Cost effective and bitchin’, as one of my coworkers would say. Happy 10th birthday, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion! You don’t look a day over seven. You were a highlight of 2009, and you brought it again in 2010. Can’t wait for 2011.
“Was that your brother?” One of the best parts of the festival is the random conversations with bands, and being told that no, that wasn’t someone’s brother, that was one of the big-shots running the festival, was an unquestionable top-notch conversation. I have no defense for my occasional foot-in-mouth disease.
Do it better. Last year I said that shep. and I were going to do Bristol better this year — and we did. I caught all but a few sets that I wanted to see; we had consistent hot water — albeit a leaky ceiling, but we got money refunded for that trouble — and reliable internet at our cheap motel; I didn’t get any blisters; I remembered to eat and drink water and I didn’t spend all my money on beer while watching football on Saturday. I still wish that Bristol wouldn’t schedule everybody great against each other — the Felice Brothers overlapped with the Truckers, thanks to a stage running late, which is just a tragedy — but really, that can’t be helped, and it was a fantastic weekend nonetheless.
Grow up, get a job, get famous. There’s the abstract of watching your friends get famous via reviews on NPR, and then there’s the concrete of watching your friends get famous when they play to hundreds of screaming, writhing fans in the dance tent. Holy Ghost Tent Revival has outgrown that space, by a large measure, and it was phenomenal and bizarre to watch their set from behind the stage because we couldn’t get closer than that. I have only two or three photos of them; that’s the fewest I’ve walked out of an HGTR show with pretty much ever. I’m proud, and baffled, by their fame in these hardcore bluegrass circles; but mostly proud. Really, really proud.
“My boobs are damp now.” I know better than to hug musicians who regularly sweat so much on stage that they leave puddles, but I can’t help it with Holy Ghost. Getting wrapped up and swung around by Patrick was one of the best parts of the weekend — I miss those guys like crazy when they’re gone, and they’ve been gone all summer — even though my shirt was damp for the rest of the evening.
Love the one you’re with. It would break my heart a little — oh, to never see the Truckers live again! — but I realized, after the HGTR set, that if someone held a gun to my head or offered me a million dollars or something, and told me I could listen to any bands I wanted to, but I could only see bands from the state of North Carolina live for the rest of my life, I would readily agree. We are lucky a hundred times over to have the bands, both in the Triangle and the state at large, that we have. Not just the two NC bands we saw over the weekend — the New Familiars and HGTR — but also all our beloved locals who aren’t roots bands, and you can top that list off with Superchunk, the Mountain Goats, and the Avett Brothers. That’s right, New York! The Avetts are still ours. So there. If I made that agreement, though, all our locals would have to stay home. None of this jaunting off to Texas and Vermont and places like that. Of course I had this revelation in Tenne-virginia, so what do I know?
You’re the best thing that I’ve ever found. I saw some tremendous sets this weekend — the Deep Dark Woods really do sound like no one so much as they sound like the Band, and it’s because of Geoff Hilhorst’s dynamic, heartrending organ playing. Dr. Dog is as great live as everybody says they are. Sarah Jarosz has a gorgeous voice. All the Hoots & Hellmouth set did was make me want to follow Sean Hoots around until he coughs up their new full length, because the new songs are amazing and they sound so, so, so good live. Two Man Gentlemen Band make the best two man music out there, and I never fail to leave their sets with my stomach aching from laughing. And, oh, oh, the New Familiars were tremendous; heart-stopping and funny and talented, and the last song I heard at Bristol this year was them covering “Handle With Care” acoustic, down on the floor in the dance tent with the crowd, shouted choruses and Justin laughing through forgetting the words and gorgeous.
The Greatest Show On Earth. Hoooooooly cow, you guys, the Felice Brothers blew me away on Saturday night. I think the Hoots & Hellmouth set was the top line highlight for me, but the Felices were a close second, and I only saw a handful of songs in their set. Talk about having stage energy; I mean, I think Ian Felice should just eat fourteen turkeys, but the way he flails and screams on stage probably contributes to the fact that he’s skinnier than anybody should be. I have never seen women go wild for an accordion like the women in the crowd did when James strapped his squeezebox on. They’re at Kings in Raleigh in November, and it is a work night, and despite that I will be square in the middle of the front row for that set, you better believe it. They sound tight as hell and wild like the mountains of pretty much anywhere, and you couldn’t do better if you want a night of dancing and hollering than to see them. I hope BRRR books them again next year; I’d love to see the Duke & the King in some of the smaller venues, too. Hint, hint.
Do it better, Edition Things-I-Am-Not-Responsible-For. Bristol 2011 booking wishlist: anybody I’ve already mentioned seeing in 2010, three year rule be damned, plus: Boulder Acoustic Society (who I missed this weekend), Christabel & the Jons, Greenland is Melting, Have Gun Will Travel, the Fox Hunt, Olin & the Moon, the Sadies, the Waco Brothers, Ryan Bingham, the Duke & the King. Yes, please, all of those!
Mama Ran Off With A Trucker. The Truckers sounded great — Patterson opened with a killer version of “Bulldozers & Dirt”, which always thrills me; I’m so glad they’re pulling it out again regularly — but by 11:20 on Saturday night, the over-capacity crowd for their set was drunk past fun and rowdy (normal Truckers crowds) and into violent and a little scary. Underestimation of how much angry Tennessee fans can drink, I suppose, and how many people would try to cram in front of the State Street stage to see DBT. I bailed after a few songs, a little disappointed, but mostly just grateful to be out of the brawling, shouting crowd. And I missed Ash and the regular Raleigh/Richmond crew, but that would have been a given no matter what.
Do it better, again. My gear is no longer meeting all my needs. I need a better zoom lens, and I need a 50mm that will auto-focus. Gear doesn’t make good photographs, but gear helps good photographers make better images; there are simply some conditions that my manual lenses, bless their cheap-ass hardworking hearts, can’t cope with. By next year, I will have gear that will let me shoot in less than optimal conditions while still producing the quality of images that I want to produce. I’m proud of what I got — I love the hell out of this shot, for one, and what a change that is! It used to be I hated musicians catching me shooting and mugging, but there’s something charming and really honest about it that’s grown on me, and it helps that H&H’s drummer is A+ adorable — but I could do better. I can do better. So I’m going to do better. Isn’t that what counts?