when they shake say the wings won’t break

One more post today for good measure. I saw The Antlers play at the new Georgia Theatre about a month ago, and I have to mention what a beautiful place they’ve turned it into. Grand opening was back in July, but this was my first time going since before the fire, and I was very impressed. It looks and sounds fantastic. There’s enough room on the floor for a good crowd, and above that, they have a balcony with limited seating (stools). There are also other viewing areas throughout the theatre, and my favorite thing they’ve added is the rooftop bar, where you can eat and drink with most of downtown Athens below you. I believe they also have TVs up there, so you can still watch the show while you’re on the roof. During the day and late into the night (whether there’s a show or not), the rooftop stays open as a restaurant and bar.

Oh yeah, and they have great air conditioning. I was actually a bit cold, which I appreciated, because a good show will make you sweat. It’s a midsize venue, but larger than the 40 Watt, which means slightly bigger acts are coming to Athens, and I couldn’t be happier about it. (Except the dubstep…meh.)

Anyway, about The Antlers. Burst Apart is my favorite album of 2011, so I was very excited that they came to Athens. The crowd was disappointing, though–the floor was nowhere near close to being full. I blame the fact that they were playing Atlanta the next night. Your loss, Atliens who didn’t want to see this band at the best venue in the state.

Once again, YouTube user MetabolicalFor recorded the whole thing in “pristine HD.” He’s the same one who recorded the Bon Iver show in Atlanta a few months ago–the one that came out beautifully. Needless to say, if you have similar taste in music and see a lot of shows in the Atlanta area, watch his channel.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from Burst Apart, “No Widows.”

spaghetti and blankets

Here’s something I think is pretty special. I know it’s floating around the interwebs, but any Mitch Hedberg recording is worthy of sharing. This particular audience recording (not mine, but will gladly give credit where it’s due) comes from his set at the 40 Watt here in Athens, back in 2002. I’m quite happy with the quality and choice of venue. We were lucky to have him. Hope it makes you laugh as much as it makes me laugh.

Mitch Hedberg Live at 40 Watt Club – Athens, GA – 4/9/02

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lucky ones are we all ’til it is over

Band of Horses is one of those bands that, in my eyes, blew up out of nowhere. But I guess I was late on the Band of Horses carriage (see what I did there?) My first time giving them a listen was summer 2010, with Everything All the Time, and then I really fell in love with their music with Cease to Begin. They served as two out of a handful of albums that defined that amazing summer for me. Of course, I give credit to Stephanie for introducing me, and later that summer, we went to Nashville to see them following a failure of a camping trip in Helen. (It rained and we put up the tent wrong. But I wouldn’t change a thing about it.)

Infinite Arms is great too, but I’ve been slow getting into that one–only these past couple of weeks have I been giving it a fair listen. And it’s a wonderful fall record. Chill, but not too chill.

At any rate, our first date could have very well been at their 40 Watt show last April…if it wasn’t sold out. Then they came back and played the Fox Theatre, then with Kings of Leon…eh. I didn’t think we’d get the chance to ever see them here in Athens, at least not at the Watt, but surprise surprise–they’re playing at the 40 Watt again this Thursday. It’s sold out, of course, but we managed to get tickets this time. Super excited.

Here’s a little soundboard recording from a show they did at Amoeba Records, on the heels of Cease to Begin‘s release.

Band of Horses Live at Amoeba Records – Hollywood, CA – 10/12/07

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1. Intro
2. Is There a Ghost
3. The Great Salt Lake
4. Island on the Coast
5. Ode to LRC
6. The Funeral
7. Wicked Gil
8. No One’s Gonna Love You
9. Marry Song
10. Stage Banter
11. The General Specific
12. Am I a Good Man?

blankets wrapped and drifting off to sleep

[Originally posted 9/14/11]

Alright, I couldn’t wait to post this…I managed to find a complete recording of Jeff Mangum’s Saturday night show in Toronto last month, which I attended and wrote about in a previous blog. As I mentioned, Saturday night was a bit louder (Jeff encouraged us to sing), so you’ll have to deal with some crowd noise here…but everyone is generally respectful during the songs. There was also more interaction with the crowd in general on the second night.

I don’t know who recorded this, so I can only give credit to Google and Mediafire, but I’d be happy to acknowledge the original taper if they stepped forward. (Edit 10/4/11: Credit goes to Danielle, who commented that she recorded this. Thanks Danielle!) Security at the venue made it quite clear that any kind of audio or video recording would get you escorted out, so this was a brave move. The acoustics in the church were amazing, so I imagine anyone with a smartphone could have made a decent recording, which this certainly is.

The songs are all split, neatly tagged, and wrapped up in a ZIP file for you below.

P.S. This is spiritual.

Jeff Mangum Live at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre – Toronto, ON – 8/13/11

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1. Oh Comely
2. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
3. A Baby for Pree
4. Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone
5. Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2
6. I Love the Living You (Roky Erickson Cover)
7. Ghost
8. Song Against Sex
9. Naomi
10. April 8th
11. King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 1-3
12. Holland, 1945
13. Engine

breakin’ up

[Originally posted 9/13/11]

A couple of months ago, Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley said with a good amount certainty that RK is done as a band. It was unfortunate to hear, but not surprising–their last album, Under the Blacklight, was released four years ago (hard to believe), and Jenny Lewis has been doing her own thing (alongside The Watson Twins and Johnathan Rice on two of three records) with equal amounts of success. We hadn’t heard much from Rilo Kiley before the break up announcement, but they had a good run in the ’00s; when I put up the setlist for this show, I remembered just how many great songs they wrote.

Cool story about this recording…I was at the show, and I struck up a conversation with this guy named Chuck sitting next to me…he had a hobby of recording concerts, we talked about music, and he recorded this show. After the show, he asked for my address so he could send me the recording. He was true to his word; a month or so later, it showed up in my mailbox. I’ve gotta mention that it sounds great for an audience recording…one of the best audience recordings I have.

The opener, Grand Ole Party, was great too…I ended up buying their album and got a chance to say hey after the show. Kristin Gundred of Grand Ole Party now sings under the moniker “Dee Dee” in Dum Dum Girls; personally, I liked Grand Ole Party better.

Also, I’m pretty sure this was the last time Rilo Kiley ever played in Atlanta.

All credit for this recording goes to Chuck Hancock. Thanks Chuck!

[gig poster by Robert Lee]

Rilo Kiley Live at Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA – 9/29/07

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1. It’s a Hit
2. Close Call
3. Portions for Foxes
4. Paint’s Peeling
5. Breakin’ Up
6. Dreamworld
7. The Moneymaker
8. Wires and Waves
9. Ripchord
10. With Arms Outstretched
11. A Man/Me/Then Jim
12. Silver Lining
13. I Never
14. 15 (Intro)
15. 15
16. Rise Up With Fists!!
17. Spectacular Views
18. A Better Son/Daughter
19. Does He Love You? (Intro)
20. Does He Love You?

we’re getting older and older and older, and always a little further out of the way

[Originally posted 9/9/11]

Here’s a rarity that I just thought I’d share today. I’m feeling this song right now, and I haven’t seen this version posted very many places.

For those who don’t know, “August and Everything After” (the song) was once the holy grail of Counting Crows songs. The album cover of the same name features its lyrics; fans were always aware that the song exists somewhere in some form, but it was thought to be lost forever, until a fan found the full lyrics and gave them to Adam, who agreed to play the song, solo on piano, back in 2003 at a San Francisco show.

The most frequently traded recording of this song is from the first time it was played, from (I believe) the previous night, but it’s an audience recording with a somewhat annoying crowd. This is a soundboard recording, officially released by the band on the CD single for “She Don’t Want Nobody Near.” Enjoy. It’s my favorite Counting Crows song, and one of my favorite songs period.

MP3: Counting Crows – August and Everything After (Soundboard, Live in San Francisco)

before you would even know, glow

[Originally posted 9/6/11]

I would really be doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t write something about the Toronto trip. I didn’t care to do so right away…my first instinct wasn’t to rush to the Internet. August was a crazy month…so much happened in a few weeks that’s realistically going to take a long time to process and reflect on. In the middle of everything was this trip…it was ill-timed to say the least, but something Stephanie and I had been looking forward to for months, and something I’ve been hoping for for years. For the first time in a decade, Jeff Mangum is touring. Not just playing a few tunes at a surprise gig, but an actual, full-fledged tour. For the masses who didn’t hear Neutral Milk Hotel before 2001 (I’d say the majority of fans), this is an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

Admittedly, I spent a lot of money on this trip, at a time when I wasn’t sure about my future job-wise…but as a teacher, I’ve always planned to splurge a bit over the summer to enjoy myself and go somewhere different. Not many careers allow you so much free time to do that. I booked a room for us at the Madison Avenue Boutique Hotel, a B&B in the Annex area, walking distance from Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, where Jeff would be playing two nights. (Yes, tickets sold out online in minutes, but we still managed to get two for both nights without the scalpers.) This was my first time in Canada, which I’ve been curious to visit ever since finding out my first few online friends all lived in various provinces, so that was something else to be excited about.

The hotel was a standard city B&B, and thankfully our room was located away from the street, so noise wasn’t a problem. Right next door sat a pub owned by the same folks who run the hotel, which put any bars I’ve seen in Athens or Atlanta to shame. It didn’t look big from the outside, but we literally waited 45 minutes in a huge line to get in one night, and we were still able to sit at a table close to the front. It was massive, loud, and there was a reason we were able to get a table: everyone was out on the patio, which is apparently where Canadians go during the summer months.

We flew in from Atlanta to Buffalo to save money, and rented a car to drive up to Toronto. Of course we stopped at Niagara Falls on the first day, and took in the Falls on the Maid of the Mist before crossing the border. They really were breathtaking; you can see nothing but pure white in one direction. The first stop we made in Ontario was Tim Horton’s, which I’ve heard Canadians rave about…and I was underwhelmed. The maple creme filled donut I had was really no big deal. I’d take Krispy Kreme or even Dunkin’ Donuts over Tim Horton’s. You’re right about your beer, Canadians (still looking for some Molson Canadian here), but enough about Tim Horton’s…I hear they use frozen donuts now, anyway.

I don’t know how much detail I should go into about the days that followed aside from the concert…we did a lot of walking around the city, rode a cable car, discovered bubble tea (yes, it can be found in Athens, but we had yet to try it), searched for chicken balls (not as easy to find as we hoped), drank plenty of coffee at the many shops, and had some amazing dumplings and sushi (the latter in line for night two of Mangum). To be honest, cities are a bit overwhelming to me, even Atlanta at times. It was a really fun place to visit and spend a few days, but I would have to get used to it before I’d have any desire to stay. (Five weeks did it in London…I still want to go back.)

For the Friday night show, we arrived at 5:30 to wait in line, and waited until 8:30 before Andrew, Scott, and Laura took the stage. Their set was really enjoyable and demonstrated how much talent the E6 collective contains in their members. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the songs, but I need to be. During their set as well as Jeff’s, the crowd was almost dead quiet in their restrained jubilation. Before his set, Jeff came out casually to set up…like it’s no big deal that he’s even on a stage in front of people again (on Saturday night he did the same, and people started cheering; they even dimmed the lights…he had to tell them to settle down and wait just a few more minutes).

Jeff started with “Oh, Comely.” By the way, we were in the third row on the right facing the stage, in full realization of how lucky we were to be so close. There really aren’t any words to describe it, and I don’t know if I should try. It was by far the most emotional I’ve ever been at a concert; the first time I’ve been in that much awe. When he played “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” and “Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2,” I’ll admit I got choked up. Life changing. I could run down a setlist, but you could find that by Googling…I’m not really trying to review the show, just trying to put the experience into words, which I’m having a difficult time doing. Jeff’s voice sounded even better live (I’d say much better) than it did a decade ago. I’ve listened to some old NMH bootlegs since, and I don’t think it’s just me romanticizing my experience. There’s some angst that’s gone and I think it suits the music better.

The venue was perfect. An old church in the middle of a city…no better place to witness a second coming like this. It sounded so good. I don’t know what else to say but that you had to be there. The night ended and I can still remember the feeling as I walked out. Pure disbelief of what I just saw and heard. Night two continued the feeling. Aside from a few changes (“April 8th” and a cover of “I Love the Living You” by Roky Erickson), he played many of the same songs, which were no less overwhelming. The crowd wasn’t so quiet that night.

After the Saturday show, we did some stalking, and I’m not too proud of it, though we got exactly what we wanted. We met Andrew, Scott, Laura, and some other folks behind the church, hoping that Jeff would emerge at some point…being from Athens, we talked about that for a bit, and where Jeff might come if he were to play Athens. (Maybe the church on Milledge behind the Varsity…probably not somewhere typical.) After a few minutes, we felt creepy, so we met some other fans in the alley beside the church, who were also hoping to meet Jeff. No less creepy, but at least we had company. Eventually, Jeff and some others came walking right past us with equipment…and the group of us (it never would have been just me) followed him down to the van. The first thing he said after we greeted him was not to feel bad or anything for coming to say hi…extremely nice guy. I still felt a little bad. We told him we came all the way from Athens; surprised and apologetic, he said he’d probably be playing the 40 Watt soon. So…there you go, Athens folks. Jeff Mangum is coming back. He signed our poster, and we were quickly on our way.

The rest was just a slow return back to reality. We packed our bags that night, and were back in Atlanta the next day. Like I said, the trip was ill-timed, so there were a lot of things to take care of when we got back. But it was an experience that can’t be matched (until I see Jeff again), and a much-needed getaway. I couldn’t be happier that he’s back, in a better place, playing music again.

This isn’t the complete set, but I’ll leave you with a few recordings from Saturday night.

MP3: Jeff Mangum – Live at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre (Southern Souls)

I’m in love with your honor / I’m in love with your cheeks

[Originally posted 8/4/11]

Aside from AthFest (and barely getting into the mind-blowing Reptar show at the 40 Watt), this summer’s concert season has been pretty slow for me up until now. It’s these few weeks in late summer 2011 that might hold some of the best shows of my life. First there was Bon Iver in Atlanta, which I’ll elaborate on in a minute. Then in a week, I’ll be in Toronto for Jeff Mangum–for not just one, but two nights. I really can’t say enough about how privileged I feel to be experiencing that. And I’ve been needing a good getaway to somewhere new this summer. I’ve just felt a bit stuck and stagnant. Anyway, I’ll have a more full report when I get back home.

For Emma, Forever Ago is one of those records that hit me hard upon first listen, but it definitely took its time to envelop a particular moment for me. While it’s definitely the perfect soundtrack to a snow day, I can’t disconnect it from last summer, when I grew to mutually fall in love with it and with someone special. I love unusual juxtapositions in music, and that record has its own that I’ve imposed on it–it sounds like some imaginary season to me; a warm, carefree, snowy summer of love. This summer, Justin Vernon and crew released Bon Iver, Bon Iver, with a much grander and orchestrated approach. It’s garnered a lot of praise and a little bit of flack; personally, I don’t think it’s better than the first album, but I came to appreciate the songs and the band a lot more when I saw them at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre last month.

After seeing them live, I’ll never again refer to Bon Iver as “he.” The first album may have been Justin’s thing, but Bon Iver is a full-fledged band now, and better for it. The band really shines on the new tunes as well as the old ones. The show opener “Perth” was excellent proof of this, as the same sound that’s present in that track on the album–sonically large and full of distance–was replicated live. The two Blood Bank EP songs they played–the title track and “Beach Baby”–might have emerged as my favorite moments of the show, as they were even better live. And of course, the older songs were wonderful to hear live for the first time. Particularly during those songs, I was surprised at what a well-behaved crowd was present that night. Clearly they understood the importance of silence in those songs, because you could hear a beer pop open from across the auditorium.

As they closed with “Skinny Love,” it was clear that we had all just experienced something that truly deserves to be called awesome, and clear that Bon Iver has grown out of that romantic vision of a lone man writing songs in a cabin. It was never supposed to last forever.

Thankfully, YouTube user MetabolicalFor recorded the entire show that night, and it’s probably the best audience recording I’ve ever seen or heard. After watching it, I’m honestly having trouble believing I was there. Here’s “Blood Bank,” one of my favorites from that night:

Jeff Mangum was in Athens last weekend

…nevermind that he was wanking around at Little Kings with an Elephant 6 supergroup called The Soap Scums (video here; to be honest, it’s just too weird to embed)–the man was walking amongst us. That’s the story here.

It may seem obsessive to label a guy who isn’t Jesus being in a particular place as a story, but surprise Jeff Mangum appearances certainly feel like second comings to me. Particularly in Athens, which he seems to have all but disconnected from since relocating to NYC. I had hoped he’d peep in for the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise show at the 40 Watt last month, which was honestly the most fun I’ve had at a show in a while, even without being all that familiar with a lot of the E6 catalog. (I had to explain to my girlfriend later that E6 music runs the gamut of beautiful and transcendent, to Beatles-esque pop, to requiring an acid trip. The Soap Scums are about as far as you can go in that direction.) But my hopes waned for a Mangum appearance at the Holiday Surprise show as the date grew nearer, and he also neglected the South entirely on his upcoming summer/fall tour. I have to fly to Toronto for that, which I totally do not mind, but it’s definitely surprising just knowing that Jeff would come to Athens, particularly on a whim for what seems like a one-off thing.

It’s not at all surprising, though, that one could call Athens home for a while and then abandon it entirely. But knowing that this sort of thing can still occur–even if it is way too weird for me to bear to listen to for more than a few minutes–is what makes this town seem so exciting. Spontaneous outbursts of energy in places you wouldn’t expect, that make you wonder in the morning, “did that really just happen?” The kinetic forces are all around us and you never know when they might blast off.

Speaking of blasting off, Reptar released their new EP Oblangle Fizz Y’all not too long ago. Right now it’s only locally available, but according to an Amazon listing, it looks like it’ll be unleashed onto the unsuspecting outside world by the end of the month. I can’t stress enough that you must purchase this piece of music, and see them live whenever you can. They don’t have a full-length yet, but plop their seven currently released tunes onto a playlist and you have your summer soundtrack.

good times

I had a rare night out on Thursday at Hendershot’s Coffee, my favorite new gathering spot over on the west side of Athens. Modern Skirts were playing a rare acoustic set complete with a cello, accordion, organ, and John on snare and luggage. I’ve seen the Skirts more times than I can count, but never in a coffee shop and never acoustic, so this was a nice little treat. The newer material in particular really shines acoustically, which is odd because the new record, aside from a couple of tracks, doesn’t seem like it would lend itself to that presentation.

If you haven’t bought Gramahawk yet, do so, and also check out this video from TEDxAtlanta a few months ago to get sort of an idea of what Thursday night was like. I’ve also posted the MP3s.

Modern Skirts – Live at TEDxAtlanta

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1. Hitler on Wheels
2. Under Bridges and Overpasses
3. DUI
4. Happy 81