Chuck Ragan, Ben Nichols, Tim Barry, Kevin Seconds, more – El Crapazon
Published 10-27-2008 on my old wordpress blog.

There is not a single razor on this tour bus. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, Austin Lucas and Tim Barry are without beards, but everyone else on the tour looks like a lumberjack. This might be the only acoustic show that I regret not bringing my earplugs to. It’s very late, I’m going to type fast so I can get at least 5 hours of sleep in.

I showed up late to the show. I spent the evening at a pumpkin carving party and my pumpkin (which will be revealed later) took a ridiculous amount of time to carve, so I spent an hour or so extra attempting to socialize (Grade: C), so I missed the first two (three?) acts.

El Corazon
Sucks. Always has, always will. They apparently need to keep lights shining on the crowd these days. They also need to search everyone showing up for an acoustic show. But I guess it sounds okay in there, usually. And, despite the weird room, there’s not really a bad place to stand, except way out on the edges. That only happens when a show is sold out, and tonight’s show was definitely not sold out, but not empty either.

Ben Nichols (of Lucero)
Like I said, I showed up late. Now that you’re over it, why has no one told me how awesome Ben Nichols is? Lucero has apparently been around since ’98 and I know nothing about them. Well here’s what I now know about Ben Nichols: he doesn’t make set lists, he’ll play requests, beard, gravelly voice, pretty awesome. His set was accompanied by pedal steel and his guitar strap appeared to be a length of rope. The thing we love about gravelly vocals is the self-sacrifice. How clear it is that the singer has given his all (never “her all”) for the love of his craft. At the cost of sounding like your grandpa 30 years too early. There’s this mythical life of a career musician that is revealed by the scratch of Nichols’ voice. The idea that every night is smoking and drinking and he still presses on. Like we don’t have to try so hard to be so good and we’ll still make others happy. No one is afraid to sing along with these voices. I’m even tempted and I don’t know any words. We’ll even put up with a Jerry Lee Lewis cover, as long as you sing it straight from the heart. With that Johnny Cash sincerity hiding behind a “We can’t play so well” humility. But it’s so obvious that the basics are there and maybe the basics are all that it takes. The basics and an honest passion. If I’d had more money, I’d have picked up some music. I might wait until I get paid and do so anyway.

Chuck Ragan
I’ll be honest, Chuck is pretty much my hero. Maybe I should get one of those Hot Water Music tattoos all the kids have these days. His solo stuff is like a Hot Water Music show on the expansive porch of a hill-country cabin with electricity and a big PA. He brought a stand-up bassist and a violin with him as well as a pedal steel and the other musicians on the tour. It just adds to that cabin-porch band of hillbillies feel. So friendly and fun and powerful all at the same time. There are no drums but the implication of them is still felt and makes non-Seattleites dance and Seattleites bob their heads coolly. It’s great to sing along with the songs I know off of Feast and Famine, which is a great record. It’s awesome that the other musicians on the tour came up and played so that I could see what Kevin Seconds looks like and hear the guy from Avail in something I might like a little better. I’m sort of glad I showed up late, actually. This show felt a little like a HWM show with the same smiles all around and a similar passion, despite the inability to dance. But it’s different with just Chuck. It cuts deeper and the pain is more present. It’s easier to access Hot Water Music songs because, if the vocals don’t work, you can identify the great musicianship in the rhythm section and the songs have more places you can hide in. With Chuck, it’s just him, a guitar, and unbridled everything. There are no pretenses, there is no reason to try to be something you’re not. Life is tough for all of us and Chuck just happens to be the pure voice of the tough times. And we just love to sing along. Thanks Chuck. Thanks for coming to town again. Thanks for playing Bleeder, the Alkaline Trio cover, that was amazing to sing with. I was hoping for Do What You Do, as well, but The Boat is pretty awesome too. A great metaphor from the sea.

Some days we’re ripped and torn away
From the shore and tossed to a watery grave
Set adrift in the depths of the drink in the hands of the gods we curse

We call for help when no one’s around
Shot down fleeting thoughts never make a sound
Set adrift in the depths of the dark in the heart of the sea where we wish

I feel it in my bones when the storm is close
Then await for the rain and the wind to blow
As dark colors fill the sky I’m drenched I’m feeling so alive
Eyes closed tight my ears open for the boat

We all carry the tune we love
Think of home when the waves and the going get tough
Hold our breath and go down with the wish of just one last kiss to rest

I feel it in my bones when the storm is close
Then await for the rain and the wind to blow
As dark colors fill the sky I’m drenched I’m feeling so alive
Eyes closed tight my ears open for the boat

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Keywords: boat, chuck ragan, show

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