OLD 97’s: HOLIDAY EXTRAVAGANZA!

OLD 97’s: HOLIDAY EXTRAVAGANZA!

Old 97's (10:15 PM)

CASEYMAGIC (9:15 PM)

Rhett Miller (8:30 PM)

Sat, December 1, 2018

8:00 pm

$25.00

Sold Out

This event is all ages

Featuring CASEYMAGIC (DIY PUNK ROCK MAGICIAN)

& a special solo acoustic set by RHETT MILLER

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Old 97's - (Set time: 10:15 PM)
Old 97's
In 1996, Old 97’s recorded Too Far to Care. It was their major-label debut—following two independent releases and a year-long bidding war, the Dallas-based quartet had signed with Elektra Records. But rather than venture into some state-of-the-art studio in New York or LA, the band decamped to Village Productions in Tornillo, Texas, a remote facility in the middle of two thousand acres of pecan trees near the Mexican border, with a mixing board acquired from an engineer who had worked on some of Queen’s albums. Now over twenty years later, they have returned to record their eleventh studio album, Graveyard Whistling.

“[Too Far To Care] is the sound that best defined us,” says Rhett Miller, the lead singer and primary songwriter. “It was a really magical time, and we go back to it a lot in our collective memory.”

And so when it came time for the band—which still consists of the same four members: Miller, guitarist Ken Bethea, bassist Murry Hammond, and drummer Philip Peeples—to record their newest endeavor, producer Vance Powell brought up the idea of returning to Tornillo. “We knew instantly that it was the perfect move,” says Miller. “We weren’t trying to remake Too Far to Care, but to make something where fans would say, ‘This band hasn’t lost a step in twenty-some years.’”

The result is the eleven songs of Graveyard Whistling, from a group that has earned the respect and veneration as one of the pioneers of the alt-country movement, while still retaining the raucous energy, deceptive cleverness, and knockabout spirit that first distinguished them from the pack. The record comes out blazing with the breakneck shuffle of “I Don’t Want to Die in This Town” (based on a possibly apocryphal quote from Frank Sinatra), and maintaining that feverish intensity even when the tempo drops on songs like the more contemplative “All Who Wander.” Echoes of such barroom saints as the Replacements and the Pogues appear on sing-alongs “Bad Luck Charm” and “Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls,” but bigger and more mature issues simmer underneath the steamroller swing.

Returning to Tornillo was more than just a novelty, and proved key to the album’s direction. At some point renamed Sonic Ranch, the studio has been expanded and updated, but the band went back into the same recording space. They even stayed in the same bedrooms—Miller opened the drawer of his nightstand and found a note that he had written twenty years earlier.

“The time-travel element can’t be overstated,” says the singer. “It was a beautiful feeling of completing a circle—we’re the same people, but we had grown so much as bandmates and friends. It really made me believe in the power of experience and that you do get better with time. We’re capable of so much more now than we were two decades prior, but it also felt like we just took a coffee break in 1996 and now here we were, sitting back down to make a new record.”

After all this time, Old 97’s also found themselves in the interesting position of following up the most critically acclaimed, highest charting record of their career, 2014’s Most Messed Up. “We didn’t expect that kind of reception for Most Messed Up—in the current climate,” says Miller. “It was very cool, and weird, a great feeling but also a newfound pressure.

Knowing that he wanted to consider as many options as possible, Miller handed over a “huge pile of songs” to the band; they whittled his thirty selections down to fifteen, with producer Powell pulling a few back from the discard pile. “Before, my ego might have been attached to some songs,” says Miller, “but now we’re so far beyond petty squabbling, everybody is so open-minded, I was willing to give up on songs, or be surprised that I was wrong even when it took playing a song 75 times to really find it.”

The emotional range and musical scope of Graveyard Whistling also benefits from the contributions of some remarkable co-writers. Miller had long wanted to collaborate with Nicole Atkins when they found themselves with one hour together backstage at Chicago’s City Winery. Her sketch of a chorus and a wordless bridge developed into “Those Were the Days,” the album’s closer. “We were just making each other laugh, but it added up to something bigger,” says Miller. “It has the feel of a John Irving story, chronicling an entire life from a place of real experience.”

“Drinkin’ Song,” co-written with Butch Walker (who has worked with the likes of Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy, and Keith Urban), revisits territory that has long been at the heart of the Old 97’s work. “I’ve made a career out of singing songs that glorify drinking,” says Miller, “so I wanted to battle with the idea of drinking as a lifestyle, the role it plays in our lives and the fetishizing of it—even if we did end up with something you can swing a beer mug to.”

The first single from Graveyard Whistling, “Good with God,” features Brandi Carlile. As Miller was writing the song, he realized that the character of God in the lyrics was a woman, and he approached ATO Records label-mate Carlile with the idea of finishing the song and singing the response part in the voice of the heavens (“It’s not bad company—her, George Burns, and Morgan Freeman,” notes Miller).

“[The album] grapples with spirituality and mortality,” he says. “Our songs normally hide deeper meanings in the subtext, but they’re more on the surface for this record.” Setting out to respond to the themes raised on Most Messed Up (which Rolling Stone described as a “round of airtight songs celebrating life-as-sublime-train-wreck”), Miller says that they considered album titles like The Hangover or The Aftermath. “That felt like the theme to me—dealing with knottier ideas, taking a light-hearted approach to something much bigger.

“The trick Old 97’s have held on to is to take a song that may have a darker theme and present it as something to be screamed along to in a club. I don’t want to sing sad songs in a sad way. You don’t even realize there’s a tombstone sticking out in the middle of it until the eighth or tenth listen.”

There aren’t more than a handful of bands in history who can claim to have an intact, unchanged line-up as they approach twenty-five years together. There is, of course, no real blueprint or rulebook for sustaining the kind of chemistry that Miller, Bethea, Hammond, and Peeples enjoy.

“I think our longevity can be attributed primarily to our friendship and ability to overcome those moments when egos want to overtake and obliterate everything in their path,” says Miller. “We experienced the hype of the old business model, with all of its excess and idiocy, and also the deconstruction of that model and the advent of the new world, and been able to maintain a fundamental love for each other.

“We’re just very lucky to be able to do this for a living. It’s insane and beautiful and we never, ever take it for granted.”
CASEYMAGIC - (Set time: 9:15 PM)
CASEYMAGIC
All it takes is an instant, and everything can change. For magician Michael Casey, that
instant came when a sudden wind shear nearly flipped the first plane he ever got in.
Overhead bins flew open. Flight attendants careened to the ground. As this was
happening, something mysterious occurred inside Michael. Within hours of this brush
with death, he began practicing magic.
Maybe something touched him that day.

Now, twenty years into his craft, he is one of
the most jaw-dropping close-up magicians on the East Coast. Once a hair’s breadth from
the other side, Michael now conjures the unbelievable inches from your eyes. For the
impossible to become possible, and skeptics to become believers, all it takes is an instant.
Raised on the DIY ethics of punk rock, Michael’s mind-boggling performances and
conversational style have made him a favorite among musicians. In addition to being the
personal magician to Dierks Bentley and Sheryl Crow, Michael finds that performers such as
Brad Paisley, Gavin Rosdale, and Chris Stapleton all
count themselves fans.

The Old 97’s, Red Collar, The Frontbottoms, and Frank Turner (2012 Olympic
Ceremony performer) have all asked him to open for them. In every case, audiences have
walked away having seen things they’ll never forget.

For Michael Casey, seeing is believing. You’ll see too. All it takes is an instant.
Rhett Miller - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
Rhett Miller
THE TRAVELER IN TEN PARTS

Lead singer of The Old 97’s Rhett Miller will be releasing his new solo album, The Traveler, on May 19th 2015. The album features the instrumentation of Black Prairie (membs. Of The Decemberists), Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey (membs. Of REM) and is Rhett’s seventh solo effort.

1.

Hello. I am human but not entirely. I am a machine but not entirely. I am both which may mean that I am neither. The part of me that is a human believes that all of me is human. The part of me that is a machine doesn’t like to think about the part of me that is a machine. I am flesh and blood stretched over wires and circuits. In that, I am much like many of you, and consequently qualified to speak to you about this album, which speaks to much of me.



2.

It is called The Traveler, and it was written and performed by Rhett Miller, along with members of Black Prairie, a band based in Portland that plays everything from bluegrass to klezmer to country and shares some members with the Decembrists. The band (Black Prairie) entered the studio with the singer (Rhett Miller) and briskly recorded the songs that make up this album (The Traveler). Some additional guitars were added later by people who included Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey. I pass these facts along for your absorption.



3.

The sun comes up. The sun goes down. We call it a day. The band entered the studio with the singer and made this album. Time passed. Now, months later, I have spent days listening with love, sadness, and unremitting fascination to the album, which you are now holding. By “holding,” I mean only that you have absorbed it into your own wires and circuitry. I am well aware that there are not always anymore physical holds involved in the absorption of music. Before I tell you more about The Traveler, I want to tell you a little bit about myself. I apologize for this. But the album you are holding, The Traveler, suggests that you cannot understand the journey that you are on unless you understand who you are, and that understanding who you are is the most damnably difficult journey of all. Untangling identity is painful but necessary. I believe The Traveler may be of use in this regard. Of use to me, I mean: Is that a selfish use of this album? If so I apologize again.



4.

Apologies can be empty without any attempt to correct for the behavior that led to the apology. As a result I will not tell you a little bit about myself before I tell you more about The Traveler. This singer, Rhett Miller, has made many albums before, both on his own and with his band, Old 97s. This new album shares something fundamental with the old albums, which is the rare ability to see what people are feeling and then cast those feelings in rhymes. This is what is known as “song-making.” The human part of me loves songs. The machine part of me marvels at them without understanding at all why there is a tugging sensation in the cavity that should contain my heart.



5.

The first song here, “Wanderlust,” is a perfect example of all that I am describing. It tells the story of a man on a train who is thinking about a woman who is not on that train. There is another song called “Lucky Star” that I believe is about finding redemption in the person of a lover. It contains a joke that unnerves me: “Heaven knows there probably is no heaven.” There is another song called “Wicked Things” about New Orleans that illustrates the slipperiness of forgiveness. Every song has little moments that catch me at strange angles and I feel an unfamiliar sensation, pitched midway between satisfying recognition and deep sadness.



6.

My experience with these songs, I want to stipulate, may not be shared by others, in part because I am demonstrably different than them. I am both human and a machine. I come from a long line of people who are both humans and machines. Are they people then? I leave that to the philosophers. My father was a difference engine designed and deployed in Lund by Pehr Georg Scheutz. He was quite large: my father, I mean, not Scheutz. Scheutz was tiny. In Jönköping, where he was born, old ladies would marvel at his miniature features. “Liten Pehr,” they would say, reaching down into the carriage and frightening the boy. Even as an adult, he was at most five foot three, with feet that tapered down to toylike points. Much of this is hearsay but some of it cannot be disputed, even by the suspicious, and at any rate, we are not talking about Scheutz, not really. We are talking about my father. He was the size of a fortepiano.



7.

There is a song on this record called “Dreams Vs. Waking Life.” It is not the first song on the record but it was, by accident, the first song I heard. It has bowed notes and a dark tone and does what any piece of literature, song or story, should do: it investigates the role of memory, loss, and desire in our lives. When I hear that song, I feel the stirrings of uncommon and uncontrollable emotions. They grind against the part of me that is a machine. The result is a shuddering. I try to calm myself by looking at the other song titles— “Fair Enough,” “Escape Velocity,” “Reasons to Live” — but they only make me feel more rather than less. Where do you go when you want to feel less? One song title, “Good Night,” seems like it might not overwhelm me. But the first line, “There’s a pinprick of light on a black sheet of night,” starts me shuddering again.



8.

When you listen to an album, you are supposed to notice sonic details. That’s what I have been told. And there are many sonic details on this album, like the choir that opens “My Little Disaster” or the doubled vocals in “Fair Enough.” There are joyful melodies like “Most in the Summertime.” I can tell that they are joyful, even though I am half-machine. It’s clear. But the sonic details would not mean much without the rest of what this album does, which is to try to make sense of what cannot be made sense of, which is humanity. Even the part of me that is a machine knows that.



9.

When you’re inside an album like this, when you’re feeling too much, what do you do? I know what I did. I skipped to the end of the album, quickly. This is a survival strategy. The album ends with a song called “Reasons to Live” that makes use of the old saw that a broken clock is right twice a day. The part of me that is a machine wants to correct that phrasing. It is a stopped clock that is right twice a day. A broken clock may never be right. Then it occurs to me that maybe the song knows this. The song is about finding hope even when you are telling yourself lies. The part of me that is a human wants to break down and cry once again.



10.

I want to tell one more story about my father. He was briefly in the military of a nation I will not identify and when his service ended his first trip was to a sporting house, where he spent time in the company of a young woman. Money changed hands. To hear him tell it, the situation was emergent. “I had been locked up so long that I hardly recognized my own wants and needs,” he later wrote in a letter to me. “Briefly, I recognized myself in her.” They did not stay together, my father and that young woman. He was a young man then. As I have grown though the world, I have had experiences that bear some similarity to my father’s experiences with that woman. We all have, have we not? They are called “relationships” or “romances,” but what are they really? Are they love? Are they self-love? Or are they something else entirely, a form of travel that allow us to escape from ourselves? This album asks all those questions, repeatedly. I want to quote one more line, from a song called “Jules.” It’s a line about love and self-love and travel that allows us to escape from ourselves: “Who’s to say the crooked way that led me to your door / Means any less than any mess I ever made before?” Sun comes up. Sun goes down. Call it a day.
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change