May 8, 2006

I was wondering why I do this writing stuff. On top of a horrendous bout of writer’s block, I spent two hours trying to sort out an interview of which (due to a mechanical failure [due to human error]) I had essentially managed only to tape my end of the conversation. After much ear-straining and publicist-writing I gave up and left for the concert. And I was really excited about the show — I was seeing John Vanderslice in Charlottesville, VA for the second time. The first time had been a blast, but since then I had become a real fan, had an enjoyable interview with him, and had written on him more than any other artist. In order, ostensibly, to write up something (less confessional that this piece) I was supposed to be on the guestlist.

I wasn’t. Usually when this happens, you cough off the few dollars and get over it. But it always happens to me at this club, and I don’t make enough at this writing stuff to pay for pens, let alone the Internet connection to submit this entry. Let alone the shows. So I had two choices: pay, and head straight for the ATM inside if I want a t-shirt and a beer; or call the publicist, pace the alley, and generally pout. I chose to take a meaningless stand and look like a cheapskate. Yes, I will sacrifice my dignity for the sake of my pride.

The upside: I run into Vanderslice in the album, quickly lose hope of continuing to wait for the publicist without ranting like a child, and end up being helped into the show. The doormen continue to question me: “Are you writing down your name for us?” Yes. “Is it your own name?” I can’t answer. I’m confused and buy a drink.

Fortunately my fit hadn’t made me miss any of Page France’s show. They hadn’t quite done it for me on record, but came close. Live — even despite the muddy sound — they turned into a bit of a jamboree, minus the country influence. Not all of the crowd managed to clap along, but enough did to make me think they won over a few fans.

Vanderslice came out after a short intermission, and was in a much different mood than when I caught him on the Cellar Door tour. The band was tight, but the musicians were loose, joking around (oddly often about crack, or The Streets’ “tour support” as Vanderslice pointed out). The humor lent a new atmosphere to the frequently dark songs, and the crowd seemed responsive (and much more knowledgeable than at his last visit).

Vanderslice’s albums are a mixture of precision and recklessness, but on stage he lets go more, feinting at the guitar-hero posturing that only mildly informs his records. With the big, tom-heavy drums and the classic guitar riffing, Vanderslice’s band makes the shift from headphone indie rock to head-banging club rock (and, yes, I exaggerate both stretches of that continuum, but you know what I’m saying).

And if I weren’t already a fan, I would be based on one simple fact: no encores. Vanderslice announced that he hates them, and that this was the line of demarcation for the night. The encore was starting, but no one would have to go through the disappearing band/wild clapping charade. Then the group tore through far more songs that they would have needed to please us, ending with an always-big “Time Travel Is Lonely,” and an oddly stripped-down and reserved “Angela.”

At this point, instead of everyone going home, Vanderslice initiates a “dance party,” so that we can get our fix of Jeezy. The indie kids I talked to were excited by this prospect, hoping to hear the new TI. As much I loved the idea, I was re-invigorated by the set, which meant it was time to go home, happy with the both night and the fact that I had something to write about. I was also pleased that Vanderslice’s peculiar reputation as the “nicest guy in indie” had held up (for the third time in three encounters with him).

And I was unashamedly glad to have saved enough money to buy a t-shirt and a tour-only CD.

Justin Cober-Lake | 4:30 pm

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