Live at the Sidecar, Barcelona, Spain, 11.12.08

Howlin Rain

Catalog #: SC 16

Originally Blog download, then Tour cdr, Edition unknown. Color copy on card stock.

The below is from a Blog post about the release originally posted Nov, 5, 2009.

        This Sidecar show is a warts and all event no doubt about it. The recording quality and "looseness" of the band are all part of the glory and charm. This show holds a very fond place in my memory both for the audience enthusiasm and because an old friend of ours from Humboldt County, Aolani Beere, came down from the Spanish hills where she now lives as a gypsy musician to join us on violin for a 12 minute version of "Nomads". To this day I feel that the sound and soul she brought to our song with her playing is among the most transcendent and beautiful moments in the history of Howlin Rain's music. Alas, Aolani's bright star is not the only thing special about this show. Herein also lies the sound of a band that is road weathered.
        Here’s the thing, I believe that every band that tours in album cycles, usually anywhere from 6 months to 2 or 3 years per cycle, straddles this "performance elevation" trajectory that goes something like this: first 3 or 4 months the band is sinking into the songs and trying to really harness them. At 4 to 8 months the band has both enflamed the power of the beast, enlarged it and at the same time has harnessed it and controlling it nearly to perfection. This zone is the perfect zone to see a band play live in, it's when they take the stage and just command the room, the songs, your emotions, your adrenaline---they are doing something where intellect, physicality and primal knowledge have combined to create transcendent performance. This phase is a high-energy phase and for a few reasons can leave the band with a bit of a serotonin depletion in the next phase. Somewhere around 9 months and on up to the finish of tours (some bands can hold the "in the pocket" phase for up to a year or more but usually it's 9 months or so) a couple things can happen. Because the band has played the songs so many times, the power and tightest moments of the songs and the set are starting to lose some of the high for the band--thus the drug “come-down” metaphor.
        Musician's inspiration, just like listener's ears, can't just keep beating out these musical subtleties and climaxes and transcendent connections with the same conviction and finesse over and over forever. So at this phase as far as I've seen 2 things usually happen. One is the band has just memorized everything including seemingly spontaneous feeling etc and performs in a satisfactory way so that the fans get to hear the music and see the performance and, they don't feel ripped off, but deep down there is a nagging feeling that a ghost is walking over the grave of the music you so deeply love. This happens a lot when you go see a world touring stadium band that is in their 2nd year of touring a hit record. The other thing that can happen is that because the big headlines and bold print of the songs are no longer providing the challenge and rush that they once did the band begins to look between the lines. A crack fiend endlessly brushing his hand over a white shag carpet for crack crumbs that most likely never fell there--but the motion is wild, focused and invigorated. Or a mad man no longer reading the bible itself but now attempting to decode it's meaning by studying the nuances of color in a plain white wall. The band still has the pedal to the metal, fists white-knuckled on the wheel, burning the fuel reserves down to the rolling gravel at the bottom of a rusted tank but the wheels are coming off the rig and the vehicle is coming apart fast. The Finesse, the precision, the tightness is gone and rusted through but the maniacal pursuit of these things continue. Anyhow, that's all to say that this second option is where Howlin Rain was by this show in Spain. We were days from the end of a year and a half of touring these songs and to me there are echoes of life confusion and tour psychosis there. In a subtle way between the notes. There aren't a ton of guitars in this recording. So of course I will be putting up a guitar heavy show at a later date to counter that aesthetic misrepresentation. Despite the lack of guitar bombast this one is about the ghost in the room---not a good or bad ghost---just kind of strange. This is one of my favorites, warts, partying Spaniards, Aolani, ghosts and all.