Mildly Amusing Musings & Some Photographs

Posts tagged “big star

“I’ll close my eyes & listen to you read the story…”

I keep not finishing any of the SXSW posts that I start writing because I am too lazy to upload the photos for the third time (they’re already on facebook & flickr) SO I am just going to post a bunch of highlights, starting with my most favorite moment.

During the BLURT Magazine/ Dogfish Head IPA party at The Ginger Man on Friday, March 16, 2012 at SXSW…

This is Jon Auer & Ken Stringfellow playing/singing “Solar Sister” about five feet away from me.   I am not able to post my own video of this event because someone (me) was screaming a bit too loudly.  I get excited. I can’t help it, especially when I’m in an open space & may have consumed a few glasses of wine.  You can see a great video of it here & be sure to listen up for a special name change in the middle.  When I heard it live, I thought it was just my imagination.  Actually, this whole night was nearly out of my imagination.

Earlier in the evening, Ken started his set with my most favorite of his songs, “Any Love (Cassandra et Lune)” & also played my second favorite, “One Morning” as well as a boatload of great new songs whose titles I don’t know.

Mmmmm… Gretsch.  I love Gretsch.

I have continued my trend of being too close to get good shots.  Luckily, I have great memories despite having a crappy memory.  I shot this with my newly acquired Sony Mavica CD-400.   When we stopped in Delaware on the way to Texas, my brother gave me it because he wasn’t using it anymore.  I had previously had the 300, 400 & 500.  As my dad upgraded, I would get the old one.  I would then find a way to crack the LCD screen.  One time it was because someone said they saw a snake & I fell while running away.  Motherfuckin’ snakes.   Unfortunately, we weren’t in any one place long enough to charge the batteries fully so I didn’t shoot too much with this.

This was also our first time seeing Jon Auer solo.  His “Burn & Shine” medley was particularly exceptional.  He didn’t break any strings though. This might be the first time we’ve seen him play & not break a string.

His open hand was begging for a glowing orb.

I know driving to Texas isn’t free, but did I mention this was a free show?  It was AND there was more greatness to follow when Jody Stephens joined in for some rollicking Big Star songs.

Many special guests came out, including some of the great “Third” singers/players, John Doe, the guy from Blitzen Trapper, Ian Moore & Peter Buck from R.E.M.  I kept thinking Peter Buck looked like Bill Murray so I couldn’t say hello because I kept laughing, expecting him to start reciting “Groundhog’s Day” lines (because I am sure that is what the real Bill Murray does when he isn’t loading Tia Carrere’s band van).

I should start taking notes of set lists or get a new battery for my video camera so I can at least have a poor recording to reference.  Suffice it to say that this only fed my frenzy of adoration for these guys.  Every time we see them together, I fear it will be the last time & I don’t ever want that to be the case.  I do want the next show to be somewhere where it is ok to dance though.  The sitters behind me weren’t too keen on my desire to dance to “September Gurls.”  I hate sitting down almost as much as I hate being quiet.

These guys are the greatest.  Induct them into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame now please (& don’t forget John Fry).


“It’s in the silence, you can hear the same words…” – BEST of 2012

I’m only 17 days late to the new year.   Oops.

Best Albums of 2011 – “Virgins of Menace” – The Disciplines

& “Elsie” – The Horrible Crowes

Best 7″ – BIG STAR With John Davis:  Live Tribute to Alex Chilton – “Don’t Lie to Me”/”In the Street”/”When My Baby’s Beside Me”

The above also represents my proudest photographic accomplishment thus far.  To have one of my photos on the label of such sonic beauty makes me incredibly happy.

My VERY favorite photo of the year –

Boyd Tinsley - By Conni Freestone

In a year that I lost count of all the shows I could not shoot (due to lack of money, credentials or both), being able to shoot Dave Matthews Caravan was an extraordinary experience.   There are shots from the festival that are technically better than this shot of Boyd Tinsley but this one is my favorite.  It was the third night of DMB & they were playing “Seek Up.”  I just happened to be positioned right where Boyd stepped forward.  Looking at this, I can still recall my shaking knees.  I wanted to drop the camera & just dance along to the music and, at the same time, I wanted to make sure the settings accounted for the different lighting downstage.  I wanted that moment to last forever & now it can & that is why I love shooting concerts.

Runners-up for favorite moments &/or photos include:

Jody Stephens drumming "September Gurls"

Watching Jody Stephens drum  “September Gurls” at the Big Star Third show March 26, 2012.   From the balcony, I could see just how the sticks hit the drums & cymbals.  I was mesmerized.  Where was my video camera?!


Snowball 37

September 19 – Snowball 37 & Nick Clemons Band at Sullivan Hall – One of the most fun shows of the year.  This marked the live debut of SB37 with sax & the energy of the show was really high.   This is one of my favorite pictures because James looks like a cartoon eagle.  I love the shadows & absolutely could have cropped it differently, but it is still one of my favorites.  This show also rocked because Binky & Tony were there.


Snowball 37 - Conn!

Snowball 37’s Family (Re)Union Show with five of the six Fagan siblings & one next generation Fagan.  January 21, 2012  They played my favorite part of “Across the Sea” in a Weezer medley.  Ahhhhh…


Nick Clemons - Conni

November 5 –  Nick Clemons Band & Snowball 37 at Tiki Stadium.   Nick has an incredible voice & a band full of talented musicians.  This was another high energy show.  I love both of these bands.

Flaming Lips - Conni Freestone

Shooting the Flaming Lips gave me chills even though it was 85 degrees outside.


November 14 – That is my skirt & Ken Stringfellow’s shoe.  While I am sad to have not seen the Posies as a whole in over a year, it was more than pleasant to be sitting so close as he sang & played.   I do regret not having a camera that can shoot noiselessly over ISO800.  Too much flash was too rude so the actual photos of this show are not the best.    Good thing Ken has a new album coming out.


brian fallon - conni freestone

September 8 – The Horrible Crowes – I couldn’t afford the Gaslight Anthem shows this year & I would have missed this were it not for the great people at The Aquarian Weekly.


jonathan tiersten & david fagan - Conn!

Any time Jonathan Tiersten & David Fagan play together is great.  This particular shot is of their “Under Pressure” duet on September 11.  I chose this show because of JT’s performance of his song “Underbelly” that night.   Just go to the video & let him take you to church (or as much church as you can be taken to when Ayn Rand inspired the song).


My favorite show of 2012

Bruce Springsteen & JT Bowen - Conni Freestone

Twice this year, we found ourselves watching Bruce Springsteen play the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park (for $10 each).  The second time, July 17, was a tribute to Clarence Clemons and featured The Sensational Soul Cruisers with J.T. Bowen (pictured above).   Listening to J.T. Bowen, I was transported to the Memphis of my dreams, especially when he sang “Try A Little Tenderness.”  I wanted to melt right into the floor.   I can’t find video of that song but you can watch this instead.  Forward about halfway through & you can hear “Shake.”*   He absolutely, positively stole the show for me.  His performance alone would have made this my favorite show.  Other reasons this was my favorite – hearing them talk about Asbury in the old days reminded me of my dad, JT Bowen reminded me of my dad (looks, not voice), the music was so damn good, I had my honey with me AND, because of this show we now have another extremely talented, awesome friend.

*Please let me know why you would ever shake a bowl of soup though

“Sweet Cream Ladies Forward MARCH…”

I grew up listening to “oldies” music & always loved this song, especially when my dad explained that it was about prostitutes.  Who can resist a song about prostitutes, especially ones that save men from boring sex?!   Alex Chilton (C) Conn!

Ah, so here I sit, a year after the passing of Alex Chilton, wondering what I would be listening to if we had not gone to that Big Star show November 18, 2009.  My Big Star love affair began quite slowly.  In the beginning, I only knew the “Theme from ‘That 70’s Show'” & the song my boyfriend would play me that I knew was either Big Star or Elliott Smith that had the word “going” in it.  Soon, the “going” song was fully realized as “The Ballad of El Goodo” & it became my favorite.   Then, I learned that Jody Stephens is a very nice person when he was the only one to write back when I sent SXSW photos to him even though they were the worst photos I took all week.   So, that was Big Star prior to November 18, 2009.  I liked it but I didn’t “get” it.

Jody Stephens (C) Conn!

I prepped for the show by listening to Big Star all day.  I decided that “Watch The Sunrise” would be my second favorite song until the show started…  Everything changed.   I really felt as though there could never be music any more wonderful than what I was hearing.  My mind was in overdrive trying to hold on to every second of what I was experiencing.   I imagined this must have been the way people felt when they first saw the Beatles.  It isn’t anything I can describe.  All I know is that it was special & important & a moment that I hope lives forever.   A friend of ours traded his ticket stub to someone after the show & I had an odd sense that it would be a mistake but I never expected it to be a mistake because that would be the last formal Big Star show….


Ken Stringfellow (C) Conn!

Jon Auer (C) Conn!

Alex Chilton (C) Conn!

Everything I have experienced as a result of loving Big Star has only led to more amazing experiences.   I never understood when musicians said that if it weren’t for _____________ band, they would never have started a band.  I get it now.  It isn’t something I can describe, but I really get it.  Big Star makes me want to play, certainly not because it is easy (it isn’t) but because of the way the music makes me feel.   I believe Jody, Jon & Ken can keep Big Star alive for as long as they want.   I also really hope they get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  (Please sign the petition )   I understand there is a lot of criticism surrounding the HoF.   I have read where people have said “Alex wouldn’t have wanted it” & “the HoF is useless anyway.”   Well, maybe a band like Kiss who will sell millions of albums with or without the nomination doesn’t need the HoF but for a band like Big Star, it would open up their music to new fans & secure a place for them in a history much larger than the current cult following.  I am not very good at being selfish… I want the whole world to know & love their music. 

Big Star Brooklyn 11/18/09 (C) Conn!

So, as March 17 rapidly approaches, I will be spending my day listening to Big Star, The Box Tops & Alex Chilton, shedding tears for a man I never met, a man whose music & musical friends deserve nothing but the best.   Big Star fans who may be reading this, I declare March 17 “Introduce a friend to Big Star” day 🙂

Alex Chilton (Conn!)

“If demons come while you’re under, I’ll be a blue moon in the dark”

Since I waited so long to write about this, I have lost a majority of the minor details pertaining to my initial reactions.  That is not nearly as important as the music anyway.  I have included links to the video that accompanies some of these songs.  Please keep in mind that my video camera is crap & likes to turn itself off.  Also, I like to be as close as possible & I do not possess a wide-angle lens.  Sorry.  Just listen to the music & pretend the quality is better.  Then, go to a live show because live music is better for you anyway. 

The show opened with Chris Stamey, Sondre Lerche, Laura Chilton and others performing “Kanga Roo.”  It was absolutely beautiful. 

This was followed by Yo La Tengo’s set of  “Take Care,” Windows Hotel” & “My Baby Just Cares For Me.”  I had heard great things about YLT & they did not disappoint.  I would certainly see them again if given the chance.  Ira truly channeled his inner Alex for “Windows Hotel” & Georgia’s “Take Care” made me cry.

YLT also backed Jon Spencer on “Rock Hard” & Bangkok,” two of my favorite solo rockers from Alex.   I have never heard Jon Spencer’s music but if he always performs with such enthusiasm, I would gladly see him again as well.  In another venue, I would have been dancing but the City Winery is a bit tight for that. 

Alan Vega joined YLT & Jon Spencer for “Rubber Room” & “Dreambaby Dream.” 

Next up was a set by Gary Talley & Bill Cunningham from The Box Tops, Terry Manning (mix master extraordinaire) & Richard Dworkin.  They played “Free Again,” “Choo Choo Train,” “Neon Rainbow,” “Cry Like a Baby” “Soul Deep” & “The Letter.”  I absolutely could not believe how great they sounded.  Gary Talley has the voice to keep these songs alive.  I would definitely see a Bill Cunningham/Gary Talley Box Tops show.  Once again, I really wanted to dance.  Curses on tight seating!

Ronnie Spector then came out to sing “Walkin in the Rain.”  This was odd because I had no idea what correlation she had to Alex &, in all honesty, she seemed to be there more for herself whereas everyone else seemed to be there to honor Alex.  Such being the case, I would have liked to have heard “Be My Baby” since I remember playing it over & over again on my cassette player when I got the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack.  My best friend & I would carry it around when we took the dog for a walk, intentionally walking near the house of the boy she had a crush on hoping he would hear.  Back on topic, she then sang a song Alex wrote, “Baby, You’re Okay” with Fran Kowalski.   I love this style of music so I did enjoy both songs.

Danny Kroha from The Gories then sang “Tinaninanoo.”  

Then, Marshall Krenshaw sang “Guantanamerika,” “Dalai Lama” & “Little GTO.”  I was most partial to “Little GTO.”  I would say it was because I am not as familiar with the other two songs but I had never heard the two Alex Chilton solo songs YLT did & I loved them…

Having read some of the stories surrounding the making of “Third/Sister Lovers,” I was excited to see (Elizabeth) Lesa Aldridge (Hoehn).   She was beautiful & it was so enjoyable to watch her perform “Downs” & “Jesus Christ.”  It was particularly nice to hear her tell of the origins of “Jesus Christ.”

Once I saw this guitar on stage, I knew my favorite part of the show was about to begin – the Big Star segments!

Jody Stephens & Jon Auer were joined by Chris Stamey, Gene Holder & Terry Manning.  They performed “In the Street,” “When My Baby’s Beside Me,” “Back of a Car” & “Way Out West” (which was even more heart wrenching in light of Andy Hummel’s recent passing & the touching, heartfelt introduction Jody gave).

jon auer is awesome

jody stephens is a great drummer

terry manning

Evan Dando sang “Nighttime.”  Sorry, Evan, Susan Marshall will forever reign supreme as the premier coverer (I don’t care if that isn’t a word) of this song.  Unfortunately, her version is not on youtube.  I should change that.

evan dando

Jon Auer followed that (thank God) with “Thirteen.”  I missed Ken Stringfellow’s high harmonies so I sang them from my seat (poorly).

jan auer star filter

This was followed by most favorite part of the entire evening.  Jody singing “Blue Moon” while Jon played guitar & sang harmonies.  The video link is from someone else whose camera recording did this far more justice than mine.   I don’t have any words to describe how beautiful this was so please just watch the video & dream like I do that Jody, Jon & Ken will get together to play some more & Jody will sing more because he should.

jody stephens singing blue moon

jody stephens sings

jody stephens & jon auer are awesome

Sondre Lerche came back out (actually he came through the audience) to sing “The Ballad of El Goodo.”  I was still coming down from a “Blue Moon” high but I think this was probably good 🙂 I know the drums were awesome.

sondre lerche

jody stephens

Last up was “September Gurls” followed by Jesse Malin leading everyone in The Replacements’ “Alex Chilton.”  I wish Jon & Jody or anyone else sang it.  Sorry.  I’m not trying to be mean.  I just didn’t get the Jesse Malin/Alex Chilton connection & I like Jon and Jody a lot more. 

Overall, it was an incredible evening & it was truly amazing to hear the variety in the music that Alex wrote & performed.  I do believe his friends gave him a most proper tribute.   My very favorite moment of the night was definitely “Blue Moon.” 

Getting a gorgeous print of one of Stephanie Chernikowski’s photos of Alex was a really nice memento too 🙂  I wish I could have met her & picked her brain for some advice.  Her rock photos are gorgeous.

“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 🙂

“I am the wind…”

Jon Auer, Big Star (Posies)

I don’t usually like fucking with special effects on concert photos but that’s Chris Bell’s guitar & Jon Auer is playing “I Am The Cosmos” so a little additional lens flare seemed appropriate.

“I’m in love with a …”

…band (Big Star), a city (Memphis) & a show that brought those two things together (May 15, 2010 at The Levitt Shell).  After sitting in a car for over 30 hours & 1249.8 miles, I should be sleeping but who can sleep when images like this might be found in those 10gigs of RAW files you are still uploading?  Only 400 or so pictures are from the show because I ran out of memory cards, it was raining AND I was a little emotional.

I can guarantee it will be at least a week until I post more photos but, so far, I love this shot.  Hopefully, I will have some good ones of Jody, Jon & Ken too.

Sondre Lerche & Brendan Benson - Big Star - May 15, 2010

In this photo Brendan Benson was nice enough to bring an umbrella out for Sondre Lerche as he sang.

My only regret about the show is that most of the audience seemed to have remembered the last Big Star show at the shell when no one was allowed to dance.  No one was dancing until “September Gurls” when those of us in the front couldn’t take it anymore & had to let loose.  I just wrote “let loose.”  It is officially time for bed.