Archive for April, 2008

10 Things I learned at the Feist Concert

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Feist at the Masquerade Music Park on 4/18/08

  1. This venue is awesome! Outdoors with a nice backdrop of some of the Atlanta skyline and the weather was perfect. I wish they had more shows here.
  2. Feist knows how to start a show. She appears as a silhouette inside a white box (much like a David Copperfield magic trick) and sings a repetitive melody (with no accompaniment). Then I realize that she’s looping each repetition and building and harmonizing each time. By the end it’s a really big beautiful sound composed of nothing but her voice layered on top of itself many times over.
  3. As concerts go, I’m old
  4. Port-o-lets make me glad I’m a man
  5. I formulated what I’ll call Whit’s first law of concerts. I’m not sure it’s an original thought, but I came to it on my own. It goes like this: The ideal average tempo of your songs should be inversely proportional to the capacity of the venue you’re playing. T = m*(1/C)
  6. Feist has (and played) a lot of slow songs and therefore violated the above rule. It’s hard to keep a big crowd engaged in slow song after slow song. They work great in a coffee house though.
  7. Krispy Kreme is dangerously close to this venue, and is open late (though it’s drive thru only after 11 PM).
  8. I overhead a girl say to a guy “if you can talk her into it, I’m totally down!” I don’t know for sure what the conversation was about, but I know what it was about in my mind. If I had quicker reflexes, I would have flashed a big smile and a double thumbs-up to the guy, but I missed the opportunity.
  9. The “ba da ba da da” part of 1 2 3 4 makes a great sing-along for a big crowd.
  10. At outdoor concerts, you can have a great time even if the performance isn’t that engaging.

Spoon at Center Stage with White Rabbits and The Walkmen 4/14/08

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008


I’m not sure exactly how long it had been since I saw a show at Center Stage, but it was a long time. I had forgotten what a fantastic venue this is. It seats 1,100 and has theater seating around a just-right sized floor area. This show was also unique because I was curious to see both opening bands. For a $15 ticket, this show had a lot of potential.

White Rabbits

White Rabbits were up first. I had only recently heard of this band, but I had heard good things so I was curious to see what they had to offer. They started at around 7:30, and they were dressed preppy – the singer was wearing a vest and two of the dudes were wearing blazers. Did I miss something? Is this the new trend in rock and roll. They also had two drummers. I’m at a particularly drum-loving point in my career as music fan, and two drummers are lots of fun to watch and listen to. They also had two different dudes who sang lead vocals. One dude looked like Matt Damon, the other looked like he’d rather be somewhere else.

Overall, I think Derrick did a good job of summing up this band’s performance: “I’ll be curious to hear their next album.” They did a lot of interesting stuff, but the songs weren’t great. If they can gel a little more as a band, they could be great.

The Walkmen

I’ve heard about this band for a long time, and I know I love one song by them: “We’ve been had.” Unfortunately they didn’t play it, but they still put on a very good show. Their lead singer has got “it.” Most of the time he’s just on vocals, and he belts it out the way rock and roll is supposed to be belted. He also had a strong but subdued stage presence – the vibe was “I know I’ve got it, but I’ve been doing this for a while and thought I’d be bigger than this by now.” Still, he wasn’t phoning it in – he was definitely delivering on every vocal.

They also had a fantastic drummer – amazingly energetic. Curiously he had no crash cymbal, just a ride that he beat the shit out of when needed. He was so animated while playing that he almost stole the show, but in a good way. Overall a really strong set, and I would check them out if they came back to town.


I’ve seen Spoon before, and I know they put on a strong performance. I also remembered from the last time I saw them that at times the percussive guitar riffs can seem to get monotonous by the middle of the show. I was curious to see if I would have a different opinion this go ’round since Ga^5 has so much more variety than their previous albums.

First impression when they took the stage: I had forgotten they are just a 4 piece band. You definitely hear more sound than that on the latest album, and in general I think it’s a compliment if you assume a band is bigger than it is. At times during the set, the did sound like just a 4 piece and sounded just a teeny bit thin on some of the “bigger” Ga songs, but they still came across as good songs.

It was still the case, though, that around the middle of the set a lot of the songs started to sound similar. Spoon is a very good band with some truly great songs, but their b-level songs sound like the rely on the Spoon formula. Percussive guitar riff, basic back beat on the drums, and Brit’s great raspy vocals. I respect a drummer that doesn’t feel the need to be too flashy, but their drummer often keeps it a little to simple. Yet on their great songs, the drums are usually really interesting. So my advice to Spoon – less backbeat, more variety on the drums.

If this were my first Spoon show, I’m not sure if I still would have experienced this “similarity fatigue,” since their repertoire does have more variety than it used to. However, since I was looking for it I did find it. Still, overall a great rock and roll show by a great band. Very little banter between songs – all business.

Partial Set list (to the best of my memory)

I kept remembering and forgetting that I wanted to try to remember the setlist, so here’s what I was able to remember. I’m pretty sure about the order of songs I included, but I know there are some gaps. If you know I forgot something, please chime in.

  1. Beast & Dragon Adored
  2. Someone Something
  3. ?
  4. Don’t you Evah
  5. The Ghost of you lingers
  6. I Summon You
  7. Finer Feelings
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. Eddie’s Raga
  11. Don’t Make Me a Target
  12. They Never Got You
  13. I Turn my Camera on
  14. Everything Hits at Once
  15. Underdog
  16. My Mathematical Mind
  17. Black Like Me


  1. ? (new song?)
  2. Fitted Shirt
  3. Rhythm and Soul
  4. Small Stakes

I also remember Brit saying “that was called ‘Chips and Dip'” but I can’t remember when that happened in the set. Notice the absence of “cherry bomb!” What a “fuck you” to the fans!

Levon Helm Band at the Variety Playhouse 4/9/08

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Here’s one picture I borrowed from the AJC – click here to check out the full gallery:

This show was a last minute decision for me and a bit of a gamble, but it had a great payoff.

The last minute part is pretty self-explanatory. The gamble is because I wasn’t really all that familiar with Levon’s music or his prestigious place in music history. All I knew was two songs off his latest album “Dirt Farmer,” and that he was OLD. But I liked those two songs. Categorically they weren’t my favorite kind of music, but they had a lot of personality and they didn’t really sound like anything else I had heard. I got a Cliff’s Notes briefing on Levon from my friend John before I went to the show – the extremely short version is that he’s 68 years old, he was in The Band, and he had a battle with throat cancer that prevented him from singing for over 5 years.

I agreed to meet some folks for dinner before the show and really just had my fingers crossed that the show wouldn’t be sold out. When I got to the venue, the good news is that the show wasn’t sold out. The shocking news is that tickets were $45!! But I guess this guy is kind of a legend, and the VP is a smallish venue so it seemed silly to bail out at this point. I bought a ticket, enjoyed some drinks and pre-show banter and then headed back to the venue.

The show started at 8PM and there was no opener. There was a big showing of older folks in the audience who had waited in line to get the seats, but the GA area is in front of the seats and us younger folks were up there. The stage setup looked impressive – lots of stuff up there. And the drum kit was positioned sideways at the front right of the stage. Hmmm. Oh yeah – Levon’s a drummer.

At around 8:20, out comes the band and it’s big! Four horns, a stand up bass, a piano/keyboard guy (who looked a lot like Ron Jeremy), a mandolin, two guitars – played by Amy Helm (Levon’s daughter)* and Larry Campbell (the man), and of course Levon on Drums. At first impression Levon looks his age, if not older. He looks like he probably weighs about 80 lbs and therefore seems very frail. He did not act frail though…

They open with Ophelia and immediately it was obvious that this was going to be a special show. A rare collection of consummate professional musicians who were all really happy to be playing with each other. And of the whole crew, Levon did the least to hide his enjoyment – he had a HUGE grin for the vast majority of the show. Just looking at him forced you to smile in kind. Here was this waifish looking old man absolutely rocking out on the drums and making it look effortless, smiling ear to ear and beaming his enjoyment about playing with a fantastic band for a just-right sized crowd that was really excited about being there. And Ophelia was the perfect vibe to start things off for the night. (Thanks to the Emma Gibbs band for introducing me to that song)

As I had hoped, the setlist was filled with a lot of songs I recognized including: “long black veil” with Amy on lead vocals, the two songs I knew from the album “got me a woman” and “the girl I left behind.” There was also a song with beautiful harmonies where the instrumentation was only Larry Campbell on violin and Amy, Levon and another female vocalist. This was the first time that it seemed that Levon was struggling a little with his voice, but it somehow only added charm to the song. (I believe this song was Anna Lee)

They also played for a long time! Levon was clearly enjoying himself and he thanked Atlanta many times and said we were all welcome up in Woodstock if we could ever make it up that way. There were some bluesy numbers that just seemed like an opportunity for everyone to solo. Most of the time I think shows get tedious when they move into this territory, but not last night. I don’t know if it was just the vibe on stage or the fact that everyone was such a solid musician, but they always kept it interesting. Everyone also showed off the fact that they were multi-instrumentalists. Levon switched to mandolin for a few songs, Larry Campbell played and soloed on at least 3 instruments, and all of the horns players changed horns regularly.

Towards the end of the 2+ hour set they played The Weight and I realized I DID know Levon’s voice from this song, and I liked the song much more than I had ever realized before. It seemed like they were on their last song several times, and then they finally all got up and looked as though they were heading off stage, but Levon held up his finger and said “one more” to his band mates. And so we got a pseudo encore in “I shall be released.”

This song matched Ophelia in its appropriateness for the end of the show. It feels like it would go great as the closing credits for a film. As the song unfolded, I couldn’t help ponder Levon’s perspective. Until recently he probably thought he would never sing again. Instead he’s touring in support of a successful album with a band that he probably hand picked, and the band even includes his daughter who helped him produce the record (and also happens to be quite attractive). In that moment I felt convinced that there wasn’t any place in the world (or any time in his life) where he would rather be.

That’s what makes a very special show, and I only seem to catch them when I take a gamble.