It was the kind of weekend in which one could accidentally kick the foot of the person next to him, turn to apologize and realize that the foot belonged to Mark Eitzel, who, as singer and frontman for American Music Club, has written some of the finest songs of the defiant but decidedly sad-sack variety from the last two decades.
AMC turned in one of the finest performances of the weekend--and there was no shortage of excellent performances--and made me remember just why I fell in love with them in the first place. The foot-kicking incident came during Phoenician Lonna Kelley's set, which had everyone in the packed club--Eitzel and myself included--transfixed and besotted. Backed by her full band, The Reluctant Messiahs, for the first time in a year, Kelly alternated between somewhat upbeat-sounding songs and tortured ballads (which she later described to me as "songs to bloody your bathwater by").
If there was one complaint to be had, it was that due to both stages running at the same time, some of the weekend's better sets overlapped. Despite a not quite up-to-snuff sound system outdoors, M. Ward was positively transcendent, sticking mostly to rockers, but pausing long enough to turn in a gorgeous take on his ballad "Undertaker." As difficult as it was to pull myself away, I did so, because former Wall of Voodoo singer Stan Ridgway was playing in the club. I got there just in time to catch his excellent cover of Mose Allison's "Monsters of the Id," as well as a rare live performance of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio," which he said he dusted off in honor of the 25th anniversary of its release (actually, it was released in 1982, but still: feel old?).
It was rather disappointing to miss ex-Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle's set, this due to his early time slot and a long and slow-moving line to gain entry. And Cracker, whose set was one of the weekend's most anticipated, were mostly lackluster and, well, kinda boring.
The performances I caught by local acts seemed to impress the out of towners, especially the set by The Solace Bros., the only band I saw all weekend that played an encore due to audience demand. It was a bit disheartening to see that so many Tape Oppers had already been bused back up to the El Conquistador before the night-closing sets by Al Perry and Tom Walbank, both of whom were billed as "Special Guest"--and both of whom were fantastic.