April 16, 2009

shake the dust off of your wings, and the sleep out of your eyes


Yesterday felt like full-on summer crouching outside my door. I even went for a run so hard and lovely that I almost threw up. Awesome. Today is grey and rain just started falling on my office window, little rivulets gathering speed by the minute. I am wishing I didn’t wear open-toed shoes.

But the good thing about this weather is that it needs some pensive tunes to go with it, and I have just the one — the perfect song for this and all grey days. As I previously mentioned, Steve Earle is releasing a full album of covers of songs written by his friend Townes Van Zandt. Townes may be one of the greatest songwriters of the last generation, with so many hidden gems that I am still uncovering.

How about this one?

To Live Is To Fly (Townes Van Zandt) – Steve Earle

We got the sky to talk about
And the earth to lie upon

Days, up and down they come
Like rain on a conga drum
Forget most, remember some
But don’t turn none away
Everything is not enough
And nothin’ is too much to bear

Where you’ve been is good and gone
All you keep is the getting there

Well, to live is to fly
Low and high
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes

The album features appearances from Allison Moorer (she must provide the lovely harmonies on this track), guitarist Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine and recent folkier project The Nightwatchman), and for the first time on one of his dad’s records, Justin Townes Earle. Considering his name, this is a fitting album for Justin to be featured on.

Townes is out May 12th on New West, with a preview EP available now.

July 17, 2007

Bulls on Parade: Tibetan Freedom in SF, 1996

When I was watching Tom Morello on Sunday night I remembered that the last time I saw him live was probably here:

After the show Morello and I chatted about that day and he said he remembered it being an insane show and — it was. I was somewhere in that churning crowd, practically dying, and completely loving it.

I didn’t know that a pro-shot video existed, so watching it again today after 11 years makes me happy.

Ike Reilly on the patio, Neil Diamond on the dancefloor

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:


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”:

(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:

(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)

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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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