Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lucero at Turner Hall

Two and one-half weeks ago E Eugene and I made a rare Sunday trip to Cream City to see Lucero for the first time. I've always wanted to see this band in concert, ever since I bought That Much Further West right after college. Unfortunately for me, the band has never had a Madison show (to my knowledge) in this time. When I saw that Lucero would be playing the Turner Hall Ballroom, across from the Bradley Center, I had no doubts. I've been to the restaurant at Turner Hall quite a few times, usually before catching a big-name concert at the Bradley Center with my parents. I recall once we went up to the Ballroom, which was serving as an overflow bar prior to some show (maybe Clapton?). I was excited to see the place again. It's a cavernous old room, burnt out and echoing with history. Here's a picture:I'm out of time at the moment, so here is another (likely better) review by Ryan over at Muzzle of Bees. In addition, here's the link to the gallery of photos that the folks at the Pabst Theater (the operators of the Turner Hall Ballroom) put together for the show. I can only say good things about what these people have done with the Pabst, and I'm hoping they can do the same for the Turner.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Much to say, but no time to say it...

To no one's surprise but mine I've been very busy. November is absolutely flying past. I've been on at least one site trip a week for the six weeks. I've also been in six separate states in the last four weeks. I've got a lot of stories to tell, but for now I'll let this print-out of my calendar do the talking:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Showdown

Two weeks ago there was a schism in the family. The reason: Badgers vs. Hoosiers. The UW football team was set to take on the IU team at Camp Randall. Being the good son that I am, I secured four tickets to game. The last time the Hoosiers were in town I had also gotten tickets for my parents and myself. This time around my sister wanted to come, so it was a full family affair. In addition to this, my friends Alex and Lauren were coming up from Chicago for the game. It made for a busy weekend.

My parents had a wedding reception immediately after the football game, so they drove up separately from my sister. We all went out to breakfast at the Hubbard Avenue Diner in Middleton. Following this we convoyed down to Monroe Street. Tempers flared as I was attempting to guide my sister and my mother over to a parking place where I knew my parents could leave right after the game. While I was trying to figure out how to get over to Monroe Street, my father kept calling me to ask about just parking in someone's lawn - no guarantees on getting out of those spots early. Despite this, we eventually arrived and made our way to the game. Alex and Lauren had gotten student tickets, so they sat on the other side of the stadium from us. We missed the first part of the first quarter. UW was already up on IU 7-0. From this point the Badgers kept on dominating. During the Michigan State game I had really hoped to get a picture of the Badgers scoring a touchdown when driving toward my end of the field. However the Spartans conspired otherwise and made a goal-line stand. This time I managed to get not one, but two pictures:This was the last play of the third quarter - perfect timing.My parents left shortly after "Jump Around." My mother wasn't in the best of spirits; it had been a less-than exciting game, especially for a Hoosier. The Badgers scored one last time after my parents left, making the final score 33-3. My sister and I stayed for the Fifth Quarter, when the UW Marching Band comes out and does a 20 minute post-game show, win or lose. The crowd had thinned out a good deal by this time, but it was still fun to watch. The band pulled off two "Fake Varsities" - where they play the opening of the alma mater, then break into the Bud Song. From my years as a student I'm fairly adept at sniffing out the first Fake Varsity, but they got me on the second. I should have known: they hadn't played "Swingtown" yet and the student section was calling for it. After the Fifth Quarter the band marched off the field and my sister and I met up with Alex and Lauren for a few post-game drinks and then dinner. Here's a picture of my sister in the stands as the band marches off.

The Drive-by Truckers at the Barrymore

Three weeks ago I went out with E Eugene and Natan to see one of my favorites, the Drive-by Truckers. This marked the third time I've been lucky enough to catch them, and the second in Madison. This was also a bit of a different show, as DBT was playing a stripped-down acoustic set, named the Dirt Underneath Tour. Check out the tour notes for the story behind the tour. This also was the first time I would see them at the Barrymore Theater, a venue larger than the last place in Madison they played, the High Noon Saloon.Before the show we headed to Tex Tubb's Taco Palace on Atwood, the now-customary place for a pre-show fish taco or three. We were running just a bit late, and we didn't get over to the Barrymore until mid-way through the set of the opening act, Ryan Bingham. I enjoyed what I heard of Bingham and his backing band. He played a rough and dirty style of alt country. We all agreed that musically the band was top-notch. We met up with one of E Eugene's landscapers, Kevin. He was there with his father, as both are big DBT fans. I'm always a proponent of enjoying kick-ass music with one's parents. I had also purchased a ticket for one of Kevin's friends, who cancelled at the last minute. That's why you shouldn't ever buy tickets from someone you don't know - dude still owes me for that unused ticket!

DBT came to the stage after a good thirty minute break between sets. Of course, I had just left to grab another beer, and coffee for Natan. As I tried to squeeze through the crowd back to the group, I thought for sure the scalding hot coffee would end up on the front of my shirt, but fortunately I managed to hold on. DBT recently parted ways with guitarist Jason Isbell, who has come out with his own excellent solo album, Sirens of the Ditch. E Eugene, Kevin and I saw him play the Memorial Union Terrace back in July, and it was one of the highlights of the year. One of the things that makes DBT so great is the collaboration between the guitarists on the songwriting. Some of my absolute favorite songs were Isbell created and sung. At the show there weren't any of these songs on the setlist. No matter, though. With seven albums under their belt, and one on the way in January, DBT has plenty of material to draw from. In fact, a good amount of the songs were from their earlier albums, Ganstabilly, Pizza Deliverance, and Alabama Ass Whuppin', none of which I have. I recognized several of these earlier songs from the other shows I've seen, but for the others it was a bit of a mystery. The band all played sitting, a fact that didn't seem to go over well with Patterson Hood. Between songs, as he got up to pass the communal bottle of whiskey the band shares on stage, he indicated that this would be the last time he would sit down during a show. In response to some asshole in the crowd shouting for the Rock Show (DBT's normal three-guitar ass-kick-a-thon), Hood replied, "Motherfucker, we'll bring your motherfuckin' Rock Show next spring." Mike Cooley also asked the crowd, "Did Alabama win today? Just kidding, I don't give a shit!" Everyone was in good spirits, and the crowd just kept cheering for more. The Drive-by Truckers played for a good two hours. Now, E Eugene maintains that his only qualm with DBT is that they play too long. I can understand his point - after a while I sometimes find myself a bit stupefied by the spectacle of it all, especially at loud shows late at night. However, I would have gladly liked to see another hour this night. As with any great show, I was left wanting more.

Interestingly enough, I did get just a bit more music this night. Since the show wrapped up around 12:30, E Eugene, Kevin, his father and I (Natan left during the encore to meet up with a friend celebrating his birthday) went down the street to Mickey's Tavern, a Willy Street classic. We walked into the place to see a punk band playing right near the door. Mickey's is a fairly small place, and it was almost like the band was playing in the midst of the crowd. Kevin's father was not a fan of the genre, and when we decamped for the Crystal Corner about 30 minutes later he attempted to fight one of the bandmembers. His theory was, "That's what they really want, for you to pop 'em one. That's why they're in the band..." I don't know about that, but the next week I was screwing around at work and I discovered that the punk band playing that night was the Bottles, a band that had once played a basement show at my shit-hole house back in 1999-2000. Even better, the Show Diary for the night mentions the incident. Too much...

I came away from the DBT Dirt Underneath show really enjoying the change in format. I love seeing the Rock Show, probably more than that asshole calling for it. But one of the greatest things about seeing a live show are the differences between the recorded studio and live versions of a song. If you really like a group enough to see them multiple times, it's a pretty good bet that you are going to like the material enough to really appreciate the different takes a band comes up with. I know I did.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Photos from Minnesota

It was a cold and windy day in Minnesota yesterday. This isn't the start of a scary Halloween story though. It's just the way it was. However, it was very pleasant Tuesday afternoon as I drove up from Madison. I stopped at a site I've been working on north of Duluth to take pictures for photosimulations. Being fall, the sun sets early. I tried to get up to the site by two in the afternoon but I ended up being an hour late, and found myself looking into the sun for all of my westerly photographs.

Here's a photograph looking southwest over Eagle Lake. I tried adjusting the settings on the camera to take some of the glare out of the picture.The next morning was not so pleasant. It was overcast, cold and windy. I made my way over to Babbitt, a mining town on the eastern end of the Mesabi Range. The tower site I'm working on is located on a ridge above the Northshore Iron Mine. Here's a picture I took from the backseat of an extended-cab pickup as we drove across the mine itself.Following my mine experience, I drove west along US 169 to another site that needed photosimulation pictures. The site is near Buhl. The landscape in the area is dotted with old pit mines, now filled with water. The wind was especially nasty, though from time to time the sun would break between the clouds. Here is a picture I took of the Civic parked in from of an old pit mine, now called Lake Buhl.After all my pictures had been completed, I made my way back toward Wisconsin. By the time I reached Duluth the clouds had started to clear. As I drove over the Blatnik Bridge between Duluth and Superior, I snapped a quick picture from the sunroof of the Civic. Here is St. Louis Bay, as viewed from (roughly) the state line at 60 mph.