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The W - Music - SLCR #143: Ben Folds (October 23, 2009)
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KJames199
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Since: 10.12.01
From: #yqr

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#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.06
This is not the furthest I've traveled to see a show, but it's the furthest I've traveled specifically to see a show. We did some shopping while in Fargo, and when we told the store clerk that we'd driven 10 hours the day before to get there, her reaction, though unspoken, indicated that she wasn't about to be driving ten hours to visit our stinking city.

In my defense, I thought it was only an eight-hour drive (each way) when I bought the tickets. They must have moved Fargo a hundred miles or so since the last time I checked Google Maps.

So, why the trip? Apart from my fondness for fine American breakfast cereals and diet soft drinks, I've been trying to see Ben Folds in concert for close to 15 years, I figure. Not trying very hard, mind you - dude has never come very close to where I am, and I have never done the same for him. Though last year, Ben Folds Five was reuniting for one night only in North Carolina (a week before we were going there for a wedding), and I was awfully tempted to go to the show (and, accordingly, change my flight, take an extra week off work, get a hotel, rent a car, and buy tickets on eBay). Ultimately, this wasn't going to work out and I'm still a bit sad about that.

After a bored night spent poking around the web turned up a Ben Folds show in Fargo, I decided that this was likely as close as he was going to come to Regina, so I picked up a pair of tickets and convinced Mika to take a few days off work. Having done so, it's a lock that he'll announce his Canadian tour any day now.

I first heard Ben Folds Five many years ago on a CMJ magazine sampler CD. You don't hear a lot of piano in popular music these days (or at least I don't; I don't know what you listen to) and so that stuck out, as did the sense of humour in the lyrics. Many of Ben's songs showcase his wit (I'd say it's almost gone too far in that direction on recent albums), which makes it a little odd that Ben Folds Five's most famous song was a bleak little number about a teenage abortion gone wrong. True story: I once put that song on a CD for a (female) friend of mine, and someone else said I wouldn't put a slow piano song on a CD for a girl unless I was hitting on her. Chicks dig songs about abortions, I guess?

Anyway. With a ten-hour drive to make to a concert with a suspiciously early start time (doors at 6:00, show at 6:30), we decided that the best course of action would be to head out the day before the show. Before leaving, we double-checked a few items: passports, concert tickets, and the credit card used to book the hotel room. I figured anything else could be replaced en route if need be. The long drive went by oddly quickly and we soon found ourselves in Fargo's finest Super 8. They have free waffles!

My newfound (and Albert-mandated) BFF Jeff is also from Regina, but was planning on making the drive down with his friend Mandi on the day of the show. That day, Mika and I were walking around the Fargo mall at noon, when my BlackBerry buzzed. I have kept this conversation open in the chat program for over a week because I want to make sure I quote it verbatim:

Jeff: Oh my god I am dumb as fuck
Jeff: I'm outside of Winnipeg and just realized I didn't bring my bags
Jeff: Which included my passport
Jeff: What are the odds they'll accept a sob story?
James: Ohhhhhhh shit.

For non-locals, Winnipeg is about six hours from Regina and four hours from Fargo. The concert was about six hours away. There would be no turning back. I tried to sound as reassuring as I could that mayyyyybe if he had lots of other ID and got a sympathetic border guard, he'd make it. Secretly, I held out no hope. I don't know if I've ever seen Mika's face looking as sad as when I showed her the chat window. "I would be SO mad at myself," she said. I agreed, and we decided that Jeff didn't have a prayer.

Two hours later, the text message came: "Safely across the border :)" It was a Christmas miracle. Jeff and Mandi even beat us to the venue named The Venue.

Let me say a few words about the venue named The Venue. It is what The Odeon wishes it was. It holds a lot of people, has an upper balcony, the temperature is reasonable, there are seats around the edge, the sound is really good, it's clean, and the people are nice. The doors opened precisely when they said and the show ran on time. I would rather drive 10 hours to Fargo to see a show than drive two hours to the Odeon. Having said that, Mika wouldn't let me drive back this weekend for Queensryche.

Mika and I had our tickets mailed to us, while Jeff and Mandi's tickets were at the will-call. As Jeff was getting his tickets, Mika and I went inside, but before we got to the stage, I said "maybe we should wait back here, just in case there's a problem." Jeff caught up with us, laughing. "I told them my name and they said I wasn't on the list. And then they told me to just walk in." For serious. This dude also lost his WWE tickets in August and still got into the arena somehow. I do not know how he does it, but the world does not work this way for anyone else. I must find a way to harness this power for my own benefit.

The opening act - who took the stage precisely at 6:30, as promised, was Kate Miller-Heidke. I can't say I knew anything about her, and wasn't expecting the Australian accent. I definitely wasn't expecting the brief operatic blasts in otherwise traditional guitar-and-vocal songs (or during her cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic"). Ben Folds later said that she currently had the #1 album in Australia, and Wikipedia suggests that there was some truth to this. I suppose Folds has spent a lot of time in Australia, and her sense of humour would seem to match his. Later on, she would come back on stage to pose for pictures simulating an on-stage meltdown. She also dueted on You Don't Know Me, but that's probably less interesting to the Australian media. At any rate, she fell into the "pleasant surprises" category of opening acts.

I'd heard a few Ben Folds concerts over time - both the official live releases and a few bootlegs - and the crowds always seemed to really be into the shows. I had always assumed these were fortuitous recordings, but having now experienced this in person, I have to wonder if maybe it's like this every time out. Not only did people sing along with every song, even the relatively obscure ones, but they called out requests for songs that I hadn't even heard of. From what I can tell, Ben Folds tours a lot - but I guess not around here, so maybe there was an abnormally high number of die-hards in attendance. This dude named Matt started talking to us, and he mentioned that he was there with a group of people who had driven 13 hours from Missoula, Montana, so we hadn't traveled the furthest for the show.

Really, the show was pretty much exactly what I had been led to expect, and that's not a bad thing at all. The crowd was rabid, Ben beat the hell out of his piano, there was a lot of interaction with the audience, and the setlist was varied (and felt a lot like it was being made up on the fly; if Folds did come through this way, I'd think about seeing two shows in two days because there might be some variation there). We got a Fargo-centric version of Rock This Bitch (which gets new music and lyrics every night) about Subway restaurants, a building that had been covered in bras, and Fargo the movie (this was the only reference to the movie during the entire weekend; I'd imagine the residents of Fargo are sick of the "oh yah, real good yah" jokes, and having just recently rewatched the movie in preparation for the trip, I was surprised to see that Fargo isn't really in the movie in any substantial way; also, I like semi-colons and dragging sentences on forever when I get on a roll).

The set included most of the songs I wanted to hear, and were taken from all along Ben's career. I'd list them, but that sounds like it would be boring for all of us. Most of the songs were faster ones - no Brick to be found to bring the party down - though there was a slower number he'd co-written with Nick Hornby. The album is coming out sometime next year, he said. Also, as was done on the live album (or maybe the bootleg, who can remember), the crowd sang harmonies on Not The Same and imitated the horn section on Army. Hiro's Song was played entirely on this... box... thing. It had a name. I don't remember what it was. It was neat.

The all-too-brief encore was kicked off with Bitches Ain't Shit, a Dr. Dre song which Ben covered and turned into a slow piano ballad. He's retired the song because he didn't want to be known for what is, essentially, a novelty cover, but he seems to unretire it whenever he feels like it. To help him along, he pulled a few fans from the crowd, one of who was our new friend Matt who, I have to say, completely nailed it. And maybe I should list a few more songs he played - Effington, Boxing, One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces, Free Coffee, Annie Waits, Zak and Sara, All U Can Eat, Kate, Jesusland - just to drive down the ratio of songs with "Bitch" in the title.

All in all, a fantastic show. The live albums do a respectable job of capturing the experience, but being there was much more fun. I had said that I used to be more of a Ben Folds fan in the past, but seeing the show brought it all back. Five stars, and probably the best show I'll see all year (though Wayne Newton always has a puncher's chance). It was so good that I wasn't even fixated on the early ending time like my old-ass self usually is, though I did enjoy the dinner we had after the show, and I assume Jeff enjoyed his cart full of crazy American Cheetos.


UPCOMING SHOWS
- Nov. 14: Stone Temple Pilots
- Dec. 15: Wayne Newton



JK: LJ, FB, T
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CRZ
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Since: 9.12.01
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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.85
Fargo's only four hours away! Let me know when your next trip is. :)














hansen9j
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Since: 7.11.02
From: Riderville, SK

Since last post: 2 days
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#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.47
    Originally posted by KJames199
    Jeff: Oh my god I am dumb as fuck
    Jeff: I'm outside of Winnipeg and just realized I didn't bring my bags
    Jeff: Which included my passport
    Jeff: What are the odds they'll accept a sob story?
    James: Ohhhhhhh shit.
I am dumb as fuck.
    Originally posted by KJames199
    Mika and I had our tickets mailed to us, while Jeff and Mandi's tickets were at the will-call. As Jeff was getting his tickets, Mika and I went inside, but before we got to the stage, I said "maybe we should wait back here, just in case there's a problem." Jeff caught up with us, laughing. "I told them my name and they said I wasn't on the list. And then they told me to just walk in." For serious. This dude also lost his WWE tickets in August and still got into the arena somehow. I do not know how he does it, but the world does not work this way for anyone else. I must find a way to harness this power for my own benefit.
I'm still as amazed as you. It took like a triple-take to understand that he had stamped my entry.
    Originally posted by KJames199
    Hiro's Song was played entirely on this... box... thing. It had a name. I don't remember what it was. It was neat.
He called it a "cojone" like the Spanish testes, but only two syllables.
    Originally posted by KJames199
    It was so good that I wasn't even fixated on the early ending time like my old-ass self usually is, though I did enjoy the dinner we had after the show, and I assume Jeff enjoyed his cart full of crazy American Cheetos.
http://twitpic.com/mt41m

I love America.



It is the policy of the documentary crew to remain true observers and not interfere with its subjects.

Let's Go Riders! (9-7-1, 2nd West Division, 2nd or better clinched)

Go Pack Go! (4-2, 2nd NFC North)
CRZ
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Since: 9.12.01
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#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.85
Maybe cajón? (en.wikipedia.org)














Karlos the Jackal
Lap cheong








Since: 2.1.02
From: The City of Subdued Excitement

Since last post: 41 days
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#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 8.00
    Originally posted by CRZ
    Maybe cajón? (en.wikipedia.org)
Yeah, as soon as KJames said "box...thing" I figured a cajon. They are pretty neat.

And oh hey, sure enough, here's a YouTube of that very song that very night: Click Here (youtube.com)

Thanks for the review, I enjoyed reading it. Looking forward to Wayne Newton.

--K

(edited by Karlos the Jackal on 1.11.09 0312)


Last 5 movies seen: The Creature from the Black Lagoon ***1/2 - Sita Sings the Blues *** - Medicine for Melancholy *** - Zombieland **** - Monsters vs. Aliens ***1/2
hansen9j
Andouille








Since: 7.11.02
From: Riderville, SK

Since last post: 2 days
Last activity: 4 hours
#6 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.47
    Originally posted by CRZ
    Maybe cajón? (en.wikipedia.org)


Yup, that's exactly it.

Hey, I might as well comment on the concert, too!

    Originally posted by KJames199
    The opening act - who took the stage precisely at 6:30, as promised, was Kate Miller-Heidke. I can't say I knew anything about her, and wasn't expecting the Australian accent. I definitely wasn't expecting the brief operatic blasts in otherwise traditional guitar-and-vocal songs (or during her cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic"). Ben Folds later said that she currently had the #1 album in Australia, and Wikipedia suggests that there was some truth to this. I suppose Folds has spent a lot of time in Australia, and her sense of humour would seem to match his. Later on, she would come back on stage to pose for pictures simulating an on-stage meltdown. She also dueted on You Don't Know Me, but that's probably less interesting to the Australian media. At any rate, she fell into the "pleasant surprises" category of opening acts.


Yeah, she was quite good, and probably understayed her welcome. Well, at least that's what I thought when her set was over, but her meltdown photos seemed to take forEVER, so I guess it balances out. I bought her CD and got it autographed, and it's pretty good. I think I would never give her a chance if I just randomly heard her on the radio, but she was definitely worth the purchase.

Here's an example of her awesome Toxic rendition:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckp5OG4Xfm0

Except ours was better because it was fully acoustic.

    Originally posted by KJames199
    All in all, a fantastic show. The live albums do a respectable job of capturing the experience, but being there was much more fun. I had said that I used to be more of a Ben Folds fan in the past, but seeing the show brought it all back. Five stars, and probably the best show I'll see all year (though Wayne Newton always has a puncher's chance). It was so good that I wasn't even fixated on the early ending time like my old-ass self usually is, though I did enjoy the dinner we had after the show, and I assume Jeff enjoyed his cart full of crazy American Cheetos.


As someone that drove all day that day and all day the next day, I appreciated it being over by 9 while still being a full concert experience.

Looking at the back of my concert T, it looks like some of the tour was him playing with local orchestras. That also would have been awesome, but in a different way. Maybe he'll go to, I dunno, Butte, Montana and I can see him with the Butte Symphony.



It is the policy of the documentary crew to remain true observers and not interfere with its subjects.

Let's Go Riders! (9-7-1, 2nd West Division, 2nd or better clinched)

Go Pack Go! (4-2, 2nd NFC North)
KJames199
Scrapple
Moderator








Since: 10.12.01
From: #yqr

Since last post: 6 days
Last activity: 3 hours
#7 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.06
    Originally posted by Karlos the Jackal
    here's a YouTube of that very song that very night
OMG. That dude must have been standing, oh, about ten feet from us. Awesome.
    Originally posted by hansen9j
    http://twitpic.com/mt41m
snacks / soda / potatoes
    Originally posted by CRZ
    Fargo's only four hours away! Let me know when your next trip is. :)
I will! I didn't even think about how close we were to Minneapolis, even though we did spin into Moorhead just to say I'd driven to Minnesota. I did pass through Bismarck where Mick lives, but each time was in the middle of 10 hours of driving, so I didn't stop to say hi. Maybe next time.





JK: LJ, FB, T
KJames199
Scrapple
Moderator








Since: 10.12.01
From: #yqr

Since last post: 6 days
Last activity: 3 hours
#8 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.06
While we're YouTubing, here's Bitches Ain't Shit and You Don't Know Me from that same show.



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