Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Comics Curmudgeon

The Comics Curmedgeon is a pretty neat blog that comments on daily comic strips, doing so in a snarky, smart-assed way...which of course, is right up my alley.

I never cared much for Mark Trail until reading this blog (which I found via wonkette, another fine blog), which pointed out the startling, head-shaking, truly bizarre happenings therein. The current "plotline" involves crooked county commissioners, an airport, and some ne'er-do-well named "Buzzard" and will most likely end with Mark breaking out the fisticuffs to solve the problem.

Oh, you can read most of the comics online at the Houston Chronicle's website. You can also set up a customizable page with just your favorite comics, too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Drive-By Truckers The Dirt Underneath Tour 4/28/07

This past Saturday night, I was witness to the rebirth and the rededication of a band of scruffy, rock and roll musicians. It was the second show of a two-night, sold-out stand for the Drive-By Truckers at the Georgia Theatre in their adopted hometown of Athens, Georgia. Outside, spandex-clad bicyclists were careening around the corner of N. Lumpkin and Clayton at crazy speeds, vying for position in the Twilight Criterion. Inside, fans in denim and black t-shirts were trying to find seats, something a bit unusual for followers of a band that thrives on the visceral chaos of rock and roll.

Patterson Hood, just one of three songwriter/guitarists in the band but the most articulate advocate of the redemptive power of rock and roll since Springsteen, had already kicked around the idea of doing a few stripped down shows that got back to the intimacy of playing for people who cared about the songs. The fact that these shows, christened The Dirt Underneath Tour (after a line in “Bulldozers and Dirt” on Pizza Deliverance) were talked about before guitarist Jason Isbell inevitably left the band to pursue a solo career didn’t deter the rest of the boys (and girl, bassist Shonna Tucker) from moving forward with the idea. So not only were they already looking to try something different with a more acoustic based approach, they were also faced with a lineup change. Without Jason, the band went in two directions: backwards and forwards. They played old songs; they played brand-spanking new songs. But mostly, they enjoyed being on stage in front of a friendly, if sometimes boisterous, crowd. Longtime sideman and pedal steel wizard John Neff assumed a greater role, and they reached back into their Muscle Shoals lineage to draft keyboard legend Spooner Oldham into the band for this excursion.

The Friday and Saturday night shows were different, as are all of their sets: they work from no setlist, just nodding at each other and following along, but in this case, there was at least a framework. Both nights started with “Bulldozers and Dirt” and ended with the elegiac “Angels and Fuselage” from Southern Rock Opera. I’m sure that the latter song was chosen with a purpose, because in the context of SRO, it signals an end, but I believe that the line “I’m scared shitless of what’s coming next” is a lie.

The Drive-By Truckers ain’t afraid of nothing.