it's been a hard clay's night

24 June 2013

Don't Bother Me

Old 97's - Turner Hall Ballroom - Milwaukee - 20 June 2013

     This night's show in Milwaukee was a reunion of sorts, but truly, most shows are. There are several faces I can count on seeing at a Wisconsin gig. Casey, Colin, Jenna, Courtney, Carey, and actually a few others, whose names I haven't yet learned. The difference this time around was that I was already in Wisconsin when show time rolled around, so there was a minimum of fuss & rush. K-star and I were long overdue for an adventure, and this time, we got some bonus Emily! It had been far too long. We've been to Turner Hall before and it is a great space. A bit too many stairs to traipse up, but we got it done. The openers, Trapper Schoepp & the Shades were impressive, despite my feeling very old watching these sweet young things rock. Thanks to Carey for hepping me to that jive. I enjoyed them thoroughly and look forward to more!  So we waited and mingled, basking in the excitement of what was yet to be. Ken came down to say hello to the contingent on his side of the stage. He watched some of the opener's performance before slipping away through the crowd.
    Again, they prefaced the boys' entrance onstage to Queen's 'Fat-Bottomed Girls' and then the crowd got all wound up. Rhett was a grinning fool and we were off and running. Early on though, there were tiny hints of something strange bubbling under the surface of things. Somewhere from behind us, small projectiles made their way over our heads and onto the stage. Apparently, it was just debris and not a note of request or somesuch nonsense. Hmmm. Then, an empty cup that Rhett actually had to slightly dodge due to it's trajectory. He was not amused. I turned around to look for the offender, but really just saw the regular sea of happy flushed faces, slick with perspiration. I did notice a kerfuffle off to my right somewhere near the front. Minutes later, a burly, inconsiderate forearm shoved between me and my right-hand neighbor-fan. In a millisecond, I discerned that it was not an accidental fall or shove; it did not stem from my friends behind me. It was some fugly troll who barely met my own stature. The lunge made absolutely no sense, as the wild hand was grabbing towards the monitors and not much more. WTF? I harshly shrugged him off my person and I made certain he felt that it was unwelcome. No sooner than that, I got popped in the back. Enough to hurt, but not harm. Are you fucking kidding me, Guy? I spun like a banshee and looked this fucker dead in his eyes and queried, "DID YOU JUST FUCKING HIT ME????!!" To which he actually answered a curt "NO" and before his vowel sound ended, I very loudly and not at all politely, said that I "would knock out all of his fucking teeth if he touched any part of me again." How exactly I would truly go about doing that, is a mystery that we may never solve. It was the closest I've ever come to getting violent, as I tend toward the pacifist sensibilities. But I will not have my show NOR my person be adversely affected because some asshat doesn't know how to conduct himself. A girl behind him, who seemed to be just a show-goer, grabs the jerk by the scruff of his shirt and yelled "you're done!" and dragged him somewhere behind her. It was awesome! After that, I turned back to the stage. Perhaps a song later, during Ken's solo, Rhett hustled over near Ken and bent over, speaking emphatically to someone in the crowd. He returned to center-stage and during the next break, people were gesticulating at this asshole and trying to get Rhett's attention, because the kid wanted to apologize. Rhett leaned over and said very seriously that, fine, he accepted the apology but what the fuck was his problem? He then offered the evidence of the empty cup and assorted crap that had been tossed onstage. Then, thinking better of continuing to engage, he abruptly stood up and marched back to the guitar tech and stage dude, where it looked like he pretty much insisted that the guy be ejected. And so it was. Two or three bouncers came to clean up the mess and we cheered and continued without another thought. Poor Rhett got awful close to having his game rocked, but after having solved things, he seemed to shake it off. This doesn't often happen at a show, it was said the guy, (an alleged dentist, which I thought was funny, re: knocking his teeth out...) seemed to be pharmaceutically motivated. It mattered not to me; he is lucky to have left the premises with un-kneed balls. *sigh*
     The evening continued. An errant guitar cord spilled a drink at one point, but the tech was quick to towel up. Ken and Rhett took turns towering and teetering above us in between the front monitors. The temperature wavered between perfect and only mildly uncomfortable. There was an unfortunate incident of the pedal?/cord?/guitar? not working right before Ken's solo in Every Night is Friday Night (Without You) and he expressed his regret afterwards claiming it's a really fun part to play. Awwwwwwww. I should mention that Rhett had a fancy new guitar, you can see it in the pics. Ken was also rocking a red/orange loaner Landric Custom guitar, along with his own Landric Custom, the glittery green, among his others. Ken changed it up many times that night, K-star called him Cher, hahahaha! The big Timebomb finale was outrageous, with Ken actually on his knees in front of us bashing away on the guitar. Hands from every direction were grabbing at his knees
     We were enveloped in the vibe, you know the one. There were now only cool, considerate people around us.  I did indeed bring the iPad to take photos. It was still a bit too dark, but the pics are OK and for the most part, better than the iPhone. There were the captured moments of some of the boys clearly realizing some silly girl in the front was actually using an iPad to take photographs. Those are definitely my favorites. It was a very similar setlist to Bloomington, a nice mix of things.
     When it was all over, I was resistant to being brought back down to Earth, but there were friendly folks who actually wanted to celebrate that asshole getting the boot, and to say thanks to me for being a considerate show-neighbor. That was awful nice, Milwaukee, thanks. The lady next to me had gotten the nearest setlist and was trying to tell me that another was still stuck to the stage. I think my enthusiasm+ iPad gave me away LOL I told her I was OK, having taken a pic of her setlist (oops, i deleted it) and then the ushers started to shoo us away from the stage.
     I wandered about to see those that hadn't stood within our crowd. It's always nice to catch up with hugs and expressions of joy from what we had just witnessed. I always love to see the others with the same syndrome, we will repeatedly see the same band-itis. This is our group therapy LOL

    Things ended on a high note, and we girls were within walking distance of our hotel. Another successful outing :) Milwaukee was still bustling with nightlife. The almost full moon lit the night sky. Off to bed. "This is the moonlight, the very same moonlight, so how happy can I be?"

14 June 2013

Magical Mystery Tour

Old 97's - Castle Theater - Bloomington, IL - 7 June 2013 ~ Marie & Annie's Excellent Adventure


I had missed a golden opportunity to see them in May in St. Louis with a gaggle of groovy gals and I was hoping desperately this new chance would fall together easily.
K-star, my usual partner in crime, was unable to accompany me. A unique plan would have to be formulated. All things were different this time. Bloomington is far enough away that an overnight stay after the concert would be the logical thing to do. I couldn't find decent accommodations for just overnight, so alternate lodging was the next hurdle. Now as luck or karma would have it, I have a fair amount of cousins in Champaign IL, which is roughly an hour away from Bloomington. I asked my cousin Marie if she was free to attend this and allow for my short visit. Score on both. We were overdue for a good bonding experience as adults, and as she is a diligent grad student, I figured it was always nice to enjoy a break and perhaps something new? Especially great music by handsome rock boys? Oh yes, indeed. It was a done deal.
While I was on a roll, I figured to kill 2 birds with one stone and visit a college friend that works for the University and lives near campus. She was also available for a visit and it made me feel like I was driving somewhere and all the lights turned green as I drove through them. I love it when a quick-draw plan comes together. I gassed up the night before, and kissed my boys adios in the morning. I wanted all the lead time I could get. Singing karaoke to no one as the ipod played backup, I hit town by 1230 and had a few hours' time with my girlfriend. We hadn't seen each other in over 10 years but the social networking since had virtually reunited us some years ago. It was awesome, it's been 21 years since high school thus 20 years from our college freshman year and the following summer. We talked a bit about then, and some about now, mostly regarding Game of Thrones! hahaha
I took my leave and traveled to Marie's. Her and her fiance's place was as sweet and cute as they are. We got prepped, took care of errands and hit the road. It was a quick hour's ride punctuated with our anecdotes and navigation. The venue was easy to find and once there we got sweet, free parking right out front. That's always a good sign. We just stayed in the car chatting til it got closer to doors time. And when we did get in line, we found ourselves at the end of it, already about 50 folks deep. And I've got no room to talk, but the crowd was a tad older than I was used to. Or maybe they just looked older, it seemed like a pretty salty sea of salt and pepper. I'm not sure where we were in proximity to Illinois State U. but I guess I just thought it would be a more college-y crowd.
The doors opened and we secured our clearance. The theatre was a nice enough venue, easy to navigate, clean bathrooms. We made our way to the Kenside of the front and there was plenty of room at the relatively low stage. We chatted with some of the nearby folks, and discovered I knew some of them and that we had mutual friend/musicians. In no time at all, it was time for Robbie Fulks. Ken had been in contact beforehand and had actually come down to watch Robbie's set with us. Pretty awesome, right? He disappeared somewhere just before the last song Robbie and the other Robbie finished up. They were solid as hell and funny to boot. But I didn't drive to Bloomington to see him.
After Robbie Fulks left the stage, the techs scrambled to set up the stage accordingly and then Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" started up and we laughed. And then my boys came out with big smiles and the room just lit up with hoots and hollers. The drum kit and amps appeared to be rentals, which made sense, they were only out on a 2 day jaunt before going on break til the end of the month. I was so excited for my little first timer. Not that it made a difference to her, but the setlist ended up being so choice. Rhett really has his knack for a varied mix from the albums with good flow, down pat. This is a testament to the calibre of their music, you can mix from any of the albums and it still tastes good. It was tasty enough that I've already crafted it as a playlist in the ipod. I think there was a little bit more freedom since these tour dates weren't in support of a new album specifically.
They started out with Barrier Reef, Won't Be Home No More and then Dance with Me. Lotta power real fast!
At one point I raised my arm to show my newbie the goosebumps all over my skin. It just gets in me. I can't explain it and I'm OK with that.
Right off the bat, Ken was everywhere and teetering like a tightrope walker, edging between monitors. He's been known to kick your purse or personal crap off of the edge of the stage, even if it's not really in his way. Just because you're sullying his workspace. He did manage to punt a few stacked up empty beer cups and that got me giggling. No other purses or personal belongings seemed to have been harmed. It was funny, the stage was pretty low. Not low enough to be considered a riser, but low enough that someone of my height could easily just turn around and sit on it without hopping up. So when Ken or even Rhett got close, woo mama, they were right there. Like I could have fiddled with knobs on the guitar-close. Every so often I would turn and make sure Marie was enjoying herself and indeed she and most everyone else were. These boys were on fire, but this is the norm. Rhett sounded fine, even if the vocals were a bit difficult to hear. He seemed fully recovered from his vocal cord issues earlier this year. All was just as it should be.
I guess it'd been 8 months since the last shows for me and boy, that might just be too long in between. I was so stoked to bring my cousin, and the excitement of the drive and visiting my friend kept me a little too jacked up on adrenaline to feel hungry. I didn't eat enough before the show and then had only a coffee, so I sort of crashed near the middle of the show. It didn't help that a fair amount of the stage lights actually shone on us in the front and you really could feel the heat coming off. I happen to sweat like Rhett Miller under the best of conditions, so just before they brought Robbie out to sing I'd be Lonesome, I had to ditch out to refill my water and cool off. My first time EVER leaving the front row. It was a shame to miss one of my favorite songs, but it was unavoidable, I needed fresh air. I don't ever drink alcohol at shows just so I won't have to leave during. But the last thing I wanted was to keel over, I knew I was over-hungry and while I was pounding water, I was just as quickly sweating it out as I danced. It was a rookie mistake. I believe the lesson has been learned.
So I cooled off enough from the lobby to return to the front and just eased off on the dancing. I knew I could make it til the end of the show where I could slam some of the car munchies Marie brought. And we made it through just fine, they rocked our collective asses off. They just fed off of the love and the cycle completed itself.

Ken broke a string, I can't remember when, but it may have shown up in one of the pictures. The drum kit was not really set high enough off to make an impressive jump during the final song, but Rhett did it anyway. When all was sang and done, the techs came out to make quick work of the equipment and then I wasted no time grabbing the setlist. These are moments one mustn't hesitate during. *yoink*
We were properly exhilarated and had a snackfest directly afterwards. This helped matters immensely and I was restored within minutes. We waited a good while for Ken and eventually the other guys to come out. Ken was his normal, chatty, slightly off-color, self. Murry, quiet, seeming sleepy, but down for a few minutes in the social circle before returning to the van. Philip, who I had really wanted to congratulate for a terribly cool iphone photo of Saturn through the telescope. A tiny but majestic image posted on facebook awhile back. And darling Rhett, ever charming, always friendly and game for some fashion chat. The boy loves his Varvatos. Jacket and jeans, I totally called it. But he also loves, ahem, Calvin Klein, and that's all I will say about that.
I would have liked to have taken some pics afterwards but it didn't feel organic, considering how much chat time we were getting.
They all gave Marie her props after I let them know it was her first show, we had some good chats and laughs and then boom, time to haul.
We took off for Champaign and upon arrival, lovely Mike had chicken and pasta from dinner for us. I'm so glad that my cousin had a good time, I did too! I knew it was a no brainer, but it is so nice to have the experience land where you would like it to for someone else.
Bonding experience success!