Monday, October 12, 2009

Rhett Miller concert review, I bought a piano and I play the drums

So Friday night I didn't have much to do. My roommate was going downtown for a buddy's 30th birthday, but other than that, most of my friends were staying in (due to the weather I guess). I was in a bit of a weird mood, so I decided to get on Pollstar and see if there was any good live music playing. Lo and behold, my own idol Rhett Miller was playing a solo show at Antone's. I hurriedly got dressed and hauled ass downtown.

Going to concerts by yourself is a lot like going to the movies by yourself. For someone like me, it makes me feel like a loser, even though it probably shouldn't. I mean, watching a concert (or a movie) is not really all that social of a thing. Your attention is fixed somewhere else. Anyway, my experience Friday was marred by the fact that I was by myself.

I'd guess I've seen Rhett Miller in concert a dozen times, so I know a lot about his style. Anytime I go to a rock show, I tend to fixate on the front man, and this is especially true with Rhett and the Old 97s. Up to now, it's been hard for me to figure out why I like him so much. I mean, he's not all that techinically sophisticated of a guitarist (he only plays rhythm), he doesn't have a classicly trained voice, and his songs are very simple. But at this show I realized that is exactly WHY I like him so much. He gives someone like me (who isn't technically sound on his instrument, sings out of tune, and writes simple songs) hope. He's mostly "it" factor, and I don't see that as a bad thing. His good looks and the way he works the crowd are more important to his success than his sense of melody and rhythm. On top of that, his lyrics are very catchy. He's had exactly the level of success I'd want (successful enough to draw a crowd and earn a living, but not so famous he can't have a life with some semblance of normalcy--although he did marry a supermodel, so his life probably doesn't have much normalcy). He's exactly who I try to emulate, whether I'm in my room by myself, practicing with Keith, or playing in front of a group of people.

Here are some things I noticed:

-he makes a LOT of eye contact with people of the audience.
-he mostly uses his 1/2 Townsend windmill strum deal on an open G chord
-most of his songs use the same 5 or 6 chords; he employs a capo to get songs in different keys
-I watched him before the show in the VIP lounge, and I've had a short introduction to him before at an earlier gig, and he genuinely seems like a nice person
-I had a short conversation with Salim Nourallah, who produced the most recent Old 97s record. I went up and introduced myself and told him thank you for writing this article. Turns out, he didn't write it, the lead sound engineer Rip Rowen did. He corrected me, but was very gracious about the whole thing. That article has been an excellent resource for me since I've been trying to gather recording equipment and learn the processes.
-Even though I was by myself, I still enjoyed the show; that said, I REALLY wished I'd had a pretty girl with me.

On a side note, remember when I posted a few weeks back about 2 songs I wrote? Well, I realized that one of them ("This is My Life Without You") was just me unconsciously copying one of Rhett's new songs ("Haphazardly"--it's linked at the top right of this page so you can hear it). I must've heard it at the last Old 97s show I went to, forgotten it, then somehow twisted the chorus when it came back up while I was f'n around on the guitar. I suspect that happens a lot, and not just with me. I've read several interviews with Kevin Griffin (from Better Than Ezra) and one of the things I like about him is how candid he is about his songs' influence. He's not ashamed to admit 'ripping off' a melody from someone else. You could probably take every song I've ever written and find a song that songs exactly like it that I heard somewhere before.

So over the last few weeks I've taken to the drums. I think this stemmed from Keith and I getting a little bored with the same ol' thing when we practice. Also, we both think it would be a cool gimmick if we switched instruments in the middle of a set. Not to mention Keith is a badass on the guitar. I've progressed to being able to keep a beat, albeit with no fills or complicated switches. Friday night after I got home, I was HAMMERED. So my roommate, his buddy and I went into my studio and I hopped on the drums. I don't remember it all that much, but apparently we played a LONG time. Like, non-stop for like 3 hours. I have painful blisters on every. single. one. of my fingers. On both hands. I don't aspire to be Dave Grohl, but I do think it would be cool to be able to jump on a drumset and keep up.

Finally, I bought a piano yesterday. It's an antique (1800s I think) Wurlitzer upright. I got it for $175. All the keys/pedals play and it has all the original (albeit yellowed) ivory. 3 of the keys stick intermittently. I hope to have this repaired when I have it tuned after it's moved (happening today).

A lot of my favorite songs are piano based. I grew up listening to a lot of Elton John and The Beatles, Billy Joel, etc. I don't aspire to be concert style, but just like with the drums, I think it'd be pretty f'n pimp to be able hop on a piano and bang out a tune or be able to write piano based simple chord songs. Plus, chicks dig dudes who can play piano.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pearl Jam Rocks

I went to the Austin City Limits Festival last night. I originally had a 3 day pass, but sold it so I could go down to Victoria for my cousin's birthday party. Well, this girl I have a crush on was there and wanted me to meet her, so I made a few calls to see if I could get a ticket for Sunday. Turns out a girl I used to work with had a ticket, but it wouldn't be available until like 5pm. So, I got in right as Jack White's latest project, Dead Weather, was playing. Jack White is hard. During the set he played all 4 rock instruments (drums mostly, but also played guitar, bass, and sang). The band was good, but they had a chick sing all the songs Jack White didn't sing. I'm not much for chick rock singers. After they were done, Pearl Jam took the stage. They ROCKED. I've always liked Pearl Jam, but wouldn't have put them in my top 5 bands. They're there now. Eddie Vedder is hard. Their set was perfect. They played Daughter, Elderly Woman, Even Flow, Oceans, and several others. Their encore started off with Evolution, then they brought out Ben Harper for a song. Then Perry Ferrell (the fruit from Jane's Addiction who basically invented the modern music festival by starting Lollapalooza) came out and sang a Jane's Addiction song with them (Mountain? I'm not a JA fan.) Then they closed the show with Alive (top 5 guitar solos on any song ever) and Keep On Rocking In the Free World. It ruled. They were so awesome I didn't even care that the girl I was with wasn't interested in me (at least until after the show).

It's amazing; every time I see a badass concert, it makes me want to lock myself in my studio for like 5 years.