Shearwater – Phoenix 4/22 and Tucson 4/23

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(sort of a mash between my post at the shearwater board and my lj, sorry)

As any of my friends and coworkers know, I’ve been super-excited about the prospect of getting to see my favorite band live, since the tour dates came out. Seriously, first day ticket purchases and random moments of ‘eeeee’ for the last two months or so, on top of desperate shift changes and craftily manipulating the parts of the schedule I control so I could bring along my good friend and recent Shearwater convert, Sarah. I would have dragged along more, but my tiny CRX is only a two-seater, and there’s only so long you can keep someone in the hatch and eighty-some miles is just too long. (Next time, guys, I’m chartering a bus.) Fortunately, my sister-in-law (who is mostly unfamiliar despite my efforts) already lives in Phoenix, and she has a slightly bigger pick-up, so we made a cozy party of three.

Sarah and I were a little late getting out of the house and down to Phoenix — I kept forgetting things, or wanting to make sure I had something, and even once we were on the road I had to turn back because in the rush I’d forgotten my purse full of, um, everything. So. Yeah, on the road, rolled into the grandparents’ house about 5 — which was okay, timewise, since the show didn’t start until 8. Matt and Linh took us to Pei Wei, which is kind of um … asian fast food for grownups, masquerading as a restaurant? I don’t know, but I ordered the thai coconut curry (because that’s a known favorite) and a bowl of thai wonton soup. The girl asked me how many cups I wanted, and I was like … er, 1? Thought it was a weird question and didn’t think anything more of it, even with the girl’s weird look.

I UNDERSTAND NOW. The bowl had like … six cups worth of soup in it. I had no idea, derp. Fortunately, three other people with me made it a bit easier to cope with. The curry was … okay, but I’ve had way better at this tiny thai place on Sheldon by Albertson’s.

We were up by Arrowhead, and we had to get to East Indian School, and I was starting to freak a bit since Google Maps was telling me it would take an hour to get there from Becker, which we were on the other side of. Fortunately it’s only that I was retarded and didn’t put the 1019 bit in so it was trying to send me to the start of the road or something.

None of us were terribly familiar with Phoenix (I live up north in the Prescott area, and have been there all of maybe four times because my tiny town self can’t really handle cities that well), but The Rhythm Room was fairly easy to find — it was about seven thirty, and there were a dozen or so cars; I had a mild panic attack that we had missed the start because the door was open and I could see them running through Hidden Lakes and I just have awful luck like that. But no! In fact, the show didn’t get started until much later. We had great seats, and the place filled up quite nicely — a small venue, sure, but the crowd was wonderful.

The Hospital Ships were great, though the sound was a little off; most of the time you could hardly hear the singers over the music. I really want a copy of Crazy Girls; it was definitely my favorite song on the set and I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t on the CD I picked up. Definitely a band I’ll be keeping an eye on, though. Both my charges were a little stunned that Thor was drumming and playing the clarinet at the same time, but … well, they kind of went blindsided into the evening, so I couldn’t pick on them too much.

Then came Wye Oak, and all three of us realized who we want to be when we grow up. :D I had chills all through the set, though again it seemed like the music overpowered the vocals (which broke my heart a bit, both because Jenn has a fucking amazing voice, and because I was afraid this was going to be an ongoing problem into the Shearwater set.) — the energy was intense, both Jenn wailing on her guitar and Andy being pretty much awesome and playing both drums and keyboard and this strange bagpipe-sounding thing I admit I first thought was a beer dispenser. But yes. YES. I would definitely go see these guys again, whether they were headlining or opening for someone else. When SW tours again, I honestly hope they can keep them.

Luckily, Shearwater had no such problems between vocals and music. I had brought a tiny flip video cam to catch the performance, and we had a really amazing view until people started to file in on the floor and then there were just backs and Jonathan’s head over a few shorter shoulders. NO GOOD. So Sarah and I moved down to sit by this dude in a business suit who was rocking the hell out (loved the argyle socks, not gonna lie) which, given the music and the atmosphere, made it feel like the most epic storytime ever. Unfortunately, there were two problems: one, it’s a flip, which means the quality’s pretty terrible, and two, the cam filled up at the beginning of Uniforms, so I switched to my kodak digicam, which came out with less than impressive sound and a really grainy image. Still, it was amazing. I’ve seen youtube videos of SW live, so I knew to expect something fantastic, but it’s a comparison of flickr pics of the Grand Canyon versus standing on the ledge. Best live show I’ve ever seen (big apologies to The Red Elvises) — I learned how to love both Corridors and Century Eyes, and was awed enough that I managed to keep from more than just choking up at Seventy-Four (good thing they don’t play the older stuff anymore, I think, because Sung Into the Street would have made me cry like a little girl).

And White Waves! White Waves. Absolutely my favorite SW song, and everything about it was just unreal and perfect. I was a little surprised to hear The Snow Leopard for the encore — I didn’t realize it was as popular as it was, but it was beautiful, and that’s what the crowd was calling for (alas, I was the only voice for Licorne, which I’d give my left leg to see live).

Phoenix set list
Black Eyes
Landscape at Speed
Castaways
An Insular Life
White Waves
God Made Me
Corridors
Hidden Lakes
Runners of the Sun
Rooks
Century Eyes
I Was a Cloud
Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five
Uniforms
Nobody
Encore - The Snow Leopard

After the show, I was really surprised by how quickly people disappeared — yeah, it was pretty late, but come on, guys! My impressed and outgoing friend dragged me over to Jonathan, for congratulations and moments of personal panic — I suffer from overwhelming, crippling shyness when it comes to strangers, much less strangers that I admire. Despite that, he was totally cool; after a few moments of discussion about SW someday playing my hometown, and my own bemoaning the fact that I wouldn’t see tomorrow’s show, we asked him to autograph our mini-dossiers (I’d considered the full-size one I’d left at home, but was afraid to get it beat up in the trip), which he was kind enough to do, and then pulled mine open to point out the fact that the man in one of the photos was sitting on not a tree but a croc/gator — I don’t remember for the life of me which it was.

And then the long drive home of blissful exhaustion, because there was work to go to the next morning and I hadn’t had the foresight to get both days off; my job’s a bit difficult about that — hell, I haven’t had two days off together since before November. But my boss is an amazing human being, and after listening to my excited retelling of the previous evening’s adventure she pulled some strings with the other managers and had someone take my closing shift, then shoo’ed me out the door. Just enough time to drop by the house to grab directions to Club Congress and one of my favorite shirts for the Clothe Thor Fund (which was an entirely unsubtle reminder about the hometown, sorry guys D:), leave a scribbled note to the SO not to wait up, to Fry’s for Part II of the ILU GUYS PLZ TAKE CARE project, and a few frantic calls to see who I could take with me (alas, everyone else was either working or otherwise irrevocably engaged).

A grueling four hour drive later (protip: never drive long distances in negative heel shoes, or you will possibly cripple yourself for days — I know this now), and a frustrating amount of time trying to find somewhere to park in downtown Tucson (worse because I’ve never attempted city driving on my own before thanks to a terror similar to meeting new people, but thank god for TomTom) on a Friday night, but I somehow made it just in time. Another half hour of nervousness before I gathered the courage to approach Thor with my contribution, but he was also super-friendly and just — god, if I didn’t love these guys for their talent alone, their generosity of spirit is icing on the cake; I didn’t want to intrude on their time, but what little I took in seriously made my month. Hugging Thor! Much like hugging a very nice bear. Jenn (from WO) and Jordan (from HS and SW) were also really great to talk to, even if I was firmly stuck in horrifically shy mode and they probably thought I didn’t care about them at all. D:

(By comparison, I gave an employee of my own the time off to go see the Eagles in concert in Phx just a few days before I saw SW; she took a friend in the final stages of terminal cancer, IV drips and wheelchair and all, to the show as well. This woman has been a fan for their entire career, her own brick in Winslow and a house full of memorabilia and everything, and had brought a poster she’d painted of them, that she wanted to have displayed at her funeral with their autographs. They were coldly informed that ‘they don’t even sign things for their buddies’ and told to go away.)

Club Congress is a beautiful place, but I was disappointed by the turn out — maybe half of the Phoenix crowd, from what I could tell. Still, all three bands played another great show. During the Wye Oak set, Jenn rocked hard enough to set her amp on fire, and then there was the snapped string mid-song. The crowd really seemed to love them, which is great because they really do deserve it. Luckily, I had enough cash on me to grab the album that I didn’t get the night before.

The Shearwater set list was … mostly the same, I think, though the encore was Home Life (which was also high on my list of ‘please play this live, guys’ so yay). Another absolutely gorgeous show, though maybe not quite matching the energy of the Phoenix show. (Maybe the hiking had something to do with it.) I brought the camera again in the hopes that I might catch all of Uniforms this time, but the transition between Seventy-Four and it was so fast I didn’t have a chance, and I didn’t record the rest of the show because I knew the quality would be awful, anyway. Unfortunately, I had to jet because it was already after 2 and I had a four hour drive ahead of me and work the next day. Long, utterly exhausting, but so worth it despite hamstringing myself with my gas pedal — I regret nothing, and I can’t wait until they come back. I really hope they go for Flagstaff next time, instead of Tucson — it was a lovely set and a larger potential crowd, but I think the Flag scene is a bit more receptive, musically … and it’s closer, which is totally not me being selfish at all, haha. Might also pull in the Vegas/Reno fans who don’t want to go all the way to Salt Lake City, too, which would be pretty amazing.

Next time I want to organize a charter bus and fill it with people. Next time I’ll totally be more prepared; someone on the Shearwater board followed them almost completely through their west coast tour, and that sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. Hopefully the next tour will involve Missoula, which would make my life.

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