Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bindlestickin' Tacoma: Travis Larson Band – Harmon Tap Room Underground, Tacoma, WA – 4/20/12

Despite the gruff exterior and general grumpiness, people tolerate me reasonably well. Inexplicable, but sometimes it works to my advantage. Like when my good buddy LA Ray, who I’ve known since we fought along side each other in the Union Army back in the 1860’s, invited me to meet him in Seattle for an extended weekend of music and mirth. I thought the mirth part was a little weird, but I found some Crest whitening strips at the flea market last month and thought it would be a good chance to see if anyone noticed my sparkling smile. They must have worked as I was constantly being mistaken for Will Smith all weekend. But I digress.

We stayed with one Seattle Ray, who will be the subject of another installment of Bindlestickin’, but in this story will play the part of our dashing and gracious host and event planner. Just like Julie on the Love Boat. Except without Gopher hanging around all the time. You’d think “Your Yeoman Purser” would have more to do. I digress, again.

Seattle Ray told us we’d be seeing the Travis Larson Band on Friday night. I thought Travis Larson might have been the guy who won a PGA tour event in Pebble Beach back in the 90’s, but I was mistaken. Before I could confess such ignorance, Ray took his eyes off the road for a disturbingly long stretch of time as he searched for some TLB on his phone to play for us. I buckled up because even though the distracted driving didn’t wreck me, the TLB tunes might have. Instrumental guitar-driven rock. Prog-rock, fusion, hell if I know how to classify it. It’s not like there’s a Dewey Decimal System for music nor should there be one. But these folks obviously know how to play their instruments and seemed to have a bit more training than the Roy Clark Big Note Songbook that I’ve been using. Like they graduated from that shit while I was still learning to Velcro my own shoes. But the next cool thing is that they use these skills for good and not evil. Meaning no tired three chord progressions and somebody done somebody wrong songs. Heck, maybe they are somebody done somebody wrong songs and I just don’t know it because they’re keeping the lyrics from us. Bastards.

Sorry. I didn’t mean that. The music reminded me a lot of Andy Timmons, a guitarist I had the pleasure of seeing almost weekly when I hung my hat in Dallas. It was all enough to give Seattle Ray instant credibility and calm my fears of having to watch Candlebox tribute bands all weekend.

On the afternoon of the show, as we were driving around the greater Tacoma area Seattle Ray received a call. We turned down the Candlebox CD and he pulled safely off the side of the road to take it. Or maybe not. But he didn’t kill us, which is good since TLB needed a place to stay and he opened his home to three more guests. I got to meet the band that afternoon and they weren’t dicks or anything. In fact, they’re pretty awesome and I had nothing to be annoyed about. That’s mighty rare.

As usual, 500 words in and we haven’t even gotten to the show yet. Welcome to Thwartness. And now the only two words that count: They rock.

Dale is on drums and keeps this machine moving forward, knocking out everything from the standard 4/4 stuff to time signatures in fractions I never even knew existed. Jennifer owns the bass and travels over the fretboard like a spider hopped up on espresso while her other hand keeps perfect time with both Dale and Travis, bridging the gap between rhythm and melody. Brooklyn Bridging the gap, none of that shaky suspension bridge shit. This unit is solid. Which is even more impressive since they’re keeping up with Travis, who is technically impressive enough to shred with the best, but knows when to dial it back enough to keep it interesting and knows how to write a hook with just six strings and nary a word. They mostly focus on the task at hand because this isn’t any formulaic bullshit that runs on auto-pilot. TLB moves through each song with the precision of a Blue Angels show, hitting their marks without fail. Travis and Jen often fly wing to wing, and it’s during these maneuvers in which you may see smiles slowly break on their faces like the twilight hues of a desert sunset. God, that was a horrible simile. They know they’re badasses but the smiles aren’t cocky; the smiles are because they’re loving what they do and they know they just made it worth your effort to come see them that night. Or what do I know… maybe they are cocky bastards. Go see them and decide for yourself. Say hi after the show and buy a CD. Take them to Denny’s for breakfast. Just don’t follow them city to city and camp beside their van in a tent every night. That would be creepy. They told me so.

I confess that I often get distracted by shiny new bands coming through town, but TLB reminded me that this genre is far from stale or dead. I spent the next few days listening to their latest CD Soundmind, as well as revisiting some other similar music from my past – Andy Timmons, Steve Morse Band, and Rush. I’m sorry I haven’t called in a while, baby. It won’t happen again. Just give me one more chance.

Cracky says show TLB some TLC.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wild Flag - Metro - 4/5/2012

My good buddy Moist Rub joined me for this show, which is good since time has been scarce and I could use an assist to get a review done in a timely manner. So here it goes.

I was detained due to undisclosed circumstances and missed the opening act, Hospitality. I often give the openers a listen and was disappointed to have missed them, so while en route I texted:

Cracky: How was Hospitality?

Moist Rub: Monotonous.

So there you have it. Hospitality is monotonous. Just like these reviews.

I arrived and found Moist Rub in the back of the club, also known as the grumpy, old music critic section. A couple songs into the show I made my move and positioned myself a little closer to the music and center stage, near the sound booth. Moist Rub followed me the same way a shot of tequila usually follows another shot of tequila, until the worm is begging for mercy and the cops need to be called. But I digress. We don't talk much. There's really no need for it. But I think the show can be summed up by a brief conversation we had between songs in the encore:

Cracky: You know what I like about them?

Moist Rub: Their ability to transcend gender roles in rock, yet maintain a simple sexuality without even trying?

Cracky: Well, yes, but I was just going to say that I like that they don't play their guitars like girls.

Moist Rub: Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing. They don't look like girls when they play.

Cracky: Yeah.

Moist Rub: I'm also capable of transcending traditional gender roles. Want to talk about your feelings?

Cracky: Shut up, Carrie is talking.

Wild Flag. They don't play like girls. Crack Approved.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fiona Apple – Lincoln Hall – 3/18/2012

Fiona is back. She apparently releases new albums about as often as Cracky gets laid… and the time between releases (pun intended) is growing exponentially longer. Her last one was 2005. She has a new one coming out in June called The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do. However, unlike Cracky, Fiona needs to practice a bit before performing before a large crowd. So she booked a couple nights at intimate Lincoln Hall for about 500 of her closest friends. When tickets went on sale, the server crashed harder than a vision-impaired drunk on a dirt track date. The 20,000 Fiona fans who all felt entitled to a ticket or two acted as if Lincoln Hall had roofied Fiona herself, raped her and posted the video on YouTube just to taunt them while they hosted a cocktail reception for ticket brokers and passed out golden tickets like beer nuts. Chill out, folks. Lincoln Hall is the best damn venue this city has, from booking acts, to taking care of bands, to giving us great sound and a pretty damn nice place to catch a show. Security and bartenders and everyone else associated with the place are first class, and for Fiona fans to act as if they were on a mission to screw every one of them over is more ridiculous than Gallagher as president of these United States. I didn’t get tickets to the show when they first went on sale. But I didn’t threaten to burn the place down. Like a normal human, I said, “Well, that sucks” and then got on with my life and probably watched some porn or went out for nachos.

Remember Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult? Doesn’t matter because he is irrelevant to this post but his name does rhyme with karma, and I’m about to get metaphysical on your ass. You see, I’m pretty much an ass. But when I find myself with extra tickets to a sold-out show, I do my best to find a fan to whom I can sell them at face value. And in turn, the ticket gods take note and make sure I gain entry to a venue when I need to. Take note, Fiona fans. I didn’t tell Lincoln Hall to shove a Blue Moon tap up their ass, and by the time Fiona rolled into town I found myself with a pair of tickets. I almost died before the show due to a severe allergic reaction, but that’s an irrelevant story for another time. I ended up recovering before showtime and here’s my review.

Concert reviews are really stupid. It’s a one-time event. It’s not like somebody is going to read the review like a movie and say, “Hey, that sounds awesome, I think I’ll go see it tomorrow night. Oh, right, it was a concert and I missed it.” I suppose they can be useful to somebody who was at the show and is so motherfucking indecisive that they need to read the reviews before they can decide whether they like it or not. Or got hammered on Kamikazes before the show and doesn’t remember it. Speaking of which, why don’t people drink Kamikazes anymore? They were good enough for Cracky to blackout during a painfully boring James Taylor concert in 1994 and wake up in the backseat of a strange Ford Probe on a street nowhere near his own. But I digress. Which is my point. You don’t want to read a review of a show, right? Perhaps you do. If so, read this one. He pretty much nailed it and it will save me from having to say the same thing. Thanks, Andrew.


Fiona is the apple in Cracky’s eye. And not the crusty stuff in the corner when he wakes up.