Blogger as Fanboy – by Rube Ambler
The idea of the fanboy is certainly not something new here at Atlanta’s A-List. We love Junot Diaz’s beautiful tribute to the grandest of all fanboys, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao“. I mean, we get it. But we see lots of shows. When I hear somebody who gets paid to be on the radio and talk about music making a new year’s resolution to “get out to two shows a week”, I have to wonder what they do with themselves and why do they bother to do what they do if they really don’t love it. As regular readers will know, a two show week is a slow week at the A-List. I know, you’re already asking yourself, “what is it this time?”, “where is this going?”
Well, I see all those shows, but I really don’t hang out with the people in the back. It’s a rare occasion that I even tell people that I do this. We’re a word of mouth thing here, and we’re happy with that. That is to say, I think if I am going to blog about music in a way that doesn’t feature pictures and videos and downloads, then I should be a little detached. Let’s call it critical distance. (yeah, yeah, I know, I’m just a blogger, not a journalist, but indulge me – please.)
Last night that critical distance closed like a Nolan Ryan fastball. Alejandro Escovedo came to town and your intrepid author was transformed from Watcher, dispassionate chronicler of events, into hopeless, feckless, fanboy (and let me tell you there is nothing quite as pathetic as a fanboy).
Al no sooner than finished the last step of the stairway at Eddie’s Attic before I assaulted him with an introduction and a thank you for actually recognizing my wordy little interweb-based, diary-like, log of events on his website. Acting as if he might know who I was, he graciously thanked me and did his best to not seek shelter under a table or behind a post. I, regaining my dignity and the dispassioned perspective of a blogger-cum-journalist, walked away after a polite encounter and resolved to not bother the artist again. (I mean, really, I just don’t do that. I’m an unpaid professional after all.)
That resolve dissolved when I stepped onto the patio at Eddie’s and there was David Pulkingham, Alejandro’s lead guitarist and partner in crime this evening in Decatur. Well, having seen him shred this venue little more than 12 months ago, I felt obligated to tell him what a great artist I thought he was. (I should have bought him a beer, but I was sort of afraid he might say no thanks – fanboy!) I moved on to visit my friends who were meeting me at the show. (Yes, I really do have some of those.) That was close, but I was safe. I hadn’t yet descended into the depths of fanboydom – or so I told myself.
While one group of friends gathered at their table, I stood near the bar with my best friend. We had purchased singles tickets at Decatur CD, so no table for us at this sold out show. In fact, we had one extra ticket because of a last minute cancellation. Knowing that it was a sold out show, I mentioned to Eddie that I had an extra ticket in case anybody came to the door hoping to get lucky. Well, one fellow did. Eddie sent him in my direction and we quickly worked everything out. That fella stayed to the end and seemed to enjoy every bit of it. For those cosmic observers out there, I think there was some karma in that exchange (which all started when I decided to buy my tickets at Decatur CD) but that’s not the least of it.
Al came out to a roar from that small upstairs room on North McDonough. Already convinced that there is no better place to see Alejandro than Eddie’s Attic (check out the A-List’s top show of 2008), I was sort of giddy. I had an idea of what was coming.
Al and David came out with the kind of synchronous and masterful guitar work that is rarely seen on stage in any venue. We were already swaying by the second song of the set, a great acoustic version of “Always a Friend” and I was just relaxing and enjoying the sounds. I noticed the boys to my right who were recording all of it on mini video cams. (I hope they post that video somewhere that we can all find it.) Fanboy’s not alone!
About four songs into the set, Eddie comes up and offers us two seats at the front and center table that for whatever reason had been purchased but not occupied. Of course, we accepted and moved up to the table between the next two songs. In case front and center was not clear, let me explain that when I stood up at for the first standing ovation later than night, I was face to face and eye to eye with Alejandro. Cool. (Easy fanboy…)
I cannot thank Eddie enough for the gift. It’s easy to go on about him and his entire staff at the Attic and the great job they do taking care of everybody (not just fanboys like me). What really needs to be said here is that Eddie’s is a one of a kind venue. It is completely unfair to say that they are simply the best at what they do. It’s untrue. And it’s untrue because nowhere else in my experience (which if you’ve been paying attention reaches well beyond the limits of the Southeast) is there a venue that respects the music, the artists, and the audience quite like Eddie’s. It is the best room in Atlanta and anybody who even likes live music should love Eddie’s. It is a must see venue.
Okay, back to the show. As amazing as Alejandro is though, David Pulkingham’s guitar work once again stole the show. One of the great moments of the show was when, before moving to the killer seats up front, the amateur guitar player standing next to me uttered one word in awe of David’s guitar work on “Chelsea Hotel 78″: sick. I couldn’t agree more.
So the show continues with Eddie telling meaningful stories about the autobiographical songs on his latest record, last year’s Real Animal. It is pretty amazing to realize that he hung with Sid Vicious and Matthew Sweet and so many other performers who literally shaped my youth.
After an absolutely stunning rendition of “Rosalie” off of 2001′s A Man Under the Influence, Alejandro and David unplug completely and walk into the crowd with only their guitars. The truly unplugged set – something you will only see at Eddie’s and I have only seen done by Al – started with “Sensitive Boys” in the back near the carpeted steps. Again, if I have not made this clear, the two of them were not using the PA for vocals, guitars, anything. If you cannot really imagine it, consider a campfire song by the two most talented camp counselors ever.
Al and David moved through the room and played several songs from different locations, at one point “trapping” one of the service staff among the tables without a return path to the bar. She just hunched down and enjoyed the song with the rest of us. Eddie closed his unplugged tour of the room with covers of Warren Zevon and Mick Jagger tunes. Another thing you can always count on from an AE show – at least one classic rock cover. The duo then returned to the stage and closed out their set to the whistles and calls of the entire crowd, now having been on the stage for at least an hour and a half. Before we even get to the end, let me predict that Al may repeat for Atlanta’s A-List best show of the year honors.
After the usual off-stage walk, they returned for the encore. I don’t know what they intended to play, but by now having been battered into a complete fanboy pulp I took advantage of my proximity to the stage to say to Al something along the lines of, “Would you play just a couple of lines from “Sad & Dreamy?”
Instead of a couple of obligatory lines, Al launches into a story about the creation of the song, which happened at a songwriter’s workshop with a bunch of kids. One kid was “sad & dreamy” and another was lamenting how his life had changed since he hit the “big 1-0″ (which is how most people know the song) and those ideas became the backbone of the song. He explained how he has played speed metal, reggae, and jazz versions of the song at various times (we got the rasta, mon) and then just started the song. (I later confirmed through David that they did not intend to play that song. It was a total fanboy request. Shiver. Wow.)
I really don’t know how many people in the crowd were familiar with this song, which can be found on Bloodshot Records’ compilation of children’s songs called The Bottle Let Me Down, but by the third time the chorus came around Al & David didn’t even have to sing. They just leaned back and smiled as your intrepid author, and everybody else in the room, sang “I hit the big one-oh/I feel so old/candy just doesn’t taste as good anymore.” The crowd was so pumped up that he got a standing ovation – in the middle of his encore. He even had to say, “We have one more song.” to get people to sit down. Fanboy triumphant!
He ended with a rousing version of “Castanets” and another standing ovation, and while it was quite fabulous (like so much of the rest of the night), and while I know I heard it and enjoyed it, I wasn’t really there. I was on a cloud sparkling like the sun.