Live Review: Jack White @ Edgefield Historic Manor – Troutdale, OR (Part 1)

Jack White at Edgefield (Oregonian)

There should be a word in the English language for “the feeling of euphoria when very high expectations are totally met on many levels.” Satisfaction? Elation? Whatever that word is, it’s the one that describes the experience of seeing Jack White last Wednesday night at Edgefield Amphitheater. (This will be at least a three-part series, maybe more. I really have to do it justice).

The Lead-Up:

Back in April or May I heard “High Ball Stepper” and was completely floored by its intensity and electricity. A couple of weeks later Mr White released the single “Lazaretto” and I started hearing it on the radio. Very exciting every time. After that release I resolved to get Lazaretto on vinyl and have a listen party. After the listen party and getting to know the stunning genius of that album, seeing Jack White on tour this summer became a must.

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Cool Lyrics: James McMurtry – See the Elephant

Recently I was watching a video in which the late governor of Texas Ann Richards was giving a speech to the DNC in the late 80s. (I think it was some springboard clickbait from Rick Perry’s latest foible). In the speech, she taunted Republicans by saying “We’re gonna tell ’em how the cow ate the cabbage!” This caused me to look up the phrase’s origin, and I found this hilarious story:

A circus had arrived in a small town, and one morning one of the elephants managed to escape. The fugitive pachyderm made its way to the backyard garden of an elderly (and very near-sighted) woman, where it began hungrily uprooting her cabbages with its trunk and eating them. Alarmed by the apparition in her garden, the woman called the police, saying, “Sheriff, there’s a big cow in my garden pulling up my cabbages with its tail!” “What’s the cow doing with them?” he asked, to which the woman replied, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you!”

Funny, right? So I brought this up at a big family dinner with my in-laws that same night. That led to Googling and sharing various UrbanDictionary definitions of idioms, the best of which was “See the Elephant.” I thought “hey, I know a song by that name, but I didn’t know it was a thing.”

So, the etymological story goes that in those same 1940s Texas small towns where a traveling circus would have been the most exciting thing in one’s lifetime, to “see the elephant” would be to have “seen it all.” Then, during the war years the phrase became synonymous with the experience of going to war – something that sounds attractive, and that the individual really wants to see until he sees it in all its ugliness and gore – and then he never wants to see it again. Soldiers drafted or called up for deployment might say “Well, I guess I’m off to see the elephant.”

I always thought this song was a little out of character for McMurtry, the famous social protest Americana troubadour. It seemed too innocuous. But now I see it in a totally different light. See if you can catch the depth and haunting double meaning(s):

I saw Pete and Johnny too
Dressed up in their Sunday suits
Getting themselves all up to go
Down to Richmond to the traveling show

I fixed the gate like you told me to
Done my chores like I always do
And I won’t tell mama you let me go
Down to Richmond to the traveling show

Please Papa can I go
Down to Richmond to the traveling show
Please Papa don’t you say I cant
I just want to see the elephant

I’ll borrow the truck from uncle Phil
You know I can drive it well
He won’t need it now that the hay’s all in
Just let me go and see the elephant

Sister she can’t go with me
This is not for her to see
Little brother you’ll get your chance
To go down and see the elephant

They’re looking for a few good men
Could be war by summer’s end
Sure would hate it if I went
And never got to see the elephant

I saw Pete and Johnny too
Dressed up in their Navy Blues
Gettin’ themselves all up to go
Down to Richmond to the traveling show.

I heartily recommend the entire album Childish Things for which this song is the perfect opener. Mr McMurtry is on my bucket list of artists to see, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Bands I Didn’t See at Pickathon This Year

I didn’t go to Pickathon this year. It’s too dang expensive. I get that they’re trying to limit attendance to keep it intimate and everything, which is cool, but it also comes off as pretty snobbish – keep out the riff raff.

Luckily for poor folk like me, Pickathon is popular enough that there have been many write-ups, reviews, and blog spaces dedicated to recaps of the weekend. Here’s the best from what I’ve seen and read.

The Men – Another Night

I hear the Clash’s “Train in Vain”, Springsteen’s “Rosalita” and a chilled out Steely Dan riff in this track by The Men. The whole song is very energetic and features a saxophone to really make it epic. Find it on their awesomely titled record “Tomorrow’s Hits.”

Diarrhea Planet – Separations

This is a power rock Nashville band that I’ve been squeamish to post about because of their, shall we say, “salty” name? But their music is amazing. Four electric guitarists sounds like it would clutter up the place too much, but they find a way to weave and bob in that Keith Richards-Ronnie Wood way that brings a clean energy. I decided to pick the video for “Separations” but you can find 30 and 40 minute videos of their Pickathon 2014 sets on Youtube. Apparently there were some pretty righteous mosh pits in the Galaxy Barn.

Those Darlins

Willamette Week called them “The Best X That Isn’t X.” I might agree. X was at the top of my list to see if I had had some kind of financial windfall of some kind, but discovering Those Darlins would have been pretty awesome too.

Parquet Courts

I’ve liked this Austin-by-way-of-Brooklyn band for a while now, since their “Stoned and Starving” song of 2013. I like this video in particular because it showcases the awesome woodland setting at Pickathon and you can feel the crowd’s good vibes. Also, the bassist’s nonstop headbanging is incredible.

The Black Lillies

A nice rambling country ballad-jam the likes of which I imagine Pickathon’s creators had in mind when they conceived the whole idea of this kind of festival.

Courtney Barnett

It would have been nice to see Courtney Barnett’s silver-tongued wit and infectious guitar energy. I love how happy she is in this video.

So cheers to Pickathon 2014 – and cheers to me making a whole lot more money so I can attend next year.

Ty Segall is About to Release a Face-Melting Album

Ty Segall performed his new song “Feel” on Conan last night, and it was full of head-banging, guitar-shredding wonder. I’ve been keeping track of Mr Segall for a little over a year, and this song is the most intense and memorable effort I’ve seen him put forth so far. (It helps that Conan, a guitar wizard himself, is genuinely impressed by the performance.) Check it out below and look for Ty Segall’s 7th album “Manipulator” on August 26th. It’s gonna be a doozy.