Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rockin' Out: Them Crooked Vultures @ Stubb's 10/01/09, @ Austin City Limits Festival 10/02/09

Seriously, I hate my Blackberry camera.

I've been excited about Them Crooked Vultures since I first read about them earlier this year, so I was incredibly psyched when it was announced a few weeks ago that not only would they be playing the Austin City Limits Festival (which I already had tickets for before they were announced as part of the lineup), but that they would be playing at one of Austin's most beloved and well known BBQ Joints, Stubb's, the night before opening day. The prospect of seeing the band in a club setting in addition to a festival setting was too good to pass up. Fortunately, I was able to get tickets for the Stubb's show during an online pre-sale.

I arrived in Austin on Thursday afternoon with a horrible head cold combined with a hangover and was operating on 3 hours of sleep from the night before (I can never sleep on really, really, really, really, really sucks), but none of that was going to stop me from seeing Them Crooked Vultures. After getting to the hotel and (sort of) napping for two hours, I was out the door to grab some BBQ at Stubb's and then head to their backyard to see the band. I could write a whole separate review of how delicious my beef brisket, chicken, mac & cheese, sweet mashed potatoes and chili con queso appetizer were, but I'll refrain and instead just say if you have never been to Austin before, if you do go, then definitely hit up Stubb's at least once.

Somewhat awake from a combination of excitement about seeing the band and a movie theater size Diet Coke (you know what I'm talking about...those cups that make Big Gulps look modest by comparison), my girlfriend and I headed into the venue to claim some real estate to watch the show. The venue security warned everyone on the way in that there were no cameras allowed and anyone seen taking pictures with their cell phones would be ejected from the venue. Seemed a bit silly since everyone and their mother would be able to take pics of the band at the Fest the next day, but whatever. I decided not to risk getting tossed out and didn't bother trying to snap any pics. Not that it would have mattered, since it is a well proven point that my Blackberry camera sucks....but, I'm getting off topic. We staked out some territory to watch the band and I was happy because I had a perfect view of the drum kit. Seeing Dave Grohl play drums live was going to be a real treat for me because I never saw Nirvana live and missed out when he toured with Queens of the Stone Age as their drummer. [I did actually see him play drums on two consecutive nights at Roseland Ballroom when Foo Fighters were touring for There Is Nothing Left To Lose, but those were not full performances...just a little drum off with Foo's drummer Taylor Hawkins. Coincidentally, Queens of the Stone Age was the opener on that leg of the tour.]

The band walked out on stage a little after 9pm. For those not up to speed on Them Crooked Vultures, the aforementioned Dave Grohl (of Foo Fighters, Nirvana fame) is the drummer, John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin fame) is the bassist and keyboardist and Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss fame) is the lead singer/guitarist. Alain Johannes who has collaborated and toured with QOTSA, was a member of Eleven and is currently a member of Spinnerette (Josh Homme's wife Brody Dalle's band) is a second guitarist with the band as well. Ok, now that the members' resumes are out of the way, on to the music....

The easiest description would be to call it stoner rock, but that is somewhat unfair because it is so much more complex (and better) than that. I read a review somewhere that compared it to grunge mixed with prog rock and that is somewhat accurate, but we aren't talking about Soundgarden covering Dream Theater or anything near that. The closest band of any of the members previous or current bands that TMC's sound resembles would certainly be Queens of the Stone Age, but that probably has a lot to do with Josh being the singer and guitarist for both. The songs are longer and much more jam oriented than any Queens material, but without getting repetitive and dull. An urge to nod one's head seemed to take over the entire audience (except for the annoying drunk ditz behind me who was telling stupid stories about her friend who got drunk in Mexico to the equally annoying drunk dufus she was with for what felt like the entire set) and I give credit to the incredible rhythm section of JPJ and Grohl for that. Those two are completely in tune with one another and when JPJ drops the bass to sit at the keyboards (which he did for a couple songs), Grohl holds down a beat perfectly fine on his own. I also have to add that JPJ might have the coolest bass collection of anyone on the planet. Josh sings lead on all the songs with the other guys contributing back up vocals. Of the hour and 20 minute long set, there was only one song that was a lemon and that was when Josh put down his guitar and sang over Grohl drumming and JPJ playing a keytar (although this thing was much more involved looking than a keytar, that is the best description I can give). Other than that, it was about 75 minutes of full on rock n roll. Oh, and there were no was all original material. At one point Josh Homme said to the audience that he understood that the set was a lot of new music to digest and they appreciated everybody coming out to hear it. At that point, I remembered that this was indeed all new music to me and thought it was a great sign that, with one exception, I had been engaged and intrigued by every song they played and almost forgotten that I was hearing it for the first time.

The following night at ACL was equally enjoyable (especially because the keytar song was cut from the set list) with the only differences being that they only had an hour to play as opposed to an hour and 20 and Josh Homme was clearly and unabashedly a bit intoxicated (but played fine nonetheless). I will definitely buy the album when it comes out and would love to see the band again when I have had time to spend with the material. I'm really happy I got to experience them for the first time in the live setting though. Again, the sound is a bit hard to describe, so if you get the chance, then go see them live for yourselves. If you do, then you'll see (hear) that there sound is really just a complicated way of "saying" rock n roll.

Songs that jumped out at me during both sets included (titles not necessarily 100% accurate) "Elephants", "Mind Eraser", "Scumbag Blues", "Reptiles", "Dead End Friends" and "Caligulove". I've found some OK footage from the ACL set on YouTube (and I really stress the OK part), so check it out if you are so inclined:

"Mind Eraser"

"Nobody Loves Me And Neither Do I" (?)

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