Concert Catch-Up Week, Day 1: Todd Snider
I have a confession to make. Promise you won’t be mad if I tell you? Pinkie swear? OK, here goes… I’ve been holding out on you. I’ve been to some amazing concerts — 3, to be exact — that I’ve yet to tell you about. Uh oh, you look furious. C’mon, you said you wouldn’t be ma… oh, you just have to sneeze? Gesundheit!
To fix this grave injustice, I’m declaring a Concert Catch-Up Week. Over the next
5 days week or so, I’ll be offering quick recaps of the wonders these eyes have beheld in the last few weeks, starting with Todd Snider — the second of two acts that opened up for Justin Townes Earle on May 22 at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA. With all due respect to Jeff Tweedy, whose cantankerous-cuddly routine made his show at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville a few years back one of the best and funniest shows I’ve ever seen, Snider’s set was fucking hysterical.
Humor in music is extremely delicate, and not just for songwriters like Snider, who focus on political issues that will inevitably divide the audience along party lines (he gave a charmingly self-effacing disclaimer to warn us near the beginning of his set). It’s also touchy because of another dividing line: novelty vs. sincerity. As much as I love The Lonely Island, I can’t helping thinking about them differently than I do other groups. To me, “I’m On A Boat” is more comedy than it is music, and though I usually find genre labels to be counterproductive, this is one distinction that means a great deal to me (probably too much). For whatever reason, I have to decide if the lyrics I’m hearing are coming from a sincere place, or if a song was written just to make people chuckle.
That’s one reason I felt so good laughing my ass off at Snider’s lyrics. There’s no doubt in my mind that his words come from a genuine sense of wonder at how ridiculous the world can be, especially when it comes to money. As he rails against the widening gap between the rich and the poor, he displays the same knack for injecting absurdity into conventionality that Mitch Hedberg did, and “In The Beginning” may be the best example of all. Check it out below, along with “In Between Jobs,” both from his 2012 album, Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables.