My Birthday Eve’s Eve with Hayes Carll October 15, 2011Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: birthday dedication, Hayes Carll, Levitt Shell, Little Rock, Memphis, personal contact
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What a night.
It began with dinner last night when Diana and I met with two couples, our good friends James and Veronica, and some new friends from church, Phillip and Amanda, and we chowed down on a large, deep dish Chicago-style pizza. I got down 1.5 slices of artery-choking goodness before I had to give in and push away from the table. It was a great meal with even better company and helped set our evening off on the right foot.
Following that, Phillip and Amanda joined Diana and I in our van and we drove across the stateline into Memphis, where we cruised over to the location of the night’s entertainment, the Levitt Shell. The Shell has made a name for itself in recent years by bringing in numerous free concerts for the community and it has become quite the spot for inexpensive fun in the city. That night an artist who I have long enjoyed, Hayes Carll, was scheduled to perform, so we decided to make an evening of it and have a little birthday party for me on the grounds. When we arrived, we found our friends Jerry and Kathy, and settled in for some birthday cupcakes and beer (Jerry gave me a Rogue Double Chocolate Stout for my birthday) before the show kicked off.
Carll hit the stage around 7:30 and tore through a set filled with numbers that were familiar to me, songs like “Stomp and Holler,” “Hard Out Here,” “KMAG YOYO,” “The Lovin’ Cup,” “Drunken Poet’s Dream,” Wild as a Turkey,” and “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart,” rang out across Overton Park as the crowd soaked in the country-rock goodness. He showed some of his trademark humor in his audience banter, particularly when he described the tune, “Chances Are,” as “Conway Twitty, naked, on a bearskin rug.” I must say that image had never crossed my mind before.
The personal highlight for me, though, came at about the halfway point of the show. You see, that morning I emailed his tour manager, told him I was a big fan and that we would be celebrating my birthday at the show. I told him that my roots were in central Arkansas (He’s a Hendrix grad, so he’s spent time in the area), and requested that he play one of his older songs, “Little Rock,” found on one a small label album from several years ago. Much to my delight and surprise, he said, “I can’t remember his name, but there is someone celebrating their birthday out there tonight and this song is for him.” My day was complete.
During the encore break we sent some cupcakes to Carll and the band to show our appreciation.
When the show was over, he appeared at the merchandise tent to sign autographs and meet the concert goers, so I made my way over there as soon as possible and, when a lane opened in the few people who stuck around, I moved in and shook his hand.
“Great show, man. Hey, I’m the guy who’s celebrating their birthday that you dedicated ‘Little Rock’ to!”
He looked at me, eyes seemingly a bit clouded over, “Stevie?”
“No, Matt from Beebe.”
“Oh yeah, yeah, man, happy birthday.”
“Thanks, could I get a picture?”
“Hey, thanks again for playing that song tonight. You made my day.”
“No problem, man. Have a good one.”
Fall Concert Wish List August 25, 2008Posted by Matt in concert, music.
Tags: concerts, fall, Little Rock, Memphis, music
As you all probably know, I make no secret of the fact that I love live music. There are few things in life that match a crowd moving together in unison to the mystical power of a well-performed concert. It can be an enlightening, near-religious experience when the musical muse moves among us, touching us with her divinely ordained power and causing our very soul to ascend to higher planes of reality in which we are allowed, for a time, to shrug off this mortal coil and groove like there’s no tomorrow.
So, I was looking ahead at some of the upcoming shows in the area and wanted to share them with you. Obviously, I won’t be able to attend them all (especially since two of them are on the same day), but I would like to make it to a few of them, if possible. If any of you out there in blogland would like to join me, let me know and, as long as your not an anonymous homicidal maniac, maybe we can work something out.
Friday, September 5 – Todd Snider / Avett Brothers – Delta Fair and Music Festival at the Agricenter on the east side of Memphis.
Snider is a great and very funny singer-songwriter in the John Prine vein who made some waves in the 90’s with songs like “Alright Guy” and “Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues.” The Avett Brothers play this very cool bluegrass fusion style – if you’ve never heard somebody rock out on a banjo, you haven’t lived. I’ve never seen either one of these artists, so this may be something I need to check out.
Saturday, September 13 – Lucero Family Picnic – Riverside Park, Little Rock
I don’t know why Memphis southern rock stalwarts Lucero chose to have their “Family Picnic” in Little Rock, but the lineup for the mini-festival is stellar for those of us who enjoy our southern rock loud and indie. Joining the headliners are great artists like Jason Isbell (formerly of the Drive-By Truckers), Justin Townes Earle (son of Steve) and the up-and-coming Two Cow Garage. Anybody up for a road trip?
Thursday, September 25 – The Black Keys – New Daisy Theater, Memphis
I’m a relative newcomer to the Keys and their blues-rock stylings, having first come in contact with them in Craig Brewer’s excellent film “Black Snake Moan,” but they have become the sound of the summer for me. Their latest album, Attack & Release, is one of the best of the year. I’m really gearing up for this show and hope that I am able to go – even if I have to do it alone.
Monday, September 29 – The Raconteurs – Cannon Center, Memphis
Last year, I had the opportunity to catch the White Stripes’ show in Southaven and was summarily amazed at the guitar virtuosity of Jack White. While I enjoy the Raconteurs’ two albums, I don’t consider them to be on par with his Stripes’ recordings. While I’d like to attend this one, it will probably be left out this time around.
Wednesday, October 15 – On this, the day before my 31st birthday, there are two great shows coming to Memphis that I will have to somehow choose between.
- Widespread Panic – Mud Island, Memphis
Yeah, I know I’ve seen Widespread several times in the past, including one of their two Memphis shows last fall, but, as a live act, they are near the top of the list and there’s nothing quite like a gathering of thousands of southern-fried hippies in one place.
- Lyle Lovett/John Hiatt – Orpheum Theater, Memphis
I’ve never seen either of them before, but am at least a nominal fan of both. As singer-songwriters, it could be argued that they are among the best America has produced. Even so, I think this round goes to Widespread.
Saturday, October 18 – Willie Nelson – Grand Casino Tunica
Willie is another artist that I have seen numerous times in several different venues, including his recent Memphis show with Dave Matthews, but he is also one of those that you can never get too much of. There are just few things like being in the presence of this actual icon of Americana. While it would be great to see Willie again by himself for an extended set, this show is being held at one of the casinos where tickets are always terribly overpriced. With Widespread just a few days before, this one will probably be out of the question.
Saturday, November 22 – Metallica – Alltel Arena, Little Rock
Wow, talk about flashbacks to being 15 in the early 90’s! I was never able to catch this greatest of all metal bands live before, so this would be a great piece of nostalgia if I am able to attend. Of course, we will be in Arkansas the next weekend for Thanksgiving, so, unless there is a drastic drop in gas prices, two consecutive round trips of 250+ miles could be a bit pricy.
Matt’s Meandering Mind on Monday 8/11/08 August 11, 2008Posted by Matt in Matt's Meandering Mind on Monday.
Tags: Bob Dylan, community garden, Little Rock, Olympics, school
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- Rachel started the first grade on Thursday without a hitch. She’s been ready to get back in school for weeks now and has been obviously bored at home. Bekah was also excited about going back to day care again this morning when I dropped her off. She’s really looking forward to having multiple other children to play with every day.
- This weekend we concluded our very successful summer garden giveaways. Most of our crops have finished production for the summer, but the tomatoes and okra should continue their vegetable yield for a while longer. So, now we begin the process of replanting for the Fall.
- Saturday I met with Ryan of Memphis Urban Ministries for a second time to discuss community garden plans for other spots in the city. We met at the Downtown church, which is located in one of the poorer areas of the city, and looked over an adjacent lot to see whether it could be transformed into a garden area. I’ll tell you more as we move forward, but we are very excited about the possibilities.
- Is anybody else addicted to the Olympics? I think I’ve sat in front of the television more over the past two days than I have in months. If you missed it yesterday, then you have to check this out.
- Anybody want to head to Little Rock in a few weeks for a mid-week Dylan show at the river? It will have to be a whirlwind trip (no more work absences for a while), but, believe me, it will be worth it. Any takers?
An Evening With Josh Ritter May 12, 2008Posted by Matt in concert, music.
Tags: concert, josh ritter, Little Rock, music
There are few things in this world that I enjoy more than well-played live music. Over the last sixteen years or so I’ve probably seen a few hundred artists, who gave us experiences ranging from incredible to head-shakingly bad, this past Friday night my brother Jeff and I were treated to the former.
I’ve been a huge fan of singer-songwriter Josh Ritter ever since I first listened to his album, The Animal Years, through Scott’s recommendation. Following the acquisition of that modern day classic, I quickly downloaded copies of his earlier work from emusic and picked up his latest, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, soon after it was released. He is part of a rare breed in his ability to both tug at the listener’s heart and put a bounce in their step. Though still relatively young, his songwriting echoes the greats of his genre, from Dylan to Springsteen to Leonard Cohen and others.
So, we arrived at the club, located in the Rivermarket area of downtown Little Rock, just before the opening band took the stage. Upon entering the room in which we would spend the next few hours I felt both an incredible anticipation as well as a twinge of sadness – how could an artist of Ritter’s caliber, whose mastery of songcraft rivals the greats, be playing in a Little Rock club that consisted of little more than a stage, a floor and a bar?
I can’t recall the name of the opening act, but they were decent enough, employing the regular rock band pieces – guitar, bass, and drums – as well as a fiddle. They were serviceable, but unmemorable for me, though I was a bit surprised to see many of the younger fans near the stage singing along emphatically with the set closer. During one of their numbers, the door beside the stage opened and Ritter, along with his band, made a quick entry to the appreciative calls from the audience and an even quicker exit into the adjacent dressing room. After about a set lasting 45 minutes or so, the openers made their exit and the excitement began to build…
Around 10:15, the lights dimmed a bit, the door to the side again opened, and the headliners filed onto the stage. Ritter gave a quick salutation to the audience and the band kicked into a number from their latest album, “Mind’s Eye”, with it’s stacatto guitar riff and his easy, laid-back vocal stylings. Without stopping for a breath, they then moved into the opening song from the same album, “To the Dogs or Whoever,” which, with its rock stylings (as opposed to his acoustic, folkier work) was superb live. The show was replete with several offerings from “The Historical Conquests…” album – “Right Moves”, “Rumors”, “Real Long Distance”, and maybe even a few others that I’ve forgotten. Along with the newer material, he also mixed in several tunes from his past albums, including “Girl in the War,” “Wolves,” one of my favorites – “Monster Ballads,” the ode to small-town life that rings very true for those of us from that environment – “Me & Jiggs,” audience favorite “Come and Find Me,” and a killer version of “Harrisburg.” Closing out the set was the great song “Kathleen” from 2003′s Hello Starling album, during which the band reached a break and decreased the tempo as Ritter cajoled the crowd to slow dance. Soon the song reached its climax, the band took a bow and they exited the stage.
But the crowd knew that this wouldn’t be the end for Ritter and the Boys, we all continued to yell for more, coaxing them to again grace us with their presence. After a very short break, Ritter entered the stage alone to thundering applause, picked up his guitar and began that now-so-familiar (to me at least) fingerpicking rhythm to his apocalyptic love song, “The Temptation of Adam.” It is a beautiful song, perhaps even more so when actually witnessed live. As the song reached its end, “I think about that great, big button, and I’m tempted,” the band moved back onto the stage and picked up their instruments for one last number. Another familiar riff started up and they launched into their final number for the evening, a rollicking version of Lilllian, Egypt with its pounding drum beat and its great, wordless, singalong chorus, “La didi da da da da da da da” – a great ending to a great evening.
There were a few observations that I had of the performance – one good and one that was sort of frustrating. First of all, the background noise was particularly annoying. The venue was rather small and there was a bar in the back where a number of people were sitting, enjoying drinks, and conversing with the concert serving as little more than background music. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, during Ritter’s slower, quieter numbers, the dull roar of voices in the background was bothersome. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone before who smiled as much as Ritter did. It seemed as if he constantly had this big, infectious grin spread across his face for the entire hour and thirty minutes that we were blessed to spend with him. In addition to that, he was constantly thanking the audience for attending that evening, showing a very genuine-seeming gratitude toward his fans.
Around midnight, Jeff and I made our way back to his car and began the drive back to Beebe. The show was great, we both had a very good time, and I think Jeff may have even been converted to Ritter’s ever-growing horde of fans.