Friday, July 13, 2007

bottle rockets, avett bros, etc

We've had a good week or so for music. Saturday we hit the Taste of Downtown - for awhile during the day, then we went back at night. The Romantics were so much worse than we'd even anticipated, but that's not really what we were there for - I really wanted to see the Bottle Rockets. Even though we love alt-country and roots music, and even though we both love Tupelo and Wilco, for some reason we've just never really given the BR that chance. Well, at first we thought their songs were a little undifferentiated, the way things sometimes are when you're not familiar with any of a band's work. But as the night went on (did I mention we were drinking?) some songs did stand out from others for me and I liked them more and more, so I'll definitely check them out again/buy a cd/whatever.

Then the Jason Isbell solo album came out. I haven't even had a chance to listen to that yet, but I'm thrilled to have it. While I was at Recycled, I picked up the Amy Winehouse cd - I know my mother does not (and will never) have it, so I'm not the last person on earth to have it, so that's good. I've been listening to that in the car. I especially liked the first two tracks, Rehab and You Know I'm No Good. I also snagged Delores O'Riordan's solo cd - she's the lead singer from The Cranberries. I haven't had a chance to put that one in either.

Tuesday we went to the Avett Brothers show. I only knew what I'd read in No Depression, so I guess I was expecting a kind of Old Crow Medicine Show. Which I'd have liked. Also, knowing nothing about them and having heard nothing, we hesitated to spend $20 EACH on tickets, so I entered us both to win a pair at WUIS.

We both won.

So I asked WUIS to give the extra pair back to someone who hadn't won, and they did so.

Anyway. No disrespect, I do like to support local music, but I'll just say that Big Fur seemed miscast as opener for that lineup, and their sound wasn't very good either, I'm afraid.

"My name is 'Chittlin,'" the girl in a dress and pretty Mohawk said.

She was really good and an immediate contrast: a serious singer/songwriter following a bar band, a clean, simple sound and clear voice following a kind of muddy busyness. She was shy and quiet afterward when we bought her cd and told her we liked it, too.

The Avett Brothers won me over immediately. Granted, playing so hard that you go out of tune all the time, break strings all the time, and lose your fingerpicks all the time indicates that your sound is suffering. But their harmonies and professionalism and energy were just outstanding. And their sound was smoking. I noticed that their own sound guy took over. They had a blistering hot mix. And enthusiastic fans who'd followed them from Ohio and Missouri and wherever, breaking out into hooting and screaming and requests at every opportunity.

J said they were like a civil war punk band. What kind of bluegrass band has a kick drum? What kind of rock band has a cellist? I don't have the least idea what the hell they are, except exactly what I like. Color me converted, yo. I'd keep an eye out for these guys; they'll be at big festivals in no time.

Edit: what the heck is up with my links? blogger "help" was no help.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

the police, scottrade center, 7/2/07

Comments on the 7/2 Police show, set list, four bad pictures, and links to some other reviews and stuff.

We got a nice early start, and luckily we thought of the possibility of there also being a baseball game, because the ballpark and the venue, while not right next to each other, are both kind of downtown. So there was some traffic, but at a certain point we passed the stadium and were heading away from it, so that helped. We parked in kind of a dubious area - it saved $5, but next time I'll probably splurge.

Our seats were pretty bad. If our seats had been really great, I'd keep mentioning it, as in "I can't believe what good seats we got" and "we were so lucky" and so forth, without intending solely to boast - it makes a big difference in how you perceive the whole event, so I hope I can continue to mention that our seats were pretty bad without intending solely to bitch. Anyway, I was pleased to see that there was a nice open stage and our view was pretty unobstructed, although one corner of a video screen was cut off by a bank of speakers. I like the open stage setup.

The opening band, Fiction Plane, was a three-piece with Sting's son on bass and vocals. We weren't very enthusiastic - way to lose credibility, really, to open for your father's really big huge famous band - and the first couple of songs didn't really grab me, but then they kind of found a groove and won me over, at least to a not-going-to-rush-out-and-buy-the-cd kind of extent. The kid's voice was pretty good; if he wasn't Sting's kid, I might not have made the connection, but knowing it, he sounded kind of stinglike in the way Jakob Dylan reminds you of the old man without really sounding like him. The songs that I really liked, I hate to admit, were kind of Police-like; changes, movements, beats, kind of progressive. But they had a, not grungier, but a more straight-ahead rock sound generally. The kid had a good presence, but it was almost too much for the circumstances - he jumped off the drum riser a couple of times and actually off his bass stack twice. Enjoy your original set of knees while you still have 'em, son! I assume most of their stuff was original, but they did actually do one Sting song. Neither of us knew what it was, but we both knew it was a Sting song (and I think the kid announced it. He was talking, we couldn't understand, and he said 'and this is one of those songs' or 'and this is one of his songs' or something).

The Police really did a good show. We knew that Andy and Stewart had had projects but hadn't been really playing for some time (it's funny, actually, I read an interview with Stewart in which he said they basically hadn't touched their instruments in years, but I thought Andy Summers had put out some jazz albums, and there was the whole Oysterhead project and the aborted Doors thing from Stewart, but anyway). Neither of us are really Sting fans, so we'd heard his solo hits that used to be inescapable on the radio from the early 90s and that's about it. So it was a relief that the musicianship was high and that Sting's voice was all right. By which I mean, he still sings very well, and he still sounds very much like Sting. It wasn't one of those circumstances where you go, "Boy, he really can't sing anymore." But also many of the songs were in a lower key or had the vocal line rearranged to accommodate the changes his voice has undeniably undergone. You couldn't say "Wow, he really still hits 'em!"

In fact, a lot of the reviews we're reading have discussed how "Don't Stand" hasn't been working really well, and although I think it might benefit from a more straightforward arrangement just for kicks - J (who can hear music stuff I can't) said he thinks a lot of why it seems strange is that Sting seems to be singing a lower harmony part instead of a melody line, which (after he said it) I think is true.

Nevertheless, his voice is still unmistakeably his, and it was nice to have an occasional brief reminder of why I thought he was extremely sexy nearly 20 years ago. He roamed a little on the stage walkways, but not a ton, and turned around to the back-crowd sometimes too, with an occasional smile. Andy played with a pretty serious face, but he hopped around and jumped off the drum riser and went over to Sting (and got a small Bono-type nuzzle or two, but less extravagant) and generally had a good time of it.

Stewart had me mentally practicing writing "Mrs. Occula Copeland" in fancy cursive all day. :-) So everything I say here is with affection.

I mean no disrespect to the other two when I say that, for me, the Police is most definitely The Stewart Copeland Show. He came out in some kind of ... track suit from 1980 ... wearing gloves and a black headband and a headset mike and glasses and ... basically, he had a lot going on in the head region. I love that he plays traditional grip, I've always liked to see people use traditional rather than matched. Our tyrannical band teacher would never have let us use matched grip even for a moment. Hell no. Anyway, Stewart is the same old enthusiastic madman I've always found so endearing. He had a platform behind him with two racks of percussion (on either side) and a big gong and stuff. The layout and setup of all that stuff is pictured, listed, and described here, so take a look! It's a hoot. The platform raised when it was needed and he had to scramble back and forth pretty hastily.

The set list was wonderful. For some reason "de do do do" particularly pushed my buttons. I told J maybe I just finally 'got' "de do do do" or something. hah. and "King of Pain" reminded me of the day I sat down with the cassette player and wrote down the words. Boy, did that take a long time. I remember the sections that gave me particular trouble, too.

I do love "Canary in a Coal Mine" and "Murder By Numbers," which they didn't do but those aren't ones I expected them to do anyway. I'm just sayin'. the only real big number missing was probably "Spirits in the Material World." On the other hand, the reviews I've seen have described two encores, and they did three in St. Louis, although the first one was only one song. I wondered whether there was some kind of glitch, but if so you couldn't tell. It only made the encores seem longer, so that was cool. Overall we'd have felt more involved if we had better seats, of course. Bad seats make us both feel more detached, more like spectators than participants. And the sound wasn't that great from so far. You really couldn't tell what people were saying when they spoke. And you're watching the video screens a lot and have to remind yourself to actually look at the real live band with your real eyes. but the show was good and we had a good time and were happy we went. And we were in the car by 11:00 and home by 12:30.

Of course, these are all just opinions based on what I experienced and what I particularly like and dislike.

PSA: shirts were $35.

I was so excited at first that I just wrote down whatever crap I thought of for the songs because I knew I'd know what I meant. Such as "SOS" for "message in a bottle." lol.

set list
1. Message in a Bottle
2. Synchronicity II
3. Walking on the Moon
4. Voices Inside My Head/When the World Is Running Down
5. Don't Stand So Close to Me
6. Driven to Tears
7. Bed's Too Big Without You
8. Truth Hits Everybody
9. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
10. Wrapped Around Your Finger
11. De do do do, de da da da
12. Invisible Sun
13. Walking in Your Footsteps
14. Can't Stand Losing You
15. Roxanne
16. King of Pain
17. So Lonely
18. Every Breath You Take
19. Next to You

The view from our seats. We were a little early. *crickets*

a review of recent show in New Orleans from the New Orleans Time-Picayune.

Interview with Stewart Copeland from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch some time before the show.

Review of Monday's show from The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

stewart copeland dot net

Stewart's drum and percussion setup, also linked above.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

a walk in the woods

Lincoln Memorial Garden was absolutely lovely today, and the weather was perfect.


butterfly (moth?)

blue heron

blue heron, closer

Mother and baby deer