CAUTION: this post represents only the 1st of 3 chapters. Get yerself a whiskey and set a spell.
It’s 1:15 and the wine boxes are flowing. The sun is blazing and global warming is in full effect. Freakwater offered the sweetest possible welcome to the Arrow Stage in Golden Gate Park. I grew up in Chicago and seized every chance to see Janet Beveridge Bean play with Eleventh Dream Day and Freakwater. There ain’t nothing like her harmonies with Catherine Irwin. There ain’t nothing like bass player David Gay, who has had a cigarette hanging outta his mouth since I last saw him in 1994. They played “Smoking Daddy,” from 1995’s Old Paint, and a cover of Conway Twitty’s “You’ve Never Been this Far Before” which they referred to as a ‘palate cleanser’ before considering the sounds of saliva Twitty left all over his recordings.
A quick dash over to the Rooster stage and The Felice Brothers were making lots of new friends. Not sure what these boys are doing in the Catskills, but they sure can deliver some sorta Dylan and The Band/Creole fusion that is sooooo nice. They impressed at Portland Pickathon this year and scored another win in SF.
4:20, Father John Misty plays “I’m Writing a Novel,” a song with the line “We could do Ayahuasca baby if I wasn’t holding all these drinks.” Our Father played alone inside an iPhone screen — perhaps to maximize the attention of the ADHD generation. He played “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” talking of the Adderall and weed in his veins. For such a fucked up guy, he seemed very together. “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” ends with ‘hope they make something useful out of me.’ I ignored Fleet Foxes and Father John until now. I may reconsider that decision.
Calexico closed out the Arrow stage. With the crowd demanding Minutemen covers, the band played Joy Division’s “Love will Tear us Apart Again.” Suddenly a few PBRs flew on stage from some fans up front, and in no time The Minutemen’s “Corona” filled our desperate souls. To complete the perfect trifecta, Calexico moved directly into a 3rd cover: “Alone Again Or” the opening track from Love’s masterpiece, Forever Changes. After Howe Gelb’s stunning performance last year, how nice to have that giant, Tucson, sand-sound back again. Let us pray for a Giant Sand reunion next year (original recipe!).
There were quite a few night shows to choose from on Friday. After starting the day with Freakwater, I couldn’t resist the chance to see Freakons at The Chapel. Could it be done, a melding of Freakwater and Mekons? Hell yes! Jon Langford can make anything happen. He has been a fixture of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass for many years with a unique offering every time. He brought Toronto’s awesome Sadies last year, but the trip he talks about most was in 2008, when he brought the entire Burlington Welsh Male Choir (maybe 20 of ’em!). Apparently they “drank every stage dry,” and one of the them got Hazel Dickens’ phone number. The Freakons paid respects to Hazel, playing her “Coal Miner’s Grave” during their coal heavy set that included Merle Travis’ “Dark as a Dungeon” and “Working In The Coal Mine,” which ended of course with Jon dancing and showing off his muscular thighs.
Please note, The Sadies will play the Great American Music Hall for a special Halloween show on 10/31!
The last minute surprise opener for the evening was none other than The Horse’s Ha. Janet from Freakwater and The Zinc’s James Elkington formed the band in 2002, released their first album in 2009 and their second record Waterdrawn this year! Pitchfork refers to it as “English Folk Music”. The duo sang of blind shrews and penguin love.
Ya’ll come back tomorrow for Chapter 2!