There's a delicate balance that must be struck to have a successful set. Oh, sure, you need good music, but little things can really upset. A few years back, I caught an Okkervil River show in Northampton with a friend. Singer Will Sheff was clearly drunk and playing his guitar way too delicately. This bothered my friend so much, she couldn't enjoy the set at all; she just couldn't get past it.
Well, I'm a huge Neko Case fan. "Middle Cyclone" may be my favorite record of 2009, so far. With that said, I found her performance incredibly annoying. The songs were killer, so why did it annoy the poop out of me?
Well, the backup singer just wouldn't stop talking, or making noises. There's a value to silence, to hearing people tune their instruments. Well, this woman just couldn't let a second go by without making a noise. And we're not talking about stage banter either; she just kept saying random phrases or laughing or making odd noises. It was so, so annoying. I couldn't deal with it.
It was so bad, I'm currently in the press tent, typing this entry and only hearing "This Tornado Loves You," one of my favorite tunes in recent memory. Oh, man. If, by chance, anyone knows this singer - who has a great voice by the way - tell her she needs to stop. She doesn't have to be an emcee that doesn't stop. Say interesting things. I don't know. Please, just stop.
But, again, the music was great. I've seen Case before, and it wasn't ever like this.
Anyway, on to other artists. Guy Clark really killed. I only saw three-fourths of his set because I wanted to at least see Joe Pugg since others have told me he's good. I wish I didn't take those people's advice. Pugg is folk music for teenage girls, the kind of performer you can see at any open mic. Oh, he writes good songs, but it's nothing that goes above the norm.
And that's all I've got for now. I'm going enjoy the rest of my Narragansett beer and then head over to see Deer Tick and Elvis Perkins in Deerland. We'll talk soon.
EDIT: I've just learned Case's backup singer is none other than Kelly Hogan, a singer who's made some very good alt-country records. Heck, I've interviewed her about a show I saw at Cafe Nine a handful of years ago. She wasn't like that when she played solo. I don't get it. Maybe the thousands and thousands of people make her nervous?