31 May 2005

Halcyon Days

As I get older, I find myself growing increasingly less willing to make impromptu road trips to catch concert tours that won’t make stops in the towns in which I reside. Back in the day, I would hightail it from Evansville to Nashville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Louisville (of course), even Chicago and see concerts. But now, when faced with the prospect of seeing Band X play in Town Y on Day Z, rather than get swept up in the thrill of catching Band X live, I think more about how long the drive will be, how much gas that’s going to cost, how will I find the venue, is said venue in a shitty part of the town to which I’ll be traveling, will I have to take time off from work and most importantly, if I don’t take time off from work, will I nod off at the wheel while driving back home at 2 a.m.?

In fact, in the past two years there have been a few shows featuring bands I like that took place right here in Louisville that I skipped because I was a little tired that particular day or, even worse, because there was a conflict with a TV program and the TV program won. Yes, I'm a pantywaist.

There’s something about Local H that turns my biological clock back to 23. I can say, with much confidence and without any irony or sarcasm, that Local H fucking rocks, plain and simple. They’re a classic rock band with punk rock passion and the indie rock aesthetic, and the novelty of their two-man line-up doesn’t hurt. Best of all is the fact that their albums are all start-to-finish perfect (well, except maybe their debut, which is kind of derivative, but I digress); with the wealth of top-notch material that Local H has in their arsenal, you really can’t lose when seeing them play live.

So as mentioned previously, a Memorial Day road trip was planned to Covington, Ky. to see Local H play at a club. Due to the fortuitous holiday timing and the show’s geographical proximity to my wife’s favorite grocery store, we made a long weekend out of it. We found the venue and our hotel with relative ease, then drove over to Newport to have supper and a few refreshments before returning to Covington for a night of rock and/or roll.

Now the bad news: For some bizarre reason, this particular venue booked two local acts to open for the band that opened for Local H. That meant there were four bands on a bill that was scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. If each band played a 30 minute set with the inevitable 30 minutes of breaking down drum kits, lugging of amplifiers and tuning of guitars between each set, this meant we were in for a long night.

But, a slight reprieve: Instead of starting at 10, or as I feared, sometime after 10 (because, you know, punctuality is so not rock ‘n’ roll), the first band started around 9:30. They were adequate, but I can’t recall their name. Denial was next; they, too, were adequate, but their lead singer was quite the little poseur. My wife said, “You can tell that guy spends more time looking in the mirror than playing his guitar,” which pretty much hit the nail on the head.

The Giraffes were next, and wonder of wonders, they were actually really good. So good, in fact, that I bought one of their CDs after the show. They were kind of like an indie rock version of Clutch. They’ve got a new disc coming out in July, so naturally I e-mailed their label and arranged to get a review copy.

And then the main event. This particular Local H tour is called “U-Pick It U-Eat It.” Concertgoers are handed a ballot with 60 tunes from the Local H repertoire (including six cover songs) arranged like a sushi menu and the instructions to pick seven of them. This is an intriguing prospect, because, as with every other band I’ve ever seen play live, Local H has six or seven songs that the play at every concert. Theoretically, with enough knowledgeable fans and enough well chosen votes, a truly unique setlist could be created at each show. Plus, my wife let me vote for her, so I attempted to rig the voting as best I could. I didn’t want it to be too obvious, so I used two different pens and made some adjustments between the two ballots so they weren’t complete duplicates of each other. All in all, I ended up voting for "Buffalo Trace," "Rock & Roll Professionals," "Mellowed" and "Cool Magnet" twice.

Did it work? Yes and no. The setlist is below. I voted for the songs in italics. Songs with an asterisk are ones that seem to get played at every show.

Half Life
All Right Oh Yeah
Fritz’s Corner*
Rock & Roll Professionals
Heavy Metal Bake Sale
High-Fivin' Mother Fucker*
P.J. Soles
Manifest Destiny (Part 1)
Buffalo Trace
Lead Pipe Cinch
Eddie Vedder
Sports Bar
Hands on the Bible
Bound for the Floor*
No Problem
Tangerine (Led Zep cover)
Toxic (Britney Spears cover)
California Songs

So, not my dream Local H show, but any Local H show is a good one. Also, "Buffalo Trace" is a 10-minute song, so maybe its epic length shortened the number of available songs.

Still... I would've liked to have heard more stuff from their latest album, Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?. Or from Here Comes the Zoo or Pack Up the Cats or the No Fun E.P. It's like they're still promoting As Good As Dead, which was released in 1996 (and which isn't their best record, either).

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