December 22, 2014

Damien Rice in a synagogue in San Francisco (October 7, 2014)


It’s the time of year when I have some time to swim around in music because the college where I work is closed in between terms. Brace yourselves for a bunch of good stuff in the next two weeks while I am off work — in addition to plans for a “Holiday Bundle” of up to four new Chapel Sessions (!!!), I have some incredible live recordings that a magical show-recording elf who goes simply by the initial “B” sends to my mailbox with little notes of care from the San Francisco Bay Area.

In this week’s mail I received a stunning recording of Damien Rice playing in the Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco – a magnificent Classical Romanesque synagogue built in 1904 and covered in gorgeous frescoes. The setlist to this show is fucking incredible. Damien Rice has the ability to transport me back to a very specific time in my life, a very raw time (“Accidental Babies” has got to be one of the most brutally bittersweet songs I know) and this show just was just song after song after song of that exquisiteness.

From the first song, “Eskimo,” when he starts howling, I was overcome with chills all up and down my spine. This is a very powerful show; even though these songs are old, they are undiluted. I did the thing that I do when a song really flattens me, and that is: I let it. I lay right in the center of the wooden floor in my kitchen where the stereo is and let the song do its work. Sometimes I sing along.

Holy shit, this show.

crowd choir on Volcano

LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO: Congregation Sherith Israel
October 7, 2014
Taped by B

Woman Like A Man
9 Crimes
The Greatest Bastard
The Professor & La Fille Danse
Grey Room
Rootless Tree
I Remember
Volcano –> When Doves Cry (Prince)

The Blower’s Daughter
Cheers Darlin’
Accidental Babies


The enclosed postcard: Thanks, B.
FullSizeRender (2)

FullSizeRender (1)

I am seeing Damien on April 17 in Boulder. If this is at all what I have to look forward to…

[show photos borrowed from Irene Hsu, Stanford]

August 24, 2012

so, Blind Pilot played at my house

On August 7th, the night after they opened for My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses in Kansas City, Blind Pilot hauled ass across some state lines in their sweet blue schoolbus and arrived at my place just in time for dinner. That night they played a living room show for about fifty of us, and I am so pleased to find out that it was recorded so I can share such a special night with you.

Ever since I first heard the richly colorful music of Blind Pilot back in 2009, I’ve wanted to get them in to do an intimate Fuel/Friends show. That Tuesday, as you will hear, was totally worth the wait. The thing that really stands out in this entirely acoustic setting is their voices: the velvety, resplendent way they all knit together. At several points during the night you can hear us just hoot out our zenith of joy, like someone was poking us with a giant electric prod of musical fantasticness.

AUGUST 7, 2012
Go On Say It
Two Towns From Me
The Story I Heard
Just One
Keep You
Things I Cannot Recall
Paint or Pollen
Half Moon
I Buried A Bone
The Colored Night
One Red Thread
Three Rounds and a Sound


Here are also two videos from the night, including one of Tyler Lyle, who flew out from California to open the show. The song he performs (“Ditch Digger”) was partially written at my house back in March, so it was a deep treat to hear it performed there again.

And a final farewell on their bus (which is so very cool inside, Partridge Family-style):

[thanks so much to my neighbor Mike Kimlicko for recording!]

February 8, 2012

he asked me not to go so fast

Perhaps you, like many other late night denizens, saw Alabama Shakes nearly burn down Conan’s studios with their performance on last night’s show, and sat there on your couch shaking your head and saying “what the hell was that?!” Maybe you’ve caught them live on this tour (LUCKY), or watched some of their immensely dynamic videos online. One thing is, I believe, for certain. Alabama Shakes are a force of nature akin to a hurricane or a tidal wave, and they are conquering something serious.

A few weeks ago they played The Independent in San Francisco, and one of my fabulous readers (“B”) taped it and sent it to me in a simple padded envelope, as he often awesomely does. I was slack-jawed listening in the car on my next long drive up to Denver. Brittany Howard’s tremendous, ferocious wail of a voice is one that has the volcanic potential make a dent on this thing we call musical history.

Enjoy this magnificent show, from a band that is rightfully poised to explode. Their debut album Boys & Girls is out April 10th.


Goin’ to the Party
Hold On
Hang Loose
I Found You
Always Alright
Boys & Girls
Be Mine
Rise to the Sun
Hurricane Strut
You Ain’t Alone
Heavy Chevy
*possibly my favorite
Heat Lightning
I Ain’t the Same
On Your Way
How Many More Times (Led Zeppelin cover)


Also, pretty much all you need to know about why Brittany Howard is so rad can be heard when she introduces the band during “Hurricane Strut,” with none of their real names, but nevertheless their perfect names:

“Let me introduce you…to the 100% legit…Alabama Shakes. Right over here on this ebony guitar, I got Cobra Snake Jackson. Let him know you love him. This gentleman right here… why this is Mahogany T Jones. What’s up Mahogany. Right back here… you know I got Scooter Johnson. Awww Scooter… keep it on time, keep it on time. Right over here, aha… I got Styrofoam Jones. Let’em know what’s up Styrofoam. Ya know…that’s all there is to it.”

Damn straight.

[top image by Joseph Lanford, second photo (from that SF show) by Pam Torno. Thanks to Adam Sharp for helping me with clerical work – you’re hired.]

October 1, 2011

may you one day carry me home (Ryan Adams in Denver)

I have been eyes-closed for an hour, blissfully listening to this recording of Ryan Adams at Denver’s Civic Theatre two weeks ago. It’s been the only sound in my house other than my bare foot tapping on the wood floor and the occasional profanity I’ve been yelling over how so very very very good this recording is.

When Ryan Adams played that rainy Thursday night, I couldn’t go to the show because I was hosting a marvelous candlelit little house concert of my own, but when I saw the setlist I near-doubled over at how flawless it had been. If I could have hand-picked a setlist, and then hand-picked the ways I wanted him to sing the songs (you know how sometimes you know an artist’s live catalog so well that you want the melody to go up at that one point in the song, like he did in Sweden that one time but not on the record? yeah, he did that), this recording would be the result. Ryan’s voice is perfect. The versions are inspired and heartbreakingly gorgeous.

I feel like using my blockbuster movie announcer voice to say, “If you download ONE Ryan Adams show this year, MAKE IT THIS ONE.” Holy shit, so good.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

- intro -
Oh My Sweet Carolina
(oh ho, he STARTED with this?!)
Ashes and Fire
- banter 1 -
My Winding Wheel
- banter 2 -
If I Am A Stranger
Damn, Sam (I Love a Woman That Rains)
Invisible Riverside
Let It Ride
- banter 3 -
Sweet Lil Gal (23rd/1st)
- banter 4 -
Dirty Rain
Everybody Knows
Please Do Not Let Me Go
Lucky Now
New York, New York
(reinvented. piano. whoa)
Blue Hotel
To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)
English Girls Approximately
(are you kidding me?!)
Carolina Rain

- encore banter -
Jacksonville Skyline
16 Days
This House Is Not For Sale (false start)
This House Is Not For Sale
Rescue Blues
(this could be the best version of this song I’ve EVER heard)
Come Pick Me Up


Thanks to Denver taper SxPxDxCx for making my season. Head over to his blog and thank him too.

April 24, 2011

Ryan Adams: unannounced, with new songs in Los Angeles

On Thursday night, Ryan Adams showed up unannounced to open for Emmylou Harris at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. The lucky crowd got to hear four completely stunning new songs (including “Dirty Rain“) that showcase that heartbreaking sound that I haven’t heard from Ryan in a while. The truth remains that his voice is one of the most piercing I know.

He also performed gorgeous versions of two of my more recent favorites: “Blue Hotel” and “Everybody Knows,” as well as his duet with Emmylou. The crowd reaction is hilarious; at the beginning of one new song, you can hear a girl asking the name of the artist, and the guy next to her saying, “He said his name is RYAN.” Then you hear a guy lean in an say, “Um, that’s Ryan Adams.”

Ryan is in excellent spirits, joking with Emmylou when she asks the crowd if they managed to keep his appearance a secret (“It was a secret to me!” Ryan says. “I’m glad I was eating across the street!”). Then they launch into one of the most stunning versions of “Oh My Sweet Carolina” that I’ve ever heard (the song they originally duetted on, on Heartbreaker). That is such a goddamn good song. I always forget how many times in a row I can listen to it — it’s a lot.

Dirty Rain (new)
New untitled #1
(his voice at 1:48 slays me)
New untitled #2
New untitled #3
Blue Hotel
Everybody Knows
Oh My Sweet Carolina (with Emmylou Harris)


Welcome back, Ryan.

These songs are enough to make me wish I was going to Europe this summer:

June 07 – Cork, Ireland Opera House
June 08 – Dublin, Ireland Olympia Theatre
June 10 – Stockholm, Sweden Cirkus
June 11 – Oslo, Norway Folketeatret
June 13 – Malmö, Sweden The Consert House
June 14 – Copenhagen, Denmark Koncerhauset
June 16 – Lisbon, Portugal Aula Magna
June 17 – Porto, Portugal Teatro Sa Da Bandeira
June 19 – London, UK Barbican
June 20 – London, UK Barbican
June 22 – Brighton, UK Dome
June 23 – Manchester, UK Bridgewater Hall
June 25 – Glasgow, UK Academy
June 26 – Oxford, UK Oxford New Theatre
June 28 – Amsterdam, Holland Concertgebouw

All ticket information available on PAX-AM.

January 15, 2011

Jeff Tweedy at the Boulder Theater last weekend

tweedy boulder

Last weekend Jeff Tweedy played the 75th anniversary party of our lovely old art-deco Boulder Theater. I was sadly not in attendance, but now I can listen to the gem-packed setlist thanks to an awesome taper, and so can you.

The varied setlist is packed with all kinds of fantastic audience participation (the “oooh, ahhhhh“s of Summer Teeth, likewise on Heavy Metal Drummer) and Jeff’s fantastic banter. I think Tweedy is one of the funniest stage banterers in existence; I would enjoy a spliced-together recording of just him talking to the audience.

In addition to the Woody Guthrie cover (Mermaid Avenue, anyone?), his version of “Fake Plastic Trees” still kills me, the way his voice cracks on the lyrics “if I could be who you wanted…” Also, the simple opening chord progression of “She’s A Jar” always completely makes me smile, even in this stripped version — just a guitar and that homesick-sweet harmonica.

I commented once on how Wilco fans are really unlike any other fans I think I’ve ever known. I get almost as much pleasure on this recording through listening to the crowd recognize the songs literally from the first half second and starting to cheer their appreciation as I do from the songs themselves. This sure is a feel-good show for a feel-good weekend like this one.

tweedy boulder 2

JANUARY 8, 2011

Sunken Treasure
Remember the Mountain Bed
(Woody Guthrie)
Wait Up
How To Fight Loneliness
I’ll Fight
Someday, Some Morning, Sometime
(Woody Guthrie)
Not for the Season
You and I
She’s A Jar
Either Way
Summer Teeth
I Must Be High
Radio King
Forget The Flowers
Passenger Side

Red Eyed and Blue
I Got You (At The End of the Century)
Heavy Metal Drummer
Fake Plastic Trees
Dreamer in my Dreams


November 14, 2010

don’t follow your head, follow your heart

Northwest Supernova 295

The Head and The Heart may well be my favorite new band in quite some time. With the amount of music I consume, I find that the times are getting fewer and farther between where I find myself with that fervid touch of missionary fever, the borderline frothing at the mouth in telling friends and acquaintances and random people on buses about a new band that has snagged me good. These guys (and gal) have done that, and this past week they came and rocked the faces off Colorado, happily, twice. I think parts of me are still sore from dancing.

To recap, my friend Michelle recommended I listen to them back in the springtime. She lives (and rocks) in Seattle, and was converted by their ardent live shows. I cued up “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” and it was indeed a hallelujah on tinny computer speakers (kind of like paradise by the dashboard lights, but with less Meat Loaf). I got my hands on their full-length debut early in the summer, and have not stopped listening since.

What I tell people about their music is this: it means something, and it is beautiful. The melodies get under your skin; whatever these kids have hit on, it is magic, and it only seems to be getting better with the new songs they’re writing. The three vocalists (Jon, Josiah, and Charity) hit all those sweet spots they are supposed to, rising up above the gajillion other harmony trios out there. Jon’s slightly raspy warmth, the clear and powerful depth that Josiah adds, and Charity’s lovely warble that reminds me of some glamourous voice from the 1940s radiating out of a phonograph — when all three come together, I’m tellin’ ya that something celestial happens.

And no night more magical than Tuesday night, after the band accepted my spur-of-the-moment invite at their sold-out Friday night Moe’s show up in Denver, to come back through town and play a Fuel/Friends house show in an echoey old empty home at the top of a steep driveway, surrounded by a huge stone wall like a castle of awesomeness. The waxy pastel wallpaper smelled musty, but the floors reverberated marvelously when we would all stomp and dance in time, and the arches of the ceiling sharply cast back all the vocals into a mighty chorus.

Northwest Supernova 297

During warmup for the house show, I sat with several members of the band in the old dining room as they loosely worked through some new songs, and I must say that the seeping richness and nuance in their artistic development is exciting. It would be frighteningly easy for them to rest on the catchy, toe-tapping melodies and clever timing changes of the nine songs on the album — that sound that makes Starbucks baristas (where their music has been playing these last few months) confidently tell customers, “Oh, yeah, this is the Beatles,” when asked. But nah. We got some real good heft coming from this band – the best is yet to be, I think.

Their debut album was self-released with no label backing and as the result of them pooling, from what I understand, pretty much all they could scrape together. The nine songs were recorded at Studio Litho in Seattle (Stone Gossard’s digs) and range from piano-laced frenzied dancing tunes to the thoughtful, soft-steeped divine.

The album is absolutely not one of pretense, which appeals to me deeply and personally. There is a hungry earnestness here painted all over their music, and maybe that’s why it hits this right into this chest. Who among us can’t sing along with their lyrics (if we’re honest): “we’re just praying that we’re doing this right”? Despite the wrestling, this album resonates with a sort of revolutionary optimism. You can hear it in Kenny’s piano crescendos, in the heads-back harmonies, and in Charity’s piercing violin. Chris’s malleable basslines percolate a richness, while the drums from Tyler echo that racing, thumping heartbeat to carry the songs through.

Call it a symptom of mostly being new transplants to Seattle, maybe call it lots of long hours staring down endless asphalt roads from windows of a white 12-passenger touring van, but I hear strong ruminations on the concept of home. In the standout gem “Down in The Valley,” Jon weaves together clippings that would be at home in old country songs to make a sepia postcard of “California, Oklahoma, and all the places I ain’t ever been to.” It is instantly familiar and relatable. Meanwhile Josiah imagines an old man trying to entice his longtime, long-overlooked partner to return to him in “Honey Come Home,” as he realizes there is nothing physical around him in the home they shared that will not break down. It is a wrestling with the temporal and physical, tempered with what will last.

The album ends with a refrain of “all these things are rushing by, these things are rushing by.” Seeing the reaction they are getting from every place they play, that line seems prophetic. Good things are rushing by them and at them, and I am so thankful they’ve taken the time on this album to memorialize a few and set them to melody.

Northwest Supernova 310

FUEL/FRIENDS HOUSE SHOW (with The Lumineers)
Tuesday, Nov 9th 2010. 8pm til real late.

Honey Come Home
Cats and Dogs
(completely a capella; LOVE. Watch it here.)
Gone (new song) (watch it)
Coeur D’Alene
Lost In My Mind
Pick Me Up (new song)
Winter Song
Look Outside (new song)
Rivers and Roads
Heaven and Hell (new song)
(man alive a fantastic one; watch it)
Attic Ladder
Down In The Valley


(note: All the new songs I am guessing completely on the titles.)

Northwest Supernova 329

Northwest Supernova 357

Northwest Supernova 275

Afterwards, following an impromptu singalong session in the darkened kitchen with the swinging door closed and the lights all turned off, we reconvened in the main room for a collaborative version of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” by special request from me who loves covers. It was messy and rough and imbued with a healthy dose of liquid courage for some of us, but I think everyone there hustled out into the cold night afterwards glowing just a little more brightly.

Both shows were opened up special by fledgling Denver band The Lumineers. Even as brand new-newbies in our local music scene, there is a sweet strength to their songs, even playing without any microphones or PA–just yelling into the room with the power of their harmonies.

Their complete opening living room set (which you can listen to in full over at The Flat Response) included:

1. Charlie Boy
2. Classy Girls
3. Ain’t Nobody’s Problem
4. Submarines
5. Flapper Girl
6. Stubborn Love
7. Morning Song
8. Ho Hey
9. Flowers In Your Hair

They were absolutely fantastic & raw (hey! ho!), like this at tiny Moe’s BBQ on Friday night, when so many of us enjoyed getting to know them for the first time:

So, yeah. This week is going to seem a bit pale by comparison. Let’s do it again sometime.

[all photos from both shows at the Fuel/Friends Facebook Page. The show was marvelously recorded and shared by The Flat Response.]

August 27, 2010

Sufjan Friday


Five years since his last traditional release, Sufjan Stevens came out of the blue last Friday (only hours after my birthday waned, so I think it was probably a gift to me) with a new EP, All Delighted People, available on Bandcamp for only five bucks. Then a few days later, he announced his new full-length Age of Adz would be coming on October 12th from his Asthmatic Kitty label.

AdzA few live recordings of new songs from this album have been circulating since the Castaways shows last year in New York: the second, third, and last songs on the forthcoming release, respectively.

Too Much
Age of Adz
Impossible Soul

Falling into a pleasant rut, I’ve been alternating with the new EP, the live recordings from the Age of Adz songs, and this fantastic KEXP Seattle show from 2005. This is one of my favorite live sets of his that I have. The sound quality is pristine, the delicacy of the songs breathtaking (as always). I wonder if “Casimir Pulaski Day” will ever stop breaking my heart in its existential futility (“…but nothing ever happens”), or if I want it to.


Casimir Pulaski Day
The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders
Prairie Fire That Wanders About
The Predatory Wasp of Palisades Is Out To Get Us!
The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
John Wayne Gacy, Jr.


Don’t forget he’ll be touring “large, elegant” venues this Fall; the Denver stop is on my wishlist.

Oct 12 – Metropolis Theater, Montreal, QC
Oct 13 – Massey Hall, Toronto, ON
Oct 14 – Royal Oak Music Theater (SOLD OUT), Royal Oak, MI
Oct 15 – Chicago Theater (SOLD OUT), Chicago, IL
Oct 16 – Orpheum Theater, Minneapolis, MN
Oct 17 – Uptown Theater, Kansas City, MO
Oct 19 – The Long Center for the Performing Arts, Austin, TX
Oct 20 – McFarlin Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, TX
Oct 22 – Mesa Arts Center-Ikeda Theater, Mesa, AZ
Oct 23 – The Wiltern (SOLD OUT), Los Angeles, CA
Oct 24 – The Wiltern (SOLD OUT), Los Angeles, CA
Oct 25 – The Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA
Oct 26 – The Paramount Theater (SOLD OUT), Oakland, CA
Oct 28 – Orpheum Theater (SOLD OUT), Vancouver, BC
Oct 29 – Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, OR
Oct 30 – The Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA
Nov 1 – Kingsbury Hall, Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 2 – Paramount Theatre, Denver, CO
Nov 4 – Hilbert Circle Theatre, Indianapolis, IN
Nov 5 – Bijou Theater (SOLD OUT), Knoxville, TN
Nov 6 – The Tabernacle (SOLD OUT), Atlanta, GA
Nov 7 – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Asheville, NC
Nov 9 – The National, Richmond, VA
Nov 10 – Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA
Nov 11 – Orpheum Theatre (SOLD OUT), Boston, MA
Nov 12 – Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA
Nov 14 – Beacon Theatre (SOLD OUT), New York, NY
Nov 15 – Beacon Theatre (SOLD OUT), New York, NY

[photo credit Marzuki Stevens]

November 16, 2009

Jeff Buckley in Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, midday acoustic show (5/5/95)

sproul 3

May of 1995 was the end of my sophomore year of high school down in San Jose, and while I studied on a Thursday afternoon for Mr. Pimentel’s science final or Señora Navarro’s Spanish class, somewhere not too far up 880 Jeff Buckley was tuning up his acoustic guitar for a solo midday set on the college campus of UC Berkeley.

Jeff had been touring in support of Grace for nearly a year, currently with Juliana Hatfield, and was preparing to leave for Scotland in a few weeks. He would play San Francisco’s beautiful old Great American Music Hall that night in a sold-out show.

According to David Browne’s excellent Dream Brother book, Jeff had just been named one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People In The World” this month, and was “mortified.” Yet here Jeff is in fine, chatty form – his lightly joking, sometimes sardonic banter (imitating Scott Weiland, among other things) counterbalanced by the gorgeous weight of his songs, inducing chills even in the warm afternoon sun. Just listen to that intro to “Mojo Pin”; it’s near mystical.

I never did see Jeff live, but I delight in finding these recordings of shows that were happening all around me. I can listen to them now, and sorta, you know — pretend.

Jeff Buckley in Sproul Plaza, Berkeley (5/5/95)

1 – Last Goodbye
2 – Lover You Should Have Come Over
3 – So Real
4 – Mojo Pin
5 – Grace

November 17th was his birthday — he would have been 43 tomorrow.

[Photo by Jan Richards]

October 18, 2009

i miss the ocean when i go to sleep


Mason Jennings’ Cave Recordings capture an artist very early in his career with stripped-down versions of some of his best songs. Recorded in 1998 at The Cave (a student-run pub at Carleton College in Minnesota), the blues emphases really shines through in this set, sounding timelessly rustic and eternally honest.

Mason’s rendition of “California (Part I)” here is one of my favorite versions – the earnest, unadorned way he sings the lines, “California, I’m gonna miss you … like I miss the ocean when I go to sleep / Man, it’s gonna break my heart….”

(That’s it — next time I come out to Cali I’m gonna stay in one of these, and listen to the ocean again as I fall asleep. Done.)

Stormy Weather
Flight Path
Better Than That
Ain’t Gonna Die
Isabella (Part II)
Emperor Ashoka
Damn (What a Beautiful Man)
Darkness Between the Fireflies
Little Details
The Magician
12/8 Time
California (Part I)**
Amphetamine Girl
Rebecca DeVille


Mason’s eighth studio album Blood of Man is out now on Brushfire Records, and Mason plays Denver’s Bluebird on Friday, November 13th with Nathaniel Rateliff and The Wheel (yay!).

[thanks Keith!]

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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