music friday: willie and lucinda

On this date in 2004, we saw Willie Nelson and Lucinda Williams. We'd seen Lucinda many times, but this was the only time we saw Willie. I wrote about it at the time, and since I'm in Spain, I'm going to cheat and just offer a link to that post, along with a few excerpts.

Her set was sloppy in a good way ... I don't suppose she was drunk, but she was so much looser than we'd ever seen her that the thought crossed our minds. You see, Robin and I love Lucinda Williams and have been going to see her for many years now, but what carries her concerts is her songs ... she isn't exactly a dynamic performer. But tonight? She talked before every song, she seemed to be making up the setlist as she went along, she told stories, and she really tore into the songs, especially "Still I Long For Your Kiss." At the end of the night, after closing with "Get Right With God," she planted mushy kisshugs on each of the band members, even climbing through the drumset to get to the drummer. Meanwhile, she wore a CBGBs t-shirt, showed off her tattoo, and generally had a raucous good time, which I never thought I'd say about Lucinda Williams. ...

It's kinda odd seeing a legend ... I spent the first few minutes just staring at him, thinking "man, there he is, Willie Nelson, it's really him." Actually, even before he came out, we were staring at a legend: his guitar, which sat on its stand as the roadies set things up. If you've never seen it, it's the damnedest thing  ...

Willie played for about an hour and 45 minutes. Never having seen him before, I can only go by what I read, but it seemed like a standard set, with most of the classics. At one point he did an extended medley of "'Funny How Time Slips Away/Crazy/Night Life," and I yelled at Robin, "it's like he wrote every song in history!" But then he did other people's songs, songs that we identify with him, like "Always on My Mind" and "Georgia on My Mind," and you realize if there's a song he didn't write, he's probably sung it at some point, anyway. The weird thing was, he did songs across a wide variety of styles, and every time you thought "he fits right in" or "he makes this his own" or "I think he invented this." So there was the countrypolitan "Crazy" and a rockin' version of "Me and Bobby McGee," there was the gospel of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and the vocal classics like "Always on My Mind," there was a handful of Hank Williams songs and "Milk Cow Blues." And Willie Nelson always sounded like he and the song belonged together. I'm not saying he was bringing something new to the table tonight ... he's sung most of these songs literally thousands of times. But they fit him like a snug hemp sweater. ...

When Lucinda was done with her set, she gave a pretty long speech about what performing meant to her. I swear, I thought she was gonna cry ... we really have never seen her like she was tonight. She said she'd been doing this for 30 years, and she's finally figuring out why people like Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan and B.B. King keep playing and playing and playing, no matter how old they get. She told us that you can't put a price on the gratification you get when you can perform your songs for an appreciative audience. She just seemed so thankful to be able to do what she did. And her words resonated with me as I watched Willie Nelson sing "On the Road Again" for the three billionth time ... this is what he does, and you can't put a price on it.

As a bonus, here's Lucinda and Willie singing her "Over Time":


music friday: crosby, stills, and nash

On this date in 1984, I saw Crosby, Stills, and Nash at Candlestick Park, after a Giants game.

They weren't touring behind any particular album. Their most recent studio album, Daylight Again, had done well, but it was two years old. A year later came Allies, a mostly-live hodgepodge that didn't sell and has been out of print for decades. David Crosby was at one of the low points in his life: drugs, prison, general awfulness. You can get a feel for the kind of tour this must have been by looking at some of the venues. Just in the next couple of weeks after Candlestick, they played at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre, and something called the Sierra Sun Festival in Grass Valley, California.

I don't remember what songs they sang. I can tell you about the game, if only because that's something I can look up on The Giants won, 4-0, and Dusty Baker hit a pinch-hit, 3-run homer. The crowd was just under 20,000. The Giants were dreadful that year ... they had the worst record in all of baseball. It was also the first year I had season tickets.

I stuck around because, well, why not? I had seen CSNY ten years earlier, and had seen Y six years earlier. Since Y was missing from the Candlestick show, I didn't have a lot of interest. Still, there was a time when I played that first CSN album quite often. (Trivia note: the only time I can remember singing harmony on stage was for "Helplessly Hoping".)

The truth is, if I were to post some of their greatest hits, I'd offer Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds and the Hollies. Beyond the nostalgia value, I don't know what I'd include from the CSN(Y) grouping. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" ... "Helpless" ... "Love Work Out" from C&N. I'm sure they did "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" at Candlestick. I know they didn't do "Helpless" because Y wasn't there. And far as I can tell, they didn't perform "Love Work Out" on that tour, if they ever did.

I also can't find any 1984 CSN on YouTube. So I'm left with these. First, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" at Woodstock:

And "Love Work Out", with guitars by Crosby, Danny Kortchmar, and David Lindley:

Finally, so Y doesn't feel left out, from the concert we saw:


filthy friends

Filthy Friends have been regularly tagged with the "supergroup" label. Certainly on the indie front, their heritage is impressive. Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks, Minus 5) and Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, Baseball Project, R.E.M.) are frequent contributors to a variety of indie albums. Drummer Bill Rieflin worked with R.E.M. and King Crimson, along with a billion indie bands (Revolting Cocks, Pigface). Rieflin is not on the Friends' current tour, with Linda Pitmon (Baseball Project, Minus 5) taking his spot. These folks have worked together a lot over the years, and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, a common figure in many of the above bands, would seem to be a central organizing member of the collective. But the main thing that separates Filthy Figures from the other "side projects" mentioned above is that Corin Tucker is the singer for the band (and the author of the songs' lyrics).

I say this not merely because I am such a big Corin fan, but because the band's music is designed to show what Tucker can do. This was especially clear in the concert I attended last night. In many ways, Filthy Friends was a "supergroup" version of the earlier Corin Tucker Band. All of the musicians contributed ... I especially liked Linda Pitmon's work ... but Corin was front and center, she was the one who mostly talked to the crowd, and I suspect, levels of fame aside, more people were there to see Corin than they were to see an indie supergroup.

She has come a long way in terms of stage presence over the years, although that impression may be off a bit, since with Sleater-Kinney she shares the stage with Carrie Brownstein, who oozes charisma. Peter Buck isn't going to upstage her ... in fact, he let Bloch take the guitar solos, content to stay back, adding his identifiable sound to the chords coming from his instrument. Bloch actually did concoct some stage presence, bouncing around like Angus Young. But it was Corin's show, and that fact means that now, when I listen to the Filthy Friends album, Invitation, I'll hear it as Corin's band.

And there is nothing wrong with that. Once I have lived with the Filthy Friends songs for awhile, I expect they will grow on me. But in concert, as on record, Filthy Friends are good-not-great, without the ecstatic moments I often get from listening to Sleater-Kinney.

The title cut from the album is not particularly representative of the whole, although the songs vary quite a bit from one another in any event. Corin sings it like a good-timey crooner from the 60s. Here it is from last night:

I should add that this was my first visit to The Independent, and the sound was excellent.


music friday: 1977

These are the artists I saw in concert in 1977. There is one top of the line classic band, an all-time great who was past his peak, some personal favorites, and at least two opening acts that I thought sucked. These are in chronological order, with the earliest concerts at the beginning, and the acts at each show listed in order of appearance.

The Outlaws, "Green Grass and High Tides"

Santana, "Soul Sacrifice" (video taken from concert I attended)

Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Freebird" (video taken from concert I attended)

Peter Frampton, "Do You Feel Like We Do?" (video taken from concert I attended)

Judas Priest, "Diamonds and Rust"

Rick Derringer, "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo"

Led Zeppelin, "Kashmir" (audio taken from concert I attended)

Head East, "Show Me I'm Alive"

Robert Gordon and Link Wray, "I Sure Miss You"

J. Geils, the whole damn concert I attended

Air Supply, "Love and Other Bruises"

Rod Stewart, "Hot Legs"

music friday: winterland

Winterland in San Francisco was built in 1928 and served as an ice-skating rink while doubling as an arena for boxing matches and the like. In 1966, Bill Graham started using Winterland for concerts too big for the Fillmore (Winterland held about 5 times as many people). Over the years, countless acts played there ... off the top of my head, I saw Lou Reed, J. Geils, Robin Trower, the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, and Bruce Springsteen at Winterland. Parts of classic albums like Cream's Wheels of Fire, and Frampton Comes Alive were recorded there. It was the site of The Band concert filmed by Scorsese as The Last Waltz. Eventually, the sign outside the building read "Bill Graham's Winterland".

The sound was awful, the building was old, the neighborhood (Post and Steiner) nondescript at best. When Graham decided to shut the place down, the only reason to feel sad was nostalgia. I admit I was one of the sad ones ... I spent a lot of memorable nights at Winterland. It was a shithole, but it was our shithole.

Graham announced that the final month of 1978 would be devoted to a Winterland sendoff, capped by the traditional Grateful Dead New Year's Eve concert. On December 2, Van Morrison headlined, supported by Tower of Power and the now-forgotten Moon Martin. Tower of Power was only one of the local stars to appear during that month.

On the 15th and 16th, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band arrived. The first night was simulcast on FM radio, which made for a better-sounding bootleg than usual. Bruce was on fire (perhaps appropriately, his performance of "Fire" on the second night made it to his first live album). Whether it was the quality of the performance, the availability of the bootleg, or a combination of the two, that first night is considered one of his greatest-ever shows. They were also the only two end-of-Winterland shows we attended.

A couple of nights later, Kenny Rankin headlined ... whatever. Then, on the 28th ... SVT opened, a local band that had yet to record, but which featured the legendary Jack Casady on bass. Next up was The Ramones, and I don't think I need to remind you of how great The Ramones were at their peak. The headliners were The Tubes ... they began as a local act, but they had gone national, enough so that it made sense they headlined over The Ramones.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played the penultimate concert. Greg Kihn opened, once again a nod to local artists (Kihn had yet to hit nationwide). And so, to New Year's Eve.

First up was The New Riders of the Purple Sage, yep, another local act. The New Riders often featured Jerry Garcia in their earliest years, and had been a part of Dead tours for a long time. They made perfect sense for the closing of Winterland.

Next up was an act with no Bay Area connections. Honestly, I don't know why they were on the bill, except that they were at the peak of their popularity: The Blues Brothers.

The eventual Dead concert became legendary. They played three sets, somewhere in the neighborhood of five hours, into the wee hours of 1979. You can see/hear the show on The Closing of Winterland, released on CD and DVD in 2003.

Here are a few samples from that last month at Winterland.

Click here for the audio of the entire first night Springsteen concert: Winterland

Most of The Ramones set:

The Tubes with their all-time classic, "White Punks on Dope":

Tom Petty, "Breakdown":

The Blues Brothers tackle "Flip, Flop, & Fly":

And, what the heck, all five hours of the Dead, with half-an-hour of backstage interviews at the beginning (featuring "Alan Franken") and the traditional descent of Graham as "Father Time":


music friday: soundtracks

Went to see Johnnie To interviewed last night. It was a bit unwieldy ... he had a translator, so everything had to go through her ... but thoroughly enjoyable, thanks to Mr. To. At the end, they took questions from the audience, and one in particular fits Music Friday, I think. It was hard to hear the question, but it amounted to a request to make some of the great soundtracks from To's movie available ... on vinyl, if possible (half the audience laughed, the other half groaned).

To was a bit confused by the question, because in Hong Kong, soundtrack albums are not a big deal. But his solution was perfect: if you want to hear the soundtrack, go watch the movie again!

Here is a scene they showed last night, one of his most famous: the mall shootout from The Mission.

And here is one of the great moments in movie music history: