Monday, February 22, 2010

The Tube Amp: February

Welcome back to The Tube Amp, which against all odds, is on time this month. Today I give you Whiskeytown, who at this point had two years and one LP under its cracked-leather belt. Stranger's Almanac, set to be released a few months after this performance, would show a more refined side of the band, and would stylistically give way to Ryan Adams' inevitable solo turn. But before then, there was raw, gritty Stones-inspired roots rock:

:03 -- A young Ryan Adams (23 here) sports some impressive chops. Both musical and mutton.

:06 -- "And you know what? You can tell your local newspaperwoman to suck my fuckin' dick." This infamous statement is one of the first of many outbursts that sculpted Ryan Adams notoriously brash reputation; the kind of onstage pomposity that's made him one of the most simultaneously beloved and despised musicians around. Apparently, this journalist had alleged that the band publicly dismissed Uncle Tupelo--not and endearing stance to take in St. Louis. Feeling the need to pander a bit , Ryan fired the insult (the target of which was no doubt in the audience) and clarified the band's stance, before launching into one of Whiskeytown's rowdiest, most Tupelo-esque numbers. Years after going solo, he would take a decidely less political stance at a Chicago gig, improvising a song called "I Am Trying to Bore You to Death", a none too subtle jab at Wilco's song. Tit for tat, a few years later Adams and Tweedy would share a bill at a music festival. During Tweedy's solo set, a fan yelled "Summer of 69!", to which Tweedy responded something along the lines of "Shouldn't you be saving that (for Adams' set)?"

For a time in the mid-2000s, Wilco and Ryan Adams were the standard-bearers for alternative country music, even though neither was particularly embroiled in the genre. Distinct fanbases were borne out of the two, with the Wilco camp dismissing Ryan's music as derivative, and Ryan fans deriding Wilco's as overly pretentious. As a fan of both, I've been scoffed at by each act's followers for my support of the other. But over the past few years, as Adams and Wilco have grown less essential (except the latter's live show), they've been corralled into the old guard together. It's a bittersweet notion, but such is the creative arc I suppose. Maybe it'll allow for more mutual appreciation; a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

:30 -- Lol @ "Fat fuckin' hippy", a response to Phil Wandchester's facetious admission that Blues Traveler is the reason they started a band. Poor John Popper. At least he lost some of that weight.

1:00 -- It breaks my heart that I was never able to see Whiskeytown back in the late 90s. I've come to enjoy their catalog at a far greater level than I do Ryan's solo work, who I've seen ten times. This is before Ryan's reputation was crystalized, before his string of high-profile relationships, and before the famous Summer of 69 incident. Just a talented dude playing in a killer rock band--a formula that always works.

1:21 -- Not shown: Caitlin Cary, Whiskeytown's only other wire-to-wire member besides Ryan Adams. Her strong harmonies were such a perfect complement to Ryan's lead vocals, and thankfully so, because despite his best efforts, Phil Wandscher wasn't much of a singer.

1:32 -- As Ryan falls out of the shot here, we get a clear shot of the southpaw Wandscher, who wasn't long for the band but was a presence on Faithless Street.

2:15 -- I gotta stop choosing these one-shot clips. There's only so much to write about...

2:33 -- Well hey, ask and ye shall receive. There's drummer Skillet Gilmore, current drummer of Raleigh rockers Patty Hurst Shifter and, if I'm not mistaken, husband to Caitlin Cary.

3:33 -- There are a few other clips from this gig, including a few that are more musically engaging, but really the first 30 seconds are validate this video's existence.

Until next month!

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