(concert photos courtesy of me)
What an amazing night of music!
Took the drive across the city last night to the Bottom Of The Hill
(Potrero Hill, to be exact) for the Richard Buckner / Doug Gillard show
and was totally blown away! Had never been to that particular club before and was almost completely unfamiliar with Buckner's music
so I had zero expectations going in. But sometimes those are the best shows, the ones where you are pleasantly surprised with what you find. And that couldn't be any truer in this case.
I arrived way too early as usual. I am one of those people who is so paranoid about being late (movies, sporting events, concerts) that invariably end up arriving too early and have to wait around. But it gave me a chance to scope out the joint and relax a little. Bottom Of The Hill is just about the perfect venue, way more intimate than most of the already fairly intimate clubs here in SF. Maximum capacity has to be no more than a hundred people. And the stage is quite small, allowing people to watch from very close up and from the right side of the stage as well.
The first opening act, Meric Long were really impressive. From outward appearances, the band was two generic college kids- one on freestanding drums, the other on guitar and vocals. But their energetic folk mountain music was startlingly lush and powerful. Meric's classical/folk guitar picking was particularly impressive. They made such an impact that the crowd demanded more and got a one song encore, first that I've ever seen from an opening act! Do go check out their MySpace page
. I predict great things from these guys.
Unfortunately the second act on the bill, the indie country rock outfit El Capitan was not doing it for me. But it did give me a chance to get my camera and reposition closer to the stage for Buckner/Gillard. I took some video of the show with my Powershot as well, which I will upload in the next few days- watch for 'em!
As I was repositioning, I saw Doug getting some beers at the bar but I decided not to bug him before the show. I get nervous enough myself for the performers at a live show without distracting them further (obviously, you won't catch me performing live music any time soon)!
Before long, Buckner and Gillard took to the stage to great applause, the club having nearly filled up in the interim. I wasn't sure whether Gillard was going to be playing lead guitar as part of a full band supporting Buckner or what. And I was pleased to see that it was just the two of them sitting side by side- Richard Buckner on lead vocals and rhythm/acoustic guitar and Doug on lead guitar, playing his black 77 Les Paul.
And once the music began, I was totally swept up in the magic and had a blast! Buckner's songs are very much in the storyteller, singer-songwriter troubadour mode- very melodic, very southern and just heartfelt, intense and amazing.
And the way the show was structured kept me swept up, each song blending into the next like an album with no breaks between the tracks. It was quite the technical feat but they pulled it off in high style and to great effect. It was as if the entire evening of music was one monumental synchronized song in fifteen parts. And even with tuning and guitar switching between songs by both musicians, the music never stopped. Buckner used a digital delay pedal I believe (I am showing my complete lack of technical music knowledge here), to record bars of repeating melody or atmospheric noise as they got ready for the next song. Very cool! The only rub was that the crowd was reluctant to cheer and applaud over the music, and without breaks they had to pick their spots carefully!
Doug's lead work last night was truly brilliant. His presence only served to enhance Buckner's melodies and singing. Just the right flourishes where needed and some amazing face-melting solos on the more uptempo rockers. And it was eye-opening to see how his playing could be so effortlessly and seamlessly applied to another genre and another artist's music.
Now I'm not going to pretend that I know the names of the songs performed, cause I don't. But I'm sure I soon will- I am a converted Richard Buckner fan, no doubt about it. And it was great to hear that Doug's familiarity with his music was in part due to his playing on Buckner's new album, due out in the late summer on Merge Records
. It is on my wish list already!
The main act wrapped up about at about one in the morning with no real encores- just one giant song. Doug did leave the stage twice toward the end of the set. Upon his first return, it was sort of like an encore. And then Doug left for the last time to allow Buckner to wrap things up, solo on the acoustic.
After the show I finally found my friend Ana, who just happens to be Doug Gillard's wife and an amazing photographer. I doubt there are two more generous and sweeter people on planet earth than Doug and Ana. Amazing artists, amazing people.
I got a chance to chat with Doug for a few minutes too, a soft-spoken and warm hearted guy. We talked about Pop Zeus a bit and I asked Doug about another solo record, which he says he has begun the initial stages of- great news! If you haven't already picked up Gillard's stupendous solo album Salamander
, I insist you do so! It is absolutely one of my favorites of the last few years. I sure hope he swings his solo tour by SF next time. Doug even mentioned reading the Harp magazine article about Pop Zeus
, which was very cool.
It was wonderful catching up with both of them. Plus, I had asked Ana if she could bring out one of Doug's Salamander tour tee-shirts for me. And they totally hooked me up- carting it all the way out here and giving it to me for nothing! Thanks so much you guys, you rock!
So there you have it. If you missed out on seeing Buckner/Gillard in your neck of the woods, you have my pity. More news and stuff later in the week. As the kids say on their text-messaging do-hickeys, c ya!