A large part of the reason that I go to live music performances is because I am looking for some element of connection. I can sit at home in front of my stereo, listen to sterile studio recordings made in a far-away state that have been remastered and flawlessly captured. Sure, I hear a lot of good stuff that way . . . but I also feel a need for a visceral connection, an elemental thread of immediacy tying creator to listener in the same physical space. It’s why I prefer smaller venues – not from snobbery, or so I can tell you that I saw them way back when they were still playing the [insert tiny club name here]. It’s so I can see their eyes and feel their words, with flaws and all. I find myself feeling less than satisfied when I see a show at a huge venue on massive Jumbotron screens. The performers are tiny little ants a million miles away, and most of the action comes from the folks dancing around me. That’s fun, and I’ll do it, but that’s not the connection I really want with my music.
On Sunday night in Denver at the Larimer Lounge, I got to enjoy this awesome moment of connection with a musician that was just pure and simple sharing of the music with no pretense. I know I sound cheesy and that’s fine; if you were there, you probably would have felt the same way and still be smiling about it just like me. Ike Reilly is a musician that I’ve written about several times since discovering him on the recommendation of a friend just a few months ago (even though he’s been around for years, making great albums).
He’s a fierce and pointed lyricist with unstoppable tunes that have a rough punk-rock edge mixed with a bit of 1950s rebelliousness. He kind of reminds me of the hellion-rebel character in all the high school movies ever made — the one hanging out behind the bowling alley trying to swindle the guys and fondle the women.
Ike was taking a break from touring with his full band, The Ike Reilly Assassination (back in the fall, though) to open for Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello. Tom is currently travelling with a new solo-folk-troubadour one man act where he dubs himself The Nightwatchman and brings a political message.
The show was sold out (even for a “school night,” as Tom kept saying) and the crowd was absolutely on fire, pressing themselves against the low stage, the air crackling with anticipation. Ike found himself playing to a friendly audience who often sang along heartily to his every word (he asked at one point, “Who could possibly know this?”). This was the second song he played:
IKE REILLY, “GARBAGE DAY” (ACOUSTIC)
He also came out and joined Tom Morello (they both grew up in the same Illinois town of Libertyville) for a fiery cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”:
TOM MORELLO & IKE REILLY: “FORTUNATE SON”
(listen to the Rage-worthy ending here – I almost expected us all to start yelling “I won’t do what you tell me!”)
The most delightful moment, though, came long after the show after most folks had gone home. The Larimer Lounge has a little beer garden behind the venue, draped with white globe lights with green plants everywhere. Before the show I had a beer with Ike on the patio and he commented what a perfect night it was – the air was still and cool and summery. Long after midnight, after the show, I heard guitar strumming coming from a small group of about six folks out in the corner and I walked over to check it out.
Ike had pulled out his well-battered guitar at the request of a kid who said he “just had to” hear Heroin, a song Ike hadn’t done earlier in his set. He went on to play 6 or 7 tunes for a crowd that slowly grew into about 30 of the folks who were still hanging around, taking requests. We had been talking about “Charcoal Days and Sterling Nights” earlier in the evening (it’s based on an episode of COPS, love it) so he played this one for me:
IKE REILLY: “CHARCOAL DAYS AND STERLING NIGHTS”
(patio-tastic version that’s really dark, maybe you can adjust the brightness on your monitor?)
Once Tom Morello came out and sat on a nearby picnic table, they started laughing at each other and the set kinda tapered off. But it was pretty dang cool, not at all as hambone as it potentially sounds. Thanks Ike.
Ike has a handful of shows left with Tom down the West Coast: Portland tonight, Seattle on Wednesday. They’ll be in San Francisco on Friday night (read this excellent article from the San Jose Metro that just ran to draw attention to that fact) and closing out in LA on Saturday.
You can now listen to their recent World Cafe performance on NPR (featuring four songs and nice stage banter), and they’re also playing at the Austin City Limits Festival on Sept 13, with a full-band tour slated for the fall.
We Belong To The Staggering Evening
(Rock Ridge Music, 2007)