Them Crooked Vultures
Live at the Fillmore Auditorium
Date: April 19, 2010
I was wondering how to write this, because I wanted to tell you about the experiences of the evening without it being too much like a music review. But I've read my 'music reviews' and they really don't review much of the music itself, so I guess I'm good to go. One thing for sure is there will be blood. I mean tangents. There will be tangents. And probably not much of a resolution. I'm sometimes a horrible writer in that regard, so I'm just apologizing for that now. So, let's get startedÉ
It didn't seem like it was going to be that big of a deal, but as the day wore on I really was becoming more and more excited about the activity planned for the evening. Them Crooked Vultures (band) was coming to play in Denver, and it was kind of a big deal. At least to me. With limited shows played in these United States so far, it was nice they were hitting the Fillmore for one of their gigs. Pretty fucking amazing, actually. John Paul Jones ain't no spring chicken, and this is Denver, after all. I haven't looked into it specifically or heard anything, but I wonder what bands think about playing in the upper elevations, and how much that really affects them. But the big question is, who the fuck is this band, anyways? Yeah, that kinda threw me too upon first hearing of them.
Back in October or so of aught-nine, we had a vendor into 'the workplace' installing some new bullshit system Marketing globbed onto because they thought it was high-tech and cool and would make people subconsciously buy products of advertisers. Advertisers that pay green cashy money, and Marketing sold them on such. Can't complain, they pay my salary. Looks like shit when aired, but hey, it's all subjective, right? So anyways, this guy is in the shop and around the joint doing his thing, and mentions he's gotta get back to New York for a killer show Saturday night. 'Them Crooked Vultures. Have you heard of them?' No, I had not. Stack it up to prejudice against young-people music (as he definitely seemed to fall into the 'punk' category by my standards [crap, i have that now, don't I?]) , so I wasn't immediately interested in delving too far into it. But it is new music, so I at least wanted to find out general genre and the like. Then he lays out the players. John Paul Jones (as previously mentioned. From a little band you may have heard of called LED FUCKING ZEPPELIN) "Kick ass!" (my response) Josh Homme (from Queens of the Stone Age [and Kyuss!]) "You're fucking kidding me!" (my response) and Dave Grohl. "UhmÉCool!" (less enthusiastic, not a big Foo Fighters fan but appreciate his musical talent for sure). So basically it was an immediate NOTE TO SELF: THEM CROOKED VULTURES.
Time passes. I put the word out to my brother Randy to see if he's seen anything on the intertubes as far as live shows were concerned since there wasn't even an album released at the time. Nothing very high quality, so took a pass. I'm not that huge of a fan of any band where I think something recorded off an inferior recording device is considered of high value. It's like, dude, it sounds like you had the mic wrapped in a sock while your drunken buddy is talking through the whole set. I don't care if they put an extra bridge of riffs in that one song, it still sounds like complete shit. I ain't listening to it. (Ironically enough, their first live show was even in Chicago at the Metro, of all places. Not sure how any of them tie back to there, but that kind of kicks ass in itself).
It wasn't until a couple days after the official release in November that I heard the music. I say it was a few days after the November 17th release date only because I had actually ordered the physical 'CD' off of Amazon. To note, it was paired with another strange anomaly of a musical group known as 'The Company Band,' but that's for Wikipedia to fill in the gaps beyond the fact that Neil Fallon (vocalist of CLUTCH) is, well, the vocalist of that band as well. And kicks ass in many different ways as well, but that's neither here (nor there!). So back to getting the TCV CD in my hands and into the playerÉA bit odd at first, but in a good way. Being a big fan of QOTSA, I saw them as a heavy influence on the sound and a very nice progression. Crap, this is taking too long, isn't it? I still have the evening show and post-show to go over, so I may have to just pick up there in the next paragraph. I really sometimes suck at self-editing, but you're pretty much fucked and along for the ride at this point so here we go. Now!
So, by relative chance, I see these guys are coming to town. Two dates in the States posted, Denver and Vegas. Really? Fuck. Yeah. Totally not missing this one.
Part of the excitement of seeing a band is being able to share it with some friends, and be able to talk about it before, during and afterwards for those that are so inclined. Personally, I hate talking during a show. It's really like a movie, for me. You're absorbing not only the music but also the musicians and their playing styles, witness to their riffs first-hand or catching a nice added drum-roll or whatever catches your eye and/or ear. The collective atmosphere of live music as it's happening. Not listening to some bozo go on about how their day at work sucked or some such trivial bullshit just because they don't like the song that's playing. Nope. That's one of the few times that's totally acceptable to treat an adult like a baby and give them the "Shush!" pantomime as you turn away and continue to ignore their ass. Persistence on their part is met with continued ignorance on your part. Eventually they get the picture or cease to be your friend. It really is that simple.
But on this particular occasion I did not have an accomplice to witness the show. Due to circumstances beyond my control, it was not meant to be. Kinda sucks walking into a show solo, but if the music is right and alcohol is present, well, fuck it! Let's rock! Besides, idle banter between songs doesn't suit me well. I think it's a combination of the altitude, alcohol and music. Once I'm in that zone, few things distract me. Except short, fidgety fat people with jew-fros. But I'll get to that in a bit, I guess. Damn, that dude really kinda got on my nerves after awhile, though.
So in the zone of live music, it's all good. Fortunately I made conversation with the people around me beforehand to make it more interesting. The first was to re-direct a group of people waiting in line for the show outside the venue to instead of, now bear with me on this because the logic may be a bit tainted, to instead of having it go straight down the block and INTO THE STREET, to maybe curve it around the corner so people weren't forced to wait for a green light to catch up to the line. Crazy, I know, but I did have to kind of throw it out there because, seriously? Crowd mentality can be a bit scary if left to its own devices.
I hate scalpers. That's pretty much all I'll say on that matter. At least I got some cash from them as a last resort after fishing the extra ticket out. I still don't like them, though.
So. Seven P.M. and the eventual security pat-down. They even felt my ankles to make sure I wasn't sneaking in an HD camcorder in my shoe or something. But that was of no consequence to me. No collapsable bongs or flasks of whiskey were present, so in I went. After a couple of stiff, heavily priced Jack & Cokes, I settled into The Spot. There's one for every show. Sometimes you have the time to find it, sometimes it's just happened upon. Other times you just plain miss it, and it makes the whole show off somehow. The floor was still pretty bare, so I took the first-floor rounds as I knew I definitely wasn't going balcony for this one. And gravitated back to where it was about right. At the Fillmore, particularly for a heavy show, it's always good to center up right in front of the fenced soundboard. Solid backing, good acoustics. But it was kinda far back for this one, perceptually or otherwise. So I wandered up a bit. Being tall, I am a bit conscientious in such situations. Who wants to be stuck behind the tall guy, right? But that ends up really sucking for the tall guy a lot of the time. It was early enough, so it was fair warning. Ten feet back from the crowd, probably only about 25 from the front of center stage, that was it. That was The Spot.
Having little else to do while waiting for the show to start, I commenced to people-watching and thinking about shit. Random shit, mostly. With a performance so close, I tend to be a bit scattered and unfocused. Just looking forward to it, you know? Get it on! But eventually the crowd starts filling up in front of me and around me (fair warning!), the good vibes and whiskey taking effect and I make casual comments to my fellow concert-goers, crack a joke about the background music or whatnot. Apparently a group of little people take a shining to me (and in little I mean short, which most people are to me, but pretty young, too. And appreciators of my Clutch t-shirt [good taste, always a bonus]). But apparently I just have that air about me, as I'm beginning to discover of late. And it's kinda weird, too, the people I've been attracting since cutting off my hair. I honestly have the same general demeanor I've always had, but I guess as a 6-1/2 foot tall guy with long hair I was just a little too intimidating. Now? Freak magnet. Not necessarily bad, and I guess freak is not quite the correct descriptor. But there's definitely been a trend while being out and about in the downtown scene the last couple of months where there's just some stranger-than-usual encounters. There's the drunken friendly guy at the Shoe who wanted to feel my beard. There was the guy at the Clutch show who wondered if I was a Wizard (of the Wiccan sort, not the KKK variety), or the frat boys who were apparently mesmerized by my Pure Rock Fury (they were really douche-nozzles, fortunately easily distracted and sent off). But then there were the little guys (and their sister) from Planet Ink (band), totally in the space to catch a killer show from TCV. Good lot, had similar comments regarding the opening band (bad faux-english whiny singer via L.A., could have done with a lot less of that tripe, for sure. Bordering on mediocre at best, but hard crowd to please considering. More power to them, hope they find a better venue!). Turns out they (Planet Ink [band]) got some pretty good stuff on myspace, I'll have to drop them a line and let them know. I'm pretty sure they'll remember me. For some reason, people always do.
And then there was the Band. Them Crooked Vultures. How was it? Totally. Fucking. Awesome. There was an almost unusual casual stage presence, where it was just a couple guys coming out on stage to play some of the stuff they'd been working on. But it was pretty damn tight for the album stuff, which they played in its entirety throughout the evening, including, surprisingly to me, Interlude with Ludes. Some improv and extensions throughout (particularly good with Scumbag Blues and a bluesy original I think was called something like 'Place Called Home). John Paul Jones was just fucking cool. Totally got the most applause when initially introduced, and he seemed almost abashed by the attention. Mostly on bass, but broke out a variety of instruments throughout the almost two-hour set, including a violin and a not-quite mandolin/mini-guitar type instrument for one of the new songs incorporated into the set. Nice little keyboard solo worked in as well, but just seemed to be kinda diggin' it the whole time. Some guitar by Homme got a bit too discordant/muddled on the extended jams, but overall pretty damn tight. Vocals were always good, and a decent, casual vibe for the whole between-song banter. I'm not so familiar with Grohl's work beyond Nirvana, but know he's a pretty accomplished musician on multiple fronts. Definitely some great energy and change-up rhythm on the drums, with quite a bit of backing vocals throughout the evening that always sounded good. And then there was the extremely solid rythm/environmental guitarist Alain Johannes to round out the live sound, definitely deserves some kudos for making it sound pretty fucking alright!
Appreciation of Live music can be a very subjective thing; some bands appeal to me and others just don't. I can definitely say these guys made for a good live show. It looks like they're going to continue with it for at least another album, which is awesome because it will be cool to hear how they progress as a band. And I sure hope I get to see them come through Denver again. Hell, I even bought a t-shirt from the bastards.
And I realize now I forgot to mention the schmuck in front of me who was just really annoying by the end of the show, or the jock-types who followed the beer-man into the crowd and decided to conveniently stop front and center in front of us (including Planet Ink [band]) right before the TCV set (though after a couple of 'encouraging' words from myself decided to move on), but that's all crap. And I'm a little sad my good friends John and Lindsey didn't get to enjoy the show. But really, it doesn't matter. What does matter is being able to experience such a kick-ass performance by some musicians I truly respect. And hopefully you get the same opportunity to do so as well, if not with TCV, then with someone else over this summer concert season. And if you do, be sure to let me know! Always keep an ear open for something good!
P.S. And I totally didn't get to write about the freak at Sheabeen's (local pub) after the show. Totally set himself up like a someone out of "Men Who Stare at Goats" but didn't quite have the mental powers necessary. Fucking hilarious.