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).
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?!
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.
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….
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.
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 🙂
“I keep dreaming of a map of the world. I keep searching the sky. I keep seeing the traffic signals passing me by…”
Oh, The Posies.
So, as I write this, I am still teary eyed from reading the lyrics to “Take Care of Yourself” (reminded me of my dad). One of the many exquisite aspects of The Posies’ music is the way in which the music hits me one way so completely & I feel as though nothing could make this any better but then I read the lyrics apart from the music & I am hit once again…
On September 23, 2010 we attended The Posies “Blood/Candy” Record Release Party at The Rock Shop in Brooklyn. Besides hearing early acoustic versions of a few of the songs & “The Glitter Prize,” I had 43 seconds of “Licenses to Hide” downloaded on my phone & I kept playing it from youtube. Otherwise, I don’t really like to hear new songs until I have the real thing in my hand. As a big proponent of making the first listen a special experience, I am not sure it could get any more special than hearing it LIVE! Waiting outside, I heard “Licenses to Hide” & it is just a beautiful song totally unwarranting of Ken’s “Blow-hemian Crap-sody” description. I do believe it has a Queen feel to it but it is far from crap. Nice try, humble Ken. I think it is my favorite. I cannot stop stomping my foot along to the kick drum. Outside, I got so into it that I bumped my head on the glass.
In an atmosphere like this, only really knowing those two songs, I think a lesser band with a less great album could have lost the audience with the songs that had yet to be heard but song after song, they were all really great! “So Caroline” really stuck out for me as did “For The Ashes” which at first listen seemed like a companion to “Everyone Moves Away” & “Cleopatra Street” was super groovy but the song that seemed to rock the hardest & move me the most (even before I knew the lyrics) was “Take Care of Yourself.” The music just hit me. I cried (if you read alot of these, you know that if it makes me cry, I really like it) because it was such a big, beautiful piece of music. Everything about it just clicked with me. I knew The Posies would be great but I really was not prepared for them to be THIS great. After the “Blood/Candy” set, they played a few older tracks including, “Sad To Be Aware” which made me very happy to be there. I was standing on the bench at this point & nearly fell off with excitement, especially at the “His name is Michael row your boat ashore” line that always gets stuck in my head.
After seeing this show, I am further convinced that most music critics & concert reviewers have no fucking clue about what “rocks.” The Posies ROCK! Now that I have “Blood/Candy,” I expect the November shows to be even better when I can sing along (sorry, neighbors). I really like that the album versions are beautiful but when you hear them live they’re beautiful AND dirty. There’s a real GRRRRRRR to them. (Sorry, I’m not a critic so I feel no need to turn any of those words into flowery bullshit.) These pictures are really not that great. The light was really low & I was, once again, a bit too close… Oh, & I was excited too. I’ll be better prepared at The Highline & maybe Memphis if we can get the money to get down there. If not, I think we’ll have to go to Philly too. I can’t get enough.
So, after the show, I had to wait almost FIVE days to get the album. Luckily, Jack’s Music in Red Bank (yes I will give them a plug because they are awesome) had it (or you can order it here where I ordered the LP). The rainy weather held up just long enough for me to keep the top down for the entirety of my first listen.
Besides “Licenses to Hide” making me almost hit the car in front of me when I kept lifting my entire right foot off the brake pedal, the song that really got me was “For The Ashes.” I would really like to say that it sounded like a cross between The Beatles & Queen but I think that takes away from the originality of The Posies so I suppose you should strike that remark from my record. Much as “Take Care of Yourself” moved me in concert, the beauty of this track moved me to tears. I wish it wasn’t so odd to admit things like that, but if something is so beautiful, shouldn’t it make you feel something? I think people are losing their ability to feel. My remedy for this – stop listening to whatever trendy band du’jour you read was cool & go out & listen to live music. Keep listening until you find something that makes you feel. Passion is a good thing. Get some. Oh, & buy “Blood/Candy” because I said so & that completely contradicts what I just said 🙂
I have said it before & I will say it again – Jon Auer & Ken Stringfellow are not capable of making music that is anything less than great. Darius & Matt certainly add to the rockin’ness of The Posies. Go see them! Buy their stuff! Tell your friends!
Photos (C) Conn! Please do not use them without permission unless you are The Posies in which case, maybe you want to wait until I take some better ones.
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).
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.
Jon Auer followed that (thank God) with “Thirteen.” I missed Ken Stringfellow’s high harmonies so I sang them from my seat (poorly).
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.
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.
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.
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 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 promised more Big Star &, almost two months later, here they are. This was, far & away, one of the best concerts I have ever seen. The way these men worked together to make the songs come to life was really something that every band should study.
My personal favorite…