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Them Crooked Vultures?  Them crooked ticket prices.

A five hour drive from Champaign to Columbus, Ohio for a nearly $50 show barely longer than an hour with no opening act? No thanks. But I made the trek Tuesday night anyway.

Them Crooked Vultures (supergroup of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones) set off on a mini tour of the US earlier this month with most of the hype spreading like fire on the internet (their debut show at the Lollapalooza after party sold out in minutes). The show was decent and the crowd was into it about as much as can be for hearing a band like that the first time.  Nothing truly remarkable stands out, but here are a few take-aways:

  • They pretty much sounded as expected with an accurate mix of Grohl's thunder, Homme's pseudo-sexy swagger and Jones' subtle one-of-a-kind grooves.
  • Having already seen Grohl and Homme onstage together during their first QOTSA tour, I camped out in front of Jones. I thought his 12-string bass would be superfluous, but it wasn't. When his fret board lit up with blue lasers, however, that was superfluous.
  • The songs were long. Prog rock long. Both Homme and Grohl were already leaning toward more complicated songs with their respective bands, so it seems all they needed was Jones to push the envelope toward 15-minutes (I wasn't clocking them, but the dudes beside me downed three enormous joints during one song, so you do the math). I don't think I have the patience for 15-minute songs anymore.
  • Expensive light shows give me a headache.
  • Anything that Homme lends his voice to will be hard to separate from QOTSA and this was no different. Luckily his voice was drowned out a bit in the crowd and the live performance carried a nice stomp. Like a solid "Good Times Bad Times" stomp.
  • The crowd make-up was a diverse mix of young and old. The youngsters gave Jones strange looks, but I don't think he looked any weirder than Pat Smear when he toured with Nirvana/Foo Fighters or Chris Goss during his on-again-off-again stints with QOTSA.
  • With no real merch to sell yet, they still managed to exhaust their supply of t-shirts and koozies.
  • It took Them Crooked Vultures to make me realize how indebted Queens of the Stone Age are to Led Zeppelin.

Them Crooked Vultures' debut will come out sometime in November. It may or may not be worth it.

Word

You & Yourn Tour Diary: Idaho and Montana

Thursday (Oct. 1) we made a stop in Pocatello, Idaho, which proved to be a good idea. A guy named Levi from the college radio station set up a show for us at College Market Coffee and Books. We were very much at home. Idaho, in general, felt strangely similar to the rural Midwest. College Market also reminded us of a place called The Coffeehouse in our college town of Normal, Ill., where ISU is located (Idaho State in Pocatello or Illinois State in Normal).

There was a good turnout at the show, and people seemed into our music. We also learned some fun facts from the crowd. For example, Pocatello is the Smile Capitol of the U.S. It is actually illegal to NOT smile there. Also, the lead researcher of Bigfoot apparently resides in Pocatello.

We stayed with our friend Cary Judd and his family after the Pocatello show and had a great breakfast of waffles, eggs, and bacon the following morning. We were quite comfortable at Cary's house and probably could have just moved in. But soon enough, we had to embark on the beautiful drive to Bozeman, Montana.

Friday night (Oct. 2) we played at The Filling Station in Bozeman, which is one of the only bar shows on this tour. In recent years, we've become realistic about who we are (and who we aren't). The Filling Station served as a reminder that our music is not well-suited for a bar on a Friday night.

Nonetheless, it was a good show. We're glad we got to see Tony Furtado from Portland and Gospel Gossip from Minneapolis — both pretty amazing. And the audience was quite nice. We even had a world music lesson about the harmonium when one guy from the crowd said, "That lady should tell us about her instrument."

Saturday (Oct. 3) we drove down the road to Missoula, Montana. We took one detour during our trip. The signs for Garnet Ghost Town looked innocent enough...

As we followed the signs, the road became gravel, then eventually dirt. It also became increasingly narrow and steep. Abrupt drops bordered one side, and of course, there were no guard rails in sight. As you might imagine, our mini-van is not ideal for sharp turns on an uphill one-lane gravel road. But by the time we figured that out, we were committed, because there was nowhere to turn around. Luckily, Nic is a calm driver, and we made it out alive!

Our show in Missoula was a smaller show in the basement of an art gallery. We had reached a point of exhaustion, so this was a lower energy performance for us. It felt like we were playing in our living room for a group of friends. Everyone at the show, including several children and our dog, sat on couches and conversed with us between songs. It was a nice show, and was the first time we've shared a stage with eight-year-olds (The Scribblers). Missoula seemed hip, and we enjoyed spending time with new friends.

——

See more pictures on You and Yourn's blog.

Word

Don’t forget Lechowich!

Tonight at 4:30 p.m. Emmy Award-winner Bernard Lechowick will be presenting to the public as a part of this year's Carr Reading Series at the Author's Corner in the Illini Union Bookstore

From the Carr Series website: "Television writer-producer Bernard Lechowick is the Emmy Award-winning creator of five prime-time series--including Homefront for ABC, Wild Card for Lifetime, and Live

Through This, MTV's first scripted drama. A writer-producer for six seasons on the long-running prime-time soap opera Knots Landing Lechowick, who has won the Writers Guild Award, People's Choice Award, and Viewers for Quality Television Founder's Award, is an adjunct faculty member in the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts."

Tonight's event is sure to breath even more life into what's already a pretty lively reading series.

Word

International Walk & Bike to School Day tomorrow

Students from more than 40 countries, including this very one, will be participating in International Walk & Bike to School Day tomorrow, October 7. From a local press release:

Parents as well as students enjoy a morning walk or bike ride to school or to their local bus stop.  Along the way they will be making note of any difficulties or areas of concern on a walkability/bikeability checklist.  This information is then used to make it safer and easier for the students to get to and from school. 

This year, all Champaign and Urbana Elementary Schools are joining 40 countries around the world in this International event to promote safe walking and cycling to schools for our children.

In 2004, the Champaign-Urbana community held its first Walk to School Day. Organized by the C-U Safe Routes to School Project, this event has been a growing success each year. This year, the local schools will be joined by parents, teachers, UIUC student athletes, school board members and community leaders in walking or biking to school or their bus stop to promote efforts to make it safer and easier to walk or bike to and from school.

So, if you have the opportunity, give non-motorized transport a try tomorrow and see how it goes. If there are things that would make the commute safer for you or your child, contact Rose Hudson of the C-U Safe Routes to School Project (217.398.4206) or Cynthia Hoyle of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (217.278.9059). Or just leave them in the comments below and I'll pass them along.

 

Word

This week in late night

This week's late-night lineup is chock full o' nuts. I recommend you keep the remote close at all times to avoid bad country music and make sure you don't miss out on the diamonds in the rough.

You're not going to want to miss The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien on Monday (NBC, 10:35 p.m.), but chances are you'll want to flip to bad infomercials before the musical guest. Conan's got Ellen Page, promoting her new film Whip It, as well as funnyman Kevin Nealon of Weeds. But prepare for your laughter to turn into tears if you stick around for Dierks Bentley.

If you're into bad music, the late-night circuit is your place to be this week. Conan welcomes Anvil, Toby Keith, The Backstreet Boys (who knew they were still around?) and Lady Antebellum, Tuesday through Friday, respectfully. Pretty much the same holds true for most of your musical acts this week, with the few bright spots being They Might Be Giants, Tuesday on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC, 11:35 p.m.), Ben Harper and Jack Black on the Jay Leno Show, Thursday (NBC, 9 p.m.) and Phoenix on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Friday (CBS, 11:35 p.m.) .

There are however, some decent guests throughout the week that you'll probably want to catch. Here's the breakdown:

Tuesday: Jay hosts Abigail Breslin and Cindy McCain, while Craig Ferguson has Julie Louis-Dreyfus and The Avett Brothers, and Jimmy Fallon chats it up with Lewis Black.

Wednesday: Wanda Sykes makes an appearance on the Jay Leno Show, and the two stars of the new film Couples Retreat, Vince Vaughn and Jason Bateman, appear on Letterman (CBS, 10:35 p.m.) and Conan, respectfully.

Thursday: I suggest you bypass the major networks and head over to FX where you can watch "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," IMHO the best unnoticed show since "Arrested Development." A new episode airs at 9 p.m., but you can check out full episodes on demand or at FX.com.

Friday: Terry Bradshaw stops by the Jay Leno Show, which always turns into two old men attempting to make fun of each other. If you're up late enough, don't forget about Phoenix on Ferguson, and Michael Moore promotes his new documentary Capitalism: A Love Story on Jimmy Kimmel (ABC, 11:05 p.m.).

Next week should be redeeming for musical guests. Grizzly Bear and The Flaming Lips are among the performances.

Word

Carr Reading Series continues with Stacey Levine

Come on by the Author's Corner in the Illini Union Bookstore at 4:30 p.m. to hear award winning fiction writer Stacey Levine read from her work. Known for  flirting with the surreal and  engaging with human sexuality, taboo or otherwise, Levine's work deals with aspects of our society that more traditional fiction cannot.  Not a bad way to spend your Monday afternoon.

From the 2009 Carr Reading Series Website:

Stacey Levine is the author of The Girl with Brown Fur(MacAdam Cage, 2009), My Horse and Other Stories (PEN/West Fiction Award, 1994), and the novels Dra-- and Frances Johnson (finalist, Washington State Book Award, 2005). Her fiction has appeared in the Denver Quarterly, Fence, Tin House, Fairy Tale Review, Washington Review, Santa Monica Review, Yeti, and other venues. She has also contributed to the American Book Review, Bookforum, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Fodor's City Guides, The Stranger, The Chicago Reader, and other publications.

 

Be there, sucka!

Word

Tour Diaries: You and Yourn from Utah

Weekday shows are always a bit uncertain. People seem likely to go out and see a band on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights...but Monday or Tuesday? Maybe. Maybe not. Luckily, things worked in our favor this time, and we had three fun shows in Utah!

On Monday (Sept. 28), we drove from Ft. Collins, Colo., to Provo, Utah. Most of our nine-hour car trip was spent on I-80 in Wyoming. We showed up at Footloose House in Provo not knowing what to expect. It's a pretty normal-looking house, with a garden and some backyard chickens (yep, the "emblem of extreme foodie street cred," according to the NY Times). We also learned later that the movie Footloose was literally filmed inside this house.

The show started with Brent from The Awful Truth. During his opening set, people poured into the house. I can tell you that there are not many things better than packing 40-50 people in a living room! As a side note, while in Provo we observed this — a room full of Brigham Young students can make for an intimidatingly good-looking bunch. From stage, Nic noted that this was the sexiest crowd we'd played for so far. They laughed as he assured them they looked classy... thrift-store classy.

Tuesday (Sept. 29) we had a short drive, so we spent the afternoon at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. It was quite warm — 87 degrees and sunny. We walked, ate lunch, and laughed at Sadie as she went into the lake after some geese. Our LPs also arrived Tuesday. They were shipped to our friend's house in SLC.

Later in the day, we drove to Logan, Utah, for our show at WHY Sound — a small, but very cool space. It is a 49-person capacity listening room with a stage and several rows of chairs. Our initial thoughts were, "This place looks awesome... if people show up." Again, Tuesday nights can be questionable. But people came, and we had a fun show, including lots of dialogue with the crowd. Several comments and questions came from an enthusiastic audience member wearing a black t-shirt with white letters that read, "I shaved my balls for this?"

Wednesday (Sept. 30) turned cold in Utah, with highs in the 40s and snow on the mountains. We stayed inside most of the day, and that night found us at Kilby Court in SLC. We had heard that Kilby was a great venue, but we had never been there. Turns out, it's basically a warehouse/garage-like space with a sound system and a fire outside. It definitely exceeded any expectations we may have had.

Utah has been good to us, though we are ready to breathe some air with more moisture. Staying hydrated in the desert is a full-time job.

Word

A dream sequence featuring the Vertebrats

(Ed. note: this is from Jason Zylka, who submitted it on Thursday, before the Vertebrats shows happened. We didn't get it posted, and that's our fault, but it's a good story, so better late than never, right?)

 

I hate listening to people's dreams. It's like flipping through a stack of photographs. If I'm not in any of them and nobody is having sex, what's the point?

— Dennis Reynolds

The Vertebrats came to me in a dream. I know, that sounds totally ridiculous, but it's the closest I can come to accurately describing how I found them, or perhaps how they found me.

One night I dreamt that I was watching Paul Westerberg at the Courtyard Cafe. Why Westerberg was playing the Courtyard Cafe is completely beyond me. Midway through the set, he looked into the crowd and shouted "All right! We're going to do this like we used to do it back in the day! We're going to Mabel's!" at which point he leapt from the stage and led the throng of fans down Green Street to Mabel's, which had miraculously reappeared leaving Brothers nowhere to be found. Westerberg took the stage at Mabel's and was joined by the rest of the Replacements and they launched into Alex Chilton just as my alarm went off.

I've been around long enough to remember Mabel's, but most of my memories of it were of a place that was well past its heyday. I honestly can't recall if I was ever inside of it for more than a few minutes during my sophomore year in college. Most of the people I talked to in those days acknowledged it wasn't the best, but if I could've seen it 5 or 10 years before, it was a totally different scene. Eventually, Mabel's closed its doors and there was a fair bit of mourning from members of the local scene while inevitably life went on.

Why I dreamt of a place I had rarely been watching a band I've never had the pleasure of seeing live was baffling to me. Perhaps it was a sign of some kind? So, puzzled by such a vivid dream, I was determined to find out if the Replacements had ever played Mabel's. A quick search on Youtube for "Replacements Mabel's Champaign" didn't turn up anything by the Replacements. However, the first result was a song called "Left In The Dark" by a band I'd never heard of called the Vertebrats. Sheer curiosity led me to click the link. 10 seconds in I could tell they had a catchy intro to their song. By 30 seconds in I could tell these guys knew how to put the pieces of a good song together. After a minute, I was convinced that they were really, really good. By the end, I was certain that I had just heard a work of minor genius. It wasn't flashy, gimmicky, or overly complicated. Just a few guys who knew their instruments and how to achieve the maximum effect with the tools they had. I was hooked. Sometimes the elegant simplicity of a good garage rock band can hit with the same sonic force of a band of far greater musical complexity and production values.

I listened to everything I could find on Youtube that day at the office and later that evening wandered over to Parasol Records after discovering that the Vertebrats were a local act and had a couple of CDs available through our local neighborhood record label. I found it a fitting end to the day as I was heading home with a Vertebrats greatest hits CD entitled "A Thousand Day Dream". It was the last in a string of odd coincidences that happily left me with a great new band to enjoy.

The Vertebrats are a significant part of the musical history of Champaign-Urbana. But I'm encouraging you to ignore that for a moment. Don't treat the upcoming Vertebrats shows like a museum piece. Go see them because 30 ears later the songs are still catchy and the band still knows how to play. I'm going to be there, and this time I'm going to be sure to be wide awake.

Word

Tour Diaries: You & Yourn

Getting packed and ready to leave home for three and half weeks is never an easy task. And, inevitably, you will forget some things. In the days before Sept. 24, we had a button-making party with our sidekick Gillian, built a wooden shelf for the back of the van, purchased a mini-fridge that runs off the car battery, made some pasta salad and hummus, and threw some clothes into suitcases. Nic did forget his coat (which might be unfortunate when we hit Idaho or Montana in the next few days), but otherwise, we're in pretty good shape!

The first three dates of the tour were some of our favorite shows ever, organized by three truly excellent promoters. Thursday night (Sept. 24) we played in an Iowa City art space called Public Space One. It was an intimate show with a couple good openers and a very welcoming crowd. We also got to see our good friend Caleb, who made us dinner and let us crash on his futon.

Friday (Sept. 25) we played at the Clawfoot House — the upstairs apartment of an old house in Lincoln, Neb. After drinking tea and eating the best vegetarian chili we've ever had, the dining room table was replaced by rows of chairs, and people filtered in for a night of music and friends.

There was lots of crowd interaction, and people felt comfortable to insert comments or questions between songs, like, "That was beautiful," or "What is that instrument?" Sadie was on her best behavior, serving as the welcoming committee and convincing at least a few show-goers that they should get a dog. Below are photos of the other acts: the Ember Schrag trio and John Walker. We could have listened to them play for hours!

Saturday (Sept. 26) we were at Everyday Joe's in Ft. Collins, Colo. Again, a very fitting venue for what we do. The place filled up, with people drinking coffee, sitting at tables, and listening attentively. A freight train forced us to pause in the middle of Soul & Body. But once the train passed, we picked up right where we left off. Our set was followed by Danielle Ate the Sandwich, who was captivatingly witty. We hear she has some pretty awesome YouTube videos.

On Sunday (Sept. 27), we were able to spend some time with our friends Brian and Becca in Ft. Collins. We hiked up a mountain and ate some awesome beef brisket that Brian smoked for 14 hours. Then we headed to Denver for another house concert.

Denver proved to be one of our most random touring nights ever (and we've toured a decent amount in the past). We showed up at the venue address, and it looked pretty dark. Not exactly a good sign. Eventually we got in touch with the promoter and learned that he thought we were coming Oct. 27 instead of Sept. 27. Oops. But he asked us to hang tight while he made some calls.

Long story short, we found ourselves eating and playing at some kind of anarchist potluck. We felt a bit awkward about the whole situation, but the people of Denver welcomed us in, fed us, listened to our songs, and even requested that we play more. When Nic apologized for crashing their potluck, one person said, "I wouldn't say you're crashing it, just enhancing it."

More info to come about our shows in Utah, but one thing we know for sure: There are still lots of generous, hospitable people in this world, and we've been lucky enough to meet many of them. Thank you for renewing our faith in humankind.

Word

Big ups to WPGU

And while I'm still curious as to these "ratings" that somehow, somewhere exist, it's pretty awesome that our own PGU has been recognized by CMJ — otherwise know as College Music Journal.

They are up for station of the year, Josh Cannata is up for Music Director of the year, Greg Clow is up for Specialty director, and they are up for a bunch of other awards too...

Hot.

Cheggit.