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.



  1. Nashville was the first Commonwealth show of the year & they played one more the next night in Louisville. Thanks for the write-up! Hate that I missed it.

    1. Motion Pictures (Neil Young)
    7. Around You (The V-roys) maybe?
    21. I Can't Dance (Tom T. Hall) maybe?

  2. Ha, I was gonna help out with the missing song titles but, no surprise, Knight has beat me to it! (XO!) Great review - glad you enjoyed it & wish I could've been there,too.

  3. Did you go with the Hairy Folk? -Lois

  4. 1...2...3...4.... Are you sure that wasn't a cover of Coolio's song?