Saturday, March 26, 2011

SXSW 2011 Wednesday 16th

Yes, it has taken me over a week to start getting these posts out. But, the music came first, then sleep. So... Here is what happened on Wednesday...

Wednesday is the first official day of SXSW and I’m already tired. :-) Luckily, I wasn’t planning on getting up early, so after sleeping in I grabbed a shuttle to downtown (they run throughout the conference week). The shuttle drops you off on the East side and I was heading to Waterloo on the west side (about a mile and a quarter). As I walked down 6th Street, memories of my first visit to Austin 10 years ago started rushing back to me. 6th Street, which is closed, is filled with people young and old (mainly 20 somethings) and there is music coming from every direction. At about Guadalupe Street I realized that I would rather be walking across downtown during SXSW then across Zilker Park during ACL. The list of why I already love SXSW over ACL is growing by the hour.

Waterloo Records has converted their entire parking lot into a music venue for this week. Arriving just before 2pm, I had no problem getting fairly close to the stage. Within minutes, Wild Flag started playing. They are a girl band. Let me rephrase that... They are a hard rockin’ girl band. As hard as their music was, they also came across a lot sweeter than you’d expect. I think the Runaways set the tone years ago and if you’re an all girl band these days you are either a sweet pop band or a hard, angry rock band. Wild Flag rocked hard, but when they talked to the audience, they were like the girls next store. It was a nice contradiction as they won over the audience.

I moved up to the front of the stage for Fitz and the Tantrums. Even though they are a So Cal band, I hadn’t seen them yet, so this was one of my must see shows; and they didn’t disappoint. Filled with the energy of a dozen bands, Michael Fitzpatrick lead the band through a blue-eyed soul experience filtered through 80’s pop (and I don’t think that really describes it). Now take all of Michael’s energy and multiply it by two and that will give you Noelle Scaggs who sings backup, some lead vocals and works hard to energize the crowd. It is just one fun crazy show that never lets up. Do not miss them when they come to your town.

It was now late afternoon and I had a few hours to kill. I found a bar that served food and waited patiently while Shurman, an Austin band, played. By the end of their set, a waitress had not even considered talking to me, so I wandered around downtown, and found a restaurant that I had walked quickly past earlier. Exene had been playing on their porch at the time and it was packed. Now it was fairly open so I grabbed a quick burger and continued on.

It took a bit to find The Ginger Man. They were doing concerts on their back patio and it was like a big country picnic. I sat through a couple of interesting bands while awaiting The Latebirds from Finland. Marcus is their lead singer and I met him a few years ago waiting in the band will call line for tickets to the Springsteen shows at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. He was a really nice guy and from there I ended up getting a couple of his CDs which we play regularly here on The Promise. His voice has always reminded me of Al Stewart and the band’s arrangements are always full and exciting. They played a few new tunes along with a few from the CDs that I have, doing a great job of converting those nicely produced songs into live pieces that worked well.

Downtown was getting more crowded by the minute and by the time I hit the Red River District, the streets were jammed with people. I decided to go early to the Red Eyed Fly to catch Liam Finn (Neil’s boy) which meant sitting through a couple of bands while waiting. Again, it was a backyard patio, but it was covered with an attic above the stage (I know this because we watched a raccoon climb a wall and go up above the stage into the attic. There were plenty of problems during the two band’s sets, from losing their drummer because of visa issues to not being able to plug in the keyboard because it was designed for English plugs not American. Still, the two bands played well and the fans seemed to love them. I somehow found myself at the front of the stage by the time Liam hit and was blown away by the manic energy he delivered with his small but loud band. It was a great test for my video recorder, which I thought did pretty well. When he wants to, Liam can write great melodies. But, there is an anger in some of his music and if you aren’t ready for it, you may not be able to handle it. Imagine crossing Neil Finn with Nine Inch Nails. It is an interesting combination, and we got a nice half hour of it.

I slipped out a bit early to make sure I could get into Sharon Van Etten’s performance at the Swan Dive. Not having a wristband, both the Finn and Van Etten shows cost me $13 each (for 20 to 30 minutes). But they were well worth it. It also meant that I had to wait for all of the wristbanded people to go first. Luckily I got in and found a nice spot on a riser against the side wall. The stage was set up in the front of the bar with white drapes surrounding it and most of the lighting coming from the floor. This gave it a home concert feel which was perfect (if not for pictures) for the music. Sharon’s current EP is so good it is scary and her and her two piece band delivered it during their 20 minute set. Easily one of the highlights of a highlight filled day.

After the show, I walked back to the convention center and caught a shuttle back to the hotel. It seems that everyone in Austin has two jobs (Deborah told me she thought that the second job for most seemed to be a masseuse) and our shuttle driver was an urban farmer who teaches others how to set up farm coops. No, this isn’t Texas, it’s Austin.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

SXSW 2011 - Tuesday

It was a beautiful day in Austin. Okay, by the time I got out of bed, worked out and got dressed the day was half over. But, it was beautiful from that point on. The first stop was food. Usually, the 3 or 4 of us would head over to Chuy’s for some excellent Tex/Mex, but I’m alone for the first part of this trip so I just headed over there by myself. I do love the people of Austin and the bartender at Chuy’s was as nice as they come. I had a margarita for lunch (which is rare for me) to go with my Elvis Presley Memorial Combo (3 different enchiladas and a crispy taco... no wonder he died young). I then headed into downtown where I met up with Guy, a friend who was working the MTV special (I guess the Foo Fighters were going to be performing). He gave me tour a of the set and we caught up (I only see him once a year, if that). After that, it was a quick stop and a bunch of money spent at Waterloo Record Store (I won’t even mention the short stop at Amy’s Ice Cream next store). Since SXSW hadn’t officially started, I headed back to hotel, worked on the computer for a bit and then headed out for some music.

There always seems to be a good band playing at The Saxon Pub and with all of the choices this night, it was the combination of bands that led me there.

Up first: Bruce Hughes. I believe I saw Bruce last October. Many of his songs have this funky groove, which I love, but... It is the short 3 minute blasts of pop that come out occasionally that make you
wonder why he isn’t bigger than this. He gave us both in a set that just flew by.

Up next was Kurt BoDean of the BoDeans. He has a new band called Wirefence and they are your typical Austin musicians: Really talented and very tight. The sound is very similar to a BoDeans sound, although maybe a bit more serious. Still he had the girls up front dancing. He kept the BoDeans songs to a minimum and concentrated on his newer material. All and all a very good show.

The evening finished up with Curtis McMurtry. For those who don’t know... In the beginning there was Larry McMurtry. He begat The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove and James McMurtry (a great singer songwriter). James begat “We Can’t Make it Here Anymore” (look it up on Youtube, you won’t be sorry) and Curtis McMurtry. Curtis, still very young (almost everyone in the band had Xs on their hands because they weren’t old enough to drink), has a unique vision and isn’t afraid to go after it. Playing with a drummer and stand up bass (plastic) player, he also had two women flanking the stage. One played the trombone and did almost all of the soloing for the night. The other sang backup vocals, played clarinet and baritone tuba. It was an interesting sound; youthful and filled with energy. His lyrics, from what I could hear, were often funny or at least interesting. Those of us who hung around for the finish really enjoyed the set. He is someone worth keeping an eye on.

Monday, March 14, 2011

SXSW 2011 - Monday

The music portion of South by Southwest hasn’t started yet, but that isn’t going to keep me from checking out the music here in Austin. My first stop for the week was at Whip In, a convenience store that sells Indian food and has a small stage for music. After circling around I-35 for 20 minutes, I met up with Deb and Linda. Tonight was all about the voices and the songwriting as Bettysoo and Jess Klein shared the stage.

This is really the first time I’ve gotten to hear Bettysoo live (small inside joke there) and it was well worth the wait. Looking at her, you do not expect the big voice that comes out. But it’s more than just volume; it is the nuances as well that define her sound. Sometimes there is a twang in her voice, but whatever style it takes, the passion and beauty are a thing to behold. I understand she has a new CD coming out in May and then will be touring with it. If she comes to your town, do not miss her.

I have never seen Jess Klein in concert, although I own some of her music. You can pretty much copy and paste the last paragraph. Jess has a gorgeous voice and her new songs sound fantastic. There is no date on a new CD, but I can hardly wait.

We chatted with both them after the show for close to an hour. It was a fun way to get the week started. I took some videos but was playing with the volume control and it didn’t come out well at all. I hope to get another shot at recording them later this week.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sam Phillips - 2004

Seven years ago I met Sam Phillips after a performance at the Getty in Los Angeles. It was the first of 10 shows and almost as many conversations over the next 12 months. It was an amazing time and I was more then infatuated with Sam, her music and her band. At the time I hadn't started writing my blog, but I posted the details of the shows and our conversations in the World Class Rock music group on Yahoo. During those days, it might have been a bit impolite to discuss Sam's divorce in a real public place like a blog. But, seven years later, I don't think I'm telling any stories that should be kept secret. What follows are the postings that I made during that year, along with posts from friends who commented on my posts. Although I've eliminated some of the comments because they weren't relevant to the story, I did not edit any of my posts (although it would be a much faster read) so that I had a more accurate document of that year. If you've got a few minutes to spare, sit back and enjoy. We start with the evening of March 12th, 2004. My first post was short but sweet...

Friday March 12:
I’m in heaven…

Saturday March 13:

I’ve got to take a bit of time to write the review and my daughter is waiting for me to take her and her friend to Main Place to see some of the Harry Potter cast (none of the big stars). So, this is the brief version:

Most important, Sam will be playing 3 nights at Largo’s, April 27-29. The 27th is the day her new CD comes out. I haven’t called yet, but that is where I plan to be. I may want to go to the other shows too. I’ll end this email and start typing the review. If I finish before my daughter gets back, great, otherwise, you’ll get it tonight.

Later that night:

Okay, the Sam Phillips review in all its glory. :-)

So, we’ve all had those moments of anxiety where we are waiting for someone to perform and we’ve been waiting for 10 years or more. Will they be as good as we hope? Will they have a real personality and give us a great memory? Will the audience be perfect? Well two out of three wasn’t bad. The guy next to me had enough mucus to feed the world. He snorted and hacked every 15 or 20 seconds throughout the entire show. It was so annoying, and yet, he may have just been sick and wanted to see Sam. Or maybe he was just an annoying person who didn’t realize how loud he was. I never looked at him, never said a word to him. And maybe God (this is Sam, what is a Sam review without the mention of God) looked down on me and smiled (or was laughing at me). But I digress (not that I have anything to digress from yet)…

The Auditorium at the Getty is a beautiful hall and has excellent acoustics. Of course it helped that I was 3rd row, dead center. Sam was singing just to me. I swear. (At this point I need to interrupt myself and apologize. I still haven’t come down from the evening and that means I’m going to be even wordier than usual. Okay, back to the review). So, the lady from the Getty introduces Sam and The Section Quartet and out come the strings. The SQ perform rock classics using 2 violins, a viola (extra points to those of you who know the difference) and a cello. These aren’t the usual hacks though. There combined discography includes: Wilco, Fiona Apple, Pink, Grant-Lee Phillips, Alejandro Escovedo, Better Than Ezra, Mariah Carey, Alison Krauss, The Bangles, Elton John, Smashing Pumpkins, Gillian Welch, Lowen & Navarro (That was nice of them to mention L&N), Britney Spears, Eve 6, Dishwalla, Clint Black, Trisha Yearwood, N-Sync and Destiny’s Child. Their 20 minute set was very enjoyable. They left the stage and without introduction Sam cautiously approached the microphone. She then said, “Ladies and Gentleman please welcome Sam Phillips”. That is her sense of humor and it carried on throughout the evening. Her band consisted of Patrick Warren (Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann, Liz Phair, and last years Melissa Etheridge tour) on keyboards and Jay Bellerose (Paula Cole, Beck, Aimee Mann, Solomon Burke and Duncan Sheik) on drum kit. And yes, all this info came from the program, although my friend Kim is a big fan of Jay and Patrick and recognized them immediately. They played for about 50 minutes with and without the strings, and Sam did a few songs without the band. All of the music before the encore was from the up coming CD and her last CD, Fan Dance. Her voice is still so beautiful, and her guitar playing was rough but honest (I have no idea what that means). Actually, she used the word wobbly. I like the new material. It seems to be similar to Fan Dance; simple arrangements with an almost European flair. Every so often, she would talk to the audience. The combination of her self deprecation and her very dry sense of humor made for some interesting (and some of us thought very funny) moments. She came back for an encore alone. Just her and her little micro recorder (the type used to record dictation). All the instrumentation was on the tape and she sang “Animals on Wheels”. Every so often, during the solos, she would shake the tape deck causing it to warble. It was a great effect and a very fun way to end the evening. But it wasn’t the end for me…

My friend Kim really wanted to go home so we started walking out. I then asked my daughter Jessie if she wanted a CD. She said yes, so we said goodbye to Kim and went back upstairs. A few minutes later, Sam walked out of the auditorium. I couldn’t believe it! I really didn’t expect her to come out. There weren’t that many people around. She talked to a couple of fans, and said goodbye to her daughter (around 6 and looks just like her) and then it was our turn. We chatted for hours, but it was probably only a couple of minutes. I asked if she was going to tour with this CD and she said yes. I asked about more local shows and she said she was going to be back at Largo in April (more on that later). I told her I’d be there. I invited her to Austin. She loves Austin and was going to look into playing the ACL festival (we’ll see). I asked her if she could play some old material and she said that they had worked up a version of “I need love”. I sighed (yes I did) and said that was the one song I would have loved to see her perform. She said that The Getty had a strict time limit and that she would play it at Largo for me. Let’s see, what else… She asked our opinions on hall sizes and I mentioned the Bruce Cockburn song that she inspired, and that my friend Deb saw her on tour with him many years ago. And, and… I floated away.

I guess I should explain… There are three women in rock that have a magical influence over me: Joni Mitchell (whom I’ve seen many times in concert but I really don’t want to meet because I know I’ll be disappointed), Kate Bush (who I’ll only be able to see if I fly to England) and Sam (who I had never seen before the other night). So I’m on cloud nine, seventh heaven and my feet haven’t touched the ground since Friday night. Oh and during the evening she said at the end of a story that she realized that she failed in love. Does that mean she is no longer with T-Bone Burnett? Another reason to be flying.

Okay, if you made it this far, you are a Sam fan hopefully. She is playing Largo April 27,28 and 29. I’ve called in and left a message asking for reservations for the 27th (the day her CD goes on sale) and the 29th. Anyone want to join me (if I get in)?

March 18:

Sam is playing at a restaurant/bar called Tangier, located just off of Los Feliz, this Wednesday the 24th. I called the place and it only holds about 150. Doors open sometime after 8pm (apparently a very relaxed schedule there). Anyone interested in meeting up there?

March 25:

Okay, it’s a good time to take a programming break anyways…

First Tangier: A beautiful restaurant with excellent food. The club is behind the bar and is the size of a large living room (remember when homes used to have living rooms?). It can probably get 150 people in there. There are a few couches up front with small tables, and then 2 of the walls are lined with cushioned benches and a 3rd wall has a long full service bar. I ended up leaning against a large wooden enclosed cabinet that was about 10 feet from Sam.

The opening act was a guy named John Gold. He is an excellent songwriter and had some very interesting arrangements which included a trombone. At one point there were 6 band members on a very small corner style stage. They seemed to be having fun, which I love seeing at shows.

Sam continues to be Sam. The show was very similar to her show at the Getty, without the strings. I stole a set list, so… here is what she was going to and probably did play:

Pilgram Traveler

Hot to Quit

I wanted to be Alone

Soul Eclipse

All Night

Taking Pictures

Red Silk Five

I Dreamed I stopped Dreaming


I Want To Be Your Man (Yes, the Beatles cover. Very funny coming from her)

Reflecting Light

If I Could Write

Say What You Mean

One Day Late

Animals on Wheels (encore)

With a speaker right over my head (or at least it felt like it) her lyrics came in crystal clear. The new songs seemed to always be somewhere between humor and heartbreak. And heartbreak seemed to be in her voice last night as she continued to talk about failing at love. After relating a Mr. Rogers song about not going down the drain to her predicament, she then wished everyone in the audience who was in the same boat to not go down the drain and maybe become a torch singer (which I think is the way she sees herself right now). At one point she asked Patrick (keyboards) to “take a letter” as she dictated a love letter to some male rock star (whose name I’ve already forgotten). “Of course”, she dictated, “it will never work since you require your lovers to have male parts and I have none”, and then later, “But maybe you have enough male parts for both of us”. That is when she sang, “I want to be your man”. I’ve said this before, but, I love her sense of humor. I never realized just how funny she is. Her music has always been so serious.

She called this performance (about 50 minutes) a rehearsal and hinted at another show real soon. So keep your eyes open. And there are still reservations available for the Largo shows in April.

Oh, and if she is still together with T-Bone Burnett, I'll eat my hat.

March 25 still...

I had a bit more to say about her performance that I forgot to mention
in the previous email so...

Her guitar playing seemed more at ease last night as compared to the
Getty show. She says that she will never be able to play a good guitar,
but you couldn't tell last night. And her voice, as always, could "melt
the frozen sea inside me". :-)

April 28th

From raw power (Beth Hart) to sublime beauty (Sam Phillips), it’s been a wonderful couple of days. So, first up the set list:

Foolin Myself

How to Quit

Fan Dance


I want to be your man

Taking Pictures

Animals on Wheels

Edge of the World

I dreamed I stopped Dreaming



Reflecting Light

If I could write

Say What you mean

One Day Late

The show was about 70 minutes long and ended with an a cappella song that I didn’t know. The Section Quartet performed on about 5 of the songs. Also, from the set list, Red Silk 5 was not performed. Sam told me after the show that with the dry air, she was having trouble with the low notes, and so cut the song.

It’s hard to compare Sam shows. It is a combination of beauty, style, humor and passion. It almost doesn’t matter which songs she plays. It all comes out, and you walk away feeling wonderful. The big difference in the song selection this time (compared to the Getty and Tangiers shows), besides adding 000, was that she moved “Animals on Wheels” from the encore to the middle of the set. It added a bit more humor in the middle and let her finish with the moving a cappella number. She also dropped “I want to be alone” (which reminds me… fire the idiot who taped her video KCRW show. It is fun watching her sing that song, and he spent over ½ the song focusing on the other players! HELLO!!! Sorry.) which I love watching her perform.

Each show seems to be getting more personal (by the way, read below of info on her marital status). She added a new rap/story involving psychotherapy and selling her body for $10,000 a day. Each story is not only cute/funny, but cathartic for her I believe. She continues to tell the story about her failing at love and the very funny love story for the gay rock star (“I know you can never love me because I don’t have male parts, but you have enough male parts for both of us”) but at the end of the show tonight she also was trying to let everyone know how personal it really was. She was actually having trouble spitting out the words and then someone in the audience said, “Say what you mean” and she said, “Yes, exactly”. It almost looked like she was holding back tears (I was as close as anyone to the stage, and her eyes seemed to get a bit wet… hard to tell though). I’m not sure why this show was so much more personal for her, but there is no doubt she is laying it all out there. The stories add power and significance to the songs and it could have gotten real depressing if it weren’t for the humor behind almost everything.

Okay, now for the fun part. When she comes to your town, do not be afraid. She will not bite. She treats everyone as if they are a good friend and is willing to spend minutes not seconds talking to you after the show. This is your chance. Go up and talk to her. Our conversation bounced all over the place. For those of you who watched the KCRW show and got a giggle out of her pajama jokes, she didn’t realize until I told her that with the video there, people could see what they were wearing. She was very embarrassed. Mike, she failed the child name test, but she is coming to D.C. so call her people if you want her on your show. Lynne, sorry we got separated, and that you didn’t get a dinner table, but you did get to sit at the bar. I told her that her daughter looks just like her; with her short straight blonde hair. She said that she had it cut to be just like mommy’s. She loved my friend’s Beatle’s purse, and was excited to know that one of her songs influenced my daughter to paint a picture. Finally, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I had to ask. It may have been rude, but she was so personable it just felt right. Here is exactly how the conversation went:

Me: So, can I ask the question? (she smiled and nodded). Are you and T-Bone split up?

Sam: (she delayed for a second and then smiled) We are for now.

Me: For now? I guess that means you aren’t accepting applications for marriage proposals? (Sam bent over laughing)

Sam: Well, we did file, but I’m not sure where it is going from here.

She mentioned how she couldn’t imagine them not staying friends and co-workers. She also said that he is in the studio creating his own CD finally and that if I didn’t have his self titled CD/album I should go find it because it is amazing. We talked a bit about divorce and such and then wished each other well. And the evening was over. I know, I can’t believe I asked her. And I can’t believe I sort of proposed too. :-) But it was so much fun getting her to laugh that hard.

April 30

So, what will probably be my last view of Sam Phillips on this tour took a left turn tonight. It was a night of survival for her, and luckily the music was good enough to make it. Apparently, either last night or today, Sam was informed that Jay (the drummer) had bolted from the tour to join the Joe Henry tour in Europe. When you only have a 3 piece band and one piece leaves, there is usually a huge hole. So, there was Sam and Patrick for half of the night all by themselves. No percussion. The Section Quartet performed on about half of the songs, but losing the drummer really shook up Sam. She cut out two stories and several songs, and I believe the set was only about 45 minutes. She seemed very distracted when she talked to the audience. You could tell she was really trying to suck it up and make it through the show. “I’m not going to cry” she said early on, but you got the feeling she might.

Having said all that, she was marvelous. None of the songs suffered much, and it was nice hearing them even more stripped down. She did mess up once. Right near the end of “Help is coming”, she got lost on the lyrics and had to stop the song. She talked about it for a minute, made us all laugh, regrouped, figured out where she was, and finished the song.

It was a unique evening: Not her best. But Sam at her least is better than most.

May 5th

by Lynne Bronstein

Yes, I finally got to see and meet Sam. Bruce, I see why you love
her. She says to tell you to bring cookies next time you see her.

And then me:

Glad you were able to meet her. She is a wonderful person. And the
chatting with everyone is how she is. I always got several minutes with
her after the shows. She is just friendly and very appreciative of her

So, what's this "cookies" thing?

And then Lynne again:
Well-umm-"I can’t believe I asked her. And I can’t believe I sort of proposed too." That's what you wrote last week. I jokingly mentioned this to Sam-you'll kill me but my life is so messed up right now you might as well go ahead and kill me. So she said that if you brng her some cookies she might consider your proposal. Far be it from me to be the go-between in your little "romance" but she was so friendly I just blurted it out. I'm sorry.

Then Bill Chimed in:
Start making those cookies! Go for the traditional oatmeal & raisin, as well as the old stand-by chocolate chip. If someone else knows a sure fire cookie for Sam, chime in.

Then Susie:

I personally would go for the plain and simple sugar cookie, cut into cute shapes (hearts)

LOL….Bring a basket full Bruce.

And then back to me:


I’m sorry your life is “messed up” right now. Maybe you just gave yourself some good karma.

If it’s cookies she wants, it’s cookies she gets. :-) My sister bakes real good cookies. I’ll get her a nice variety. Thanks to you all for the cookie suggestions.

June 3rd:

It was my fifth show of this pre-tour, and probably the best. First up, the set list (just as it was written):

Foolin’ Myself

How to Quit

All Night

I Wanted to be Alone

Open the World

Red Silk 5

I wanna Be Your Man

Taking Pictures

Animals on Wheels

Wasting Time

I dreamed I stopped Dreaming


Draw Man

When You’re Down

Reflecting Light

Fan Dance

If I Could Write

Say What you Mean

One Day Late

Pilgrim song (not sure of the title, it wasn’t listed on the set list)

This was the final show before Sam starts her tour, and it was, in my opinion her best show yet. You guys around the country are in for a treat. She is singing the new songs with lots of confidence now. She has pretty much settled on her stories and jokes and did a good job delivering them. Sam calls her self a torch singer on this tour, and by the end of the show you will agree. There is lots of pain, but the humor takes the edge off. They added several new songs to the set including “Red Silk 5”, which she had intended to perform last month, but because of the dry weather couldn’t because she was unable to hit the low notes. As it was, she struggled just a bit. Jay has re-joined the band at drums and the band continues to add just the right touch to augment Sam’s beautiful singing. It is a special show.

Okay, now, before I talk about my chat with Sam after the show, I should probably catch everyone up… So, for those who missed it, last month I asked Sam if she was split up with T-Bone. She had said, “For Now”, and I found myself proposing marriage to her. It was a fun moment that she didn’t just blow off, and I’ll always love her for that. :-) So a couple of weeks later, Lynne saw her perform at Borders and somehow she found a way to bring up my proposal. Sam told her something to the effect that I should bring cookies if I really want to win her over. So, I immediately called one of my favorite people in the world, my sister, who also happens to be an excellent baker. Could you? Would you?

So, tonight, after the show, armed with a basket of cookies and a note (which I will not go into) I approached Sam. “Someone told me to bring you cookies”. She appeared shocked, amazed and delighted all at once. When I started to tell her that it was a woman at Borders, the recognition clicked and you could add embarrassment to that list. I decided not to push the whole marriage thing. I was just so thrilled that she was so excited to get the cookies. By the way, a basket of cookies should pretty much guarantee a hug from her. We chatted a bit about T-Bone’s self titled LP, which she had recommended to me and which I just found on EBay. It is an excellent album if you can find it. I wished Sam well, and walked away smiling. I’m not sure anything will ever compare to these last few months of shows.

Those of you who are thinking of maybe seeing her in more than one city, I highly recommend you make your plans because you will be kicking yourself after the show. One show is just not enough. And please go up to her and talk to her. I really believe that she loves it. And bring her cookies. Wouldn’t that be a fun joke and a nice conversation starter? Think about it.

Those of you on the WCR list, thanks for indulging me on this. Mike understands, I know. By the way, Sam will be doing a live Loft Session on The Loft on XM radio sometime in the near future.

August 3rd

Thank you I think… I’ve gone from seeing Sam free at the Getty in February and chatting with her afterward to paying $100 a ticket to sit in the front row and then meet with her and Bruce after the show. Oh well. It is Sam. :-)

August 27

Tuesday night was Sam Phillips and Bruce Cockburn in Hermosa Beach.

Sam was wonderful as always. She played 50 minutes but got in 14 songs. Here is the song list:

Foolin' Myself
How to Quit
All Night
I wanted to be alone
Animals on Wheels
Was it all in my head
I dreamed I stopped dreaming
When you're down
Fan Dance
Say what you mean
Reflecting light
One day late

There was only one story this time (the Mr. Rogers story/song) but she did joke with the audience a bit: AND they got her and were actually laughing. Most of the time, she makes people a bit uncomfortable because they aren’t sure if it is a joke. It seems she likes creating that edge. I told her about the audience reaction and she was surprised. She said she didn’t hear it. The new songs (“Was it all in my head” and “When you’re down”) are very good and could easily have been on “A Boot and a Shoe”. She is working on more music and may have another CD out in record time (that would be less than 2 years). We, Jess and I, had front row in the corner. So I got to watch Jay play percussion. He is an amazing guy to watch, and his layer of sound and rhythm compliment Sam’s new music. For those wondering about the cookies… I didn’t bring any (a good thing too, because they served us cookies after the show). But Sam recognized me and gave me a big hug when we came up; saying something to the effect that she saw us earlier. That put a smile on my face.

Bruce Cockburn was his amazing self: Playing, picking and pretty much controlling his acoustic guitars while singing about the problems of the world. Bruce solo is just a great show. So… he’s introducing this song from his latest CD called “Postcards from Cambodia”. Do I need to tell you what it is about? He said it was the type of song his manager hated for him to record. It is dark and long. After the song and the thunderous applause, someone from the audience yelled, “Let’s see Buffett cover that one”. Bruce laughed and then said, “Jimmy Buffett has been very good to me. He has created several good covers of my songs. I don’t think he will be covering that one. Although, you never know”.

Okay, so I have to side track here… I was in a bar having lunch (don’t go there) and this old 60’s song comes on and I’m sort of moving around to it and someone says, “So, how many Jimmy Buffett concerts have you been to?” So, I can’t help it if he has good taste in what he decides to cover. How was I to know it was him? :-) And like the Dixie Chicks, who I’m not really a big fan of either, I can only thank him for helping to fill Bruce’s wallet and make him that much more independent of the record companies.

Back to the show. Bruce played about 1.75 hours and sang songs from all over his career. It was very similar to the last 2 shows I’ve seen.Can’t really complain about that. They have all been good shows.

December 6
Hope to see as many of you as possible at Sam Phillips tonight. It is at the Troubadour. I’m sure there are still tickets, but don’t take any chances. Get yours before it is too late. :-) This is Sam’s final show for awhile. She is going to start work on her next CD and won’t be touring for awhile. God, how will I get through 2005? Anyway, the Section Quartet will again be joining her. You’ve just gotta hear them play Tool and Radiohead in the same set. They are very cool.

December 7

It was a magical and bittersweet night for me. After 11 months of touring with her new CD, Sam was playing her final night of the tour at the Troubadour in L.A. For me, it was the last of 8 concerts seeing her as either the headliner, opening for Bruce Cockburn or as a participant with the Section Quartet. I had waited 15 plus years to see her and could not get enough this year. I feel very lucky to be living in Southern California and to have had this opportunity.

So, when I say that last night was magical and that this may have been the best performance of the lot, understand that I may be overstating things a bit. But it was. The band played wonderfully. Sam was in good voice, and her guitar playing was smooth and even powerful at times. I chatted with Jay after the show and asked him if it was me or did they take “When You’re Down” up 4 or 5 notches. He said, “absolutely”. For those of you who have heard it, you’ll be surprised when I tell you that Jay was pounding the drums like he was working for some young rocker, and Sam was cranking on the rhythm guitar. It was easily the most potent moment of all of the concerts I’ve seen from her this year. But, for me, every moment had its magic. Every time a violin crept into the sound I smiled. Every time, Jay would reach down below his drum kit and somehow come up with a new noise, I grinned. Every time Sam looked out at the audience, with that funny joking look, as she always does after the last verse in “I Wanted to be Alone”, I laughed. I can tend to drift a bit during concerts but I’ve never been so in the moment. It was wonderful. The set list was pretty similar to the other concerts I’ve seen, with the exception of adding “Is That Your Zebra?”. I don’t believe I had heard that one. At the end of the evening, Sam did the: “Okay, I’ll pretend to walk off and you pretend to give me an ovation and then I’ll do an encore”. The audience gave her a huge ovation. I think she was a bit overwhelmed and actually gave us a bow. After her fake encore, she left the stage, but the audience had not had enough. She came back to sing “Fooling Myself”, and the evening was over. Sam played about 70 minutes; a very typical length. Below you will find the set list. I wish someone had recorded that show. It was a special one.

For those of you in L.A. who would really like to catch at least a glimpse of Sam, she will be at The Echo in Echo Park, playing a couple of songs with The Section Quartet on Thursday the 27th of January.

My favorite after concert moment came while I was talking to Daphne of the Section Quartet. I asked her how the benefit they played in Austin for Alejandro Escovedo went. She said, “we did our version of Crooked Frame”, and I interrupted her and said, “That’s the one you arranged, right?” She said “yea”, then “YEA”. She was surprised that I knew she arranged it. Generally Eric arranges the songs. I’m not sure I conveyed how cute this moment was. Her surprise and excitement that someone knew she arranged a piece of music was classic.

Another highlight to the show was that the Troubadour decided to put seats on the floor. So, we sat right up front the whole evening.

It was good seeing Lynne and Susie again, and my daughter and her two friends loved the show.

Below you will find the set list:

Edge of the World

Zero Zero Zero

How to Quit

All Night

Was It All In My Head

I Wanted to be Alone


Animals On Wheels

When You’re Down

Is That Your Zebra?

I Dreamed I Stopped Dreaming

Taking Pictures

If I Could Write



Reflecting Light

(fake encore)

Say What You Mean

One Day Late

(real encore)

Fooling Myself

January 28,2005
It was a wonderful finale for the Section Quartet's residency at The Echo. They again had over 300 people in attendance to see them and their guest stars.

The opening band, The Ditty Bops, were a wonderful sort of country swing band with some demented lyrics and two female lead singers. The women played guitar and mandolin and they were supported by a stand up bass, violin and keyboards. Lots of fun.

The Section came on and played a couple of songs, including my current favorite, "Grace" by Jeff Buckley. The first guest was a guy who's name I can never remember; something Maldinado or something like that. They joke that he channels Morrissey, and he does a great job on his music. I've seen him before with The Section. Then up came Sam Phillips. Now, the deal
was: Each performer would do one of their songs and one cover. Sam performed a beautiful, scary version of "Edge of the World" and then covered beautifully, "Green Grass" from Tom Waits latest CD.

Up next was Greg Dulli from the Afghan Whigs. He had enough attitude to fill a couple of rooms. He was also the crowd favorite based on the amount of yelling and applause that he garnered. I couldn't tell you what song of his he performed with The Section, but his cover song was an old UFO number. He spent most of that song sitting at a table that was put on the side of the stage (it looked like he was in a club watching the band... cute idea), drinking from a shot glass and smoking a cig.

Finally, Grant Lee Phillips came up; guitar in hand he sang one of his songs and then did a cover of Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes". That was it. Clocking in at just over an hour, it was short but very sweet.

That's about it. I chatted with Sam and Eric but don't really have anything to report. Oh wait, I do. I was chatting about all the Phillips around (I brought up Glen Phillips) and wondered aloud that they must all be related. Sam said, "We must be, but we're all afraid to find out". Very cute line.

I am heading into the most intense concert week that I have ever had. On February the 8th I will be seeing Jill Sobule at Largo. Then Deb comes out and we do 4 nights in a row from the 10th to the 13th. And then on the 16th is Sam at The Silverlake Lounge. That's six shows in 9 nights. I must be crazy.

February 17
This was my first trip to the Silverlake Lounge. It’s not a place I am looking forward to going back to. It’s not in the greatest neighborhood and there is NO parking. None. I parked several blocks away in a residential neighborhood and walking back to my car (hoping it was still there) at midnight was not a treat either. But more important, the stage is only about 2 feet high (and I’m being generous). Only a handful of the hundred or so who turned out actually got to see her perform. On the plus side, the sound was good; with only one feedback/hum issue during the evening.

So, Sam comes out and I can tell there is something wrong. I’m not sure if it was that the crowd pushed up close to her and her knowing that most people couldn’t see her, or if there was something personal going on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sam wears her heart on her sleeve on stage and when things are wrong it tends to show up in different stories and some songs seeming to have a strong emotional impact on her. Right off the bat she mentions that there will be much music and much talking and hopefully we’ll be able to find “the show” in it. This reminded me a lot of her performance the night Jay had to fly off to Europe, leaving her without a drummer. This wasn’t as dramatic, but you could feel it. Sam hardly talked to the crowd after that, saving her new story for late in the show. New to the show was a cassette version of “Incinerator” but no shaking of the cassette for solo purposes. This of course meant that she would leave out “Animals on Wheels”.

The story was basically about a boss she had when she was young who believed that God talked to him. He told her that God told him that his wife was going to die and Sam was going to take her place. She asked the audience if anyone knew someone who said that God had talked to them. Someone from the audience yelled out “Bush” and Sam smiled. Now, I’m going to interpret what Sam’s point was, and excuse me if I’m a bit off, but she said something to the effect that she didn’t necessarily believe that God talked to him (and maybe anyone) but she did understand the passion that made him want to believe it. I think the reason she told the story was so that she could say that she believed in wanting to understand what can’t be understood. And I believe that led into “Sister Rosetta…”.

Only one new song this time; “Sister Rosetta Went Before Us”. Without totally ruining the song, I’ll paraphrase a bit of the lyrics which said something like: “I lost the love I never really had, but I can hear the music above my head”. Please, that is just an approximation, but you get the point. She played her two other new songs: “When You’re Down” and “Was it All in My Head”. All three will make an excellent foundation for the new CD. She also performed Tom Waits’ “Green Grass” which she did with the Section Quartet last month. I would love to see her cover it on her next CD. It really fits everything she is singing about these days.

After the show, I was chatting with her and I pulled out the set list and started saying, “What’s this? What’s this?”, poking at the sheet. She didn’t even have to look at what I was poking at. A year ago I started bugging her to play “I Need Love”. It was on the set list but was dropped. “I know. I know. I’m sorry. We were so close this time. Next time”. I’m holding her to that.

Sam played for about 1 hour. Okay, for those interested, here is the set list:

Foolin’ Myself
Zero Zero Zero
How To Quit
All Night
I Wanted to be Alone
Fan Dance
I Dreamed I Stopped Dreaming
Taking Pictures
Soul Eclipse
Was It All in My Head
When You’re Down
Green Grass
Sister Rosetta Went Before Us
Reflecting Light
Say What you Mean
One Day Late

No new concerts are scheduled, but she will be at the next Section Quartet show on March 3rd at Largo and they could get her on stage.


If you made it this far, you must be one big Sam Phillips fan. I hope you enjoyed it. If you are new to Sam Phillips, check out her Long Play project before it goes away. The Long Play, , was easily my second favorite year spent listening to Sam.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen