Counting on something to count on
When I found out the Counting Crows were coming to Maryhill a few months ago, I must admit, I was pretty happy. There wasn’t much debate here as to whether or not I was going to go – I mean, I’ve got a good band coming to a venue where I don’t have to deal with the Portland traffic, a Friday night, and a promising deal with the weather – it all should add up to a great summer's night out. And, since this whole project is based on bands I haven’t seen before, the Crows were on that list, too, so it really sealed the deal.
It’s hard to believe their first record came out in 1993, that’s going on 16 years, and “August and Everything After” is a real gem. I honestly can’t remember what year I picked up a copy, but I’m glad I did. But for some odd reason, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I got around to picking up more of their back catalog. “Recovering the Satellites” just rocked. “Dessert Life” was good, similar to “August.” The first time I listened to “Hard Candy,” I seemed to notice a different direction going on – a bit more pop and such. There’s a “hidden track” on that CD, which has a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” Then, the band made a pretty big splash in the pop world a few years later with the “Shrek” soundtrack, with “Accidentally in Love.”
So, really not knowing much about the band’s live shows, I decided it was time to give them a try, and see what was going on. I was all set, with my ticket on will-call.
Then, hours before the concert, an email came in:
Subject: An urgent message from Adam Duritz of Counting Crows
A Note from Adam and the Counting Crows - Get Ready for the Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus & Medicine Show
I know you're all used to showing up at 9:30 or 10PM for concerts that started at 8. It's understandable . You're there to see YOUR band and you're showing up when you think they're gonna play, right? Well, on Friday July 17th at the Maryhill Winery Amphitheatre near Goldendale, Washington, that's all going to change.
Ladies and Gentlemen, at 8PM, when the curtain goes up on The Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus & Medicine Show, Augustana AND Counting Crows are all going to be walking out onstage together and that show is going to start with EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US onstage singing and playing our brains out. We'll do a few songs together and then it may be Counting Crows that plays the first set alone. I don't know exactly how the shows going to run every night. It'll definitely be different a few days later in Friant, CA when Michael Franti & Spearhead join up. It'll probably be different every night. The only thing I know for sure is that EVERY show on this tour is going to start with EVERYONE onstage together and we're going to all be running on & off stage all night playing on each others songs and playing songs all together and basically just playing whenever we feel like playing. So you get my point, right?
GET HERE ON TIME!
Cuz when the curtain rises...THE CIRCUS BEGINS
Traveling Circus??? Medicine Show! Augustana who?! What the heck is going on?
I travel to the source of all knowledge of musical details……..the internet. Sure enough, the Crows’ web site pops up with some huge circus traveling medicine show graphics for Saturday night rockers, with Micheal Franti and Spearhead and Augustana (I still have no idea who this band is) and the Counting Crows.
Good lord, what am I getting myself into? I’m griping here, because the venue really didn’t bill this show as a “circus tour” event with multiple bands, I was just counting on a straight ahead rock show, preferably concentrating on material from the first 3 albums. That’s all I really need here, to keep this fan happy.
Oh well, I’ll try to keep an open mind here, and go with the flow.
The drive over to Maryhill is nice, and I actually get to park in the venue parking lot, avoiding the shuttle bus.
I was walking down the stairs to the terraces, and just by chance I run into some friends of friends, Don and Micki, and I wind up camping out next to them. A few minutes later, I run into a co-worker, Trisha, who is sitting next to Don and Micki. It’s funny, because Trisha sits about 5 feet from my desk, and….. well, that’s the Gorge for you. Welcome to the Hood River area seating section.
It turns out that Don has seen Counting Crows multiple times, and he mentions that he is really into the Wallflowers. (Don should really check out my June show blog!)
Well, as promised in Adam’s email, the show does start relatively on time, 8:30 p.m., and it turns out that the Spearhead band is not on this tour date, so the Crows and Augustana hit the stage. I knew I would recognize Duritz, the band leader of the Crows, but the other members kind of remain a mystery to me. But eventually I got a handle on who was in which band, as throughout the evening band members would float in and out of the mix.
They kicked it off with “Omaha” a great cut off of “August and Everything After.” For what it was, the crew and bands did a really good job of making the transitions between songs seemless. And there was always a pretty good mix of acoustic and electric instruments going on – accordion, mandolin, piano, pedal steel. Both bands would be on stage, then some members would head out. Augustana would do a few songs, and then Adam would join in, and then the Crows would be back for a few tunes.
What was surprising to me, and I guess a bit disappointing, was the number of cover songs that were in the set. Duritz mentioned that this was the “Do What You Want to Do Tour,” so I guess that fits the Traveling Medicine Show theme. They covered Van Morrison’s “Caravan,” Paul Simon’s “Ceclia,” Woody Gutherie’s “This land is Your Land,” the Stone’s “Sweet Virginia” a Muddy Waters song, and Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady.” All great tunes, but it would have been nice to hear “Daylight Fading” or “Have You Seen Me Lately,” “Four Days,” or “Angels of the Silences.”
The unpredictable Gorge winds messed with the sound quality some, as it always seems to do at this venue, scattering the layering of guitars and textures that are usually present on the studio recordings. The winds also prevented the use of some of the main curtain/stage props, and probably affected the band’s monitor mix.
Which, in hindsight, was something I could have counted on.
Counting Crows w/Augustana
July 17, 2009
A Long December (solo piano)
You Can’t Count on Me
Sweet Virginia (w augustana)
Either Way I’ll Break Your Heart Someday (aug)
Sweet and Low (aug.)
I Just Wanna Make Love to You (aug)
Stars and Boulevards (CC/Aug)
Washington Square (cc new album)
Can’t Trust the Wind (aug)
I Still Ain’t Over You (aug)
Why Should You Come When I Call (cc)
Raise a Ruckus tonight (cc/aug – gospel sing along)
Rain King (w/ A little help from my friends)
A message to please vote
This land is your land (all)