It was a year, man. I’m not sure that my annual postcard from the road, my “weather is here, wish you were beautiful” requires a lot of setup this time; I worked hard, I played harder and things are as good as they have ever been.
Top Ten Posts of 2013
10. Jon Davison ready to perform a trio of classic Yes records at the BJCC Concert Hall. [Interview]
9. The Swampers lead a “Muscle Shoals Review” in Sweet Home Alabama. [Review]
8. Widespread Panic close weekend at Oak Mountain with a set to remember. [Review]
7. Top-ranked Hoover sprints to 56-14 victory over Northridge (photos).
6. John Oates reveals details of Rock ‘n Soul Dance Party Bonnaroo Superjam, follows “Good Road” to Manchester. [Interview]
5. Band of Horses lead singer Ben Bridwell brings his solo tour to BottleTree on Monday. [Interview]
4. Which musician defines each SEC school?
3. Good People Brewing Company welcomes Mike Cooley for Camp McDowell benefit on October 12. [Interview]
2. Katherine Webb and Chrissy Teigen take a ride; Brassft Punk and Public Enemy open Day Two of Hangout Fest. [Review]
1. Dave Schools of Widespread Panic remembers over 20 years in Birmingham. [Interview]
Top Ten Records of 2013
I kind of feel like this needs a disclaimer every year. These are the ten records that were the most memorable to me. It’s a subjective list, and I’ve never tried to pretend that my opinion or taste is authoritative. Just looking at the things I left out, I am well aware there were plenty of other great records made this year.
10. The Wild Feathers – This eponymous debut is one I came back to a lot this year. And while there were other things that I was forced to shave out of this list to make room, I felt like I wasn’t being honest with myself by excluding this record.
A few years ago, I was hot on Truth and Salvage Co. And while I still enjoy them, they didn’t take off the way I felt they would. I feel the same way about the Wild Feathers, a harmonizing Nashville quintet that is even better than the record on stage. The photo above was taken during their opening set for Dawes at Iron City, but I also saw an acoustic performance at Birmingham Mountain Radio’s “Acoustic Christmas.”
They’re better plugged in. And “Left My Woman” is the greatest song that the Eagles, Skynyrd and Marshall Tucker Band never wrote.
9. Bastille: Bad Blood – I got on this record late, but it’s gotten a ton of play in the last month. There’s an Avicii feeling to it, but while I feared this would get soaked up the same way by Top 40 radio and would be played too much, it never was. It’s not Mumford mixed with EDM; I’d almost call it trance mixed with EDM. It’s soothing. It never feels loud, but it keeps a steady pace. It’s not a chorus of Benedictine monks, but it feels nearly the same.
8. The Lone Bellow – Like The Wild Feathers, there were a lot of harmonies happening here, only this time, it was that sexy, en vogue “girl in a guy band” thing. But unlike mainstream country music brethren like The Band Perry or Little Big Town, et. al., this band maintains catchy melodies without serving up standard country radio cheese. There’s some steel guitar, and while this record has Nashville all over it, it still seamlessly fits into a AAA format. That bands like The Lone Bellow are blurring those lines is welcomed. By me, anyhow.
7. Caitlin Rose: The Stand-In – I saw Rose open for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit at the Ryman on August 17, and I was soured. She wasn’t very impressive live, and thus, I put this record on the shelf and didn’t give it a lot of attention. But when rediscovered, I learned that Rose is a writer much more talented than her 26 years. I feel like “The Stand-In” was the beginning of something much bigger, perhaps a female career to rival that of Isbell’s. I hope her live show can grow as captivating as her voice and her words.
6. Lady Gaga: Artpop – I played the crap out of this record this year. The ever loving crap out of it. I had no less than three Twitter followers screencap images showing that Spotify was telling them that I was listening to a lot of Lady Gaga lately. And I’ll be on the floor for the clownshow she’ll bring to Philips Arena in May.
Dave Holmes quipped shortly after the record’s release, paraphrased: “Let’s be honest, Artpop is kind of all over the place, but ‘Sexxx Dreams’ is a banger.”
It is. And there really aren’t many tracks here that are garbage, even though there is no real train of thought. “Dope” is Lady Gaga at her absolute best. No pop star in the last decade or so has been able to master a ballad like her, and this is quintessential. “Gypsy,” “Applause,” “Manicure,” “Donatella” – it’s all just fun. And it’s one of three 2013 records that reminded me that it’s okay to just enjoy dopey, fun records sometimes.
5. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories – Hey, speaking of dopey fun records, Daft Punk, man. Daft Punk had the “Song of the Summer” before Robin Thicke ripped off Marvin Gaye (although, that’s a jam session, too). And while I’m not sure this lives up to “Discovery” (not that anything ever will), it had a lot more highs than lows. And it was really cool to drive around on a cool summer night with the windows rolled down and rock this.
4. Arcade Fire: Reflektor – I didn’t spend as much time with “Reflektor” as I wished, so perhaps this is more of a lifetime achievement award than my most honest selection. But I loved it. And I remember loving it more from start to finish than I loved “Funeral.” And records don’t get much better than “Funeral.” So here we are.
3. Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience – I mean, I guess I’m including both parts? The first part is conclusively better. Here is the main reason that this record achieves this high spot on my list:
Remember the first time that you heard “Suit & Tie?” The very first time. Go back to that. It was a little like the first time you heard “Get Lucky.”
“This is hot,” you said aloud to yourself as you nodded your head.
But you forget this part about the first time that you heard “Suit & Tie,” that night it leaked around midnight on YouTube back in February:
The first 40 seconds SUCKED.
“What the hell is this?” you thought aloud. “Why? Why did JT start sucking? He used to be so awesome, but this? This sucks big time. Like, I’m totally not buying this record or watching his hilarious jokes on SNL or shelling out $100 for concert tickets…”
Boom. It kicked in. At that :40 mark.
Clown town. Bro, I clowned like I ain’t clowned before. For like three months straight. In the car. At my cubicle. In bed. On the patio. At the club. I don’t attend church with any regularity, but if I did, I would have clowned there, too. The first time you heard “Suit & Tie” kick in, you were Bozo and you were throwing balls at that farthest bucket on the Grand Prize Game.
If you could bottle that feeling and drink from it every day, we’d stop wars.
Now, as the year wore on and the record got more spins, “Mirrors” became my jam. “That Girl” is three and a half minutes of aural impregnation. And part two had some jams, like “Only When I Walk Away” and “Take Back the Night.” I really wanted “Drink You Away” to turn into something, but I’m not sure it did.
In any case, 2013 was Justin Timberlake’s year and we just kind of happened to be around.
2. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City – If I were being super honest with myself, this would have probably been reversed with Timberlake. But this felt like a more complete and important work. And it’s fun. It manages to be critically and socially acceptable, dance worthy and fun all at the same time. And for that ability to bridge so many divides, it may actually deserve to be higher. So here it lands.
“Diane Young” is amazing, but “Everlasting Arms” may be better. And then, as Vampire Weekend is wont to do, the record has deep cuts that really stretch their bounds and prove their worth, worth that will have them as a festival headliner after one more major release. Songs like “Ya Hey” and “Hudson” on the back end of the record keep Vampire Weekend interesting. I’m eager for them to arrive in Birmingham in April.
1. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit: Southeastern – Did you think I’d say something else? This was an easy out, but it would have been impossible for me to offer another answer. This record really introduced Isbell to the world, and in a year in which I saw his live performance six times, moving me to 24 overall, I didn’t even try to schedule an interview. Because this was everyone else’s time: The New York Times, Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, etc. This was their time to soak up an alcohol-soaked story and share with the world.
A meaningless aside: I was personally offended a bit when national publications dismissed Isbell’s prior work. While “Southeastern” is the crowning achievement and a public notice that the Greenhill-native isn’t going anywhere, it isn’t like he just started making great records after he got off the bottle. That just makes the “story” more inspired. Neither here nor there, as his fans know the work well. The narrative just seemed unfair. His physical health was the beneficiary of his recovery; his songwriting has always been as healthy as a horse.
If you’re reading this, I’m not going to tell you something about “Southeastern” that you don’t already know. It’s a bunch of sad damn songs. And he’ll be the first to tell you that. “Elephant” is as heavy as music gets. “Super 8” manages to be horribly depressing but sound like a good time. “Traveling Alone” strikes the right chords with the right crowd. It’s a pretty flawless record, and it’s been a lot of fun to see the hometown kid make it real big. We’re pretty proud.
REISSUE: I think I wanted to include this in my Top Ten, but after writing all of it out, I realized I had forgotten it. Dan Penn – The Fame Recordings. Penn was Spooner Oldham’s writing partner, and this vinyl collection that FAME released this year is gorgeous. It doesn’t get much better. I’m not entirely sure anything new that came out tops it. I can’t possibly recommend this collection enough, as it’s about the only thing that my turntable has seen over the last month or so.
Top Ten Concerts of 2013
Greg told me that I couldn’t expand this list this year. I wanted to do twenty. Because, bro, I saw a LOT of concerts this year. Whittling this down was one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever had in writing. As was the case last year, this list is heavily laden with performances that have little to no chance of happening again. When you’ve seen a lot, it takes something pretty unique to be truly memorable.
10. Pettyfest. 9.21.13. War Memorial Auditorium. Nashville. I took a lot of crap this year for traveling on college football Saturdays to see special concerts. But as I look back over this list, two of the top ten happened on those days, and at least one other that just missed the difficult cut.
My pal Joey loves Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. A lot. Like, so much so that when I invited him to travel with me to Los Angeles this week for the BCS National Championship game, one of the first conversations we had was:
“People tell me we should go up to Malibu.”
“Oh yeah? What’s there?”
“Tom Petty’s house.”
So Joey found out about Pettyfest, a show in Nashville that was part of this swanky foodie deal. Like, the tickets were $500 or something. But Joey bugged enough people on the internet that one of them finally put us on the list. Not to give you all of our secrets, but here we are.
So roughly 2,000 folks are in this room? Jameson is flowing like wine. We situate ourselves right beside the stage. And apparently, Caleb Followill (above) didn’t do very well with this event that he put on. But that didn’t stop the King of Leon from drinking more Jameson than anyone in the room and telling us all about it.
For over two hours, he, Butch Walker, Norah Jones, The Weeks, Rayland Baxter, Patrick Carney (The Black Keys), Karen Elson (the ex-Mrs. Jack White), Houndmouth, Adriel Denae, Cory Chisel, Jessie Baylin (a Mrs. King of Leon), Nathan Followill (also a King of Leon), Trisha Yearwood (Mrs. Garth Brooks, homewrecker), Charles Kelly (Little Big Town), Ruby Amanfu, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, The Wild Feathers, Jakob Dylan (The Wallflowers, son of Bob), The Whigs, Erika Wennertrom (Heartless Bastards) and Jay Williams covered Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers songs in a tiny room with a bunch of pretty wealthy people (ourselves excluded) drunk on scotch. We watched the first half of Auburn’s only 2013 loss at a hotel bar within walking distance before heading over.
I don’t know how you explain what happened better than a long list of names. At one point, Joey looked behind us and saw this really tall bro and said, “Hey, isn’t that the bro from Little Big Town?”
It was. And moments later, he was onstage with Trisha Yearwood. Butch Walker was a million times more impressive than I ever imagined, and Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell were a million times more disappointing than I ever expected. Austin Scaggs (son of Boz) led the house band. It was a really special, alcohol soaked night.
9A. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. 8.17.13. Ryman Auditorium. Nashville. There were a few instances this year when a show was announced that I bought tickets with no real idea how I would follow through. Most of those made this list.
When Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit announced a show at the First United Church of Country Music, I knew I would be there. When the Greenhill native sold the joint out, I couldn’t have been more proud. I saw Isbell perform six times this year in six different cities that could not be more different: Moulton, Alabama at the final Chicken & Egg Festival (it’s a dry county, and there was literally a chicken contest going on inside the auditorium), the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama (where I met Isbell for the first time, in real life, and managed to sneak the above photo with him while wearing my Wal-Mart Skynyrd shirt with the sleeves cut out), Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, Florence, Alabama at the annual Homecoming concert at the Shoals Theater, Selma, Alabama at the Selma Walton Theater in front of 260 people and at the Ryman, which holds 2,400.
The total is now up to 24. I think.
The Bonnaroo show was kind of on an island, as it came the week of the record’s release and he was eager to play a lot of the new material. The shows after had a pretty formulaic approach for setlists. But this one? This one was at the Ryman. And it seemed everyone in Lauderdale County had made their way up, as people would shout at the stage things about the days when he played a La Fonda, a now closed Mexican restaurant on Highway 72 in Florence where local bands had to play a decade ago, before music became a thing in Muscle Shoals again. It was the first time I had a chance to hear him recite the line, “I swore off that stuff, forever this time,” and hear the crowd roar, which became a normal thing on the tour. And walking around the lobby and running into friends and relatives from Lauderdale County that had also made the trip was really special.
This was a year that I really became proud of where I’m from, and a year that John Paul White of the Civil Wars told me at the Billy Reid Shindig that it’s okay to just tell folks you’re from Muscle Shoals.
[Oh nothing. Just me and my pal John Paul White chilling inside Billy Reid’s Florence store. I wanted to include the Shindig in this list, but again, it was a difficult one to narrow.]
9B. Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. 12.27.13. Selma Walton Theater. Selma. For the exact opposite reasons that the Ryman show makes this list, one of the year’s final shows deserves a spot. My friend Hunter L. Johnson managed to find a way for us to get into this long sold out, intimate performance at the Selma Walton Theater in Selma, Alabama. What happens next is mindblowing.
The venue sat 260 people. Hunter and I, unknowingly, had VIP passes and could have ate and drank our way through that theater all night if we chose. Instead, we stopped at Lannie’s BBQ, the original location on Minter Ave. for one of the best pork sandwiches I have ever had.
It came on white bread, two slices on the bottom, and it was topped with a pork rind. I ordered potato salad, and they told me that only came with plates. But they made an exception for me. I will remember that pork sandwich like I will remember the two week relationship I had with this one girl in college that was three years older than me.
Like, I doubt I ever have it again. And the farther it gets away, it’s going to just become more and more legendary. People will ask me about pork sandwiches, and they’ll argue about Saw’s or Miss Myra’s or Whitt’s or whatever, and I’m just going to give Lannie’s as my default answer now. I’ll never be able to tell you how amazing this sandwich was. Maybe it was the pork rind. IDK.
So we arrive at the venue and every bro in Selma is there. I don’t use “bro” as an affectionate term for a “fellow” here, but rather, as a term referring to every bro from the frat house. Croakies. Khaki shorts cut above the knee. Visors. It was all there.
So every bro in this audience is at their first concert. Ever. And any time that Isbell pauses between lyrics, they just begin WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-ing. Like, even during “Elephant,” a song about the character’s relationship with a recently diagnosed cancer patient. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
“We burn these joints in effigy.”
“Bitch about the weekend crowd.”
The bro in front of me, seriously, starts rhythmically clapping at one point, like he’s at an arena rock show and we just launched “We Will Rock You.” And it was not only a sad Isbell tune, it was acoustic. Just him and his guitar and his wife fiddling. That was it. CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP
I went to the lobby to pee once and I overheard every hillbilly in the place saying, “They’re out of beer. Man what we gone do? They’re out of beer.” And I turned the corner, saw the bartender at the one concession stand raise a bottle of Bacardi with about three fingers in it and say, “That’s all we got left!”
This thing also had an art auction, which I think had 20 pieces. Five of those pieces were Alabama football related and one was a captain of a boat or something. I still don’t know.
Meanwhile, Isbell is laying down the most gorgeous performance I may have ever seen him do. He tells a really terrific story about “Streetlights” and how he wrote it. He tells a gentleman in the crowd, “We play ‘Outfit’ every night, but as I’ve said a lot on this tour, I’ve never played after someone screams for it. So I’ll leave it up to you.” He plays “The Blue,” which I may have seen one other time. Ever.
And when he closes the set with “Outfit,” 12 BROS march onstage before he can even get off stage to start thanking people for coming out. I am 95% sure this ruined what would have been an encore, as Jason and Amanda seemed to have just stepped out of the side door for a quick smoke. But after they were finished patting themselves on the back, the house music came on and that was that.
I’ve never seen anything like it. It was Jeff Buckley performing at Folsom Prison. Selma don’t know how to act right.
8. The Muscle Shoals Review. 10.23.13. Workplay Theatre. Birmingham. Here again, it was a very special year for my hometown.
We had a little movie they put up on the big screen! And because Stephen Badger came in to this blue collar neighborhood and decided to tell folks about what happened where I grew up, lots of new folks decided to start helping out.
I think Billy Reid really began this new life when he came into town a few years back, and John Paul White coming home and beginning Single Lock records sure hasn’t hurt anything. But when I was a kid, it was just a thing. We didn’t really talk much about it. I grew up listening to Wilson Pickett records and playing “In The Midnight Hour” on my trombone. I played the W.C. Handy Music Festival. I went to those bars and Mexican restaurants and I listened to Muscle Shoals music. It wasn’t blues or jazz or really even soul. It was Muscle Shoals.
And it took moving away to realize what it was. This year and this movie made me damn proud of it.
Before the folks at Beats by Dre stepped in and offered to spend a bunch of money to save that old 3614 Jackson Highway building out in Sheffield, a group came together and started doing a few fundraising shows. This was the big one, anchored, essentially, by the Swampers, with rotating vocalists. David Hood, Mark Beckett (son of Barry), Jimmy Johnson and my cousin, Spooner Oldham, who left the Swampers to join Dan Penn in Memphis, but he was always around.
Spooner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and this year, as part of this movie’s spectacle, I had an excuse to ask him for an interview. That interview piece and everything that I wrote about this film are some of my proudest moments in writing.
The Swampers were joined by an old friend of mine, Gary Nichols, who exchanged the vocal lead with folks like Candi Staton and Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie. The group closed out the night with Wilson Pickett’s cover of “Hey Jude,” a song that you’ll learn in the movie was the genesis of Southern rock, and a song that had a pretty huge impact on my year. Hearing every band in Florence close the Billy Reid Shingdig concert with the same cover alongside Birmingham’s St. Paul & the Broken Bones was difficult to leave off of this list.
My interview with Spooner Oldham.
My review of the Muscle Shoals Review.
7. Jay Z. 12.28.13. Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. Birmingham. This is tough for me. On Friday, I had my top nine shows of the year in ink. I had not put a tenth show on the list. Would it be Billy Reid Shindig? Would it be Mumford & Sons? Would it be Fleetwood Mac? Would it be something else that I won’t yet ruin for you missed the cut? I didn’t know.
So maybe this made it because it’s new. Looking over this list, a lot of things are here that happened in the last month. Of an amazing year. So maybe that’s all it takes, folks. Just be recent and I’ll love you.
I bought these tickets with the help of a friend that is a promoter a long time ago. Splurged for the good seats. I had no idea they would include club level access which allowed me a private bar with no line, so I drank a little excessively.
All of that and, well, Jay Z is my favorite rapper. Ever. Not Tupac. Not Biggie. Not Snoop. Not Dre. Not Kanye (although, surprisingly, Kanye may be second. I’m not saying I am a rap connoisseur, I just likes what I likes. Sue me.)
Hova played the hits. He did it without a lot of frills. He did it with a live band, which quietly included one of the biggest hit makers in pop music’s last 20 years in Timbaland (who performed a medley of some of those hits, including a tribute to Baby Girl and Missy).
What I am always going to love about this show, though, is the group of people it attracted. The audience was largely African-American, but when we were dancing together, it was never ironically dancing with the white boy. We were all just people that liked hot jams and were having a great time with one of the greatest entertainers our generation has seen. And that made me really proud of Birmingham. Jay Z brought a kid up, his name was Cortez, that was at his first concert. I almost cried. It was just a very special evening in the Magic City with one of the biggest stars on the planet, and while it didn’t quite sell out, nights like that don’t happen in Birmingham often.
6. Justin Timberlake. 12.17.13. Philips Arena. Atlanta. Justin Timberlake performed for two and a half hours, taking one ten minute intermission. His catwalk lifted from the ground and rolled to the back of the house while he sat at its edge, dangling his legs and waving at fans. When he arrived there, he walked down into VIP and performed a mini-set which included a tribute to his Memphis roots, “Heartbreak Hotel.”
He also covered “Poison” by Bel Biv Devoe (which was about as hard as I will clown ever in life) and “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson. He played every hit. All of them. All the way down to the “Justified” opening track, “Senorita.”
We had the most obnoxious 13-year-old girls ever beside us, and when he’d play “Justified” tracks, those idiots wouldn’t know the lyrics. So I’d clown super hard just so they knew that I was smarter than they were. And way cooler.
But then, he’d play something new and these shrill little wenches would make your toes curl like the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I almost punched a little girl that night. But I took a lot of pride int he fact that I knew the “Justified” songs and they didn’t. Because they sucked.
5. P!NK w/ The Hives. 12.13. 13. Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. Birmingham. Not only am I surprised that this makes this list, I’m surprised that I even went. I could not be more shocked that I am typing these words right now. Like, you’re probably pretty stunned, but I am bewildered. This makes no sense.
I had found a way to get into the sold out Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit show at Iron City the same night; I had long procrastinated on those tickets because I was going to the show the next night in Florence and, well, 24 times. Seriously. I had come to terms with just sort of “sitting that one out.”
But as the week came, I began to feel left out and I figured out a way in. Until two days prior a friend texted me with free passes to P!NK. I had been itching to get that text, or one similar, because hey, it’s something new. I like new things.
Done. I was going. And at one point, after The Hives set had concluded and P!NK’s had begun, I walked down our upper level stairs to get a beer and my friend/realtor was standing there with four pit wristbands.
Cool. Now we’re in the pit at P!NK.
But I shouldn’t gloss over the fact that part of the reason this show makes it so high on this list was The Hives. While the show is included either way, what The Hives did was amazing. One of those things I don’t see often and may not again.
The crowd was not into The Hives. At all. But The Hives commanded that stage as if they had sold out a headlining gig at Madison Square Garden. Their lead singer marched like a ringmaster, constantly shouting at the crowd, “WE ARE THE HIVES AND WE ARE A ROCK BAND FROM SVEDEN.”
And P!NK? She was on this high wire act, bouncing on a bungee cord all over the place. She once acknowledged her career’s timing in “Don’t Let Me Get Me” – “Tired of being compared, to damn Britney Spears. She’s so pretty, That just ain’t me.”
And what she has done here is something that Britney nor Christina can – she’s largely singing her own lyrics, but also admitting when she’s being too acrobatic and needs help from a backing track. She has managed to span pop, R&B and hip hop very gracefully. And she’s engaging. She signed things for the audience members she could reach, and she deliberately made her acrobatic stage show take her into the rafters near the fans that she couldn’t reach. It was an incredibly grand spectacle, and while I’m not a massive fan, it would be dishonest to not include this show. It was incredibly memorable.
4. Nine Inch Nails. 11.2.13. VooDoo Music Experience. New Orleans. I don’t think there is a bigger gap between expectation and reality than what I experienced at this concert. The Cure headlined on Sunday, and, SPOILER, they didn’t make this list. A big part of that is because I expected The Cure to stand on stage and perform a ton of really awesome songs and The Cure stood on stage and performed a ton of really awesome songs. It was what it was.
Nine Inch Nails was a spectacle. With a ton of pop shows on this list, none came close to what Trent Reznor’s group did with lights. None. Not remotely close. They barely grazed “Closer,” and I believe a full version of “Hurt” was included in the encore. But this wasn’t really about hits. This was about a show. I liked Nine Inch Nails before I went to VooDoo Fest. Now, I’m a full blown fan.
I recapped that weekend, which also included headlining performances from the aforementioned The Cure and from Pearl Jam here.
3. Kevin Kinney and the Roamin’ Countrymen w/ Peter Buck. 11.14.13. The 40 Watt Club. Athens. I knew it. I knew it was going to happen. I had this feeling in my gut when this show was announced way back in the summer or spring that something was going down.
$5? For a show near the holidays? In Athens? With Peter Buck? The place where Bill Berry retired to? The club that Buck’s ex wife owns? The club where R.E.M. cut their teeth? Come on.
Bro. Come on.
Something was going down.
So I snatched those tickets up to this tiny club situated among Athens’s 90 bars in two blocks and I figured the rest out later.
It sold out very quickly, because apparently, I am not the only person with intuition.
And I was right. About halfway thought a bluesy rock set of Buck’s original material, he invited onstage, “someone that can sing a lot better than me.” It was Mike Mills. And Bill Berry joined on drums. And suddenly, I was in the middle of a 75% reunion of my favorite rock band of all time, members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in a club with under 1,000 people.
Buck, Mills, Berry. They played “Don’t Go Back to Rockville,” which was a song written by Mills and originally performed by Michael Stipe, but one that Stipe handed off vocal lead to Mills on as time wore on. That was largely it, but it was an event big enough for publications like Rolling Stone to take notice.
Look, Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers also came on stage. And I only remembered that in my third proof read. After already forgetting it. Because that’s how amazing that night was.
Kevin Kinney (of Drivin’ ‘n Cryin’) was backed by a rotating cast, which for a few songs, essentially consisted of Kevin Kinney replacing Michael Stipe as the frontman for R.E.M. The thing was, Stipe was in the room. Everyone buzzed about it. And he was walking around in a beanie, laying low. But I never saw him. It’s probably for the best, as I managed to not be arrested. Not even when I bugged Mike Mills for this photo at the bar, pulling him away from a lady he was flirting with or something.
“But Blaaaaaaake. But Blaaaaaaaaaaake. It’s super grainy!”
Who cares. My favorite rock and roll band on the planet ever all time almost reunited and I was in a small club and ran into the bassist at the bar. With this, at least you know I’m not lying. Frame it.
2. Paul McCartney. 6.14.13. Bonnaroo. Manchester. The above photo is not my taking a picture of a jumbotron. It’s me using a fairly simple point and shoot camera with a zoom. That’s how close we were to Sir Paul McCartney.
We figured out a lot of secrets at Bonnaroo this year that I won’t entirely divulge, but one of them allowed us to be in the pit for Passion Pit, Wilco and Paul McCartney in concession. That was pretty much all of Friday. I’d say it was a good Friday.
I’m not going to break ground with a big Paul McCartney review here. When his stage rose above us and he did an acoustic version of “Blackbird” with nothing backing him, that was awesome. That time that he played “Live and Let Die” and the pyro went off and we were so close to the stage that I got really hot from being close to pyro? That was awesome. That time we heard him soundcheck from behind the artist trailers on Thursday? That was awesome. Oh, that time that he closed with my 2013 jam, “Hey Jude,” and 100,000 people joined in a chorus of “NAAAAAA NAAAAA NAAA NA NA NA NAAAAAAAA NAAA NAA NA NAAAAAAAAA NA NA NA NAAAAAAAAAAA?” That was awesome.
1. Rock ‘n Soul Superjam Dance Party featuring John Oates, Jim James (of My Morning Jacket), Zigaboo Modeliste (of The Meters), the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Bilal, Larry Graham (of Sly & the Family Stone), R. Kelly, Billy Idol and Brittany Howard (of the Alabama Shakes). 6.15.13. Bonnaroo. Manchester. So the best concert moment I experienced in 2013 was also probably the only one that I have no photo or video from. I guess maybe those people that like to give people hell about “PUT YOUR CAMERA UP AND ENJOY THE SHOW” may be right? That’s an argument for another day. I side with the camera folks.
John Oates became the third Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member that I interviewed this year when Hall & Oates received word they’d be inducted earlier this month. He spoiled the entire thing for me, and anyone that took time to read, but I didn’t care. He was an amazing person to chat with. I met him at Tin Pan Alley at the Hard Rock in Nashville last year, and I was even more impressed by how cool he was when we spoke for about a half hour in June.
What can you say about this show? We were far away. Super far. It was at a tent adjacent to the Which Stage, where R. Kelly began a set at 11:30 p.m. And we wanted to see at least part of that, and I’m glad that I did, but it didn’t allow us time to get anywhere near the magic on stage.
I was drunk. And for over two hours in the early a.m. portion of Sunday, this collective played Sly & the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and more.
In a year that I saw the largest collection of memorable shows possible, this moment, this one, will never be forgotten. I was with a lot of special people, there was a slight chill in the air and this group which had rehearsed in our hotel ballroom played a bunch of songs that everyone knew. Folks danced. Folks sang. It was really something special, and it can never possibly happen again.
My entire Bonnaroo recap is here.
Here were the honorable mentions, which I’ll put in no order; an unbelievably impressive list of exclusions: The Cure – Pearl Jam – Todd Snider’s “What the Folk?” Festival w/ Hayes Carll, Elizabeth Cook and Bobby Bare, Jr. – Neutral Milk Hotel (twice) – Depeche Mode – Mumford & Sons – The Billy Reid Shindig – Wilco (three times) – My Morning Jacket – Bob Dylan – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (twice) – David Byrne & St. Vincent – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Fleetwood Mac – Stevie Wonder – The Black Crowes – Passion Pit (three times) – Public Enemy – Elton John – The Darkness – Drive-By Truckers (a couple of times, but specifically, the Homecoming show in Athens the day their merch guy passed away) – Bjork – Local Natives – Arctic Monkeys – Blackstreet – The Eagles – Kanye West – The Dave Rawlings Machine (featuring John Paul Jones)
And here are the other stories that I wrote in 2013. I tried very hard not to link previously linked stories within this post, but I’m sure it happens.
INTERVIEW: James McNew of Yo La Tengo
INTERVIEW: Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie
INTERVIEW: Joe McMahan of Luella and the Sun
INTERVIEW: Joey Kneiser of Glossary
INTERVIEW: John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants
INTERVIEW: Gus Unger-Hamilton of alt-J
INTERVIEW: Blount Floyd and Andrew Nelson of Great Peacock
INTERVIEW: Grant Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit
INTERVIEW: Jennifer and Jessica Clavin of Bleached
INTERVIEW: Jay Farrar of Son Volt
INTERVIEW: Alex Edkins of Metz
INTERVIEW: Tyler James and Jessica Maros of Escondido
INTERVIEW: Creighton Barrett of Band of Horses
REVIEW: Shaky Knees Music Festival, Atlanta
INTERVIEW: Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket
INTERVIEW: Sam Williams of The Weeks
INTERVIEW: Wayne Sermon of Imagine Dragons
PREVIEW: Who to see at Hangout Fest
INTERVIEW: Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee
INTERVIEW: Bobb Bruno of Best Coast
REVIEW: Hangout Fest Day One, Kings of Leon
REVIEW: Hangout Fest Day Two, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
REVIEW: Hangout Fest Day Three
INTERVIEW: Nicki Bluhm of Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers
INTERVIEW: Julie Edwards of Deap Vally
INTERVIEW: Andrew Heringer of Milo Greene
INTERVIEW: Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top
INTERVIEW: Sam Williams of The Weeks
INTERVIEW: Tim Butler of The Psychedelic Furs
INTERVIEW: Izzy Almeida of Hunters
INTERVIEW: Isaac Hanson of Hanson
INTERVIEW: Christian Letts of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
INTERVIEW: John Davidson and Jacob Bryant of John & Jacob
INTERVIEW: Alex Hungtai of Dirty Beaches
INTERVIEW: Matthew Houck aka Phosphorescent
INTERVIEW: Gabe Simon of Kopecky Family Band
INTERVIEW: Jeff Apruzzese of Passion Pit
INTERVIEW: Ben Schneider of Lord Huron
INTERVIEW: Matt Myers of Houndmouth
INTERVIEW: Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth
INTERVIEW: Kate Tucker of Sons of Sweden
INTERVIEW: Andrew Carroll of The Lonely Wild
INTERVIEW: Jordan Smith of Diarrhea Planet
INTERVIEW: Derek Smith aka Pretty Lights
INTERVIEW: Peter Hayes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
INTERVIEW: Wylie Gelber of Dawes
INTERVIEW: John Moloney of Chelsea Light Moving
REVIEW: War Jacket opens Avondale’s Sound & Page
INTERVIEW: Ernest Greene aka Washed Out
REVIEW: VooDoo Fest, New Orleans
INTERVIEW: Marc Roberge of O.A.R.
INTERVIEW: Chris Freeman of Manchester Orchestra
REVIEW: Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Shoals Theater
INTERVIEW: Jeffrey Cain of Communicating Vessels
The rest of my favorite photos from 2013, in absolutely no order and with no explanation. Like, occasionally, you’ll see a celebrity pop up. Or sometimes it may just be me and pals. Basically, I’m loading these alphabetically the way I named the files. So if you think it’s someone famous, it probably is someone famous. I meet famous people. The rest of the time, it’s probably me and Mel, because apparently after review, when we’re together, we just kick ass and take selfies.
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