Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Tube Amp: December/January (and happy new year!)

Howdy! Happy Twentyten to all. I hope you enjoyed a nice holiday stretch. I for one spent the final week of the decade boxing up my apartment and hauling everything down the street to my new place. It's nice, although the heating system is all jacked up, so it's at present virtually uninhabitable. Thankfully I've no shortage of crashpads while the problem is righted (should be today), but damned if I don't feel like a bit of a nomad right now.

Anyhoo, a byproduct of my inability to set up shop in the new digs is the lack of music playing, listening, and writing I've been able to partake in the past week or so. A holiday is not uncommon for most enterprises--I returned to my dayjob after a week with just six new emails, only one of any significance--so I'd like to think our lack of output is excusable.

What's inexcusable is the lack of a Tube Amp feature last month. What with the outflux of posting, I managed to overlook one of my favorite pieces. Consider it a hiatus, and consider this the end of it. The first Tube Amp of 2010 showcases one of my favorite artists playing a song by another one of my favorite: Band of Horses covering Gram Parsons' "A Song For You". While I didn't witness this particular performance which was in Charlotte, I got to see them playing Parsons' classic tune in Charleston recently. It was my fifth Band of Horses show, and fourth at the Music Farm. The first was as an opener for Iron and Wine in 2005. At that time, the band featured a few different faces, and Ben Bridwell was a repressed shell of the charismatic frontman he is today.

:04 - "How are you guys doing anyway?" I noticed at the recent Charleston show that Ben has a real eye-level rapport with the crowd. There isn't any overwhleming grandiosity from the stage. I get the feeling Ben and the rest of the band are very appreciative of their situation. After a show in 2007, I saw Ben Bridwell walking hurriedly towards me, in an attempt to get to the tour bus (oddly parked out front) before the masses could swarm him. In a fanboy moment, I stuck out a paw and said, "Ben, thanks for playing tonight." He slowed a bit, gave me a hearty handshake, and in a very sincere way said, "No no, thank you," as if he was really trying to convince me that I, the devoted fan, was the more important part of the equation.

:19 - You know it's a good crowd when you get some cheers for "This is a Gram Parsons song." I couldn't spot anyone else in the Charleston crowd who was equally as excited as I was.

:27 - "...is like a wild GYOOOSE..."

:41 - One of the clear enhancements to the band in recent years has been the addition of keyboardist Ryan Monroe, whose harmonies do a nice job of replacing those of departed Horse Matt Brooke.

59: - "Take me down to your dancefloor/I won't mind the people when they stare." As a bi-leftfooted fellow, this is one of my alltime favorite lyrics.

1:10 - This little riff, wherein the drums hits the off beat with the guitar's upstrum, is executed a tad hokily. In fact, I might slow the whole song down a few BPMs. Gram's version is quite a bit slower, as is Whiskeytown's.

1:43 - Ben's ability to snappy notes works quite well on this song, since the vocal melody jumps around the scale so freely.

2:17 - Observation: Bridwell is a hat man. I think the first time I saw the band is the only time he wasn't sporting a hat of some sort. He's taken to a rather impressive Stetson these days, but, as you see here, it's not rare to see him rockin a standard bro-lid.

2:23 - Call me crazy, but I'm not sure this guy's in the band any more. At least I don't remember him from the show last week.

2:36 - "Tyler Ramsey!" Ben's shredtroduction gives way to Ramsey's low-intensity guitar style. I haven't listened to his solo stuff, but Stereogum describes his style as a mix between Ryan Adams and The Red House Painters. Gimme gimme gimme. However, I think he needs to explore the guitar a bit on his soloing...I don't think he ever gets above the fourth fret.

3:00 - By the by, this is the first Tube Amp video filmed by a fan, in one steady shot. Not for those people who have a short attention span.

3:28 - Down in front, fuckers!

3:45 - Beautiful stage-lighting...especially that luminecent, red exit sign off to the left.

4:20 - "And tomorrow, we may still be there." May you always be there, Band of Horses...the little band that's doing the suburban Neverland known as Mt. Pleasant, SC proud.

As a bonus, here is Gram's original version with a small verbal introduction by the late, great legend:

And, the knockout version Whiskeytown did on Sessions At West 54th. Worthy of it's own Tube Amp appearance, please note Ryan's frosty hair, Caitlin Cary's farmgirl attire, and James Iha's...well, James Iha:

And cause why not, Lucinda Williams and her unique howl:

Which one is your favorite? Hard to beat Gram's original, in my opinion. His vocal effort on the track is pretty damned timeless. Until next month!

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