Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love by the bird and the bee

A few months ago I had a post about Morrissey’s cover of “Wedding Bell Blues”, which I claimed was a terrible cover song. Today I’m going to write about a cover song that I actually think is really good. the bird and the bee are an indie rock band with a number of albums to their name, but oddly enough I have never heard any of their original songs (at least as far as I can recall). I was only previously familiar with them from a cover album they did of Hall & Oates songs. Now they’re back at it with an album of Van Halen covers, and I’m going to be talking about their cover of “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love”.

In my opinion a good cover song adds something to the original and just doesn’t completely mimic it. I think the bird and the bee have done a couple of things with their cover “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” that make it a worthy cover song. The easiest box to check is the switch-up of the gender of who is singing the song. Though that in and of itself doesn’t make it a good cover song as is evidenced by the Morrissey song I was just talking about. Switching up the genre is also a good move. They take Van Halen’s rock song and turn it into an electro-pop song. Bonus points for making an 80’s synth sound, which is a nice nod to Van Halen’s dominance in the 80’s (though this song was actually from 1978). Finally, the adjusted the tempo if I’m not mistaken. At least to my ear (and the running time of the song would back me up on this) they’ve slowed the tempo down just a little bit. Not enough to make it crazy different, but just enough to give it a slightly different edge. It is an excellent cover song, and one I’m very much enjoying at the moment. Perhaps it’s time for me to actually go check out some of the bird and the bee’s original music.

Jason Isbell with Father John Misty and Jade Bird at Merriweather Post Pavilion

In keeping with what seems to be my new tradition, I’m belatedly writing about a concert I went to last weekend. This time I do have a good excuse that’s not just laziness. I was busy at the ALA conference the three days following this concert and then last night we went to see Toy Story 4, so I didn’t have a chance to write anything.

Last Friday night I went to my final concert of the season at Merriweather unless they wind up sneaking something into their schedule last minute that I’m interested in. Everything I was interested in seeing this summer was stacked at the beginning of their schedule this year. This time it was Jason Isbell co-headlining with Father John Misty and Jade Bird opening.

I was very excited to see Jade Bird. I’ve been wanting to see her in concert for a couple of years now. She only just put out her first full length album this year, but I fell in love with her a couple of years ago when she put out her first EP and the song “Cathedral”. I enjoyed her set so much that it only just now occurs to me as I’m writing this that she didn’t even play “Cathedral” and it’s still probably my favorite song of hers. The summer that EP came out she wasn’t on the bill at the Newport Folk Festival, but she was hanging out there with one of the bands that was and came out and sang with them. I was hoping that was a harbinger that she would be on the bill for the next year, but alas she wasn’t and isn’t this year either. I also kicked myself because she opened for Hozier in Baltimore back in March. I was planning on going to that show, but forgot to put the ticket on-sale time on my calendar and by the time I realized it a few hours later everything was gone and resale tickets never came down to a reasonable price. Luckily this concert finally presented me with a chance to see her. She announced at the concert she’ll be back in DC at the 9:30 Club in October. At that point it wasn’t even officially announced because I immediately went to my phone after her set to see if I was going to be around since I’m traveling a bunch in October. It wasn’t even on her site or the 9:30 Club’s site yet. They finally announced it officially yesterday, and it turns out it’s really in September, but on a Saturday so I have no excuse not to trek down to DC for it.

She was worth the wait. It was just her up on the stage with an acoustic guitar and I have no idea how she made such powerful sounds with just those two things. Woman has some pipes that’s for sure. Jason Isbell even commented that with a voice like hers if she was a man she’d be the one up there headlining. No doubt. Stupid misogynistic music business. Stupid misogynistic world. Anyway, she only had a 30 minute set and she jam packed it full of songs. I was surprised at how many songs she seemed to get in within such a short amount of time especially since she did chat a little between each song. If she can get up and command a venue the size of Merriweather with just her guitar I can’t wait to see what she does with a venue like the 9:30 Club.

Father John Misty was the first headliner. I wasn’t completely sure what the order was going to be because the way I was reading the Merriweather line-up it seemed like he would be playing first, but every time Jason Isbell tweeted set times for the previous shows on their tour Father John Misty was the closing act. I was torn because I knew the closer would get an extra 15 minutes or so and get to do the encore, but on the other hand if Father John Misty was the closer then I could leave early because I just don’t care about him that much and I had to get up early the next morning to travel to DC for ALA. Turns out I did have to sit through the entirety of Father John Misty’s set. His music is okay. I like some of it and am agnostic about the rest. I don’t actively hate it. I will listen to it if it comes on to something I’m listening to, but it’s not something I have ever actively sought out to listen to. Plus I am super annoyed by his whole persona. It just seems so affected to me. Also, he’s the only set I’ve actively left at Newport because of him and not because I was rushing to see someone else with a conflicting set. This was back in 2015 I think before music did start to really get ultra political and message based again, and he was standing up there on stage denigrating pretty much everyone else at the festival basically saying they were a disgrace to the history of folk music because they weren’t fighting for anything anymore. Coming from someone who is pretty much playing a character, I felt that was pretty rich. I guess it didn’t offend too many people because he’s been back since then, but I walked out and it’s always stuck in my craw a little bit. His set was fine, but it didn’t do much for me and had he been the closing act I definitely would have left early on him again.

Unfortunately the couple sitting next to us showed up at the beginning of John Misty’s set. They were obviously already high on something and had many beers with them. I don’t know what they were on, but I’m guessing something that heightened their senses because the woman could not stop touching the guy. When she wasn’t climbing on him or making him out with him she wouldn’t stop touch his face. It was super obnoxious. This is the one reason I worry about getting actual seats at concerts because there’s a good chance you’re stuck next to whoever winds up next to you. In this case luckily there were still a lot of open seats at the back of pavilion so halfway through Father John Misty’s set I suggested we downgrade ourselves to get away from these people. By the end of the night they were sitting in kind of a hole because everyone around them had moved somewhere else. Moving to a sparsely inhabited section also meant that I could sing my little heart out along with Jason Isbell. I never do that at concerts unless it’s a song where everyone in the crowd is singing along because I certainly get annoyed at shows where no one else is singing but the person next to me and then it’s just like they’re competing with the actual person I’m there to see and it’s super annoying. I don’t want to be that person. With no one next to me (except my husband who doesn’t count) or in front of me I could have my own private sing-a-long.

Jason Isbell was great as always. He was in one of his looser, chatty moods which I always like the best. Sometimes he gets up and plays without too much stage banter. I always like the times when he feels like talking a bit between songs because he’s a funny guy. His wife Amanda Shires was not there playing fiddle because she was off playing with John Prine. I always prefer when she’s playing with the 400 Unit, but I know she’s got her own thing going on too. I especially miss her on songs like “Cover Me Up” and “If We Were Vampires”, which are so much about them that it almost seems wrong to play them if she’s not there. He always plays a couple of songs from his Drive-by Trucker years, but this time they weren’t the ones I’ve heard him play the most. I’ve heard him play “Outfit” before, but this was a first for “Goddamn Lonely Love”. He also played “Maybe It’s Time”, the song he wrote for Bradley Cooper to sing in A Star is Born. That was the first time I’d heard him play that song live as well. He also debuted a new song called “Overseas”. I had seen some headline the week prior about him debuting a new song, but when I clicked through on the headline it was that he sang a new song at a concert with an embedded YouTube video from someone recording at the concert, which had already been pulled down. So I didn’t get to listen at that point. I was excited to finally hear it. I love it, and it’s making me excited for a new album. I just love his songwriting so much. The new song starts off with the line “This used to be a ghost town, but even the ghosts got out.” That is such a stellar lyric. I don’t know anyone else who writes lyrics like he does. He also ended the show with another song I’d never heard him play before. He played a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” as the first song of his encore. So all in all it was a night of a lot of firsts for me, which is pretty amazing given how many times I’ve seen him in concert. Sadly this is probably the only time I’ll be seeing him this year, but hopefully he’ll be recording this album soon and I’ll have new music to listen to and more reasons to see him in concert again in the future.

Brandi Carlile with Lucius at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Friday night I went to my second of three concerts at Merriweather Post Pavilion. This time it was Brandi Carlile with Lucius opening. It is no secret around these parts how much I adore Brandi Carlile. I also really like Lucius and would have gone to see them on their own, so it was a bonus that I got to see both of them together. I do wish that Lucius had gotten to play longer though. They only played for about 40 minutes. With only them and Brandi on the bill and the concert starting at 7, I’m not sure why they weren’t given a full hour. I’m sure the people in front of us were really wishing they had a longer set. They were very obviously there for Lucius. Holly and Jess, the lead singers, always dress in matching outfits that are a little bit ostentatious and out there. The three guys in the band always dress in matching outfits as well, but it’s generally this suits or in this case pretty casual black pants and shirts. Anyway, the people in front of us were dressed in matching white jumpsuits with hot pink wigs. They left after Lucius’s set too, so they obviously were really only there to see them. That was an awful lot of money to spend for 40 minutes since we were all the way down in the pit, but I guess to each their own.

I also was kind of annoyed with people during Lucius’s set because everyone around us aside from the people in front of us were obviously there to see Brandi and didn’t seem to care much about Lucius. There were a lot of people talking and just generally ignoring them. Since Lucius sang a lot of their quieter songs it was kind of hard to pay attention to them over the din of the crowd. Also I wanted to throw away the phone of the girl who was sitting next to them that sort of moved into their space after they left. She spent the whole concert taking photos and videos. I don’t begrudge anyone a few photos or even videoing one song, but when you spend the whole show doing that it’s super annoying to everyone around you. I don’t want to have to watch the whole show through your phone or as in this case have your arm right in my line of vision as you hold your phone up over your head. I was hoping she was going to chill out and put her phone away after a couple of songs, but she didn’t. I am not confrontational and generally would sit there and be annoyed in my head the whole time and then blog about it here later. I was even nice and waited for her to finish her video of “The Story” and then asked her politely to put her phone down because she was blocking my view. She never really did, but at least that made her move back over into her seat and she did keep putting her left arm down and only holding the phone up with her right arm so that her arm wasn’t in my face. I guess that’s something, but all it did was shift the annoyance to in front of someone else.

Brandi’s set was amazing as usual. I saw her 5 times in concert last year and for all but one show she pretty much did the same set aside from a song here or there that she traded in and out. In a lot of the publicity surrounding the by the way I forgive you album she talked about how they are such a performance based band and realized that they were stuck in a rut writing songs based on what they knew were going to be energizing to audience especially on the festival circuit and not anything that felt artistically challenging or interesting. They decided to go in a completely different direction with that album, and obviously it has paid great dividends. I adore it, but I did also miss some of those livelier numbers during their sets last year. It seems like maybe they have started to add some of that stuff back in. It felt to me that they made this set list in kind of chunks.

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At the beginning they had a bunch of the energetic crowd pleasers to get people into the show. I felt way disoriented though because they started off the set with “Hold Out Your Hand”, which is the song they used as their encore at all 5 shows I saw last year. It really is such a great encore song that I almost thought it might become one of those songs a band has that they use as their encore forever and always. Apparently not. Instead everything was flipped completely on it’s head with that song being the opener and “Every Time I Hear That Song”, which they had been opening their sets with last year becoming one of the encore songs. They also did a chunk of quieter old favorites like “The Story” and “The Eye”. Then they did a chunk of covers including inviting Lucius back out on stage and singing their song “Dusty Trails” with them. Brandi joined them for that song at the Newport Folk Festival last year, so I guess they decided to do a reprise at this show.

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She also sang a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water”. Then there was a chunk of songs off the new album. She did two encores ending the first one with “Party of One” and then coming back out to sing a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. It is a wonderful song, but I am pretty much of the mindset at this point that it needs to be put on ice for at least 25 years. The Jeff Buckley cover of that song was inescapable in television and movies for a number of years and it kind of wore me out on it and ruined it for me. I would be perfectly content to never hear that song again for at least another decade. That being said Brandi does a lovely cover it and it was a beautiful moment to look back behind me at all the people holding up the flashlights on their phones and swaying to the song.

I was also amused the next day to discover that I had made it into another of Pete Souza’s photos at a Brandi Carlile concert. If you don’t know who Pete Souza is, he was Obama’s official photographer. He is friends with Brandi and is as equally obsessed with her shows as I am. He goes to a lot of their shows and photographs them from backstage. I was in the front row of a show at The Beacon in New York City last year and wound up in one of the photos he posted on Instagram. This time you have to zoom way in on the crowd to pick me out, but if you do you can totally find me. I’m going to see her in Philly with Mavis Staples in September. We don’t have great seats for that one, so I know I won’t wind up any photos there.

 

New Music Friday: I Need a Teacher by Hiss Golden Messenger

I adore Hiss Golden Messenger, the Durham, NC based band fronted by MC Taylor. It is the perfect summer music to me even when the messages of the songs are less than cheery. There always seem to be some hope at the bottom of his music though, which all wraps up into what I would say is the perfect folk music of today. They have a new album, Terms of Surrender, due out September 20 and dropped the first single, “I Need a Teacher” a couple of days ago. It’s apparently going to be a fairly political album though from what I read definitely with a hopeful bent in it. The first song focuses on the work of teachers and the video features teachers, parents, and students in North Carolina during a walk out to protest cuts to public education in that state. Hiss Golden Messenger is going to donate $1 from each concert ticket sold during their tour this fall will go to the Durham Public Schools Foundation. Unfortunately the closest their getting to me is Philadelphia in November. They are one of those bands, of which there are sadly many, that I adore but who never, ever come to Baltimore. They’re not on the official Newport Folk Festival bill this year, but they will be playing one of the after shows, which means that I know they’ll be hanging around the festival throughout the weekend. MC Taylor is always sitting in with other bands and seems to always be a part of the themed mystery sets. I know Phil Cook who is also part of Hiss Golden Messenger is curating one of those mystery sets this year, so I have no doubt they’ll all be in the house. I’m already looking forward to it.

Speaking of Phil Cook, I didn’t get a chance to write about this video when it came out, but you should also watch this super sweet video of Phil’s song “Another Mother’s Son” that he put out at Mother’s Day earlier this year featuring a bunch of mothers from Durham with their kids.

The Wood Brothers and Lake Street Dive at Wolf Trap

I am getting pretty bad at writing up these concert posts in a timely manner, but I’m still getting them for the zero people who actually care about them. I still like writing them and sometimes going back and reading them, so that’s all that matters.

Saturday night I dragged my husband down to Wolf Trap for the second of three shows I have tickets to there this summer. This time it was Lake Street Dive with The Wood Brothers. I didn’t realize it ahead of time, but they were apparently co-headlining. I caught on when it got to be well over an hour and The Wood Brothers were still playing. Then I noticed in the program that their names were both the same size, and it all made sense.

I do not love The Wood Brothers. I’ve tried on several occasions to get into their music including ahead of this concert and they just don’t do it for me. I think it’s because they have too much of a jam band sensibility about them even if I don’t think they actually qualify as a jam band because they don’t really do these long, never-ending songs like true jam bands. I feel justified in my assessment though because I overheard the people sitting next to us who were super into them talking about some of the other concerts they’re going to this summer and it as jam bands galore. They weren’t bad to sit around outside on a beautiful night and listen to though, and I do think they make complete sense as a band to tour with Lake Street Dive as they do share a decent amount of musical DNA. They both came out and played during each others’ sets and there was a most excellent stand-up bass-off between their stand-up bass players during a cover of “Everyday People” during Lake Street Dive’s set.

This was the second Lake Street Dive concert that I’ve seen this year. They were the first show I saw in 2019 way back on January 3. I was just remarking about how I thought it was pretty good that Florence + the Machine played about 1/3 different songs at the two shows of hers that I saw in the past year. Lake Street Dive blew that out of the water. They played 19 songs at Wolf Trap and 20 songs at Rams Head Live and only 7 of the songs overlapped, and they were pretty much the hits that everyone was going to want to hear them play. I do think I liked the Rams Head show a little bit better mostly because it’s a much smaller and more intimate venue, but this was also an excellent show. I just adore Rachel Price’s voice and will never get tired of listening to her sing. They are just such a fun band to watch perform too.

They didn’t impress my husband nearly as much as Florence + the Machine though. When I asked him if he enjoyed the concert I got a grunting eh. I think that had more to do with the fact that I forced him to sit on the lawn, which he is not a fan of. I also did sort of curse myself in my Florence + the Machine post when I said the lawn at Wolf Trap is so much more civilized than at Merriweather. It wasn’t uncivilized in that no one was super rude or drunk, but we did sit towards the back of the lawn so as all the last minute stragglers were showing up well into the concert they all squeezed themselves in right around us rather than looking for any small open spaces farther down. One girl got too much into his space and he was not thrilled. He needn’t worry for our next show though. I got us pavilion seats even though I like the lawn at Wolf Trap better.

New Music Friday: The Wheels of Laredo by Tanya Tucker

Today I’m talking about some new music by country legend Tanya Tucker. Her forthcoming new album, the first in 17 years, was produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings. The first single from the album, “The Wheels of Laredo” dropped earlier this week. I do still love me some classic country sounds. It’s always nice to have some new country music that still sounds like country music instead of pop/hip-hop music with some pedal steel and fiddle thrown in.

And as I bonus I’m going to throw in Japanese Breakfast’s cover of Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels”. If I hadn’t just posted about another Japanese Breakfast song last week, I probably would have gone with this song this week. I can add it to my arsenal of Tears for Fears covers that I love along with Gary Jules and Michael Andrews cover of “Mad World” and Joseph’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. I won’t even hold it against the song that it was apparently recorded to be background music for W hotels, which is just kind of sad. No matter how it got into the world, I’m glad it did.

Florence + the Machine at Merriweather Post Pavilion

On Monday night I dragged my husband down to see Florence + the Machine at Merriweather Post Pavilion, the first of three concerts I’ll be seeing there in June. They’ve been upgrading a lot of things there over the past several years and it’s now really starting to show. The first year was mostly backstage stuff so to the audience it didn’t seem like they had done anything. Last year the biggest thing I noticed was some of the new bathrooms. I guess they had a bunch of new food stuff last year and even more this year, but I never get food there so I don’t really know. The major new thing this year, which you could see start to take shape last year when they raised the roof on the pavilion was the addition of the new sky box seats and the new sky lawn. They look really nice, though I will never pay the stupid amount of money they want for the box seats. Interestingly anyone can go up on the sky lawn because technically they are lawn seats. I gather there is actual grass up there. I didn’t go up this time, but next time I think I’ll walk up just to check it out. It’s pretty flat though and since you’re above the stage I don’t think it would be worth sitting/standing up there for the actual show unless you got there early enough to snag a spot right along the balcony.

They have also replaced the seats inside the pavilion. No more janky, rusting metal folding chairs in the far back sections! I never understood why there weren’t real seats in those areas to start, but now everywhere has nice new plastic folding chairs. That’s good because I pretty much go for the pavilion seats at Merriweather now. In my younger years I used to love sitting out on the lawn there. It’s still not awful when you know the show isn’t going to be a sell out, but they sell way too many tickets for the lawn for super popular shows and it’s just miserable especially if you wind up surrounded by a bunch of rude, drunk people. Plus, now that they’ve added this new sky section the pillars holding that up have reduced the amount of lawn space that has a decent view down to the stage without solely relying on the screens. I can afford pavilion seats, so unless I’m going with someone who prefers we do the lawn I’m pretty much paying for a seat these days. It is kind of funny that I still much prefer the lawn seats at Wolf Trap over sitting in their pavilion. I love picnicking on the lawn there and everything just seems so much more civilized.

Anyway, now on to the show. This was the fifth time I’ve seen Florence + the Machine live. I never seem to care for whoever she picks as her opening act. The first time I saw her she was opening for U2, so that doesn’t count. The second and third times I saw her I had never heard of the opening acts, came and saw them, didn’t care for them, never listened to them again, and could not tell you at this point who they were. I saw her at the Anthem back in October and knew I didn’t care that much for Beth Ditto so skipped the opening act. Same for this concert which had Blood Orange as the opening act. My husband wanted to leave a little bit earlier than I suggested so we still got there in time to hear the final two song of Blood Orange’s set, which just confirmed my decision to not to see them.

I’ve basically seen Florence + the Machine tour once for every album. This is the first time I’ve seen them twice on the same tour, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of seeing anything new. I know a lot of times bands have a pretty standard set list and stage banter routine that they don’t deviate from much. There was definitely a lot of overlap and intros to songs had the same general gist, but it didn’t feel like a retread at all. I looked up the two set lists to compare. She played 16 songs at the Anthem and 17 at Merriweather with 12 of them overlapping. So about a 1/3 of the songs were new, which is a pretty good percentage. She also played another 1/3 in a different order than she did at the Anthem, so it very much felt like a new set other than the very beginning and end.

She is just such an awesome performer too. She has so much energy and is just running and dancing around the stage all the time. I would be completely out of breath and unable to sing. Not that anyone wants to hear me sing. She of course went out into the crowd all the way up into the lawn. She gets the crowd involved in the show almost better than anyone else I’ve seen. She is also just brings such an energy of peace and love and positivity while also encouraging people to, I want to say fight to lift up the oppressed but fight feels like the wrong word. Anyway, she basically said at this show basically said I know you’ve already spent a lot of money on concert tickets, but if you were thinking about maybe buying a t-shirt or something tonight donate that money to the ACLU instead because I don’t need it. I always leave a Florence show feeling so much more uplifted no matter what is going on in my life or the world. She has taken to ending her shows with “Shake It Off”, which really is the best closing song she could pick and she should never change that. As someone with anxiety who holds onto a lot of stuff I should just let go of I feel like I should listen to that song every day and make it my mantra.

It was another excellent show by Florence + the Machine and is why I will continue to see her every time I get a chance. Even Paul gave it high praise. Whenever we leave shows I drag him to I always ask if he enjoyed it. For the most part unless he really didn’t like it I get a response of it was fine or it was okay. My husband does not express emotion very much. When I asked him how he liked this show he said it was good, which on the Paul scale is pretty much like giving it 5 stars, so she even won over the curmudgeon.