Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Todd Snider at TPAC

Saturday night, one of Nashville's own - Todd Snider- returned home to play the James K. Polk Theatre at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Todd isn't actually a Nashville original; however, he is an EAST Nashville original.

Originally from the Portland, Oregon area, Todd moved to San Fran for what he calls the "couch circuit". He then bounced around Texas for a few years, and later landed a standing gig in Memphis. Then he moved and settled (for now at least) in Middle Tennessee. He's not your typical Music Row Nashville. But he's set the bar awfully high for those living in East Nashville.

I've been a subscriber to Todd fans' e-mail list-serv better known as the The Shit House Wire for several years. (I have no idea about the origin of the name. Maybe one of these days I will.) Todd's fans are passionate about his music and his shows. Through various messages on the SHW, we learned several folks were coming to town from all over the place. After a couple of rounds of brainstorming and false starts, we finally settled on Nashville's Beer Sellar as the place to meet for a pre-show gathering.

Kim, a fellow Todd fan, crafted a badge for us all to print and wear. Normally, I can't stand to wear a "HELLO, My name is..." tag at any event. But in this case I made an exception (1) as a nod to Kim for her efforts (2) to quickly spot fellow fans so face-to-face friendships could build vs. just email-to-name and (3) to begin beer drinking quickly with Todd fans rather than University of Kentucky or Vanderbilt fans who were gathered in another area of the bar watching a hotly contested basketball game and weaving a tapestry of profanities with each made or missed shot.

The show marked the fourth time I've seen Todd live, and fortunately he was in good spirits the three previous times. I've also got a lot of boots of his shows from over the years. Based on some of them, he hasn't always been in the best of moods or "performing condition". So we weren't sure what was to be expected.

The show started with a brief solo set from Jennifer Knapp. I bought three of her CDs she released over a period of time seven or eight years ago. She then kind of just dropped out of sight. She re-located from her home state of Kansas to Nashville, and she is now re-surfacing with a new CD to be released this spring. While I enjoyed her set, it was a bit awkward watching and listening to her in such a large theatre. The vibe of her set seemed better suited to the corner of a mid-size bar. At the same time, Jennifer has a very deep faith, and it it is reflected in her song compositions. I truly hope the audience listened to what she was singing beyond chords, vocal range, and her one-person performance.

Elizabeth Cook was originally announced as part of the bill; however, she didn't perform. I don't know why. Instead, we were treated to a raucous set by Great American Taxi. GAT is a Colorado-based band who has toured a good bit with Todd in recent months. While all of their songs were new to me, the one that has stuck with me the most is the title track from their upcoming CD release - Reckless Habits - inspired by Gram Parsons. Right before the show, someone told me one or more of GAT's members were in the band Leftover Salmon. I'd at least HEARD of them even if I hadn't heard anything BY them. Nonethless, a strong set leading into Todd's performance.

Once Todd came on stage - backed by GAT - I knew right away the evening was going to be great. After opening with his first two songs, he greeted the audience with: "First of all, I'd like to thank Mr. Polk for letting us use his auditorium tonight." He then continued with what turned out to be a solid 2+ hour set.

Thanks Robert Goodwin for use of this pic!

1. Greencastle Blues
2. Is This Thing Working? - First time I'd heard this one live. Great American Taxi nailed the music as Todd worked the mic to perfection.
3. Just Like Old Times - Quickly becoming one of my favorite Todd tunes.
4. Well Hello
5. Tension - His audible during the song was great. "People still dig drugs. Shiiittt man, I live in East Nashville. That place smells like a skunk farm."

Thanks again Robert Goodwin for use of this pic too!

6. Devil's Backbone Story - This story is included on the first Todd CD I bought, Near Truths and Hotel Rooms. I've also heard it told on various boots I've got. But I had not heard it told as elaborately or with the extra details thrown in like he told at the TPAC show.
7. Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern
8. America’s Favorite Pastime
9. Stuck On A Corner
10. Sunshine
11. KK Rider Story - This is another story I'd heard before. But the change he made this time had me rolling. The girl on the swing was wearing a .38 Special t-shirt. He then added her boyfriend was also wearing a .38 Special t-shirt. "Same band, different tour." Very funny moment. Its all in the delivery folks.

12. Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance
13. Bring Em Home
14. D.B. Cooper
15. Easy Money
16. Alright Guy
17. Play A Train Song
18. The Devil You Know
19. Ballad Of The Kingsmen
20. Conservative Christian Right Wing Republican Straight White American Male

Encore No. 1:
21. Serious Song talk
22. If Tomorrow Never Comes
23. Tony Bennett Story
24. East Nashville Skyline - This was a particular highlight - even moreso because he was playing the song less than 2 miles from the "city limits" of the joint.

25. Money Compliments Publicity

Encore No. 2:
26. Good Fortune

Borrowing a line from the final song of the night: "May some good fortune come to you." Well, there is no doubt about it. Plenty of good fortune was bestowed upon me last Saturday. Meeting fellow Todd fans, spending a night on the town, and hearing a fantastic show. Yep.

A Todd noob friend of mine who was a good bit skeptical from the beginning went to the show with me. When all was said and done and the show was over, three simple words were spoken: "I enjoyed that." Now, if Todd can win a person over after only one night's listening, you know its been a damn fine concert.

What? You weren't there and now you wish you were? At the risk of overhyping the greatness of the show, you can download it for $7 from Todd's newly launched Todd Snider Live website.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mercy! Scott Miller burned up the Lounge

I know very little history about the state of Virginia. What I do know is the town of Staunton, Virginia has cranked out some great individuals including:
  • My first true love as a teenager. Well, the romance only consisted of 5 days of a summer church camp, a handful of back-and-forth written letters, and a brief reunion six years later my senior year in college. But still...
  • The Statler Brothers - my mother's all-time favorite country-gospel band
  • Singer-songwriter Scott Miller (although those 2 adjectives seem too limited as a description for his talent)
Scott Miller & The Commonwealth has been one of the bands on my short-list of "must see" acts the last couple of years. Thursday night at Nashville's Mercy Lounge: Mission Accomplished.

I've only seen two or three shows at the Mercy Lounge. I'm not really sure why so few because they have a lot of great artists perform there. The club is above The Cannery Ballroom. I've only seen one show at The Cannery, and it was about 20 years ago: Guadalcanal Diary (What? Don't you remember Watussi Rodeo?) and Government Cheese (Vid: Camping on Acid).

The show's advertised start time was 9:00 PM with doors opening at 8:00. I've been to enough shows to know rarely do clubs/bands start at exactly the promised time. So I showed up right at 9:00 figuring I'd have time to grab a beer and seek out a place to land before the opener came on stage.

But uhh, where was that opener?
  • If there was supposed to be an opener, they didn't show.
  • Or maybe they were invisible.
  • Or maybe it was a brief performance by a meek, introverted quartet whose repertoire consisted of only one song: Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence".
  • Or maybe they were "the only band who wouldn't play - not even a note - under any circumstances: Silence - Music's Original Alternative - Roots Grunge!" referred to in Todd Snider's song Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues.

So we sat there for over an hour waiting for Scott ... or someone ... to come on stage. At least the house music was top shelf with songs from artists such as Wilco, Drive By Truckers, The Jayhawks, Son Volt, and Lucinda Williams. But finally Scott and the boys came on stage.

The Nashville peeps let me down a bit. My impression was Miller had a pretty good following and the place would be loaded with fans. Instead, I'm guessing the room had only about 125 people - max. Following the opening song, Scott quipped "did y'all ride here in one car?"

He mentioned for the last month or so all of his gigs had been solo shows. This one was either the first show - or near it - of his playing again with The Commonwealth.

I settled in at my high-top with a tall boy brew and did my best to capture the night's set list. I can hold my own in blogging, tweeting, e-mailing, and texting. But all that stuff is done with my computer or limited functionality cell phone. I'm not a Blackberry or iPhone guy. So there I sat with my pen and paper to take notes - in the dark. My cell phone provided my only illumination as I scribbled short-hand mnemonics that I hoped would trigger recall when I typed this entry.

Scott's music is great stuff, and I have most of his CDs. But I'll admit I'm not as familiar with all of his song titles as I am with other bands. It took some research this morning to locate the titles, but I think this is pretty close to what was played. Knowing I'm going to miss a few titles, I'll try to make up for it with video links of some of the songs. They aren't from Nashville's show, but they should give you a good intro to his music - solo and with the band.
  1. ?? OK, a swing and a miss right out of the on-deck circle - something about a TV screen, motion pictures, and "all you people who think you got it made" - But I think you'll see I recovered nicely.
  2. I Made a Mess of This Town
  3. Sin In Indiana (video) - This one from his most recent release For Crying Out Loud simply rawked.
  4. Let You Down
  5. Still People Are Moving
  6. 8 Miles A Gallon
  7. I'm Gonna Be Alert - I think that's what I heard as part of the lyrics. Ironic I suppose in that I wasn't alert enough to capture the actual title.
  8. Feel So Fair To Midland (Instrumental) - I think...
  9. Double Indemnity
  10. Lie I Believe
  11. Appalachian Refugee (video)- Simply a great song written about his late father-in-law's family returning for his funeral. As much as Sin In Indiana rocked, this one is a very touching ballad.
  12. Freedom is a Stranger (video)
  13. Hawks and Doves
  14. Drunk All Around This Town (video)- Scott was prepared to play Jody. But his bassist was in the middle of a string replacement. So the rest of the plan quickly changed to this one. Much like Snider's "Beer Run" or Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas from the Family", Miller can pretty much drop this one in anywhere in a setlist and get a rousing response from the audience.
  15. Jody
  16. Dear Sarah
  17. Wildcat Whistle (video)- Another one from For Cryin' Out Loud. The music was great, but I kind of zoned out on the lyrics. Ya see, there was this dancing silhouette in front of me dark from my viewed but shadowed by the stage lighting. Stiletto boots with jeans so snug they looked like denim-colored Glidden body paint. Dancing like she had the DNA of James Brown coursing through her soul. I may forever remember this song as Wildcat Wolf Whistle. Ahh-OOOOO!! But I digress...
  18. Lo Siento, Spanishburg, WV (video)
  19. Claire Marie
  20. GD The Sun
  21. 1..2..3..4 - Something about dancing... lost on this one
  22. For Jack Tymon (video)
  23. Encore: Amtrak Cresent (video)
  24. Encore: Spike (Tom Petty cover) (video)
Face it, every band these days does the obligatory encore. Once the band left the stage, there was collective clapping, whooping, and whistling. But its pretty tough for only 100 folks to clap and hoot in a loud and sustained manner enough to motivate a band to return to the stage. It didn't take long for the noise to die down. Yet, the boys in the band returned and even laughed about it. "Aww, y'all knew you weren't gonna get rid of us that easy."

Once the show ended and the tear down began, I asked the bass player if Scott normally returned to mingle with us commoners. He said absolutely and went backstage to tell him. Sure enough, he came out and was just super nice. He signed a CD for me, and we went to the bar for a final drink (last one for me anyway). I offered to buy him the round since he was the guest in our town . (How'd ya like that lyric?) But he insisted on buying mine instead, and he gave me a couple of minutes to talk music biz industry, major label vs. indie vs. self-owned, The V-Roys, and the Live Music Archive. I appreciated the time he gave me and the beer he bought me, shook his hand, and headed for the house.

A fun night.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Todd Snider Nashville Show Wish List

I think Todd's opening quip in his cover of Fogerty's Fortunate Son is somewhat comparable to how I've approached this rambling, non-themed sweet blog o' mine. Without question, his delivery is far funnier than I could ever pretend to riff.
"While I might share my opinion with you over the course of the evening, I'm not gonna share it with you because I think its smart or because I think you need to know it. I'm gonna share it with you because it rhymes. I didn't come down here to change anybody's mind about anything. I came down here to ease my own mind about everything."
My train of thought here has rambled from music to travel to family to hockey to the idiotic and back again. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

So for now, its a return to a music-themed entry. I. am. fired. up. This Saturday, February 20, I'm going to see Todd live at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville. This will be my fourth time to see him live, but its only the second time I'll be seeing him as the headliner.'s Tim Lybarger included a few video clips of Todd on his Rambling On Todd-Blog. Todd pimped the TPAC show on Nashville's Lightning 100 radio station.

Snider has a pretty good discography now from which to build a set list. Like many singers, he has many standards to be expected in any show. But he's also so versatile with the music of others. He has a passion for so many other artists, and you never know who he might cover - Billy Joe Shaver, Creedence, Prine, Jerry Jeff, Cash, Kris, Fred Eaglesmith, Robert Earl, Dylan, etc.

I've got a few faves of my own that I hope to hear. I don't plan to shout them out Saturday. One, he doesn't care. Two, plenty of other drunk Todd fans will be there shouting "Beerrr Runnnn" to drown out any other legit requests true fans may want to hear.

Here are a few faves. They aren't my absolute faves necessarily - they just happen to be ones for which I could find good YouTube videos to embed.

Train Song - Pretty sure this one is in my top 5 of favorite Todd songs. If you aren't familiar with Todd or this song, indulge me and enjoy the first two minutes of this video. You won't regret it.

Waco Moon - have never heard this one performed live. Todd wrote it in memory of Eddy Shaver.

Statistician's Blues - Not really my favorite Todd song. But it hits pretty dadgum close to what I do to earn a paycheck each month. So it would almost be like he was giving me a "shout out" if he busted off this one.

I Am Too - Getting greedy with this one. I saw Todd and the Nervous Wrecks perform this one at Sam's Sports Bar in Nashville about 5 years ago (MP3), and I thought the pavement was going to crack. The tune is generally played when he's backed by his band vs. a solo performance. But ya never know, and one can always hope.

Whatever the setlist ends up being, I'm sure its gonna be a fine night. Festivities are expected to begin with a pre-show gathering with fellow Todd fans from our list-serv better known as The S**t House Wire. I'm then looking forward to East Nashville's own Elizabeth Cook and Kansas transplant Jennifer Knapp as the openers. Once Todd walks barefooted to the stage, we'll be more than ready. Just hope he tosses me a couple of bones - a song or two as noted above and maybe a guest appearance by some surprise singer and/or musician. That's not asking too much, right?

By the way, the lead guitarist in the I Am Too video and MP3? Well, that's Will Kimbrough. He has just released his latest solo album - Wings. Might be a good idea to check him out too if you aren't familiar with his music. You won't be sorry.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Goodbye old friend, I'll miss you

September 8, 1990. A day that will (hopefully) live in infamy. Lots of people. Lots of excitement. Lots of gifts. A multi-tiered cake. One bride. One stressed, head-spinning, tongue-tied, ill-fitting / tux-wearing groom.

September 16, 1990. Honeymoon trip over. A return to the life that was to be. Started opening gifts. Another set of china. New bride screams YES! New husband says "is Sports Center on yet?"

The process was repeated many times. China, stainless flatware, crystal stemware, obscure hand-made vase or other artsy-fartsy item. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until...

The gift. The holy grail of all generosity. An item given to a newly married couple with the giver's mindset rooted in practicality vs. obligation, tradition, or other nonsense. A combo salt-shaker / peppercorn grinder! The perfect intersection of an item I'd love to have but yet never be willing to purchase.

Virtually every meal from 1990 until January 2010 consumed in three apartments, three houses, and four cities was liberally seasoned with Morton's salt and a variety of freshly cracked pepper. But then it happened.

While the salt still poured freely, the old pepper grinder could take it no more. Its crushing gears were irreparably wound down by two decades of joyful use. The metal simply tumbled and massaged the peppercorns, but the crisp, powerful flavor remained trapped helplessly inside the chamber.

I bounced night to night from confusion to denial to frustration to rationalization and back again.
  • What's wrong with this thing?
  • It must be hung on a peppercorn. I'll clean it out over the sink.
  • Why is this happening to me?
  • Its the best gift...[shed tear, wipe cheek]...we ever got.
  • Damn it! Listen to me! LIVVVVVE! Do you hear me?
However, all of the feelings expressed - while healthy - eventually led to resignation. It was over. We finally acknowledged it was time to move to the next chapter of our life.

While no longer on "active duty", the paternal shaker/grinder watches from a distance sitting on the window sill above the sink. The hard-working, never-quit machine sits proudly while its greenhorn, rookie twins attempt to take its place.

That's right - what only required one device to adequately season otherwise bland food 20 years ago now takes TWO specialists. Sure, they look stout, cocky, and loaded for bear. But I think we all know better, don't we?