“Go ahead & shake if you wanna & I’ll never know… We’ve got all night”
It was Saturday, Feb 20 and I was in a hurry to finish work so I could get up north for the Snowball 37/Run Robot show. I was listening to #1Record/Radio City, driving around inspecting houses of people who are late on their mortgages (such a fun job) when I remembered to send a tweet about the show. That’s when I saw that Ardent posted info about the May 15 Big Star show. Since the November 18 show, my Big Star fan-ness had grown immensely. I also started listening to The Posies (so sorry to have been unaware of them prior to that show). Anyway, that night I couldn’t contain myself & tried to convince everyone at the show to come down to Memphis with us. On March 18, around 1am, my boyfriend called me to ask what happened to Alex. Sure enough, I found the news pretty quickly. My heart sank. We sat on the phone in silence for several minutes. I can’t speak for him but I know the tears were streaming down my face. I opened the folder of photos from the November show in disbelief. I played through all the music & wondered if the show would go on.
May 15, 2010
The show went on & what a show it was! OnlyDave, Greg (our friend & SB37 guitarist) & I wound up making the drive. After a day in Nashville, a brief recording session at Ardent (home of the nicest people in music), some touristy stuff, several record store visits & probably too much BBQ, we were ready to see (& hear) Big Star.
We arrived early for the pre-show soundcheck/meet & greet/ BBQ. We missed about half of the soundcheck while they were trying to get the ticket scanner to work (only glitch of the day). I was hesitant to start taking pictures because I didn’t have a photo pass & didn’t want to get kicked out so I only took a few of the soundcheck.
Jody Stephens singing “For You” with his brother, Jimmy, playing bass (as he did on Third). Jody has a great voice & should definitely sing more. He is also very nice. He helped make the recording session at Ardent an amazing experience.
This is Jon Auer (left) & Ken Stringfellow (right). They are from The Posies & have solo albums too. Ken also plays with The Disciplines who are also incredible. Now that you know their faces, I am not going to caption them again. I’m lazy. They are not. They seem to be two of the hardest working gentlemen in music. I am also convinced that neither of them are capable of making music that sucks.
Mike Mills (from R.E.M.)
After soundcheck, we collected our free Levitt Shell lawnchairs ( a big perk of the VIP tickets) & I drank some wine. Ardent band Star & Micey then performed a consolidated set.
Jody Stephens was then presented with a Beale Street music note for Big Star.
I opened the video as I am writing this to try & capture the little things but I assure you that this show was too good for words so don’t be looking for anything prolific on my part.
The show opened with Jon leading Ken & Jody on “Back of a Car.” I remember looking around & being so thankful for being right there at that very moment.
John Davis (Superdrag) then joined them (Jon, Ken & Jody) for “In The Street,” “Don’t Lie to Me” & “When My Baby’s Beside Me” which were all amazing. While I am not familiar with John Davis (yet) he fit in very nicely & I look forward to finding his other music. Its amazing how much good music can be traced back to Big Star =)
This was followed by Jon singing “I am the Cosmos” while playing Chris Bell’s Gibson ES330. It made me cry a little. I’ll admit it. Jon’s incredible.
Jody Stephens then took over lead vocals for “Way Out West.” It was also awesome. Suffice it to say that everything was awesome. That way I don’t have to get a thesaurus out or keep repeating myself.
Van Duren then joined them to sing “Mod Lang.”
Then, Ken Stringfellow killed me with “Daisy Glaze,” not literally of course… It was just a very emotionally charged performance. For some reason, I get so into that song that I completely forget that the build up leads to “You’re gonna die.” Jon, Ken & Jody definitely showed the power of three in this song. In retrospect, it may have been my favorite song of the night. Quite cathartic & Grrrrrrrrrr. I have no words.
Mike Mills (R.E.M.) joined them for “Jesus Christ” which was a nice, upbeat ditty after such a big song. Jon’s a really good guitar player. Dang, they’re all really good. How do they get so good? Don’t say practice. I prefer to believe its magic.
Jody’s brother Jimmy then came out to play “For You.” Did I mention that Jody should sing more?
Ken played Chris Bell’s acoustic guitar for this song.
Ken, winning the award for making me cry most often, then sang “Give Me Another Chance” with backups by Amy Speace. Jon & Jody (away from the drums) also sang.
By this point, it was raining a little harder. I didn’t even notice (save for the blurry droplets smeared on my lens). Rick Steff came out to play accordian (or “aquarium” to quote Jon) for a very sweet “Lady Sweet.” I often forget how beautiful an accordian can sound, but I don’t forget how beautiful Jon’s voice is.
Sondre Lerche then came out to play “I’m In Love With A Girl” acoustic.
This was really cute & made cuter when Brendan Benson came out to hold an umbrella over Sondre.
Jon, Ken & Jody returned with Sondre singing lead on “The Ballad of El Goodo,” the song that was my introduction to Big Star (thanks Dave) & is now my favorite. I absolutely love the lyrics & the drums. I am determined to play this one day… soon, hopefully. But, anyway, of course this song too was great.
Jon then sang “Thirteen” with some crazy awesome backups by Ken followed by Ken singing “Feel” in what was another fine example of the power of the three of them. That guitar riff… Ken’s voice… Grrrrr… This really kicked ass.
Mike Mills came back for “Thank You Friends” with some “do dooooooo” backups by Susan Marshall & Amy Speace.
Then the chanteuse (always wanted to use that word) Susan Marshall, sang a super sexy yet sad, soulful rendition of “Nighttime.” Wow.
Amy Speace returned to sing “Try Again.” Like everyone on that stage, she has an incredible voice. Once again, I have to add that Jon is a really great guitar player. The acapella harmonies near the end were most beautiful.
It was raining a bit harder now but that didn’t stop Brendan Benson from coming out for “O My Soul” & “September Gurls.”
“September Gurls” brought out some additional backup singers. The audience FINALLY obliged to letting us dance or maybe they were still screaming “down in front” but we just didn’t hear it by then. You can see evidence of this in the youtube video I ruined by jumping up & dancing. So sorry. I had been waiting all night to get up & dance.
That ended the official set, leading to this most disappointing photo. It would have been really good if only…
My heart broke one last time when Jon & Ken came back on to sing “Take Care.” Beautiful.
To conclude the night, everyone came back out for a rousing rendition of “Whole New Thing.”
When the song was over, Jon ripped off five of his guitar strings. Then, they played the end of the song one more time.
While “Take Care” may have been the sadder tribute to Alex, “Whole New Thing” was dedicated to him. Having read a little about him, it seems most appropriate. Since I cannot pretend to have known him, all I can picture is the look of proudness he seemed to have for his bandmates in November. So this is what I saw in my head while the music played.
After driving 1100 miles to a concert, it would have been easy to have been let down. What isn’t easy is to have it all seem more than worth it. Thank you to everyone involved with this show, Ardent & Memphis. You were a great host. We cannot wait to see you again!
****June 4 Update ****
Thank you to everyone who has been reading & viewing this. I feel badly that I left out some important things – Van Duren is really great. “Mod Lang” (which wasn’t on my video) sounded so good on Sirius. Also, I forgot to say that all of the songs are incredibly timeless and so wonderful to hear. Ken can jump… No, that was kindergarten reading. Ken can play bass very well & Jody is an amazing drummer. There’s more I could write too but I felt bad about omitting those details. By the way, the Sirius broadcast sounded so good. It would make for a really good record 🙂