Humbly, he exclaimed, "Man, thanks for knowing all this shit," as if he's still amazed he's made it this far.
Per his customary entrance to Quincy Jones' "The Streetbeater" -- aka the "Sanford & Son" theme -- a barefoot Snider took the wood stage at the Sheldon Concert Hall revved up to play for the waiting audience. Dressed in a green plaid shirt, vest and large tie over brown khaki pants, he sported a floppy brown hat pulled down tight. Armed with only his black Epiphone acoustic guitar, occasional harmonica and voice, he stood alone in the 100-year-old hall to present his craft.
Last evening was the second show for the Sheldon Sessions, a concert series co-presented by KDHX along with a generous grant from PNC Art Alive. With the announcement last night that Hayes Carll will fill the third slot in the series, the idea of welcoming singer-songwriters into the gorgeous acoustics of the Sheldon is superb. The intimate space allows both the artist and their fans to feel a closeness that most other venues can hardly offer.
As Snider relayed earlier this week in my interview, his new album, "Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables," is not due out until early March. Therefore, Snider took the opportunity to play an evenly-mixed overview of his catalog and highlight tracks from nearly every studio album. However, the focus on arguably his best album, "East Nashville Skyline," was noticeable.
While the atmosphere was not as raucous as a club date, Snider still had the crowd engaged, singing along with his well-known songs and laughing at his stories. Part of that could have been the prim and proper feel of the old hall, and possibly the freezing temperatures outside, but mostly the 30 to 50-year-old audience welcomed Snider warmly. Responding in kind, Snider advised, "I'm having a good time," but made no bones that the venue he played the last time was far from his favorite as he exclaimed, "Fuck that place."
Starting with the lighthearted "Beer Run," Snider got things rolling with an upbeat number in contrast to the folk of the opener Ashleigh Flynn. As he started to play, he spoke about how often he has to perform the song. Snider said, "Would you believe my friends think I'm sick of this song? That could not be farther from the truth. It's my favorite fucking one! I could sing it every day for 15 years ... if I had to." Like a good bartender, Snider became a mixologist; he transitioned into "Age Like Wine" during the middle and reprised "Beer Run" again at the end.
With his songs Snider took people on a journey across the United States; much like a musical slide show of his rise as a songwriter. He told stories of growing up in Oregon and sang songs about the road, his political views and the weird, quirky elements of everyday life. He told the story behind "Forty Five Miles," a song that about driving in a rental car between Lake Tahoe & Reno with Will Kimbrough and listening to Richard Thompson. As the weather turned and it started to snow they hit a patch of ice and realized they were about to crash the vehicle.
He presented a new song, "Precious Little Miracles," a jazzy, torch song which likely will be on his next album. Snider discussed how his east Nashville neighborhood, filled with musicians and singer-songwriters saw the same changes in people as other neighbors anywhere. His friends wrote songs, then songs about their wives and then songs about their kids. Snider's stance on kids was known immediately after a well-placed eye roll, but he made it clear saying, "My wife and I decided not to have kids. We like to party balls."
Smartly, Snider decided not to leave this baseball-crazed city without a reading of his "America's Favorite Pastime," the song about the LSD trip Pirates pitcher Doc Ellis took while hurling a no-hitter versus the Padres. During the guitar solo Snider quipped, "Eat your heart out Henneman," referring to the Bottle Rockets' guitarist Brian Henneman who opened for Jason & the Scorchers at Off Broadway last night -- and where Snider advised he was headed to after the show.
Snider saved the longest story of the evening for near the end of the set. He told the audience a hilarious tale of his athletic exploits on his high school football team and how he inquired to a teammate one day about the burn-outs who loitered near the team's practice field -- a discovery that obviously changed the course of his life. The story became a perfect primer before he glided into his scathing take on one side of American society "Conservative, Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males."
Snider ended his evening with two covers: the first, "Enjoy Yourself," a song Guy Lombardo made famous in the late '40s and which rounded out his album "East Nashville Skyline." For the encore he offered "Stoney," a song by one of his idols, Jerry Jeff Walker. The latter might end up on the album Snider will release in April with Great American Taxi, a record completely comprised of Walker's songs.
Portland-based Ashleigh Flynn opened the show with a 50-minute set of folk tunes. Dressed like she walked out of a J. Jill catalog, Flynn impressed with a clear singing voice and strong songwriting. She showed off her chops on her Martin guitar with more rock rhythms than traditional folk.
Flynn offered songs, many based in politics and her home state of Kentucky, from her recent fourth album, "American Dream." Standouts included "Hazzard County" which she confirmed was about the rural county in the Kentucky not about the Duke boys, and the title track influenced by the events of Hurricane Katrina, but also relevant to the current economic and political climate.
One song, however, stood out above all the rest like a shining star. "Evangeline," her song about her great, great, great aunt who grew up on plantation, married a black schoolteacher and was eventually disowned from the family. With a theme of racism and inclusion the line "We all breathe under the same moon," resonated with other great lines in the folk canon. This is the type of traditional style folk that makes the genre great.
Todd Snider set list:
Beer Run -> Age Like Wine -> Beer Run
Just Like the Old Times
Precious Little Miracles (new song)
Tillamook County Jail
Play a Train Song
You Think You Know Somebody
Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request
Stuck on the Corner
America's Great Pastime
Conservative, Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males
Enjoy Yourself (Carl Sigman and Herb Magidson)
Stoney (Jerry Jeff Walker)