Beer and Pavement

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.

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Bright Eyes, Conduits

Posted in Live by SM on August 8, 2011

Bright Eyes last go around is happening right now. Conor Oberst’s primary project is set to retire at the conclusion of this tour. His last two efforts under the Bright Eyes moniker have been less than stellar, particularly considering his much fresher work with the Mystic Valley Band and the Monsters of Folk.

I’ve been attending Bright Eyes shows for quite a while. One thing I can always look forward to is a quality opener, usually from Omaha. Saturday night was no different as Conduits opened with an impressive set.

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Conduits sound like the National, fronted by Hope Sandoval channeling Patsy Cline. Drones from keyboards and Hammond organs provide balance with vocalist Jenna Morrison as the rest of the band lightly fiddled and strummed the in-between. The last two songs of the set really proved Conduits’ sonic value and convinced me to buy some music. I look forward to hearing more from Conduits soon.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve seen Bright Eyes several times and figured this would be a nice farewell. I treat anything Oberst does as a guilty pleasure. I mean, he seems to mostly appeal to 14-year-old girls. Then, I listen to his songwriting and dissect the instrumentation of his compositions and recognize his talent as well-beyond the Bieber set. You don’t have to love Conor Oberst, but you can’t deny the man’s musical ability.

The set didn’t feel like a farewell. Oberst mainly packed the list with songs from the last seven years and not the last 12 or 15. For me, farewells and reunions feature gems from an entire catalog, not just the most recent material. The songs were well-chosen and sequenced. I even vowed to give this year’s The People’s Key another listen as a few of the tracks translated well live. Still, a last go as Bright Eyes suggested that we’d hear  “The City Has Sex”, “Neely O’Hara”, or “The Calendar Hung Itself…”, but none of those were heard Saturday night (assuming they didn’t play another song during the encore – I left three songs in when it was clear I’d hear nothing old).

The other way in which this did not feel like a Bright Eyes farewell was Oberst’s demeanor. Sure, he’s a passionate and captivating performer, but something felt…well…let me explain.

Conor Oberst owned the stage Saturday. However, he used to own it through a sense of urgency, drunken youthful exuberance, and the music seeping from every pore of his body. Now, his music, his persona are out there. He’s no longer selling us his soul. Now, he’s selling entertainment and possibly a few records along the way. His antics on stage were the typical – dramatic hand gestures, shaking his luscious locks, spitting, making political gestures, and pulling an onstage stunt (burning a religious leaflet and calling it his “review”), but  one got the sense he had done this before. It almost felt as if he had written on the setlist “complain about how the war has been going on for like eight years or something.” He’s been doing this for a while. This is what Bright Eyes does.

Now, I’m not saying it all was contrived. Someone more cynical would take it that way. I’m just saying Oberst’s actions on stage felt less spontaneous than they did so many years ago. That’s okay. That’s what happens to rock stars, even the indie kind. This might be why he’s dropping Bright Eyes after this tour.

I remember hearing of this brash young man, opening for Stephen Malkmus by playing “Summer Babe” on accordion and leaping off the bass drum at the Hard Rock Cafe in New Orleans. Or what about the time I saw him play the first three songs with a George W Bush mask on, even refusing to take it off when he took swigs from a bottle of red wine? There are stories about his first time in Columbia, sneaking off to get wine before a KCOU gig despite being underage. Another story has Oberst playing kickball (or whiffle ball) with some locals and members of The Faint. I remember seeing him continue to play for fans in the alley behind a venue who had cut the power in order to stay compliant with an arbitrary curfew.

The man has a history for doing the dramatic and unexpected. That’s why it was somewhat disappointing to see Bright Eyes the stage show. The musicians were uber-professional. Oberst played it up to the crowd, even reaching to shake hands or recite his lyrics as if rapping with Jay-Z. Bright Eyes is no longer bedroom tapes brought live by a skinny kid drunk on red wine. Of course, it hasn’t been that way for a while.

Still, that’s not Conor Oberst’s fault. He’s still really talented. His voice and musicianship have improved over the years as has his stage presence – it’s just more conscious now. I can’t say that it was a bad show. It wasn’t life-altering, but it was good. Bright Eyes put on a great set, worthy of the Blue Note’s 31st birthday celebration for sure.

I could go on and on about what it means that Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes have grown up and what that means to me. It still doesn’t change that a lot of people had a great time seeing Bright Eyes. I too enjoyed what I saw. It was sad to think that I won’t see the same Bright Eyes I used to see. It’s disappointing that his records don’t have the same effect Fevers and Mirrors had on me the first time I heard it. But that isn’t Conor Oberst’s fault and it shouldn’t take away anything from Saturday’s show. Those are my hangups. Like Oberst closing the book on Bright Eyes, I should close the book on this pseudo-rant and be glad I saw them one more time.

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Band of Horses

Posted in Live by SM on July 15, 2010

The last time I saw Band of Horses, this happened. Had that happened again last night, I would have wondered if there was witchcraft involved1. It didn’t happen and I saw BoH at The Blue Note here in lovely Columbia, Missouri.

I’ll make this quick as I still have laundry and packing to do before I leave for Chicago tomorrow. Besides, this was more of a warm-up for the weekend anyway.

I met friends at a favorite watering hole called Sycamore2. Avery’s Salvation, a Belgian-style strong golden ale was tapped this week. It was not as impressive as it should have been. The beer was too sweet and sort of smelled like a Belgian, but not really. Avery is a great brewery, but this beer left a lot to be desired.

We hit the Blue Note after our beers for the sold-out show. Had I not already known it was sold-out, I would have figured things out quickly as there was no room to move at all. It also didn’t help that it was a sausage fest of the grandest proportions3. What I mean is that we found ourselves in the middle of a frat party with a bunch of sweaty, beefy dudes all around. Never have I wished there were more hipsters at a show than I did last night4. Apparently, this is where Band of Horses has landed: Mainstreamville (AKA Broville).

BoH, meanwhile, played a really solid set. I can’t complain too much about the band’s effort. They were pretty tight and Ben Bridwell’s voice was spot-on. I do think the setlist was a bit front-heavy. BoH blew their wad when they played “Funeral” and “Great Salt Lake” in the first nine songs, but the set did include a decent Gram Parson’s cover (“A Song for You”). The set list is here.

Unfortunately, the sound was low enough that we couldn’t always hear them over the bros “singing” along and pumping their fists5.

I decided to counter the bro action with some obnoxiousness of my own. I proceeded to scream for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Effigy” since BoH played it the last time I saw them. At first, there were lots of laughs when we’d yell “Effigy” or “play some Creedence” or “play that ‘Effigy’ song by CCR only more like Uncle Tupelo played it on 1994’s No Alternative compilation”. Eventually, our shtick grew old. People yelled for us to shut up. I never gave up, though, until they played the last song of the night.

Like I said, it was a warm-up for the weekend6. I’ll try to keep you all posted via the iPhone while I’m at Pitchfork. Expect a full rundown of the weekend some time next week7.

Notes:
1I don’t think it’s ever snowed in Missouri in July, but I could be wrong. Is this really worth a footnote?
2It’s not really a watering hole. Sycamore is an actual restaurant with pretty great food. Their beer selection just also happens to be top-notch.
3I do not mean to say that the men at the show were all well-endowed. There was no way of knowing this without getting my ass kicked. I am also not say that this was a night of large German and/or Polish sausages. Had it been, I might have been a little more excited. For the sausage, not the well-endowed men. Not that there’s anything wrong with well-endowed men or liking them. It’s just not for me.
4Hipsters not only make an audience infinitely more interesting to watch, they also tend to take up less space than frat bros.
5Yes, fist-pumping has a sound. When they do it with enough umph, any bro’s fist-pumping can be deafening. Just ask the bros on Jersey Shore.
6Pray that lightning doesn’t interrupt Pavement on Sunday.
7I’m thinking Wednesday-ish I might start running through the weekend. We’ll see.

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Girls

Posted in Live by SM on February 10, 2010

February 8, 2010 – Girls at The Blue Note, Columbia, MO

Rock shows. I used to see a lot of rock shows back in the day. I don’t see nearly as many these days. I certainly don’t see all the ones I should, but sometimes…sometimes I make my way out of the house for a rock show or two.

I used to also go to those shows to chase girls or possibly impress them1. Once, a girl (actually, very much a woman) licked my ear clean. (Well, a dude nearly did the same at another show2.) It was all girls, beer, and rock ‘n roll back in those days.

All three of those things have completely different meanings to me now. My partner is not a girl; she’s a woman, a womyn even. The only girl in my life is only 17 months old. The beer is certainly different these days as I have traded in swill for bourbon barrel-aged, dry-hopped, Brettanomyces, etc. as my bread-in-a-bottle. Some of that has to do with an increase in income, but it mostly has to do with the development of a finer palate.

The rock ‘n roll is the one thing that hasn’t changed. I still long for new records and to see a rock show that excites me. That may explain why I hit the Blue Note3 early for this one.

Upon entering, I could tell by the empty lobby that I had made a classic, newbie mistake of going to a show too early. The openers wouldn’t go on for 45 minutes. Since I am not too young and naive to make this mistake, the only reason for my unnecessary punctuality had to be my ever-advancing age4.

At one point, I was accosted by hipsters who somehow thought I was younger than I am. They wanted to talk about bands I had no time to hear. These hipsters couldn’t understand things like being a parent, an inability to stay out after 1 am, being married to a woman who didn’t like rock shows, Girls were a rock band, and Pavement5. So, I quickly slithered away, hoping that I didn’t have to explain myself to another dude in a scarf and 12 years my junior.

Bands started playing. Memphis’ Magic Kids opened. Throughout the set, I wondered why there were so many retro 50’s/60’s acts these days. Sure, they were peppy, even poppy, but it sort of turned old and a little played rather quickly. It was like I had heard this before…I know. My parents used to program the family car/van radio to all the oldies stations in Columbus and Dayton. I know every oldies song ever. That’s what these Magic Kids sounded like except without the legendary hit-makers in their midst. At least they were happy, very happy.

The originally scheduled openers Smith Western showed up way past their curfews6 to play your favorite teen grunge band hits. They were actually a breath of fresh air as they borrowed more from 20 years ago than 50. The venue swallowed them a bit, but I have to tip my hat to any band who shows up late after many hours on the road and plays without an ounce of fatigue. This band has promise.

At some point during SW’s set, I finally found a table of friends and acquaintances to keep me company and not make me feel so old7.

Girls came on and ripped through their set rather effortlessly. They played fresh and poppy at the start. The middle had the expected lull, but they finished strong. I was most appreciative of the two-song encore. It was way past my bedtime at this point.

Girls were good but not unexpected. Although it was a rock show I sought and received, it also contained the prerequisite forgettable openers, too green to be memorable. Those things were the same.

Maybe one of these days some band will help me remember what was like to be excited at a rock show again. That would be new and the same, but it would be welcome either way.

1It was mostly to see the rock show and ogle at young girls who were way out of my league. Ah, youth.
2OK, so the lick from the woman was unwanted. She asked for my last cigarette, which I produced as I had another pack in the car. She was a middle-aged groupie/photographer at a Guided By Voices show in Dayton, OH. The dude who licked my face was Eric Davidson of New Bomb Turks who were opening for…yes, you guessed it…Guided By Voices. However, this time it was the year prior at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus where Dime-Bag Darrell was shot.
3The Blue Note is the big rock show venue here in Columbia, MO, my current home.
4Which continues to advance in years come Thursday.
5A 23-year-old guy thought that Pavement was a super group of some sort. Well, if mean that they were super awesome and could conjure Satan in a young virgin’s womb by simply playing a single note, he would have been wrong. They aren’t a super group by any definition. They’re my favorite band and you may have heard something about a reunion tour this summer.
6Rumor had it they were all seven and that they had to wait for their mom to get back from the grocery to take them to the gig.
7They were all people who work with my wife and a spouse. They all get out more than I, so I’m not sure who made whom feel young.

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