Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bridge School Concert!

So I have some of the worst blisters on my feet I've ever had. I strained my knees badly, and my left one may have Something Wrong with it (I'm not sure if it's all because of my shoes, the way we were sitting on the ground, or the little spill I took off the curb in the dark on the walk back to the hotel). I either caught a bug or so upset my body with my food habits for the weekend that it was behaving like it's been poisoned, so I'm weak as a kitten, more dehydrated than I can ever recall being (incl. when I've had real live food poisoning), and very food wary. I can't walk without listing to port or starboard, and I'm spending my day sipping bubblegum flavored generic pedialyte and cuddling my cats.

But I had an absolutely amazing time. (Copious links to lyrics and youtube to follow.)

I spent a lot of time bawling, first of all (but that usually tends to constitute a good time, for me): Death Cab for Cutie did one called "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." Lyrics. Video/music. I'd never heard it before, but that didn't stop me completely melting down. And Sarah McLachlan did "Adia" (lyrics, video, only she played her own piano) and "Angel" (lyrics, video). Adia is one of my favorite songs, and Angel is on the ASPCA ad that always turns me into a sobbing wreck. So, weeping.

This concert is almost always entirely acoustic (well, amplified, but with no electric instruments), and live, and no session musicians, etc, so it really shows a very raw, sincere version of what's going on. If someone was mostly the result of sound engineering and multiple tracks and so on, it would be evident. But everyone was amazing.

I didn't take notes the whole time, this time, since I figured it'd be better to just relax and enjoy, though I did scribble down a bit of lyric if I wanted to be able to find the song again. Everyone did several songs. Neil Young did Sugar Mountain and one or two others at the beginning, as per usual, which was great. Then Band of Horses, whom I enjoyed, and Cat Power and the Dirty Delta Blues Band (she did one that was "Lord, Help the Poor and the Needy" video) that was quite good and even funkier than in that link, as well as CCR's "Fortunate Son" *with* Neil Young). Then Death Cab for Cutie, who did several, incl. "Brothers on a Hotel Bed" (lyrics, video), "Grapevine Fires" (lyrics) which pleased the apocalypse-lover in my soul, and the one I mentioned before.

Wilco was amazing, and started our politics for the night (other than the frequent admonitions from the video screens to vote). Jeff Tweedy, their lead (who's starting to look like a cross between Ewan McGregor-circa-Velvet Goldmine and Harvey Keitel--EDIT: this is a good thing, btw), said, "I'm wearing a flag pin," very gruffly. The audience mixed giggles and cheers for this, and the close-up showed he was, indeed, wearing one. "I know you people in this Anti-American state can't understand that, but I'm proud of my country." It wasn't entirely clear whether he was scolding the Bay Area for real or spoofing the recent rhetoric (though we were guessing the former). And then he amended, "...Especially this state. No on 8!" So we screamed ourselves silly while he started playing "California Stars" (lyrics, video). (EDIT: 8 is the appalling constitutional amendment on our ballot this year, trying to remove the rights of same-sex couples to marry. So Tweedy = win.) They also did "War on War," "Forget the Flowers" (<3), and a new one that I really liked, and if I find out what it's called once it's out, I'll mention. And he did another one I don't know, and said, "Take that, Norah." More on that came out later.

EDIT!: Got a note saying that the one they were feuding over was "Jesus Etc." from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and (intriguingly) that the new one didn't have a name yet. Hmmm. Also, I gotta' say, they kinda' got the short stick in this entry--I really, really loved their set. We've got a couple of their albums, but other than Mermaid Avenue (which was them with Billy Bragg doing Woody Guthrie stuff), which I do love, I didn't really know any of their music, hadn't pursued it. I'd heard California Stars in the car on the way to the concert, and I enjoyed it a lot, but I'm going to have to start listening to them more, now. They absolutely won me over. (Seeing people live can be the very thing.) The new untitled song they did was actually what pushed me over from enjoying my night to having a blast, and I was probably bugging my blanket mates by dancing pretty wildly in place. And singing along. (What? I sing along to songs I don't know. And I'm good at it.) It had a kind of.. almost early Beatles-ish sensibility, but with this great drive and momentum and menace. WE WANTS IT, PRECIOUS.

They were followed by Sarah McLachlan.

I didn't know much Sarah McLachlan, but I hoped she'd do Adia (one of my absolute favorite songs), Better than Ice Cream, and Angel (all of which she did--plus Building a Mystery, two brand new ones, and a few more I didn't know but that were good--one is "World on Fire"). She called for a singalong to Better Than Ice Cream, and I was the only one near me who joined in (Come on, people! SING, DAMNIT!). I wasn't looking to be impressed, but she was incredible--emotional and intense and sincere, and better--better--than in studio recordings. I was really wowed. She played solo, her own guitar and piano, with only occasion simplified changes in the piano for Adia. I have a whole lot more respect for her, now. (And, like I said before, she made me cry a whole lot.)

Norah Jones I sacrificed a lot of because I didn't think I'd safely be able to pick my way across hundreds of bodies in the dark on the lawn back to our spot, and I got scolded away from hanging around on walkways. But she was playing guitar and piano, and had a banjo player and an upright bass player (both women), and they did a really wonderful, funky set with some old, old covers. It was really cool, and I'm sorry I missed so much of it. I did catch enough to know she did "Sinkin' Soon" and "Sunrise." And I caught her explaining her feud with Wilco--she and hers had been planning to do their favorite Wilco song at the concert, and Wilco went ahead and did it themselves (hence "Take that, Norah!"). And she said, "But we've been practicing and practicing and practicing, so we're going to do it anyway." Afterwards she said, "Take that, Tweedy!" She got a lot of catcalls. She is really, really cute.

Jack Johnson was the same way as McLachlan--incredibly talented, clearly not suffering from being away from a studio, playing his own instruments, etc, and really, really mellow (he told us he hadn't played in a few months because he'd been with his kids, and that one of them peed on him yesterday--that, in fact, the jeans he was wearing still had pee on them). He got razzed by his pianist for that. They were all really excellent musicians, very together, very clean. It was absolutely lovely. He did my favorite of his, too, "Breakdown." (Lyrics, video.) He also did "Better When We're Together," "Banana Pancakes," "Times Like These," "Brushfire Fairytales," "Flake," "Go On," "Upside Down," "Mudfootball," and one more that might have been a Neil Young song, actually. He got a random big cheer, because the camera did a closeup of the soundhole on his guitar. There was one of the red white and blue drawn portraits of Obama's face.

And then Neil Young closed things off. (He got extra love for his "Hippies for Obama" pin.) He did "Lonesome Me," "Mother Earth," "The Needle and the Damage Done" (a favorite!!), "Heart of Gold" (ditto), "Old Man" (also ditto), and an amazing cover of the Beatles' "Day in the Life". Then everyone came out for "Comes a Time." I might be forgetting a couple, too.

* A lot of these people are way better than I realized.
* Acoustic does fantastic by some normally non-acoustic people.
* I love hippie musicians.
* Mountainview wants to kill me.
* I love it anyway.

(If you're curious, this was last year's post.)

1 comment:

Doc Nagel said...

First of all, Jack Johnson is really terrifically good. His music isn't all that technically demanding, if you're Jack Johnson and you have gigantic monster hands and what look like unique custom-built guitars to play, with action so low you can look at them and fret the strings.

Secondly, I'm afraid that "Norah Jones is really, really cute" is about the sum. She hit kind of a lot of flubbed notes on the guitar and seemed a bit uncomfortable. However, unlike Tweedy, she showed up for the folkie cliché everybody-on-stage finale.

Finally, to comment on the highlight of the night for me: you might never suspect that "A Day In The Life" could work at all acoustically, or that someone like Neil Young could play it, but you wouldn't just be wrong, you'd have misunderstood the fundamental nature of the universe. I'm still working on rebuilding my picture of the universe. As for the performance itself, Neil turned this sad, fairly nihilistic, disaffected (if not dissociated) dirge into an angry, what-the-fuck-are-we-doing-and-why-don't-we-stop-it protest. And in short, I was afraid. Neil Young is not allowed in the house.