one for sorrow, two for joy

dylan vs petty: birds & arrows

August And Everything After is 17 years old this year.

I think, for a lot of people close to my age, that album was formative. I was 13 when it came out. I loved it relentlessly and fiercely and as though it was something entirely my own, despite the fact that the video for “Mr. Jones” played on MTV a million times a day. I spent my teenage years sad but not unhappy, alone for the most part but never lonely, and Adam Duritz’s lyrics, on that record and then on Recovering the Satellites, perfectly suited my moods and my temperament. Not to mention the perfect beauty of “Raining In Baltimore” for a teenaged girl living in Baltimore and constantly feeling like everyone was always walking away from her: it’s raining in Baltimore, baby, but everything else is the same. It’s still one of my all-time top ten favorite songs, and it still makes me desperately sad right in that spot under my rib cage.

I don’t often write show previews; I’m usually too busy trying to cram a nap in between work and going out to shoot to bother with it. Either you know you want to go to a show, or you know you don’t want to go to a show, and nothing I’m going to say will change your mind. The only hesitation I ever feel is exhaustion: am I awake enough to put on pants? Okay, then, I’ll go. And more often than not, there’s not a ton that can coax me out to Cary and Koka Booth Amphitheatre in general, especially not on a weeknight. But Counting Crows; I have loved Adam Duritz and his merry band of Californians for a long, long time — only R.E.M. and the Stones really outpace my love for Counting Crows in longevity — and the fact is, I’ve only seen them once. Once! This is utterly unlike me, because when I love a band, I want to see them as much as possible. Let’s not discuss the collective number of times I’ve seen American Aquarium and Holy Ghost Tent Revival, all right? It’s embarrassing. Moving on.

So: Counting Crows are playing at Koka Booth on Thursday night, with San Diego indie rockers Augustana and unknown-to-me-before-this rapper NOTAR. I’m fascinated by tours like this — like last summer’s, well, Counting Crows and Augustana and Michael Franti & Spearhead tour, but also like last summer’s Big Surprise tour (the Felice Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Justin Townes Earle — and did Gillian and David tour with them, too?), bands who really dig each other touring together and not just playing separate sets, but coming together all at once, throughout the show, to play each other’s songs and cover slightly-out-there deep cuts from mutual other bands they love. How do the “headliners” pick their “support” acts? Is it a financial advantage for smaller bands to get tapped for these tours? How do they decide what covers to do? (Can I help with that? I’m great at picking covers for bands!) I’m totally interested in the mechanics of these sorts of tours. (Answers genuinely appreciated, if you have them.)

[Counting Crows, Augustana & Michael Franti — “Sweet Virginia” (Rolling Stones cover)]
[Counting Crows — “Miami”]

Live, Summer 2009 tour.

Indie rockers Augustana flitted across my radar in 2006, when I was searching for songs with Boston in the title to make shep. a CD before she moved up there. (Obviously she came back.) I picked up All The Stars and Boulevards then, and Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt when it came out, and then they were drowned in the rest of my epic iTunes collection; I came back to them last year right after I got laid off — the afternoon of, in fact. After I’d finished wailing hysterically at a variety of people and people’s voicemails on my cell phone, I listened to “Either Way, I’ll Break Your Heart Someday”. (Which is a great song title, in my opinion.) There’s something about Dan Layus’ slightly heartbroken voice that was just what I needed last spring, and if I hadn’t just gone to look it up, I’d never have guessed that they were from California — the band has that Northeast feel to me, sort of rainy and full of trees and cheerfully angry or angrily cheerful, not to mention their song entitled simply “Boston”. (Full of trees. You guys, I need an editor. I have no idea what “full of trees” means except that it sounds right to me.)

Counting Crows’ last release, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, left me wanting a little more — it wasn’t what I had expected from their long-awaited follow-up to 2002’s Hard Candy. (The AAEA re-release and Films About Ghosts don’t count as new albums.) I haven’t seen them tour in years — literally years, since the only time I’ve ever seen them live was also the first and last, in 2002, at the basketball arena at the University of Illinois-Chicago on the second leg of tour support for the afore-mentioned Hard Candy. Counting Crows were great that night — I sat in the balcony, a cheap seat, absolutely transfixed by the show. (O.A.R. opened. I have feelings about O.A.R. but most of them are either rude or embarrassing.) If I remember right, it was one of if not the first show I saw in Chicago, and while later I gravitated to the smaller venues and the roster of Bloodshot Records, that first fall, I listened to Hard Candy over and over again riding the bus to my job, missing college and the people who were still in Minnesota, wondering if I was ever going to feel at home in Chicago.

I did, eventually. And I can’t listen to Hard Candy without thinking of that fall, can’t listen to This Desert Life without thinking about my freshman year in college, Recovering the Satellites about my senior year in high school, August about my first heartbreak. Counting Crows have filled so many huge turning points in my own history; I can’t think of the things I’ve lived without hearing Adam Duritz’s voice in my head.

I’ve shot in a lot of venues, but never Koka Booth; I’ve shot a lot of bands, but never Counting Crows; I’ve shot a fair number of shows on list spots and commission by publicist and band, but never from a photo pit at a 10,000 capacity place. So once again: Counting Crows are there at a turning point in my life. It seems fitting, after all.

Tickets are still available for the show, although Koka Booth is a TicketMaster only venue. (I’m spoiled. I can’t ever leave the Triangle because if I had to live somewhere where the venues didn’t primarily use eTix, I would weep and weep. You don’t want to know what the fees on our tickets to see the National were. Oof.) It should be a great show. I’m looking forward to it, on a couple of levels, some of which I can’t even figure out how to verbalize.

Counting Crows, man. August And Everything After is 17, and I turned 30 this year. They’ve been one of my favorite bands for more than half my life. Go see them. I hear Adam still kills it live, after all these years, and I’m excited to find out.

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