What’s the saying? Time flies when you’re having fun? It might as well just say ‘time flies’. This week, to my amazement, I discovered that it’s been five years since I last saw Dan Baird play live. It feels like two, yet I’ve not been having much fun over the last half decade.
Of course there have been moments, days, even some weeks, that I’ve enjoyed – a film, a convention, a holiday. But more often than not I’ve woken up in the morning and, as I’ve felt my operating system reboot, been consumed by worry and dread. There isn’t a day goes by when I don’t feel existential panic or sorrow, and despite treatment – at first with antidepressants and then with therapy – I’m no nearer to resolving it, though one strategy I’ve found useful is to stop and smell the flowers from time to time.
Taking a page or 20 out of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, here are my top 10 moments from the gig I attended last night: Dan Baird & Homemade Sin at the Borderline.
1. Dan dedicating two lines of Nights Of Mystery to his bandmates: “There’s some people they grow up crazy” (Dan points to Warner). “And there’s some people that never bother to grow up at all, y’all” (points to Keith).
2. Dan nicking Keith’s hat and singing Neil Young’s Helpless – or rather tearing it a new backside. It was here that I made a mental note to proclaim Dan ‘one of the great American voices’, so consider it done.
Three good-time rock ‘n’ roll bands in a little over three hours: that’s the deal on this warm Sunday night at London’s Borderline. To make sure that everything fits, Sweden’s Diamond Dogs take to the stage at 7.20pm, catching even the earliest arrivals off-guard.
It’s been a fair few years since I last saw the band (in their Stevie Klasson days), and they’re just as much fun as I remember. Sulo is a confident, engaging frontman/bandleader, and sax player Magic Gunnarsson helps give the band a soulful edge over tonight’s main attractions. It’s a shame that Sad To Say I’m Sorry has to be aborted due to a snare problem, but the manner in which it’s dealt with – a quick change of song and some perfect timing – is impressive.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Yayhoos have left the building.
Well, almost. They’ve just walked off stage after a mammoth two-hour set at the Luminaire in Kilburn, and the vacuum they’ve left behind them is huge – and very audible. A minute ago, the venue was ablaze in fiery red light, eardrum-whupping rock ‘n’ roll spraying off the stage and running down the walls.
See that mess on the floor? It may look like spilt beer, but it’s actually genuine Yayhoos sweat. Taste it, it’s real. According to legend, it has life-enhancing properties. I think, for once, legend is right.
Okay, let’s get the introductions out of the way – or, as the excellent 20-track sampler CD of solo work that preceded the band’s first album would have it, ‘The Yayhoos Are Coming… But Who The Fuck Are The Yayhoos?’. In alphabetical order, as it seems the only proper way to do this…
If you’re looking for an objective view of the show that Dan Baird and his band Homemade Sin played at the Borderline in London yesterday, you’ve come to the wrong place. For me, it was a night of beer drinking, hardcore foot tapping and scrunched-faced singing along – to arm-hair-raisingly good songs, many of which were my rock ‘n’ roll education when I first heard them in my teens. It’s hard to stand back and gaze at Dan Baird with anything but awestruck wonder.
The Georgia Satellites, the band that Dan once co-fronted, are my Ramones, my Replacements – the one rock ‘n’ roll combo I can honestly point to and say ‘they changed my life’. They’re the only band that, as an adult, I’ve wanted to ape – in my late teens, I harboured fantasies of having my own band that did everything the Sats’ way – and a part of me still holds out hope that, one day, the classic Satellites line-up will reunite. If they do, they’d damned well better cross the Atlantic.
“I get the feeling that most of ya here have seen the Big Three-O. If you haven’t, what the fuck are you doing watching some old man on a Friday night?”
Rock ‘n’ roll, someone once said, is a young man’s game. Absolute rubbish, of course. But it’s led to all kinds of nonsense down the years, such as the predictable “Strolling Bones” quips that tabloid newspapers wheel out every time the Stones – still one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands out there – hit the road (if anything should be pensioned off, it’s jokes that were rubbish the first time around). It’s probably also responsible for the self-deprecating humour of the Ian Hunters and Dan Bairds of this world.
As it happens, Mr Hunter is playing the Astoria next door tonight. No doubt he’s got a house full – he usually has. There’s a sizeable crowd for Dan here in the Mean Fiddler, too. What does this tell us about rock ‘n’ roll in the 21st century? Possibly that there’s room for everyone, young, old and every age inbetween; that’s it’s not just the youth who want to let their hair down and feel the power of The Riff; that this kind of music is just as relevant, exciting and inspired as it was all those years ago when Mr Chuck Berry first strapped on a guitar and duck-walked his way to Memphis, Tennessee.
I’m afraid I’ve not got time to write this one up properly as I’m in the middle of moving house at the mo’ (anyone wanna buy a load of old clutter that I’ve just found under my bed?), but seeing as it was one of the best darned live shows I’ve seen in ages, I wanted to get these pics out to y’all and at least say a few words about this momentous event. I mean, Dan Baird just played London for the first time in seven years! I’d still be rubbing my eyes in disbelief if my ears hadn’t convinced me that it really was him.
Okay, let’s get the technical details out of the way first. With Dan on vocals and guitar (natch), Ken McMahan on guitar, Kyle Miller on bass and Nick Forchione on drums, the band tore up a complete storm for almost two hours, though it felt more like one. Ken was a particular revelation for me, having never seen the guy play before. His scorchin’ lead breaks and super-slinky slide did Dan’s material proud. In a word: he rocked. Okay, so that was two, but he deserves it.