Monday, September 28, 2009
2009 has been great year so far for witnessing some wickedly good concerts. Thursday night at the newly renovated West End Cultural Centre saw the appearance of the Brooklyn-based (and Minneapolis) band, The Hold Steady. Their reputation of being "the best bar band in America" was definitely confirmed as they treated their diehard fans to a amazing display of club-sized rock that saw the band grind out a 25 song set, 105 minute show. They played a good range of songs from all four of their full-length releases, as well as a bunch of new songs.
Since the West End didn't have seating (except for the upper level), I positioned myself smack dab dead centre, about 8 or 9 people deep from the stage. This sweaty-beer soaked (yes, there were many spelt beers on the floor and on people) scrum hung on to singer Craig Finn's every word, screaming out the lyrics, fist pumping and frantically jumping around. Finn's stage presence has always amazed me, with his geeky looks (balding guy with glasses) and odd voice that reminds me more of Randy Newman than Bruce Springsteen, to his wild gestering with arms flailing. He yells into the mic then steps back and screams off-mic frantically baiting the audience to respond and react, creating a connection that keeps the crowd focused on the show. The rest of the band is more low-key as the focus is clearly on the singer, but keyboardist Franz Nicolay, dressed in a suit and fedora complete with a villain-like moustache, posed and put on his own silent show, a perfect contrast to Finn's nervous energy.
My only issue with the show (as a fan and a taper) would be I wasn't especially impressed with the mix of the West End's sound. I've been to many great shows there over the years and I have lots of documented proof (recordings), but it seems the quieter folky/jazz/pop shows sound much better than the noisier loud rock concerts. The mix was heavy on the bass and the overall sound was a little muddy sounding. It noticably improved as the show went on, but to be honest I was less crowded in and jostled with most of the talkers heading to the front of the stage, mid-set. My recording came out okay (but not great), and the results on disc actually sounded better than I remember standing in the crowd. I ranted to friends after the show about concert etiquette, or lack there of, but I'll save that for a future posting. Overall, the Hold Steady put on a very satisfying show, I definitely got my money's worth and I'm thankful I was lucky enough to score tickets since the show sold out the first day they went on sale. Similarily to the Baseball Project/Minus 5 show, it was awesome to see a great live band in such a small venue. Up close to the stage is the only way to really see a band, your body physically feels the music because it's loud and pulsating and the performers appear as real people you can relate to and react to, instead of specks on a stage aided by video screens, seated inside a arena better suited for hockey.
Here's a review of the show from the Winnipeg Sun's Darryl Sterdan.
THE HOLD STEADY
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB Canada
September 24, 2009
01. Positive Jam
02. Stuck Between Stations
03. Navy Sheets
04. Banging Camp
05. Chips Ahoy!
06. Cattle and the Creeping Things
07. Goin' on a Hike
08. Sequestered in Memphis
09. You Gotta Dance (With Who You Came With)
10. Heaven is Whenever
11. Slight Discomfort
12. Multitude of Casualties
13. Most People are DJs
14. Our Whole Lives
15. Massive Nights
16. Party Pit
17. Cheyenne Sunrise
18. Separate Vacations
19. Stevie Nix
20. (cuts in) Magazines
21. How a Resurrection Really Feels
22. -Encore Call-
23. Constructive Summer
24. Your Little Hoodrat Friend
25. Stay Positive
26. Slapped Actress
If you don't have a Dime membership, you have the option of downloading the show at The Hold Steady Taped Show Archive. (An excellent source for H.S. concert recordings in FLAC and mp3 format)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I've had a couple of requests to post a rar file for the Elvis Costello Winnipeg Folk Festival show back in early July. If you don't have access or membership to the live music site, Dimeadozen.org, I've uploaded the mp3 versions to share. I always prefer to share the uncompressed versions (or the FLAC format), but I realize not everyone wants to download over 600 mb's of music. The encore was amazing, but the rest of the set is well worth the listen as well. I've also linked the setlist from a great Elvis Costello concert fan site with info about almost every known Costello gig, this site is well worth the read!
The recording is a little rough in spots, especially during tracks 5-7 when a child seated nearby has a temper tantram, not much I can do about it, but you might want to skip ahead if it gets too annoying. Otherwise, it's a very enjoyable listen and it's been downloaded over 220 times on Dime, so it's one of my most popular postings.
Elvis Costello and the Imposters-2009-07-o8. rar
Monday, September 21, 2009
It's been over a week since I returned from a short and sweet trip to Minneapolis, but the memory of the Minus 5/Baseball Project/Steve Wynn IV show (On Thursday September 10th) is still fresh in my mind. In the past decade I have made the 7 hour trip from Winnipeg many times, sometimes specifically to see a particular concert, other times I went there for something else and it was just good timing. This trip revolved around the Minus 5 show, as I bought tickets well over a month ago and planned to be in Minneapolis no matter what, to see this show! In Minneapolis, I've seen many shows at the famed First Avenue club as well as the 400 Bar, Fitzpatrick Theatre (St. Paul), the Guthrie Theatre (The original location in the Walker Art Gallery), but this was my first time at the Turf Club. What a great venue to see a band! Nice sightlines, good sound and generally a nice vibe.
The show was amazing, the band played two sets that mixed up the catalog of both Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn which meant lots of Baseball Project, Minus 5 and Dream Syndicate. To finally hear the Dream Syndicate's best songs live was a big thrill and to see Scott perform in any of his bands (Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, REM etc.) is always a treat. The encore (set 3) went on for almost 40 minutes with random covers and a looseness that can only be described as inspired. They opening their encore with a tribute to the Beatles, Ballad Of John And Yoko followed by Good Guys Don't Wear White (not sure who did that originally). The band huddled up to discuss what to play next and they decided on two more Baseball songs, Fernando and I Dream Of Willie Mays, followed by an impromptu version of the Replacement's, If Only You Were Lonely. Next was Jackie's Lament, then Steve started Born On A Bayou which frantically segued into Neil Young's, Time Fades Away. The final song was the Sonic's (according to Scott, the greatest band ever!), Strychnine alway a great closer for both the Minus 5 and the Fellows. A truly magical evening, one of the best shows I've been to in a long while, maybe ever! Something about being so close to the stage, in a small club and being able to talk to the band afterwards, is something special. All four members of the band made themselves available after the show for autographs, posing for pictures and chatting with fans just like regular people. It makes such a difference to see a band that connects with their fans, not only during the show, but after as well. I got the whole band to sign the tour poster pictured at the top and the back cover of the Baseball Project CD. Scott, Steve and Peter are all genuinely sincere nice guys, real music fans with no hint of arrogance or pomp. I really liked talking to Linda, (she is such a cool chick!) she was amazed we drove down just for the show and said they were talking about Winnipeg as they drove from Seattle and were entering into Minnesota. As a tribute they played a double CD of Guess Who Greatest Hits in their van and Steve said to me he would try to play Winnipeg soon...
I recorded the show and uploaded it to Dimeadozen last week. If you are a member you can try to download it here: Baseball Project/Minus 5/Steve Wynn 2009-09-10.
For those without memberships, here are the mp3 .rar file links:
set 3 (encore)
(please DO NOT sell these recordings)
Other shows from the tour on Dime:
2009-08-28 Lake Arrowhead Village Center Stage, Lake Arrowhead, CA (set 1)
2009-08-28 Lake Arrowhead Village Center Stage, Lake Arrowhead, CA (set 2)
2009-08-29 The Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA
2009-09-11, Marytr's, Chicago, IL
Some of the above shows are on Internet: Live Music Archive, which require no membership and you have the option of streaming, FLAC or MP3.
If you want visuals, someone posted a couple of videos on Youtube from the Turf Club show in St. Paul:
Days Of Wine and Roses
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Speaking of past-time's, here's the Baseball Project's first television appearance on Letterman last year, with the lead off track on the their first album, Past Time. Before the present tour, the Baseball Project had only performed live together on the Letterman show and Wynn and Pitmon's wedding, oh yeah, and they played some shows in Spain in August.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Roadtrip! I'm off to Minneapolis/St. Paul to watch America's past-time, the game of baseball with a Friday night game with the Twins against the A's. A day earlier (Thursday September 10th), I'll be taking in a performance by the Minus 5/Baseball Project/Steve Wynn IV at the Turf Club in St. Paul. This may seem like a 3 band bill, but in actuality it is one band, Scott McCaughey (Minus 5/Young Fresh Fellows/REM), Steve Wynn (Miracle 3/Dream Syndicate), Peter Buck (Minus 5/REM) and Linda Pitmon (Miracle 3/Zuzu's Petals) performing material from the M5/BP/Steve Wynn catalog. In previous shows, this unit has played 2 sets, mixing up the material, with excellent results.
This concert is one of those dream shows you never thought would happen and I just happen to love all these bands I've mentioned. I have seen all 4 members at different time throughout the years. I've seen Scott as a member of the Young Fresh Fellows, who I've seen twice, once in Winnipeg in 1990 or so and in 1993 in Vancouver, opening for They Might Be Giants. Also I saw Scott with REM along with Peter Buck when they played the Concert Hall here in the Peg. A couple of years ago during Laurie Lindeen's (lead singer of Minneapolis band Zuzu's Petals) book launch/concert in Minneapolis, Linda Pitmon reunited with the other members of Zuzu's Petals for a one-off and at the same show, Steve Wynn performed with Pitmon on the drums.
This is the first tour when all four of the Baseball Project members has toured together to promote their all-baseball album, Volume One: Frozen Ropes And Dying Quails and I hear they did some more recording for Volume 2 when they stopped off in Portland last week.
As I said, this is a highly anticipated show for myself and I hope to come away from the evening with a good recording of the show and some fond memories. This is a small venue which means it will be up close and personal and I would love to have time to chat with the band...we'll see! It'll be well worth the drive!
Monday, September 07, 2009
For the final installment of the Uncle Tupelo demos, I bring you the demo tape that supposeably got them signed to Rockville, Not Forever, Just For Now (the title which is taken from the song, Whiskey Bottle). There are early versions of songs that would surface on the first album, No Depression, a little rougher and a little rawer, but in some ways their less polished sound really showcases how great these songs are. Jay Farrar is clearly the front-man on the early albums, which probably led to problems later, and his driving guitar and distinctive voice characterized the sound of Uncle Tupelo throughout their short, but illustrious career.
Uncle Tupelo was one of those bands that never enjoyed the commmercial success they deserved. Their sound was widely influencial and even the title of their first album (No Depression) spawned a movement and genre (...and a magazine). The resulting split of Uncle Tupelo in 1994, gave the world Wilco and Son Volt, and to this day both bands are very active and continue to be influencial and innovative. Both Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar (their bands and solo) are finally getting some of the recognition and success that eluded them in Tupelo, but a possible reunion seems very unlikely, not forever, just for now.
Not Forever, Just For Now (1989)
I Got Drunk
Before I Break
Life Worth Livin'
Download: Uncle Tupelo- Not Forever, Just For Now. rar
Sunday, September 06, 2009
The second Uncle Tupelo demo is entitled, Live & Otherwise, appropriate because half the tape is a portion of a live recording and half is recorded in the studio. The live songs were recorded at the Blue Note in Columbia, MO on August 22, 1988. This recording features more songs that eventually were re-recorded for the debut album, as well as some impressive covers from CCR and Black Flag. I can't imagine how great it must have been to see these guys in and around the Belleville area in the late 80's, must have been incredible!
Live & Otherwise (1988)
Before I Break (live)
Life Worth Living (live)
Fortunate Son (live)
Cocaine Blues (live)
Gimme Gimme Gimme (live)
Good Times (live)
I Got Drunk
There Was a Time
Download: Uncle Tupelo-Live & Otherwise. rar