Fountains of Wayne: John Roderick of the band The Long Winters called Fountains of Wayne an “Absolutely Perfect Rock Band” in his blog report from Bonnaroo. (yeah, I know, “if he could do it why couldn’t Lou?) Amen and then some. One of the few sets I listened to from beginning to end, FOW proved themselves to be pretty damned perfect. Playing a good 50% of their stellar Welcome Interstate Managers album, the band began with a canned feed from a New Jersey radio station announcing the weather and traffic information for any given morning in the tri-state area. You just got to love a band that says, “Because we’re playing in Tennessee, it’s in our contract that we play a country song. We’re going to play one by Kenny Chesney. We were going to ask Kenny to guest for us, but we don’t know him. And regardless, he’s busy sucking somewhere else.” Easily making my “best of” list, FOW made me laugh, made me dance like a crazy person, and made me want to kick the asses of the lethargic, moribund jerks who took up space inside the tent waiting for the upcoming Ween show. I like Ween just fine, but their fans made me want to skip the show, which I did. If you can’t rock to Fountains of Wayne, there’s something wrong with you.
Lily Allen: The day after Bonnaroo, we made it to Murfreesboro, TN before konking out. I was suffering from some sort of cold/allergy brought on by the excessive dust, so we stopped in at a Target to buy some medicine. The Lily Allen cd was on sale for $9.99, so I bought it and on Tuesday we listened to it three times over on the way home. I’d heard Allen on NPR and several of her songs rang sonically familiar to me. She positively sparkled onstage; jubilant and giggly, she electrified the audience with her big band and diverse musical repertoire (ska, nola jazz, reggae, hip-hop, rock, you name it). The audience (most of it) fell in love, and so did I. But some were turned off by her brash, brat persona. She announced very early on that she was “So drunk” and preceded many of her songs with autobiographical stories about men who fucked her over and friends who turned out to be bitches. And after listening to her album several times over, I’m conflicted. She’s got a pixie beautiful voice and absolutely rocking music behind her, but her lyrics are quintessentially brat-punk. Because I loved her show so much, I want to shuttle her into the same category as Liz Phair, another brilliant, no-shit, foul-mouthed songwriter. But some of her songs are genuine turn-offs. But I can’t deny the fact that her version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” might have been the musical highlight of Bonnaroo, and no on made me want to dance like she did.
Wilco: There ain’t nothing wrong with Wilco. Ever. Always tip-tops when it comes to performing live. They can stray down strange avenues and always make them seem like a walk through a shining neighborhood. And there’s nothing like watching Jeff Tweedy looking happy and healthy. I’ve never seen him smile so much.
Charlie Louvin: In a few weeks, Charlie Louvin will be 80 years old. I missed his big stage show, but was one of fewer than 30 people who caught him at his show at the Sonic Stage. Louvin, the surviving member of the Louvin Brothers band, is a Country Music Hall of Fame member, and funny and sweet and… randy! Obviously thrilled by the median age of his fans, Louvin commented several times that he thought that if he prayed hard enough, someone would take off her shirt. While I was in line to have him sign his new CD (duets with the likes of Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, and Will Oldham), a Newbury Comics employee mentioned that Louvin said he’d “sign anything… even boobs!” We listened to the CD on the way home. Excellent purchase. His song, “Ira,” about his dead brother/bandmate made me tear up. Heartbreaking. Hard to reconcile the album’s Christian undertones with this breastloving man!
Firecracker Jazz Band: Just about the best New Orleans style jazz band that I’ve heard, in or out of New Orleans. Just one more reason that Asheville, NC is one of the most popular places for New Orleans ex-pats. Seriously worth a trip just to see them. According to their website, they don’t play out of town much.
Don Byron Featuring Chris Thomas King: We came out of this Sunday concert—the first of the day—wanting to duck back into the tent to see the band’s second show. I went because I’ve always adored the mercurial Chris Thomas King, but the whole band—every single member—was extraordinary. Don Byron plays the sax and the clarinet and was the bandleader for the event. When we left, I joked to Roommate, “This band belonged on a Cosby Show episode,” and he immediately knew what I meant. Each musician was stunningly talented, charismatic, and more than easy on the eyes. If there were any media in the poorly attended first show, surely they would have cast this as the best most-missed show at Bonnaroo. The music didn’t hold true to the schedule description (cartoon jazz?); they played well-loved funk and r&b classics like “Shotgun” and James Brown’s “There it is.” CTK was in full voice and guitarist David Gilmore could have headlined a show on his own. I’ll definitely be buying this album from Blue Note Records.