Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Guy Clark, Joe Ely, John Hiatt, and Lyle Lovett at the Chicago Theatre, Jan. 19th, 2007

I'm way overdue on this one, but here goes -

I had a wierd experience last fall - Unaware of any future tour plans, one day the thought actually went through my head "I really wish those guys (Clark, Ely, etc..) would come to Chicago. The next day I found out that they were. So using a very old Ticketmaster gift certificate, we secured the cheapest seats at the Chicago Theatre.

I have no complaints about the cheap seats at the Chicago Theatre. The only other time I'd been in there, we had 2nd row seats, and this time I felt I actually got to see more of this gorgeous hall. We were in the last balcony, but we were center, and could see perfectly well.

I've listened to alot of bootlegs of these shows, so there weren't a lot of surprises. Four guys on stage with guitars, taking turns singing their songs. Participation on each other's songs was minimal. Stage banter was also minimal, though they weren't completley deadpan. They were all great and all did songs I was hoping to hear.

My best recollection of a setlist (by artist, not order of performance) -

Guy Clark - The Cape, Things That Work, Out in the Parking Lot, Walking Man, Magdalene, She Ain't Goin' Nowhere
Joe Ely - Me and Billy the Kid, Are You Listenin' Lucky (I may be wrong on this one), Silver City, I'm Gonna Strangle You Shorty, All Just To Get To You, One more I don't know the name of
John Hiatt - Memphis in the Meantime, Cry Love, Crossing Muddy Waters, Wintertime Blues, Drive South, One more I don't know the name of
Lyle Lovett - North Dakota, Fiona, Step Inside This House, It's All Downhill From Here? (New One?), More Pretty Girls Than One, and on that was kind of dark and brooding that I didn't recognize at all
All - White Freightliner Blues (Townes Van Zandt), and one other I'm totally blanking on

At the Supermarket

One of the strangest signs I've ever seen is where the razors are kept at the Jewel on Chicago Ave in Evanston. The blades are kept in these plastic bins with doors on them, and the sign on the doors says "Lift Door - Alarm Will Sound". This is goes completely against logic and human nature. Why would I want to do something that would cause an alarm to sound? I kid you not, the first time I saw this I walked away without getting the razors I needed.

I've since been a bit braver (and stubblier). When you lift the door, sure enough a local alarm sounds. I wouldn't even call it an alarm - more of an alert. It stops when you put the door back down. Razor blades are expensive and they must have a particular shoplifting problem with them?

I think the sign definitely needs to be amended, but I'm not sure what to suggest. It's hard to come up with something that would reassure legitimate razor customers, yet still deter shoplifters. You have to wonder though if they're not losing more money by deterring legitimate customers such as myself who don't like to hear alarms sounding on their behalf.

This from the same store where I had to fill out a one page form to buy cough syrup...(and yes, they've heard all the meth lab jokes, and no longer laugh).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I Guess I'll Have To Settle For Wheel of Fortune

I took the Jeopardy contestant search test online last night. Apparently they do this once a year - you have to register and then take it at the same date/time as everyone in your time zone. The test is 50 short answer questions (or technically "answers") and you only have 15 seconds for each question before it automatically moves you on to the next question. Since it is short answer, they apparently grade them by hand. You have to answer 35 or more correct to be put into the pool from which they randomly call people in for the next stage of interview/testing. I didn't try and keep track mentally, but there is no way I hit 35. A few of them I just had brain freeze on, some I just plain didn't know, and some I would have gotten with a few more seconds (and of course some I got right). I got Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell mixed up (I said Colbert played the lead on The Office - I of course confuse them because they were both on the Daily Show). I couldn't remember the name of the Chilean dictator that had just been all over the news (Pinochet). Didn't know who was elected President in 1896 (McKinley?), and didn't have enough time to come up with a Crossword Clue M (8 letters) for "Proverbially Slow Syrup" (molasses).

This is the second time I've tried and failed. The first time was much more exciting as I actually got to go to a hotel downtown and take the test with a bunch of other people. The test there was the same basic format, but hand written. Even there you only hear whether you pass or fail. I was fairly confident with that one that I was very close to getting 35. Not so much this time.

Though I'm still certain I could be the next Ken Jennings (without the Mormonism), I must say the test is pretty fair. Contestants on the show don't have time to mull things over. If you can't think fast sitting alone in front of your computer screen, how are you going to do in front of an audience with the lights and cameras and competition?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ron Sexsmith at Schubas, 1/16/07

One of my main goals with this blog is to keep track of shows I go to. I would love at the end of the year to have a record of them all. Here it is only January and I'm already two shows behind, with a third coming up this weekend! I better get caught up....

Tuesday night of last week I headed out by myself to Ron Sexsmith at Schubas. I know I'm getting old, as a 9pm show on a weeknight seemed really late to me! I guess it's just me, as he pulled a pretty solid crowd.

Kim Taylor opened. Earlier that day I was downloading some of her stuff to check her out (legally - from EMusic), and first thought "wow - she reminds me a lot of Over the Rhine". Eventually I somehow came around the fact that I had actually seen her open for Over The Rhine in Dec. 2005 at The Old Town School of Folk Music. I suspect the song that was really reminding me of Over The Rhine actually had Karyn Berquist on background vocals. Anyway, she opened the show with her acoustic guitar, and I find her to be a slightly above average singer-songwriter. I definitely enjoyed her more this time than I did the last. Partly I think the smaller setting serves her better. A couple songs from her latest CD particularly impressed me - "People" and "My Dress is Hung". Apparently she owns a coffee house in Cincinnati.

Ron had a band with him - guitar, bass, and drums - all fine musicians, and played a solid hour and a half set. I won't try to attempt a set list, but he hit most, if not all, of his albums, and did 1 cover, though I can't for the life of me remember what. He did a short little solo acoustic section that included Strawberry Blonde and God Loves Everyone.

I can't put my finger on what it is that I love about Ron. In the hands of a less skilled performer his songs could drip schmaltz, but they never do with him. They're often love songs full of sincerity and optimism, with little nuggets of insight into humanity. Great melodies. He's got the whole package, but never comes off as pretentious (on record or live).

I fully enjoyed this show - no complaints, but for some reason can't find too much to say about it. As the evening wore on I got a bit tired and less engaged. Strangely this was my 3rd time seeing Ron (a previous Schubas show, and 1 at Martyrs) and I can barely recollect those sets either. But that is not at all to say that he is not great live - he really is.

If you want more info, you can check out another mini-review from a blog here (with image of actual physical setlist!). Or better yet, watch it - apparently someone was stealthily taping the show and has posted quite a bit of it to YouTube - check it out here.

Oh, and maybe I'm just extra-sensitive after the recent Hold Steady debacle - but huge kudos to Schubas for the sound at this show. It was near perfect.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

More Construction Thoughts

I always wonder if the construction workers look into office windows and says "Look at that - 1 guy working and 3 guys standing around drinking coffee".

Notes Concerning the Vacant Lot Across the Street From My Office

Strange things that have shown up there over the past few months:

Large portable floodlights, which we have never seen turned on.
An old truck - looks like a linen truck. Covered in grafitti. No back door. The other day some orange pylons showed up inside.

A sign that says "New Retail Development". Doesn't seem like a good idea to me. I can just imagine the advertisement "Prime location in heart of run down industrial area one block from Cabrini Green". Good luck with that. As for us local employees, we're all praying for a giant food court. Come on Panda Express.

After weeks of inactivity, a crew arrived today to tear down the lone electrical pole in the lot. I didn't notice this until it was already carved up and on a trailer. I wish had gotten to see them carving it up. Yes, my job is a bit on the boring side.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The First Show of the Year

As it worked out, my first concert of the year was on the first day of the year. Jen and I went to see the Hold Steady at the House of Blues.

Not on the bill that I had seen, a local band called Sybaris opened. I thought they were talented, but not my cup of tea. Female vocalist, kind of hard. Luckily they only did 1/2 an hour.

Next up was Chin Up Chin Up. We had missed them at the Pitchfork Festival this summer, so I was curious. I'd listened to a few of their songs online and was intrigued. I enjoyed them musically, but the lead singers' vocals grated on me after awhile. The sound wasn't spectacular, so that probably didn't help. If they were at another festival I was at, I'd check them out, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see them again.

After this summer's great drizzly Sunday afternoon show at Lollapalooza, I had much anticipation for The Hold Steady, and was excited to introduce Jen to them. Unfortunately the sound and the crowd around us were both horrible and put a major damper on the evening. I could barely understand a word Craig said, even when he was talk-singing as he does through much of the songs. I first chalked it up to some hearing problems I suspect I have, based on experiences at a few other concerts, but when I compared notes later with Jen and B & C, they all complained about the sound too. A nationally recognized chain such as the House of Blues should be able to do better than that. The sound guy must have been hung over from New Year's Eve.

It seems 9 out of 10 shows I go to, I'm a magnet for large, loud, idiots, and the guy that ended up next to me at this show was the king of them all. I've never found the Hold Steady's music to be particularly romantic, but almost every son moved this guy to make out and cuddle with this girlfriend. Apparently she is herself unable to sway or move with the music and required his large gangly arms around her the whole evening. I understand it's a small crowded place and your personal space will invaded and incidental contact with strangers will be made, but these people had no regard for anyone around them. Jen in particular was body slammed until she couldn't stand it anymore and we moved out of the floor area.

I think behind the bad sound the Hold Steady were putting on a good show. Good song selection - most of Boys and Girls with a good mix of older stuff (Cattle and the Creeping Things, Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night, Killer Parties, The Swish, Stevie Nix, and a few more).

So not a stellar experience to kick off the new year. Already a number of concerts on the schedule for Jan/Feb, so hopefully things will turn around.

As Seen on the CTA

Tuesday PM, Red Line and Purple Line Northbound - Me with my fly open the whole way home...and sitting in one of the sideways facing seats for all to see. My apologies to anyone who had to witness this sad sight. *Blush*

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

What We're Reading On The CTA

Tuesday AM, Red Line, stoic looking man in green turtleneck sweater reading Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls).