Wednesday, February 25, 2009

inde.alt.rock Around the Clock: 24 albums in 24 Hours



We've all been there: You glance at your watch, you notice it's ought-umpteen, and you think "What should I put on right now that would leave me feeling completely fulfilled?" Perhaps this is an overstatement--that we all have been there. Perhaps only overanalytical spazzes like myself do this.

However, I maintain that a well-crafted album can perfectly complement a particular time of day. Some records sound best bleary-eyed, and some require a more frenzied state of mind for the optimum listening expereince. Such observations led me to compile a list, 24 albums strong, of what sounds best when. Here we go:

The Wee Hours:

12-1 AM:

Rain Dogs by Tom Waits

Most of Tom's music is conducive to late-night, but Rain Dogs is for all the creeps and weirdos who stay out long after the good folk have retired.

1-2 AM:

Hail to the Thief by Radiohead

I usually call on Hail when I'm trying to make time on a road trip. Each song sounds like a different phases of the night: "Sit Down. Stand Up." is a meteor shower, "There There" is an escape under cover of night, and "Sail to the Moon" isn't exactly a stretch.

2-3 AM:

Holopaw by Holopaw

A pretty album by a fine band whose lack of recognition is a little mindboggling to me. Delicate but not wussy indie-folk with melodies that seem prettiest when lightly glazed in moonlight.

3-4 AM:

Pink Moon by Nick Drake

If you're up this late, odds are you need something simple, quiet, and thought-provoking. Pink Moon's sad intimacy should do.

4-5 AM:

Deja Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

A personal tale: When I was in seventh grade, just shy of the age where it was uncool to be a Christmas Eve insomniac, I played this album ad nauseam as a sleep aid. It didn't exactly work, but I'll always think of it as an early-morning album.

5-6 AM:

Either/Or by Elliott Smith

An album that's serves as a sensible transition between Elliott's earlier lo-fi stuff (Roman Candle, etc.) to his more refined, studio conscious sound (X/O and beyond), it makes sense that the first shades of day might be firing as the record progresses. By the time album-closer "Say Yes" finally finds Elliott grinning a bit, the new day is rubbing its eyes open.

The Morning Hours

6-7 AM

The Reminder by Feist

Some albums are meant to be played behind the sounds of morning: A burbling coffee-maker, the squeaky thrust of toast ejection, the sizzle of eggs on a hotpan:


Quiet! I can't hear the eggs!

For me, Feist's The Reminder is just that soundtrack. Unabbrasive, yet energetic enough to lull me out of the walking-dead state.

7-8 AM

New Morning by Bob Dylan

Perhaps Zim's finest non-masterpiece, the title is a nice indication of the overall spirit of the album. I prefer George Harrison's cover of "If Not For You," but that's not to say Bob's version doesn't start the album--and indeed, my morning--off on the right foot.

8-9 AM

It Still Moves by My Morning Jacket

A task that always proves more difficult than it should, I need a little encouragement to set into my daily projects. "Magheetah" is like a hearty slap on the back, and "Dancefloor" keeps you moving. In fact, the whole album is conducive to the momentum one needs to get his day rolling.

9-10 AM

AM by Wilco

Not to be overly gimmicky, but it's a nice early-to-mid day album, right? I do think "Just That Simple" and "Blue Eyed Soul" are probably better suited for a fading late afternoon, but the upbeat simplicity of AM mirrors a smoothly progressing morning.

10-11 AM

Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin

The day is in full bloom at this point, and it's just the time for some time-tested classic rock. "Ramble On" and "What Is and What Should Never Be" are bright and easy, just the way I like my pre-lunch hours.

11 AM-12 PM

Straightaways by Son Volt

Let there be lunch. And why Son Volt's second album would remind me in the slightest of a lunch break, I haven't the foggiest. But it's a good way to end the morning, I'd argue. So let's crank "Cemetary Savior" and go get a Five Dollar Footlong.

Afternoon

12-1 PM

Youth and Young Manhood by Kings of Leon

I need something sort of mindless while I take my break. KOL to the rescue! I really enjoy this rocking disc, but since you can't understand Caleb Followill 90% of the time, it's not one to which you need to overly dedicated your ear.

1-2 PM

End of Amnesia by M. Ward

When the post-lunch sleepies are massaging your shoulders and coaxing your eyelids shut, you'll need a little soothing backtrack. Mr. Ward's finest album not named Post-War should do the trick.

2-3 PM

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by Neil Young

The 2 PM hour seems to stretch like saltwater taffy. It's the afternoon lull when it seems ten minutes have passed for every one. Lengthy cuts like "Cowgirl In the Sand" and "Down By the River" help chip away at the interminable mid-afternoon.

3-4 PM

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement

Don't be fooled by the title, this is a relatively sunny album. More melodic than Slanted and Enchanted, it's ideal for the warmest part of the day, when quittin' time is finally in plain view.

4-5 PM

Tim by the Replacements

The clockwatching has become excruciating. Tim is a high-powered album that'll prod you along until the cusp of your work day, at which point "Here Comes the Regular" (the album closer that sounds like the theme to Cheers on a depressant) will usher you out the door and perhaps to the nearest open barstool.

5-6 PM

Ghosts of the Great Highway by Sun Kil Moon

The perfect de-stresser after a tiring workday. Try skipping ahead to Duk Koo Kim to ease your nerves during the commute home. At over 14 minutes, it'll likely take up most of that commute.

6-7 PM

March 16-20, 1992 by Uncle Tupelo

While the sun is smoldering low and the clouds are long and purple against the peach sky, Tupelo's acoustic turn and perhaps a cold brew can help you unwind. The closing trio of "Fatal Wound", "Sandusky" and "Wipe the Clock" are sad and thoughtful like an evening breeze. The album dims gently, paralleling the twilight nicely.

Nighttime

7-8 PM

Forever Valentine Whiskeytown

An unreleased Whiskeytown album that features Ben Folds providing relatively rudimentary piano contributions. Tunes like "Sittin' Around" and "Rays of Light" are among my favorite Whiskeytown tracks, and would provide nice background tracks for a hearty supper.

8-9 PM

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon

The most recent Spoon album oozes with cool (then again so does every Spoon album) and would set the mood nicely for a night on the town, the kind you'd want emanating from your car as you drive down the strip. I feel like you have to where chunky black shades while listening to Ga(x5). It's a shame they don't come standard issue with the album.

9-10 PM

Boys and Girls in America by The Hold Steady

If you're out on the town downing brews but are simultaneously considering the state of your youth--perhaps in its final throes--the Hold Steady feels you man. Fun and boisterous, they always manage to infuse some thought-provoking concepts into their rock 'n roll, never better than on Boys and Girls.

10-11 PM

The Shepherd's Dog by Iron and Wine

This was my favorite album from 2007, namely because it was so conducive to late night drives. Sam Beam abandons the meek, whispery folk of his earlier work for a broader, ecclectic sound. It's exactly what I was hoping he'd do, and to my ears he made a masterpiece. Songs like "Carousel" and "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" are perfect for moonlit spins, while "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" and "The Devil Never Sleeps" are better-suited for high-speed joyrides.

11 PM-12 AM

29 by Ryan Adams

Everything about this album is dark. Creepy album art, production style that sounds cold and distant, the songs themselves. Not hailed as one of Ryan's finer works, I like 29 better than any of his last 3 releases, due in no small part to Ethan Johns' involvement. Although "Voices" isn't exactly ending the day in an upbeat fashion, you'll probably have drifted off by then anyway.

***

24 albums, 24 hours. Now I've never actually put this into practice, but I can only assume that this list is infallible. If for some reason you disagree, let me know about it. I'd be interested to hear what your late night/early morning/mid-day standby might be.

New Poll! (look right)

Vote in our exciting new poll. Hooray.

HSW staff: Feel free to add more.

Readers: feel free to suggest more.

We can be just as gimmicky as ESPN: Music Mt. Rushmore

While working from home yesterday, I left Sportscenter on repeat, which is one of the more depressing metrics of inactivity. Also has to be killer for ESPN's profits vis-a-vis ad revenue: One production, repeated 4 times in a row, rife with commercials. Not a bad operation.

Anyway, they've been doing this thing called "Mt. Rushmore of Sports", which is yet another example of ESPNs need to mythologize every athlete who ever granted them an interview via some silly feature that involves an overwrought Stuart Scott voiceover. And though I thought it impossible, it's made Sportscenter even lamer than it was before.


Boo-yah!

The segment itself is "hosted" by former SI columnist Rick Reilly in an effort to allow him some likability, which is impossible. Seriously, what a douchebag. You can see in his eyes that he could not give less of a shit what anyone else thinks or says. You know why? Cause he's Rick goddamn Reilly and he says thoughts for money.

/secretly jealous

Anyway, it ticked me off so much that I figured I'd lift the idea and do it for music, because hippocracy has a special place in this blog. We make fun of our favorite artists and then escape to the candlelit closet-shrine while we listen to B-sides on repeat and cradle the signed glossy we overpaid for on E-bay. And don't get me started on the hair-dolls!

So I took the time (slow week at work...) to throw together a photoshop of my musical Mt. Rushmore. My only rule was to keep it American, since it's Mt. Rushmore. Alright, here we go:



On the left we have Ryan Adams, who almost didn't make the cut because I've been a tad disappointed with his recent work. While I've come down to earth a bit regarding Ryan, I still do value his contributions a great deal. Thus he deserved a spot. But I didn't hesitate to make him look like a jack-ass.

Next is Jeff Tweedy, who looks a little Cro-Magnon, but I didn't feel like building a ratsnest of stoney hair.

Tom Waits turned out the best. It's like his visage was made to be carved into a mountainside. This needs to be arranged, clearly.

Mark Kozelek is on the right, whose work with the Red House Paitners, Sun Kil Moon, and as a solo artist is invaluable to me. Also, it is hilarious to look at his reluctant countenance. It's so Kozelek. It's like he's thinking "I hate this. I don't want to be a mountain."


There's mine...let's hear yours. Feel free to go non-American if you want. Bonus points for Photoshoppers

Thursday, February 19, 2009

PPS-Musical Fun Time

In doing some research on the previous post, I couldn't afford to leave out these little gems.





Can you feel the retard tingles???

The Real Ray Lamontagne...


I recently picked up a few albums from Ray Lamontagne; and I have to say, the guy has talent. Collaborating with Ethan Johns on his debut album Trouble helped RL establish himself as a mountain man with Motown soul. Not to mention the obvious nod to yesteryear in many of his songs on "Gossip in the Grain." (Ray, did you mean, "I heard it through the grapevine?")

Other reviewers have coined Ray as "a huskier, sandpaper version of Van Morrison and Tim Buckley, but I pick up something else in his voice...something.....

...that sounds like Michael Bolton. Okay, so he didn't collaborate with Kenny G or include any cheesy synth pops in his backing tracks; but the inordinate hair, the chiseled chin; now that I have made that correlation, I can't shake it.

Listen for yourself:







I guess all I'm saying is that I just hope Ray doesn't get pinned down as the amorous dud of a particular generation. Remember this scenario?

"Hey, can you turn off that Michael Bolton tape? I'm trying to watch MacGyver!"

We're rooting for you, Ray!

-PS: I welcome your discussion

Friday, February 13, 2009

YOUR Top 10 of 08

We're already 44/365ths of the way through 09, but I thought I'd least post our Best of 08 Poll results.

1. Fleet Foxes - s/t (33%)
2. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (25%)
3. Connor Oberst - s/t (12%)
4. Sun Kil Moon - April (8%)
4. M83 - Saturday=Youth (8%)
4. Bonnie Prince Billy - Lie Down In the Light (8%)
7. Guns 'n Roses - Chinese Democracy (4%) [Very funny...]

Thanks for voting! Only TV On the Radio's Dear Science received no votes, which is ironic because just about every major publication put it somewhere around the top of its list. How does our list compare? Here's where they fall on the "Best of 2008" composite list on Metacritic.com:

Fleet Foxes - #7
Bon Iver - #6
Connor Oberst - not ranked
Sun Kil Moon - not ranked
M83 - not ranked
Bonnie Prince Billy - not ranked
Guns n Roses - not ranked
TV On the Radio - #4

How about you? Leave your top 10 (or 5, or 2, or 1) in the comments section.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

George's Summer in live music #4: Wilco w/Bon Iver

2. Wilco
August 7th, 2008
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
North Charleston, SC
Bon Iver opens

My first go-round catching Wilco at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center (third time overall) was middling. The show was fine, the setlist was above average, and I met the band after the gig. It all sounds pretty damned memorable, no? Factor the crushing realization I experienced upon entering: that my tickets were not for front row (a banner I'd been waving for two months prior) but were, in fact, for the front row of the upper tier. Soured the night a bit. Try to imagine the deflation that might result from being ushered to row 40 when the ticket you'd misread had promised you front row for months!

Alas, redemption is a dish best served cold. (It's revenge, I know, but bear with me.) When Wilco announced its August 7th date at the NCPAC, I was late on the uptake for various excusable reasons, and only managed a grand tier seat. But some helpful pals kept their ears open and I landed in the fifth row, almost dead center. That's about optimum territory at the NCPAC, about eye-level with the artist. No neck-craning or eye-straining necessary.

The icing on the cake was the opener: Bon Iver, the recipient of a mountain of critical praise for his storied For Emma, Forever Ago LP. The crowd was thin for Justin Vernon and his band of three, and the houselights were never fully dimmed. Still, he band rolled out most of the pleasers from Emma in grand fashion, including "Creature Fear", "Flume", and a roaring "Skinny Love" that nicely rewarded those of us who'd rather catch an up-and-comer than wait ten minutes for a $6.25 bottle of Miller Lite. Justin closed his set with album-closer "Stacks"; the gentle, grainy electric strums urging his falsetto through the song's six minute span.

Wilco was greeted with a maniacal applause. I should mention that this was a make-up show. Wilco was slated to play Charleston on February 29 (a show I would not have been able to attend!) but cancelled due to nabbing a slot on Saturday Night Live.

Perhaps they felt indebted to their Carolina fanbase--more likely, they're just that good--but Jeff and crew absolutely delivered. Of the six Wilco sets I've caught over the years, this night's was peerless. Jeff Tweedy was in an incredibly jovial mood, gabbing with the crowd, even pulling an audience member onstage and calling attention to the grotesque-looking Tweedy sketch that was printed on his shirt. "Do I look like that? It looks more like a Geico cave-man," Tweedy joked, lowering his face to the guy's shirt and mugging playfully. The fan managed to signal his friend to take a picture. Tweedy posed with him, issuing the mock warning "Alright, now you're pushing it..."

The rest of the band was just as giddy. Multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone tossed maracas twenty feet in the air during "Heavy Metal Drummer" and employed Townshend theatrics in his guitar-playing. Drummer Glenn Kotche sprayed sweat and flashed twisted grins while putting the hurt on his fancy kit. Don't forget pianist Mikael Jorgensen and guitar god Nels Cline, manning stage right and looking rather Scandinavian, who were slick attackers like leather-capped dogfighters, coolly slaying every line-item on the staggering setlist. John Stirratt, the only original Wilco member besides Tweedy, provided harmonies and thumpy basslines throughout and, as always, was a pleasure to watch.

Regarding that setlist, it actually started rather slow, opening with the revamped "Sunken Treasure" they've been doing for a while, followed by a few Sky Blue Sky tracks. "Blood of the Lamb" was a curious choice, a deep cut from Mermaid Avenue Volume II, that featured a nice clarinet solo from one of the horn-players the band brought along. Methinks that was the real reason they dusted the tune off.

"Impossible Germany", eight songs in, was when I really felt like the show got rolling. They followed the crowd-pleaser with "Pieholden Suite", the Summerteeth cut that is super-rare and featured Nels on the banjo. In fact, three Summerteeth tunes made the cut: "Pieholden", the title track, and album opener "Can't Stand It", which won song of the night honors if you ask me. I once heard a record-store owner call it 'the perfect pop song', and indeed it was a late addition to the album due to the label pressuring the band for a single. Wilco cleverly tacked it on as the first track, so as not to interrupt the flow of the album. For that reason I'd always looked passed it to the true album opener "She's a Jar". But hearing it live definitely raised its stock.

We got two encores, six songs worth. The first encore started with "Misunderstood." I stand by my assertion that "Misunderstood" is one of the wonders of today's live-music world. The song is like an early era "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart", verse after verse building until the whole damn thing boils over into an explosive climax, one that lasts for about 2 minutes (doesn't that sound nice?) "I'd like to thank you all for nothing, I'd like to thank you all for nothing at all, I'd like to thank you all for nothing--" The following minute or so is especially epic: Tweedy's repeated call of "Nothing!", which often numbers in the high 30s, the entire audience roaring along in unison, the syllables backed by a sudden full-band bang-bang. What's really special is the split second of piercing silence between each "Nothing!". There's nothing quite like drinking in that void after each stocatto explosion of sound.

The rarely-played b-side "Cars Can't Escape" came next, a reward to the devotees perhaps. "Spiders" closed the first encore, and after a minute or two, the band finished us off with three of its best rockers: "The Late Greats," "Monday," and "Outtasite (Outtamind)". And that was that.

Since I always have to complain about something, I would have liked to have heard something from A.M.--never have heard an A.M. song in any of the six shows--and a second Mermaid Avenue tune, perhaps "California Stars" or "Remember the Mountain Bed." But who gives a shit, really...the show was an A+. The setlist drew generously from Being There and Summerteeth, including some rare gems, and the band was in perfect form. The whole night was a joy, from Bon Iver's entrance to Wilco's final exit, and it was a nice way to finish off an especially memorable summer of live music.

Full setlist:
1. Sunken Treasure
2. You Are My Face
3. Side With The Seeds
4. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
5. Company In My Back
6. Blood Of The Lamb
7. Handshake Drugs
8. Impossible Germany
9. Pieholden Suite
10. Forget The Flowers
11. Summer Teeth
12. Jesus, Etc.
13. Hate It Here
14. Can't Stand It
15. Heavy Metal Drummer
16. Walken
17. I'm The Man Who Loves You

Encore 1:
18. Misunderstood
19. Cars Can't Escape
20. Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Encore 2:
21. The Late Greats
22. Monday
23. Outtasite (Outta Mind)

Check these out too:
George's Summer in Live Music #1: Radiohead
George's Summer in Live Music #2: Tom Waits and Fleet Foxes
George's Summer in Live Music #3: The Hold Steady

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

HSW Newsflash: We're a real site now!

After a relatively painless outpatient procedure, we've had our blogspot removed. That's www.hearsoundswrite.com to you! Update your bookmarks, bumperstickers and forearm tattoos.

And keep an eye out for some pretty cool stuff that's waiting in the wings.

Musical Lookalikes: The All Cardinals edition

I try to play cool, but Ryan Adams' announcement of the Cardinals break-up does squeeze my heart a bit. I don't know if I wholeheartedly believe it, but if it is the truth, it'll be the end of a musical era for me. As someone who attended 10 of their shows over the past 5 years (will be 12 before it's all said and done), I'm sad to see them go.

So as an homage to the group, here's who they all kinda look like:


The Fixtures

Ryan Adams::Ric Moranis


Nothing shocking here. This is a comparison long-made by fans and detractors alike. It's really incanny, isn't it? I wonder how much it would cost to book Rick Moranis to lip-sync some old Adams songs. Probably cheaper than a concert ticket! But I imagine it'd get weird after a few minutes, at which point I'd say "OK, forget it...just say the gatekeeper line from Ghost Busters."

Brad Pemberton::John Cusack from High Fidelity


A couple of lanky, black-haired, sad-faced coolguys. I'd shake the hand of both man and thank him for his contribution to the arts. Actually, I've already done that with Brad. Twice. So I'll count the second one as Cusack.


The rest of the originals:

JP Bowersock::John Ratzenberger (aka Cliff Clavin from Cheers)


A bit stretchy, but ignore JPs ponytail and soul patch, and he could at least body double for the Ruffles shill.

Cindy Cashdollar::"Starla" from Napoleon Dynamite


While Cindy may not be ripped to shreds, and Starla (real name Carmen Brady) may not have a Southern grace about her, both ladies are held in incredibly high esteem by this blogger. My only hope is that Cindy stumbles across this and gently posits, "I don't feel comfortable reading this," at which point I'll say "That's fine, that's fine...but do you feel comfortable with me?"


Me saying that.

Cat Popper::Geena Davis

(pictured with some douchebag...)

"Hey Brian, whatever happened to Geena Davis?" This isn't a homerun, but both women have perfected the tall, thin, milk-skinned, dark-haired look. Tangent: Geena Davis looks different in just about every Google image result.


The new recruits:

Jon Graboff::A lot of people.


I'll Leave This One to the Pros.

Neal Casal::Han Solo


Neal's well-documented affinity for vests brought this one on. Hey, I can think of less flattering iconic characters to whom one could be compared. The comparison was only reinforced when, according to eye-witness accounts from the green room at a Des Moines, IA show, Ryan said "Neal, you're a great guitar player," to which Neal coolly responded, "I know." He was then frozen in carbonite.

Chris "Spacewolf" Feinstein::Jack Black


Again, not dead-on but fitting. While only vaguely resembling one another, both rockers have impressive control over their eyebrows. Here's hoping for a eyebrow raise-off, winner faces The Rock.

And that's that. Farewell to the Cards! When the biopic* is cast, give us here at HSW a ring. We have some suggestions for you.

*Which will inevitably be titled Adams...note to screenwriters: Titling a biopic the first or last name of the subject is getting stale. Ray, Capote, Ali, Milk, etc...can we maybe try and think of a film title that isn't lazy as hell?

Monday, February 9, 2009

HSW Newsflash: Odds 'n Ends

A few things from the wire...



• Wilco's Live DVD Will Rule*: It's about time! Seems like a live Wilco DVD has been swishing about in the rumor mill for ages. Finally, the fanboys 'n girls patience has been rewarded. Ashes of American Flags will be released on April 18th to coincide with Record Store Day. The concert footage will be an amalgam of several shows (similar to Tweedy's solo DVD "Sunken Treasure") and will likely rock all kinds of ass. Watch a trailer right here!

No confirmation on the tracklist, but you can probably bet on "Ashes of American Flags". Also Billboard reports the live DVD will be followed by a new LP later in the year. Hoorah!


• Speaking of the Felice Brothers: According to their very own website, the brothers Felice have put together yet another LP. May it only be as satisfying as their last two! It's called Yonder Is the Clock, which is delightfully Felician.
Tracklist for Yonder Is The Clock is below:

1. The Big Surprise
2. Penn Station
3. Buried In Ice
4. Chicken Wire
5. Ambulance Man
6. Sailor Song
7. Katie Dear
8. Run Chicken Run
9. All When We Were Young
10. Boy from Lawrence County
11. Memphis Flu
12. Cooperstown
13. Rise and Shine

Two songs with "chicken" in the title? Yes please! Incidentally, they opened with "Run Chicken Run" last night and I can safely say it was good 'n frenzied. They also played "Penn Station", which I remember enjoying but can't really recollect what it sounded like. Pre-order this one ASAP!


• EH, ah say EH!! Who all dees pipple cominta see us?
The Kings of Leon recently sold out Madison Square Garden. Aroo? What thes shit? How did that happen? Is it just me, or weren't they just playing the House of Blues like last year? At any rate, they're embarking on an arena tour, playing large capacity venues. So apparently they're, like, huge now. We can all practice our "I listened to them back in the Youth and Young Manhood days, it's just not the same" spiels. They're playing Charleston in May. I might just check em out. They'll probably have a good opener, anyway.


• Random Youtube - Chet Atkins is better than you:

Black Mountain Rag

Damn. Just when I started to feel significant as a guitarist. He spreads those licks like rich cream, son. Also note the similarities to Jimmy Page's "White Summer/Black Mountainside", including the song title. Methinks Pagey owes a bit to this piece.

HouSekeeping(W):
Don't forget to e-mail anything you deem interesting to hearsoundswrite@gmail.com. We check it, we do.

February 8, 2009: Old Crow Medicine Show w/The Felice Brothers



North Charleston Performing Arts Center
North Charleston, South Carolina


The sound you hear is me kicking myself.

This adage might seem a curious one to invoke after baring witness to a night of live music that, as far as my tastes go, was creamy, sweet butter slathered on a doughy slice of Sara Lee. Alas, my self-loathing stems from my decision to forgo bringing my Nikon D80 to a venue that makes little to no effort to stifle still photography, so long as the artists don't complain. I am not exaggerating when I say a press escort could not have led me to a better vantage point. Our seats were second row, 45 degrees off-center, and our chairs were aligned in such a way that no first-row chairs obstructed our view. I was one full step from touching the stage. My photographic eye was a torture all night long. So many shots that could have been!

But anyway, the show itself more than made up for my poor decisionmaking.

Old Crow is a well-oiled machine, and Ketch Secor runs a tight ship. His banter was charming and deliberate, steeped in the Nashville tradition of friendly song introductions that were as much a part of the song as the blazing fiddle solos or four part harmonies. "This song is to get the girls in the back row dancing," he'd unironically announce with an 'aw-shucks' grin. The power behind Willie Watson's nasally quasi-yodels belied his waifish appearance. Dude has pipes.

And the band didn't shy away from "Wagon Wheel", playing an anthemic version that sent the sold-out crowd into a celebratory frenzy. Still, the speedy bluegrass numbers were my favorite. I'm a little rusty at song-titles, but you know the type: oompah-bass line trotting beneath banjo (and gitjo!) scrapes, chaotic harmonies delivered at a staggering pace, and it all ends on one sudden collective downstrum. Man, I can't get enough of that.

We got our money's worth, the show clocking in at over 2 hours and ending with a spotty but still fun rendition of "Ziggy Stardust" featuring all the members of opener The Felice Brothers. Which leads me to...

The Felice Brothers! Man, I love these guys. Derivative at times, yes. Sometimes detrimentally so. But when they stop trying to be Another Side era Dylan, they exude a meek and friendly warmth that cautiously draws the listener near. Kinda like--well, Dylan. But we can't disparage Ian Felice for being born with Dylanesque pipes. Plus he kinda looks like Woody Guthrie:


Is it Ian or Woody???? (Hint: It's Ian)

But listen to the record and you'll find it easy to pinpoint the true Felice tunes. "Murder by Mistletoe," "Helen Fry," even "Frankie's Gun" are stamped with a gimmickless delivery that Dylan-rehashes "Love Me Tenderly" and "Tip Your Way" lack.

They didn't pepper their live set with fan-favorites like "Frankie's Gun" or "Radio Song", opting for deeper cuts and uptempo jams. But their stage show was entertaining as all hell. Each member (save for the shy bassist) played his instrument with gusto, smashing cymbals, high-stepping in place, appealing to the audience ad nauseam. This includes drummer Simone Felice, whose beats were crude and harsh, but not to say ineffective.

After the final "Ziggy" bash, I found myself climbing the exit ramp alongside Ian. So I engaged him in a brief exchange, in what I will now deem an EXCLUSIVE HSW INTERVIEW!!!
Hearsoundswrite: Hey man, show was incredible.
Ian Felice (quietly appreciative): Ah, thanks, thanks a lot.
HSW: I've been listening to your album like crazy this past month.
IF (clearly preoccupied): Ah, really?
HSW: Hey, out of curiosity, how old are you?
IF (regretting exiting via seating area): Twenty-seven.
HSW: Really?
IF: Yeah.
HSW: Man I would have thought you were a lot younger.
IF: Haha, ah ok.
There you have it: 4 years of thorough journalism training in action.

Anyway, killer show all around. Here's to continued success for both acts, because in a world of pretentious laptop bands and cheesedick singer-songwriters, we need acts like OCMS and The Felice Brothers to keep us honest.