Beer and Pavement

Throne Watched

Posted in Live by SM on November 30, 2011

Friends had an extra ticket to what is probably the biggest tour in hip-hop this year. Although I don’t particularly go for the hip-pity-hop, this show was too good to pass up. What follows is not a full-on review. I’ll post some crummy iPhone/Hipstamatic photos, Tweets, and bullet points on the evening. There was also some beer, “indie,” and Kid Rock thrown in for good measure.

So, first there are the pictures, then Tweets, then observations…

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Twitter feed – Sorry but I didn’t feel like shooting screen shots of every Tweet. So, they’re way out of order. The first set cover my beer drinking for the evening (I didn’t drive.) and most of the show…

Here’s the rest, again in the wrong order…

Observations and Explanations:

  • Dinner before the show was at Flying Saucer. My choices were beers that didn’t really stretch my palate, but they were all good. Check the Twitter feed for the selections. I did have the Big Dipper with stout au jous sauce. It wasn’t bad.
  • We had some pretty nice seats with a clear view of the stage. You can see from the panorama photo in the set above.
  • Both Jay-Z and Kanye opened on these rising towers which they returned to periodically throughout the show. The only thing I could think was I bet they had to be careful not to wander too far from the center or…. end of concert and rapper.
  • Kanye wore a leather kilt and pulled it off somehow. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how many dudes in the audience were questioning his manhood.
  • Jay-Z was the coolest cat in the room. In fact, I suspect he’s the coolest cat in every room.
  • Kanye West sounds a lot like Q-Tip.
  • Jay-Z really did interact with the audience in a genuine manner. He was playing it up to one portion of the audience when he noticed a boy, maybe ten years old. The kid was getting down; Hov motioned toward him and the kid went ape-shit. As Jay-Z walked away, one could see him chuckle a bit to himself. Near the end of the show, a fan up front had an early Jay-Z album, wanting a signature. Both rappers signed and returned the album to the fan. Kind of a cool moment.
  • When Kanye did “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” all I could picture was Zach Galifianakis and Will Oldham.
  • The duo finished with like 3-4 takes on “Niggas in Paris.” Totally made the night worth it.
  • On the way home, despite all the catchy songs I heard, all I could play back in my head was this.
Bonus: a couple of videos my friend Andy found… He was the one who invited me along.

It’s been a fun month of daily posts and even more fun finishing out with this experience. I can’t say that this will continue as it’s gotten difficult as of late publishing so often. Look for the month of lists, though, lots and lots of lists.

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Ten Things I Won’t Do Tonight

Posted in Live by SM on November 29, 2011

I mentioned that I would be attending the Jay-Z/Kanye West concert in KC tonight (Tuesday). I also suggested that I would be writing a lot of lists in December. Well, it’s not quite December, but this seemed like a list that needed to be written.

As a middle-class white father in his mid-thirties, there are certain things I just shouldn’t do at any hip-hop show, namely one as big as the one I’m about to see tonight. So, I put together a list of no-no’s for me to keep in-mind.

10. Don’t dance. – Sure, I was voted the best dancer in my high school senior class, but there’s best dancer in a class of 69 students in a small, rural town in Ohio and there’s best dancer. My moves were good in 1993 because I was the only boy who dared to dance to every song at Homecoming. Besides, I can’t even figure out the Dougie.

9. Don’t not dance. – I will be at a concert and will stick out as it is. Why try not to move to the music? I have enough rhythm to sway back and forth or point at the performers on time. It’s a concert. It’s supposed to be fun. I shouldn’t pretend it’s a funeral.

8. No dropping the N-word. – This is a no-no under any terms or in any context. Luckily, I don’t know the songs well enough to know when to drop an N-bomb anyway. I’ll just avoid the word like I would any day of the week.

7. Don’t buy a t-shirt. – I usually buy t-shirts at shows, but I really don’t need a size XL shirt with Jay-Z and Kanye on it, telling my followers which cities the boys made pit-stops. This sort of t-shirt is designed for teenagers, something from which I am a long way away.

6. Don’t wear the baggy pants and oversized sweatshirt. – Nope, I have to be myself. I have some clothes that are a bit oversized, but I do that for comfort and generally go with clothes that fit these days. I am who I am. There’s no need to pretend that I’m something I’m not. I also haven’t shaved in over two weeks and will continue to wear my dark-rimmed, record store clerk glasses.

5. Try not to live blog and/or Tweet the entire show. – I do this a lot now so that my Twitter followers can experience a band with me. It seems somehow to miss the point to waste this show Tweeting. Also, I don’t really want anyone to know that I have no idea what I’m listening to or watching.

4. Resist the urge to take grainy, retro iPhone pics. – This is my thing mostly because iPhones don’t take good pictures from a distance and/or in the dark. However, I suspect I won’t be close enough to make a Hipstamatic picture worth the effort tonight.

3. Don’t front. – I’ve hinted at this, but I know very little about hip-hop or the two performers I’m about to take in tonight. I won’t try to pretend. I’ll enjoy the moment whatever it may be. There will be no phony attempts to talk authoritatively, hence the Twitter resistance.

2. Don’t sit or stand with arms folded. – Again, this is something I do a lot of at shows. Even with head bobbing, it just won’t work. I will have to dance a little bit to not seem too out of place. Bending knees and bobbing my head is acceptable.

1. Don’t not go. – Of course I had to go. I would never go out of my way to see either artist. So, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Besides, it’s not costing me a dime. The ticket has fallen into my lap. I’d be a moron not to go.

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Top 5 Hip-Hop Sets

Posted in Live, Top 5 by SM on November 28, 2011

I am not really a hip-hop fan, but I have seen several hip-hop acts over the years. Most of those sets happened as part of a festival or multiple-band lineup. So, I can say I’ve seen hip-hop on stage, but I haven’t really attended a concert that featured just hip-hop or rap.

This changes Tuesday night. A ticket became available for the Jay-Z/Kanye West show in Kansas City tomorrow night and I was invited to attend. I will have no idea what’s going on or probably the words to most of the songs, but I suspect it will be a pretty impressive show. It’s a free ticket to see probably the top two MC’s in hip-hop today. There’s no way I’d turn that down. It should be interesting.

All that said, here’s a list of the best hip-hop acts I’ve seen in-person. The details are sketchy as I probably wiped portions of these sets from my memory, but I was there either way. All that and tomorrow night’s show should top any group on this list just by sheer star power alone. My street cred will skyrocket or something.

5. Big Boi (2010, Pitchfork) – Though I was really just waiting for Pavement’s set to start while Big Boi played a solo set at last year’s Pitchfork Fest in Chicago, I did watch and listen. Big Boi mixed a few of his newer solo bits with loads of OutKast tracks scattered throughout the set. So, at least I actually knew most of the songs by virtue of being under 50 and alive.

4. Arrested Development (1993, Lollapalooza) – Arrested Development marked the peek and eventual downfall of the earthy, hippie hip-hop of the early nineties. The genre just couldn’t keep up with gangsta rap. Still, it was quite the stage show with some crazy-ass dancers and actual instruments, something I never thought I’d see at a hip-hop show. I know better than that now, but at the time it was a novelty.

3. De Le Soul (2002, Unlimited Sunshine Tour) – De Le was well past their prime when I caught them sharing the stage with Modest Mouse, Flaming Lips, and Cake, but they were legends – in hip-hop terms. It may even have been a reunion or comeback tour of some kind. What was most striking is the number of white people who knew how to act for a hip-hop group. It had been nine years since my first hip-hop show and white folk had come a long way by 2002. I’m sure it happened before that, but this is the moment I noticed. De La had a lot of energy to start, but sort of fizzled as the set waned.

2. A Tribe Called Quest (1994, Lollapalooza) – This was a couple of years after the Low End Theory, but Tribe was peaking at this point. They were relatively early in the lineup and had to contest with the mid-day heat. So, the crowd was less than enthused. This was also the height of the mid-nineties alterna-rage. Smashing Pumpkins co-headlined with…

1. Beastie Boys (1994, Lollapalooza) – I don’t care what anyone says, the Beastie Boys were originators. They not only bridged the gap between rock and rap, but they connected hip-hop and punk in a way that no one has been able to do since. This was the Ill Communication tour, so they were at the top of their game. Tribe even joined them for a couple of songs.

Bonus: Cypress Hill (1995, Lollapalooza) – Two words: giant bong. That’s all you really need to know.

Thanks

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Live, Records by SM on November 24, 2011

I’m thankful for a lot. However, I won’t go into all that here. This blog is about craft beer and indie rock. So, I won’t go into my thankfulness for my health, family, home, etc. Those all go without saying. No, this post pays homage to the little extras that provide a little spice to life, the things for which I obsess over and blog about incessantly.

10. Improved Missouri Distribution – Since I’ve moved here and eventually became a beer enthusiast, the distribution in this state has increased dramatically. I don’t even think I can name all the breweries we’ve added in that time. Off the top of my head, I can think of Firestone Walker, Lagunitas, Stone, Founders, Ska, Jolly Pumpkin, Stillwater, and a bunch more I probably didn’t realize weren’t already available here. We currently get nearly all the important Michigan and Colorado breweries. Our west coast selections improve monthly. It’s a great time to be a beer geek in Missouri.

9. Two Clubs, Two Cities – It’s tough trying to see bands in a town such as Columbia. We’re not really gib enough for a lot of acts, but we do have options. Two clubs here are just the right size for most indie bands. There’s Mojo’s with it’s barn-like qualities and the Blue Note with its old-school dancehall/porno theater feel. And when bands don’t want to stop here, it’s not a huge deal to drive two hours in either direction to see them in St. Louis or Kansas City. This year alone, among others, I’ve seen Sebadoh (Mojo’s), Yo La Tengo (Blue Note), Beirut (St. Louis), and Wild Flag (Kansas City) in four different places. That’s not bad for an old man.

8. The Ohio Pipeline – Even though Missouri’s distribution is improving, there are still many breweries we do not get. I could do some online trading or simply buy online, but that gets expensive. Luckily, for every brewery we don’t get here, there’s a better than average chance they do get it in Ohio. Between my siblings (one who works at a Whole Foods) and my mom (who drives here once a month to see me her only grandchild), I have a steady flow of out-of-market beers to keep myself satisfied.

7. Insound – I’ve complained before that there’s no decent record store here. Thankfully, Insound is always a click away. At one point, they shipping so many records to me that the UPS lady asked my wife if I was a DJ. Hardly. No, I’m just a man with a problem, an addiction, an addiction to vinyl.

6. Glassware – A beer out of the wrong glass or even out of a bottle is just not the same as one served in the proper glass. Over the years, I have collected several different glasses in which I can enjoy some of the finest beers in the world as well as some tasty homebrew. I have various stemmed glasses for various styles of beer. I have enough conical pint glasses to serve a decent-sized party. There’s even the set of taster glasses for those who just want a small taste of a big beer. Over time and many bottles of beer, I’ve found the tulip to be the best, most versatile glass. The stem gives me something to hold onto if I don’t want to warm my beer. The bowl presents an option to make my beer warmer. The lip allows aromas to flow. Quite simply, it is the perfect beer glass.

5. The Nineties Are Still Alive – In case you haven’t figured it out, I am a child of the nineties and my musical tastes reflect as much. My favorites continue to be nineties mainstays and most of the new music sound so 20 years ago. The two best albums might be by Wild Flag and Stephen Malkmus, ambassadors for the decade. New, younger bands such as Yuck and BOAT have ’90’s written all over them despite their youth. It’s the decade that will never die. Spin and I will make sure of that.

4. My Bottle Opener – For whatever reason, I like to hold onto the bottle caps from the beers I drink. In the past, I’ve turned some into refrigerator magnets, but most just go into a drawer. Still, it’s a luxury to have an opener that opens caps without bending them. My opener does that. It’s fashioned from an old railroad spike. It’s heavy and rustic looking. My bottle opener is a conversation piece before we ever crack open a bottle.

3. 180 Gram Vinyl – I love to listen to vinyl, but I worry that it may warp or that the record won’t stand the test of time. However, with hefty 180 gram vinyl records, I don’t worry about that. One can feel the weight of a 180 gram vinyl record the way one should feel the resulting music from the grooves within. The record is so tactile anyway, it’s nice to feel some heft as you lift a disc to rest on your turntable.

2. Mikkeller, Stillwater, Jolly Pumpkin – I love breweries that push limits and don’t taste like any other brewery. These three do what they do at the highest level and often alone. Mikkeller, Stillwater, and Jolly Pumpkin are the kinds of breweries that keep my attention firmly set on craft beer. They’re always good and even when they’re not, they’re at least interesting.

1. This Blog and Its Readership – Seriously. This blog has really taken off since the Freshly Pressed moment last winter, but the continual participation and contributions from my readership have really moved me to post as often as I can. In fact, I’ve looked forward to finishing a post a day throughout November because I know that you all will respond in kind and often add to the discussion in a way that makes me think and motivates me to write again.

Thank you faithful readers and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Neil Hamburger

Posted in Live by SM on November 9, 2011

I saw Neil Hamburger the other night and hastily wrote it up for the Collective

Do you like comedy? If you do, you probably didn’t attend Friday’s Neil Hamburger gig at Mojo’s. The anti-comic’s anti-comic was there to makes us uncomfortably laugh with Britney Spears jokes, the clearing of his throat, and spilled drinks everywhere.

I don’t know what it is about Hamburger, brilliantly played by Greg Trunkington, but his act is so awful that it’s good. And you’re not laughing at him out of pitty. There’s a retro touch that takes you back to the days when lounge singers would drunkenly give comedy a try and fail miserably. Hamburger is the sad opener for Tony Clifton in his prime. I’m talking about the “real” Tony Clifton, of course.

Have I completely turned you off on Neil Hamburger? That’s not my intention as his schtick is genius. The timing always seems off, but its consistently off on purpose due to whatever is always stuck in his throat and the three drinks he cradles in his arm. A Neil Hamburger performance is unique in every way. It’s so bizarre and awkward, you’re forced to laugh out of a loss of any other reaction.

Hamburger brought his A-game Friday. Jokes were nailed. I rolled on the floor. The openers were forgotten. If you didn’t go, you missed out on a brand of humor you won’t find anywhere else. Or until Neil Hamburger graces our college town with his presence once again.

As hinted before, there were openers. Local Diggy Splash and his troupe put on some skits and a few individual bits. The jokes ranged from terrible to silly to groan-inducing. At times, this group really gets anti-humor in a way that the headliner’s get it, but sometimes silly just won out. Honestly, Diggy ought to change his moniker to something more Biblical and work on his Jesus-holding-a-drink routine, but what do I know? I like anti-humor.

Touring with Hamburger is JP Incorporated. JP sings awful songs about fictional sit-coms and consumer products, playing on the current retromania that’s all over the place. Loud graphics and semi-obscene imagery assist the man in the fake beard as he sings about Jazzbot Xtreme and Crap Factory. It’s an odd but entertaining act for sure. So, a perfect opener for a Neil Hamburger set.

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Top 5 Bands I “Discovered” Opening for Other Bands

Posted in Live, Top 5 by SM on November 7, 2011

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I’ve been to a lot of shows over the last 20 years. Less than some, more than most. I’ve seen pretty much every important artist of my generation (aside from REM and Radiohead for some inexplicable reason). Of course, I’ve also seen a lot of openers. Sometimes I skip the opening act, but sometimes I catch a set better than the headliner’s. There have been other times I went just to see the opener.

So, here’s a list of bands who opened for other bands that I “discovered.” Surely, there were people who had heard of these bands before I, but I found them in a place I wasn’t looking.

5.Dirty Three – The first time I saw Pavement marked the night I discovered Dirty Three. Between rants about struggling to find one’s personal pharmacist in the middle of the night, DT played the most intense guitar rock at a slow, methodical pace. Instead listening to a singer go on and on about his #whitewhines, the most sorrowful violin imaginable gave us the soundtrack to the Three’s tales of woe.

4. 764-HERO, The Shins – I discovered these two bands at completely different points in Modest Mouse’s history. 764-HERO opened for MM in the fall of 1996 in a tiny Columbus, OH club called Bernie’s, a bagel/beer joint in a High Street basement. I saw the Shins on MM’s first tour on a major label’s dime. It would be a full year before their record would be released and several years before Natalie Portman changed Zach Braff’s fictional life.

3. Iron & Wine – Like the two above, I saw Iron & Wine open for an Isaac Brock-fronted band. This time, it was Ugly Casanova. We had been anticipating UC’s set that we hardly noticed the bearded man whispering on-stage.

2. Superchunk – This one makes me a little embarrassed to admit. For various reasons, I was slow to picking up on Superchunk. They opened for Guided By Voices, a band I was quick to accept. For that night, Superchunk was the superior band.

1. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – I was late to jump on the JSBX bandwagon but at least it was during their Orange tour. The band opened for the Breeders and all I could remember was a man screaming “Blues Explosion” as he made love to a theromone.

Sebadoh

Posted in Live by SM on November 2, 2011

This is the all-too-brief post I did on Sebadoh this past weekend. It originally aired here. Honestly, there wasn’t much to say. They didn’t do anything new and the old was sort of nonchalant…as you’ll likely gather from my review. After the review, I have some related to Tweets to share.

Sebadoh: Just as I remembered them.

Sebadoh played Mojo’s as part of the endless stream of nineties indie rock reunions that have popped up over the past 7-8 years. I feel like I’m back in college as all the heroes of my youth come circling back onto the circuit. Of course, the real reunion took place a few years back and now the band is just supporting reissues of Bakesale and Harmacy, two albums that were originally released in Sebadoh’s prime. The material still holds up and represents some of their best.

The set was littered with songs from both records, resembling a set list they could have easily written 15 years ago. And with that familiarity comes a bit of nonchalance. Some may perceive it as sloppy or unprepared. I preferred to see it as something familiar, comfortable. As the band whipped through songs they had played hundreds if not thousands of times, the crowd remained glued and engaged even as the band played late into the night, shutting Mojo’s down.

If you’re not familiar, Sebadoh was created as an outlet for frontman Lou Barlow from his other band, Dinosaur Jr. DJ’s output was dominated by J Mascis whose master guitar work intimidated a young Barlow into submission until he was finally booted from the band. Sebadoh continued, releasing cassette tapes and touring New England. Eventually, the band, along with current member Jason Lowenstein, earned gigs opening for the likes of Firehose who toured through Columbia many years ago. This led to Sebadoh signing with seminal label Sub Pop. From there, Sebadoh did the indie, lo-fi thing for which the nineties scene was known. Now, they’re in their reunion/re-issue phase, much like contemporaries Pavement, Guided By Voices, etc.

The show Saturday may have been a casualty of Halloween celebrations all over town, but that was fine. The familiarity of the band and their material was never meant for everyone. I’m sure the band would like to see it differently, but that’s how it is. The intimate nature of the vibe as well as the laid-back demeanor of the band played out the way one would expect. The show wasn’t earth-shattering by any stretch, but it filled the evening as some of us got to spend some valuable time with an old friend. Don’t be strangers, Sebadoh.

Said Tweets are below. There are a few missing, but you get the picture:

There was more, but it all became worth it when this finally came through my Twitter feed:

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Eleanor Friedberger at the Luminary

Posted in Life, Live, Travelog by SM on November 1, 2011

Those pants.

I won’t attempt to write a review of this show. Too much weird and surreal happened. So, I’ll attempt to just tell you how it all went down Friday night in St. Louis.

My friend Andrew has a college buddy who’s playing bass for Eleanor Friedberger and so he was on the guest list with a +1 (me). The venue was The Luminary, a convent-turned-art space. The basement is a large, open room with a stage that was both wide and shallow in front of a projection screen. To better illustrate the stage’s layout, the drum kit couldn’t sit behind the rest of the band. Rather, it had to be moved to the side.

As Andrew and I waited to meet up with his friend, Matt, we enjoyed a beer. Said beer was a Zwickel from Urban Chestnut, a newer brewery in St. Louis. I have to say that it was a nice beer. I’m not much of a lager drinker, but this beer is smooth, just sweet enough, and features a decent hoppy bitterness I wasn’t expecting. It was nice to have a good beer in a convent-turned-art space, totally unexpected.

Matt introduced us to the rest of the touring band, including Eleanor. No rock star pretensions or snobbery here. Eleanor was a lot of fun to chat with. She and Andrew had several mutual friends and hit it off right away. The entire band was like that, just really friendly and easy-going.

After I let Eleanor try my beer to see if she wanted one of her own, I promptly texted my sister who proceeded to freak out via MMS. She’s a big Fiery Furnaces/Eleanor Friedberg fan and was properly jealous. In fact, I purchased her record based on my sister’s recommendation. My only task as assigned by my little sister was to tell Eleanor that my sister loved her.

In case you weren’t aware, Friday night also happened to be when the seventh game of the World Series was to be played. If you were unaware of this, you also probably didn’t know that St. Louis was hosting said game versus the Texas Rangers. Being the baseball town that St. Louis is, even a joint like the Luminary was showing the game. As you’ll notice below, the game provided some avant-garde, performance art backdrop to the bands playing. We were in no danger of missing game seven despite our indie rock leanings.

Via @EleanorOnly

As a decent local alt.country act played (Pretty Little Empire), Matt asked us if we wanted to hang out in the green room which was actually green. The best part of the room was the high-quality selection of LP’s to keep us busy. Andrew and Matt caught up, I sat and figured this was my chance to relay my sister’s message to Eleanor. She seemed flattered and even offered to add my sister to the guest list for her next show in Ohio. (I watched her enter the name into her phone. So, I assumed she was serious.)

I saw the opportunity to tell Eleanor how much I really like her new record…

[It’s really an oversight on my part that I have yet to write about this record. I purchased Last Summer weeks after its release. So, I didn’t feel the need or opportunity to write-up a proper review. It will surely make my year-end list. I figured I’d say what I was going to say about it at that point. It’s a really great record. Some might even say that it’s more accessible than her Fiery Furnaces material. Either way, this is a fantastic collection of rock songs. The production reminds me a ton of the Destroyer record, but it’s far more tolerable than Dan Bejar’s eighties-inspired Kaputt. Highlights include “My Mistakes”, “Heaven”, and “I Won’t Fall Apart on You Tonight.” You can get an idea an idea by watching the video for “My Mistakes” here.]

That’s when my filter quit working.

Here’s a tip for any of you if you ever get to meet an artist whom you respect and really enjoy their work: Don’t tell them about why it’s so hard to like their music.

After telling Eleanor how much I liked her new record, I proceeded to tell her that it was more accessible than a lot of the Fiery Furnaces stuff. I expanded this thought by telling her how there’s some stuff FF recorded that I can’t stand, but I loved other material. The part about how much I loved some of the music was lost as everyone in the green room gave me a hard time over this social faux pas. I quickly tried to back out by explaining that I played Last Summer for my wife who promptly told me to shut it off. This didn’t help.

For whatever good karma I earned sharing my beer, relaying my sister’s admiration, and complementing Last Summer, it was all lost as I inadvertently insulted the artist I was excited to see perform that night. Ugh.

That was the moment when a kid working for the venue informed the band that it was time for them to set up. Andrew and I had to leave before I could explain my way out of the mess I had just made. At that moment, I hoped my sister’s invite to attend the show in Cleveland was still on. Either way, I had to pull my foot from my mouth so that we could return to the basement for the show.

A decent crowd showed despite the fact that the World Series game was going on at the same time. If I remember correctly, the Cards were up 6-2 at this point and were looking good going into the final few innings. Regardless, we would watch the end as Eleanor and her band mates played.

Like I said, I’m not writing a review, but this is basically what happened for the next hour or so…

The band opened with “My Mistakes” which is incredibly danceable and catchy. A new song was introduced and the night was off without a hitch. Backing Eleanor was a professionally smooth trio on bass, drums, and guitar. Matt played bass next to a drummer in hoody and jacket. I have never seen a drummer stay relatively perspiration-free while wearing so many layers, plus a full head of hair and beard. Still, he could hit some skins. That solid rhythm section was fronted by Eleanor and this kid from Tennessee (whose name I’ve forgotten) on guitars. This “kid” (he’s 21), told me later that he’s normally a drummer, but I would swear that guitar is his first instrument. He played effortlessly, even some of the more difficult parts appeared easy in his capable hands.

Eleanor was in synch with her band, holding the crowd’s attention with every word. She has a presence on stage for sure, something that would have been hard to imagine after hanging out with her prior to the performance, finding her relatively unassuming. Because I’m a lazy blogger, I’d compare her look and presence like that of Patti Smith, but it was even more like a Stephen Malkmus, sans the bratty attitude. She was easily the coolest person in the room. Even her attire suggested she was better than the rest of us despite her approachable demeanor. (I think Andrew said something like “Those pants!”)

Throughout, Eleanor and the band had fun and it encouraged those in the audience to do the same. They checked in on the band between songs. Sometimes they became transfixed with the commercials. At one point, Eleanor decided to sing to the screen only to find an American Idol commercial was playing. She nearly lost it mid-song.

Adding to the fun was the fact that 3-4 new songs were thrown in and none disappointed. If anything, these new songs added to what is potentially great oeuvre. Of course, the songs from Last Summer translated well live. A live show featuring newer material can make or break an album’s staying power for me. Friday night’s show assured me that Last Summer is good art and even better pop. Of course, good songwriting, charisma, and solid musicianship has that effect.

The set progressed as did the baseball game in the background. Eleanor announced the last song during the ninth inning. It was a perfectly timed selection “I Won’t Fall Apart on You Tonight.” Watch…

Yep. That’s how it went down. The band did come back to play [enter song here that escapes my memory] in a rather Ramones-like way – you know, punk rock oldies. The song finished what was a pretty fantastic night of music and baseball.

We said our goodbyes to the band. I sheepishly went over to the merch table to say goodbye to Eleanor. She assured me that my sister would be on the list in Cleveland, demonstrating that she wasn’t sore about my unintentional insults. It was cool for her to offer in the first place, but even cooler to ignore my rudeness and assure me that my sister was still on the list. Nice girl, that Eleanor Friedberger.

Top 5 for October 10, 2011 in pictures

Posted in Beer, Life, Live, Top 5 by SM on October 10, 2011

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Like 15 years ago, my then-girlfriend and I traded some CD’s for new music at Used Kids in Columbus, OH. One of the records I traded for was a vinyl copy of Orange. We broke up later that year. She took my record. Late last week, a reprinted replacement finally arrived. I think I may have to write more about this.

2.

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My second (successful) go at Simcoe-dependency, a single-hopped IPA, is now bottled and should be ready for consumption in ten days. This beer is pretty dry in order to showcase the cattiness of the Simcoe. It also weighs in at 7.1% ABV, higher than anticipated.

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New Albanian Brewing Company is one brewery I have yet to try, but they make the most bad-ass brewing t-shirt ever! I wore it for a Sunday collaborative brew session. Several folks all added ingredients to one beer, an imperial brown something or other. I contributed molasses and brown sugar just to be redundant.

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I went to one of those fancy prohibition-style drink places with my wife before a show. Their beer list was lame, so I ordered a gingery Tiki drink. This took me back to a place I used to frequent in college and drink Miserable Bastards until I was the miserable bastard. This story relates to item #1.

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This is a shitty image of Beirut last night in St. Louis. They were good and all the band nerds in the audience gizzed themselves over the sousaphone solos.

Posted with my iPhone. RIP Steve Jobs.

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Wild Flag at Record Bar

Posted in Live by SM on October 7, 2011

I tend to repeat myself, sometimes within the same blog post.

I tend to repeat myself, sometimes within the same blog post. And as you all well know, I’ve been waving the Wild Flag…er…flag the entire month of September. Their album is easily one of my top-3 of the year and I’ve been looking forward to Wednesday night’s show for weeks. In fact, I think this might make at least one Wild Flag mention for three of this week’s four posts. I am fully on that bandwagon and won’t be getting off any time soon.

So, Wednesday’s show was sort of a big deal for me. I was driving two hours to see a forgettable opener, 40-45 minutes of pure glory, and two more hours to drive home and hope I don’t fall asleep at the wheel. I arrived early and waited patiently outside. Carrie Wade joined me, ready to take some photos. I promptly purchased a Ranger and a t-shirt printed by Janet Weiss (in her kitchen, I presume). And I waited.

Yellow Fever was the forgettable opener. The Austin duo featured drum, a box full of pre-recorded keyboards, a little guitar, and some jazzy/retro singing. Carrie described the frontwoman as “Kate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan” and I can’t say that I disagreed. They might have been good, but I didn’t give them a chance as I was here to see Wild Flag. It’s not Yellow Fever’s fault they had to open for Wild Flag, but that still didn’t mean I had to like them.

Throughout this waiting time, I had flashbacks of the few times I saw Sleater-Kinney as Carrie Brownstein and Weiss hung out at the merch booth. I’ve purchased a Quasi t-shirt from Weiss once. Sleater-Kinney always used to hang out at and around the merch table, at least in my experience. Wednesday was no different as fan-boys (or men my age) gathered around and chatted up the former S-K members. The atmosphere was gaining energy as Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole joined their band mates, ready to go on.

And this is what I was waiting for. I guess.

First, let me tell you that this band is loaded with talent and a big sound that’s unmatched. They indeed translate live the way their debut album would suggest. Plus, you have some pretty great musicians from some pretty great bands. Few bands have one strong personality out front. With Timony and Brownstein, Wild Flag has two, at least. Plus, Weiss on the skins and Cole covering the low end with her organ, the band is well-rounded, solid throughout.

So, with all of that, the show was good and worth the four-hour round trip. The songs are great. There was a good energy and they picked fun covers (Patti Smith, Tom Petty).

That said, it is easy to see that this is still a group that is young in band terms. They were off throughout the night, missing marks and notes. Often, Timony and Brownstein could be seen laughing it off. And to their credit, they were always able to pick up the slack. These are veteran rockers who have played in some volatile spots.

However, what seemed to be nagging the band all night was a case of road-weariness. I sort of wonder if Brownstein’s busy schedule doing everything but playing in a band the last few years is taking its toll during this long tour. Of course, the entire band seemed tired and a bit sloppy throughout.

Still, Wild Flag left everything on the stage. Despite their fatigue and relative newness, they played valiantly, usually overcoming these obstacles through shear will and effort. It was a gutsy show even if it was a bit imperfect.

I hope Wild Flag gets some rest when this tour is over. They certainly deserve it. I know they earned their money Wednesday and could use a day or two off. Hopefully, some R&R will find them ready to record again as well as return to Missouri.

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