We Got Seriously Down

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Rhett Miller Performing at the Troubadour

If you’ve been following my blog, it is no secret that Rhett Miller is one of my favorite songwriters and performers, so of course I go see him play every chance I get. This time he brought his solo show to the Troubadour in Los Angeles, CA on July 29, 2017.  It was apparently also take your children to work day on the Rhett Miller Tour as Rhett had his son (President of the Anti Social Social Club, according to the back of his shirt) and daughter along. They joined him on stage to introduce the opener — actress, musician, and icon to quirky, cute girls everywhere, Kate Micucci.

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Kate Micucci Performing at The Troubadour

Kate brought along her sappy, goofy, amusing, twisted observational comedy songs and a few friends with questionably funny skits. It was a different choice for the Troubadour stage before a rocking music show, with some of the audience members absolutely loving it and others not so much. Her show progressed as follows:

  1. I Love You” — Kate said she wrote this song the day after the US election in November to cheer up her friends.
  2. I Want to Be a Nun (The Nun Song)
  3. Mr. Moon” — A song inspired by driving east on the 10 and seeing the moon set in the ocean.  This was followed by a fake introduction of performer Allie Awesome (Kate can’t remember her last name and just calls her Awesome) and a bunch of nonsense with the pretend stage manager Dan Beam, portrayed by actor Davey Johnson.
  4. Sad Clown” — A song inspired by Kate having a brief job as a clown, which she quit because of her inability to make complicated balloon sculptures.
  5. Happy Song”  The one that starts, “I wanna be happy, I wanna be sad.”
  6. Happy Song” (a different version) — written for Scrubs, when they “needed a happy song to play under a sad scene.” (Scene at the link.)
  7. Soup in the Woods” — Kate told the story of making soup in the woods with her dad and family during a blizzard and while at the time the focus was on the soup, but really they were making memories.
  8. Dear Deer” — A letter to deer as a warning about her Dad hunting. Followed by a strange trombone bit with Kate and Dan and then the strange sleight of hand/magician/weirdness of the character Mesmerizo, portrayed by Ron Lynch.
  9. Doreen the Whale” — Kate’s song was based on the true story of a male whale who communicates in decibels too high for other whales to hear (though in Kate’s song it is based on a female who sings too low).
  10.  “Have You Met My Robot” — Song at 11:30 in the program at the link.
  11. “The Ghost of Pasadena” — Inspired by doing a ghost walk around Pasadena, the live version included audience participation for the ghostly “ooo’s.” This was followed by Kate pretending to talk to her mom on a flat paper phone.  Kate’s brother, Matt Micucci, was also partaking in some of the sketch comedy silliness that evening.
  12. Fall Asleep” Introduced as a song for Jessie, explained and performed at the link. Followed by further business with Dan Beam getting a proper sip of coffee.
  13. Walking in Los Angeles” — Allie Awesome finally appears to accompany Kate on violin. When her set is done, Kate and Rhett’s kids introduce Rhett.
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Kate and Allie (Yes, I had to caption in that way — ’80s sitcom fans represent!)

I’ve written about Rhett so many times before I’m just going to stick to the round-up of what he played and said at this concert. I don’t have to go into detail about how much I love his clever lyrics, rich vocals and powerful held notes, rapid guitar playing, signature WindMiller move, hair flinging, hip swinging, sweat streaming, and spit spraying performances. Phew! So how about that set list?

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Rhett at the Beginning of His Set

  1. The Melt Show” from the Old 97’s album Too Far to Care
  2. Our Love” from The Instigator. After this song, Rhett explained to the audience that he was wearing one of those shirts where the button placement is either too low or too high and his daughter made him button his shirt, but he felt so weird with it like that for the first two songs he had to unbutton that top button. Though he promised the audience, “I’m going to try to keep the nipples inside.” My dream is to hear Rhett sing this one live with Jon Brion recreating his guitar solo.
  3. Jesus Loves You” from the Old 97’s new album Graveyard Whistling. Rhett said it was about a guy having difficulty trying to date a girl because “the guy she was hung up on died. But he did get resurrected – supposedly.”  Link is to video I shot last year at the Troubadour. You can pretend it was from this year though, he was wearing the same shirt!
  4. Wish the Worst” from the Old 97’s album Hitchhike to Rhome. Rhett introduced this one by saying that he was in California because he had a cousin who just got married and she asked him to sing a song after the toast and left it up to him to choose which one. He joked that he went through the list of possible songs with his kids and this was the one he played.
  5. Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On” from the Old 97’s album Most Messed Up
  6. She Hates Everybody” from Graveyard Whistling
  7. Singular Girl” from The Believer
  8. Nineteen” from the Old 97’s album Fight Songs. Rhett introduced this song by saying when he first wrote it, he thought his band would like it. They recorded it, but then wouldn’t play it live (so he plays it solo). Funny connection with that age and this show, the security guy’s jaw dropped when checking my age on my license during the entry process and said he thought I was 19! In honor of that I’ve chosen an apt lyric from the song, “We got seriously down!” (in the party/dance sense — so many possible meanings there) for the title of this blog post. DSC00559
  9. All Who Wander” from Graveyard Whistling
  10. Big Brown Eyes” from the Old 97’s albums Wreck Your Life and Too Far to Care
  11.  “I Don’t Wanna Die in This Town” from Graveyard Whistling. Rhett was joking before this song that the Old 97’s don’t rehearse and I think that was related to why this song wasn’t played much on their last tour. So it was very cool to hear his solo version, which I videoed at this show; find it at the link.
  12. Question” from both the Old 97’s album Satellite Rides and Rhett’s album The Believer. He told the story that he discovered his daughter was teaching herself to play the piano with this song. Also, of course this was the song that he actually played at his cousin’s wedding. He included the French verse in this rendition.
  13. Picture This” from The Dreamer, link to video I shot at this show.
  14. Rollerskate Skinny” from Satellite Rides, video from last year’s show.
  15. Fireflies” – Rhett asked for a volunteer from the audience to sing this duet with him. Local singer Tara Kelly joined him for her moment to shine on the Troubadour stage. Video I shot from this show at the link.
  16. Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” from Most Messed Up
  17. Most in the Summertime” from The Traveler. Rhett introduced this one by saying,  “I wasn’t going to play this song until the L.A. Weekly guaranteed it.” Rhett referenced the L.A. Weekly article by Jackson Truax recommending readers see the show, “Expect one of the evening’s highlights to be ‘Most in the Summertime,’ a standout from Miller’s bluegrass-leaning 2015 album, The Traveler, that’s already become a sing-along showstopper.” Well, I am glad he played it, as it was the only song of the night representing that album.
  18. Barrier Reef” from Too Far to Care
  19. Drinkin’ Song” from Graveyard Whistling
  20. Four Leaf Clover” from Too Far to Care
  21. Doreen” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Wreck Your Life
  22. ENCORE “In Spite of Ourselves” John Prine cover (duet with Kate Micucci), video I shot at the show at the link.
  23. California Stars” cover of a Billy Bragg song, Rhett told the story about learning a bunch of songs in order for the Old 97’s to be Billy Bragg’s backing band in the UK, but then their visas were revoked. Rhett feels some regret over that, but then he added that if he had done it, maybe he would be a different person (which from the way he said it, it sounded like he wasn’t sure that he liked that idea).
  24. Timebomb” from Too Far to Care, Rhett and the Old 97’s always close a show with this one. As usual, Rhett delivered one helluva show to a crowd that absolutely loved it!

 

 

 

I Never Know Where to Start

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Stage Set Up for the July Jon Brion Show at Largo

No, I really didn’t see any concerts between Jon Brion‘s June show and his show on July 28, 2017 at Largo at the Coronet. Therefore, I was definitely ready for a night out to experience one of the best musicians Los Angeles has to offer. The Largo email the week of the show tantalizingly promised a “Very Special Guest” as well. There was much conjecture as to who this might be. Pleased to hear owner Mark Flanagan introduce David Garza to open the show. At the same time, slightly panicked when Flanny mentioned he was “fighting with the landlord over this place.” He quickly assured the worried murmurs of the audience, “But I’m going to fucking win.”

The supremely talented and ever creative David started the show by heading to the piano to play one of his tunes, “Blondiecaxe (Why Are You So Shellfish).” He clever crafted this one to include multiple puns and references to sea creatures, with lines such as, “Why are you so crabby?” and “Cling not to the lowly crustacean.” He followed with another original, “Little Mercy, ” harking back to the classic jazz standards of the 20th century as he beguiled the audience with his smooth, expressive voice.  Switching over to his guitar, her performed the grooving and verbose tune, “Summer Love Jam.”  David referred to his set as “The Friday Night portion of the show,” as if to suggest we all unwind, pack up our cares, and celebrate the moment.  He finished his brief set with “Drone” from his album Overdub.

Jon came on stage and welcomed the audience to the show and remarked on his appreciation for David’s right hand (skills as a guitar player). He then crossed over to the piano to begin his portion of the night’s entertainment.

  1. “Random Poly-tonal Noise.” Jon began by feeling his way around the piano keyboard and getting his fingers limbered up, though a few times getting quite attached to one particular note creating a rhythmic pattern with it. Just when we were about to be exhausted with its repetition, Jon fluttered out a stream of chords, like a person with a point to make who has been forced to hold their words in and is finally allowed to express an opinion. This was followed by a short section awash with tremolo and flowed into a section that was reminiscent of the beginning of Sondheim’s “Another Hundred People” and concluded with a series of arpeggios. Jon provided his title for this piece after finishing playing.
  2. Night and Day” — cover of a Cole Porter song. Jon began this one tentatively before easing into a full-on jazz version; a beautiful rendition like the one he pulled off at his February show. When finishing the song he noted, “I woke up fighting a cold today and so I’m fighting through the fuzz.” He then asked the audience, “What’s next?” Someone yelled out, “Gershwin.”
  3. Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin, he played a succinct portion of the song and not just a few teasing measures, as sometimes happens, and then seamlessly transitioned to “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
  4. Stop the World”  Jon picked up his notes and began fiddling with his decks, putting up Percy Grainger with “Maguire’s Kick” on screen right and Brad Mehldau on the left, in a repeat of the performance Jon gave at his March show. I’ve borrowed a line from this song for the title of this post, in recognition of those who struggle with beginnings.
  5. Something light on the piano that seemed familiar, but I could not name.
  6. “Please Stay Away From Me,” an unrecorded song of Jon’s, introduced as, “A song that for the time being, I dedicate to our dear leader.” A refrain of “Hail to the Chief” was tacked onto the close of the song. On finishing, Jon noted, “I compose at the pleasure of our leader.” He then clarified, “That last one is one I have had for ages…it’s a personality type.” Aptly followed with…
  7. Your Mind is on Vacation” — Mose Allison cover. The first time Jon sang the line, “Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working over time,” he got a big laugh from the crowd.
  8. Meaningless” from Meaningless. All the previous songs were at the piano, but Jon picked up his Epiphone acoustic guitar for this one. He began it and it sounded like he might play “Same Thing” but then launched into this tune.  On finishing he put a capo on and was fiddling around with the guitar tuning, but was hampered by the celeste being a little too close to the chair he was in. He said, “I’m the victim of an ill-placed celeste.” After noting that was not a phrase one uses/hears every day, he had a change of mental direction. In a slightly shocked tone he said, “I just spoke of my celeste like it was a cabinet member. I need to not shame it in public.” He then praised the celeste and turned to play it.
  9. Celeste Medley, incorporating. “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Theme,” “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” Buddy Holly’s “Everyday,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” and his own “Strange Bath” from I Heart Huckabees. (Dear Jon, When playing a celeste medley, how could you possibly miss playing “Hedwig’s Theme?”) After adjusting the microphone so he could sing, he continued on the celeste with another one of his songs.
  10. Knock Yourself Out” from I Heart Huckabees.
  11. Dancing in the Dark” Bruce Springsteen cover. Jon set a simple beat going on the machine on top of the piano, called for a Guinness, and headed back to the celeste — that’s right, a Springsteen song on a celeste — and gave a flawless rendition of this song, pushing through powerful vocals over the celestial accompaniment. It was such a committed version, I was waiting for him to hop to the front of the stage near the end and pull me up there to dance with him à la Bruce and Courtney Cox in the video (I would have totally ’80s-style danced, I’ve had practice)!  Fantasies aside, as he was concluding the song, he realized the beat machine was going to keep pumping out the beats and he couldn’t make a clean ending, so he ran to the machine, waited out a measure and timed the last beat before shutting off to coordinate with the tonic bass note on piano to give it that final accent. Thoroughly enjoyable and the most surprising song of the night.
  12. “Scott Joplin Produced by Bjork” — a medley of songs that Jon strung together on the piano after asking for requests. He waited a good long time to hear what the audience wanted and after a couple minutes remarked, “We’ve got about three sets of material, I’ll get to what I can.” He began with a slow, deliberate version of “Lithium” by Nirvana, morphing into Nilsson’s “Good Old Desk,” then another song that everyone chuckled at when they heard it, which I couldn’t identify. He added some synthesizer sounds in by this point and launched into the “Maple Leaf Rag” on piano and then while the synth sounds were still blooping, he remarked, “Let’s see if this fucks with it enough,” as he crossed the stage and played on the celeste.
  13. Round Midnight” — a version of the song that was so much in contrast to how he typically plays this on guitar, that I didn’t immediately recognize it. He had a ballet dancer en pointe up on the left screen and was looping sound there, but I didn’t catch what song that was, while he also filled in bass notes with the miniKorg, and looped in reverbed synth sounds. After this song, Jon asked, “Is David still in the building? Send for him.”  David soon appeared on stage with his guitar.
  14. My Silent Love” Jon listened for most of the song, then joined in on the celeste toward the end of David’s sweet performance of this romantic 1930s tune. Love being introduced to old treasures like this via the Largo musicians.
  15. Pride and Joy” — Stevie Ray Vaughn cover. Remember it was Friday night, David picked up the tempo for this rocking cover. Jon turned the miniKorg into a bass to cover the low end of the song. On finishing, David remarked on how glad he was to join in the show and that “Fridays just feel weird without Jon.” With a reference to 60s rockers MC5, the duo decided on the band name of “The MC2 of La Cienega.” They then joked around about planning and rehearsing, “There’s a lot to be said about knowing what you’re going to play.” Before playing the next song, David stated, “This is as political as its going to get.”
  16. I Fought the Law” — an earnest cover of the song first made popular by the Bobby Fuller Four, with David on guitar and Jon playing around on the piano and having some difficulties with his looping, though briefly we witnessed a man on theremin. David exited the stage after that one.
  17. While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Beatles cover. Jon took requests on how to end the show and this one came up. He decided to play it on piano, with synthesizer on, and bass notes on the miniKorg, with Jon and the audience singing together. He finished the piece with a bit of “Moonlight Sonata” and an excerpt from Beethoven’s 7th, Second Movement.
  18. ENCORE “Good Times, Bad Times” — Led Zeppelin cover. Jon returned to the stage for an encore, not something that has been a guarantee lately. He addressed the audience from the chair on center stage, “You brought me back here, what do you want?” Many requests rang out. Jon went to the piano mentioning “a capella instrumental versions.” Then, “I’m gonna answer the Led Zeppelin (request) without guitar and not in the style of Led Zeppelin.” There was an audible gasp from someone in the 2nd or 3rd row that perhaps doing such a thing would be tantamount to sacrilege.  So Jon responded by walking over to the Gretsch he had on stage and had not yet used that night, plugging it in, fiddling and adjusting the tones and tuning, and then launching into an electrifying version of the Zeppelin song.
  19. Here We Go” from Punch-Drunk Love. Jon concluded the main stage show back at the piano with one of his own songs that had been requested multiple times throughout the night and is a sure crowd pleaser.

After Show in The Little Room

David Garza hosted the very informal, intimate after show in The Little Room, with Mark Gasway joining in on the upright bass.

  1. Soul Custody” from Overdub, a request David played on piano.
  2. “Lost at Sea” another David Garza song
  3. Rhymes for Honeys & Beats for Boys
  4. “Just the Bass” in A minor, an improvised song with Mark working hard on the bass and David freestyling like a pro. Some sirens went blaring past as the song kicked off and they complemented the music.  “Just the Bass, four strings in your face!”
  5. Shadowland” K.D. Lang cover, which David played on piano but switched to his guitar for the solo.
  6. More Pretty Girls Than One” an old bluegrass tune. Sean Watkins chose this song and sang the lead.
  7. Tomorrow is a Long Time” — Bob Dylan cover as an instrumental, with David on piano, Mark still on bass, and Sean on guitar.
  8. Graceland” Paul Simon cover, with Sean Watkins singing the lead and the small audience singing along, including harmonies. I love Largo.
  9. Rude Eyeshadow” from Human Tattoo. When starting his song, David said, “Take these chords and think about your life.” Pretty sure that is a daily practice for me with music.

What can I say, but another fantastic, fulfilling evening at Largo! Oh yes, there is one more important announcement. If you’ve ever experienced the call of nature while in the Little Room, you know that the Little Room bathroom would be an excellent candidate for a makeover show, particularly the Toilet That Wouldn’t Flush.  But worry no longer Little Room patrons, there is a New Toilet in the Little Room bathroom!

 

The Way It Went

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Sparse Stage Set Up for Jon Brion’s June Show at Largo

Summer had arrived in Los Angeles and with the ushering in of higher temperatures and extended sunny evenings, I was once again at Largo at the Coronet for Jon Brion‘s show on Friday, June 30, 2017. While the weather couldn’t have been better, I sure could have been, having suddenly come down with something that was making my eyes and nose operate like a faucet someone forgot to shut off. So prior to the show I had taken multiple cold remedies, off the shelf and homeopathic, and eaten a bunch of foods with antihistamine properties. I was feeling a little strange and considered staying home, but at the same time I desired to get out of the house and the medicine seemed to be working.

Laura Kightlinger opened with a stand-up routine, getting the audience laughing with her nothing-held-back delivery.  I am guessing she may have been trying new material, which comics regularly do at Largo (as a safe place where the performances are not recorded). She is supposedly working on a special.

Jon walked onto the stage and straight to the piano as customary, playing a tasty starter of a warm-up piece, which had some descending chords in the left hand and a light melody in the right hand. When finished he said, “I have a nice frog in my throat that will come leaping out on some semi-eighth note” and sang the words “Life on Mars” while croaking. He stated he would like to “start with something different — how about a request?” Several song titles and artists names were shouted toward the stage, but one rang out clearly and he took on that vocal challenge to really kick off the show. The show proceeded as follows:

  1. Life on Mars” — David Bowie cover. Afterward he talked about the condition off his voice again, “I will eject it (the frog) like an LA landlord!” Then he decided, “Let’s do the whole show in reverse: singalong ones, maudlin material, then energetic to make up for the maudlin material…that should give us a good finish.”
  2. God Only Knows” — Beach Boys cover, as a singalong. Sebastian Steinberg appeared on stage with his bass to join in for the rest of the evening. Nice, crazy jazz ending with Jon getting stompy and then holding a pattern on piano while Sebastian walked the bass line under it. When the song finished Jon turned to Sebastian and noted, “We’re operating in reverse.” Sebastian responded, “I’ve cried already.”
  3. The Way It Went” — one of Jon’s unreleased songs and the first time that I have heard it. The only recording I could find of this song was in the middle of the podcast at the link. The song starts about 31 minutes and 20 seconds into the conversation. I’ve used the title of the song for the title of the post because it could not be more apropos.
  4. Ruin My Day” from Meaningless
  5. Strange Bath” from I Heart Huckabees, after concluding this one Jon called out, “I would like more Guinness and duct tape.” Pause, then continued, “Sounds like I’m about to abduct somebody and I’d like something smooth and creamy while I’m doing it.” He asked for requests again.
  6. Don’t Fear the Reaper” — Blue Oyster Cult cover, “The Peanuts Version,” as Jon called it, aka in the style of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, with some mashing in of “Linus and Lucy.”
  7. No Expectations” — Rolling Stones cover performed by Sebastian Steinberg on guitar.
  8. “Please Stay Away From Me” another of Jon’s unreleased songs. Jon is still on the piano for this one and Sebastian moved back to his bass.
  9. The Thrill is Gone” — cover of a song written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell and covered by various musicians. Jon played this song after getting a request for Chet Baker. Before starting up the next tune, Jon put duct tape across the piano strings and plays a few measures of “Popcorn.”
  10.  “Don’t You Want Me” — Human League cover, another audience singalong, with mixed results on the verses. When finished Jon quipped, “We all get a participation trophy!” Then, “It’s 2017 again” as he takes the duct tape off the bass strings of the piano. He leaves the upper half on for the next song.
  11. Waterloo Sunset”  — Kinks cover. When he finished singing this one, he removed the rest of the duct tape, joking, “The piano’s parents paid it’s ransom.”
  12. Isolation” — John Lennon cover. For this song, Jon requested only the low end on the microphone and then he put it down on the floor under his foot and turned it into a kick drum.
  13. Looney Tunes” medley. I wrote down “scheming” in my notes, I can’t remember why, but I think Jon was messing around on the piano and Sebastian was happily joining him on bass. He commented, “We’re scoring an imaginary Bugs Bunny cartoon.” Jon included bits of “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” and Elmer Fudd’s “Ride of the Valkyries” inspired “Kill the Wabbit” before concluding with the Looney Tunes theme.
  14. Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin (and more than just a couple measures) with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
  15. Here We Go” from Punch-Drunk Love
  16. Stardust” – Hoagy Carmichael cover. Jon said, “I’m not used to hearing a Hoagy Carmichael request,” and so the requesters wish was granted.

It was a mellow and loosely-formulated night, with Jon spending the whole show at the piano. Nothing seemed like too much of a stretch. All these songs were old favorites that have made his playlists before. There was some talk in the courtyard after the show that Jon might play in the Little Room, but as he had not announced that from the stage, there weren’t enough people hanging around the venue afterward to make up an audience. Maybe next time?

 

 

 

Feelin’ Good Again

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Stage Set Up for the June Watkins Family Hour at Largo

The Watkins Family Hour has been doing an excellent job lately at drawing some compelling guests to play at their shows.  I was eager to attend their show at Largo at the Coronet in Los Angeles, on June 13, 2017, after learning that my favorite singer Glen Phillips, as well as astute songwriter Langhorne Slim, and L.A. “SoCal country” favorite, Sam Outlaw, were on the bill.

We were advised to “let your laughs go” as comedian Tom Papa took the stage to kick off the evening. He was practicing for his performance on Conan (routine available at the link) for the following night.

And @tompapa opened up tonight! 6/13/17 @watkinsfamilyhour

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— Tom Papa

Thank you @watkinsfamilyhour! Another one for the books! 6/13/17

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— Sara and Sean Watkins

Moving on to the musical part of the evening, Sara and Sean Watkins welcomed everyone to Largo and the set progressed as follows:

  1. Never Call” — a Fiction Family song from Fiction Family Reunion
  2. Fiddle tune, which I failed to identify and they didn’t specify.
  3. Brother Wind” — Tim O’Brien cover, Sebastian Steinberg stepped on stage to join Sean and Sara. After the song, Sean was dealing with sound/guitar issues and the set list got torn in half.
  4. Wave as We Run” from Sean’s album All I Do is Lie. After the song there is banter between Sean and Sara about using the word introduce or announce for bringing out the first guest. Sean concluded, “Why don’t you use the word introduce and I’ll use the word announce.” He announced Glen Phillips, who remarked something like he prefers to be announced because it gives him a sense of importance. Glen stepped off to the side of the stage and Sean then properly announced Glen as he returned.
  5. Nobody’s Gonna Get Hurt” — one of Glen’s new, unrecorded songs. It was a treat to hear Sean playing electric guitar on this one.
  6. Baptistina” from Glen’s album Swallowed By the New. Glen gave quite a long introduction to this one, explaining the origin of the song (the Baptistina asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs), but that he later learned that scientists discovered it wasn’t the Baptistina asteroid after all (sorry Glen!). It remains a mystery where the asteroid came from; however, since “mysterious asteroid” doesn’t fit the song he’ll continue on singing “Baptistina.” Glen leaves the stage following the song.
  7. Steal Your Heart Away” — Lindsey Buckingham cover available on the Watkins Family Hour album. Singer Molly Jenson joined in on stage.
  8. Damaged” — a Fiction Family song from Fiction Family Reunion. Sean switched back to acoustic guitar. This song was performed by Sean, Sara, and Sebastian. After the song, Sam Outlaw was introduced.
  9. Look at Your Now” from Sam’s latest album Tenderheart, Molly Jenson returned to sing harmony.  Sam told the story of how an Uber driver rolled over the back of his foot that day! Glad he was okay and could make it to the show.
  10. Keep It Interesting” from Sam’s album Angeleno. He introduced this song by stating it was “about the importance of variety in a healthy relationship.” Sam and Molly exit the stage on finishing it.
  11. Lock and Key” from Sara’s album Sun Midnight Sun.  After this song, Sean goes off on a tangent about “Tom the Shoe Guy,” a regular member of the audience who drives up to the show from San Diego and comments about Sean’s shoes.
  12. For the Sender” — a song inspired by Alex Woodard’s project to write songs based on letters from fans. Sean wrote this tune based on a letter from Emily in Connecticut who would write an annual letter to her deceased spouse (the purpose of doing so being more for the sender). Molly was back on the stage to sing BGV with Sara on this one. Langhorne Slim was then introduced.
  13. Never Break” — Langhorne’s unrecorded song. He told the story that this was a song he wrote on November 9, 2016 and commented, “If there ever was a time for us to look each other in the eye and say I dig you brother, I love you sister, now is the time to do it.” He introduced the next song as being a “similar story with different words and chords.”
  14. Changes” — Langhorne Slim and the Law song from The Spirit Now. Langhorne exited the stage after this one.
  15. The Truth Won’t Set Us Free” — Sara’s song from her album Young in All the Wrong Ways. Sara sang, with Sean, Sebastian and Molly supporting.
  16. Bring It On Home to Me” — a Sam Cooke song sung by one last guest: dynamic singer, Sarah Dugas.
  17. One More Last Chance”  — a cover of a 1990s country classic by Vince Gill, with Sam, Sean, Sara, Sebastian and Molly all performing.
  18. ENCORE “Feelin’ Good Again” — cover of a Robert Earl Keen song, which was requested by a member of the audience.  I’ve used the title of the song for the title of the post, because I was definitely feelin’ good again after seeing this show. With all those talented songwriters in the show I would have been feeling great again if they would have continued on to The Little Room afterward, but it was not to be.

We got to hear a few from @glenphillipsmusic too! #SebastianSteinberg @sarawatkins @watkinsfamilyhour 6/13/17

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— Sara Watkins, Sebastian Steinberg and Glen Phillips

— Glen Phillips and Sean Watkins

Special guests @samoutlaw and @mollyjay performed at @watkinsfamilyhour 6/13/17

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— Sara Watkins, Sam Outlaw, and Molly Jenson

And @langhorneslim sang a couple too 6/13/17 @watkinsfamilyhour @sarawatkins

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— Sara Watkins and Langhorne Slim

Free My Heart

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Ryan Adams and the Unknown Band at the Greek Theatre on June 3, 2017

It already seems like a few months ago that I saw Ryan Adams play at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, California on June 3, 2017, rather than a few weeks ago. With the wrapping up of the school year and school-year-based activities, June can get pretty hectic and have been crammed full of events for my family. But that Saturday it was all about rocking out, having fun with friends, and enjoying the perfect Southern California weather, as Ryan Adams and the Unknown Band unleashed their music into the night.

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Karen Elson (Center) Opened the Show at the Greek Theatre

Singer and guitar player Karen Elson opened, promoting her recent album Double Roses, with a band made up of a guitarist (Megan), fiddle player (Augusta), a harpist (Mary), and sometimes filling in with additional guitar and providing tech support, Jackson Smith. The musicians played beautifully and it was a unique experience to hear a harp as part of the opening band for a rock show. Karen’s songs were delicate and fairly mellow, sung casually with her pretty voice. The tunes were pleasant enough and provided a soothing ambience as people found their way into the theatre, but after a few songs that were of similar tempo and style, I was wishing for more variety in the pacing and approach.  Her set list included the titles:

  1. Wonder Blind” from Double Roses
  2. Double Roses” from Double Roses
  3. Hell and High Water” from Double Roses
  4. Distant Shore” from Double Roses
  5. Call Your Name” from Double Roses
  6. The Ghost Who Walks” from The Ghost Who Walks
  7. “Marcys”  — was listed on the set list, I have no idea what that means, I can’t find a song with that title
  8. Wolf” from Double Roses
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Ryan Adams at the Greek Theatre

In contrast, Ryan has the personality and the musical goods to more than fill the stage and the carved out hillside of the Greek Theater.  With his “Unknown Band” of ace players: Todd Wisenbaker on guitar, the “man who runs Pax-Am,” producer/engineer Charlie Stavish on bass, Ben Alleman on keyboards, and Aaron Ficca, who joined the touring band recently, on drums. In one of the amusing moments of the night, Aaron got mercilessly teased by Ryan for wearing a button-down shirt, “What the fuck is that shirt?  It’s got buttons.” Ryan started up an impromptu song about the shirt and some woman in the audience yelled, “Take it off,” to which Ryan responded, “I’m not getting involved in that!” She called back, “I will.”

 

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Ryan Adams: Jamming at the Greek Theatre

Ryan played a broad mix from his back catalogue with a few numbers from his latest album, Prisoner, and none of the tunes from the recently digitally released Prisoner (B-Sides). I understand with a big show like this one the desire to play the hits, jamming tunes, and more accessible songs. How I’d love to see an intimate show focused on recent deep cuts from Prisoner and the B-Sides. There is such a wealth of material there and so much of it so truly lyrically on point regarding the process of ending a relationship, it seems a shame to leave some of these pieces to only recordings. But perhaps as they are so personal it would be uncomfortable for him to perform some of them live?  That’s a good thing that he can play through 22 songs and leave me still wanting more. Set list was as follows:

  1. Let It Ride” from Cold Roses (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  2. To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” from Heartbreaker
  3. Magnolia Mountain” from Cold Roses (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  4. Two” from Easy Tiger, link to video I shot at this concert
  5. Gimme Something Good” from Ryan Adams, another video I shot at this concert

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    Loved Ryan’s Shoes

  6. Dirty Rain” from Ashes & Fire
  7. Fix It” from Cardinology (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  8. Prisoner” from Prisoner, Ryan began this as an acoustic song at the front of the stage and finished it with the full band. The video at the link was one I shot at this concert. This was a highlight of the night. I’ve borrowed the first line of the song for the title of the blog post.
  9. Outbound Train” from Prisoner, After the song Ryan talked about hearing other musicians complain about playing in L.A., saying something like, “I don’t like L.A. crowds, they’re so jaded.” His response, “Yeah, but have you tried our weed?” He also told a woman who was constantly holding up her phone recording the show and taking photos, “You’re going to get Carpe Diem Syndrome.” I don’t think she got the joke.
  10. Shakedown on 9th Street” from Heartbreaker
  11. Do You Still Love Me?” from Prisoner, link to official video
  12. Stay With Me” from Ryan Adams
  13. When the Stars Go Blue” from GoldDSC00106


  14. Ashes & Fire” from Ashes & Fire
  15. Peaceful Valley” from Jacksonville City Nights (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  16. Dear John” from Jacksonville City Nights (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  17. Doomsday” from Prisoner, complete with A-Bomb detonations showing on the TV screens on stage
  18. Wonderwall” from Love is Hell (Oasis cover)
  19. Everybody Knows” from Easy Tiger
  20. Invisible Riverside” from Ashes & Fire
  21. Implied Encore “New York, New York” from Gold, I recorded this video at the Greek, but the sound didn’t come out very well. Still you can see what it looked like at this concert. Another highlight for the night. The one song I really wanted to hear during this show as it has taken a special meaning on for me since I took a trip to New York not long after Ryan’s show at the Greek last year.
  22. Come Pick Me Up” from Heartbreaker, performed with Karen Elson, link is to video someone else shot at the concert.
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Ryan Adams and Karen Elson Sing “Come Pick Me Up” to Close the Show

Add Some Music to Your Day

DSC09965On Friday, May 26, 2017, I was fortunate enough to attend the “Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour” featuring Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and Blondie Chaplin at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA. They were backed by a solid group of musicians, including Al’s son, Matthew Jardine, who convincingly handled the falsetto parts on many of The Beach Boys‘ classic hits. The concert was divided into two halves, the first including quite a lot of their Top 40 hits and the second embarking on a trip through the songs from Pet Sounds. The show concluded with a six song encore to make a total of 38 songs played live. I know that some of these songs are short, but it felt like I certainly was getting my money’s worth! The full set list is up on Setlist.fm. I borrowed the title of one of the songs for the title of the blog.

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Brian Wilson and Al Jardine Leading the Band

What an absolute honor to be in the presence of this incredible genius of a man, Brian Wilson and to be able to hear him sing and play. His singing ability has been affected over time and while I never expected him to sound perfect it was saddening to feel that passage of time in his loss of breath control and vocal range. I experienced a strange contrast while I watched the show — my heart was heavily feeling the length of a lifetime while simultaneously enjoying the feel good music bursting forth from these fine musicians.

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Pet Sounds Anniversary Tour: Full Band

 

 

I Am in Paradise

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Stage Set Up for Jon Brion’s April Show

DSC09921I can’t stay away from Largo at the Coronet for very long and so I was back there on Friday, April 28, 2017 to see Jon Brion. After a brief welcoming of the audience and introduction from Largo-owner Mark Flanagan, Jon strode onto the stage wearing fuchsia trousers, carrying a notebook, and clearing his throat. He sat down to talk to the audience. He had rapidly eaten some Japanese food right before the show and was feeling the burn of doing so. There was a lot of equipment set up on the stage that night: a rack of guitars, with a couple freestanding, a small drum set, the Largo piano — of course, two screens, synthesizer, and for the first time since I’ve been going to see him, a vibraphone. I was excited about that, as I’ve been wanting him to play some other instruments for a few months. Last month, we were treated to the celesta and now this month, vibraphone. These things make me happy, though referring to the contents of the stage, Jon said, “I brought a bunch of extra shit just to see if it would make things interesting; it just made things complicated.” Well, I for one appreciated the effort. The show went on as follows:

  1. “Cole Porter to Zeppelin Dark Piano Sonata Instrumental Style” This was the name Jon gave to his first piano warm up number, which he played in D minor on request from an audience member. The description of the piece is in the title.
  2. Moon River” Jon then played what he said, “Will be the vocal warm up song.” This commenced with him playing on piano while singing a lot of ooos and ahs as he warmed up his voice and cleared his throat of any lingering food obstructions. It then turned into a proper performance of “Moon River,” one of my favorites. During the song he turned on the synth sounds as he played piano and set it to pick up the notes from the piano and duplicate them in its output. He played through the whole song and then jazzed it up. At one point he looped in some cascading notes (think the beginning of “One Day More” from Les Misérables) and played it back, finishing the song off with some low notes on the MiniKorg.

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    Jon Brion’s Guitars

  3. Trouble” from Meaningless. There was quite a bit of down time between the previous song and this one. Jon headed over to the guitars and selected an acoustic Epiphone. He had the audience choose between guitar pick A and pick B by show of applause. Sebastian Steinberg was brought on for a bass solo while this was going on. Pick B was selected. There was some monologuing about picks, these were a couple old picks from the 40s/50s. Some guy shouted out that they sounded the same to him and Jon admired his honesty, but said that he could hear a difference and others could hear a difference. It was only a slight difference to my ears, with Pick B creating slightly more pop or fullness of sound. Jon commented on the state of the show said, “Think of the beginning of this show as a DVD extra.” And also, “The show is going to get more high energy and streamlined as we go along.”
  4. Same Mistakes” from Meaningless.  The arrangement of this song sounds really different performed on the guitar. Nice extended instrumental in the middle, but did I hear him navigate his way out of a wrong chord? That might be the first musical flaw I’ve ever heard him make or maybe my ears were wrong because I’m not used to hearing this song on acoustic guitar.
  5. Blue Moon” Jon commented that there are “some things I do at the studio but not live — we’ll be messing around with that.” As he was making various adjustments, he remarked, “This is the worst pacing of a show.” I haven’t seen the black and white Gretsch come out in a while and enjoyed hearing it on this song as well as “tape echo.”  Jon referred to it as “giving it a little Sun Records.” And it really was a proper echo, sounded fantastic.
  6. “At It Again” I thought this unrecorded song of Jon’s was forthcoming as he set up some gritty tones on his guitar. Toward the end of the song he had a pedal on the guitar that he pressed to fade the sound in and out as he was playing, which created a rhythmic pumping effect. Love this one. Will he ever record it?
  7. I Was Happy With You” was requested from the audience. I thought I heard Jon ask for a drummer, but no one appeared. He played this one on piano and sang, also adding the synth duplicating the piano again. There was a prolonged ritardando at the end of the song, slowing down so much that it sounded like he was playing a different song to finish.
  8. Strings That Tie to You” from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Still at the piano, Jon said, “Let’s invite Andres to the party,” as he put Andres Segovia playing guitar on the screen on the right side of the stage. Then opera singer, Maria Callas was put on the left screen and Jon manipulated the sound. He changed the piano to tack piano as he began the song in earnest. As he finished, he held a long low note on the MiniKorg.
  9. Time of the Season” Zombies cover. Still on the piano, Jon encouraged the audience to, “Sing every word you know, sing every harmony you know.” The audience also got into the beat of this, stomping on the floor too. Good choice.
  10. Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” Bob Dylan cover. Jon got out his harmonica for this one and played it on tack piano. He shifted his position on the keys and went straight into the next song.
  11. I’ll Keep It With Mine” Bob Dylan cover. Gratifying couplet of these two songs.
  12. Theme” from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Still on piano. The sound of this was encompassing and relentless. I started taking fewer notes at this point as I was wondering if I needed to take a break.
  13. Waterloo Sunset” Kinks cover. Jon headed toward the vibraphone and took a request for this cover. The link is to a rough video of Jon doing this same thing in New York last year. I was not as emotionally wrecked by this song as I was the last time I heard Jon play it and I take that as a personal victory. Maybe the novelty of the vibes helped. I’ve borrowed a line from this song for the title of the post, because it reflects how I feel about where I live and also my affinity for Largo.

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    Vibraphone at Jon Brion’s April Show

  14. “That’s What People Do” an unrecorded song of Jon’s which may or may not actually be called that. It was requested from the audience by that name but after he performed it someone else shouted out, “What was that?” and Jon just said it was one of his but didn’t give the title.  He also was adamant that “It is not an anti-marriage and anti-procreation song.” That those things were fine for people who wanted them, but not to push others into those areas or judge them if they are not interested in such things.
  15. I Don’t Really Want to Know” 1950s song popularized by Eddy Arnold and Elvis.  Jon played this one on lap steel, which I’ve also never seen him play before. There were some crackling sound issues during this song that Jon tried to get around by shifting in his seat, but there wasn’t much he could do about it.
  16. Tainted Love” Soft Cell cover. This old chestnut again.  Jon said, “We gotta throw this shit uptempo somehow,” as he began it. Jon played the song on it a little edgier than usual, using the orange Gretsch, but he seemed to be having trouble with one of the switches as he was bashing at it harder than seemed necessary and muttering a couple instances of “motherfucker.” The Gretsch was sent back to the rack right after this one.
  17. Piano medley of various songs, including: Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” Gary Glitter’s “Rock N Roll Part 2,” and Lovin Spoonful’s “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice, and finishing off on the piano with an instrumental I didn’t recognize.
  18. DRUM SOLO. Someone shouted out “drum solo” and Jon took him up on it.  He strode over to the kit, sat down, and played a little bit and noted, “Sounds like drumline.” So he then went on to play a very marching band/drum corps kind of solo. He finished the solo off by holding a cymbal wedged against his body and playing it with a stick that had a mallet on one end and a teardrop-shaped tip on the other and alternating sides of the stick. He began pushing on the cymbal to warp the sound while he hit it and played all across the top of the cymbal all while keeping immaculate time. It was so creative and amazing. Who knew you could get so many tones out of cymbal? Not me, but Jon Brion knew!
  19. Play the Game” Queen cover, on piano. Myself and a few others called that one out as a request at the previous month’s show. I’ll take it, even if a little late. Thank you! The link to Jon’s recorded version of the song for a Queen tribute album.
  20. You Won’t See Me” The Beatles cover. Jon wanted a singalong and someone shouted out “The Beatles”. He put a beat on the drum machine and went back to the piano to play this classic. The funny thing about this choice was that five days prior I was at a jam session of local musicians in which each person made a request from a list of about 100 songs that the group has chords and music written out for, in order for everyone to play on guitar and sing along. This was the song I chose. Thrilling to be on the same wavelength with Jon.

Jon said he was going to head over to the Little Room to play piano and so a crowd filled that space. Upon entering, the Little Room, Sean Watkins, David Garza, Sebastian Steinberg, and Dominique Arciero were all already on the stage playing and singing. They continued to do a set for the crowd and Jon never did make it to the piano. The songs they played included:

  1. Walk Away Renee” Left Banke cover, sung by Sean.
  2. Up” one of David Garza’s early songs, available on Eternal Tambourine. He played the mandolin on this one.
  3.  “Wicked” one of David’s songs from April Fool, he sang and played on his guitar. He referred to it as “music to order lots of beers by.” It had lyrics such as “No matter how much you give me it’s not enough.” (Beers?)  “Let’s get down and dirty, let’s get wicked.”
  4. Will the Roses Bloom” Sean took the lead vocals on this one.
  5. Stand By Your Man” Tammy Wynette cover, sung by David and with him starting off on the piano and switching to guitar on the chorus. First time I’ve ever heard this song sung by a man.
  6. I Fought the Law” popularized by the Bobby Fuller Four. Another one led by David.
  7. Lost to a Stranger” popularized Ricky Skaggs. Led by Sean.
  8.  I believe this is another one of David’s songs, a jazzy little number that starts, “Kiss me once, it’s shame on you” and also had the line “Show me a little mercy.” I’ve heard this one before but I can’t figure out the title. I thought it was “Show Me a Little Mercy,” but I’m not finding it online.
  9. Everyday” Buddy Holly cover. Jon should have brought the vibes in.
  10. Walkin’ After Midnight” popularized by Patsy Cline. Domenique Arciero joined in the singing.
  11. David played a teaser of the chords from “What I Am” on the guitar while they were working out what song they would finish with.
  12. “Exit Music” the group played an instrumental jam to close the show, which David called “Exit Music.”

What else can I say? Another fun evening at Largo getting to see some talented musicians. Totally fulfilling.

 

 

Find Where I Belong

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Stage Set Up for the April Watkins Family Hour

It had been a while since I last attended a Watkins Family Hour show and with the addition of a couple guests I wanted to see, it was a no-brainer to head up to Largo at the Coronet for the show on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. I will jump right into the set list and the recap of the concert.

  1. Sara Watkins started the show off with an fiddle tune (no name check), with Sean Watkins quickly joining in on his guitar.
  2. Love Needs a Heart” Jackson Browne cover. The pair talked about how they had recently been in Canada for two weeks with Jackson Browne, so they decided to play one of his songs that he had co-written with Valerie Carter. Sean started playing the intro on the guitar and then stopped. Sara explained, “I sing it in a different key than Jackson does,” as Sean changed the position of his capo.  They went on to perform a lovely rendition of the tune. When the song finished Sebastian Steinberg walked all the way across the stage carrying his upright bass and exited on the other side. It seems someone indicated he wasn’t needed for the next song. Sean joked, partly alluding to Sebastian’s long gray hair and beard, “That was Father Time that was paying us a visit to remind us that time passes.”
  3. Not sure of the title of this next one, but it was (a new?) one of Sean’s with a repeated line “I can still write you a song.” After the song, Sean explained that there were a lot of murder ballads in bluegrass music, but he would have difficulty writing one since it wasn’t exactly “write what you know.” He said, “I could imagine myself doing a little light stalking, that’s as close as I can get to a murder ballad.”  Sebastian came back on stage and noted that on the set list he was meant to play on the third song but that was, “Bullshit.” Then he went on to express, “I wouldn’t upset Sean, you might be subjected to some light stalking.” Special guest Joey Ryan of The Milk Carton Kids was then introduced. There was a lot of banter on whether or not they would play the following song as they hadn’t had a chance to properly rehearse it. Regardless, they managed to create an enjoyable performance.
  4. Price to Pay” Lucinda Williams cover, Joey on guitar, with Sara singing the lead and Joey and Sean providing supporting vocals.
  5. Wayfaring Stranger” American folk song.  Joey remarked that he just met Jon Brion ten minutes ago and he requested for him to come out and play on this song. Joey asked Jon if he could embarrass him with a story and Jon responded, “I’ve been embarrassed before,” essentially giving him the go ahead. Joey told a story about how he used to see Jon’s show somewhat regularly at the old Largo location. He mentioned how there was one time when “one guy in the audience” (presumably Joey), requested a Kinks song repeatedly. Jon wasn’t playing it and eventually said that he wasn’t going to play that song. Joey said to the present audience, “He persisted. He was warned, but he persisted.” So “the guy” shouted out, “You don’t know it.” The response from Jon Brion was to play a medley of the whole album (that that song was on), except skipping the one that was requested.  Joey said it was one of the best things he’d ever heard. Anyway, the group then played “Wayfaring Stranger” with Joey on banjo and Jon fiddling around with his guitar and amp in the back and if he ended up playing anything at all it was barely audible.
  6.  Next, Joey played a new song that he wrote. He prefaced it by stating, “Everyone’s down on what’s going on. I’m more of an optimist…this song taps more into the bright side.” It starts off so, “It’s a good day to be alive…the sun is shining bright today,” but gets more warped as it goes along talking about women with coat hangers in back alleys, for example, and “I saw Lady Liberty kick off her shoes and run.” Joey exited the stage after performing this one.
  7. Walk Away Renee” Left Banke cover. Sean and Sara gave a prolonged explanation about the A.V. Club, before Sean sang this one which he chose to sing when he was visiting the A.V. Club. The good news is his original performance is available at the link. Sebastian and Jon exited the stage and we were left with just Sean and Sara.
  8. DestinationNickel Creek song from A Dotted Line. Sean said, “We enjoy playing this as a duo,” then realizing how that sounded he quickly added, “It works.” Not that they had any problems with the other guy (Chris Thile) who usually plays it with them.  Sara started off the song playing her ukulele and deftly switched to her fiddle for the ending. Borrowed a line from this song for the title of the post.
  9. In Spite of Ourselves” John Prine cover. Pete Holmes and Valerie Chaney were welcomed to the stage and they told the story of their recent engagement, when Pete proposed in a hot air balloon over the Santa Barbara wine country. The story was divulged over a walking bass line provided by Sebastian Steinberg. At one point, Jon Brion sneaked onto the stage with a couple of drum brushes and played some rhythm on the side of the upright bass, later moving over to do the same on the top of the piano. Pete and Valerie then sang the duet of the John Prine song with Sean, Sara, and Sebastian providing the musical accompaniment.
  10. Deportee” cover of a song written by Woody Guthrie.  Willie Watson was the next guest to the stage, singing this song with support from Sean, Sara, and Sebastian. During the song, Jon Brion joined on stage to play guitar and mid-chorus Joey Ryan returned to the stage to join in with harmony. Willie is quite the find if you like old school folk music. He sounds like he could be a Guthrie. Introducing the next song, Willie said, “This has been by far the most comical Watkins Family Hour I’ve ever witnessed. Well, that’s all over now.”
  11. Gallows Pole” traditional folk song, link to a different concert where Willie sang this song live. He also played the harmonica on this one.
  12. My Baby Left Me” a song written by blues singer Arthur Crudup and popularized by Elvis, link to a different concert where Willie sang this song live. Willie was joined by Sebastian on this song. Willie headed off stage after this one.
  13. Caroline No” Beach Boys cover, sung by Sara. Before starting this song Sean mentioned that he is borrowing a bass harmonica from Jon and that the first time he had heard one it was on the song “I Know There’s an Answer,” which is also on the Pet Sounds album. Jon played guitar on this one, but his volume was so low in the mix I had to really concentrate to hear what he was doing. At the end of the song the other musicians left the stage for Jon to perform a couple songs.
  14. “Trial and Error” Jon played on piano and delicately sang one of his own songs.
  15.  “I Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” Jon played a jazzy rendition of this song on piano with varying dynamics and swift changes in the manner of approach and pace so that at moments Sebastian, who was playing along on bass, seemed to have difficultly keeping up with him. Thankfully there were many more moments of beautiful synchronicity to make this one of the highlights of the evening.
  16. Like a Rolling Stone” Bob Dylan cover. Everyone came back on stage for this tune which included an audience singalong and closed the main stage show.

A few of the musicians felt like playing more that night, so the Little Room was open for part 2.

  1. I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground” traditional folk tune.  Willie Watson led this one, playing his banjo with Sara and Sean backing him up.  Link is to a version of this that Willie played recently elsewhere.
  2. Leaving Home” Charlie Poole cover. Willie sang this one too and I must reiterate how his voice is so perfectly suited to these old songs. He left the stage when the song was over.
  3. Miss the Mississippi and You” Jimmie Rodgers cover. Sara sang the lead vocal on this tune and Sebastian joined in on bass with Sean still on his guitar.
  4. Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Moan” traditional Gospel tune.
  5. Broken Headlights” from Retrospect, Joey Ryan came on stage to play one of his original tunes. This was the one song I wanted to hear him play if he decided to delve into his back catalog, so that made me pretty happy.
  6. Joey sang a new song of his, possibly called “Mourning Again in America.” It included lyrics such as: “Fell asleep with the TV on, finally feeling like I belong, woke up to a funeral song, everything I knew was gone.”
  7. Crime of Passion” performed solo by Bhi Bhiman, a friend of Joey’s who was in the audience. Sara called him up to the stage and Bhi decided to do this one after hearing the talk earlier on the main stage about murder ballads.
  8. 9 to 5” Dolly Parton cover. Sara introduced this one and sounded like she was inspired to sing this tune after having recently been watching TV in her hotel room while on tour. Sara, Sean, and Sebastian played on the song, with Jon Brion joining in on piano and eventually getting out his guitar thumb pick to add the rhythm of the typing sound that can be heard in the original version. It was a fun way to end the night.
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New Watkins Family Hour Poster in the Largo Courtyard

 

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

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