Monday, September 3, 2007
Baby Let Me Follow You Down>
Hang Up My Highway Shoes
My Old Friend The Blues
I'm Gonna Get Out Of Here Someday
Now She's Gone
I Can't Remember If We Said Goodbye
I Feel Allright
(Juvenile Delinquent Tune)
Sparkle 'n' Shine
Days Are Never Long Enough*
Goodbye Guitar Town#
City Of Immigrants*#
Life Goes On*#
One Of These Days#
Down In The Hole#
It Don't Mean Anything
Rich Man's War
Steve Earle Solo Acoustic (guitar, mandocello, banjo) w/guests:
Steve played an excellent and lengthy show last night. I've only seen him once before, and that was at a SEVA benny at the BCT, where he didn't have the time to play an extended set. This time, he was one of the final performers at this three day festival. Bumbershoot features multiple stages and a dizzying array of music to choose from. For instance, while Steve was doing his set, other performances to choose from included the Wu-Tang Clan and Greyboy All-Stars.
I'd missed out on Bumbershoot my first two years here for it, and was thinking I might miss it again. The kid who works for me on Mondays had asked for the day off so he could catch Roky Erikson's set just before Steve's on the same stage (would've liked to have seen that, Roky is the American equivalent of Syd Barrett, and I can't remember hearing about him performing before). Still, I really wanted to see Steve's set. I saw him doing "City Of Immigrants" on Letterman last week, and that wet my whistle for some more. Reading his bio "Hardcore Troubadour: The Life And Near Death Of Steve Earle" earlier this year only deepened my appreciation for one of our great songwriting talents and for his social conscience. Steve's set wasn't until 8:30 and I was closing the store at 7:30, so I figured I could make it. I was wondering how I'd get in, hoping that the gates would be lax with it being the end of the festy and all, when a kid from the coffee shop upstairs came down and dropped a festival pass on me that someone had given him. That settled it.
After dealing with parking (not easy, as this festival draws over 40,000 people to the Seattle Center) I made my way towards the grounds. I had a horrible flashback to the sketchazoid final days of Grateful Dead tour on the way in. Some young hippie-looking couple was having an argument in the middle of the street while all the passer-bys gawked. The dude was some dready stiff reeking of righteousness who kept saying "don't you get it, I don't want to be with you" to some 18 year old looking redhead in earth mama garb who was cloyingly grabbing him while she was melting down into tears saying, "don't leave me, you can't leave me, I don't even know where the hotel is, I don't know the name of the hotel". I watched this sideshow go on as I waited for the light to change so I could cross the street and enter the festival. If the guy had pushed the girl or gotten physically abusive with her, I was ready to step in, but it appeared to just be a verbal drama. Weird way to enter the show, eh?
I found my way to the stage where Steve was going to set up real easily. Roky had just finished, and with all the other acts going on, there was plenty of room. I grabbed some Swimming Rama from the Thai food booth then hit the beer garden. It was located next to the soundboard, and I thought this would make for a good viewing spot. Boy was I wrong. When Steve started, the drunken louts in the garden wouldn't pipe down. People yakking about inane shit and acting all cool because they've got "crunchy nugs brah" are seriously fucking annoying when you're trying to pay attention to a solo acoustic singer-songwriter performer. I drained the two beers I'd gotten to not have to wait in the beer line pronto and exited the beer garden for the lawn in front of the stage, where the audience seemed a little more attentive and less self-absorbed.
While in the garden, Steve had begun his set with an excellent "talking blues" version of "Baby Let Me Follow You Down". He told a story over the chords to the song for about 5 minutes before actually singing the lyrics. He called himself a "recovering folk singer", telling tales of how he used to be a "hitchhiking motherfucker" but that "there were too many rules" to being a folkie. One rule was always telling who you had learned a song from. He said he'd learned his opener from a Bob Dylan record, but that it was written by Eric Von Schmidt, who he'd crossed paths with once down in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. He'd wanted to go meet Von Schmidt and learn some songs from him, but Von Schmidt had given up music for painting then and told Steve that there was no future in folk music, so Steve had wound up learning the tune from Dylan's record. It segued right into the next tune, I believe to be called "Hang Up My Highway Shoes". Several of the song titles I listed are just my best guess. He played most of the material from his "Washington Square Blues" record due out at the end of this month, so I just made my best guess when I had to. Couldn't even hazard a guess on the "juvenile delinquent" tune. Steve said it was one in a long series of tunes on this topic he has composed.
Earle showed why he is such a talent with some of his best known songs. "My Old Friend The Blues" was just killer, but sadly, that is when the chatterboxes in the beer garden were at their worst, somewhat dampening the performance for me. I was away from that clusterfuck with "I'm Gonna Get Out Of Here Someday" and really dug this portion of the set. "Now She's Gone" and "I Can't Remember If We Said Goodbye" got me thinking about my ex-girlfriend Megan with whom I shared a love for Steve's music. Well, go figure, who materializes right next to me during "I Feel Alright" than the lovely Ms. Campbell. If you read my Wilco review, you'll get more background on our scene, but suffice it to say that this was our first face to face acknowledging of one another since she flaked out on me earlier this year. I resisted the impulse to run up and hug her or anything, figuring I'd just keep on doing what I was doing, enjoying the show and texting the setlist. At some point, Steve started rambling about how "bluegrass is really sophisticated music." I said "Sure, Steve, whatever you say" in a sarcastic drawl, and that got Megan's attention. I suppose she'd already figured who she had sidled up next to, but I guess hearing my voice kindled some old memories, 'cause she turned around and looked me squarely in the face. I nodded my head to her and she nodded back. I know this sounds small and trivial, but this girl had won my heart, and when she walked away and broke it, in her own words (well, text message) she had "been to mortified to talk to" me, so this was an icebreaker. A few months ago I would have said or done something foolish, but after working through denial and acceptance of losing her, I've gotten to the moving on stage, so I just stayed in the moment, digging the show. At one point I leaned over to her and said, "it's remarkable how much Steve is starting to look like his old man". I think she was expecting/fearing something more loaded. It felt natural. It felt good. Right before the encores, the girlfriend she was with was getting antsy feet, so they started to head out. She gave me the little finger waving goodbye. I called and reached out to her and said "Megan, it was good seeing you". It was.
Steve brought out some interesting guests during his set. Allison Moorer is his 35 year old wife (Steve is 53), and she has a beautiful voice and plays guitar as well. It's obvious that Steve loves her tremendously and has been inspired by this love and the love for his new hometown of New York for the material on his new record. "Days Are Never Long Enough" was just stellar. Melted my heart right onto the festy grounds. After that song he brought out DJ Duke(!) to cut beats behind him for the rest of the set before the encores. This is where he previewed most of the new songs. I'm sure some folks were disquieted by Steve using a DJ, so the first song "Goodbye Guitar Town" seemed appropriate, as Steve acknowledged leaving behind both Nashville and his great first album. Always a rebellious contrarian, no one can pigeonhole this guy. The "Satellite Radio" song was great, and was probably the most effective of the songs with a DJ. The crowd responded positively to "City Of Immigrants" as well. Steve threw in several monologues about fighting the war and fighting unjust oppression including a well-voiced heterosexual slam on homophobia. He ended the set with his version of a Tom Waits song, I believe to be called "Down In The Hole", which is the theme song for an HBO series called "The Wire" that he sometimes appears on. Apparently the upcoming sixth season is the last one, and they have featured a different musician performing this song each year the series has run, so Steve felt really flattered to be asked to provide the version for the final year.
For the encores, Steve came out all alone. A kid jumped up on the stage after "It Don't Mean Anything". It looked like he was trying to hand Steve something, maybe a demo. A security guard grabbed the kid and was manhandling him off the stage when Steve said, "Hey, Hey! You don't have to treat him like that. Asssssssss-hoooooole!" I could just see a 17 year old Steve trying to get his foot in the door in Nashville the same way. His strongest anti-war comments came with "Rich Man's War," and then he wrapped it up with a five star "Copperhead Road".
And with that, the rains that had held back all weekend began to fall, Summer came to an end, and Seattle braced itself for the dark seasons ahead.
Tremendous review, Java. That's some recall you have. I feel like I went with you to the show. I bet your old lady will text you within the next few day.
Great job as usual, Dave. Many thanks!
fantastic stuff Dave!
Steve Earle is a treasure! I hope he returns to the Woody Guthrie Festival someday. His set (2-3 hours long) a few years ago at Woody Fest was a highlight for sure!
>>(Juvenile Delinquent Tune) <<
Tom Ames Prayer most likely.