Happy race day, Richmond!
This past Sunday, while a stream of soft, late-morning light was tumbling through the living room window I’d left open overnight, I awoke on the couch, sat up (sort of) and snapped the above photograph. It is as much an illustration of how not to treat your records as it is a testament to how much fun the previous day — Record Store Day — had been.
I’d planned on writing a preview post on Friday but got distracted by and thoroughly wrapped up in Boston manhunt coverage, deciding ultimately that a blog post about which limited-run records I was hoping to get my hands on would seem incredibly trivial next to the day’s headlines. Instead, with Dzhokar Tsarnaev safely in custody and that boat somehow — miraculously, I think — not in a million pieces, I’d like to roll out my Record Store Day highlights through a series of open letters. I’m not sure how many there will be, but I do know where I want to start: with the kind folks who joined Bandmate 4eva Doug and me in lining up outside BK Music early Saturday morning.
Oh, sensory overload. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
You make me smile. You pick me up and take me away from where I’m standing. You crowd out rational thought, clearing bandwidth for an input onslaught. You make me forget everything, but I can’t forget you.
I walked into the National last Wednesday already overloaded, having tried to cram the entire Blitzen Trapper back catalogue into the fleeting hours leading up to the show. This was no easy accomplishment (as evinced by the fact that I failed to accomplish it), given that the Portland group has been on an album-a-year tear for nearly a half decade, their steady stream of high-impact songwriting resulting in a mountain of material that’s wildly rewarding climb.
The experience of seeing Blitzen Trapper live was just as overwhelming. There were so many notes. So many chords, key changes, harmonies, and brain-bending, soul-saving, dead-raising guitar solos… it was pure inundation, and I wish every one of you could have seen it (check here to see if they’re coming to a town near you).
My favorite example of Blitzen Trapper’s remarkable musical wealth (if you haven’t guessed already) has to be the lead guitar licks provided by frontman Eric Earley and guitarist/Moog-master Erik Menteer.
Does one song give you enough information to write an entire concert review? No, it doesn’t. But can one song give you enough information to get ridiculously excited about a band? You betcha.
The plan was to make it to Gallery 5 in time to catch my first glimpse of The Snowy Owls, who were participating in this past Saturday’s “WRIR and The Commonwealth of Notions Presents: Volume Two” — a 10-band sampling of the Richmond music scene organized by WRIR’s Shannon Cleary. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of The Snowy Owls’ set eating trail mix while driving east on Monument Avenue, because I failed to leave on time AND forgot to eat dinner. Not my finest moment. The silver lining to my gold-star-worthy failure was extra shiny, however, because I made it to Gallery 5 in time to pay the $10 admission fee, snag a beer and settle into a spot near the back of the room as the first few notes of set closer “Yr Eyes” were starting up. In the four and a half minutes that followed, I learned a few important things…
I don’t know how you could go to a Neko Case concert and not fall in love with her.
For one thing, you’d have to hate hearing beautiful voices. Friday evening at the National in Richmond, VA was my first time seeing Case perform live, and I’m convinced that hers is a voice that you could listen to infinitely, as if hearing it were as natural and essential as respiration or a beating heart. Powerful without overpowering. Precise, but not robotic. Weighty, but nimble as all get-out. It was the main event, but it folded into songs comfortably, leaving plenty of room for backup singer Kelly Hogan to add depth and shape to the melodies (Hogan also served as Friday’s opening act – a feat of endurance that grew more and more impressive as the night went on).
It’s been hot. Hot as hell. Hot as balls. So hot, it’s easy to forget that the current heat wave stretched all the way back to the Friday before last, when The Lumineers opened for Brandi Carlile at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Somehow, despite temperatures that rendered backs unattractively sweaty and the last third of beers practically undrinkable, the Denver-based quintet performed a scorcher of an early-evening set, one that ended in a well-earned standing ovation.
How’s that for some quality punctuation manipulation in the title? OK, OK, I admit it’s a sorry excuse for a play button. And that it looks more like a sideways Andy Capp, purveyor of the finest vending machine hot fries in all the land. My homemade “rock on” hand, however, is no joke…
Awwwww yeah! Soooooo… what we were talking about? Right! Tonight’s “I Play RVA Music” fundraiser! This is quite the action-packed Friday, with the Lumineers/Brandi Carlile Groovin’ in the Garden show I mentioned recently and the last installment of Friday Cheers, but I’d urge anyone and everyone to head to Gallery 5 at some point this evening for their summer fundraiser, which starts at 8pm.
If there’s one thing that You Hear That stands in stark opposition against, it’s nepotism. With great power (like the power wielded by this blog) comes great responsibility, and using influence as tremendous as that which is thrown around on these hallowed pages to advance the agendas of family members or friends would be straight-up wrongsville. I mean, look at George W. Bush. People were so outraged when they found out his father had also been president that they made him stick around for four additional years to think about what he’d done. Or how about the Williams sisters, who always seem to produce a winner when pitted against one another in tennis matches. How “convenient.”
That’s why I refuse to write a blog post saying that you should definitely go see The Lumineers open for Brandi Carlile at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden this Friday. Furthermore, I will not provide a link to the site where you can buy tickets, with the recommendation that you snag yours quickly before they sell out. You see, I went to the same college as Wesley Schultz, the lead singer of The Lumineers, and even played in a band with him for a short time near the end of our senior year. Given that background, it would be unethical for me to launch into an explanation of why I absolutely love his group’s eponymous album, and why I think Friday’s show shouldn’t be missed.
Y’all ever watch that show Diary on MTV back in the day? You remember, the one where they’d follow around a celebrity for a few glamorous days, and the diarist would start each episode by saying, “You think you know… but you have no idea.” Now that’s a catch phrase! It still runs through my head every once in a while. Probably because I was always tickled by how this intimidating phrase sounded in the mouths of less-intimidating subjects. Listen to the beginning of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s episode. That shit cracks me up.
Now watch this interview and tell me Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard wouldn’t have knocked that line out of the park. I’m almost tempted to start a letter writing campaign to get MTV to revive the series… but thankfully I don’t have to. I heard Howard deliver the Diary catch phrase just a few days ago. Well, not those words exactly, but Friday’s Alabama Shakes show on Brown’s Island in Richmond made one thing abundantly clear: I thought I knew Alabama Shakes, but I had no idea.