Concerts Summary - November 2006

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2. Dez. 2006, 20:04

November 1 - Ladyhawk (w/So Many Dynamos; Sleep Out) @ Beat Kitchen: I'd only listened to Ladyhawk's album a couple times before this show. I really liked it, but the show totally took me by surprise. It was very much a rock show (nothing "indie" about them other than their record label). Having listened to the album again afterwards I can hear where it came from, so I really shouldn't have been surprised. They only played about 40 minutes and I spent much of that time getting used to what I was seeing. I think I would have liked it better if I knew they would rock so much, and if it had been a weekend. Instead, I liked the few songs that sounded closer to the album the most. But now that I know, I'll need to see them again to determine whether or not I like them live. I'm inclined to think yes. I've listened to the album several times since the show and it is quickly racing up the list of my favorite 2006 albums. So Many Dynamos weren't my thing, but at the same time I couldn't help but find myself liking moments of their show. I should be able to easily place what they are, but I can't -- it's definitely 80's, but not the Joy Division/Gang of Four 80's that is so common these days. It was more along the Talking Heads line. Since it's not a style I listen to much, this is really just a guess, but I'm thinking that -- if there is such a thing as objectivity when it comes to music -- they would be considered good at what they do. I only heard 2 1/2 songs from Sleep Out but found myself liking them while at the same time they were totally unmemorable. I'll keep my ear out for more of them.

November 3 - The Heartless Bastards (w/Telenovela) @ Beat Kitchen: What I really took from this show was that, after spending the previous 5-6 weeks at non-smoking venues, my tolerance for smoking has hit an all-time low. I think it will definitely have some impact on shows I see in the future -- not so much bands that I already know I like and want to see, but I'll be less likely to see bands I'm interested in checking out unless they're at a non-smoking venue. 2008 -- when the smoking ban is supposed to kick in in Chicago (presuming they don't find some loophole) -- can't come quickly enough for me. Telenovela were a pretty non-descript chick rock band. Boring but not awful. I would say The Heartless Bastards show was good, but hardly essential. They sounded exactly like they did on the album, except that Erika's voice was too low in the mix most of the time. I was surprised they didn't kick it up a notch the way most bands do -- or 5 notches in the case of Ladyhawk. At least they did my two faves from the first album: New Resolution and Gray. If I felt like going out I would see them again, but otherwise, I get as much from listening to the album.

November 5 - Gob Iron (w/Jay Farrar; Anders Parker) @ Park West: I hadn't yet heard the Gob Iron album when I went to the show. I knew it was a reworking of old folk tunes, so I expected this to be a mellow night. It wasn't. I'm not overly familiar with Varnaline (I have a couple albums, but don't listen to them often) and don't think I have any solo Anders albums. I liked his set pretty well. Mark Spencer accompanied him on guitar and lap steel while Anders played electric guitar with some minimal looping. Then Jay came out, accompanied by Mark for most of his set, and played several new songs along with some from Sebastopol and Okemah. As always, he sounded great. I particularly liked the new song called Highways & Cigarettes. I put a video of that performance up here:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8677716684628553548&hl=en. Then Gob Iron came out (for those that don't know, that's Jay and Anders) with Mark Spencer. The three of them constantly traded instruments between electric
and acoustics guitars, bass, piano, and drums (seeing Jay on drums was worth the price of admission alone). The show was really great; they did most of the songs from the new album as well as a few non-trad covers (including Dylan's Going, Going Gone and Talking Heads Heaven).

November 9 - Todd Snider (w/Jon Langford) @ Chicago History Museum: This was only the second show here after this series was moved from The Field Museum where the shows have been held the past several years. This was a much better location in the sense that the room was smaller and with lower ceilings so the sound was improved. They had some tables and chairs set up, but about 2/3 of the 200 or so crowd were standing. I knew it had been awhile since I saw Todd (despite the fact that he always gets a great reception, he doesn't play Chicago very often), but I was surprised when I looked and discovered that it's almost two years. I've only listened a few times, but I'm not particularly fond of his newest album. He did quite a few songs from it which are at least better live than on cd, but I still don't think they'd hold up to repeated listens (too much storytelling and jokes within the songs). Because it's been so long since I've seen him, the stories he told between songs were all new to me and they were great. I was taken by surprise at the bluesy delivery of Horseshoe Lake (my favorite Todd song) and Moondawg's Tavern. He closed the show with Enjoy Yourself, which I think is a perfect show closer. This night it had added charm because about 3/4 through the show this guy had just stretched out on the floor in front of the stage (not sure if he was sleeping or just lying down relaxing) and it just seemed like the epitome of the song. Jon Langford was joined by Sally Timms and John Rice. As always I loved him. I'm not a big fan of his current album, though, so several songs he did I found kind of boring. Highlights were Nashville Radio, Walking On Hell's Roof, and The Death of Country Music. Oh, and he closed his show with his great rendition of Cocaine Blues (made famous by Johnny Cash), which it seems like he does whenever Joan, the widow of one of the Sundowners, is in the audience.

November 16 - Robbie Fulks @ Black Orchid: Robbie recorded two shows for a live album he plans to release. The first was his usual, high energy show. I didn't see that one. This one was a sedate (or as sedate as Robbie ever gets), acoustic show. The guests, everyone seated, he had with him included
Kelly Hogan on a few harmonies, Don Stiernberg (mandolin) and John Williams (accordion) on about 2/3 of the songs, Gerald Dowd doing light percussion on a few songs, and Robbie Gjersoe (acoustic guitar) on most songs. The show had some oldies, some new songs, and lots of covers. The main thing that came out of this show was the virtuosity these people have on their instruments; there were lots of solos. I wouldn't say it was one of my favorite Robbie shows, but I've seen him enough to really appreciate seeing something so different. The set list (quotes are guesses based on a repeated lyric): That's A Good Enough Reason, Believe (Cher), Barely Human, "Tennessee Sunshine" (cover), In Bristol Town One Bright Day, I Wanna Be Mama'd, "Don't Let Him Know" (written for Robbie's first album, but then rejected), Goodbye Virginia, She Took A Lot Of Pills And Died, Bluebirds Are Singing For Me (cover), "I Got Everything" (cover), Can't Win For Losing You, I Like Being Left Alone, Stolen, On A Real Good Day, President Garfield's Hornpipe (cover), another instrumental, Away Out On The Saint Sabbath (AP Carter), ENCORE: Sophronie (Jimmy Martin), Banks Of The Marianne.

November 18 - Tony Rice & Peter Rowan (w/The Biscuit Burners) @ Old Town School of Folk Music: This show was a disappointment compared to the last time I saw Tony, when he was backed by the Lonesome River Band (their vocalist did a great job on Tony's songs; though everytime I see Tony I have some disappointment that I'll never be able to hear him sing again). Peter's voice is okay, but not great. I knew almost none of the songs; they didn't do Tony's, as they did last time. I bought the Rowan & Rice album many months ago, but still haven't gotten around to listening; if I had maybe I would have known more of the songs. Tony was still phenomenal on guitar. Along with the two of them there were two young women on mandolin and bass. The bass player also did a lot of harmonies, which I really liked. She also got quite a few bass solos and she was really great; other than Tony's playing her solos were the highlight of the show. The Biscuit Burners were just okay. I think they have the playing talent, but the songs were boring and the main vocalist had that pretty, characterless voice (e.g., Allison Kraus) that bores me. The bass player sang a couple songs, including a gorgeous a capella one about black lung disease by Hazel Adkins that was really great.

November 18 - Portastatic (w/Benjy Ferree) @ Schubas: I had only listened to their new album once. It didn't grab me right away the way last year's Bright Ideas did, so I was a bit uncertain what to expect. The show was fantastic. Even the new songs, except for Sweetness and Light, were high energy and interesting. I only have the most recent two Portastic albums, which is where the bulk of the set came from. As a first encore song Mac did a solo song from his first album, which he said he never performed live (or not since that album, I don't remember). It was okay, but I like them best rocking out. After loving the show so much I came home and relistened to the new album expecting to be turned around on it. Unfortunately, it still doesn't do a lot for me. Maybe it will be a grower, but even if not, the songs are great live. I'm undecided about what I think of Benjy. It was him on acoustic guitar accompanied by a cellist. The music was enjoyable but kind of samey, though I've heard he has a band on his album so that may make it more interesting.

November 19 - Frida Hyvönen (Bishop Allen headlined, Brice Woodall & the Bots played first) @ Beat Kitchen: Even in her native Sweden Frida has only released one album thus far; an album that will most certainly be in my top 10 this year. So as much as I was looking forward to this show, I also figured that the chance of a woman entering the stage awkwardly, uncertainly sitting at the piano, running through a half hour of songs from her album without ever looking up, and shuffling off the stage seemed fairly high. I couldn't have been more wrong. She was completely at ease like she's been doing this for years. Her 45 minute set consisted of all but two of the songs on the album as well as 4 songs that have not yet been released, one of which was written for a Swedish production called Poodle, which, as I understand it, consists of actual dancing poodles. The new songs sound really good, one of my favorite lines from them was "would you be the dad of the children I most likely won't have." She was totally charming and funny and interacted with the audience quite a bit, including getting a few language lessons. Brice Woodall was extremely generic noodling rock; their vocals were too low for them to have any impact on me. They had free cd's which I picked up on my way into the room, before hearing a note. I'll give it a listen once before writing them off entirely. I had heard a couple Bishop Allen songs before and they didn't do much for me. After the great Frida show I was tempted to leave, but figured with the name they're starting to make I ought to at least stick around. As before my thoughts are simply that they sound like so much indie rock. Now, when I say this, keep in mind that I think Wolf Parade and Bound Stems sound like generic indie rock so those that like that kind of music may think these guys are great, or at least hear something different in them than I do. I can't say they were bad, it just happens to be a style that bores me. The band did have a nice camaraderie on stage and the drummer was cute in a 20-years-too-young-for-me kind of way. [A week or so after the show I finally listened to the January and February EP's that I downloaded awhile ago -- they've been releasing one a month this year -- and now I don't know what to think. I've only listened once so far, but I really liked those EP's. So, are those two EP's particularly good? Is the fact that there's been at least one change in the band (the female is no longer with them) the reason? Was I just in a certain mood when I listened? I don't know; but I guess I can't write these guys off yet.]

November 29 - The Living End (w/Zox, Three Blue Teardrops, Silence(?)) @ House of Blues: Even though I saw both a good and a great set from these
guys at this year's sxsw, this show made me appreciate them even more. In part, and one of the reasons I love talking to people about music, is a conversation I had with a guy before the show. Even though I noticed before (it'd be hard not to) what a great guitar player Chris Cheney is, I don't think it truly registered. But this guy had been talking about the dearth of guitar solos on the past couple albums and it refocused my attention. So, the show had great energy and the songs were good, and, as always, I love the double bass, but what really put the show over the top was Chris's playing. There were lots of really great guitar solos. They played just 70-80 minutes at a HoB (man, I hate this venue) that was at most 2/3 full. Although they were touring behind State of Emergency, which I consider merely a good, not great, album, about half the show was old songs and they smartly interspersed the two; the whole show had great pacing. Setlist: 'Til The End; Roll On; We Want More; Who's Gonna Save Us; What's On Your Radio?; All Torn Down; Into The Red; Nothing Lasts Forever; Second Solution; a 3-song instrumental medley introduced as "some Sun Sessions for you" and I recognized the first two but can't place them; Long Live The Weekend; Prisoner of Society; ENCORE: Wake Up; Carry Me Home; and West End Riot. Early in the show my thoughts were (1) the stage was too big for them; or at least, they were too far apart from each other, and (2) the light show was too extensive. While I never changed my mind on those two points, the music was so fantastic that it made those issues irrelevant. They are, quite simply, some really great musicians and whether you like their music or not, there's no way you can deny these guys can play. The only billed opener was Zox, but there were two bands before them. The first one sounded like they said their name was Silence, but they weren't very clear so I'm not sure. They were adequate; certainly a band with potential. They were basically a punk band, but with a wide variety of tempo. And they seemed to be decent musicians. The songs never really grabbed my attention though. The next band was a recently reformed local rockabilly band, Three Blue Teardrops. They were pretty good; I enjoy live rockabilly every once in a while and, while not as great as Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, were still enjoyable. Then was Zox which was both boring and intriguing at the same time. It was like two bands put together. The violinist and bassist were ready to rock while the drummer and the guitarist/vocalist were ready to open for Dave Matthews (someone else compared them to Jack Johnson; I'm not really familiar with him, but put in any middle-of-the-road, passionless artist here). The third song starts off with the bass player coming forward and playing this fantastic solo. He then backs up a little and they have a very brief full-band instrumental with the violinist plucking his strings then featuring the bassist again and then, all of a sudden, the song becomes a calypso number. It was truly bizarre and disappointing. That 60-seconds was the only really enjoyable part of their set, but boy I would love to see that bass player in another band. He seemed terrific.

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