Golden Smog at the Fillmore West: Minnesotans, Jayhawks, and Covers of Covers

When I arrived at the Fillmore last night, I barely recognized it as a concert venue. It doesn’t have a marquee or even a sign, just a red awning. I arrived a little early because traffic was decent on the 580 and 80 and because my guess on where it is was dead on. The Fillmore is a historic sight for most music buffs. There is lots of memorabilia to prove it too. If you’re even a casual fan of music in the mid sixties coming out of San Francisco, you’re at least familiar with the idea of the Fillmore. In the mid-sixties it was a hotbed for The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis, CSNY, etc. There are still lots of posters on the walls from that time. A lot has changed for the Fillmore. For one, it moved locations in 1968 from Fillmore and Geary to Market and Van Ness. In 1971, it closed. Twenty years after it closed, it’s founder, the legendary promoter Bill Graham, was killed in a helicopter accident and his friends decided to open the Fillmore back up but in it’s original location at Fillmore and Geary, where it stands today. Another thing that has changed is the acquisition of the Fillmore by LiveNation a division of ClearChannel. This fact is made obvious by the giant video screen running Verizon adds before the show started. Something that hasn’t changed, apparently, is that there is still a greeter. Last night it was a nice cheerful guy, probably in his mid fifties who said to pretty much everyone who walked up the stairs, “Welcome to the Fillmore.” I thought it was classy. Not to mention as I walked out, he said “Have a nice evening.” To which I replied “Thanks, you too.” His response: “I have had a nice evening, thanks.”

On to the show. As you’ve probably gathered by now I went to see Golden Smog. If you’re not familiar with Golden Smog, at least you’re not alone, but you should take heed. The Smog are an Alt. Country Supergroup…ok, that’s a definition I saw somewhere and so I’ve sarcastically adopted it. Supergroups were big in the 70’s. Members from other bands combine together to form a Voltron of a band. In this case, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman from the Jayhawks; Dan Murphy of Soul Asylum; Jeff Tweedy of Wilco (though, Jeff was not with the band last night); Kraig Johnson, who’s been in several bands; and Jody Stephens of Big Star. All musicians are very good at what they do. I’m certain there is a ton of ego and yet a ton of humility that takes place when these guys meet up every couple of years.

Last night, Tim O’Reagan (formerly the drummer of the Jayhawks beginning with the Sound of Lies album. He did some of his own stuff on his solo record and did a few Jayhawks songs and a few other covers. I enjoyed the style and the raw nature of the performance. By the time Golden Smog came out, I was standing front and center with my head between two monitors and a full view of the stage. The band was loose and in good spirits and played just about everything I wanted to hear from them except for “Glad & Sorry.” Being that close gave a unique experience because not only was I hearing the stage mix and not the house mix, but I could hear everything they were saying to each other. How many times have you seen two guys in a band walk close to each other and shout something in the other’s ear and they both smile and laugh…what if you found out they said something really mundane and normal, would it ruin rock and roll for you? During the “Starman” performance, I got caught singing along by Gary Louris, which for some reason led him to smile. I also did a Phil Hartman style “YES” at one point and it led to a quick bit by Dan Murphy and Kraig Johnson. I was in awe of all of the musicianship last night. Like I said, they’re all really good at what they do. I was also in awe of the looseness to the music. This was their second show of the tour and they haven’t played live for an audience together for probably at least 7 years, so it seemed very unrehearsed and alive. If you’re lucky enough to have them come to your town, definitely show up…and if not, buy their music.

Golden Smog – Another Fine Day (2006)

Golden Smog – Weird Tales (1998)

Golden Smog – Down By the Old Mainstream (1995)

Golden Smog – On Golden Smog EP (1992)

Tim O’Reagan – Tim O’Reagan

The Jayhawks

Soul Asylum

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