Monthly Archives: February 2015

Blur Is Back With “Go Out”

It’s been over 10 since the last blur album. Think about that for a moment. Ten years is a long time. I never thought the band would return from the land of dead bands–but they have. Apparently Blur recorded a whole album in Hong Kong of all places, out of sheer boredom! Titled THE MAGIC WHIP, this miraculous album comes out at the end of April. The first single, “Go Out” has been released…and it’s pretty damn good!

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“Go Out” is a fairly typical brit-pop rocker with laid on a bed of weird, distorted guitar noise. The band has also released a strange, asian cooking show-themed music video for the song. Weird? You bet. Quintessentially Blur? Of course. Check it out, and try to remember, it’s not 1995.

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I Made Jack White’s Guacamole Because…Rock ‘n Roll!!!

When I first heard “Fell In Love With A Girl” way back in 2002, I had no idea that people would still be talking about Jack White in 2015. I liked the song well enough, but I wrongly predicted that White’s career (and impact on the music industry) would be as lengthy as The White Stripes breakthrough hit. I was thoroughly puzzled by White initially. I remember seeing White creepily perform “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” on Saturday Night Live and writing The White Stripes off completely. Look, we at Defending Axl Rose can’t all be right 100% of the time. Sometimes things slip by me. And don’t forget, when The White Stripes came on the scene there was a lot of strange rumors about Meg being Jack’s wife-sister…so you can’t blame me for dismissing them.

I quickly corrected my view of The White Stripes when the band released ELEPHANT in 2003. When  Mojo magazine declared it the band’s “British” album, I quickly went out and bought it on CD and red-and-white colored vinyl. That’s right, I dropped $45 on the album before I’d even heard “Seven Nation Army.” ELEPHANT was rousing, epic rock album that blew me away and immediately made me a fan and follower of White. I still think he’s weird (sometimes a little too much for his own good), but he’s the closest thing my generation has to a true rock god.

Oh my God, do a Google image search for "Jack White Guac."

Oh my God, stop reading and go do a Google image search for “Jack White Guac.” Seriously.

I’m still heartbroken that The White Stripes are no more, if you want to know the truth. I like The Raconteurs and love The Dead Weather, but I miss those glory days of red-and-white albums. White’s solo records haven’t really done much for me, but to tell the truth I’ve never really given them much of listen. White has given me so much over the years, I really owe it to him to sit down someday and study both BLUNDERBUSS and LAZARETTO in depth before writing them completely off.

Anyway, like the rest of you, I have been breathlessly following Guacamole-Gate, the dip-themed scandal that has embroiled Jack White these past few weeks. For those of you living under a rock, here are the basics: Jack White played a concert at the University of Oklahoma earlier this month. The school’s newspaper used the Freedom of Information Act to acquire the contracts involved with the concert. These documents were published in the school paper and revealed the amount of money the school paid to have White perform, as well as White’s tour rider. While I was a bit surprised it only cost the school $80,000 to have Jack White perform, the press (small and large) have jumped on the tour rider which included a recipe for Jack’s guacamole.

Ah, tour riders. Do these things ever not make an artist look crazier than a bag of cats? The purpose of tour riders is to ensure that bands and their staff are comfortable while setting up and waiting to perform  a gig. Let’s face it: being a traveling musician is not fun and glamorous. Can you imagine sharing one bathroom with everyone in Metallica? Or splitting a meal with Wolfgang Van Halen*?  Then there’s the small army needed to setup and tear down even the most modest of stages. Tour riders ensure that these hardworking folks get all the brown M&M’s they so desperately need.

Speaking of brown M&M’s, the most famous rider in all of rock history is the Van Halen rider that specified that the band have a large dish of only the brown colored candies. This demand made the band  poster children for rock excess, but over the years Eddie Van Halen has claimed that his odd request was made out of safety! According to Eddie, the band used this request to judge how compliant venues were with all of their requests. If the brown M&M’s weren’t done right, the band reasoned, then maybe the super dangerous lighting rigs weren’t done correctly either. I hate to side with Eddie (because agreeing with him stokes his ego) but the dude has a point.

Jack White’s rider requested that the venue make a bowl of homemade guacamole and included details instructions on how to make it. These instructions are Van Halen-specific, going so far as to tell venues what sort of knife to use on the avocados (a butter knife, presumably to avoid smooshing the soft fruit). The recipe even includes instructs venues to use the avocado pits and lime juice to prevent the guacamole from browning.

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“Subject to budget and advance” naturally…

When the rider hit the interWebz, the music world was shaken to the core. So much ink was spilled over this non-story that earlier this week, Jack White issued a long, semi-rambling statement about this rider. Essentially, he was sick of being asked about the whole affair and chastised the student reports for making something out of nothing. White’s management group issued a statement saying that White and their other artists would be boycotting the University of Oklahoma because of this incident. Of course, White had nothing to do with that particular decision. He even went so far as to say that he’d forgiven the student reporters and holds no ill will towards Oklahoma.

For such a strange guy, White’s response to the so-called scandal was surprisingly down-to-earth. The only disappointing part of White’s statement, in my opinion, was the revelation that the guacamole recipe wasn’t actually Jack’s:

“Anything on the rider is for the band and the crew. This “guacamole recipe” is my hilarious tour managers inside joke with the local promoters, it’s his recipe, not mine. It’s just something to break up the boredom, seeing who can make it best. Though I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had it. I can’t even make kool aid let alone cook any real food enough to have a “recipe.” sorry, I don’t have that talent.”

Great. So first The White Stripes break up forever, and then I find out Jack White can’t even make the most basic of party dips. What’s next, Bono will never be able to play guitar again? I know I’ll never be a musical genius like Jack White, but if I realized that if I could make this guacamole then there would be one area where I’d have him beat! Thus, I decided to use the recipe to make his manager’s dip. I went to the store and acquired the ingredients necessary for this magical rock ‘n roll creation. Then I rolled up my sleeves, put on some White Stripes, and got to work.

When you follow the recipe, this what you end up with:

So how was it? Well, if you follow the directions to the letter, you end up with something less like a dip and more like avocado salad.

Sorry, Jack. That isn't how I like my guacamole.

Sorry, Jack. That isn’t how I like my guacamole.

I’ll be honest, I fully intended on following the recipe to the letter, but I couldn’t abide such hippy-dippy gauc. Also, I’m really lazy. It was so much easier to just shove everything into my food processor.So that’s what I did. The results, while not 100% Jack White approved, was still pretty stellar.

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The serrano peppers added just the right amount of heat. I love spicy foods and this dip didn’t let me down. I would like to add that if you plan on making this dip, be sure to have a hungry crew of guitar techs coming over–the recipe yielded a ton of guacamole.

Delicious!

Delicious!

 

*I bet you thought I’d gotten over making fun of Wolfgang. You thought wrong.

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Southern Complexities: Lynyrd Skynyrd & Guns

There’s no denying that Americans love guns.  The American identity if one of rugged independence, rather than have other people solve our problems we’ve always wanted to solve them for ourselves.  Guns let us do that.  The American West was tamed with men and guns.  Living on the frontier provided many Americans their only opportunity to own land, which has always been another important component of the national identity. The problem of the frontier life is that it’s remote and generally lawless, thus the necessity for a gun.  Having a gun was a matter of life and death: guns are powerful tools. With a gun a man could feed his family, protect his livestock, and fight off the most dangerous thing on the frontier—other people.

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Rural America still possesses many of the same qualities that made the frontier so dangerous, which is why the gun culture is strongest there.  That said, at this point, the national identity of the rugged, independent cowboy is so ingrained in our culture we don’t even think about it. It’s for this reason that people living in cities still worship at the altar of the might gun. All of this would be mildly fascinating if the tool in question were a hammer or a screwdriver…but a gun is a tool designed to kill, so the prevalence of gun culture is a bit more important.

And while I certainly wouldn’t call Jacksonville a rural community, Lynyrd Skynyrd did originate in the South where the gun culture is strongest.  Not surprisingly, the band has a complicated relationship with guns. The band’s 1975 album NUTHIN’ FANCY opens with the track “Saturday Night Special.” The song’s title refers to cheap, easily accessible handguns that are typically of a low caliber and even lower quality.  The song features three verses, each highlighting the mayhem created by a gun: a thief breaking into a house and shooting an occupant dead, a man who shoots his friend after drunkenly accusing his friend of cheating at poker, and finally the possibility of shooting oneself when drunk on whiskey. The song’s chorus features the lines: “Mr. Saturday night special/got a barrel that’s blue and cold/Ain’t no good for nothin’/but put a man six feet in a hole.”  The song’s final verse suggests that for everyone’s protection we take all these guns and toss them into the ocean.

The sentiment behind “Saturday Night Special” is strong and it’s surprising that this track would not only be the leadoff song on NUTHIN’ FANCY, but this song was a modest hit for Lynyrd Skynyrd.  The band had to know that their fan base held a strong contingent of gun-owners. Unlike the twisty meaning of “Sweet Home Alabama,” there is no mistaking the motivation behind Van Zant’s lyrics in  “Saturday Night Special.”  But as plainly didactic as “Saturday Night Special” is, things are never cut and dry with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The very next track on NUTHIN’ FANCY, “Cheatin’ Woman,” is about killing an unfaithful lover with…a handgun. Murdering a lover is a common motif in blues music, and for a band as deeply entrenched in the blues as Lynyrd Skynyrd to write a song using this motif isn’t particularly surprising. I do find the choice of track order interesting, did Lynyrd Skynyrd intentionally sequence “Cheatin’ Woman” and “Saturday Night Special” back-to-back in order to make a larger statement? While on the surface it may seem surprising that the band would follow such a progressive-minded song like “Saturday Night Special” with a song like “Cheatin’ Woman,” this duality is found throughout the band’s catalogue.

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The simplest explanation for much of this duality in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music is that the songs are not necessarily always autobiographical.  Ronnie Van Zant never shot and killed a woman, and just because he wrote a song about doing so doesn’t necessarily mean that he was giving murder an endorsement.  The same could be said for Van Zant’s position on gun control in “Saturday Night Special.”  Perhaps that song was written from the perspective of a wormy city dweller? I highly doubt that, however, because “Saturday Night Special” is so impassioned and so against what band like Lynyrd Skynyrd would be expected to write about.

Another reading of “Saturday Night Special” might be that the band is railing not against guns per say, but the rather the dangers of impulsivity. The song’s name is derived from a cheap, easy to acquire firearm.  The tragic deaths littered through the song are the result of rash, spur of the moment decisions: a thief stumbles upon a man inside the home he’s robbing and a drunk man gets in a heated exchange with his friend over a game of cards.  There are a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd songs about slowing down and practicing various forms of moderation.  The issue of impulsivity in regards to violence first raised its head on the band’s debut album 1973’s (PRONOUNCED LEH-NERD SKIN-NERD) in the song “Gimme Three Steps.”  While not a hit when first released, “Gimme Three Steps” has become a staple on classic rock radio.  In “Gimme Three Steps” we again see someone rashly brandish a firearm.  The song’s narrator is at a bar, talking to a woman, when a man storms in with a gun and threatens him.  Rather than act tough or mouth off, the narrator asserts his innocence (“Wait a minute mister/I didn’t even kiss her”) and then asks for the titular three steps in which he can make a hasty exit. The criticism in “Saturday Night Special” appears to fall on firearms themselves, until the very end when Van Zant sings about tossing all the guns into the ocean before “some fool” comes around with a gun.

What’s fascinating about this song is how it’s essentially a song about not fighting. Beating a hasty retreat in the face of danger is universally an uncool thing to do, but somehow Lynyrd Skynyrd were able to write a (awesome) song about doing just that. Both songs feature guns and do not fit the typical tough-guy mindset seen in a lot of popular music. And in both songs, the violence (or threat of violence) is senseless and not in anyway glorified.

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It’s worth noting that the band’s fourth album GIMME BACK MY BULLETS and its title song has nothing to do with guns or ammunition.  Apparently, the song is a reference to the Billboard music charts, which used typographical bullets.  On the official Lynyrd Skynyrd website, the band states that over the years fans who misunderstood the lyrics literally threw bullets at the band when they performed the song live. Rock songs, like all good poetry, sometimes requires more than a simple surface reading in order to be fully understood.  A band like Lynyrd Skynyrd, with its hard-charging guitars and Southern connotation is both embraced and written-off by many music fans without giving them the proper amount of contemplation.

Oh, dear...

Oh, dear…

Lastly, the current incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd recently put out an album titled GOD & GUNS. Obviously at this point Skynyrd is not the same band that wrote “Mr. Saturday Night Special,” thanks to both the passage of time and the deaths of key members of the band. Still, I think the track “God & Guns” off the album is a fascinating departure from the classic era’s stance on guns. I’ll confess that I haven’t spent much time listening to this album (because the one time I did, I found it to be rather disappointing), but perhaps in a future post I’ll examine it more closely.

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Overpaying For Concert Ticket PreSales Suck Or How I Learned To Relax And Love LiveNation (NOT)

About a week ago there was a major announcement in Defending Axl Rose-land: The Replacements were going on tour. Luckily for me, one of the stops would be my hometown of Denver. The band reformed about a year ago for a few festival dates, but I wasn’t able to attend any of those. This announcement was the second-chance I never thought I’d get. Once the initial thrill of a Replacements tour dissipated I was left with one thought: these tickets are going to cost a fortune.

Anytime a legendary band re-forms and goes on a reunion tour there’s a ton of money to be made. The Replacements broke up in 1991 and though they’re highly influential, I don’t know anyone personally who actually likes them. So I had no idea just how highly coveted would these tickets be. I’m a terrible judge of popularity—the larger populace more often than not greets the things that seem incredibly important to me with a resounding “meh”. Still, there was no way in hell I was going to pass up a chance to see The Replacements, so I resolved to see them. No matter what. Come hell or high water. *Insert other cliché here*.

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My first move was to see when tickets would go on sale, so I hopped online and went to the band’s trusty website…which immediately linked me to LiveNation. Fucking LiveNation. When I clicked that link I swear my computer made a cash register sound. I won’t bore you with my own personal tale of poverty; I know that there are people worse off. But let’s just say that despite being paid a handsome salary as President & C.E.O of Defending Axl Rose Industries; I don’t have an unlimited supply of funds. Anytime I deal with LiveNation I end up spending double what I thought I was going to pay. Going on their website is akin to being pulled over by a police car. Scrolling through the website is just like rolling down the window and forking over my driver’s license. How much, I think, is this shit going to end up costing me?

LiveNation’s website indicated that The Replacements tickets were going on sale to the public on Friday but that there was a “Presale” the day before. Gripped with a nerdy fear that I might not get to go due to a lack of tickets, I instantly jumped on the hope that this mysterious presale offered. There was zero information explaining what the rules or requirements of the presale was, so I had no choice but to set a timer in my iPhone and check back at the time of the presale.

I know exactly none of you care what my opinion of presales is, but I’m going to tell you: I hate them. Essentially presales are insulting to most fans, rewarding the lucky few who possess a Visa Rapid Rewards Card or who belong to KQRC’s Morning Madness Fan Club. Want the privilege of buying overpriced tickets before anyone else? Sign up for our annoying ass mailing list. Despite being such a massive music nerd, I have no love for fan clubs and don’t think I should have to give the Kaiser Chiefs my personal info to score tickets to their show before all of you other sweaty basement dwellers.

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When the day of the presale came I hit up LiveNation’s website to see if they’d explain what hoops I’d have to jump through to score tickets. It turned out the presale wasn’t for a credit card or fan club I didn’t belong to…it was for a local radio station and users of the LiveNation app! The idea of downloading a free to app to score a code to buy tickets a day early didn’t seem so bad. I went to the App Store and quickly downloaded the app. Then I spent five minutes or so setting up an account with the app. Then I navigated to the Replacements concert within the app, thinking there I’d be allowed to purchase tickets for the show. Nope.

I was treated to a rage-inducing notice that tickets would go on sale the next day. Well played, LiveNation. The whole purpose of the app-only presale was to get me to stupidly download their app and give them my information, which I happily did. Too bad I wasn’t paid in kind for my cooperation. I double-checked myself, just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. When I was sure that I hadn’t, I angrily deleted the app from my phone. Then I went back on LiveNation to see if I was confused or had missed something. The website insisted that as an app user I’d be provided with a code I could use for the presale. I resigned myself to having to wait a day to buy tickets. Then about 20 minutes later I downloaded the app for a second time and tried it all over again.

Pissed off and feeling foolish, I decided to double-down on the amount of time I was going to waste on this presale and went back to LiveNation’s website in order to file a complaint. At the very bottom of their page I found a FAQ/Help link. There I found a section about presales which offered this nugget of wisdom:

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Guess what, LiveNation: FUCK YOU.

I couldn’t believe it, could it really be that simple? Did all I need to do was type “beatbox” and I’d magically be allowed to give them my money? Yep, it really was that simple. I deleted the app off my phone for the second time and swore under breath. Then I dropped $121 I didn’t really have on concert tickets. Much like songstress Jewel, these foolish games are tearing me apart.

I get that with this presale LiveNation wanted me to download and use their app, but without doing what they said it was going to do (i.e. give me a code to buy presale tickets) it makes it look like LiveNation doesn’t know what it’s doing. Being a multi-million dollar company, this level of incompetence casts LiveNation in an evil, manipulative light. So which is it, LiveNation are you incompetent or evil?

Sadly it doesn’t matter if they’re evil, because even though I wasn’t happy with them, I still gave them my money. What choice did I have? I guess I could have waited a day and half and gone down to the venue to purchase tickets, but I’m not even sure if I can do that anymore. And waiting on tickets can mean missing out on shows, especially when scalping computers swoop in to buy up all the tickets for those shady online re-sellers.

I can’t even remember the last time I bought tickets anywhere other than online. Much like cable companies, LiveNation and other giant ticket sellers have all us music fans by the balls. I love seeing bands play live, but I hate everything about buying concert tickets. As the music industry shrinks faster than the polar icecaps, I get understand that concert revenue has become increasingly important. I get that high tickets are paying for my evil, music streaming-ways. And if I truly love a band, I’ll pay way more than I should to see them in concert, but why do ticket retailers like LiveNation have to give me an electronic wedgie when I try to give them my money?

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YOUR NEXT FAVORITE BAND: The Star Spangles

Back in 2003, I was going to school during the day and working overnights as a security guard. It was lonely, boring work that involved a lot of sitting around and listening to late night radio. On Saturday nights, I’d snuggle up next to my $2 pocket radio and listen to Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Those were halcyon days, or rather nights, and it was during this period that I discovered many great artists thanks to Steven Van Zandt and his show. One of those bands was The Star Spangles.

I can still remember the first time I heard The Star Spangles. Their song “Which One of the Two of Us Is Gonna Burn This House Down?” was featured as the Coolest Song In The World on Little Steven’s show. Despite the impossibly long title, the song was a lightning quick burst of punky-pop. And it totally knocked me on my ass. Over the next week or so, Little Steven played the song a few more times, as well as the band’s other single “I Live For Speed.” I immediately got a digital copy of the band’s album BAZOOKA!!! and found that all songs were fantastic.

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You might recall that the early-to-mid 00’s (the aughts) was a period known as the Garage Rock Revival. This was a heroic return of basic, balls-to-the-walls rock that spawned a series of great albums by a half-dozen or so bands. These bands typically hailed from New York/East Coast and featured “The” in the band name. The Hives. The White Stripes. The Vines. The Strokes. The Star Spangles were cut from the same cloth, though their sensibilities skewed heavily towards punk. Their lead singer, Ian Wilson, had a sneering Sid Vicious quality and a Nick Cave haircut.

BAZOOKA!!!, as stated, had two great singles but it was the deeper cuts that really impressed me. The kinetic “LA” with its gritty, chugging guitar riff seared itself into my mind. This song should have been in a Grand Theft Auto video game and made the band a huge overnight success. Similarly, “Crime of the Century” with its Keith Richards-esque riff should have burned up the rock charts…had their been relevant rock radio in 2003-2004. Timing and changing musical taste worked against The Star Spangles, which happened to many bands in this era. Indie rock was getting huge and The Star Spangles were seen as a quaint throwback.

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The band did appear on Letterman and toured a bit, but for the most part they dropped off the map. I was a bit crushed, but as the 00’s wore on it became obvious that the Garage Rock Revival wasn’t going to last longer than a few years. Only the super-talented Jack White was able to survive the Revival’s sad collapse.

I cherished BAZOOKA!!! but had written the band off for dead when sometime in 2006 I found out that The Star Spangles were back! Their follow-up album, DIRTY BOMB, was self-released and featured a new band lineup. Both of these facts filled me with a sense of dread, would the second record stack up to the great first release? Happily, DIRTY BOMB turned out to be wonderful.

Though DIRTY BOMB is a bit less polished than BAZOOKA!!! it’s also a bit more complex and, in my opinion, the better of the band’s two albums. Still featuring a heavy dose of punk, DIRTY BOMB had a few slower songs as well as the (awesome) country-tinged “Someone In You.” The album was also more commercial and poppier, especially tracks like “This Side of the Sun” and “I’m On A High.” Both of these songs should have made a big impression on the music world.

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The band’s propensity for fast songs full of hard charging guitars and killer lyrical hooks remained, and I had renewed hope that the band would continue to record and tour. But sadly, DIRTY BOMB was the band’s swan song.

What the hell happened to The Star Spangles? Part of the reason I’m writing this post is to hopefully find out. The band’s web presence is limited now. You can find DIRTY BOMB on iTunes and CD Baby, but BAZOOKA!!! has now vanished falling out of print. According to the band’s threadbare Wikipedia page, the band had a “falling out” with Capitol Records in 2006. What happened exactly? Would the band be a household name if they’d managed to stay on Capitol Records? DIRTY BOMB’s pop-heavy sound could have easily landed the band on the radio if they’d just had a bit more promotion.

The band’s lineup change probably had something to do with the band’s failed commercial prospects. Originally The Star Spangles featured Nick Price on bass and Joey Valentine on drums, however on DIRTY BOMB Chris Orlando and Todd Martin replaced them. Only lead singer Ian Wilson and Tommy Volume remained in the band for The Spangles whole run, which has led me to believe them to be the Mick & Keith of the band. I assumed that Wilson or Volume would go onto to do other projects, but after an extensive search online I’ve turned but zilch. Did both of these guys fall of the Earth? Did they get straight jobs working in cubicles? If they’re working in the music industry they’re doing so under different names…of they need to hire a better marketing team. Anyone with information please either comment below or email me at DefendingAxlRose@gmail.com.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to accept that sometimes really great bands only put out one or two albums. Rather than be greedy and whine about all the great songs/albums I didn’t get from them, I try to focus on what the band did put out. Honestly, fate and a fickle music industry was stacked against The Star Spangles.  Dropped by their label and faced with a lineup change, we had no right to expect a second record and we got one. I’m satisfied with that, though I do wish these guys were still around.

Do yourself a favor and check this band out because they’re fucking fantastic.

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Rhett Miller at The Soiled Dove Underground 01/30/2015

On Friday night I saw Rhett Miller in concert, the last time I saw him was eleven years ago in St. Louis. I did the math while sipping a Moscow Mule before the show, and I’ve been listening to Miller and his band Old 97’s for fourteen years. Most artists today seem to appear on the music scene and then dissapear after two or three years. Longevity, along with album sales, seems to have vanished from the music industry. I guess that’s why I’m shocked I’ve been listening to Miller for so long.

I discovered Old 97’s while trolling music magazines on my lunch break, back when I was working for minimum wage at a chain drugstore. The band’s blend of rock and country fascinated me…and Miller had a cool haircut…so I bought FIGHT SONGS and the then-newly released SATELLITE RIDES. I was blown away and the band quickly became one of my favorites. Pioneers in the “alt-country” scene, like The Jayhawks (another great band I’ve only recently discovered), the Old 97’s are one of those great bands that haven’t had massive mainstream success in large part because they don’t fit neatly into one genre.

Guy still has a cool haircut.

Guy still has a cool haircut.

Rhett went solo in 2002 with THE INSTIGATOR* and for a moment I feared the 97’s were done for. Luckily for all parties, Miller quickly proved that he can walk the delicate balance between band and solo career. I saw the Old 97’s just before I moved away to college, the show was more raucous and raw than I’d imagined. But as I waited for the show to start Friday night I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to see Miller by himself a decade later.

It takes a special kind of talent to go up onstage alone and play songs by yourself, especially when the songs everyone knows and lovers were recorded with a full band. If I’d had my choice prior to the show, I’d have preferred to see Miller play with the Old 97’s rather than just bang away on his guitar alone. But I must admit there was something really special and intimate about seeing Rhett with only a guitar. The stripped back set also reminded me once again what a powerful set of pipes he’s got, his voice still boyish and ragged. The set list was surprisingly heavy on Old 97’s material, with the best songs from his solo output peppered in between. I wasn’t expecting as many of his band’s songs to be included since it was a solo show.  Despite being pared down, all of these songs sounded great.

The venue, unfortunately named The Soiled Dove Underground, was small and intimate. I’d estimate it could hold about 200 people and the crowd was about half that size. The Soiled Dove is a sort of yuppie jazz club, which clashed a bit with the Texas-twang Miller was throwing off. I was seated at a table, which made my knees happy, and the audience was brimming with a white hair. That said, I wasn’t the youngest person by far—an 11-year-old girl named Nora was in the front row, sitting dead center of the stage. I know her age and name because both Miller and his opening act made a big deal about their being a kid in the audience. Though two sets of people sent shots of tequila up to the stage for Miller (he politely said thanks but didn’t drink them, sticking to whiskey the entire evening) the show was much tamer than the night I saw Old 97’s in St. Louis.

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About halfway through the set, Miller confessed to not really having a set list and began taking requests from the audience. There were a lot of requests for older, twangy-heavy 97’s tracks like “Murder or a Heart Attack” and “Timebomb,” which was to be expected. More interestingly, though, there were also few oddball requests that Miller was all to happy to oblige. The first and best oddball request was for REM’s “Diver 8” off that band’s 1985 album FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION. Not only was Miller happy to sing this song, he also prefaced the song with an anecdote about seeing Peter Buck in his boxer shorts in Mexico.

Later, after the audience was good and liquored, there was a great swell of enthusiasm for Miller to play “Murray” songs. This of course was a reference to Murray Hammond, the bass player for Old 97’s, who has over the years contributed a handful of really kickass songs to the band’s repertoire. Miller did an admirable job replicated the solemn “Valentine” off FIGHT SONGS as well as performing a valiant though lyrically incomplete run through of “W. TX Teardrops” off 1997’s TOO FAR TO CARE. I dearly love both of those songs and seeing them performed live, although by a different singer and with giant lyrical holes, was a nice treat.

Time’s been kind to Rhett Miller and his ability to give a crowd exactly what they want. Before playing his final song, Miller said that he’d be back later this year in Colorado with the Old 97’s. I’m not sure I’d have gone prior to seeing this show, but Miller has definitely sold me a ticket to that show.

As a side note, Miller’s opening act was a record producer friend of his who seemed really interesting. I tried to remember his name, but it escaped me. I’ve tried to look it up online, but both the venue website and Miller’s tour page fail to name him. I love seeing new acts and find being introduced to an artist for the first time live is a really great way to discover new talents. I wish artists/bands would make it easier for us in the listening public to find out who they are. The opening act doesn’t have to be on the marquee or anything, but if you got a strange/unusual name, maybe say it more than once or twice?

 

 

*I don’t count the out-of-print MYTHOLOGIES from 1989.

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