Just wrote this micro review for The package – will go to print next week or something but here it is first…
Jay Farrar and Mark Spencer
with Grand Lodge
Sunday May 16
For those of you too young to know, Uncle Tupelo were a massively influential altcountry act from the early/mid nineties, built around the combined songwriting talents of Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar. When they split, Tweedy (the cutesy arty guy) formed Wilco and went on to massive acclaim. The gruffer, rootsier Farrar has kept a lower profile, and we were privileged to see his current stripped-back two-man show at Bodega last Sunday.
As befitting the steadfastly independent traditionalists they are, both men were dressed unpretentiously (I’m being very kind here – Jay Farrar rocked the “mainsteamed mental patient” look with his plaid shirt, bowlcut and slacks, whereas sidekick Mark Spencer had, weirdly, the exact the outsized nose and side-part favoured by the 1940s NZ cricket team).
Farrar has a love-it-or-hate-it southern drawl, not unlike Michael Stipe (but with the advantage of not being a crap sellout whore), and writes very American songs in the timeless ballad vein – reverent, weary, introspective, profound, occasionally despairing and, generally, incredibly beautiful. All of which makes perfect listening for late-night living room floor whisky-drinking sessions, but it could’ve gotten a little dull after a song or three if it hadn’t been for Spencer providing some great harmonies and twangy, fluid accompaniment on tele and lapsteel.
Openers Grand Lodge (aka Head Like a Short Bilge Pony) warmed it up good some slow burnin’ big band intense mellowness. Plus they did absolutely the best western Joy Division cover I’ve heard so far this year. And while we’re at it, big up the Rye Grass Staggers at the WWMC.