Monday, September 18th, 2006
Man O' War
I don’t know what the rider was for Saturday night’s Eric Bachmann/Richard Buckner show at the Horseshoe, but I suspect it read something like, “50 cartons cigarettes, 12 gallons bourbon, 10 lbs gravel – finely ground”. The co-headlining tour featured two of the roughest voices in music – both of whom have just released brilliant new records – and despite the rough week behind and ahead of me, I was raring to go for this one. The eleven hours of sleep accrued over the past day helped, too.
First up were local openers Delta who offered up a set of upbeat, personable and occasionally downright perky country tunes. With songs about trains, drinking and sex powered by frontwoman Emily Weedon’s high, lonesome chirp, Delta delivered an energetic opening set that got the crowd up and ready to be taken right back down by the headliners.
Buckner drew the middle slot and while based on the production of Meadow I was expecting a full band, Buckner’s only musical compatriot on this tour would be Doug Gillard, ex of GBV and sideman on the album. The duo played seated, surrounded by guitars and an assortment of pedals that would impress the staunchest shoegazer. With these loopers and line switchers, Buckner was able to create musical passages between the proper songs that kept the sound going while he switched guitars, tuned or whatever. While it confused the audience about when to applaud, it did keep the flow going and also meant Buckner didn’t have to talk to the audience to fill in the dead air.
Performing with just two guitarists (and sometimes just Buckner alone), much of the material from Meadow was significantly re-arranged, not only instrumentally but the vocals as well. Freed from the restrictions of a rhythm section, Buckner played more with the cadence of his singing to fit the overall flow of the set. He also sounded fairly under the weather, if the coughing fits were any indication, so maybe that was part of it too. But there was something about the almost break-free ebb and tide of his set and his worn yet powerful rasp that made me think that Richard Buckner sounds like the road. Being on the road, watching the highway lines, the actual asphalt, all of it.
After Buckner wrapped up his set, a fair portion of the audience cleared out to my amazement and bewilderment. As good as Buckner was, I knew that Eric Bachmann was going to put on an amazing show because, well, I don’t think he’s capable of NOT doing so. I had expected Buckner to play with a band and Bachmann to go it solo, but instead it was Bachmann who brought along the supporting cast. Frequent collaborators
Barbara Trentalange Kate O’Brien and Miranda Brown were along with him on violin/cello and keyboards respectively, with both contributing vocals. To The Races is so stripped down that I’m sure it would have sounded great if Bachmann had gone it alone but the backing players really added so much, moreso on the Crooked Fingers material than the new stuff. It’s amazing how a simple violin part or keyboard line can lift a song to a whole new level.
As a performer, Bachmann is just mesmerizing – and not just because the guy is huge. There’s something about his voice, his guitar, his songs – they just combine to create my happy place (which, I guess, is a dusty, sad and sepia sort of place). I had feared that maybe his amazing set at SxSW in March was a unique experience but as it turns out, it was just a taste. Over an hour fifteen, it’s even better. There’s still just under a fortnight left in this tour and it gets my absolute highest recommendation as one not to miss. “You Must Build A Fire”. Man.
A couple Buckner radio sessions to check out if you want to hear what the current live experience is like – one with MPR and The Sound And The Fury has his recent KEXP session MP3-ified. Buckner has also been keeping a tour diary on the Merge Blog (one, two, three and four so far) while Miranda Brown is journaling the tour from the Bachmann POV here.
Photos: Eric Bachmann, Richard Bucker, Delta @ The Horseshoe – September 16, 2006
MP3: Eric Bachmann – “Lonesome Warrior”
MP3: Eric Bachmann – “Carrboro Woman”
MP3: Richard Buckner – “Town”
MP3: Delta – “Clark St”
MySpace: Eric Bachmann
Magnet interviews John Roderick of The Long Winters, in town at Lee’s on October 4. The new issue features The Shins, just in time for… well, nothing. Wincing The Night Away isn’t out till January 23.
The Washington Post asks Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, “what’s your Damage(d)?” They’re at the Mod Club next Sunday, a show I will be forced to miss because some joker decided to get married. Thanks a lot, Five.
So tonight is the awards ceremony for the first annual Polaris Music Prize. As I’m not one of the final judges, I’ll be relegated to the cheap seats (aka kid’s table) at the Phoenix when nominees K’Naan, Sarah Harmer, Final Fantasy, Cadence Weapon and Malajube perform. The Toronto Star and The National Post consider the chances of all the nominees, The Ottawa Citizen and Globe & Mail consider the merits of the award while Zoilus, who IS a final-round judge, has some thoughts on the whole thing as well as this eye piece which talks to Mrs. Fantasy and Weapon. It also asks each of the finalists what they’d do with the $20,000 if they won – in inimitable Canadian fashion, all the responses are sensible and unexciting. I can’t believe no one is gold-plating ANYTHING.
And finally, while celebrity appearances on The Simpsons (and The Simpsons in general) are kind of yawners to me nowadays, the White Stripes appearance last night was pretty funny – check out the clip at BrooklynVegan before Fox’s lawyers wake up.