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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Friends, Fans And My Favorite Foursome

Okay, so this past week brought my four favorite Texans to town in a big, shiny tour bus. You know what that means…


Yes, obnoxious fangirlie screams and all that goes with it. Poor Geo. He suffers my obsession with quiet dignity. And booze. Or he should anyway. Say a prayer for him, and for my newer friends who have finally witnessed my full-on crazy love zone for this band. I hope I have't frightened them to the point of giving me a wide berth.

Anywho, for this go-round my Missouri bud, Leslie flew out for the Pittsburgh/Cleveland dates. Leslie has been here before, but not in the warmer climes. The weather was gorgeous. The only exception being the evening rain of the Pittsburgh show. Even that was a welcomed relief after a sweaty concert of dancing and scream-singing.

When she arrived, we dropped off her luggage and headed to town for lunch, the Warhol Museum and a walk on the picturesque North Shore. It was perfect. Even the sprinkling of raindrops conveniently coincided with Happy Hour.


lunch on the patio of Marty's Market

north shore selfie

warhol pillows shot on the sly

one gorgeous-ass day

resting in the lap of a excessively creepy Fred Rodgers
his face will haunt you in your dreams

encountering the baby goslings
or as i call them, the Shitters

these babies have no fear

photo from above image

"Hey, hey we're the Shitters…"

Jumping ahead, Cleveland was surprisingly lovely! And much bigger than I imagined. Being a Burgher, we have instilled in us a life-long hatred for all things Cleveland. As local-comedian-made-big (no pun intended, you know, because of his ample stature), Billy Gardel says, "We hate them for spite!" It's futile to try to rationalize the reciprocal loathing. It's just easier to accept it and realize the animosity will live on in perpetuity, not unlike the Arab/Israeli conflict. It just.. is.

But I digress…

We stayed across from Progressive Field, home of the Indians baseball club in a decidedly cleaned up area near Playhouse Square, trendy eateries and the scenic Lake Shore area featuring the Browns stadium (BOO, infinity! See, there's that crazy hatred again), the Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Noreen joined us and played tour guide for the afternoon.

at our hotel

waiting for grub at the house of blues

you knew this had to happen somewhere along the way

my love for big ass stuff continues

FREEdom… revoked

412 representin' in the 216

we played a little Old 97's game
finding references to their songs on our travels
these guys are all over Cleveland
(4 Leaf Clover)

"do you want to meet up at the Pickwick Bowl…"
okay, it's really PickWOOD Bowl, but close enough
shut up. our game. our rules

this fan was all-too happy to oblige

war memorial 

detail of the war memorial

public ahrt selfie avec buttocks

rock and roll hall of fame on the lake

science center, windmill and asshat stadium

But enough of the sights, let's get to the raison d'être… the concerts.

mike sauter taking on the interview duties
(love the vibrant sneakers)
many thanks to Gary D for the professional photos

My friend, Abby is the GM for our public radio station, WYEP. She used to work in Texas and has known the Old 97's for a long time. She was instrumental in getting them to do an in-studio for members only the morning of the show at Mr. Small's. That meant they would have to bust ass from New York City to make it on time. New York shows are always big events with lots of notable people in the audience and I suspect gatherings backstage that run late into the night. Both Murry and Rhett were visibly tired from the journey, but you couldn't tell it from the interview. They were their ever-charming selves, telling anecdotes, sharing backstory and singing songs as if they weren't dead on their feet. God bless their exhausted hearts.

There was one tense moment after he broke a string during the first song, Longer Than You've Been Alive in which neither Rhett nor tour manager, Mike Dalke could find a comparable string in their packs to replace it. But being the consummate professional, Rhett soldiered on and continued with the interview and performance in glorious fashion. Honestly, you couldn't tell anything was missing. It sounded fantastic in the back where we were dancing and singing. He even joked about his five-string guitar towards the end of the interview.

can you spot the missing string

an unguarded moment
so cute

You can listen to the entire interview here.

And then they were sweet enough to take the time to do this.


We left before we overstayed our welcome, which I have a bad habit of doing. On the way to the car, we ran into the guitarist, Ken in big ole shorts and cap, toting a mesh bag of clean laundry looking rather pedestrian and not at all like the rock and roller he is.  After a coffee run, a couple hilarious tour tales and a trip to the magic shop for a book on card tricks (seriously. who knew.), we drove him back to the venue.  I swear to the Baby Jesus there was a point in the journey where he thought we were taking him to a dark alley or something equally untoward.

So, let's recap the amazing people who have sat in my little red Vibe(ator):

Francis Dunnery
YA author extraordinaire, John Green
Murry Hammond
Ken Bethea

Now if Rhett, Philip Peebles, Wesley Stace or OHMIEFFINGGOD PAUL RUDD ever took a spin in Rita, I would never EVER be able to sell it. I should start a Tumblr: Famous Asses Who've Been Inside Rita. No doubt the Pornbots would be all over that bad boy.

Meanwhile, back at the concert…

guitar fight during
can't get a line

it's become an unspoken competition among fans to
capture rhett's rock jumps during Time Bomb
Leslie succeeded nicely

until tomorrow...

Mr. Small's was packed with fans and soon-to-be fans revved to hear the new album live. There definitely was a palatable hum of excitement. Okay, maybe that was just our camp of devotees, but I doubt it. They started that 97's engine rolling with If My Heart Was a Car, a song usually reserved for the set closer, delivered at full-throtle.

(this is the opener from the Cleveland show, but same intensity…different night)

Holy HELL!! What a way to open a show!

And it just went feverishly on from there, particularly in Cleveland, which I'm a little bitter about. (Please refer to the aforementioned utter hatred. At least I was there to witness the awesome.) The setlist for both evenings was sprinkled with some quieter moments like Busted Afternoon, Bird in a Cage and of course Question, providing a needed breather. I mean, c'mon. Even a super human needs to catch his breath for a minute or three.

These back-to-back shows were two of the best I've seen. This new album and it's honest take on life, longing and lingering regret wrapped in a balls-to-the-wall sound has reinvigorated them and given them a license to cut the fuck loose! I have never seen a mediocre show from them EVER, but on this tour they are the very definition of hard-charging. They're performing at an astronomically higher level. They're like freaking 20 somethings up there only with better clothes, better gear and a better sense of self.

And ohmygodjesus are these new songs fun to sing!! They're fuckin' cathartic! They have tapped into my love of the f-bomb in a big way. The energy is incredible.

In Pittsburgh, we were treated to The Disconnect (so excited this made the list. love this one on so many levels, but it makes me want to hug his head), Guadalajara (best opening line in a song, a great story and ridiculously catchy), Most Messed Up (talk about f-bomb therapy) and punky Clash cover, Career Opportunities.

(via my friend, Noreen)

The set closer for this entire tour is 4 Leaf Clover with the Exene Cervenka part sung by opening act, Lydia Loveless, a wee ginger with a fair amount of punch in her voice, but her minimalistic movements were no match for their frenetic energy.

PS: her skirt made me more than a little nervous.

As great as the Pittsburgh show was, Cleveland was in a category all its own. Again, a little bitter. Every song had so much more depth, especially Longer Than You've Been Alive. Rhett gave the most impassioned performance yet. It built to an roof-busting crescendo. I was truly blown away. I spoke to Murry afterwards and he said they were tired, looser and just went for it that night. It showed. Their performance was inspired.

Of the new songs, Nashville (which continues to win me over with its cow punk rhythm) was outstanding! This is the Ballad had a discernible punch-in-the-gut feel. Give it Time (another highlight) was charging both nights. One of the many tunes on constant repeat in both Geo's and my car, Wheels Off was uber fun to sing, even if it had to be a bit restrained in order to tape it for Geo. But the biggest surprise was Intervention right out of the encore gate. If you listen closely, you can hear Leslie and me scream, "Fuck y'all! HELL NOOOOO!"

"Somebody kick him in sack just to stop his bitchin'!" remains the crowned king for funniest lyric penned.

They're still working out the outro, but I have every confidence it will kick ass in July when Tommy Stinson joins them for the beach shows. What has two thumbs and is going to Dewey Beach to see her heroes… This girl!!

Usually I dread the first chords of Time Bomb because I'm never ready for the 97's train to pull into the station (are you sick of train metaphors yet), but this time I was completely sated. The perfect topper to this two-day musical sundae was getting a chance to visit with each of these fabulous Texas men afterwards, including the infrequently sighted Sasquatch of the 97's, Philip, to tell them how much their talents save my soul. I kid with people and tell them Old 97's concerts are my church, but therein lies a truth. The world becomes much lighter after their particular brand of sermon is over.

graffiti covered backstage wall in Cleveland

rhett really needs to stop phoning it in
i swear one day he's going to burst that vein in his neck

i've got issues...


Streets of Where I'm From
Dance With Me
Busted Afternoon
Ex of All You See
Bird in a Cage
The Disconnect 
Iron Road
Every Night Is Friday Night
Up the Devil's Pay
Give it Time
Barrier Reef
Roller Skate Skinny
Can't Get a Line
Big Brown Eyes
Let's Get Drunk and Get it On
4 Leaf Clover (with Lydia Loveless)
Most Messed Up
Career Opportunities
Time Bomb


Dance With Me
Ex of All You See
This is the Ballad
Iron Road
Every Night is Friday Night
W. Texas Teardrops
Wheels Off
Barrier Reef
Give it Time
New Kid (for Norah)
Can't Get a Line
Big Brown Eyes
Let's Get Drunk
4 Leaf (w/Lydia)
Murder or a Heart Attack
Time Bomb

Side note: a very nice blonde woman was standing next to me at Mr. Small's. Unfortunately for her, I kept accidentally bumping her in my gleeful dance stupor. Her name was Doreen. Yes. THAT Doreen from the song of the same name. No shit!

Additional Side Note: An 8 y-o named Norah was at the Cleveland show. She had sung New Kid for her Rock School. Rhett dedicated the song to her. It was really sweet. She was singing along, he was singing to her. But, seriously, why. WHY would you bring your child knowing the evening will be expletive heavy. This is NOT your child's tour, people!!

Additional Side Note 2: We could not look at Lydia Loveless' bass player with out thinking Will Farrell. Go ahead. Try not to think of Will Farrell.


Jon Hyman said...

Yes, decidedly not your child's tour, but also, Murray was right, Norah's heard it all before.

We talk a lot about language at home, and she definitely knows the difference between adult language and kid language, and that the former is reserved for adults with there is consequences if she repeats it (which she hasn't).

Case-in-point, she asked me to download the songs from MMU onto her iPod, except for the ones with bad words. She's an 8-year-old wise beyond her years, and I wasn't going to let a few f-bombs keep her from seeing her favorite band. Also, as a parent, I'd rather she learn words she's going to learn anyway from me, where I can teach her about them and the right and wrong times to use certain language (when she gets older). Words are just words - it's the meaning behind them that hurts, and I think it's my job as a parent to teach her that - she's going to learn the words anyway.

We got to meet Rhett backstage (downstairs, actually) before the show, and, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I told him I promised Norah he wouldn't swear during the show. He paused, and told me we'd be good for the 1st three songs, and after that all bets were off.

As for Rhett sweetly dedicating The New Kid to Norah, I could see the setlist in front of Ken, and it certainly looked to me that it wasn't a planned song, that Rhett added it on the fly after meeting us before the show - extra coolness points.

Great post, BTW. I'm a bit jealous of your multiple shows. And, go Browns!

Murray said...

Hi Jon!

I'm not a parent, so I don't know if I would take my child to see them on this tour in particular being so MMU heavy. But I like your line of thinking and philosophy regarding adult language and youngsters. I think Norah's formative years are in very good hands.

She was so fun to watch singing along with Rhett. He's so wonderful with children, always making time for them. As you stated in your blog post, that small effort is how you grow loyalty.

You'll have to come to the next Pittsburgh gig!! Our city isn't as large as yours, but it's pretty damn great. Somehow I think Norah would enjoy a rock and roll roadtrip. :)

Thanks for reading my drivel and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it, even if you are a Browns fan. Ha Ha! Hope to see you at another show.

Go Steelers!

Jon Hyman said...

As a Cleveland resident (and Philly native), I love Pittsburgh. Great town, people, food, etc. Norah and I had a long talk before the show about the language she was going to hear, and I left it to her to decided if she wanted to go. She had heard "Nashville," and, I'm not gonna lie, she was bit concerned. But, we talked through it, and, at the end of the day, she decided that seeing her favorite band outweighed the salty talk on the stage. So, away we went, and she doesn't regret her choice at all. Next tour, we will definitely do the Cleveland/Pittsburgh double. As for Norah, she's started her rehearsals for her next School of Rock show season -- she's chosen Murder (Or a Heart Attack), so stay tuned in September. They're doing Metallica too, so it should make for an interesting mix.