Monday, September 18, 2006

Final Words on ACL

There are always leftovers...

Stacey, great meeting you. I wish we would have had more time to chat. Hope you'll come back next year.

Linda, thank you so much for letting me stay with you. What a beautiful house you have. And thanks for the free taxi service to the airport. :-)

Deb, you ready for your first non-winter?

ACL - If it is all about the money, which some people in Austin say, then I don't know how much longer I will attend. They raised all but one of the stages to festival hight. We used to be able to lean on a couple of the stages. Now they all have fences. This may have been the lowest total for Austin preformers this year and that includes the Greencards who don't live in Austin anymore.

Austin, other than your jocks, I love you. You are one of my favorite cities. I love your music. I love your people. I love your politics. I love your weather. Okay, I'm kidding about the last one.

Any and all mistakes can be blamed on a lack of sleep. My bad. :-)

ACL 2006 - Sunday

Things started out a bit weird on Sunday. As we walked to the park, some drunken idiot was riding a bike with another idiot on the handle bars. They were barely staying up let alone near the side of the road. As we looked on, they looked at us
Again it was decision time. I decided I really wanted a good seat for the BoDeans (I've never seen them. Can you believe that?). That meant sitting through Matt Costa and then the Greencards and missing Son Volt (again, the guy on the plane said they were great).

and laughed and then ran into a car that stopped because they were heading right for her. The guy, holding his bent tire started yelling at the woman in the car who was quite shaken by the whole thing. He left and we went over and comforted her. He scratched up and dented her car a bit. Did I mention that was 11am? :-(

And the rain finally came. As we waited for the year late Kathleen Edwards (she got hurricane'd out), the rain came pouring down. Pouring Down. Yes, that was on purpose. It was the hardest rain yet for ACL and a pretty intense one for a Southern California guy like me. But as if Kathleen had a magic connection with mother nature, with 5 minutes to go, the rain stopped and... and... the sun DIDN'T come out. For those of you who don't live in hot parts of the world, if the sun comes out after the rain, you're gonna fry (or at least get one hell of a steam bath). The sun threatened to show up throughout the day and it did make some short appearances, but it never quite made it. That kept the temperature down a bit (not as much as you'd think though).

So Kathleen comes out and first thing says, "Well, I sure am glad I have no performances after this because I'm probably going to get electrocuted". And then she rocks. I was chatting with a guy on the plane today who said that he wasn't sure what to expect from her. He liked her CDs but wasn't thrilled by them. And then he saw her and... Well... she is just something to see in concert. Her band is very very tight these days, and when they rock, they do it really well. And her voice (someone called it a lighter Lucinda) is just so inviting. During her show, she told us the story of someone who mistook her for Aimee Mann; "Sure, Aimee and 10 hamburgers and you get me". That, of course started the Aimee jokes. Part way through the show a group of fans yelled, "We love you Aimee"! She just loved that. When I got her autograph, I asked her to sign it "Aimee Mann". She almost did, signing it, "An Aimme Mann fan, Kathleen Edwards". Speaking of signing, Linda has this thing about a certain phrase and last year got Lucinda to sign her picture, "F Off" (she did actually spell it out). So inspired by Lucinda's willingness, she asked KT Tunstall for the same autograph. KT loved the idea; "First time" she said of the request. I missed KT but Deb and Linda said she was great.

While KT was playing on one stage I wanted to be up close for Jose Gonzales. I felt that his music is so fragile, it requires a small room and no distractions. I was right. Standing at the front of the stage wasn't good enough. His guitar playing is really something to see. He creates these beautiful moods and then oh so softly sings over it. Because of the weather, his seat (he played seated with a mic'd guitar) was half way back on the stage. As you'll see, I could barely get him in my frame. It was a beautiful but short show (only 35 minutes). But that allowed me to go check out more of Patrice Pike's show (where I caught back up with Deb and Linda). Patrice just gets better every year. I was too far away for pics (she had them packed in this year... local girl makes good).

It wasn't a good sign for me when I heard that Matt Costa was a Jack Johnson find (I could be wrong. I know that someone from No Doubt is working with him and in fact he had some No Doubt equipment with him). I don't know what it is about Jack, but everything seems so light and just bores me; especially in concert. And on first listen, Matt did very little for me. Nice pleasant music with some feel of importance that I didn't think it deserved. At the end he had a bunch of friends, including Elvis Perkins, come on stage and play percussion and sing. You would think there would be plenty of energy from this, but there wasn't.

We've seen the Greencards before. They are a fun bluegrass based group with a very talented lineup that now includes a guitar player. They actually are almost a poor man's Nickle Creek. But that's not fair to them. They are very good and fun to watch.

Finally, the BoDeans. Am I an idiot or what? How could I have passed these guys up all these years. This is just about as much fun as rock and roll can be without playing to a lowest common denominator. This is fun solid rock and these guys are tight. Don't know the lyrics to the sing-alongs? No problem, you'll figure them out and you'll want to sing along; the music is that infectious. What a great hour set it was. We were very happy.

The headliner for the weekend was Tom Petty. We decided to leave the park and watch him from the railroad tracks behind the stage. You can actually see the video screen and it is closer than many spots in the park. The first half hour was fun. And then the light show. Not Tom's; Mother Nature's. And then the rain came. And we all covered up and waited. It took about a half hour for the rain to go past and for the stage to get back to normal. Tom continued the show for another hour singing oldies (his and covers) as well as songs from the new CD. I understand they had monitor problems, which may have slowed the pace of the show. And that was my only complaint. Tom was always great at pacing a show; knowing when to bring it down for a while and knowing when it was time to rock. The show seemed a lot mellower than the old days and was not what we expected from him (especially at a festival). But he is still one of the great concert performers and when he finally kicked it up a notch we were dancing around in the mud. It was a great way to end another fun weekend in Austin. Can't wait for next year.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

ACL 2006 - Saturday

We brought back one of our traditions this morning by eating at the Hyatt and having Jerry bring us his "special" coffee. Really, it is. And it brought back so many memories of previous ACLs. If only the day could live up to those memories. But... it wasn't going to be. This was maybe the weakest ACL day I can remember. No great finds and no great performances. Not that the music was bad, and not that we didn't have a great time. I've just seen a whole lot better over the years.

The day started out with the Troy Campbell Band featuring “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb on guitar. Troy plays a rockin’ alt-country and with Scrappy’s hot leads we had a nice start to what was to be a pretty hot day (just under 100 degrees).

Up next was Nada Surf. While waiting, we got a nice dose of Galactic over at the next stage. At one time you might have called this jazz fusion. I’m not sure what the kids call it these days though. It was pretty good, although like many fusion bands, it gets pretty redundant. They attempted a little Led Zep, but without Plant singing, it just didn’t cut it.

Nada Surf is a pop rock outfit. A friend of mine has been telling me to check them out for some time and this was my first listen. We really enjoyed their show. Some excellent tunes and plenty of energy. Can’t wait to listen to the studio stuff.

It’s been hot out here today; a pour some water over your head day. It wasn’t as bad as the first year when the suntan lotion was bubbling on my arm, or last year when I bought 2 bottles of water at a time (one to drink and one to pour over my head). But it had me thinking that the 600 bucks for VIP passes and the chance to sit in an air conditioned bathroom was looking real good.

The first real big choice was coming up: Aimee Mann or Calexico? I’ve never seen Calexico. But I love Aimee and haven’t seen her in a couple of years. Maybe it was a mistake (talking to a photographer on the plane, it was), but we went with Aimee. With just a two piece band behind her, Aimee put on a really mellow show, even for her. We heard most of the favorites during her hour set and she continues to do the Magnolia joke (“a song that I like to call the one that lost out on an Oscar to Phil Collins and a singing monkey” or something like that). Luckily we were right up front and got to check out all the tattoos (what’s with the anchor on your shoulder Aimee?).

The kids were starting to press in and we didn’t like Iron and Wine THAT much, so we gave up our front row center spots and split up. I took off for the Raconteurs. Of course, there was no way I was going to get anywhere near the stage, but I learned a valuable lesson. The problem with the big stage is that if you aren’t up close, no matter where you stand there is someone talking (and way too loud). I found though, that if you stand right next to a speaker rack, you won’t hear any of the talking. And someday I won’t hear anything at all (there were 3 Crown amps that either said 10,000 or 100,000 watts… whatever, it was freeking loud. And so were the Raconteurs, who put on a real rock and roll show. Jack shared the lead guitar duties (which really surprised me), but when he took over, it really pissed me off that I’ve missed the White Stripes ‘cause he sure can play.

Then it was back to the Iron and Wine stage. We were now a good 50 yards from the stage, but that was okay. I&W put on a almost hypnotic show, with the music always appearing to be ready to take off and explode, but never quite doing it. Another good show today. So, even though it was a very week day, we ended up having a lot of fun. Now on to the clubs.

When we got to Antone’s at 9:30 and they hadn’t let anyone in, we decided there was no way we were going to make it to two shows and quickly sold our Los Lobos tickets; heading over to Momo’s for Jon Dee Graham and James McMurtry.

This is the first time I’ve seen Jon Dee with a band (bass and drums) and man can he rock. Playing a short 45 minute set of mostly favorites, he only slowed down for a short period and focused instead on his harder edged songs (or least they became harder edged with his powerful guitar guiding the way. Jon Dee Graham has a Wednesday night residency at the Continental Club right now. So, if you’re in Austin on a Wednesday night… need I say more?

Also hanging out at the Continental Club on Wednesday nights is James McMurtry. My only exposure to him has been his latest CD (thanks Mike). I figured I was going to get a nice country like performance with some good guitar work (I had heard he was a very underrated guitar player). Boy was I wrong. His single guitar wall of guitar sound was pure rock and roll; all distorted and filling up every bit of air in the room. He crunched through an hour set, singing about the failed American dream and other happy moments. I need to find a live CD of his, because the studio stuff (at least his latest one) does not nearly tell the whole story. I could easily see him on a bill with the Drive-by Truckers. If that hasn’t happened, it should.

Deb and Linda deserted me part way through Jon Dee’s set (whimps) and at 2:15 in the morning I was left to find a cab. Now let’s look this over: The bars are closing, everyone is in town for ACL and partying all night and cabs… are not stopping. I spent a good half hour trying to flag down a cab; battling with about a dozen other cab-driven wannabe’s and a drunken dude who was trying to flag down anything that moved. So, I’m standing there and some UT idiot in a cab, yells at me and then throws something at me. Like his football team, he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Here’s hoping that UT loses the rest of their games this season. A*shole. Sorry. I just had to vent. I made it home safely, and before anyone blames Deb, she did pay for my cab ride. What a long night. Can’t wait for tomorrow.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Jon dee

Ran into Jon Dee Graham before his show at Momo's tonight. I told him my fiance wanted to know if he quit smoking. He said, "tell her I hid the t-shirt (she gave him an anti smoking shirt when he was in L.A.).

Meanwhile, it doesn't matter where you go in Austin, the talent is so deep. The 3rd and 4th bands on the bill at Mom's tonight were very good.

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ACL 2006 - Friday

It was in the mid 90's as we entered day one of ACL 5. After buying t-shirts and posters, we were drawn by the siren's song of Claire Small. Our first of 2 finds for the day. Claire has a beautiful voice and we all really enjoyed her songs. We will be looking for her CDs in the Waterloo tent.

Thursday night we ran into a woman at the Continental Club who looked our age but maybe a bit crazier. She had driven from East Texas (I'm told that is a long drive) by herself and was attending the festival alone because her husband is into fishin' not music. She told us to check out a guy named Paolo Nutini. A quick check that night online told us she wasn't too drunk (unlike the guy we met who went to grade school with Deb... what are the odds of that?), and so off we went to check him out. This 19 year old beer drinker from Scotland (someone yelled out, "You aren't old enough to drink", as he took a swig of beer, and he said, "It makes it taste even better") was really special. He can sing, he can have fun (covered Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy"), his songs have a modern feel with good melodies (guaranteed airplay in previous eras) and a sense of music history (he did a wonderful cover of John Sebastian/Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream"). Oh and I'm told he is really cute. Another CD to buy at Waterloo.

Every year we keep an eye out for our favorite photographer and she hung right by us at the Paolo Nutini show, so I got a nice shot. Speaking of which, I hear I was on TV this year; as the camera panned the crowed during Paolo's show and my red shirt stuck out.

Having missed Mishka at the Continentle Club the night before (we are becoming lightweights), we decided to check out a bit of his set; the highlight of which was his introduction which was given by Matthew McConaughey (his manager). Not that there was anything wrong with Mishka. He does a slow, spiritual form of reggae. We needed a bit more energy, so we headed over to the food court for some BBQ and sweet tea.

Last year we saw Tristan Prettyman solo. This year she had her band behind her and she sounded great. She has one of those cute voices that just makes you feel better when you hear her sing. All of the songs sounded great. Another trip to the Waterloo tent?

At around this time I heard that the reporter from Indie 103 in L.A. was whining about the heat. What a wimp. It was hot, but the sun screen hadn't started bubbling on my skin like previous years, so life was good.

I was looking forward to Nickle Creek. I've never seen them and I understand that time is running out. As everyone who has ever told me about them says, they are just amazing to watch. You start with a country/bluegrass base, then throw in classical training and finish it off with a joy of playing that is contagious and you have the ingredients for my favorite show of the day. Watching these guys (and gal) go from intense solos into even more intense runs played similtaneously is just amazing. It was everything I thought it would be; and more. Their version of "Toxic" just has to be seen to be truly appreciated, with Chris getting Brittany's moves down perfectly. And the jig on a mic'd floor during the medley that included The Band's classic, "The Weight", was just a pure joy to watch. What an excellent show.

When last we saw Cat Power (two years ago I believe) she was solo and melting down (left the stage early). But it was a different breed of Cat this year. She has her "Memphis Band" (about a dozen of them at least) and a new happier attitude. It made for a fun hour as this sturdy band lead Cat through most of her latest CD, "The Greatest" along with classics like her very unique rendition of "Satisfaction" (which included a little rooster walk a la Mick).

We finished off the day watching (and listening) to Trish Murphy. Her southern rock is potent and fun, and she easily wins this years butt shot (although we'll see if she can compete with Lucinda when she's 50... I'm betting she can).

The real crowds finally arrived and it was time to leave. Every stage was heavily packed we decided to get to La Zona Rosa early to get up front for Guster and Gomez. There was no reason to hurry. We weren't the only ones with this idea. By the time we found the place (4th and Rio Grande) the line was all the way down the street, so we headed over to Hut's for a burger. We got to LZR at about 10pm and Gomez arrived 10 minutes later. Well, it was more like exploded, as they put on a blistering hour and a half set that left us wondering if Guster could compete. These guys are so talented, with three good singers and three good guitar players and lots of fun and energy. They just wore us out. Which may be why we were just not nearly impressed with Guster when they arrived onstage at about 12:15am. They later said that this was the latest they ever remember playing (obviously they've never played the NYC bar scene). Guster was good, but I really believe they should have gone first.

And that is all the energy I have left for this... On to day two.

Friday, September 15, 2006


The place is now officially too crowded. We are a 1/2 mile from The Tragically Hip. It's time to hit the bars. Guster and Gomez await us.

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Oh my God

Nicklecreek covers "Toxic"!

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It's been a good day so far. Just saw tristan Prettyman and we're about 25 feet from the stage for Nicklecreek. Someone said this was their last show. If so, it should be good.

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It's nice and warm and the festival was only 15 minutes late. Claire Small's voice carried across the field and we were drawn to it. Our first very pleasant surprise.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

ACL 2006 Pre Shows - Thursday Night

Thursday night found us at the Continental Club. It was our first time there and even though we didn't know the bands we were going to see, with the club's reputation, we knew we would be okay. And sure enough the two acts we saw came through. Up first was Beth Garner. She fronted a 3 piece band that included a guitar/slide player, bass and drums with Beth playing electric rhythm and lead guitar along with singing. The music was rock with a bit of southern style. Well worth the 10 dollar admission. Up next was Scott H. Biram. Scott was a one man band with his distorted electric guitar, bass drum (of some type, we couldn't see it), harmonica and bullet mic set to maximum distortion (pretty much like Springsteen's during his last solo tour). Oh, he also had a bull horn which he felt the need to use in between songs. The sound was a bit blues, a bit punk blues, a bit weird. And we enjoyed it.

The real thing starts tomorrow and we haven't even decided who we are going to see! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ACL 2006 Pre Shows - Wednesday Night

Our first night in Austin found us at Artz Rib House for BBQ and blues. The BBQ was fine, but not as good as the Salt Lick I had imported for my birthday party.

The blues/country/gosple was provided by Shelley King and Carolyn Wonderland. Shelley (bottom) has a solid blues/country voice and even did a nice job on a gosple number. Carolyn (top) not only can belt out a song with her voice (and man does she have a voice) but she plays a mean slide, knocked off some hot solos on her two guitars and even did a trumpet solo during one of Shelley's songs. The two traded songs with Carolyn playing fills during Shelley's numbers and Shelley adding rhthym during Carolyn's songs. It was a nice way to start the week.