Friday, April 30, 2010

Tim Barry at the Prophet Bar

The night Tim Barry came to town...

Tuesday night headline billing - the Prophet Bar in Deep Ellum

Longtime followers of the east coast punk scene might recall Avail, a Richmond-based punk band whose frontman was Tim Barry. I'd missed out on their work, having lost most of my interest in punk after the 1980s. Thanks to testimonials from a couple of friends, however, I am no longer oblivious to Barry's solo career. One listen to his songs "Avoiding Catatonic Surrender" and "Church of Level Track" (both of which are available on his Myspace page at: ) told me immediately that I'd been missing out on something GOOD. I found his sound to be a natural fit with a lot of the alt-country, folk, and roots-rock stuff I've been listening to during the past few years. Barry's stuff goes well with the likes of James McMurtry, the Old 97s, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Chris Knight.

The lyrics to some of Barry's songs express a sense of cynicism and bitterness -- perfect anthems for the morose, the forgotten, the disenchanted. Others feature a more optimistic counterpoint as Barry, a part-time hobo, celebrates the freedom and adventure of life on the road and rails. Some of his songs condemn materialism and consumerism, and instead extol the virtues and value of friendship and family.

It wasn't just Barry's music and freight-hopping experiences that attracted my interest. The cover and sleeves of his cd's feature railroad-themed photos and art, including stencil artwork by buZ blurr. Barry pays tribute to the "Colossus of Roads" freight car moniker on his album "Rivanna Junction"; the title of each song is named for a Colossus icon caption.

Song title inspiration - the Colossus caption which inspired the title for one of my favorite Tim Barry songs

Barry's friendship with the late Travis Conner (of "Conrail Twitty" moniker fame) intrigued me further, as did the knowledge that another well-known moniker -- one I've been seeing for several years -- is drawn by none other than Mr. Barry himself. So when I found out that a bar in Deep Ellum had booked Barry for a Tuesday evening performance in March, I knew I had to be there...

Miss L was ready for her initiation...

We arrived in Deep Ellum early enough for dinner, and got to the Prophet Bar just as the doors were opening. First on stage was a local act, the Driftin' Outlaw Band. Their brand of high-octane, high-velocity country reminded me of Speedtrucker. The Driftin' Outlaws knocked out a mix of original songs and cover tunes, the highlight of which was "Ghost Riders in the Sky".

Driftin' Outlaw Band

Up next was Ninja Gun, an alt-rock act from Valdosta, Georgia. Their sound reminded me of the Connells, For Squirrels, or maybe the Gin Blossoms -- listener-friendly, mostly up-tempo alt-rock with a slight blend of punk and country elements, nothing too heavy. I liked them enough to buy one of their cd's after the show.

Ninja Gun

Finally, Tim Barry took the stage, wearing a black "Conrail Twitty" tribute t-shirt. Surveying the sparse crowd, he quickly deduced that the audience would benefit from a more intimate performance. He unplugged and climbed down from the stage to perform his first song, "Idle Idyllist", on the floor, as the crowd formed a circle around him. In 20-plus years of seeing live music, this was one of the coolest concert experiences I've ever witnessed.

Tim Barry on stage - Prophet Bar in Deep Ellum

Barry returned to the stage for the remainder of his performance, except for "Church of Level Track", when he again joined the crowd on the floor....

Joining the crowd for an up-close performance. The small crowd brought to mind a concert t-shirt slogan I remember from long ago: "Did you miss ______ (fill-in-the-blank)? Then you f*cked up!" Miss L and I were proud to say that we did NOT miss Tim Barry.

Barry's voice wasn't in great shape, and he apologized profusely for the hand injury which hindered his guitar-playing abilities (he had injured it in a fight a few weeks earlier). We thought we might even get an opportunity to see his fighting skills for ourselves; a tense moment developed when an obnoxious member of the crowd yelled an obscene remark between songs. Barry put him in his place, though, and the guy shut the hell up.

Barry merch

But overall, it was one of the more enjoyable shows I've been to in a while. It was great to hear live performances of some of my favorite songs of his -- and we even had a few minutes to talk before he started his set. On stage or off, Barry came across as one of the most honest and genuine people you could ever hope to meet. Like me, you might have missed out on Avail. But you don't have to miss out on his solo stuff.

Coming next: beginning another road trip...


np: BaD Radio on KTCK 1310 "the Ticket"

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Introducing Miss L

Meet "Miss L"

I'd like you to meet Miss L., the new "special someone" in my life. We hit it off well when we met back in January, and have since discovered that we share a number of mutual interests, including "Kids in the Hall", the BBC tv series "Coupling", 80's alt-rock music, and Coen Brothers movies. Best of all, she's a native Texan. :-)

Miss L is a graduate of the University of Texas (but I don't hold that against her, ha!) and works in community relations for a local Alzheimer's care facility. During her spare time she has been learning a lot about trains and hobo monikers. Last month, she joined me for an evening in Deep Ellum to catch a Tim Barry show... (see following entry).


Saturday, April 24, 2010

the Great White South

In case you didn't hear about it, north Texas received a record snowfall back in February. We set a new record for snow on a calendar day when the D-FW Airport measured 11.2 inches on Thursday, February 11, and a separate record for a 24-hour total (12.5 inches fell between 4 a.m. on the 11th and 4 a.m. on the 12th). Wet and sloppy, it was a bitch to get around in, but fun to look at... and of course the first thing I thought about was getting out to snap a few train photos...

Meeting Steve G at "the spot" in Saginaw. He was on the phone with Dave to find out where the trains were.

The snow didn't slow down the southbound "Heartland Flyer" too much; it was close to on time when it passed through Saginaw.

snowy gensets - Saginaw, TX

By Friday morning, the snowfall had ended, but the skies remained overcast, and north Texas continued to resemble the set of a certain Coen Brothers movie...

Snow day # 2: UP Gensets in Roanoke

By Saturday, the skies had cleared, temperatures were warming, and life would begin returning to normal as the snow started to melt...

This southbound at Birds siding in south Fort Worth had just come to a stop and switched off its headlights and ditch lights when I snapped this photo.

a snowman in every yard...

Ironically, Mom was on a trip to Antarctica during our blizzard. She could have seen just as much snow and ice if she'd stayed here.

Coming next... introducing "Miss L" and a review of a Tim Barry performance in Dallas.


np: Ninja Gun - "Permanent Press"

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Gourds in Fort Worth

concert review - December 12 at Lola's

"Literate roots party music" - the Gourds in Fort Worth

On a Saturday morning, I received a Tweet from Kevin "Shinyribs" Russell... the Gourds were in town, scheduled to perform that very evening at Lola's, a relocated / reincarnated version of the old Wreck Room west of downtown Fort (Party) Worth. Lola's website mentioned the show, but the Gourds' own site did not. Good thing I subscribe to Shinyribs' Twitter feed.

I headed to Lola's after work and arrived early in the set. I arrived during "Spanky" so I only missed about 5 songs.

Jimmy on bass

As usual, one of the highlights was the animated antics of Kevin "Shinyribs" Russell...

Jimmy in the spotlight. Claude was on stage left and I didn't get any good shots of him this time.

It's always cool to catch the Gourds around Christmastime, because they'll usually work a few holiday-themed songs into their set. December 12 at Lola's was no exception, as they offered up "Xmas in the city" (a Kevin original), "Have the Stones ever done a Christmas song" (a Jimmy original), and even worked "Away in a Manger" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" into the bridge / medley near the end of "Gin & Juice". And it's always a treat to hear them do "Last month of the year".

Lola's set list

See below for the complete set list, including encore (thanks to The Gourds News blog at: )

01. Magnolia
02. El Paso
. Ants on the Melon
04. Burn the Honeysuckle
05. Valentine
06. Spanky
07. Blanket Show
08. Bean Bowl
09. Country Love
10. Lower 48
11. Xmas in the City
12. A Few Extra Kilos
13. All the Labor
14. Thurman
15. Shake the Chandelier
16. Promenade
17. Best of Me
18. The Gyroscopic
19. Luddite
20. Have the Stones Ever Done a Christmas Song?
21. The Last Month of the Year


22. Tex-Mex Mile
23. Holiday Road (Lindsey Buckingham)
24. Gin and Juice > Cupid > Away in a Manger > Pride (In the Name of Love) > I Feel Love > Heart of Glass > Hate & War > Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer > Gin and Juice

It was a fun show, and I'm hoping to see 'em again soon.


np: "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"