Back to catching up with concerts from earlier this year.
It’s always puzzled me as to why I don’t like Wilco, even after seeing them live a couple of times. On paper, they should be the perfect group for me. And there’s Uncle Tupelo – I never saw them live and I’ve never wanted to buy their music. Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy are alt-country royalty. Shouldn’t I love them? So I didn’t have high hopes for Son Volt. Would seeing them live change my opinion?
While standing on the floor waiting for the club to open up the balcony (they won’t open it until the floor fills up) we ran into a friend of rtb’s, who was looking forward to the opening act Anders Parker. Parker has worked with Farrar in the past, so we know how he got the gig. Parker is a big guy with a bushy beard, wild hair, and soft sweet voice. The band (Parker on electric guitar and others on electric bass, and drums. Keyboards and pedal steel were handled by Son Volt’s Mark Spencer.) could also rock out and there were some long guitar solos. I wrote down that I liked “Mountain Song,” but I can’t find a song of that name in his catalogue, so I’m not sure what that song was called. He also had a sense of humor – one song was “Jackbooted Thugs (Have All the Best Drugs).”
The balcony opened and rtb and I rushed upstairs and got a good spot in the middle of the balcony. There were seats on the sides but they didn’t look like they offered the best view – it would depend on who was sitting next to you.
Son Volt are touring to support their new blues-based album. Since they’d played Bowery Ballroom the night before, I considered us lucky to get tickets at Rough Trade because it is less than half the capacity of Bowery Ballroom. The first thing I noticed was Farrar seemed to be singing all the songs in same monotone. A monotone that wasn’t audible. People were yelling at the sound engineer to turn up the vocals but I assumed it wasn’t his fault. Most bands have their instruments turned up so loudly that it becomes difficult to turn up the vocals without getting feedback. And if you think it’s as easy as asking the musicians to turn down their amps – just try saying that to a rock guitarist. Most of the songs also had unexpected soft endings. There was a girl at the end of the balcony, above the stage, who was headbanging and leaning over the railing so far that I thought she was going to fall. The guy next to me was dancing along and headbanging. What was I missing? What were they hearing that I didn’t hear?
There also wasn’t enough light on stage, so the band was in darkness. That was something that could be fixed. And the air conditioning, which had been on during the break, was now turned off and the club was turning into a hot box.
Farrar didn’t really talk to us – there was very little stage patter. The audience didn’t sing along very much but they did a lot of dancing. For me, it was easy-listening alt-country, so not something that was fun or danceable.
Farrar is on electric guitar and the band is Mark Spencer (keyboards/pedal steel/guitar), who was very very very good, Andrew Duplantis (electric bass), Jacob Edwards (drums) (and who may have also played with Parker – not sure), and Chris Frame (lead electric guitar).
There was one funny moment when the band walked off after the encore and the sound guy plugged in his Nano and was looking for a playlist to play over the sound system when suddenly the band walked on for a second encore and took him totally by surprise. The audience wanted more and the band gave it to them. Actually, that last song they played was probably my favorite of the night. (There’s no set list online so I don’t know what the song was.)
I think I commented to rtb or thought to myself that the band didn’t even wave to us when they left the stage after their set or after the first encore. But after the second encore they did wave. That was the friendliest Farrar was all night.
I can’t say I was disappointed since I wasn’t expecting much. For whatever reason Uncle Tupelo/Wilco/Son Volt and Tweedy and Farrar just don’t do it for me.
By Carene Lydia Lopez