Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The Record Crate: It Was Weird, But It Was Good
Lil Ray Neal and Teddy Johnson
Bill Callahan, Jonathon Meiburg, Scott H. Biram
The blues was in full effect Wednesday, starting with Teddy's birthday party featuring Big Al and the Heavyweights at the Juke Joint on Old Scenic Highway. It was difficult to tear me away from food and the hypnotic holiday lights out at Teddy's, but I managed to tear myself away to catch Scott H. Biram's amphetamine punk blues at the Spanish Moon. While the music at Teddy's was more traditional than Biram's intense one-man blues sledgehammer, it was very cool to see the thread between the two, that throbbing backbeat, that coyote howl, that stomp, and still get home by midnight. Thank you for hosting an early show, Spanish Moon. It was also fun to see the transition between the audience for Biram's confrontational blues and the dance night denizens waiting it out.
Saturday night saw much odder musical birds roosting on Chelsea's stage. Shearwater's Jonathon Meiburg opened the set, channeling songs from their exquisite Palo Santo album through a weathered banjo, alone on stage. Meiburg is a tremendous singer, and the melodrama of his material became all the more pointed performed solo. He donned a suit as he joined headline Bill Callahan for his set. I've been a fan of Smog (the name under which he's recorded until recently) for years, but had no idea what it would be like live. He came off like a cross between Buck Owens and David Byrne, clean-cut and surreal-looking, playing a parlor-sized guitar for much of the evening. His voice and lyrics, though, are equally deep, and soon enough he was filling the room with his tales of isolation and love's conquering power. It's one of the first times I've ever heard people shush the omnipresent talkers in a crowd in Baton Rouge. It was weird, but it was good.
Great songwriters are on tap this coming week. Mark Olson, formerly of the Jayhawks, will bring his excellent songcraft to Cheslea's stage in support of The Salvation Blues, an album of possibly his most heart-wrenching work to date. Legendary folk singer, storyteller and political activist Arlo Guthrie will start a two-night run at the Manship Theatre. But if you are looking for something a little less cerebral and more in the reptilian booty-shaking category, techno superstars The Crystal Method take to The Varsity stage. Link