We saw a lot of shows over the course of the year—a bunch in town and a lot on the road. We put some miles on the Oldsmobile in search of good live music. Here are some of my thoughts about what we saw in 2004.
Listed in reverse-order, countdown style.
15. Darrell Scott at the Kentucky Theatre
The man who wrote “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” in an intimate setting with a cozy crowd. He sat on a rocking chair onstage and just wowed us over and over.
14. The Zarb Brothers and Troubadours of Divine Bliss at Homefront
Homefront is a local radio show that features local and regional grassroots artists. They tape once a month and we are regulars. They tape two shows at time, so your admission gets you four great acts. The Troubs and the Zarbs were one show and a better matched pair of acts I could not imagine. The Zarbs are from Australia by way of Bardstown, Ky and the play some of the best roots-rock you’ll ever hear. The Troubs are a quirky eclectic duo who just play intoxicating music. It was a heavenly night and one of the best Homefronts ever.
13. Listening Room at the Rud with Alan Rhody, Tim Krekel, Carter Wood, and Danny Flanigan
Four fantastic talents with ties to Louisville in a no smoking, no talking venue. I could get into this Listening Room thing.
12. Old Crow in store at Ear X-Tacy
I kept thinking that the guy on the banjo looked familiar until it dawned on me: He looks like Dave Rawlings. Then he did a guitar solo and it dawned on me again: He is Dave Rawlings!
11. Carrie Newcomer at Homefront
Homefront tried a couple of special midweek shows in the spring with slightly “bigger” name artists than they usually get. The attendance was unfortunately sparse, but the shows were grand. Carrie Newcomer has a rich smooth alto that suits her meditations on the nature of love, life, and humanity. It was a great midweek date for me and Keith. I think we left a little bit more in love than when we came, if that doesn’t sound too cheesy. You can’t see Newcomer live and not be touched.
10. Kate Campbell at Homefront
Another one of their special shows. This is the show that made me a Kate Campbell fan for life.
9. The Indigo Girls at the Kentucky Center
It was just like the old days--just Amy and Emily with their guitars...and an audience singing right along. I was amazed at how good songs that I had only heard them do with their band sounded! Plus, we met the incredible Girlyman!
8. Todd Snider at Headliners in February
He was fresh out of rehab, but in good form for this set with Will Kimbrough. He did all of the Todd standards, which of course made the crowd loud and annoying, but it was a fun show.
7. WFPK Listener Appreciation Concert
Ben Folds. Patty Griffin. The Holmes Brothers. Wow! Thank god for good public radio stations. Best moment: Ben Folds standing on his piano conducting the audience like a choir to record some backing vocals for an album he was producing.
6. Kris Kristofferson at the Ryman
This show happened the week that he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and he was in fine form and great spirits. He did all his standards, plus a bunch of stuff that only Kristofferson diehards know. It was one of those shows where Keith and I would list the stuff we wanted to hear him play, only to hear him do it a few minutes later. And he pulled no political punches.
5. Todd Snider at Headliners in December
The best show I’ve ever seen him do. It proved that he can hold an audience with him, do a bunch of great songs, and not do "Beer Run."
4. Riverbend at Chattanooga
We went down to Chattanooga for this week long music event to see Todd Snider and Guy Clark, both of whom were incredible. We also got to visit with my brother, do some shopping, and have a good time.
3. Iris DeMent at the Dame
I love everything about Iris DeMent! She held a barful of people spellbound throughout this show. You could hear a pin drop the whole night. It was awesome. And she has the most wonderful dry sense of humor.
2. Emmylou Harris at Indianapolis
This was my birthday gift and I got an autographed set list after the show. It was an amazing retrospective of her entire career, where she sang almost all my favorite songs. And she closed with Leavin’ Louisiana in the Broad Daylight, which is my all time favorite song of hers!
1. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco
Only one thing tops Emmylou in my book, and that’s a two day free festival featuring Steve Earle, John Prine, Guy Clark, and ton of other folks, with Emmylou closing! Everything about the weekend was perfect and there were so many highlights that it’s almost impossible to name them all. Unforgettable.
SHOWS I WISHED I HAD LIKED BETTER
Sometimes things just don’t click. In most of these cases, it was the audience that spoiled things for me. I don’t get why people have to act like jerks at concerts and then have the nerve to say that you’re the one messing up a good time when you complain.
Steve Earle in Ashland: It was Steve solo and acoustic. It could have been marvelous, but it wasn’t. It’s never a good sign when a performer tells someone in the audience that they are “pissing me off.”
Robert Earl Keen at Headliners: The audience was annoying, but not as bad as it could have been. But Keen seemed to be in a foul mood that night. He did a real perfunctory set of the expected songs and frowned the whole night. I was less than impressed.
Kris Kristofferson in Chicago: Don’t get me wrong. Kristofferson was EXCELLENT to the point of being AMAZING. Having to sit through Jimmy Wayne and Trace Adkins wasn’t. Neither was sitting in a houseful of Republicans on 9/11 who weren’t amused with his politics.
Robert Earl Keen and Todd Snider at the Ryman: My god it was the Ryman! Full of the kind of drunken rednecks and frat boys that Keen and Snider attract. In other words, it was HELL. Both of them are so much better than their typical audience member would demonstrate. But Snider didn’t do "Beer Run!" On the plus side, this show did introduce us to the Greencards!
OTHER CONCERT REGRETS
We were on the road to so many shows that we missed most of the fall season of Homefront.
Waterfront Wednesday started a “no cans, bottles, or coolers” rule that turned a great night to pack a picnic and see some great free music into something to miss.
SHOWS I WISH WE COULD HAVE SEEN
Kasey Chambers in Chicago: She’s got to come closer than that!
The Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue didn’t come close enough to catch either.
Old Crow Medicine Show at Headliners: We love the Old Crows, but after missing so many Homefronts, we couldn’t justify missing the last one of the season to see them.
Buddy Miller did two free shows in Louisville in one day and we missed them both! It was our last day before going to San Francisco and we had a ton of stuff to do. Sigh!
Buddy and Julie Miller did a small club in SF during Hardly Strictly. Emmylou and Steve Earle joined them at different points. We were in SF and didn’t go. Ack!
Oh well, I guess you can’t do everything. But you can sure try.
LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2005
Buddy Miller at Headliners in February: Looks like that might be our first show for the year!
I’ve got my fingers crossed that a new Mary Gauthier CD means a tour with a stop at Headliners. (Of course I thought the same thing when Eliza Gilkyson’s CD came out last year.) If she’s anywhere close, I’ve already told Keith we’ll be gassing up the car.