I scanned and uploaded a bunch of black and white photos to my picasa thing.
I’ve been doing this in stealth for a couple days, but I feel like it’s time to announce my other blog. It’s a music blog.
I’ve felt for a while that I was writing too little about music for this to be a music blog and too much about music for this to be a personal blog. In one case, outside readers see too much personal ranting and in the other, friends get alienated by the constant music talk , so I’ve split it off.
I’ll still be blogging here. I won’t be posting here about music, unless it’s related directly to me, like music I write/ record, radio playlists or if it’s a mixtape. I’ll be co-posting the last two of those.
I feel a bit weird about it—I’m always written this for myself and maybe a couple friends, but writing about any specific x is an admission that someone wants to read that. Now I have a whole blog where I pretend that people want to read my writing about music.
Last night I saw Elvis Perkins (in Dearland) at the Cafe du Nord. I got there a little bit before he went on when they were finishing setting up and sound-checking their mics. I was a bit surprised because they had large diaphragm condensers for his vocals, the harmonium and as an overhead for the drums (?!).
When Elvis and co. came out, they pretty quickly launched into “While You Were Sleeping” which was fine with me, as it’s my favorite track off of his album Ash Wednesday. The band consisted of Elvis on guitar and vocals, a guy that switched between guitar, harmonium and trombone; an upright/ electric bassist and a drummer/ percussionist. Everyone sang back up vocals. “Ash Wednesday” followed soon afterwards. His sound from the get-go was really good. His voice was clear and the mix was nice.
His set quickly veered away from album songs. “Weeping Pilgrim” was a great song. I think it’s a traditional song. It was rollicking and fun. On a few songs including that one, the drummer got out from behind the set and played a marching bass drum with a mallet on one side and a set of jingles (like on a tambourine, but in a line) on the other.
All in all, the show was a lot of fun and the band and sound were good. I’d definitely recommend it if you like Ash Wednesday or if you’re on the fence about Elvis Perkins.
Perkins did do a couple things that could be taken as arrogant or endearing, depending on how you look at it. The one that I’m mostly thinking of was before the last song he said “Well, the last song before we go backstage and you clap for a while and we come back out.” and then later while people were clapping he stuck out his head out of the dressing room and said “louder!” It was a little much
more photos after the jump
Last night I saw Ralph Stanley at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley. Laurie Lewis opened. Tickets were due to my wicked smarts and quickness with the internet in responding to a flavorpill quiz.
Laurie Lewis (and Tom Rossum and the Right Hand Band) was up first. She’s a local bluegrass fiddler and singer. Her band’s set was good and her band’s tight. It went by pretty quick.
Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys came up next. Right at the beginning of the set, Laurie came back on and made a big deal because it was the eve of Ralph’s 80th Birthday. They had a cake and a proclamation from Berkeley’s mayor.
Once the festivities ended, the set started in earnest. Ralph introduced the members one by one (including Ralph Stanley II and Nathan Stanley, the grandson) and they did a short number featuring that member. They then did a few full band numbers, Ralph did ‘O Death’ solo and a capella, and then went back around featuring each member that had a solo CD out (which was most everyone). From there it was a couple more full band numbers before the set ended. Ralph didn’t do all that much in the set aside from singing on the full band numbers and playing clawhammer banjo for one song. It seemed a bit obvious to me that this was, at this point, a franchise. They were selling the Stanley name and artistic vision more than his actual musicianship. It sort of reminded me when I saw the Count Basie Orchestra 15 years after Count’s death.
All of that said, his band was tight. When you’re Ralph Stanley, you can get some good pickers for your band, certainly. Going into the show I was actually a bit afraid that the show would drag on a bit, but, even though the set was well over an hour, it didn’t bore or drag on. For Ralph’s performances himself, he certainly can still sing and play a mean clawhammer banjo. I enjoyed the night.
(more photos after the break)
On Friday, Laura and I went over to see David Bazan (ex-Pedro the Lion, Headphones) at the Swedish American Hall. It was an odd billing. I had never seen DB play anything but a headlining (or co-headlining) slot and here he was opening for someone I’d never heard of Kristin Hersch (of Throwing Muses, apparently). It was also an early show (doors at 7:30pm–DB was on by 8:30ish) which led to an odd mix of older people and even some infant kids.
We got there as the first opener was in her last couple songs. She was good enough but, honestly, I didn’t pay much attention. Tip to artists, by the way: say your name or band name fairly often, and at least once at the end of your set. I don’t know the opener’s name.
David came up next. It was immediately obvious that this was going to be the most laid-back show of his that I’d seen yet: he was sitting down and playing a nylon-string guitar. (Later I also learned that he was sober, apparently a new thing for solo shows.)
I can’t remember the exact order of songs he did but he definitely did a nice mix of old (Ptl) and new songs (DB) and even one Headphones (H) song, in no particular order: “Transcontinental”(PtL), “Hot Shit” (H), “Fewer Broken Pieces”(DB) (on which he tacked on parts of a new song that he was working on), “Cold Beer and Cigarettes”(DB), “the Longer I Lay Here” (PtL), “Priests and Paramedics”(Ptl), “The Poison”(DB/ PtL), “Of Up and Coming Monarchs”(PtL), “Bands with Managers”(PtL), and “Bad Things to Good People”(PtL) (which I hadn’t listened to for quite a while but had been actually listening to earlier in the same day—good song!). I’m sure he did half-a-handful of other songs, but I can’t remember them all.
He played well and sang well—it’s sort of snuck by me that he actually has a great falsetto. I missed that some how, or at least I’d never noted it before.
It was obvious that crowd was not all DB or Pedro fanatics as some of his ‘quirkier’ lyrics ellicited giggles from the audience.
He also did his usual question-and-answer session during songs. These are always fun. One of the kids (~5 years old) asked him why he said “smokes a lot” during one of his songs (I think). DB sort of winced like he does and then awkwardly tried to explain that he said that because he doesn’t have a very good vocabulary and instead uses hyperbole to try to say what he means. He also said he uses explitives in his songs for the same reason and basically apologized to the father for swearing around this kid. (A few minutes later he launched into “Hot Shit” of course…) The same kid also asked him if he was married and that got DB into a story about how the minister that married him left the church because he tried to go on a date with the secretary and the minister’s wife didn’t like that, “but that’s another story…”
The one question I asked was whether he regrets releasing any of his songs; if you’ve listened through his catalog, this question may occur to you as well as it sort of “switches gears”, one could say. His response was “the Promise”, the last song off of It’s Hard to Find a Friend. His reasoning was mostly that he likes the somber mood that he created with the three songs before that (“The Bells” to “Secret of the Easy Yoke” (still one of my PtL favorites) to “The Well”) and then it jumps into this “pop jingle” as he calls it. He we was too scared to end on a somber note then. He also doesn’t particuarly like “the Promise.”
After the show, it was still early so Laura and I headed over to Sparky’s for a milkshake and a slice of delicious pumpkin pie. I think I am currently suffering from a heart attack due to consuming these foods, but, dang, it was worth it. The milkshake was possibly one of the best I’ve ever had: a perfectly blended vanilla ice cream with a dollop of peanut butter shake.
After the break, check out more photos and my list of David Bazan/ Pedro/ Headphones shows.
Last Friday I managed my third (I believe) ever two show night  : with Damien Jurado w/ Rosie Thomas followed by Beirut.
The night started with meeting Dave and Dasha outside the Swedish American Hall at about 8:15. We got inside and Rosie Thomas was on, having already started her set. Rosie is really funny in a goofy way. She has this tiny voice but has a huge voice, easily filing the hall when she wanted to. Her set was good: her music’s a bit on the sappy side, but it’s still nice. Her between set banter was very funny; I’m not entirely surprised she’s also sometimes a stand-up comic (as “Sheila”). Apparently she’s friends with Sufjan, which makes me happy.
[full write up and pics continue after the break]