Thursday, October 25, 2007

DBT: Welcome to the dirt underneath, y'all

A few comments, links, set list, and a few photos from Drive by Truckers acoustic show at the Park West in Chicago Monday night, Oct. 22.

I know y'all have heard me talk about this before, but this year the Truckers went on an extended acoustic tour. To differentiate, they call their usual electrified concerts The Rockshow (as in, "Welcome to the rockshow y'all!") and their acoustic shows The Dirt Underneath (tdu), which is from a lyric.

Official dbt web site.

J and I had never been to the Park West before. It's impossible for me to think about the Park West without thinking of whichever Vertigo show (and bootleg) where Bono was trying to remember the name of it and failing and not able to hear the people telling him. ("The Park! ... The Park West.")

While I'm at it,
about the Park West.
and just a bit more.

So anyhoo, J and I really loved the venue. It reminded us of a narrower Pageant built in a kind of octagon with a great disco ball. And it seemed very clean. The booths made it like a supper club instead of a skanky venue. A lot of personality. Also my approximately second 'washroom attendant' ever.

We got there during the opener, got drinks, found the bathroom, and waited for our friend Other J, who'd dropped us off at the door and had to park quite a ways away on a chilly wet night (bless 'm!). The floor was pretty empty when we got there and filled up quite a bit during the opener, but we were still able to skate right up to the stage during the break, albeit over toward the end.

Yes, it was strange without Jason Isbell, but perhaps not as strange as I'd anticipated - maybe that's because of the dirt underneath setting, which is a rare and lucky privilege for us to get to see. Or perhaps it was stranger to miss the songs more than the person. Plus it was a rather small stage and rather full, with more people on it than when we saw them before.

set list:
1. Home Front (new)
2. Ghost to Most (new)
3. The Living Bubba
4. Gravity
5. The Opening Act (new)
6. Panties in Your Purse
7. My Sweet Annette
8. Tales Facing Up
9. Daddy's Cup
10. I'm Your Puppet (Kelly Hogan on vocals)
11. Zip City
12. Daddy Needs a Drink
13. Uncle Frank
14. Carl Perkins' Cadillac
15. Tornadoes
16. Women Without Whiskey
17. Let There Be Rock
1. 9 bullets
2. Shut Up & Get on the Plane
3. Angels and Fuselage (with Kelly Hogan)
4. Buttholeville/State Trooper

Dudes, it was a great show. J and I had a good view the whole time, the sound was teriffic, the band gave like they always do, we absolutely love these songs and this band. And our friends really loved it too, which was great. They haven't seen the truckers before and we think they'd like the rockshow even better, but they both really were into it, and we were pleased.

Patterson was talking about how they'd have a special surprise later (he was talking about Kelly Hogan coming on to sing a couple of songs with them) and he said it would be as great as a girl jumping out of a birthday cake. Then he felt compelled to clarify: "It won't actually be a girl jumping out of a birthday cake!"

They continue to play without a set list, taking turns picking the next song, but so smoothly and quickly that one would never know that they aren't going from a list. I don't know how they do it.

Neat to see the fabled Spooner Oldham. He looked like if Einstein and Walter Mattheau had a baby or something, smoking nonstop, kind of huddled over his keyboard, smiling at the antics, drinking, very laid back. You know him from everywhere. I didn't realize that he wrote the song "I'm Your Puppet," either.

Patterson was introducing The Opening Act and he said it was the short film portion of the evening. "It's long for a song, but it's short for a movie," he said, and rambled about how the first half was about trying to do what you have to do, and finally Cooley said in that low sardon of his, "Don't look at me, I don't know what the hell he's talking about."

Someone yelled for Space City right after they'd done Zip City, and Patterson was like, "That won't work, we can't do back to back Cities!"

The Truckers have this great song called "18 Wheels of Love" about how Patterson's mom met her husband Chester, who's a truck driver. Someone yelled out and asked how his mom was, and he said she's doing great, and someone else asked how Chester was, and Patterson said he'd been on his deathbed in May but was fine now and back driving trucks again, which (as he said) is kind of scary.

The Truckers specialize in awesome kind of southern gothic story songs in a dylanesque kind of mode that's not really like dylan at all. I was particularly thrilled to hear Tails Facing Up, Zip City, Uncle Frank, People on the Moon, Carl Perkins' Cadillac, Let There Be Rock, and 9 Bullets. I know that's a lot, but those are some of my favorite Truckers songs ever. The only non-Isbell elements I particularly missed were maybe Lookout Mountain and Sinkhole, which are both Patterson's and both dreadfully awesome, and also Bulldozers and Dirt, which is the song that has the phrase "the dirt underneath" in it and is also totally killer. But that's not really a complaint.

Here's a review from the Chicago Tribune (I couldn't find one in the Sun-Times, so let me know if you know of one).

Patterson Hood's Web site.

Spooner Oldham's official site.

Wes Freed's site. Check out the artist who does great album art and posters for the band.

Here are a few pictures:
John Neff (played with them off and on for a long time, and now an official Trucker)

Spooner Oldham

Patterson Hood

Shonna Tucker, and Mike Cooley on banjo

Dude. Those aren't devil horns.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Elvis Costello & Bob Dylan

I got out of town just a bit later than I wanted Saturday evening, but I made very good time to Bloomington. I pulled into a parking garage when I knew I was near, but there weren't a lot of people about, and I'd checked a map I printed out of downtown Bloomington and figured out that this garage was really a few blocks further than I wanted to have to walk afterwards. So I pulled back out and drove a few more blocks and around the corner and into a busier, better, better lit and closer garage. It wasn't too hard to find the venue and I took care to remember the name of the street the parking garage was on.

The opener Amos Lee wasn't too bad. He had a full band and was more rootsy than bluesy; I liked his set, but it didn't really spark me to go buy the cd or anything.

Since I had a single ticket I ended up sitting next to another single guy who was recording. I often seem to end up next to the guy who's recording Dylan. So that meant I hooted and yelled less than I would have because I didn't want to screw up the recording - you know how annoying it is when there's a hooter on the bootleg! So I had a bit more subdued of a time than I might otherwise have had.

There were "no pictures" signs about, and although there was no patdown or search whatsoever, not even the pretence of peeking into purses, I did see security halt the picturetaking of a number of people during Elvis Costello. In fact, I called a friend during "Alison," and although it was difficult to hear, I'm pretty sure I got her voice mail, and while I was holding the phone, security came and made me hang up! I've never in my life seen that happen before. dude wtf.

Anyway, I don't know a ton about Elvis Costello. I mean, I know who he is and we have a couple of albums, but I'm not exactly a fan, so I didn't know what I was hearing a lot of the time. I jotted down the names of songs I knew or ones that seemed pretty obvious. This list is in order but doesn't indicate blanks where I didn't write down stuff I didn't know.

(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
Watching the Detectives
Wake Me Up
"At Last"
Can You Hear Me
Sugar Cane
Radio Sweetheart
Not Fade Away
(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding
Scarlet Tide

The sound was good and I liked his (solo acoustic) set. He did a bit of talking and said it was his father's 80th birthday, and so he played "At Last," which I recognized but don't know anything about except that it's probably from the 40s. "Scarlet Tide" was awesome too. It was about a war widow. "Admit you lied and bring the boys home." Amen.

Here's one of the few pictures I snuck; hard to get a good one because everyone was sitting and security was roaming.

There was a pretty quick changeover to Bob (who's had some of the same roadies for these 15 or 20 years, bless'm).

Here are a couple of reviews.

Bob's set list:
1. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
2. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
3. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (Bob on guitar first three songs)
4. Tangled Up In Blue (awesome version; I was very happy)
5. 'Til I Fell In Love With You
6. When The Deal Goes Down
7. The Levee's Gonna Break
8. Workingman's Blues #2
9. High Water (For Charlie Patton)
10. Spirit On The Water
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Ain't Talkin'
13. Summer Days
14. Masters Of War
15. Thunder On The Mountain
16. All Along The Watchtower

I guess my only complaints were that I'd have liked a couple more big classics (e.g. Like A Rolling Stone). I was also hoping for Hattie Carroll because I've never heard him do that one and I saw it was in some of the recent set lists. Also I expected Bob to come out and do a song with Elvis or vice versa, as happens on some of the dates this leg, but it didn't happen in Bloomington.

However, the sound was good, the band was smokin' as usual, I love bassist Tony Garnier more every day, and Bob was in very fine voice. Don't get me wrong: while I'm a big huge big Dylan fan, I do have ears, and I do know that his voice is basically a wreck and has been for quite some time. So 'Bob's voice was really good!' is pretty subjective or whatever. But he had quite a bit of strength and used a lot of range, and particularly he was strong in his upper range, which is where his voice breaks less, so I was very, very pleased. He didn't tell any jokes this time, but he did introduce the band, and he pointed at the audience with both hands a few times, and I did see some minimal shimmying over there behind the keyboard. He also glanced at the audience a few times, which is his way of smiling and giving everyone high-fives, so Bob was having a good night.

I'll keep doing it as long as Bob does. I just wish we could have gone also to the St. Louis show, but alas. I never have enough Bob.

Here are a few pictures I sneaked of Bob:

Then I drove to Decatur - after Mapquest made it much more more confusing than it should have been to get out of Bloomington - and hit J's last set and a few beers on an empty stomach. We grabbed a bit of fast food on the way out of town and were probably in bed by 2:30, ready to get up and get ready and hitch our ride to Chicago. More on that bit later.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Xroads festival

I put this off for a long time, at first because I didn’t want it to be over, and then because, you know, where the hell do you start?

However, we've got a few more concerts on the horizon now, so I'd better get this out of the way! Sorry this is so lengthy; I don't know how to hide posts behind a cut like you can on livejournal.

Husband J and I went to Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago on July 28 with our friends D and Other J. It's a fundraiser for Clapton's xroads rehab center; there was a previous concert in texas a few years ago, but it's not like a tour or even a show a year; there have only been the two.

(official xroads site
xroads at wikipedia)

Here's me and J at crossroads. Note the guy over my shoulder? A Harley guy in the complete getup (sans coat!), spent half the day reading a thick novel. Love it.

J and I had bought tickets, but our friends hadn't. Really, we barely had both feet on the ground of the parking lot before we were approached by two or three sellers, and our friends got a fairly good deal. When we got in, we saw that the seats J and I bought were far better than I had imagined (although they were at the far end of the stadium from the stage, they were fairly low toward the field (it's a soccer stadium)), not nosebleeds. Also, the seats were bleachers without arm-divisions, and our friends (and another couple who joined us later) were able to stay with us the whole time. The crowd came and went, and it being all-day, people were always going to get something to eat or drink, or see some of the exhibits, so there was usually quite a bit of room. Later in the night some people had left and people from the field came back to sit in our level - they were cool, too; we had a good time out there. We were far enough away that photos won't show the stage very well; I'll post mostly pictures of the video screens. Or more often I tried to get both, the screen so you can see what you're seeing, and the stage so you can see where they were and stuff. Not to mention how my camera is great during daylight but sucks for concerts/dim lighting. ah well.

It was HOT when we first got there. Baking. Everyone fried but me (yay sunscreen) and I fried in the part in my hair (dammit!). We were always getting water or something, but if I have one complaint about the day, it's that the venue just didn't seem ready for an all-day, big crowd. No matter which vendor you hit, they were just running out of something - no bottled water at this one, no small beer cups at that one, no beer of a particular brand at another one, different every time as they tried to restock, but it was a huge pain in the ass, and everyone was so hot and miserable and thirsty until later in the afternoon, and it was really crowded in the concourse and the lines were SO LONG, there was a LOT of complaining.

On the plus side, firstly, because they couldn't keep bottled water stocked quickly enough for it to get cold in the coolers, they started giving out a cup of ice when you bought a bottle of water. I swear, one of those cups of ice might very well have proved the difference between life and death. Also, I've never been to a festival where the place stayed so clean. The bathrooms were clean all day, always stocked, and people were taking out the trash constantly.

We were just a smidge late, so we missed some of Sonny Landreth, who was the first act. (Look, I don't think I have the gumption to look up the home page for everyone here, so just google an artist yourself if you're interested, okay? At the end of the post will be a few links, too.) We knew Bill Murray was the host/emcee, and honestly there was nothing but love for Bill Murray all day. Every artist was his very favorite. Hilariously, for many of the acts he dressed as a guitarist from the era or genre they represented, so he was at various times an acid stoner, a brit rocker, a cowboy, etc, complete with bad accents. Hysterical. When he introduced the second act, John McLaughlin, he referenced his participation in "the Mahi Mahi orchestra" (McLaughlin was in the Mahavishnu orchestra). bwah hah hah. that sort of thing.

After John McLaughlin was Alison Krauss, obviously to showcase her guitarist Jerry Douglas. (Edit: Dave's Dad quite rightly points out that Jerry Douglas should be more properly referred to as a dobro player, if not the dobro player.) J and I had seen her before, so we hung out for part of it and then went out and walkabout to look around at some of the exhibits and stuff. The lines were really long to look at the famous axes, but J played a guitar or two at some of the displays, and we went into the Digitech truck (air conditioned!!) for a while, etc.

when we came back (so hot! so thirsty! kind of sick!) we were heading to get in line for water, but then we could hear that Doyle Bramhall II was performing, and we never get to see him solo (though he's been with Roger Waters and then Eric Clapton for some years), so I shooed J away and stood in line by myself. Which wouldn't have been a big mistake if it wasn't the Slowest Line Ever. While I was waiting Doyle's set ended and I heard them introduce the Derek Trucks Band. I was in agony. I worship Derek Trucks. Finally I made it back to our seats with the agua. That's when our other friends, the third couple, had made it, so we were a little squeezed for a while. It was much later in the day that the crowds thinned out a lot. In the concession area in particular, it was like being in a GA section, trying to get to the bathrooms and stuff, constant physical contact, slowness, etc., but later you could actually stride, which was a relief. I hate thick crowds like that.

Anyway, Derek Trucks: regular readers know of my adoration for him, and today was no different. Susan Tedeschi, who's his wife as well as killer blues guitarist in her own right, came out for a couple of songs, and then they introduced Johnnny Winter and the crowd went nuts. Dear frail freakish old white Johnny Winter, huddled under a big hat, sitting down to play a smokin' version of Dylan's Highway 61. Oh, yesss. I mean, it was only like 3:00 at this point and the day had already given us complete and total satisfaction. Any day that has Derek Trucks in it is a good day anyway.

derek trucks

johnnny winter's hand

This set also set a pattern of having a whole band play their own set plus stay onstage for a while as the house band for several other artists. Like Sheryl Crow, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, they didn't bring their bands. Other groups like Jeff Beck came out with just their band and did their thing and were gone instead of hanging around. Depends on the band. The stage was two-sided revolving, so they could do a pretty fast changeover. Nearly too fast! They needed like a half hour intermission once during the day. There wasn't a schedule and you hated to go look at the exhibits or wander around because you didn't know what you'd miss.

But anyway, then what? Robert Randolph and his band. We keep bumping into him! He’s like our Kings of Leon, only good. His band did a as-smokin’-as-ever set, and then it was Robert Cray. You gotta love Robert Cray, and his “20” is one of my favorite of the current generation of antiwar songs (although Jason Isbell’s “Dress Blues” is my current fave). Cray’s band did Poor Johnny, Walkin’, and 20 for sure, and Jimmie Vaughan – obviously, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s brother, who used to be a Fabulous Thunderbird – joined them, and then, he was on the bill so it wasn’t a big surprise, but it was like everyone on the stage was a big surprise because everyone was such a treat, and Hubert Sumlin was no exception.

That’s the beauty of the crossroads show, I thought: I know it sounds hokey, but the real feeling of living history and how music was in the active process of crossing the generations … it was haunting. So revered old Hubert Sumlin – who played guitar with Howlin’ Wolf – sat and did “Killin’ Floor” – which was the dizzying historical moment of the day, for me, to be in Chicago listening to Hubert Sumlin do Killin’ Floor in the year 2007, my god – and also “Sittin’ on Top of the World,” which was lovely too.


And then B.B. King came out too, and that was Just Too Much. So they all did “Rock Me, Baby” and “The Thrill Is Gone.” It was strange to see him without the band; J and I had seen him a couple of times before. But this was so much more real. B.B. King’s band, they’re awesome, of course. But they’re also very much A Show, as well as being orchestrated to be easy on B.B. because he’s old. So to see him in daylight, without them, nakeder somehow, that was good. That was real good. Then, as for most of the day, you could see Eric Clapton hanging around on the side of the stage just watching and enjoying and taking pictures – wouldn’t I like to see those pictures! That’s when B.B. made a very moving speech about how he hoped the last sound he heard was an audience and about how great Clapton is and what a great person he is. "I've traveled all over the world, played in 90 countries. I've met queens and kings ... but I've never met a better man, a more generous man, than Eric Clapton." It looked like Eric was wiping his eyes a little at that point. I know I was.


Jimmie, Hubert, Robert, and BB on stage

BB, w/ec with hat

BB, w/ec smiling

jimmie, hubert, bb, w/ec taking picture

Anyway, that was awesome. After that I think I ran to get us more water, and while I was in line the act was apparently some kind of contest winner. I don’t know what that was about really. Then John Mayer was the unlucky stiff who had to follow the real blues extravaganza. J and I hadn’t heard Mayer’s blues stuff, because frankly he’s John Mayer – we couldn’t bring ourselves to give it a chance. But he was really quite fine onstage. Kid gots some blues chops, so I’ll give him his due props, although I still don’t want to have to watch him make his faces while he plays. Ugh. Anyhoo, he did his big ‘Waiting on the World to Change’ as well as Ray Charles’ “I Don’t Need no Doctor.” It wasn’t that bad, although of course we were pretty much in the mood to love everything. It was a totally positive day all the way around.

So after that was Vince Gill and his band. Vince Gill has guitar skills, sure. But he’s just too country for me; I can’t get around it. Luckily he wasn’t out there by himself very long; like with Robert Cray, it got pretty crowded after awhile. First Albert Lee – I didn’t really know this, but J says he’s British and is the guy who pretty much pioneered the chicken-pickin’ style. Which seemed true as we watched! Then Sheryl Crow – it seemed strange that we apparently hadn’t seen her live before; I had to double-check with J. Of course, she’s not known for her guitar prowess, but she is known for having dated Clapton for awhile.

bill murray (sunglasses & vest) watching albert lee & sheryl crow

sheryl crow

Alison Krauss came out and sang “Are You Strong Enough to be My Man” with Cheryl, and then Eric came out and did “Tulsa Time” with her. And then Willie Nelson came out – again, it was strange to see him without his Very Elderly Band, because I’d sort of inadvertently seen him a couple of years in a row opening for Dylan. He did “Time Slips Away,” “Crazy,” and “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain,” starting out a little rough with kind of talky-singing and medley stuff, but then hit his stride and won the day. Good ol’ Willie.


Then that whole thing cleared off and the next thing was Los Lobos. We were looking forward to them, although we knew only a few hits of theirs, and we weren’t disappointed – good stuff!

cesar rojas of los lobos

After that was Jeff Beck, who, like Los Lobos, was one of the acts that played himself with his own band and didn’t join in the collaborative stuff. At first all the buzz was about his bassist! I said to J, “Jeff Beck’s bassist is a 12-year-old girl??” He was playing in a 3-piece and his bassist was this neat little thing:

So then a rumor kind of went through the crowd that she was a 12- or 14-year-old girl. We looked her up later and it turns out she’s like a bass prodigy from Australia named
Tal Wilkenfeld
and she’s actually something like 21 years old, but still. Chick was really holding her own, and the crowd LOVED her. Jeff Beck was awesome too. When J and I saw him with Santana like ten or fourteen years ago, I couldn’t really get into him, but I’m older now, and he was much more interesting.

Jeff Beck's talcumed hands

Beck ended his set with a blistering, perfect instrumental of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” complete with the big huge noise note at the end. We were just hooting in ecstasy at that point.

After Jeff Beck – and it was the kind of day it was that I’m still thinking I’m forgetting some very important people – Bill Murray (who’d been introducing everyone all day in costume, as I said) came out as Cream-Era Clapton to introduce Clapton.

We were all saying throughout the day, because everyone was so great, “Clapton better have brought his game today!!” Well, he did. He was awesome, and of course, his band was out with him again, so more Bramhall and Trucks, yay!

As I said, my camera is great for everything except normal concert lighting conditions. Sigh.

By that time various families and groups around us and come and gone, and people who'd been down on the field all day had come to sit by us, and we ended up with a very cool little group, including people who didn't look like they were into the blues, and I usually don't like to interact with strangers at concerts, but this turned out very cool.

So eric did “Tell the Truth” and Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity,” and “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” and “Queen of Spades,” and then Robbie Robertson (of whom I’ve never been a big fan, but it was fine) came out and they did “Who Do You Love” and “Further On Up The Road.” Then Steve Winwood came out and (on piano) did “In The Presence of the Lord” (we had totally found new levels of bliss by then) and “Can’t Find My Way Home,” but then he played guitar on “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” and I swear, that was the best solo of the day. Who would have known!! It sounds totally nuts. Then Clapton finished up with “Cocaine” – I can’t get enough of that song, never could, never will (hah, it’s as addictive as its namesake, I suppose) – and “Crossroads,” which was just the topper of the topper of the topper of the night.

THEN – and honestly, I thought this was too bad, because it felt like an anticlimax after the big Clapton thing, but I totally see why Eric would have wanted it that way – Buddy Guy did a set, which included “Mary had a Little Lamb,” “Damn Right I Got The Blues,” and, with Clapton, “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Sweet Home, Chicago.” Which was totally the right thing.

Here's a recap from Rolling Stone.

Photo Gallery from Rolling Stone.

Story from billboard dot com.

and review from Chicago Tribune blogger Eric Kot.