Archive for the ‘music’ Category

M. Ward at the 40 Watt in Athens, GA – 7/27/09

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009


This was my first show at the 40 Watt.  I’ve never even spent much time in Athens.  From my brief spin through town it seems like a fantastic town, and the venue is a near-perfect size with a very cool vibe.  Too bad it was on a Monday night and I didn’t get home ’till about 1:30 (Thanks Tom for driving, and for the ticket!)

I’ve seen M. Ward once before.  Oh, I just realized I could go dig up my review from that show.  Here it is:

M. Ward (Solo) at Bimbo’s 365 Club.  February 3, 2007 Got there in time for the last couple of songs by the opener: Victoria Williams.  She sounded like Cindi Lauper’s retarded cousin.  Apparently she’s pretty well known among musicians, and I’ve since found out she’s got Multiple Sclerosis, so I feel kind of like a jackass for ripping on her, but the point is I did not enjoy her songs and I enjoyed her chatter between songs much less.

There was a long break before M. came out (aside: does anyone know M’s full first name?).  The long break was annoying – I mean it’s a SOLO show – it can’t take you that long to get ready.  Well, he came out and was tearing it up on acoustic guitar – the guy is really a very talented guitar player, which I hadn’t realized from listening to the albums.  So he wraps up this long tasty solo and then gets going with the songs.

The songs were good, but not great.  Problem 1) this was a sold-out show, so it was packed and we were standing on a crowded floor.  It is tough to stand for that long to listen to really mellow songs.  2) I think he was excited to be playing to such a large enthusiastic crowd, so I think he put some extra energy into his guitar playing.  The problem with that is that many of the songs thrive on the subtleties that exist in the songs.  Those subtleties were gone (and I missed the band on a lot of the songs).  Finally, I thought I knew a decent amount of his catalog, but he played a lot of songs I didn’t recognize.  He closed the set with “undertaker” and recorded 3 guitar loops that looped on top of each other as he left the stage – that was really cool and very pretty.  We left during the encores. Bottom line – I would only see him again if it were in a venue where I knew I could sit down.  It’s not good standing up music.

Given that previous experience, I was worried about this show.  I was afraid that he would again put too much energy into his mellow songs and spend too long rocking out on the guitar.  Well, he opened the set with a few mellow numbers (including “post war” which is one of my favorites) and then he proceeded to turn it into a rock concert (he had a full band this time).  Strange thing was, this time it worked for me.  Maybe it was because I knew what to expect this time, but I really enjoyed it.

Show was extra special because he came out and did one encore.  He really gave the vibe that he’s a “one encore” type of guy.  The house lights even came on for a few seconds, then they went off again and he came back out for a second encore.  It felt like a true second encore – the way it’s supposed to feel.  Like M had no choice but to come back out and try to appease the roar of the crowd.  His second encore was “Vincent O’Brien” and it was great.

I was bummed that Zooey didn’t make an appearance (I heard she DID sing one song with him in NC the night before), but she wasn’t on the bill so I hadn’t gotten my hopes too high.  I now wholeheartedly recommend M. Ward’s live shows (as long as you know you’re going to get a rocker and you won’t hear too many of those mellow songs you love).

p.s. Sorry i don’t have a crappy picture of the show to share here.  There were signs posted all over saying the artist had requested ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOGRAPHY for the show.  Near the end of the set I held up my iPhone anyway, and like magic, before I could take the picture, there was a hand on my shoulder connected to a dude telling me (politely, but firmly) “no photography.”  It was kind of eerie. And here’s the full setlist (thanks again to Tom):

–Fuel for Fire
–Post War
–Hold Time
–Poor Boy, Minor Key
–Poison Cup
–Stars of Leo
–To Save me
–One Hundred Million Years (?)—I didn’t know the name of the song, but made a note that it was a new one. I think it was this one, but I can’t say for sure.
–Fool Says
–Big Boat
–Guitar intro/Fisher of Men
–To Go Home
–Chinese Translation
–Rave On
–Roll Over Beethoven
–Magic Trick (encore)
–Vincent O’Brien (encore)

Concert Cliff’s Notes: Brett Dennen, Andrew Bird, Delta Spirit, Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter & Gomez

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

So clearly I’ve been procrastinating, and if I wait until I have time to write reviews of all these shows, nothing will ever get written.  So here’s the whirlwind tour of the shows I’ve seen so far this year:

Brett Dennen – January 30th at the Variety Playhouse


I like this guy, despite the fact that he’s weird looking. He sounded GREAT at this show, and I was happy to see he had lost some weight and got a less-weird haircut (compared to the last time I saw him).  The sound mix was really good, and the band sounded tight.  However, the bastard didn’t play “San Francisco” – the best song on his newest album.  And he DID play “make you go crazy” which is terrible (but less terrible live).  See him if you can, but insist that he play San Francsco.

Andrew Bird – February 4th at the Variety Playhouse


I’ve seen this guy before, but apparently it was pre-blog.  I love his album “…and the mysterious production of eggs,” but I was disappointed the first time I saw him at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.  The disappointment stemmed from three things: 1) he only had one or two other people with him – not enough to flesh out the songs I knew and loved, 2) he was cocky 3) he wouldn’t sing the melodies like they were on the album.

This time he fixed #1 – he had a great band, a cool stage setup, and plenty of sonic reinforcements to dish out a fat sound.  In some early songs he would lay down some violin loops and repeat them and build on them before moving on to guitar and the rest of the band.  This was really impressive, and sounded great.  Then he would whistle in tandem with his playing a xylophone (or something similar).  These were all very cool and impressive, but he wore these tricks out by the end of the show.  Problems #2 and 3 remained though.  He still seems to like himself more than I like him.  He also didn’t play much of “Eggs” and when he did, he improvised the vocal melodies way too much.  Just sing the song you bastard!!

Bottom line: I love his albums, I enjoyed the show, but he rubs me the wrong way and I think I’d rather listen to him without having to look at him.

Delta Spirit – February 25th at the Drunken Unicorn


The Drunken Unicorn – how F’n cool of a venue name is that?

The good parts of this show:

  • The venue name & size – just right.
  • The pre-show meet-up place = bookstore pub = awesome atmosphere, food, and beers.
  • The first opener – Dawes.  Email me if you want to sample a track.  They were better live than their album, but the album still has a couple great tracks.
  • The Delta Spirit’s set – great, full of energy
  • The song Trashcan – the distinctive rhythm is actually played on an old-school trashcan lid (think Oscar the grouch).

Not-as-good parts of the show:

  • Second opener – I forget the name, but they were (clearly) forgettable
  • The fake Red Bull served at the Drunken Unicorn – not kind on the stomach
  • The LATE start time of the headliner on a weeknight – I don’t think they started until around midnight, and I’m old.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – March 8th at the Tabernacle


I got offered a ticket on fairly short notice.  I saw this group once before in Oakland and it was uber-mellow.  Really just too mellow.  This time was still an all-sitting-down show, but it was a little more lively.  Luckily my ticket benefactor (Todd) also saved us awesome seats.  They put on a great show of beautiful music, but I don’t know RA’s catalog that well.   The crowd seemed to absolutely love every second of it, but I only liked it.  I left early.  I guess I’m lame.  It was really good, I just wasn’t feeling it that night.

Josh Ritter & Gomez – March 24th at Center Stage

This show was kind of a whim – friends who like Gomez talked me into it, and I like JR’s “girl in the war” a lot, so I figured I’d check it out.  I also really like Center Stage.


I found Josh Ritter captivating.  For an opening act he did an amazing job of keeping the crowd attentive and quiet.  He really drew everyone in and held our collective attention with every song.  On top of that he seemed to be having the time of his life, which was also really compelling and contagious.  He sounded great too.  He was a bit of a goof ball on stage, but he was also good with his crowd banter.  Still, that bastard didn’t play “girl in the war.”  What was he thinking?

Gomez was fair.


There’s my Q1 recap for ’09.  I do realize I’m pretty damn lucky to see that many shows.  I hope you’re jealous.

What does your taste in music say about you?

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I just came up with this very scientific method of determining how selfish or selfless you are.  Look on your iTunes or iPod (or however else you manage your digitial music).  Count the number of songs that start with the word “you” (and contractions like you’re and you’ve).  Now count the number of songs that start with “I” (include variations like I’ll, I’m, and I’ve)  Divide the first by the second and voila  – your selfless/selfish ratio.  If it’s greater than one, you can rest easy knowing you’re a considerate selfless person.  If it’s under 1, you know who comes first in your world… you.

My results:

“You” songs -140

“I” songs – 291

Ratio: 0.481

uh oh, I’m a selfish bastard.  Wait, wait.  I’m developing this real-time here.  Let’s modify the formula to account for the fact that songwriters are inherently introspective.  New formula:

Y /(I*0.5)

New Ratio: 0.965

Still slightly selfish, which I really think is inaccurate, but I guess I can live with that.  Please help me test the data and post your results in the comments.  Then I’ll tell you what I really think of you and we’ll see if this thing’s got wheels.