Nick Cave at Tennessee Performing Arts Centre

I might have titled this "Nick Cave Live at Tennessee Performing Arts Centre, but that would suggest a concert.  I've been to two Nick Cave concerts, with more to come I hope, but this definitely was not a Nick Cave concert.


I wasn't misled, though.  The evening was titled "Conversations with Nick Cave."  For a stage set, that includes just a piano, Nick and a spare microphone (plus assorted VIP$ stage tables).  Cave fans already know this, but in case someone strays into this post, Nick Cave is an Australian musician (songwriter, etc.) who creates challenging music, at times described as gothic, or, as Wiki puts it, with themes of "death, religion, love and violence."  I'm not his biggest fan of his earlier decades of work, but I'm a big fan since 2004.  

This show, as well as his last album, were impacted by the accidental death of one of his 15 year-old twin sons in 2015.  How does the artist respond?  In part, by appreciating the outpouring of support from his fans and, later, finding a means to continue to engage in the human experience with them.  Thus, he started The Red Hand Files, a forum in which his fans can ask him anything and in which he responds to a great many.  So, why leave that to a forum?  Thus, "Conversations" takes that engagement live.  Or, what he said on postcards for the audience as they entered:



For three hours, Cave would sing a couple of songs, field five to eight un-moderated questions from the the audience, sing a couple of songs, answer more questions, etc.  Typically, concerts offer very little in terms of glimpses into the performer.  Too many play their set with a breif mention of "Hello (insert city name)!" and others feign being personal with canned patter between songs.  And that's okay, but it's rare, post-Sinatra, when the artist just... talks.  This linked review does well in pointing out some of the questions and responses for this particular evening. 


But I'll add my own.  Nick Cave, solo on a piano, is a beautiful thing.  My favorite song, "Jubilee Street," which is one awesome thing with his full band, the Bad Seeds, is now quite another.  Each song was given its due, with his vocal performance and piano expressions as naked without his band as he was in the face of the "who knows what" questions that would come from his audience. 


Each pair of songs appeared to be the result of those he intended to play mixed with those that related in some way to a question presented by the audience, limited only by which ones he had handy for sheet music.  Honesty: "I can't play that one."  In any case, Cave didn't sit back on his chair to appreciate the audience response.  He quickly got up, hustled to the microphone at the front of the stage and pointed to a questioner in one of the lines.  While in no way subtracting from his performance, his desire was clearly for the Q&A.

Tidbits - I've paraphrased as I wasn't recording the show, so if contested, others may be right:
  • On what he thinks of remastered recordings (ala the Beatles catalog):  Once released, the songs belong to the audience - how they sound, how they relate to the moments that they're in.  In other words, he's completely against it.  "If Neil Young ever remixed 'On the Beach' I would fucking seek him out and strangle him, because it's my song!
  • Vegans:  "I would be a Vegan, but the shoes are so fucking bad."  "Vegetarians are unhappy people when people are eating meat all the time."
  • Grief:  A funeral director asked what expressions of grief were offered him, I think asking for better words than the trite expressions generally offered.  Cave mentioned that people often say "he'll remain in your heart" or similar.  Someone told him to "take him out of your heart and put him beside you."  That helped.
  • On terror:  Was terrified performing with a lot of anxiety before shows.  Is terrified of losing people.  Terrified by the Q&A.  Was terrified of giving up drugs and its effect on writing songs.
  • On his shirts:  "A gentleman never talks about his tailor.  But I can play you a song."
  • His more recent songs being obtuse:  "My songs are porous and dependent on the audience for meaning." This was affirmed by one questioner who rambled something fairly unintelligible, but possibly about connecting themes in two songs that may have something related to, eh, we'll say Area 51 and you get the idea.  Cave:  "I have no fucking idea what you're talking about," as politely as he could.
  • On feminism:  "Fuck. I should have taken the question from the woman behind you." He talked about Nina Simone and the strength that she had in her songs and career, which he admired.


So, he's familiar with the F word.  But these were far outnumbered by quick articulate answers that spoke to the question, the questioner, and the audience, often deeply.  Intelligence, humor, insight, introspection - there's a lot to like.
  • On his favorite bible verse:  Matthew 9:20-22. He didn't quote the scripture or the verse, but mentioned the lady with the blood disorder, who reached to Jesus as he passed in the crowd and grabbed his robe. His view is that people, and artists such as himself, should always be reaching for the light.  No mention of the power that flowed from Jesus when the lady touched the hem, but, hey, it's what he took away from the verse.
Three hours of Nick Cave.  I yearn for another concert, but this type of artist encounter may never come around again, and if it did, I'd probably be disappointed in the artist that tried after this.

Also, Adele's rocks for those looking for a restaurant in Nashville.

Setlist:

The Ship Song
The Weeping Song
Where's the Playground Susie? (Jimmy Webb)
Shoot Me Down
Love Letter
Papa Won't Leave You, Henry
Into My Arms
Palaces of Montezuma
Sad Waters
The Mercy Seat
Avalanche (Leonard Cohen)
O Children
Jubilee Street
Stagger Lee

King Crimson - Live at Cobb Energy Center

A month shy of two years since their previous visit to Atlanta, King Crimson returned, this time in a modern theater as opposed to a more intimate but aging rock show venue (Center Stage).  There is good and bad with that.  Let's see... Good: Newer bathrooms, which I didn't use.  Better restaurant selections pre-show.  Closer to home.  Seats that don't feel worn to the spine. That's about it.  Bad: exiting the parking area, less intimacy/greater distance to the stage, and worse sound.

The last point is arguable, but Center Stage had far superior clarity than that from the front row of the upper tier at Cobb Energy.  Vocals were generally incoherent, the bass was audible only when the rest of the band was largely silent, and Mel Collins' brass/woodwinds dominated the aural mix, though still quite enjoyable.   That said, the drumming was crystal clear, and Robert Fripp's guitar, as sneakily as it enters into songs, sounded great.  In other words, it's a concert venue.  You get what you get.

Before I get to the rest, if you're unfamiliar with the band, maybe try this (it builds slowly):


Or, this, their defining song, "21st Century Schizoid Man" from their first album.



The band once again threatened expulsion for those who might try to take photographs during the show.  I get that it's distracting to others, and the band is fairly static in their presentation.  Plus, there's a lot going on musically that demands attention.

The set list, below, featured twelve songs from the night I saw them previously (they had a two night stand in 2017), and the remaining eight choices were... disappointing.  The lead songs for both halves of the show were extended drums/percussion pieces, as the band is literally fronted by three drum sets.  This is entertaining to watch, especially for the first time, but there is enough showcasing through the remaining songs that one three-drummer "solo" song is sufficient.  Still, they were amazing to watch as they rarely played the same beats/sounds, and often traded turns through sections of songs, as guitarists might alternate licks.

A closer look.  "Neurotica."  The 80's KC made some high quality music, but then-vocalist Adrian Belew had a voice that took some getting used to, at best.  Vocalist Jakko Jakszyk (also playing guitar and keyboard) renders all of the bands songs well, regardless of era, but Belew's songwriting was built around his particular vocal style.  I'd rather just hear the excellent instrumental songs from that era, please, until such a time that Belew rejoins the band.

There are a number of songs from Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, a 2016 release that largely included, I believe, live works that were otherwise unrecorded.  In other words, these are a blend of musical prowess and curiosities for King Crimson collectors.  Every show should have a song or two that is rare or a surprise, but when the canon has so many other worthy songs, there's no need to overindulge.

The Power to Believe songs - Every fan has a favorite album.  I'd imagine this album had fewer than most.  The selections here - "Level Five" and "Elektrik" - are very technical songs among a live set of technical songs.  They're good, but a better balance would have been reached in the first set had they included just one or two of their more melodic songs.  Heck, update "Dangerous Curves" for example.

"Cat Food" is perhaps an attempt at a more conventional song for the play list, but it has silly lyrics ("No use to complain / If you're caught out in the rain / Your mother's quite insane / Cat food cat food cat food again".)  Any other song from this album would have been splendid.  Instead, the fly in the ointment from that album filled the same role here.  The lyrical part of the song completely upends the instrumental music to which it yields.

The second half, then, was the better half by far.  Still, if picking through older songs, "Exiles" and "LTIA Part II" would clearly be crowd favorites over some of the selections here, but I get it.  King Crimson isn't a greatest hits band, and they like a musical challenge.  So... fellas, "Asbury Park" hasn't been heard in a long, long time.  And, it would bless the audience with, well, I guess it would have been a second extended Robert Fripp solo.  And we all want that, right?

Fan-rant over.  It was a very good show.  Bassist Tony Levin posted some comments and photos on his blog about this show, their last in the US for this tour.  Below is his audience pic that he takes at the end of each show.  I've highlighted my son and myself at the upper right.  Maybe we should be pumping our fists, but, hey, at least we're not checking our cell phones like the schmuck in the blue shirt I highlighted in the lower right.


From the stage, it appears we're a mile away, but the seats were actually quite good.  We could clearly see everyone's hands and facial expressions as they worked their instruments, and the height added a better view, particularly of the drummers, than we had at Center Stage.  





Set list:

1st Half:

Hell Hounds of Krim - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, 2016
Neurotica - Beat, 1982
Suitable Grounds for the Blues - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, 2016
Cirkus - Lizard, 1970
Red - Red, 1975
Moonchild - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
Cadenzae (ornamental section by various members)
Elektrik - The Power to Believe, 2003
Cat Food - In the Wake of Poseidon, 1970
Radical Action II - Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind, 2016
Larks Tongue in Aspic 5 / Level Five - The Power to Believe, 2003

2nd Half:

Drumzilla - Concert only
Epitaph - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969
Lizard - Dawn Song - Lizard, 1970
Larks Tongue in Aspic (Part IV) - The Construkction of Light, 2000
Islands - Islands, 1971
Easy Money - Larks' Tongue in Aspic, 1979
Indiscipline - Discipline, 1981
Starless - Red, 1975
In the Court of the Crimson King + Coda, self-titled, 1969

Encore:

21st Century Schizoid Man - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969

Delta Rae - Live at Terminal West

Sixth time seeing a band? That's a record for me, one that will likely increase the gap over whoever is #2.  Seeing them now is less about watching their growth since Asheville's Belle Chere festival in 2011.  They're older, writing about more complicated things.  Maybe they've lost their innocence, but in no way have they lost their enthusiasm.  They've persevered through life and the grand politic of building a career, including inadequate record deals.  But they're here and still going strong.

Delta Rae
So I can't say enough about how special their recordings are.  The band can write to any subject, and they build beautiful music around it.  But, they're what a fan carries with them when they can't see Delta Rae live.



Live, that's the thing.  Personalities explode, the pieces join together in a spiritual way that can't be decoded by bits and bytes, the stage is for one and the stage is for all.  It's a six member band that says "family" heedless of DNA, and they "carry their fire" through the precious moments and the theatrical ones.

Britney Holljes
Elizabeth Hopkins
























Yeah, I'll stop wringing the prose.  This is a band that everyone should see live, and get there early enough or pay a ticket price to get close to the stage.


Ian Holljes

Eric Holljes

Touring guitarist Ellen Angelico, who added brought both swagger and a punch to some of the band's songs.

These two have each others' backs

I can't find a setlist anywhere, but below are the songs I (think I) remember.


  • Morning Comes
  • If I Loved You
  • Bottom of the River
  • Dance in the Graveyards
  • Run
  • Outlaws
  • Any Better Than This
  • Hands Dirty
  • All Good People
  • The Wrong Ocean
  • You Can Tell Him

Portland, ME Photowalk


And it's already been a while.  Not much to comment on, but this is a beautiful city... in the right weather, which is exactly what we had in June.

Prepping the decks for the daily tourist jaunts into the bay.


Does the appearance of a building influence your buying decisions?

Not in Portland


Hugely popular.


The Thirsty Pig = crafty hot dogs with craft beer

The photo doesn't capture the gentle flowing of the ivy with the breeze - cool, calm, relaxing.

An active port, cruise ship stop, tourist haven, and also site of the brief Battle of Portland in the Civil War.


Tourists needed

Counter arguments?


Brick roads remain where they haven't been covered up.


Has anyone actually tried this fire escape?

Portland could be renamed The Drink Exchange






What to do with those old DVDs...






Novare Res Bier Cafe




Fairly warned.

The lobster industry is thriving.. adjacent to redeveloped condos and restaurants







Portland - Here for the Beer!






When you have been sharing "snobby" beers in a parking lot, at least once a month, for over five years, maybe, just maybe, it's time to take the consumption on the road   But where to go?  San Diego?  Portland, OR?  Denver, CO? Clearwater, FL?  Brooklyn?  Well, you've seen the title.  Portland, Maine has affordable air fare, temperate climate, and it doesn't take an entire day to get there.   And, it happens to be blessed with ample breweries that are densely located, most of which are suitable for either walking from one to another or via an Uber ride.   Because, unlike our moderated approach to our tastings (and a lawful drive home), we'd like the opportunity to have more than a "taste."

Friday:

In this case, pictures tell a better story.  First, if you go Portland, you have to stop at the iconic lighthouse, whether you're there for a day or for three (as we were).  Photo op: Check.

Portland Head Light House
And then to the beer.  Our overly dedicated organizer was in the vicinity the night before the rest of us showed up and checked out a beer store, just... because?  So we stroll the lighthouse, hop in the car, plot our course and... what should you do before visiting a brewery to drink beer? 

The Tempter
Despite having a fairly aggressive plan for visiting breweries, sure.  We'll drink your King Sue (Toppling Goliath brewery, 4.6 Beer Advocate world class rating) while you drive.  Thanks!

It's a beer rarely observed in the wild.
And with that, we're off on a 40 minute or so drive to Freeport, the outlier of our intended breweries.  This had been planned as a Sunday stop, a high point before heading to the airport.  But, a half marathon was scheduled on Saturday, and the brewery happened to have another rarely observed beer on tap.  We decided to beat the crowd, just in case...



Maine Beer is a beautiful brewery, from it's see-thru wall to the production area, to the open seating arrangement and general design and finish quality. 

Positive vibes, but altruism ends with their product.  And the pretzels are extra.
And here is what we came for.  DINNER!  Maine Beer distributes all the way to Georgia, and we've had some of their offerings, like Lunch.  But Dinner...  and Second Dinner?  It turns out we were visiting on the heels of the brewery's 10th anniversary, and thus they were celebrating in both varieties of beers and quantity.


There weren't any leftovers, but Dinner does belong in the fridge.  


...especially when you can take it home


And there you have it, brewery #1 for the day and the trip!

A quick stop at the hotel to drop out luggage offered the opportunity to enjoy yet another canned beer before heading to a brewery.  Oh, the irony.  This one was picked up en route in MA, and, like King Sue, merited the indulgence. This was a single can of Gggreennn! by Tree House to be split between the four of us  This is a rarely produced, incredibly drinkable New England IPA.  Grreennn! has a well deserved 4.59 rating that brings our group within four beers of having tasted the Top 20 beers from Mass.  In context, Georgia has only one beer with a rating that would crack that list.  Ok, I'm bragging.  But we have goals.

Gggreennn!
Before we dumped the rental car, we headed to Bissell Brothers Brewing, another standout brewery that was not compactly located with the rest of our intended victims. Bissell's selection didn't include their best offerings, Swish and Nothing Gold, but that's okay. The Substance, Preserve & Protect, Industry vs. Inferiority, Waveform, and Lux, and although all were IPAs, they had varying flavors and, notably, aren't sold outside of Maine. Which is another reason to go to Maine. Not to be forgotten, Locally Sauced, a co-located restaurant, offered tasty tacos, needed not just for nutrition but as a base for the evening ahead.


#2 Bissell Brothers Brewing 
Brewery #2 complete.

Next up was Goodfire Brewing, a smaller brewery with one beer we had before, leaving CMYK IPA as their featured offering.  Solid.


#3 - Goodfire Brewing 
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.


This sign could be placed anywhere in Portland and still be accurate.  It happened to be located on the opposite side of the building we were in, pointing to Lone Pine Brewing.  You see how it is.  No need for a car!

Flights should fly?
We tried Fidlar, Brightside IPA, the Summer Stout, the Raspberry Sparkler Sour, and possibly others.
#4 Lone Pine Brewing

At this point, it's getting a little late, and we arrive at Oxbow, considered "hipster" or "cool" depending on your viewpoint.  Oxbow tends to go "wild" - i.e., beers brewed with interesting yeasts that lend a flavor towards the sour, but not quite, termed here "farmhouse ales."  Freestyle 45, Barrel Aged Farmhouse Pale Ale, Lost Lands: Black Nile Barley, Pastoral Wild Ale and possibly others fell victim to our invasion.


Oxbow wasn't a favorite for our IPA-leaning crew, but they something different is always good to try.

#5 Oxbow Brewing
Well, Friday night is a wrap!

Not.  So we're off to Novare Res Bier Cafe ("to start a revolution"), a popular bar with a broad offering of beers, conveniently located between where we were and where we were going, our hotel.  No?  Oh, well.  Portland is pedestrian friendly.  0.9 mile is nothing when you're motivated.  It's a happening place, with a crowded basement bar area, plentiful taps, a variety of offerings that reaches outside of Maine, and a deck area tucked behind U shaped buildings that front to the main streets.


Well, three of us are still smiling.  
Ironically, Bissell's Nothing Gold, which wasn't offered at the brewery, was available on draft here.  That was a worthwhile score.  As was the bed a short walk later.

Saturday:

A new day!  And when everyone is finally up and moving, it's time for food.

Food, I said!

It wasn't really time for a pint, but The Thirsty Pig, a restaurant featuring homemade sausages adorned in a variety of toppings, also features local beer and guest taps from out-of-state.  So, fine.  Let's start the day with Hop Showers, from Brooklyn's renowned Other Half Brewing.  It's hard not to find a good beer in this town...

Now properly fortified and to varying degrees, hydrated, our Uber driver Adam, an insurance guy working on the side for no pay, picked us up in his mom's car to take us about 15 minutes away to a Industry Way where five breweries are located.  

First stop, Allagash, a widely distributed brewery known for their Belgian styled beers. They had a healthy list of beers on tap, and we tried at least eight of them, taking our time because, hey, there's no rush.  Our Uber driver even joined in.



Just kidding folks. He's actually works for our company at another office, and he happened to have planned a family visit the same weekend.  I think we thanked him with a beer?  Or will?

Coolship Resurgam was a favorite, termed a Belgian Gueuze style beer, or, a blend of one-, two-, and three-year old spontaneously fermented beer (the yeast comes from the air rather than a cultivated and preserved strain), which is then transferred to French oak wine barrels for six months of fermentation.  A Chicago Tribune reviewer notes it is "an old school oddity: fruity, musty, tart, dry and eminently worthy of its comparison to a horse blanket." And he meant it as a compliment, noting it was named 16th among the "most important American craft beers ever brewed" in a snobby dining magazine.  Well, I never would have tried a horse blanket, and Allagash doesn't hint at that either, describing it as having "aromas of apricot, lemon zest, and candied fruit."  That's not how I remember the smell of anything horse related.  In any case, it's perhaps an acquired taste, but I ended up liking it quite a bit.  We went back for seconds at the end of our visit in the area, while waiting for a legit Uber driver.

Honestly don't recall which beer this is.
Finding someone to take our group pictures might be considered a sport by one some.  At Allagash, we found someone willing to indulge us, so, yeah, two pictures by different brewery signs.


Not an Uber photo.

#6 - Allagash.  An Uber photo.
After an exhausting walk of 70 yards, we arrive at Definitive Brewing.  We sampled at least eight beers here, with a surprising personal favorite, Portals (Mango & Vanilla) - a sour!  Allagash might be corrupting me.

#7 Definitive Brewing
Our next brewery was only 50 yards away.  It's almost one-stop shopping.


The breweries here vary in size, and it seems to be an incubator of sorts as breweries start small and move up to a larger space vacated as others outgrow them.  First up is Foundation Brewing.  Here's a ubiquitous brewery photo of tanks and such.


And, there goes at least another six beers sampled.  The surprise hit here was Raspberry's My Jam, a fruit beer.


Obligatory group photo, by an obliging group of women who were eager for our table.

#8 Foundation Brewing Company
Dogs.  Attention magnets north, south, east and west.

Two tenants away is Battery Steele Brewing.  Here we tried another handful of beers, the best perhaps being Flume^3 Triple IPA.


#9 Battery Steele
Austin Street Brewing resides on the rear side of the building.  Nothing remarkable, but the ladies had been following us to each stop, taking our photo at each.


#10 Austin St. Brewery
And having contributed to our documentary, they insisted on being included in it.  Fair enough.
Clemson shirts may have a gravitational pull
Well, that's a day, right?  Only, we're not done.  Off we Uber to Rising Tide Brewing, the only brewery where we failed to get a group photo.  But we were there.  Trust me.  Nice logo.

#11 Rising Tide Brewing
Despite appearances, we didn't drink to excess.  That said, with Friday in the rear view mirror, we were perhaps more mindful to stay lubricated, drinking water often along the way.  (Pro tip!)  Still, at some point, it's dinner time, and when in Portland, eat seafood.  We did.  

The night wasn't young by that point, but it wasn't old, either.  So, we went back to Novare Res for a relaxed late evening in Portland's 65oF-ish degree weather.  Perfect, really.



Kind of ghostly...
We'll call that a night.

Sunday:

Another beautiful day and a good time to walk around downtown while others were either exercising, sleeping, or not getting up.  (Photos forthcoming in my next post).  Having already been to Maine Beer (our original Sunday plan) and having made faster than expected progress on our list of intended breweries, we found ourselves with time for more.

We hired a water-taxi for a 10 or 15 minute ride across the harbor to South Portland to visit Foulmouthed Brewing.

Portland, ME

With a name like that, you hope it's the language and not the aftertaste, right? What might have been a dark, grimy, graffiti covered fish house turned out to be surprisingly nice, of the "I'd go again for both food and beer" variety.  

Extra points for tap handle fixtures

At the lunch hour, it was more a restaurant, with a limited menu of gastropub fare.  I happily went for perhaps what others might consider their weakest link.  Don't judge me.

Corn Dog.  Yes.

Flights all around, plz.

#12 - Foulmouthed Brewing
As we had a late afternoon flight, we had time for an Uber to go back downtown and the capacity for one... more... brewery, Liquid Riot. This was more of a brewpub, scaled to a nice size with a deck overlooking the water, but, compared to the rest of our stops, a non-contender for beer.

#13 (unlucky?) - Liquid Riot Bottling Co.
At the airport, a Shipyard Brewing restaurant was really the only good option for dinner, so... one more beer.  It wasn't worth it, and, frankly, we didn't expect it to be.

As a final note, Portland, ME has a population of 66,000.  It therefore ranks #1 in breweries per capita.  Sorry, Portland, OR and Asheville, NC.  Oh, and metro Atlanta?  Step up your game!