12 Nov 2004: Pedro the Lion (Exit Clov and Starflyer 59 opening)
I went to see Pedro the Lion last night at the Black Cat. Talk about lack of pretension. Lead Lion David Bazan was out with the roadies setting up equipment for the band that opened for him. He seemed so unassuming and normal; it was scary. Bazan is now a married man with a child, thinning hair, a noticeable belly, and a quasi-truck-driver/logger appearance. But his sad, morose, sincere lead vocals had many in the crowd dropping their jaws. His songwriting frequently hit so close to home, that I came away learning things about myself. He told me things about myself that I was unaware of.
I started the night about five or six rows back, and by the end of the set, I was front and center and could not have been closer. Bazan looked over the audience — he sort of squinted and occasionally twitched his left eye as if he were using it to concentrate on a chord or a lyric. The band was competent but Bazan misplayed a couple of chords here and there, and there was infrequent improvisation. No frills, no gimmicks, no look-at-me guitar solos or dancing around. I guess Pedro the Lion can be considered a Christian Elliott Smith, but with an edge.
After the show (after I tried unsuccessfully to procure the set-list), I talked with Bazan's sister, Rochelle, who was selling Pedro the Lion merchandise in the back. She told me Bazan uses a lot of fiction (parables, if you will) to get messages across in songs. I asked her about David's like or dislike of the word Christian; she told me he struggles with the word, and its implications. Some media outlets have tried to give the word a negative connotation. The media promotes the small percentage of Christians who are controversial or hypocritical, or focuses on the sin(s) of a particular Christian, as if the failings of one person discredits a belief. What was I talking about? Oh yes, the enigmatic band/persona Pedro the Lion. An acquired taste, but I strongly recommend it.
6 Apr 2001: Semisonic (David Mead and Pete Yorn opening)
The Semisonic concert was great; those guys are so talented! The Meet and Great thing could've been a lot better. The band walked by, shook our hands, talked a bit and then we watched them rehearse three songs. That was it. That gave me 2.5 hours until the door officially opened. I walked south, looking for a nice place to eat dinner. I didn't find anything to suit me (either it was too elegant or too shabby) so I continued my trek and ended up on Pennsylvania Avenue. That's about an hour or so of constant walking. I stopped at TGI Fridays on 12th St. and Pennsylvania, but the there was a long wait, seeing how it was about 7:30pm. I started walking back and noticed a mini-mall with an eatery, so I purchased an overpriced Philly cheese steak at Jerry's.
After that I walked up Ninth St. By the way, Ninth St. is depressing; everything is either abandoned, condemned, trashy, or just simply low quality. We're talking some seriously low property values here. I walked back up to the Club, arriving about an hour before opening. So I waited, and ended up selling my extra ticket for face value to a random person; so that worked out great.
The first act came on at around 9:25pm. Solo guitarist. The guy looked like a cross between Art Garfunkel [circa 1961] and Mark from Blink 182. His voice sounded like Fran Healy, a little bit. After that, an ugly band played a set; most of the crowd breathed a sigh of relief when they put down their instruments. The only positive thing about their set was a slow-paced cover of "Dancing in the Dark". But they only played the first verse. I felt cheated!
After a 25 minute wait, Semi went on stage. They opened with "Secret Smile" and even played "Never You Mind" early on. Dan was kind of cocky on stage; he walked with a swagger and shook his hips for the ladies. Semi had a keyboardist on stage, reproducing the piano work and noises that are on many Semi songs (such as the driving piano line on "Never You Mind" or the noises in "Delicious"). He is to Semisonic what Billy Preston was to the Beatles (in more ways than one). Dan was laid back for the most part; he talked a bit with the crowd, but didn't try to engage them in making lots of noise or what have you... John was a beast on the bass, thumping out lines that even Cliff Burton would be envious of if he were still with us [God rest his soul]. On one song, John took off his bass and played the theramin. He simply waved his hands above it to create weird sounds. It was amazing; it looked like a magic show.
The set list could've been better, as they didn't do "Made to Last" or "Down in Flames". Come to think of it, they only did two songs from Great Divide, "In Another Life" and "Delicious", the latter of which Dan went to town on, so to speak, using the famed Wah-Wah peddle. Eric Clapton would've been proud. Towards the end of the set, someone called out for "Toolmaster", Dan declined to play it, saying "Now don't you know that's my brother Matt's song..." or something. He then went on a mini-diatribe about how some people confuse him for his brother and implied that he didn't feel loved (this elicited "awws" from the crowd).
Semi closed with "Closing Time" (that was a big surprise), and came back out to thunderous applause for three more songs, closing with a sublime "El Matador" (listen to the chorus at the end and you'll know what I mean). For this one, Jacob left his drum set and played keyboards (he wrote it).
30 Mar 2001: Cowboy Mouth (Southern Culture on the Skids opening)
Southern Culture on the Skids opened for Cowboy Mouth; their keyboardist must've weighed 350 pounds. He looked like a cross between Fat Bastard and your average hick. He was hilarious and played a mean accordion. I'm serious. The lead guitarist pushed it to the limit — it was quite amazing because he didn't even look like a musician. On their last two songs, the band brought out a big bucket of KFC and invited girls to get on stage and participate in the Chicken Dance. Each girl was given a piece of fried chicken. Naturally, some of the girls gravitated towards Fat Bastard and were dancing seductively around him. Very strange. Most of the chicken ended up either in the crowd or in Fat Bastard's mouth.
After their set, Cowboy Mouth arrived and did another wonderful performance. Fred even opened up with a chant of "Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen." and "This Little Light of Mine". He provided most of the energy for the band, banging it out on his drum set like a man possessed. He was pounding so hard, he broke a stick on nearly every song. His drum kit was moved up to the front of the stage for all to see. And he sang lead on half the songs. Amazing.
Mo one was pushing or shoving or crowd surfing or anything (probably because most of them had cigarettes and alcohol to protect). It was totally the opposite of the Weezer concert, where I felt like I was in a trash compactor. There was one kid who tried to crowd surf, but Fred admonished him in the middle of a song, telling him "We don't do that at Cowboy Mouth concerts. Why? Because women don't like crowd surfing and women RULE!"
25 Sept 1999: 1999 HFStival II
The music was great; Powerman 5000 and The Chemical Brothers rocked. Chronological order of main stage bands: Fuel, Powerman 5000, Jimmie's Chicken Shack, Buckcherry, Filter, Everclear, 311, Bush, The Chemical Brothers, and Limp Bizkit. I chipped a tooth during Powerman 5000 (I took a boot to the face), and then a couple minutes later, my watch broke. Filter didn't impress me that much; Everclear looked gay in their matching suits and shorts, but they rocked; I paid little attention to 311; Bush was great, and the Chemical Brothers were totally amazing. I was in the Trancemissions tent during Jimmie's Chicken Shack and Buckcherry, and I left right after The Chemical Brothers (I didn't see Limp Bizkit — I wanted to beat the Metro traffic). My ears have been ringing for the past two days (which is really annoying).
30 July 1999: Jewel (Rusted Root opening)
Cait and I went to the Jewel concert Friday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. We were 19 rows from the stage. Had the time of my life. Wow. Jewel wore a black, knee-length skirt and a black tank. For the first half of her set, she had her hair up. After that, she let it flow freely (wow). And she has the best damn voice I've ever heard.
Steve Poltz opened and then stayed and played acoustic with her, hopping around the stage like a circus act. Jewel started with "Near You Always", then played highlights from Spirit and Pieces of You. She played three songs I hadn't heard yet and two familiar non-lp tracks, "Love Me Just Leave Me Alone" and "Carnivore", the latter having the soaring chorus that flaunts Jewel's perfect voice. She ended with "Who Will Save Your Soul" (improv scatting at the end) then encored with "Absence of Fear", "Angel Standing By" and "Chime Bells" (a capella). She played about sixteen songs in all and her set lasted about 100 minutes.
I know this may sound strange, but during the concert, I felt that I didn't deserve to be there; like Jewel's singing was something that only God should have the privilege of hearing. Do you recall seeing footage of young, screaming fans at Beatles' concerts? Well I know just how they feel now. No, I didn't scream like a little girl.
29 May 1999: 1999 HFStival
Jimmies Chicken Shack and Lit played first, and were okay. I then wandered around the booths outside and missed Blink 182 and Silverchair. The Bosstones sucked. Orgy was great (again); Jay came out in all white, with a long sleeve net-shirt and a white vest, pants and platforms (and quasi-goth makeup). I was as close to the stage as possible during their set and I felt like a trash bag in a compactor.
Sugar Ray was annoying because Mark said the same exact things as his UMD performance. Live were okay, but too loud. Maybe my hearing was just shot because Cait and I were sitting on the opposite side of the stadium. Goo Goo Dolls were a disappointment, The Offspring were great and probably first in crowd participation. We didn't stay for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
30 May 1998: DC101 Chili Cookoff
During Everclear's set, this random guy came up to Richard and asked him if he wanted to get to the front of the crowd. Then he asked people to move out of the way and let Richard pass. Naturally, Sean and I were right behind him. It took about ten minutes to get to the front of the crowd. By this time, Everclear were 15 yards away, and we thought things couldn't get better. We were wrong. The guy who helped Richard make it to the front talked to a security guard and asked if Richard could be lifted out of the crowd and over the barrier between the stage and the crowd. He gave in. About six or seven people helped lift Richard and his wheelchair over the four foot barrier. Seconds later, I climbed over the barrier. Sean followed about a minute later. By this time, we were about ten yards from Everclear, and the 30 ft. X 30 ft. speakers were only two yards away. Right in front of the huge speakers were smaller speakers (about four feet high). I jumped up onto one of the speakers, and was just two feet away from the huge wall of sound. I saw thousands of screaming fans jumping and yelling to the music. Definitely one of the happiest moments of my life.
After a few minutes, Everclear's set was finished, so we went behind the stage. The bands had a private, fenced in area behind the stage where they can unwind after the performances. And we were there. We got a considerable amount of autographs and handshakes from Foam and Everclear (Smash Mouth had just left). After grabbing some drinks, we climbed up onto the back of the stage and watched Blink 182 set up. For most of their songs, we stood on the back of the stage and watched them. The drummer broke one of his drum sticks, so he threw it over his head and Sean picked it up. During their radio song, "Dammit (Growing Up)", I resumed my perch on the four-foot speaker. My entire body was vibrating. I could feel my heart shake. It was weird 'cause I was facing everyone. I've never really had that kind of a view before at a concert. After Blink 182's set, I went back again and helped Richard off the stage. Then we met Blink 182. (we had just watched them on LoveLine on Friday night). After autographs and handshakes, we left the VIP area and eventually took the Metro back to Wheaton.
Semisonic photographs © 2001 Semisonic.