Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

6-String Belief

If I kept a running list of bands I’ve been a long-time fan of, but have somehow never managed to see live, then Son Volt would have to be at or near the top of that list. My excuses are myriad and uninteresting – what is important is that last night, after a decade of following his career, I finally got to see Jay Farrar live and more importantly, he didn’t disappoint.

With his recent solo work leaning more towards the acoustic, folkier side, I had forgotten how much of Jay’s repetoire was full-out rock. Luckily, Jay hadn’t. What he lacked in charisma (I’ve never seen anyone stand at a mic stand so straight and motionless before), he made up for in endurance and quality. The epically long setlist (28 songs, 1h50m for those keeping track) drew from all points of his career and while it was great to hear all the SV material played live, it did serve to reinforce my general opinions about his career. One – Trace remains the best album he’s ever made. Cliche, but true. The songs from the Son Volt debut still stood out from the pack as being the best of the bunch. The other material from Son Volt I was also strong, and the Okemah material, while solid, seemed to lean a little too much on the rock and lacked some of the nuance and feel of the earlier material. Almost all of it was still better than the solo stuff, however. Placed alongside the Son Volt material, it seemed meandering and out of focus. If anyone ever needed proof that Farrar works best in a band context, this was it.

And the new band was good, though Brad Rice’s touring guitar dude’s Chris Frame’s guitar parts were more noodly than Dave Boquist’s more economical playing in the old band, no doubt his (assumed) session guitarist past coming to the surface. Personally, I preferred it when Jay took lead guitar duties, most notably on the final song of the encore, “Chickamauga”. Yes, “Chickamauga” – he actually trotted out one of my favourite Uncle Tupelo songs, actually the first time I’d ever heard any Tupe material performed live. I don’t know if this is something he’s always done or if it’s a recent development, but it certainly made my night. Full marks to Son Volt Mk 2 for putting on a helluva show and I hope this new incarnation sticks around a while.

I’d seen opening act Fruit Bats once before, at a tiny show in 2003 in support of Mouthfuls. As I recall, it was a good laid-back show and the record, which I picked up afterwards, didn’t disappoint. Their latest Spelled In Bones, however, had gotten enough lukewarm reviews to put me off picking it up yet. The band is different now, too – frontman Eric Johnson remains, but keyboardist/vocalist Gillian Lissee is no longer in the picture. This is a shame, since her harmonies were a big part of Mouthfuls‘ charm. The bassist and drummer certainly did their part to cover the backing vocals and it sounded pretty good, but it wasn’t as nice as the 2003 show. And the new material was perfectly decent pop, but alongside the Mouthfuls material, it just didn’t compare.

My photos didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped, mostly on account of the fact that the band was almost exclusively backlit. So great light on the hair, not so much for the faces. Still, I managed to get a decent gallery out of it all.

Popmatters interviews Jens Lekman, who has finally gotten a proper ad-free website URL. But for those of you prepared to yell “sell out”, don’t worry – it still looks like ass. Jens is at the Music Gallery November 5 with The Phonemes, whose website is nothing to write home about either.

JAM! continues to interview Feist as she traipses across Canada. She’s in Toronto for the second of two sold-out shows tonight.

The New York Times plays dress-up with some of the more comely ladies of the indie rock scene. Eleanor Friedberger… looking good. Keren Ann… not so much. Via The Modern Age.

Harp has finally gotten around to actually making their website useful by putting up actual content. And they’ve made up for lost time by including archived material from as far back as 2001. While not necessarily timely, they’re still good reading – check out features on Billy Bragg, Wilco, Neko Case, Steve Earle, Cat Power, Lucinda Williams, Jay Farrar, Wilco & Sonic Youth… aw hell, go browse yourself. There’s craploads of good stuff there, though. Bravo, Harp. There should be a new ish in stores any day now – My Morning Jacket grace the cover.

np – Shearwater / Winged Life

By : Frank Yang at 8:39 am
Category: Uncategorized
RSS Feed for this post12 Responses.
  1. kathryn says:

    your feelings are right about the new Fruit Bats album. I love Echolocation and Mouthfuls, but this new one just doesn’t have it.

  2. Indecision 08 says:

    Isn’t Jay Farrar running for President?

    Maybe Ben Affleck can be is running mate.

  3. Joe says:

    I love Jay, and Harp…bravo

  4. sp says:

    Son Volt has done UT songs in the past. Chickamauga is a pretty regular one, but on earlier tours they used to do stuff like Whiskey Bottle even

  5. Natalie says:

    Hey Frank – hope you National t-shirt

    and you will like this:

    at the Mountain Goats show last night guess what they were selling?…..that very rare LP you wanted.

    John from the band ended up leaving a WHOLE bag of them in the office which Craig caught and John offered him one and mentioned how they go on ebay for lots of $$$$….

    since John likes your site Craig decided YOU should have it…that is if you still want it.

  6. Frank says:

    Hey Natalie

    You rule, Craig rules, John rules. You all rule together in a utopian benevolent dictatorship dealie.

    Damn skippy I want it. thanks! I guess I’ll get it from you at Spoon or Okkervil, whichever you’re working.

  7. solace says:

    Brad Rice isn’t part of this touring version of Son Volt fwiw.

  8. Frank says:

    you know, I wasn’t sure about that – I saw Brad last year when he was playing with Tift Merritt and it *sort of* looked like the same guy with different colour hair, but not really.

    Okay, replace "Brad Rice" in the review with "touring guitar dude".

  9. David says:

    Chris Frame is lead guitarist of SonVolt 2.0

  10. Rick says:

    Frank, cool to see you again – we’re two for two on quality concerts we both attend. ;) Just to back up ‘sp’ up there, Chickamauga has been present both times I’ve seen Son Volt, and just about every SV/Farrar boot I’ve got.

    Great show, but where were the t-shirts and CDs?

  11. sp says:

    Son Volt almost never bring merch to Canadian shows! I think they only had stuff once out of the six times i’ve seen them. I should have went.

  12. Review of Fruit Bats’ The Ruminant Band | MP3 Music at MixBurner says:

    […] BeedyThe last time Seattle’s Fruit Bats visited was way back in 2005, opening up for Son Volt at the Opera House and in support of their album Spelled In Bones. At the […]