We’re just a few hours away from one of the Friday Cheers shows I was most psyched about when the schedule was announced, and while it was Conor Oberst’s name that first got my attention (big fan of Bright Eyes, never seen him live… been enjoying Salutations…), I’ve been getting more and more jazzed about seeing Big Thief’s opening set.
Just a couple of days ago, NPR posted a new Big Thief tune called “Mary,” and I’m totally in awe of it. The word “perfect” comes to mind. It’s stately but not staid… carefully crafted yet natural… complex in spite of the fact it was recorded in one take… It actually reminds me of the Devon Sproule tune I posted last week, only it strings together the past instead of the present.
Fingers crossed we get to hear it tonight. See y’all on Brown’s Island.
Big Thief — “Mary” [Spotify/iTunes]
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
-Christmas song written by someone who hasn’t witnessed a Friday Cheers schedule rollout
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Friday Cheers is my favorite part of the year. It’s warm but not sweaty, the weekends feel longer, since the early Cheers start times mean you’re outside and enjoying yourself ASAP… it makes me so happy. Here’s the full schedule. Things are going to be a little nutty this year, given that Mrs. YHT is set to deploy Baby YHT #2 in early May, but here are three of the shows I’m hopeful that we/I/y’all will be able to make:
Lee Fields & the Expressions with Kings — May 5
This show being announced was my Lee Fields wake-up call. I see his records nearly every time I go to Steady Sounds, and I keep meaning to learn more about him — now’s the time. I’m doing it. You can’t stop me. Friday Cheers has hosted two of the best soul shows I’ve ever seen — Charles Bradley and the late great Sharon Jones — so this one shouldn’t be missed.
Conor Oberst with Big Thief — June 2
Already snagged a ticket for this one. I wrote a short time ago about how psyched I am for his special-guest-heavy upcoming album Salutations, and since it’ll be out by the time this show rolls around, I’ll almost certainly be spending some quality time at the merch tent on June 2.
Car Seat Headrest with Gold Connections — June 30
OK, so I saw them twice last year. I don’t care — as Toddler YHT’s hero Ariel once said so poignantly “I want more…” Speaking of wanting more, I managed to find a used copy of Teens of Style, the album prior to Teens of Denial, and I was surprised by how many of the older (relatively speaking — he’s released ocean of material already) songs I knew. I recommend prepping for this show by diving into Will Toledo’s earlier stuff, which can be found on Bandcamp.
Hope y’all are getting excited as well. Here’s another link to the full schedule and here’s a link to an article I wrote last year about Friday Cheers that includes an interview with Venture Richmond Festival Manager Stephen Lecky.
So I’m going to attempt to end this jerk of a year with five wrap-up posts in five days. Fingers crossed this works. I tend to overwrite these things until they become albatross-y, so I’ll try to keep things snappy, starting with a quick list of links to music writing I did in 2016. Add in weekly contributions to the Off Your Radar newsletter and an August appearance on Sound Gaze and I can definitively say that this is the most blabbing about music I’ve done in a year.
Many thanks — seriously, too many to mention here — to the people I interviewed and the people who made what I wrote sound better and look prettier. Y’all know who you are, and I hope you also know how awesome and appreciated you are. Lots of fun stuff in the works for 2017. Until then…
Featured Off Your Radar weeks:
For Boomer Magazine:
For Richmond Navigator online
For River City Magazine
For RVA Magazine
For West End’s Best
I’m having a really hard time breaking out of my Brexit WTF stupor, but here is a picture of my daughter wearing a hat that’s way too big for her, and here are a few news and notes items, for what they’re worth:
- CD Monday update: Loved Mudcrutch’s second album. It’s tighter — doesn’t have that loose, spontaneous feel the first one had — but it’s a testament to the enduring efficacy of well-written rock songs. They just work. Remember when people would say things like “Rock and roll is here to stay” when the genre was first getting started? This is what they were talking about.
- Congrats to Sleepwalkers on wrapping up their tour with the Lumineers. Joey Wharton’s photos continue to roll in, and they’re stunning. Funny story — I just missed them in Chicago. The last stop on that stretch of the tour (you might have seen the marquee in Wednesday’s record store report) was at the Chicago Theater the day after Mrs. YHT’s brother’s wedding. I think we were even in town at the same time. Not sure what hotel they stayed in, but I think ours was next to the ping pong bar in this Instagram post…
- Sara Watkins’ new album is well worth the First Listen. I was trying to remember if she played any of those songs when I saw her share the Modlin Center stage with Patty Griffin and Anaïs Mitchell… Not sure, but Young in All the Wrong Ways is definitely worth checking out.
- Jason Isbell put on a pretty much perfect rock show at the Altria on Tuesday. This may sound hyberbolic, but I really believe it: He’s entering the Beyoncé zone, where you look at someone and say “You just can’t do that specific thing any better.” I hope y’all get to see him on this tour. Playing songs from two A+ albums, singing loud and clear, even during the quiet sections of songs, multiple standing ovations… It’s a demonstration of how firm the ground below your feet becomes when you speak and write and play from a place of self-knowledge and truth.
- One more quick thing about that show: Frank Turner was great. I didn’t know a ton about him, but he was so engaging and fun, and his songs have this great spirit. Defiant. Resilient. It totally clicked why he would have called his last album Positive Songs for Negative People. I didn’t get a copy there, but it went on my Discogs wantlist.
- Friday Cheers comes to a close tonight with Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Norfolk’s Major and the Monbacks. I’ll be gigging tonight at Triple Crossing, so I’ll have to miss it, but I’ve heard excellent things about Holcomb. And Fear of Music at the Broadberry would make a nice after party…
Lots of fun stuff to check in about:
- CD Monday update: New Lions & the Not-Good Night is a gift that keeps giving and giving. Even more in love with it than I was before. The band is heading out on tour today — get a taste of what those shows will be like here, and join the band in figuring out what their tour hashtag will be (current frontrunner is #thisisandisnotTOURture2016).
- One Week One Band did Punch Brothers this week! I read a fair amount of it, but I’m planning to go back through and make sure I saw everything. Might be my favorite OWOB week since I started following along. Really thorough.
- Y’all see the Lincoln commercial where Sharon Jones covers “Midnight Rider”? It’s fantastic. You even get a little Matthew McConaughey at the end.
- It was so rewarding following along on social media as Sleepwalkers played Red Rocks two nights this week. This may be the most excited I’ve been for shows that I wasn’t even going to. The pictures are breathtaking — hit up their Twitter account to check a few out. Prepare for goosebumps.
- I dunno about you, but I’m fixin’ to hop on that there Bonnaroo live stream a fair amount this weekend. I wrote a thing a while back about about how much I love festival live streams. As a substitute for being able to co-locate and do all of the things at all of the times, they’re pretty snazzy.
- Another song from the new Avers album hit the interweb! It’s called “Santa Anna” and I’m enjoying it very much. Listen over at USA Today’s FTW site. Speaking of FTW, they came out with a list of the 16 best songs of the first half of 2016 and Clair Morgan’s “Rogue Island” is ranked #5, between Chance the Rapper and ANOHNI. How cool is that?!?
- No gig tonight, but I feel compelled to share with the world that, at last Friday’s gig, I got to say — all in seriousness — the following sentence into a microphone: “This one’s for the dude in the bouncy castle who requested Skynyrd.”
- Tonight’s might be the season’s most anticipated Friday Cheers show — Kurt Vile and Richmond’s fast-rising phenom, Lucy Dacus — and I will most assuredly be there. Might even bring my copy of No Burden in hopes that Dacus will sign it. I did just that with my copy of Phil Cook’s Southland Mission album and, while I definitely felt like a nerd doing so, it was well worth it. Also bears mentioning that the National has a crazy run of shows coming up: Death Cab for Cutie tonight, M83 on Sunday, Fitz & the Tantrums on Tuesday, Violent Femmes on Wednesday… not too shabby. And the Broadberry has Lucius on Wednesday. Lots of good stuff to see.
See y’all at Cheers!
A few Friday News and Notes for y’all kind people:
- I saw Béla Fleck and the Flecktones last night! I didn’t realize it but it seems that this is some sort of reunion tour. They mentioned last night being their “second show,” which caused a little cognitive dissonance, given how long they’ve been around. I also didn’t realize (though I think I knew at some point) that Victor Wooten is their bass player. Dude is a magician. As is Béla. What a talented group. And I can now say I’ve seen a steel drum jazz solo, so there’s that.
- The Head and the Heart’s new album just became available for preorder!
- Xenia Rubinos’ new album is out today — definitely worth checking out. She was very, very good at Saturday’s Son Lux show. I wish I could go back in time and do that night differently. The show was happening during game 6 of the western conference finals (which turned out to be pivotal and wildly entertaining), and instead of DVRing the game and watching after, I sat at the bar and kept the game going on my phone and glanced up and down and up and down and ended up feeling like I didn’t really see either. Dumb. Lesson learned, hopefully. I’ve listened to “Lonely Lover” a bunch of times since, and I know I’m taking the lyrics out of context, but the “I just need to breathe today” line resonates so deeply. Especially this week, given that my daughter barfed all over her car seat on the way to daycare on Tuesday.
- Top album lists for the first half of the year have started popping up, and they’re making me feel like an idiot for not listening to the new Chance album yet. That’s my goal for the weekend. It was awesome to see Lucy Dacus made the Spin list, and on an unrelated note, it was also awesome to see pics on social media from people who were at her Tiny Desk performance this week. Can’t wait for NPR to post video.
- I’ll be gigging tonight, but Friday Cheers looks awesome — the Revivalists and the Seratones — and I can’t recommend strongly enough also heading to Gallery5 for tonight’s collaborative Girls Rock! RVA fundraiser. It’s a Jennifer Kennedy gallery exhibit AND a show featuring Lady God, Christi, Avers and Lobo Marino AND they’ll be selling Kennedy’s new coloring book. I’m a huge fan of Kennedy’s work — she draws musicians while they’re performing, and it’s astounding how much kinetic energy she manages to capture — and I love Girls Rock! RVA’s mission, which is to “empower girls, gender non-conforming, and trans youth through music, art and activism.” Learn more about Girls Rock! RVA here and listen to Doug Nunnally’s interview with Jennifer Kennedy here.
That’s it for now. Catch y’all next week, assuming I still exist next week. It’s also Greek Fest weekend, and I might end up eating so many gyros so fast that I break space-time and disappear completely. Hopefully not though.