(This photo was taken at M.D. Garage in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Holla!)
This paean was written directly after returning from seeing The Black Keys at the Cat's Cradle down the road in Carrboro, NC.
The Cradle is odd because it's so iconic, but it's also located right in a strip mall and could just as easily be taken for a five-and-dime from the street. The night's first great moment came when I marched right up to the doorman, told him I was on the list, and was promptly let in gratis. Makes one feel almost legitimate. (Here's my preview from recess, the arts and entertainment section of The Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper: http://www.dukechronicle.com/media/stora...
Openers were the Black Angels, who were passable, but if we'd been lost any longer (and we were lost for quite awhile) it wouldn't have been a shame--they were sort of like My Morning Jacket, but heavier and dronier, with less poppiness. NB: I can't stand MMJ ...
The Keys team/setup is sick complicated for a two-man band--three or four techs, lights, etc etc etc--and it took forever to get them ready, which I passed by pushing Andrea forward, so that by the beginning of the set she and John and I were pretty close to the front. The guitar tech tuned up Dan's Telecaster, but alas, all he played for the set was a white SG custom. Pat's set, meanwhile, was pushed up right up to the edge of the stage, which was pretty cool. Major downside: the rather putsy couple in front of us who were treating those around to an extensive display of PDA. Eww. Probably Tar Heels ...
Dan comes out, says they're the Black Keys (applause) from Akron, Ohio (at which point I emit a cheer which prepared those around me for deafening volume we were about to experience). They then launch into a bizarrely twisted "Thickfreakness"--Dan was doing some weird things with the rhythm of the main riff (I notated all of this in my official, Chronicle-issued reporter's notebook--made, as it happens, in Akron!). I was pretty ecstatic already, and then they went into "Girl Is On My Mind.' The repertoire was pretty evenly divided between (1) Rubber Factory, (2) Magic Potion, and (3) The Big Come Up and Thickfreakness. Some personal faves outside of the opening two: "Set You Free" and "Your Touch" back-to-back, "10 A.M. Automatic," "Grown So Ugly," "Stack Shot Billy."
At the risk of being the snob who likes earlier stuff, I'm still having trouble getting into Magic Potion, although they burned some of those tunes down tonight. I coulda done with fewer of them, but whatever; judging by the crowd's reaction, they know Rubber Factory and Potion better than the previous couple. Novices!
Dan was sporting a railroad-themed jacket (didn't Mary Stormer say *Pat* was into trains when he was a teenager?) but otherwise looked pretty rockstar. He sorta bounds around the stage during his solos, and he's as likely to be turned toward the wall doing rockstar moves as toward Pat or the audience--it's not so much that's he's antisocial a la Miles, but rather that he just doesn't even think about it. Awesome. When he sings, he does this funny little shift-back-and-forth dance, a little like Richard Thompson, actually. That's about the only way he's like RT--he has none of RT's nuance plays insanely loud and distorted through a Marshall, and he gets away with a lot of what might be sloppiness on the fretboard because it's just turned up so damn loud. It's absolutely brilliant. Pat looks pretty much the way you'd expect on stage based on the way he looks generally and the way he sounds.
After buying a t-shirt ("I know the artist. He used to bag my groceries!"--I've got to be almost intolerable; how John and Andrea put up with it I don't know), I was hoping to talk to Pat and/or Dan; despite the roadie's assurance that there was no way they'd come out, I walked out of the club to see the bird-like Pat Carney himself standing there, smoking a cigarette. I of course went up to introduce myself (I was wearing my RCCC Akron shirt, natch) and told him who I was and how I'd written a story on them and how I lived on Highland and how I knew Barry and Barry and his mom from St. Paul's. (I've tried to replicate the silliness of my vocal cadence talking to him in the above, unpunctuated sentence ...). He was friendly if spare of words, but I didn't want to be That Guy, so I told him I'd see him at Angel Falls before scampering back to Andrea and John, who laughed at me. Bastards.
Overall, a top notch show. Having played on at least one stage as them (Lime Spider) and been to other clubs they played, I wish I'd seen them in Akron; maybe later. And having seen some other, considerably less interesting bands on those stages, I can't imagine how thrilling it must have been to walk into, say, Annabell's in 2000 or 2001 to see this unbelievable and original band blowing like mad. Wow.