Category Archives: Baltimore

Old 97’s Rock Obama in Balmer

Real quick — one of my favorite bands, Old 97’s, played a special gig at SONAR in Baltimore last night to benefit the Obama campaign in what was referred to all night as “the crucial swing state of Ohio.” I’d never been to SONAR before, but I liked the club a lot, and its entire staff was working for free last night, along with the talent. The merch and the concessions were all donated, too. Whether you bought one of the $20 T-shirts or the $10 event poster signed by all four 97s or just a beer for $4.50 (the same ones you pay $6 for in D.C.), every penny you pried from your wallet was, we were told, to go straight to Obama’s Ohio machine. 97s frontman Rhett Miller and bassist/second singer Murry Hammond each performed a solo acoustic set in the Talking Head Lounge (SONAR’s equivalent of the Black Cat’s backstage) for people who sprang for the $100 tickets. The tix for just the Old 97s gig in the main room were $25. Two Balmer bands opened the mainstage gig, Desert Boys and Caleb Stine and The Brakemen. Neither of them were bad at all. Stine sounds eerily like Jay Farrar, but Uncle Tupelo-era Farrar, so that was no bad thing.

It was a fun evening, though I wish the club had been more than half-full. The 97s just played a sold-out show at the 9:30 here in the District six weeks ago, so that plus the fact that it was a Monday night might have depressed the turnout a bit. Their set was on the short side for them, at a mere 20 songs, but that was forgiveable given that Murry and Rhett had each performed a solo set beforehand, and anyway, the band’s actual performance absolutely smoked.

For me, though, the evening’s clear highlight was the interview Murry gave me about his fine new solo album, I Don’t Know Where I’m Going but I’m on My Way, and about the origins and history of the 97s. We spoke for about 20 minutes before his solo set, and then he actually came and found me after he and Rhett were finished so I could ask him the rest of my questions. Hell of a nice guy, he. I’ll be posting the interview on DCist probably late next week, in advance of Murry’s solo gig at IOTA on Monday, Sept. 22. I’ll see y’alls there.

Old 97’s at SONAR, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008

The Setlist

01 The Fool

02 Barrier Reef

03 The One

04 Buick City Complex

05 No Baby I

06 Mama Tried

07 Indefinitely

08 Early Morning

09 St. Ignatius Alone So Far

10 Question

11 Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue

12 Dance with Me

13 Hands Off

14 My Two Feet

15 W. Tx Teardrops

16 Rollerskate Skinny

17 The Easy Way

ENCORE:

18 Salome

19 Murder (Or a Heart Attack)

20 Timebomb

The Band

Philip Peeples — drums

Ken Bethea — guitar

Murry Hammond — bass, vocals

Rhett Miller — vocals, guitar

I Am Prolific as Hell.

Nick Cave’s new album gets an A-grade in Media Mix, and the backwards-named Texan Hayes Carll comes close.

Also in yesterday Paper of Record, a little interview with the man who gets my vote for greatest broadcast journalist alive, excerpted from a much longer conversation we had last week. I’m hoping to post more of that soon.

Irish Song of the Damned

poguesbandr01_01.jpg

A recent-ish (and Shane-less? Is that him, supine in the foreground at left? I can’t tell.) photo of the Pogues.

So. Spent the last two nights at the 9:30 seeing the Pogues for the first and second time. Hardly the debauched evening I might have expected if I’d seen them 20 years ago, but they sounded great.

I was on company time the first show (Paper of Record review here), when I spied Baltimore Sun newsman-turned-Homicide author-turned-creator of The Wire, David Simon, walking up to the VIP balcony. I waited around to try to talk to him after the show, but was told the balcony was closed for a private function.

Simon’s presence at a Pogues show on Sunday evening was ironic because the final episode The Wire had begun airing on HBO about 15 minutes before the Pogues took the stage, and because the Pogues’ music has been featured prominently in several episodes of the billiant HBO series. “Metropolitan” has scored at least one of Det. Jimmy McNulty’s  (Dominc West) adventures in drunk driving, but more to the point, there’s a tradition on the show — one that presumably, given Simon’s insistence on authenticity even in the most minute details, has its origins in the actual practice of the Baltimore Police Department — that when a cop dies, his brothers in arms lay him out on a pool table, eulogize him, and then sing the Pogues’s “The Body of an American” over him.

Sunday night, the Pogues played “Body” 12th in their set of 26 songs, I think. I turned around to try to catch a glimpse of Simon’s face but couldn’t see him just then.

Anyway, Paper of Record pop critic J. Freedom du Lac blogged about my sighting, and The Reliable Source picked it up today.

I still wish I could have spoken to Simon. I’ve got lots of things I’d like to ask him, about journalism and music and filmmaking and The Wire, but if I only had a second I’d thank him for creating what I’m hardly the first to call the most sophisticated and truthful show probably in the history of television. One of the funniest and most moving, too.