Yep Roc 15 Night 3
I'll admit that sometimes I feel like an old guy and somewhere around mid-afternoon on Saturday I started wondering what the bloody hell I was doing going to three multi-band shows on three consecutive nights (while doing some serious yardwork Friday and needing to do the same on Sunday after all of this was over). But while Thursday night's bill was the one I'd most anticipated, there was no way I was going to miss Saturday night's show with John Doe and Tift Merritt.
Thankfully I beat the shit out of my good sense Saturday and we snarfed down a quick dinner at Panzanella before getting over to the Cradle before 8 so we wouldn't miss a note.
The first two acts were guys I knew nothing about but both were terrific live. Too often solo acts talk between songs and you just want them to shut up and sing or get the hell off the stage. Both Darren Hanlon and Jim White were both actually quite funny storytellers and their stagecraft was as good as their songs. Aussie Darren Hanlon writes clever memorable songs and Jim White is just, well, wonderfully weird. Take a guy that grew up in a fundamentalist Pentecostal family who rebels, gets into drugs and then eventually works as a fashion model in Milan and he's going to write some messed up Southern gothic stuff. He does and it's wonderful.
Can any of you guys that were familiar with the Young Fresh Fellows back in the day tell me if Scott McCoughey has always tried to look exactly like Jerry Garcia? It was kind of uncanny. I'd heard of The Minus 5 as a side project for Scott (and others, including Peter Buck, who was not there Saturday) but had never heard their stuff. They rocked. Hard. No idea what their recordings are like but live it was pure rock and roll - the highlight being when John Wesley Harding came out to join them on "Aw Shit Man". One doesn't get much more rock and roll than that.
Jeannette is convinced we'd seen Chatham County Line before but I honest to god don't remember it. But i'll definitely remember their set from Saturday. They do it 50's radio style - all four guys crowded around a box mike "singing into a can" as they said in "O, Brother". The set they played Saturday was probably more traditional (albeit extremely high energy) bluegrass than I understand they normally do - very talented and very fun.
I've been a huge fan of Tift Merritt's for many years but somehow I've managed to miss ever seeing her live before Saturday. As much as I love Neko Case, Allison Moorer and Kathleen Edwards, Merritt's voice is as good as Case' and better than the rest. She was every bit as good live as I'd expected and for the cherry on top, she brought out John Howie Jr for a couple of tunes - made up for me never seeing them back in the day when she was singing with Two Dollar Pistols. I've seen people wear the finish off their guitars before - she's worn holes in the damn thing (she said Chris Stamey gave it to her years ago - I'm guessing he won't want it back).
John Doe is the coolest motherfucker in rock and roll. For me, he's sort of the Samuel L. Jackson of rock. I've seen him with X (both long ago at the Pier and more recently at the Cradle) and I've seen him with the Knitters, but I'd never seen him solo before. He didn't disappoint ("The Meanest Man in the World" is just an awesome song) but he's frankly better with a band. So after a few solo songs the Sadies came out to back him up and the roof started lifting off the Cradle. They've toured together a couple of times and were clearly comfortable with each other. The highlight of the night for me (and I'm guessing for Tift Merritt) was her coming out to do "Stop The World and Let Me Off" and taking Kathleen Edwards' part on "The Golden State" - it was just freaking perfect.
The Sadies finished off the night with one of the most blistering sets I've heard at the Cradle or anywhere else. I've only really known them as backing up other singers but they were not only quite good by themselves, they generated more energy in an hour than any other band I've ever seen. And I've seen hundreds (thousands?) of bands in dozens of venues in the past forty years. At 1:30 am, they'd been playing solo for well over an hour after backing up John Doe for 45 minutes or so and they showed no sign of stopping - we, on the other hand, were pooped and headed for the car, still hearing the Sadies all the way to the parking lot a few hundred yards away.
As I said, I've been to hundreds of shows in all kinds of venues since my first rock concert when I was 14 (REO Speedwagon opening for Three Dog Night at the Charlotte Coliseum) and even after a day's reflection I'm convinced that was the best night of music I've ever experienced. Roughly 15 hours of live music over three consecutive nights culminating in the Sadies rocking my ass off - it's going to take a hell of a lot to ever top that.