Posts Tagged ‘Juliana Hatfield Three’

Any year that I see Juliana Hatfield in concert is a good year. And a year when I see her twice? Logic, at least my logic, says it should be good times two – i.e., great. And to see Juliana cover not one but two Olivia Newton-John songs while backed by Wesley Stace & the English UK? The surreal sweetness of the moment just can’t be beat. For that alone, 2017 should be damn near the best year of them all.

But this has not been a normal year. It’s as if someone spiked the water supply with mescaline in January and the hallucinations have yet to end. I’ll sidestep diatribes about America’s answer to Hugo Chavez, the human Scrooge McDucks that call themselves Republicans, and the leches that call themselves men, and instead share this:

When the music starts, we just slip away – just like a river rollin’ down…

Live music often has a more visceral impact than via CD, LP or digital download. It’s an immediate connection. You feed off the performer, he or she feeds off you and … you’re there, wherever there is, not stoned but STONED, and not from drink or drugs but from the music itself. The worries of the world cease to be, albeit for a few hours, and when you leave the venue you feel spiritually renewed.

From Lights Out in January to Patterson Hood (of the Drive-by Truckers) this past Thursday, and including such stalwarts as Graham Parker, Garland Jeffreys and Shawn Colvin, we enjoyed more live music this year (21 shows by my count) than the past few years combined. Some shows were good, others great, and a handful absolutely sublime.

First, though, a caveat: As all things “best of” on this blog, I work from a deck stacked by my aging demographic, idiosyncratic tastes, and budget. I enjoy singer-songwriters with folk-rock and/or country overtones, and delight in discovering new artists within that realm, and generally rock out to the same artists I’ve rocked out to forever and a day, including (but not limited to) Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, the Kinks, Joan Jett, Paul Weller and Juliana Hatfield, among others.

And, with that, here’s Remember December, Vol. I: Concerts of the Year. (Click through to read my original reviews.)

1) Paul Weller with Lucy Rose at the TLA, 10/4/17. This show fell in what was the awful week that included the mass shooting at a country-music festival in Las Vegas and the passing of Tom Petty. Perhaps that explains the jubilation I felt at being able to forget, if only for a few moments, and let go. And, too, it was just a killer concert.

2) Kasey Chambers at the World Cafe Live, 7/5/17. Breathtaking. That’s the only word for this show, which found the Aussie country-music maven weaving heartfelt odes from thin air. Even now, watching this video, I’m stunned at how good she is.

3) The Juliana Hatfield Three at the Boot & Saddle, 4/24/17; and Juliana Hatfield with Wesley Stace & the English UK at the Ardmore Theater, 10/12/17. When formulating this list, I found myself going back and forth as to which of these shows should be third or fourth on my list. At the Boot & Saddle, Juliana and the Three personified “brutal grace.” It was raw, raucous, loud and great, and – given than the bulk of the setlist was Pussycat-heavy, cathartic. The only strike against it were the muffled vocals.

The Ardmore show, both in her solo set and when backed by the English UK, was near the reverse, with an expansive set list that included such gems as “Slow Motion” and “Somebody’s Waiting for Me,” and way-cool covers of two Olivia Newton-John songs. Here’s one:

Watching that clip again, just now, I couldn’t help but to smile.

Anyway, both shows spoke to me in equal measure. Her songs, new, old, rocking, mid-tempo or ballad, are ingrained in my soul. So, why rank one above the other? For the purposes of this list, the two concerts are a tie…

4) Courtney Marie Andrews at the Boot & Saddle, 5/9/2017. As I wrote in my review, this was as magical and mesmerizing a concert that I’ve had the pleasure to witness in my concert-going career. Courtney reminds me of Shawn Colvin circa the early and mid-‘90s, who synthesized a wide swath of influences into a hypnotic whole.

5) The Staves at the World Cafe Live, 3/9/2017. What did I love about this show? Everything! Within moments of its start, it felt as if we’d stepped through a time portal to some point in the early ‘70s. About the only thing missing: bell-bottom jeans.

And, finally…honorable mentions: Bruce Springsteen on Broadway was the definition of compelling, but not a conventional concert due to the monologues. Thus, I’m not including it within my Top 5 (though, if I did, it wouldn’t knock Weller from the top spot). Also, Garland Jeffreys at the World Cafe Live Upstairs was grand; Lulu at the Sellersville Theater was wondrous; Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer at the World Cafe Live were sublime; and Tift Merritt at the World Cafe Live was utterly captivating.

As Tift sings, “Love Soldiers On.” And it does.

When Juliana Hatfield and the Three reunited in 2015 to record the album that became Whatever, My Love, they funded themselves via PledgeMusic. There was a cornucopia of cool premiums, from autographed CDs and photos to musical instruments, but what I’d hoped to snare—the soundcheck/concert tickets—sold out before I got there.

In years past, for other JH projects, I’d walked away with some autographed posters (including the one above, which shares a corner in my den with an autographed Susanna Hoffs poster) and other neat things, including the download-albums God’s Foot Demos, Live Nuggets and Live at Maxwell’s. I also did a 20 Questions. To me, it was and is less about what I bought and more about the music – as in, her new music. (Which is why, if you’re reading this, be sure to buy her 2017 release, Pussycat.)

Anyway, for the 2015 PledgeMusic outing, she offered up her “diary” of a momentous year in her life: 1993. That was when she recorded and released her major-label debut, Become What You Are, and toured in support of it; and pledging for it was a no-brainer for me. The “diary” is actually four-and-a-half pages on a legal-sized notepad – and an interesting read, especially when she gets to pressing the flesh in July and August:

“…I always thought the work was writing great songs and playing them with feelings. No, it’s more than that – I’m expected to give a little piece of myself to everyone until I feel drained of all vigor and individuality. I’m expected to be pleasant and witty while answering the same dumb questions twenty times in one day. I feel like a piece of meat, prodded from one pen to the next. But I’m confused because all the while, I’m grateful there are people who play my records and support what I do. I’m amazed and so lucky that I can make music for a living. I just have to remember that.”

Unfortunately, legal-sized paper is a few inches too large for my scanner. So I’ve chopped the pages in half. Here’s Juliana’s 1993…

The Juliana Hatfield Three delivered a loud, sweaty and raucous show at the Boot & Saddle in South Philly last night. In fact, you could say it was a night of true grrrl rock (it is the Pussycat tour, after all). The 20-song set opened with a ferocious “Got No Idols” from Become What You Are. As evidenced by the video, Todd Phillips was a monster on drums, Dean Fisher equally brutal on bass and Juliana – well, Juliana was Juliana, full of grace, grit and growls on guitar and vocals.

Diane thought she was a bit in her head at the evening’s start, but I thought she was hitting all cylinders from the get-go. The only negative, which was likely due to our location at the foot of the stage: the vocals were muffled.

In all, the set (which, another fan told me, has been changing every night) featured seven numbers from the new LP, which is due out this Friday, and selections from throughout her career, including “My Sister.”

Here’s the set in full:

Got No Idols
Taxicab
You Are the Camera
Push Pin
Vagabond
Short-Fingered Man
Touch You Again
Wonder Why
When You’re a Star
What Do I Care?
My Pet Lion
Going Blonde
Kellyanne
There’s Always Another Girl
Bad Moon Rising
My Sister
Rhinoceros
Nirvana
Choose Drugs
Impossible Song

Afterwards, while packing up her stuff, Juliana was kind enough to pose for pictures with some fans, including me. She thanked me for my support but, really, she had it backwards – her music has supported me through the decades. I’m grateful to have been able to thank her for that in person.

Of the Pussycat album: Although not due out until Friday, our copy (actually, copies – CD, LP and cassette) arrived yesterday afternoon, so we listened to it on the way to the show. At first blush, it’s excellent through and through; I’ll be reviewing it in full this weekend, so be sure to check back. (If you haven’t already, order it from American Laundromat. You won’t regret it. Which I guess is a review and of itself.) Anyway, the new songs were leaner, rougher and blunter in the live setting; and the claws were definitely out on both “Short-Fingered Man” and “Kellyanne.” (The latter made for a perfect thematic fit with Made in China‘s “Going Blonde,” which preceded it in the set.) My favorite track, so far, is “Wonder Why” –

– though “Short-Fingered Man” remains a venomously funny delight. I’d post the clip I recorded, but the sound is even more muffled than on the ones I shared above; and rather to not give it the justice it deserves… here’s Juliana’s video:

Juliana Hatfield has a new album, Pussycat, due out at the end of the month – on the 28th, to be specific, four days after we’re slated to see her in Philly. Here’s a taste:

I lead with that simply because…well, why not?

But way back in 2004, just about this time of year, I was anxiously awaiting another of her albums – in exile deo, which was due on May 15th. That set earned many plaudits, including – at year’s end – the Old Grey Cat’s much-ballyhooed Album of the Year Award.

After its release, I wrote on the (original) Old Grey Cat website that in exile deo “is a tour de force packed with tasty, guitar-driven melodies and lush, to-die-for vocals – and may well be her best recorded effort yet.” I also observed that “introspective may well be the keyword for Juliana’s recorded oeuvre as a whole. With her wistful, vulnerable vocals and oft-wounded lyrics set aside sarcastic, spiteful rejoinders accented by jangling guitars, listening to a Juliana album can, at times, feel like you’re listening to an audio diary. in exile deo maintains that feel. Many songs ache; others mix sly asides with brash confessions. The acoustic ‘Tomorrow Never Comes,’ written by Dot Alison, quivers with hurt and regret. It’s fragile beauty in a song. Fragile beauty buttressed by strength, I hasten to add.”

Anyway, not long thereafter, I did what I often did in those days: I created a best-of CD for the car that incorporated some of the new tunes. Such endeavors can be maddening endeavors – so much good music, so little room! But I managed to squeeze in quite a bit, including a few of my favorite Blake Babies songs.

Below is the cover art, which I found on one of my external hard drives this morning, as well as a YouTube recreation of the mix itself. (Click play and it should play straight through.) Unfortunately, I had to drop “Yeh Yeh” (from the Fathers & Sons soundtrack) as it’s not available on YouTube. In its stead: “You Are the Camera” from Bed.