Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Concert Wrap Ups

We’ve been to a lot of shows lately, and I haven’t had a chance to write about any of them, so here’s a whirlwind tour:

Del McCoury at Ear X-Tacy (July 13): Del McCoury has got to be one of the most generous performers I have ever seen. Even at a free performance in a crowded record store, he goes out of his way to make sure that everyone gets a memorable show. He interacts warmly with the crowd and always seems to be really glad to be there performing for us. It’s really touching. This was the day after their new CD dropped and they came up from Nashville solely to do this appearance. It was amazing. They ran through a mix of stuff from the new CD, plus some older numbers. Of course, the picking and the signing were incredible, but it was McCoury chatting with everyone in between songs that really made the set memorable for me. They closed out with a roaring version of Vincent Black Lightening 1952 that made the hair stand up on the back of my arms.

They Might Be Giants at Lebowskifest (July 22): Believe it or not, I’ve never seen The Big Lebowski, but that didn’t stop me from attending the opening ceremonies for this year’s Lebowskifest. Granted, I was there to see TMBG, but whatever. Two guys from Louisville started the Fest, which gets a little bigger every year. The concert was a lot of fun. I always wondered how the TMBG kids songs would fit in with the rest of their stuff, and the answer is: perfectly. They managed to do the various songs from Flood that everyone always wants to hear, plus a lot of their newer stuff and an assortment from their many other albums. Along the way, they created the storyline of a miracle baby, born that evening in the crowd on the hill at the amphitheatre, who begins to send them telepathic instructions and create instruments for them to use. It was really wild fun. As was, Corn Mo’, the opening act, who was perfectly suited to the whole scene. If you took Meatloaf and Lawrence Welk, tossed them in a blender with a Smurf and an Oompah Loompah, then added a couple strong hits of acid to the mix, the result would be Corn Mo’. My goal in life is now to acquire Corn Mo’ CD’s.

Kentucky Music Weekend (July 23-24): Imagine a free music festival. Sounds nice, right? Now, picture it featuring a whole bunch of great regional and local acts, like Zoë Speaks and the Reel World String Band. Even better, huh? Now for the kicker: The headlining act is Jean Ritchie. Yes, the Jean Ritchie. And, it’s still free. That’s what Kentucky Music Weekend is like.

It was the hottest weekend of the year, but we managed to catch a lot of the festival, including solo shows from Louisville-based Juggernaut Jug Band and the all-female Reel World String Band, who just tore up the place with their playing. They’ve blended a lot of social concerns into their music, particularly environmental issues. They also do a really ripping version of Janis Joplin’s Take Another Little Piece of My Heart!

The main show Saturday night was awesome, with Zoë Speaks, the Juggernauts, and of course Jean Ritchie. Zoë Speaks threw a loop in the schedule, when they got such an ovation they had to have an encore. Still, they are that good, and their set was awesome. They also got to come back out during Ritchie’s set to accompany her on The L&N Don’t Stop Here Any More. At 83, Ritchie has way more energy than I do at half that! Hearing her share both her memories and the songs she grew up singing is a real treasure. She keeps apologizing that her memory and voice aren’t what they used to be, but if she didn’t point it out, you’d never notice.

We came back Sunday morning for the Hymn Sing and then the Zoë Speaks solo set. Keith printed off some of the pics he took the night before and got them signed. Karla from Zoe Speaks asked if he got one of them playing with Jean Ritchie the night before and he promised to send them one. He took Ritchie one to sign and she said “Do I still look that good? Or are you just that good of a photographer?’ I thought that was sweet. Her husband, who was a professional photographer complimented Keith as well and they got to talking shop, which prompted Ritchie to shoo them away so she could hear the music! I was in the audience and saw her wave them away and cracked up! Keith just looked at me later and said, “I got shushed by Jean Ritchie. Wow!”

I was deeply moved at the Hymn Sing, and ended up being very glad we went. (I hadn’t been that enthused about going.) It’s been a long time since I’ve sung any of those old hymns, and I was surprised to discover how much I miss them! Sometimes, It’s a little too easy for me to forget what a big part of my life church used to be. Ever since Dad’s funeral, I’ve started to feel like I really need to do something to come to terms with who I am and who I have been spiritually, but that’s a matter for another time. The Hymn Sing just reinforced that feeling, though.

It was so hot that day that they let anyone who wanted sit on the stage with the performers. There was an AC breeze from backstage, it was a little cooler. I was a little intimidated to do that with Jean Ritchie, but we did move for Zoë Speaks. It was strange to hear the sound coming from the monitors, which were behind us. They tried out some new songs in preparation for recording a new CD, plus did some old favorites, like their version of the traditional tune Shady Grove, which they turn into a powerful parable about racism.

Hayes Carll at Waterfront Wednesday (July 27): We used to really like Waterfront Wednesdays until WFPK had to start enforcing the “no coolers, cans, or bottles” rule from the Waterfront Development Corporation. It’s solely designed to protect the food vendors on the Watefront, and annoys me to no end. It would be one thing if there were anything reasonably-priced, remotely healthy, or vegetarian available, but there’s not. Waterfront Wednesday used to be a great chance to throw together a picnic supper and sit by the water, enjoying free music until dark. Once that changed, we stopped going regularly. It’s not WFPK’s fault. They have to play along to use the space, but it’s not really the same any more.

However, we couldn’t pass up the chance to see Hayes Carll live. Since he was the first act up that night, we decided to go see him and then split. It turned out to be one of the only rainy afternoons we had in July. The rain interrupted his set at one point, which I think kept him from doing everything. At least he didn’t do On the Road Tonight, which has gotten pretty heavy play on the Americana Music Choice channel. We were a little bummed about that, because it’s such a cool song. It was still a fun set. Carll has a really twisted perspective on life that I cannot help but appreciate. (One of his songs is written from the view of a man serving life in prison in Connecticut, where he spends every day making license plates imprinted with the state motto: “Live Free or Die.”) I’d like to see him on his own in a non-rainy club somewhere.

Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart at the Kentucky Theater (August 6): They just had a new CD come out and a lot of their set came from it. Stuart is a really gifted guitar player, while Earle plays rhythm guitar with a really quirky style—she doesn’t strum the strings or pick at them as much as she flicks them and thumps them. The result is a strong rhythm with a unique sound. Incredibly enough, the music works. Their styles don’t complement each other as much as the supplement each other. Both of them sound stronger as a result of the collaboration. It’s pretty cool to listen to. They closed out the evening with an acapella version of Gospel Ship. While they were singing they began to move off the stage, into the audience, up the aisles, out the back door, and into the lobby. They didn’t stop singing the entire time, and when they were done they were all ready to meet the audience as we exited. It was a pretty cool way to wrap things up.

Kasey Chambers at Headliners (August 12): This, hands down, was the best show we have seen this year, and one of the best we’ve ever been to. It’s taken a long time for Kasey to get to Louisville, but it was well worth the wait. Opening with a one-two punch of Barricades and Brickwalls and Am I Not Pretty Enough?, she proceeded to give a set that wandered through her three albums, plus some covers and surprises—including an acapella gospel number. Chambers was gracious and generous to the crowd and seemed to be genuinely surprised that she had so many fans in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone who appreciated the audience as much as we appreciated her and that added so much to the show. I was really surprised that she chose to do her most well-known song, The Captain, as an acoustic solo number for an encore. I kept expecting her band to slowly come back and join in, especially since that electric guitar chord that runs through the song is so lovely and distinct. Instead she created a really intimate, personal moment: just her and the audience and her music. It really added to the punch of an already emotionally powerful song. Overall, it was simply an amazing show. The Greencards opened, and I was really amazed at how much they’ve grown musically since we saw them last fall. I liked them then, but they are turning into incredible songwriters and performers.

Coming up:

Marshall Chapman and Tim Krekel (This Saturday)

Del McCoury at Waterfront Wednesday (August 24): Don’t know how we keep lucking into seeing him at free appearances, but I ain’t complaining! We’ll be putting up with the stupid Waterfront rules to see him, but it will be worth it!

Jean Ritchie at a special Homefront (September 18)

Lucinda Williams (September 29—Got the tix in hand!)

Nanci Griffith (October 17—Tix came yesterday!)


Lefty said...

Man I so want to so Lucinda Williams again. I saw her open for Neil Young a couple years ago and loved it.

I'm seeing Tom Petty/Black Crowes in Berkeley next Saturday. My first for both.

Then next month in Berkeley I'm seeing a Garcia Tribute featuring a who's who of jam band/rock talent.

Looking forward to it.

EM said...

Lucinda and Neil? Man, that must have been an awesome show. I've been waiting a while for her to do a show here, so I'm really excited about it.