Posts Tagged ‘Tired as Fuck’

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.

I think that maybe I was dreaming. I smelled cinnamon and spices. I heard music everywhere. All around was a kaleidoscope of color. I stood beside Diane at the edge of the stage in the sold-out downstairs room at the World Cafe Live in West Philadelphia, the two of us somewhat out of place amongst the 20-somethings milling about, awaiting the arrival of the Staves.

For those unfamiliar with sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staverly-Taylor, whose ages range from the early 30s to mid-20s: They hail from Eau Claire, Wis., by way of Watford, Hertfordshire, England, which I gather is a suburban London enclave, and were raised on the hippie songs and harmonies of the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and CSNY, among others. In fact, the first song they ever properly worked out harmonies for was “Helplessly Hoping.”

The pre-show music was a blast, and included the Beatles, Waterboys and, as the sisters and drummer Dave Power filed onto the stage, Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.” Everyone in the audience sang along to that classic track – a foreshadow of a surreal moment yet to come.

The Staves opened with the mesmerizing “Blood I Bled” from their acclaimed 2015 album If I Was.  

Another highlight: “Steady.”

The piece d’resistance, at least for me, came midway through the 75-minute set: the wondrous “Make It Holy,” which features a strong CSN vibe.

There was also some diversions: Everyone sang happy birthday to Dave Power – whose martial beats, I gotta say, boomed throughout the night.

And, in the surreal moment I mentioned above, Emily, Jessica and Camilla were joined by many in the audience when, in an off-the-cuff moment, they sang the theme to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! (A truly scary moment, that.) Here’s a brief clip:

The set also featured their new single, “Tired as Fuck”…

… and ended with “Teeth White.”

In the last call from lands I’ve never been too, they closed the night with the CSN-flavored “Mexico.”

So, anyway, I thought that maybe I was dreaming. I smelled cinnamon and spice. I heard music everywhere. All around was a kaleidoscope of color. It was a great concert, in other words, akin to walking through a Renaissance Fair on a late-spring day, only better. Much better. All one really need know is this: on the ride home, Diane said “They may have been your artists before, but they’re our artists now!”

About the only complaint that I can come up with: the length of the show. But, in fairness, I’d likely have left thinking the same even if they’d played twice as long.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the opening act Mikaela Davis, who’s a harp-playing wonder with a luscious voice. When I first saw the harp on stage, I braced for a set of elevator music. Far from it. She was, in a word, hypnotic. Here she is from last week in Dallas:

Yeah, yeah, yeah: I borrowed the title from S.E. Hinton, whose 1971 novel charts the different life paths that two close friends choose to take. Or did I borrow it from the Monkees, who had a Top 20 hit with a song of the same name in 1986?

You be the judge.

After this weekend’s prior Top 5s (March 1983 and January 1994), I think it only appropriate to feature some new music – what I’ve been grooving to for the past week, basically.

 1) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Put the Fire Out.” As I wrote last week, Courtney’s album Honest Life is simply stunning – everything good about music can be found in its grooves (or bytes). Earlier this week, she released a video for “Put the Fire Out”…

2) Lucy Rose – “Floral Dresses.” The British singer-songwriter released this gem of a song, which features the Staves on harmonies, just a few days back.

3) The Staves – “Tired as Fuck.” And speaking of the Staves, who we’re slated to see this Thursday, there’s this single, released on Feb. 10th. It goes to show that even a profanity can be made to sound heavenly….

4) The Staves – “America.” And here the Staves are again, in a video released just two days back, singing this wondrous song (from their 2015 Blood I Bled EP) in a recent soundcheck.

5) Savannah Phylaw – “Love Remains.” The San Diego-based singer-songwriter, who I discovered via Twitter, released this song at the end of last year.