Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lilly Hiatt and the Dropped Ponies

Last night, finding myself with nothing to do on a Friday, a friend of mine invited me to go along and see one of her friends play in East Nashville, the land of dark rimmed glasses and jorts. It turns out her friend was Lilly Hiatt, someone I've known since she was knee high to a Grammy, and yes, daughter of that guy we've all heard of, John Hiatt. The Family Wash is a little venue that reeks of pretension without effort, like the hipster who spends a half hour in front of the mirror trying to make his hair look like he just woke up. It appears to be for the young crowd but with the cheapest beer being four bucks for a Yuengling in a can and five bucks for a Fat Tire, your daddy better be famous if you want to tie on a buzz at this place.

I had seen Lilly play before, but never with a band behind her. Her sweet comedic charm was on display as she had the audience in stitches between each song, just by being herself. Her songs had just the right amount of country twang. They weren't overly "Nashville" country, more of a Cheryl Crow/Lisa Loeb sound that the Dropped Ponies pulled off to perfection. Their lead guitarist, Bethany Somethin', killed it all night. She played a really nice Gibson hollow body with P-90's and a Bigsby and she worked that thing like a pro. I haven't seen a chick play guitar like that in a while, not even Nancy Wilson. Her bass player, Jake, was one of those guys who sat on a stool and looked like he could fall asleep at any moment, which I guess was true, as I heard him telling someone after the show that he was sick and heavily medicated. I wasn't surprised to see them play Neil Young's "Down By The River", but I was impressed when they rocked it harder than Young or John Hiatt or any other overrated old gravel box could ever attempt. Beth's solos seemed to channel Mike Campbell and Lilly's pipes were the perfect opposite to Neil's dying cat whine.

Lilly's songwriting is heartfelt and wise beyond her years. With song topics ranging from her Granny and her favorite pies, to one called "Big Bad Wolf" about "big bad men", she rolled through her set with the audience in the palm of her hand. Her voice is strong and petite at the same time and her personality makes you want to pinch her cheeks and do a shot of Jack with her. Her obvious comfort on stage flows out to the seats and chairs making the crowd feel like they're sitting in her living room.

The Dropped Ponies are the perfect backers and Lilly is serious. She's not just an act that makes her living off of her dad's famous name (cough, Gill). She has toured in Europe and played some pretty impressive shows here in the states. As far as I'm concerned, next time I hear John Hiatt's name, my response will be "He's Lilly's dad, right?" Not the other way around.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Last night I got to cross another band off of my musical bucket list when Heart played at the Ryman. I have always heard that they put on a great show and I was ready to see for myself. I was really surprised when a ticket broker (read: scalper) actually sold me a ticket for only 20 bucks. Maybe those guys do have a heart, or maybe they just had too many extras and wanted to get while the gettin' was good. Either way I was in and I was pumped.

First off, I gotta say that a tight jeans wearin', Lenny Kravitz impersonating, teen aged four piece from Nashville didn't really seem like the right opener for rock legends such as Heart at the Ryman. They were alright, but their version of "Jailhouse Rock" just made me roll my eyes and go stand in the beer line. They would probably rock at the Exit In, but last night they didn't do it for me.

When Heart came out, I saw an all too familiar sight. Old fans stand up, wave their arms around for the first half of the first song, and then sit down for the remainder of the show. Whatever, I was standing in the back of the balcony and it was great. The sister Wilson ran through a mix of old ones and new ones from their new album Red Velvet Car. I felt like Homer Simpson at the B.T.O. show yelling "No new crap! Get to Workin' Overtime!" (or Magic Man as the case may be.) Then another familiar moment, banter about how lucky we were to be in Nashville with all of the musicians, and then, yes, a special guest. Lucky for us is was the angel Alison Krauss. That was pretty cool. That girl has just about the best voice in the world and combined with Anne-Cy, it was quite a treat. Finally, after way to much new crap including the title track from Red Velvet Car, and another one called "WTF", it was time for the real reason I was there. "Magic Man". I know it's hokey to go to a show only to see a couple of songs but I did pay attention for most of the time and really, the best time to see this band isn't right now, it's 25 years ago. Anyway, "Magic Man" was everything I'd hoped it would be. That fed right into "Crazy On You", with an extended intro from the hotty hot hot Nancy Wilson on guitar. With those two songs behind us, there could only be one song left for a set closer, and it was "Barracuda". It was good to see Nancy finally bust out a Les Paul and jump and kick around like a mid 20's punk rocker. Man she rocks. We were invited into space by Ann for the encore and were treated to "What Is and What Should Never Be" and "Love, Reign O'er Me". Ann's voice really made for great versions of these classic songs, even if half the crowd didn't recognize the latter.

Seeing Heart didn't exactly live up to my expectations. The other "members" of the band were adequate I guess, but they didn't blow my mind. The lead guitar player was a bit of a disappointment. All of the classic riffs should be no sweat for a professional rocker, except this guy I guess. It appears smooth cowboy boots and a leather vest aren't enough to win over everyone, some people want to hear the songs played right. That guy aside, "Magic Man", "Crazy", and "Barracuda" were totally worth the effort, even if the rest of the show wasn't.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Phish. Deer Creek

For those of us who love the festival atmosphere but not necessarily the chore of choosing which bands to see, walking a million miles, and putting your body through several days of debauchery and several nights of minimal sleep, the perfect solution is a summer stop on Phish tour at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Nobelsville Indiana, otherwise known as Deer Creek. It's the ideal situation, sort of like a mini festival, with only one band. You still get the insane people watching, just enough walking around, and everyone is there for the same mission: to see Phish.

Night 1.

After a little mix up regarding the time zone of Indiana, my big attorney and I arrived just as the crowd went nuts and the band launched into Runaway Jim. Our plan was to get some tickets in the lots before the show, so we found ourselves trucking to the cluster circus of a line for the box office, which was nothing more than a few salespeople at a table under a tent in the back corner of the parking lot. This little obstacle was responsible for us missing all but one song of the first set. I was crushed to miss "Cars, Trucks, and Buses", "NICU", and "Punch You In The Eye", but I wasn't going to let that ruin my night.

The second set started of with a bangin' version of the Who's "Drowned" that melted nicely into a "Gotta Jibboo>Bathtub Gin". This got my first Phish show in over a year off to the start I had hoped for but was robbed of a couple of hours prior. It was clear to see that the reviews I had been reading were right. The guys have taken the way back machine for a spin back to 1995 where the jams are quick and to the point and build up into a crowd crushing frenzy. This was a welcome change of pace for me, as I would tend to get bored with the spacey long winded jams of the late 90's and early 2000's, and my favorite jams have always been the hard hitters. The mid-set slow down for "Horse>Silent In The Morning" was a nice break and a beautiful couple of songs. I always love to see a "Harry Hood", but this one seemed to be sort of mailed in, not really one of the better ones I've seen. Thankfully is was saved by a set ending "Golgi Apparatus". When they came out for the encore, Trey picked up a megaphone, which to us seasoned fans, means only one thing: "Fee". The story of the little weasel was a rare, cool one to see, and only got rarer when they went into the craziest version of "Kung" I have ever seen live or heard on tape. I'm not sure if the helicopter with the spotlight was supposed to be choreographed with the sirens of the megaphone, or if it was just a coincidence, but it was pretty cool. The show ending "Fire" rocked what little socks we had left and worked up a huge appetite for the next night.

Night 2.

After the debacle at the ticket counter the night before, my huge attorney and I decided to get tickets earlier in the afternoon, leaving us time to get back to the campsite to get our mind right for what was sure to be the show of the tour. We had a few (several) beers, met a fun guy, and discussed the songs we hoped to hear. This time, we were on the lawn, ready to go when the lights went down.

From the opening notes of "Chalkdust Torture", I was worried this would be one of those slower, more laid back shows, usually saved for the third night of Deer Creek. "Chalkdust" was a little slower and didn't live up to it's usual face melting status, and a lot of the first set followed suit. That is, of course, until the run starting with "The Ballad Of Curtis Loew", followed by "Wilson" and ending the set with my all time favorite rocker, "Possum". In those 8 or 9 minutes, it was just me and Phish and "Possum" on the earth and it was great.

After what seemed like the longest set break ever, Mike started off the Bop Bob ba Chingo of "Haley's Comet" which was fun to hear but more fun to see jump off quickly into a run of songs that eventually ended up at my other big time favorite, "Maze". This particular version was pretty awesome. Page's B-3 solo had a couple different layers before Trey pushed him over the edge. Then Trey took over the solo duties and built the place into a frenzy before he completely blew the roof off. The lights and the crowd made it the highlight of show for me. I'm pretty sure my sister enjoyed it too. After another couple of Phish classics, they started off yet another one of my favorites, "Julius" to end the set. The encore was a rare "Contact" and a beautiful weekend closing "Slave to the Traffic Light". Wow, what a great show.

It doesn't happen very often where you talk about the songs you want to hear before the show and they come through and play every single one you mention. More often I've found that even hoping for a song means they will almost surely bypass it. I guess this one was my lucky night. Not only did they play all my favorites, they avoided the ones I really didn't want to hear. That's the life of a Phish fan. You go to the show, having bought the ticket, and ready to take the ride. You know that no matter what they play, even if it's not the ones you want to hear, you're still at a Phish show and nothing else in the world matters.