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Friday, April 22, 2011

Shuffling off to ... Rochester?
or taking 90 to 97's

Okay, so to quote my favorite band, I have to come clean.

Last September my friend, Stephanie and I were asked to contribute content to the newly revamped Old 97's website by none other than the lovely blue-eyed one himself, the divine Rhett Miller.

Shut. Up.

I know, right? I don't really understand how this happened, but now we write blurbs for their web. It's been fun, frustrating, confusing, time-consuming, but mainly it's been an honor. It's also been for free.

Over the past six months, Steph and I have been feeling our way through, trying to figure out what is expected of us. Overthinking it, of course, because bottom line is we're fans writing for fans. It's that simple. There isn't much interaction with the band members except for an occasional questionnaire via email. We mainly share articles, video interviews, fun fan photos, sometimes write reviews of shows we've attended. Not very glamorous, but still kind of cool. Seriously cool. I'll ride this pony until it drops or bucks me off into the sagebrush.

When Steph and I decided to travel to Rochester for an Old 97's show, we tossed out the idea of taping Philip, the drummer and lesser known of the band members, demonstrating his signature 97's sound. He graciously agreed and so we were invited to soundcheck.

Baby's First Soundcheck notes:

1. Venues are really REALLY effing cold when they're empty.
2. Fine tuning levels is tedious and sometimes ear piercingly loud.
3. Sometimes you're treated to a run through of unreleased songs (I'm a Trainwreck and No Simple Machine) from forthcoming albums.


Waiting for the other bands to finish checking, we had the rare opportunity to speak at length with Philip and Ken until which time we could sneak back onstage to tape Philip being... Philip. After almost falling off a teetering tower of blistering doom, (spaz alert!), I ended up getting some terrific footage which I have yet to edit and post. But I will get to it next week.


Swear to God.

We also were "listed", which we learned means we get to go backstage. Eeeeee!

A few observations about Rochester:

1. They have that SNL, Mrs. Lubner long A accent thing going on. (sorry about the advert)

2. It's tough to take anyone in authority seriously when they're speaking in that friendly Mrs. Lubner-ese accent. Case in point, I made an unintentional illegal left after passing up the hotel and was subsequently pulled over by Barney Fife, I mean an officer. When he leaned in my window and said "you could have been T-boned", I almost lost it. Would not have been a good thing.

3. The above goes for big, burly bouncers, too.

God bless them. They're just so daaarn polite. Almost Canadian.

Anywho, back to the show...

So not being a musician, you imagine artists have a pre-show ritual of some sort similar to athletes who go through the same superstitious actions before every game. No so much with the members of Old 97's. Everyone was just sort of milling around, yakking, fixing a drink. Suddenly someone sticks his head in the door, announces "two minutes" and they all grab their glass and casually stroll out the door to do their thing.

And their thing that night was UNBELIEVABLE!!

They hit the stage with a fire in their souls. They were full-throttle from the opening chord of The Grand Theatre through the last sweat-drenched strum of Time Bomb two hours later.

In between they had the packed house in the palm of their collective hands, singing loudly along to old and new favorites, screaming full-force with Rhett to the refrain of Roller Skate Skinny and Big Brown Eyes' "YEAH!" There was even a group of delightful hipster doofy wildly pogo-dancing next to me by the end of the evening. Plus Rhett called an audible and we were treated to the never-before played song from Volume 2, "No Simple Machine" they rehearsed at Soundcheck.

There were some quieter moments when they played the lovely Salome and Murry sang Valentine at the Encore break. Hey, even these rock Gawds have to catch there breath once in a while.

Salome with dreamy eye contact goodness. *swoon*

A little role reversal between Murry and Rhett during the beautiful Valentine.

I finally got to hear the amusing story behind Waylon Jennings vs the word elixir from The Other Shoe.

The unending energy of this show rivaled their epic Bowery gig last December, which I wrote about over at the website here. I realize these videos don't accurately convey the power behind this show, but I consciously chose to sing and dance with all my Elaine Benis abandon for the face melting and guitar shredding.

By the time Ken's last chord of Time Bomb echoed through the hall, we were all a sweaty, hoarse, euphoric bunch of happy campers.

Rochester brought the love for Old 97's. Seriously. Rochester.

Who knew.

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