Sunday, July 22, 2007
My vow proved to abdicate me six years later on the eve of July 20. I was wrangled in to meeting people I graduated with that currently live in or around the great city of Indianapolis.
I wasn't going to go, but at last minute, I walked down memory lane and thought to myself - golly, it'd sure be good to see the people who won't remember my name, again! And I journeyed to a local bar to gather for refreshments, redundant conversations and uninspiring times.
When I got there, the numbers were tolerable. I walked into a crowd of seven. I genuinely was interested in talking to three of them. Of course, more and more people showed up. If I was to exhibit my enthusiasm through a line graph as the night went on and these fine owners-of-daddy's-store kids re-entered my life, it might look something like this.
By the end of the night, I left feeling that I would have rather impaled my beer bottle into my temple than be around 83% of the people in attendance. Needless to say, I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
I can't say I'm shocked that after all this time, these people still are not decent. I was, however, shocked that some of them are still alive and haven't forgotten how to do things like breathe. So I guess I tip my hat in that respect. I'm also a little surprised that I have the same feelings for these people six years after I walked away from them the first time. I guess that says just as much about my lack of altruism as it does their lack of souls.
I'm just angry that I'm not (nor was I ever) cool. And they are.
Of course, everyone reminisced about the days when we didn't talk to or know each other. I had the same conversation 30 times. Then everyone took down phone numbers and surely won't call again until the next reunion is ready to be planned.
By that time, maybe all of the cool football players will be completely bald and tack on a few extra chins to their already pudgy little faces. And maybe I'll harbor in my judgement and malicious attitude a few years until it can resurface again at the next gathering. Can't wait. Go Carmel!
The only thing I really got is this. With the new Simpsons' movie coming out, I'm sure this is old news to a lot of you, but it took me four days to get myself simpsonized. There is a big push to go out and make yourself yellowed to look like a Simpson. Apparently the push couldn't handle the amount of online traffic, and for about two days, every time I uploaded a photo, the site would a) freeze, b) tell me to come back later, c) load forever. If you can get your picture on there, do it. It's actually pretty accurate.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I made the trip from my home in Indianapolis to go be a part of the crowd gathering in Brown Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky to experience Ryan Adams (and The Cardinals) in concert.
I'm not a professional critic. I have never attempted to write even a half-serious review of any kind of performance in my life. A few years ago when I was writing newspaper editorials, my good friend Jordan Sowards used to tell me on a weekly basis that all I ever wrote about was negativity and that I couldn't ever say anything good about anything. With his encouragement and support in mind, I have given myself the stamp of approval in writing this review/criticism.
First, the rules...
I am going to judge the experience based upon five criteria including:
- Performance Quantity
- Performance Quality
I will judge the experience with an easy-to-understand scale of 1-10 with 1 being the worst and I'd rather slit my wrists and do push ups in rubbing alcohol than go through what I just experienced ever again. 10, of course being the best and I would choose going through this experience again before I'd choose spending the night with my most recent enthusiasm. With five categories, that would bring a perfect score to 50 points.
All of the criteria will be judged in a comparison of my first encounter with Ryan Adams and The Cardinals in Birmingham, Alabama. I saw them perform two or three years ago at City Stages. They weren't on the main-stage and I think that upset Ryan quite a bit. I'm fairly certain he downed a handle of vodka on stage. This led him to do things like call us by the wrong city/festival, thanking us for welcoming him to South by Southwest -- in Texas.
He also told imaginary stories about how dolphins are sneaking into Mr. McGregor's garden. He pushed his female bass player off stage and stormed off in about 30 minutes. He had just released Cold Roses and didn't play any songs from it. In fact, from what I remember, he didn't play many songs that people knew. The songs that people recognized, were different and secondary renditions. All in all, the experience left something to be desired. If I were grading that endeavor, it'd read like this
- Travel - 8 - I was able to drive 5 minutes to downtown and park for free because of my shiny Smith, Spires and Peddy parking pass. The only thing better than that would have been to have the concert in my front yard or in my living room.
- Venue - 3 - Although City Stages was cool (not really), it was kind of lame that he was shoved to the Coca Cola stage when lord-knows-what-Uncle Kracker-sounding-southern-rock-band was playing on the main stage.
- Audience -4- I was with two of my best friends in the aforementioned Jordan and Jordan Reichmann in his three-month stint as an Alabama resident. They're the only reason the rating is this high. If I remember correctly, the place seemed rather empty. Never a good sign.
- Performance Quantity - 5- This might be because he was on the Coca Cola stage under a bridge and in the dark, without speakers or an audience that cared, but he only played for about 30-45 minutes. I blame his drunkenness and rotten mood. By the time the show was over, however, he did manage to break a bunch of expensive equipment.
- Performance Quality -3- This has already been touched on. I couldn't tell you two songs they played. I do know that they completely butchered "New York, New York" one of his classics. Also, I would consider "small talk in between songs" under this category, and he was quite douchey.
That brings the grand total to a whopping 23/50. That's a solid F for those keeping score at home. It was a rough time for all of us.
Okay, now that I've lost 90% of the readers that started reading this entry, I begin the first review of the second part of my 2007 bitter/sweet/heart series.
Travel - I had to drive two hours each way to get to this place. I was looking forward to the drive. I've recently bought a lot of new music and was anxious to listen to it without interruption. I left at 5:00 right after work, and couldn't have picked a worse time to leave being that it was rush hour and I had to venture around 465.
In an attempt to not bore you, I'll just say that 465 is a big circle, and you can go two ways to get to one exit. I chose the right way.
I still thought I was running late because it was rush hour and I was at least two hours away from Louisville. The concert started at 8:00. Throughout the entire day, I kept having this nagging feeling about flat tires. I don't know why. I did see a mind-boggling 11 cars jacked up on the side of the road due to tire deflation, though. So I was on pins and needles the whole way. Thank God my tires weren't, because I got to Louisville on time (7:30).
It was a beautiful day, so I elected to have the windows down. Keeping the windows down does more than impede the quality of sounds coming out of my car speakers. It didn't matter. I kept the windows down and chose to forego my sing-along for a substantial part of the trip.
I was meeting my sister there. She had the tickets and was running late. That put me back until at least 8:30. We weren't sure if there was an opening band or not (there wasn't), but what can you do? She was late. So I went and drank beers at a local bar. The place was packed to the gills.
(Side Note: Does anyone else get severely annoyed when you go to a place and notice that ALL of the guys seem to be showing off through their hue of beer? For some odd reason this drives me insane. It doesn't get much worse than a guy wearing a Budweiser t-shirt and drinking a beer that looks like it came out of a coffee pot. EVERYONE was doing this at this place. It seemed like people were standing around showing others their beers in some kind of (wiener-size) contest. Give me a break. I didn't see a light colored beer in the entire bar area. I was waiting for all of the guys to pop their collars, cock their trucker hats and climb into their H2's and drive off to their cornhole tournaments.) -- Final Travel Grade = 8
Venue - Personally, there is nothing better than going to a concert in a theatre. I understand lawns allow you to relax and lounge on your own blankets and chairs while enjoying the show. I realize that standing-room-only venues provide an intimate collision with the band.
Theatres seem to have the best sound and all of the seats are elevated enough so you can see over the heads of whoever is sitting in the seat directly in front of you. The only downside to theatres is that sometimes they have pew benches instead of seats. Pews are fine until you have to share a pew with a guy that weighs 350 pounds and takes up 4 seats in a 3 seat pew.
Luckily for my sister and I, we were seated right on the aisle, 5th row, balcony. Perfect seats. So instead of being the guy that tries to carry 4 cups of beer back to his seat, making everyone in his aisle squirm or awkwardly stand up to let him pass, and spilling portions from each cup all over the shirts of his aislemates - I was the guy who had to do the squirming and could have gotten drunk off the spillage on my shirt.
Brown Theatre has 1441 seats with a 67 foot stage. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals took up about 20 feet right in the center of the stage. They laid out 3 Persian rugs side by side and that's all the space they needed. Jam packed right in the middle. Although we were in the balcony, the arrangement made it feel like we were in their living room. Final Venue Grade = 8.5
Audience/Company - I already mentioned that I met Tara there. I also noticed that 90% of the wiener-size-contestants made their way into Brown Theatre. I bet they were disappointed when they found out that their beer would be sissy-colored gold served in plastic cups rather than black-rubber-dark in 12-inch steins. Probably ruined their time.
Anyways, a few months ago Tara wrote The Ten Commandments of Show-Going. I'm not going to steal her ideas, but I will expound upon them.
Don't go to a show and scream out your favorite song until you get a reaction from the performers.
You're a Droid if you do this at shows. I understand alcohol plays a part. But you should wear a shirt announcing free permission to your aislemates to punch you in the glasses if you start screaming song titles in the middle of a concert. No one wants to hear it. Plus, the band probably has a set list.
There were plenty of this type of person to go round' in the theatre during this show. I don't know what it is. Maybe the intimate setup gave people the impression that they knew Ryan Adams and were the boss of him and his band.
Some people even started chants -- as in, they spelled out the first half of the word "Cardinals." C-A-R-D-S- what's that spell!? CARDS! This type of behavior is beyond unnecessary. Their cornhole game must have ended ahead of schedule.
Not to mention that I thought the girls sitting behind us were having orgasms during the first few bars of every single song. "Ahhhhhh OH MY GOD! I LOVE THIS SONG!"
The only saving grace was that I was with my sister, who LOVES Ryan Adams. It was good to be with her and see her happy to be there. She saves this grade. Final Audience/Company Grade = 7
Performance Quantity - Things got off to a rough start with us being late. There wasn't an opening band, so the show started at 8:00 and we didn't walk in until about 8:30. They walked off stage at 9:50, prompting Tara to comment "that seemed short," forgetting that we missed about a quarter of what had been played.
People clapped for a good five to ten minutes after they walked off. It was the longest clapping situation I think I've ever been a part of. Or maybe it just seemed long because the orgasmic girls behind me kept whistling and screeching in my ears.
Sure enough, the band walked back out! Ryan Adams came out and said something like "I just feel like playing music. Sit down everyone. We're not going anywhere for a while." They proceeded to play for about another hour and a half. Probably the best thing I've ever seen from a band.
I have never walked away from a three-and-a-half hour concert thinking to myself "I wish I could hear more." After they walked off stage the second time, that was precisely what I was thinking. I couldn't get enough of what I was listening to. Final Performance Quantity Grade = 10
Performance Quality - I'm a sucker for guys (or girls, I suppose) running, jumping and acting like maniacs on stage. I love it. Anything that brings energy is alright by me. Last time I saw Ryan Adams perform, he acted like a maniac, but not the good kind. He acted like men in white coats were after him.
This time there were six people on stage and they were all sitting down. Even Ryan popped a squat for the duration of the show. They brought energy, but they didn't need to run around and push people into speakers.
I have heard that Ryan has been sobered up the past few months and he has been on "good behavior" this tour. This was quite evident as the music was all of the energy the room could contain.
They all sat in a crescent formation with the steel guitar and piano at both ends. Since 2000, Ryan Adams has completed and produced 10 albums. He just recently released Easy Tiger, so I would have expected the set list to be heavy on the "here's a song from our new album, Easy Tiger, in stores now," side.
I couldn't have been more wrong, and more surprised. They played a bunch of the Easy Tiger songs, but it wasn't even close to an "Easy Tiger Tour" show. They played many songs from every album he has released in the last seven years. My favorite Adams' albums are the Love Is Hell albums. Last time I saw Adams, he didn't touch the LIH songs. He just touched himself. This time the set had plenty and he touched me. I left satisfied.
There wasn't an electric guitar in the place -- very surprising. There wasn't a spotlight anywhere to be found throughout the night -- never seen before. Every light came from behind the band. You couldn't ever really see anyone's face. It was all about the music -- not the antics. It was a mature performance, not a rock circus. There wasn't anything that could have been done to make me want more from this performance. Final Performance Quality Grade = 10
Final Ryan Adams Concert Experience Grade = 43.5/50
Let's recap: First show - F. Second show - B+.
I would confidently claim this as the best concert experience I've ever had -- how's that for positive writing!? You might ask, "how can the best concert experience I've ever had only invoke a B+ rating?"
Because as great as it was, I'm not even flirting with giving people the impression that if my enthusiasm (I think she's waiting for me) ever matched up against a concert, I'd be sitting in the fifth row in the balcony in front of orgasmic teenagers. Not happening.