthusiastic performances, Ken’s delicious lead guitar licks and his attention to tone and guitar choice for each song, Murry’s harmonies and thumping bass line, and Philip’s relentless drumming. This was Philip’s first show back after his recent accident in which he fell over in a parking lot and cut his head open. Very pleased to see Philip back on drums and wish him well, because head injuries can come back to haunt you for months afterward. Be well, Philip!

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Philip Peeples of Old 97’s

The band is touring behind their recently released album Graveyard Whistling. The album follows their no-holds barred, instant classic album, Most Messed Up, which featured a number of songs with degenerate characters careening out of control. An apt sequel, this album sounds like it is illustrating the characters reactions after reaching rock bottom. For example, one can easily imagine the guys portrayed in the song “Nashville” or “Intervention” or “Most Messed Up” following up the narrative with some of these new songs: “I Don’t Wanna Die in this Town” or “Good with God” or “Turns Out I’m Trouble.” The set list from the Saint Rocke show was:

  1. Four Leaf Clover” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Too Far to Care
  2. Dance with Me” from Blame it on Gravity
  3. Nashville” from Most Messed Up
  4. She Hates Everybody” from Graveyard Whistling
  5. Salome” from Too Far to Care
  6. W. TX Teardrops” from Too Far to Care, old video at the link
  7. All Who Wander” from Graveyard Whistling, video I shot at this show, though the sound quality isn’t great because of my close proximity to the stage, but I wanted to include it to give people an idea of this show. This is one of my favorite songs from the new album and I’ve borrowed a line from it for the title of this post.
  8. Big Brown Eyes” from Too Far to Care and Wreck Your Life
  9. Good with God” from Graveyard Whistling
  10. Longer than You’ve Been Alive” from Most Messed Up
  11. Stoned” from Hitchhike to Rhome
  12. Valentine” from Fight Songs
  13. Buick City Complex” from Satellite Rides
  14. Bad Luck Charm” from Graveyard Whistling
  15. Barrier Reef “from Too Far to Care
  16. Nobody” from Graveyard Whistling, this might be my new favorite song that Murry sings.

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    Murry Hammond of Old 97’s

  17. Rollerskate Skinny” from Satellite Rides, hurrah, my favorite Old 97’s song made the list!
  18. Jesus Loves You” from Graveyard Whistling
  19. Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On” from Most Messed Up
  20. Doreen” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Wreck Your LifeDSC09368
  21. ENCORE “Question” from Satellite Rides
  22. The Other Shoe” from Wreck Your Life
  23. Timebomb” from Too Far to Care

I don’t usually write much about what gets talked about if I speak to band members after a show, but I’m doing it this time. I had the chance to talk to Rhett afterward and he very sweetly apologized that it was unlikely they were going to change the set list for the following night’s show at the Fonda (see post “Do You Want to Dance With Me“), just in case they needed to switch Philip out last minute for their replacement drummer. Also, Rhett had seen during the show that I was taking notes and seemed curious if I was reviewing them. No worries, only the set list and a little love here on this humble blog! Just trying to record the memories before they fade from my memory (see title of post).

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Rhett Miller of Old 97’s