Let me preface this by saying I’m typing this sitting outside in the sunshine that has been so absent from Bay Area skies for months. The thermometer says 74, sitting in the sun feels much warmer.
Pretty amazing show last night. I saw Strays Don’t Sleep open for Josh Rouse at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. I got there early to avoid the traffic mess that is San Francisco. I grabbed a Coke across the street at a little deli and stood outside of the deli for a while having some interesting conversations with various homeless and street people. At one point I looked over and there was Matthew Ryan with both hands full of coffee cups (an independent coffee vendor, if you were wondering) turning down the same homeless woman that asked me for taxi fair and bus fair within a minute not realizing I was the same person. Honestly, like most musicians, he doesn’t stand out, but I was still a little star struck, but figured identifying him might tip the locals off that he might be worth hassling (Looking out for you MRyan). Josh Rouse also walked by (seperately), but at the time I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a crowd. Getting there early means getting in early; which usually means you get the best “seat.” I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume most of you have never been to GAMH. They offer dinner tickets as well as standard GA tickets. The dinner folks were ushered in before the rest of us. The hall is set up with a balcony that goes around three sides of the room. I went up to the balcony initially, because there were seats and I’d been on my feet for quite some time. Once I realized that the better seats were down on the floor, I made my way down. The line was coming through the door slow enough that I walked right past the crowd and staked out the front of the stage. They had the Strays gear set up, so I positioned myself right between where Matthew Ryan and Neilson Hubbard would be. I’ve kowtowed to Brian before, so I was stepping away from his side.
Strays took the stage and they didn’t hesitate. They are releasing their album in June, so I’ve only been able to hear snippets of their stuff and a few tracks that iTunes has. It sounded so great. I got a lot of stage sound rather than the PA mix because all the speakers were behind me. Neilson, Matthew and Steve (drums) harmonized their three distinct voices together to make magic. I found myself drifting in to their songs as the images were so well drawn. Matthew jumped into the crowd and serenaded the crowd managing the hug and then steal a girl’s purse…he gave it back. Their set had so much energy and yet still maintained the quiet intensity on songs like “For Blue Skies.” I wanted them to play longer and I was jonesing for some Matthew Ryan songs. I’ve become so attached to his music over the last few years! When their set was over Matthew had to unplug his foot pedal bank right next to me. He leaned down and made eye contact with me, so I extended my hand for a handshake and all I could come up with was “Great Show.” He shook my hand and thanked me. Not quite the personal interaction I had with him in Portland a few years ago, but I’ll take it.
Much like when I saw Matthew Ryan open for Gary Jules in Portland in 2004, it seems the crowd was there for Josh Rouse. I overheard a few conversations that included “Who’s opening?” and heard a few people say, “Don’t know, don’t care.” But the crowd got into them and I overheard a couple talking after the show while we waited for a light to change and she said, “What did you think?” He said, “I could have dealt without the second guy, he made me want to put two bullets in my head, but the first band was great.” I almost said somehting, but I held back. Unlike this guy, I enjoyed Josh Rouse. Not nearly as much as Strays, but he brought Neilson, Brian and Steve out to back him up on a few of the upbeat songs. Brian played bass, which put him right in front of me. I like his stuff, I’m not sure I like him, though. Maybe it was the gum he was chewing, but he seemed like he owned the place a bit, but maybe he did, because the crowd seemed to know every word to every song. And I’ve got to hand it to him, he had a four peice string section (nicknamed the Earthquake Quartet, being it was the centenniel of the SF quake in 1906) which brought his melodies to life. All in all, a really good show. Probably created some new Strays fans, though I’d think it would be hard to say, “We’re Strays Don’t Sleep, we made you all like our music, but it’s gonna be another couple of months before you can buy our CD.” So if you were there and found me via Google, you can get more amazing music from Strays Don’t Sleep by getting yourself some Matthew Ryan or Neilson Hubbard. But for those of you that are interested in seeing Strays or Josh Rouse, their next stop is Los Angeles, and it looks like a new date was added in LA where Strays will open for Matthew Ryan or vice versa (Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles, Thursday 4/20). I wish they’d done that in SF. Check out Strays on myspace for tour info.
Here’s a start…Strays Don’t Sleep performing “For Blue Skies” which appears on the One Tree Hill soundtrack, but don’t let that deter you from checking it out.
Also if anyone reading this is or knows the guy with the fancy camera who was in the front row on the left (stage right) and can either get me in contact with him or a link to flickr or some place, I’d love that. I forgot my camera and felt like an a-hole because I was so close.