Friday, November 10, 2006

West Point Elementary School Alum Makes Good, or Fear and Loathing at a Bare Naked Ladies Concert

Mrs. Alva and I along with some good friends of ours attended the Mike Doughty/Bare Naked Ladies show last night at the Gwinnett Civic Center.

Mike and his band delivered as expected. He’s got a great band, a great groove, and it would appear that the world is truly his oyster at this point in his career. He performed a number of tunes from his breakout record Haughty Melodic, couple of new ones, and a few from his two earlier releases. I’m a frequent reader of Mike’s blog, so I’m aware that this road jaunt with the BNL’s was sort of a spur of a moment thing. He’s in the midst of finishing a new album of material with Dan Wilson (singer, guitarist, song writer of Semisonic) who also produced Haughty Melodic. While it never detracted from the overall performance, the haste to include him on the bill was apparent to this old concert veteran. I wish he’d had played “Tremendous Brunette’s” (one of his best in my mind), or his ode to our shared hometown of West Point “Grey Ghost”, but since he was given LESS THAN 45 MINUTES I can surely understand why he couldn’t accommodate. Nonetheless, I thought the show was truly a triumph.

Before launching into his last tune, Mike announced that he’d be out front signing stuff during the break. We all headed out to the lobby when the lights came up and was surprised to see a decent sized line forming to shake hands, take photo’s, and exchange pleasantries. I was also delighted to see A LOT of people buying a copy of his Haughty Melodic CD (That right Fred [and Bob "Music Thief" Lefsetz for that matter], a CD. And you’ll never believe what hundreds of fans were doing while standing in line: They were opening the CD and READING the liner notes and checking out the info in the booklet! It seemed quite instinctual really. What a surprise!) I’m not sure, but I think they ran out of copies at the stand which I think great. I got hooked on Mike’s music via Haughty Melodic and it is a very nice recording, but there were many who had only heard his stuff for the first time last night and were buying it on the strength of his live performance which was without the benefit of multi-track filler to help prop the arrangements up. This is a true accomplishment for a musician. I would really like to hear his stuff acoustic solo sometime. I believe my little sister has had the pleasure of hearing his music this way. For that, I am quite jealous.

Standing in line as we approached the table, I pretended to say to Mrs. Alva while purposely avoiding eye contact with Mike, “Hey, isn’t that Dr. Zenu over there?” (Dr. Zenu being the West Point Elementary School principal when he attended). Mike looked over at me and kept talking and signing. As we got closer, I leaned over and said, “Mike, Mrs. Pullium (high school English teacher and warlock) called and has a few issues with your lyric, ‘You snooze you lose, Well, I have snost and lost…’”, to which he replied, “Where do I know you from?” I filled him in and dropped a few names of some friends we have in common. "You were a Skateboard Gang member, right?" I told him that my wife and I would more than likely be in the NYC metro area for his dates at the Mexicali Café in Teaneck NJ. and perhaps we could talk more then since the impatient Civic Center security guy with the headset was pushing us along much to both of our annoyance. He poised for a picture while flashing West Point Elementary School gang signs and we were off. It’s a good feeling connecting with a hometown guy who’s actually making it in the shitty business of music playing stuff that is true to who he is, even if our prior personnel connection is twice removed so to speak. A real “Good for you” type of thing from me to him.

Coda and Editorial

I’ll be honest here, I really didn’t have an opinion one way or another regarding the BNL’s going to this show. I will say that the BNL’s were VERY complimentary to Mike and mentioned Mike’s name many times during their own performance. I think this is a VERY cool move. It’s a display of musician solidarity and anybody who is even remotely familiar with the business of music knows that true altruistic support is a rare thing. As for the BNL’s music, I actually can’t think of an adjective to describe them other than to say that I don’t dislike it, or like it either. They seem like guys who cut their teeth on the North Country and Canadian college circuit, were embraced for their quirkiness, and cut some very unusual sounding hits. I don’t really like the “Brian Wilson” tune, and am not big on that particular guys’ voice, but they really dig what they’re doing, are certainly having fun doing it, don’t take themselves seriously at all, and managed to play two tunes which I had never heard before that I quite enjoyed. I’m also pretty sure TWO HOURS of BNL is too much for even their fans, but what the hell, they seem like cool Canadian’s who more than likely play a decent game of pick up hockey. They sure as hell look like hockey players. The strangest fan base I’ve ever seen at a concert in my entire life by a long shot. As my wife observed, you could tell that for many of the male members of the audience, it was a SOFiE night out (Significant Other Forced Event).

Since I was only marginally interested in the BNL performance, I took the time to employ my reporter's eye so to speak and want to address an age old concert experience issue that was certainly evident last night as it has been at almost every show I've every attended since the beginning of time. While gazing at the soundboard pit, I was stunned to see a fully automated, software driven, live mixing console being used. I don’t know shit about digital software driven live mixing desks, but I’ve got a few ideas about how they make life of for soundman a great deal easier (during sound check, mix songs individually, recall the mixes by song during performance, etc…). With that in mind, why is it STILL impossible for the opening act to get a fucking headliner quality sound mix? It’s such bullshit. What? Do you you not have enough good mics or something? Mike Doughty’s band had a small drum kit, electric piano, synth, up right bass, his guitars (two of them), and two vocal mics. What the fuck? This genius working that console couldn’t give Mike and his band twenty more minutes during sound check to write some automation and give that little drum kit a better EQ? I'm not asking for more or better choreographed light show, but how 'bout giving us the fucking sound THEY and WE deserve? With concert ticket prices hitting the roof and as a consumer, we should demand an end to the practice of dissing the opening act on their sound. They should sound as good as the headliner, period. Do headlining acts really want to purposely make the opening act sound less good just to make themselves sound that much better? Those who understand the complexity, or lack there of, of a live PA set up know that giving good sound to an opening act is NOT a hard thing to do and the fact that the practice exists at all is nothing but pure playground top dog shit.


At 12:49 PM, November 10, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

Awesome photo! Cool that you hooked up with my old neighbor - as we've discussed, I don't quite remember him very well, but alas, being a WP alum is after all a very unique point of bonding.

Glad Mike's getting his due.

As for the poorly maned Bare Naked Ladies (all lies), having seen them at a SOFiE event of my own, I will say they are, er, well, exhuberant?

Opening acts get crappy sound because that's the way the system works - i agree that it's a shitty deal, and that it's easy enough to remedy, but I don't think the bands are making this call, it's their management, and the suits behind the band that make these arrangements.

At 1:49 PM, November 10, 2006, Blogger Circy Nightshade said...

Another note Tony forgot to mention and a testiment to the fact that I'm getting friggin' old...Remember the days when you'd go to see a band and when they left the stage the audience would hold up lighters in anticipation of an encore? Well my friends, lighters have been replaced by the light of cellphones. Last night hundreds of BNL fans opened their cellphones and waved them high overhead waiting for the band to again take the stage. Not quite the same thing and in my humble opinion.

At 2:52 PM, November 10, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

That's pitiful.

At 12:00 AM, November 11, 2006, Blogger stinkrock said...

"It’s a good feeling connecting with a hometown guy who’s actually making it in the shitty business of music playing stuff that is true to who he is, even if our prior personnel connection is twice removed so to speak. A real “Good for you” type of thing from me to him."

An excellent quote from a solid review. I'm not a huge M. Doughty fan, but before the Strokes broke and turned NYC into a retro dance-rock ghetto, Soul Coughing was *the* NY band. Mike also wrote a hilarious column for the NY Press under the moniker 'Dirty Sanchez'. I'm glad to see he's thriving.

And my personal apologies that you had to watch the Barenaked Ladies. They are the enemy.

At 9:28 PM, November 13, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings from Highland Falls!

I know that I am mostly famous for my smoozing with all the big names because of my "hairdresser to the stars" status, but Michael McDonald, Micky Dolenz and George Clooney don't hold a candle to Michael Doughty...I used to babysit for him when he was just a wee lad...sigh. Glad to hear of his success.

(P.S. For any one of you out there who don't already know this fact.....I was supposed to marry Michael McDonald when he was with the Doobie Brothers in 1978, but Mr. Alva and his skateboard barged in on my big marriage proposal and ruined my life. I wonder if Michael is still looking for me?) Sniff!

My love to all the Alva's!


At 11:06 AM, November 14, 2006, Blogger Tony Alva said...

Glad to have you on the board StarStylist!!! BTW, we are coming to see you as soon as they drop the axe on me here at work. Looking forward to it big time!!!

With regard to the M. McDonald proposal: be thankful I fell on that grenade for you. I saved you from a life of having to listen to that Kermit the Frog voice day in and day out:-)

At 9:27 PM, November 14, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

...minute by minute by minute by minute by minute by minute by...


At 10:18 PM, November 14, 2006, Anonymous StarStylist said...

Tony.....I am really looking forward to your visit! I am blessed with being the fairy god
mother to the most beautiful, brilliant and talented child in the universe, and that, my dear boy, is your saving grace for the whole MM debacle. I await your arrival with great joy!

Jackson....I have heard about your clap trap ideas concerning MM and how he ruined the Doobie Brothers...all complete and utter hogwash, I say! On a lighter note, your saving grace is all of the wonderful memories you have given my daughters (along with Tony!)from their early childhood days. They still speak so fondly of you!

At 11:43 AM, November 15, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

Well, Amonng the many saving graces you possess, your wondeful children rank among the highest - in fact if it weren't for the whole MM thing, you'd be perfect.

At 7:13 PM, November 15, 2006, Anonymous StarStylist said...

Awwwww....I have always loved you, Jackson! Tony keeps me up to date on all of your endeavors. Many blessings to you and your future Mrs.

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