The Finest of Worksongs
September 15, 2006 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Tuesday was all about R.E.M. at the Fabulous 40 Watt in Athens, GA. Local musicians came together to celebrate a benefit CD release, a new CD/2CD/DVD release of R.E.M.'s early years, and R.E.M.'s induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. The Elephant Six Collective were there (darned near all of them) performing as The Observatory. Patterson Hood played, as did Five-Eight. And to start the show out right, R.E.M. themselves (even my fellow farmer Bill Berry) took to the stage. People in the audience (myself included) were feeling fine.
posted by ewagoner (56 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Here's anther link to Billboard story on the evening I forgot to work in. And if you liked the videos, search for more as the days go by... I saw a lot of video cameras in the audience, and there were a lot more performances than the ones I found so far.
posted by ewagoner at 2:04 PM on September 15, 2006

What the hell?! Did Of Montreal play?
posted by redteam at 2:05 PM on September 15, 2006

What about Love Tractor?
posted by vronsky at 2:09 PM on September 15, 2006

Neither one played as a group. It may well be that individual members were on stage, as the notion of a band lineup was rather flexible. A listing of people playing on stage throughout the night would probalby reach over a hundred, though of course The Observatory numbered nearly a third of that by themselves.
posted by ewagoner at 2:13 PM on September 15, 2006

Amazon page for the new 2CD IRS comp here.

First disc is pretty well-curated; sad to see the great "Romance" dropped from Eponymous, but this is about as good an introduction as you could want if you're lucky enough to be listening to this material for the first time. Highly recommended. Second disc looks equally good.

ewagoner is a lucky jerk for living in Athens yesterday.
posted by escabeche at 2:23 PM on September 15, 2006

Cleaning up my Firefox tabs, I found Five-Eight's Radio Free Europe.
posted by ewagoner at 2:23 PM on September 15, 2006

"Time After Time" is my least favorite song.
posted by bardic at 2:25 PM on September 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

And so it begins...
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:27 PM on September 15, 2006

From the Flagpole link: "...when people say that Murmur is the band's best album, we just shake our heads in confusion and crank up Out of Time."

posted by jjg at 2:28 PM on September 15, 2006

If I knew what the hell was being described in Life and How To Live It I'd likely love it even more.
posted by docpops at 2:31 PM on September 15, 2006

I thought they were going to do one last show on the eve of the new millennium and then break up.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 2:31 PM on September 15, 2006

docpops, here you go.

Though I liked "Just a Touch," one of my very very favorites, a little less when I found out it was about an Elvis impersonator.
posted by escabeche at 2:35 PM on September 15, 2006

"Time After Time" is my least favorite song.

Pitchfork's review of their new IRS collection today mentions that song as being some kind of bastard child. I've always liked it, no matter what some throwaway line in some throwaway Pavement song says.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:36 PM on September 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm going to the hall of fame induction. Not sure what to expect... but apparently I get to have cocktails with the Governor. (?!)
posted by spilon at 2:38 PM on September 15, 2006

spilon: I've been told they'll be performing there as well. Have fun! And whatever you do, don't mention the governor's personal tax break... it's a current sore spot with him.
posted by ewagoner at 2:41 PM on September 15, 2006

I miss my bootleg of Bingo Hand Job. I wish they'd release that on CD.
posted by effwerd at 2:48 PM on September 15, 2006

escabeche - Thanks. That's a trip.
posted by docpops at 2:56 PM on September 15, 2006

It may be somewhat irrelevant, but I'd like to add that Athens has the most gorgeous girls on the planet.
posted by eraserhed at 2:57 PM on September 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Actually, eraserhed, it's very relevant. I was walking back to my office from lunch today (just across the street from the 40 Watt, as a matter of fact) when I saw a more-fabulous-than-most woman walking down the sidewalk alongside a large non-descript fellow. I was so busy admiring the view that I didn't notice until I was passing that the fellow was Peter Buck.
posted by ewagoner at 3:04 PM on September 15, 2006

Those are some shiny, happy people.
posted by tizzie at 3:14 PM on September 15, 2006

Peter Buck plays on The Replacements "I Will Dare."

One of the top musical collaborations of all time. Possibly the best one of the 1980's.
posted by bardic at 3:16 PM on September 15, 2006

I wonder why "Camera" gets left out of these compilations. I love that song.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 3:39 PM on September 15, 2006

No "Harborcoat" either. Fuck that noise.
posted by bardic at 3:53 PM on September 15, 2006

Could somebody explain, to the ignorant and unitiated, what the connection is between the song 'Time After Time' and Pavement/S. Malkmus? Please, could somebody act as my fact-checking cuz?
posted by Flashman at 5:06 PM on September 15, 2006

While The Fall was always the band's primary influence, the obvious Mark E. Smith rip-offs are toned down greatly on Crooked Rain (save for the brief "Hit the Plane Down"), and as this set shows, it was R.E.M. that seemed to be on the band's minds during this period. Not only is there the obvious Peter Buck influence on "Gold Soundz" (just listen to that guitar solo), but also the gorgeous, mournful cover of R.E.M.'s "Camera" (from the Cut Your Hair single), and best of all, the fantastic "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence", one of the best songs Pavement has ever recorded. Appearing originally on the popular 1994 compilation No Alternative, it's a heartfelt, snarky, and bizarre tribute; so much so, in fact, that when Michael Stipe first heard it, he couldn't tell if the band was being sincere or satirical. Over a heavy, rather ornate chord progression, Malkmus sounds dead serious as he describes the band ("The singer, he had long hair/And the drummer he knew restraint"), but also pulls no punches, hilariously declaring at one point, "'Time After Time' was my least favorite song!" Malkmus's devotion goes completely over the top, as he runs through the band's early history, and concludes with an uproarious fantasy sequence involving a stand-off between Civil War general William Sherman and Georgia natives R.E.M.
posted by mecran01 at 5:13 PM on September 15, 2006

"Unseen Power of the Picket Fence"

Some bands I like to name check,
And one of them is REM,
Classic songs with a long history
Southern boys just like you and me.
R - E - M
Flashback to 1983,
Chronic Town was their first EP
Later on came Reckoning
Finster's art, and titles to match:
South Central Rain, Don't Go Back To Rockville,
Harbourcoat, Pretty Persuasion,
You were born to be a camera,
Time After Time was my least favourite song,
Time After Time was my least favourite song.
The singer, he had long hair
And the drummer he knew restrait.
And the bass man he had all the right moves
And the guitar player was no saint.
So lets go way back to the ancient times
When there were no 50 states,

And on a hill there stands Sherman
Sherman and his mates.
And they're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia
They're marching through Georgia,
we're marching through Georgia,
marching through Georgia
and there stands REM

[And then that really weird, disturbing ending where Asa gets killed, kind of like the ending of "A Day in the Life," I think. But a great song regardless.]
posted by bardic at 5:18 PM on September 15, 2006

The picture on the cover looks like it was taken in Memorial Hall. I worked at the college radio station, which is in that building, while I was in school. I remeber that we uncovered some really interesting memorabilia from that era in the station's archives including some early posters for a show at Legion Field, a few reels of interviews, and an amusing guest DJ shift by Peter Buck and Mike Mills. It was neat. I hope that stuff hasn't been lost.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 5:42 PM on September 15, 2006

effwerd, as I looked at the second CD tracklist I was like "Where's the Bingo Handjob "Tom's Diner?" Apparently this show does exist on CD. The version of "Dallas" on this show is unimpeachable.

"Harborcoat" and "Camera" are great but are you going to start leaving off "Pretty Persuasion" and "7 Chinese Brothers" and "Driver 8"? No, you are not.
posted by escabeche at 6:16 PM on September 15, 2006

"Harborcoat" and "Camera" are great but are you going to start leaving off "Pretty Persuasion" and "7 Chinese Brothers" and "Driver 8"? No, you are not.

*picks escabeche's gauntlet, prepares himself for battle*
posted by bardic at 6:27 PM on September 15, 2006

REM - the only band that still gives me goose bumps when I hear them live. ewagoner, you are one lucky sob!
posted by photoslob at 7:02 PM on September 15, 2006

Flashman, since you explicitly said, "to the ignorant and unitiated", the lyrics provided by bardic are to a Pavement song that appeared on this compilation disc, and is a very good song.

And I agree that "Pretty Persuasion" and "Harborcoat" are kind of standards, but, alas, it appears as though my favorite song sucks.
posted by gramschmidt at 7:07 PM on September 15, 2006

I saw REM at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ June 1984, sharing a stage with Roger McGuinn, The Band, Jon Sebastian, and Richie Havens.

Best show I've ever seen.

REM and McGuinn closed the show with "Eight Miles High."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:11 PM on September 15, 2006

(Holy crap, that was 22 years ago.)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:12 PM on September 15, 2006

7 Chinese Brothers
"Voice of Harold"
posted by kirkaracha at 7:14 PM on September 15, 2006

{The Observatory} = {A Bunch of Elephant 6 Related People}, sure, but I'm assuming Jeff Mangum wasn't there. Right?
posted by gramschmidt at 7:17 PM on September 15, 2006

Oh, and if I concentrate a little, I can still hear them performing "Sitting Still."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:19 PM on September 15, 2006

> REM and McGuinn closed the show with "Eight Miles High."

A great, to me anyway, highlight evening here (Athens) some years back featured these same folks -- well, maybe more than "some." McGuinn was billed as a solo act, and REM showed up unannounced (though widely rumored) to play backup.
posted by jfuller at 7:20 PM on September 15, 2006

That band went downhill after Chronic Town EP.

(Just Kidding.)

(They went downhill after "Fables.."
posted by Skygazer at 7:26 PM on September 15, 2006

posted by Skygazer at 7:27 PM on September 15, 2006

Thanks, escabeche.

The version of "Dallas" on this show is unimpeachable.

posted by effwerd at 7:28 PM on September 15, 2006

ubc gymnasium. life's rich pageant tour. show was half covers. mike m gave me his pick. never seen a better show.
posted by psychoticreaction at 7:58 PM on September 15, 2006

REM doing "King of the Road," errors and all -- that's a great song too.
posted by bardic at 8:14 PM on September 15, 2006

But my very, very, very favorite R.E.M. B-side (and cover): "Last Date."
posted by escabeche at 8:29 PM on September 15, 2006

REM sleep and non-REM sleep are as different from each other as either is from the awake state. Discuss.
posted by neuron at 8:56 PM on September 15, 2006

Another REM tribute album? Am I the only one who remembers the strangeness of the first REM tribute album, Surprise Your Pig?
posted by dw at 11:46 PM on September 15, 2006

No, dw, I remember Surprise Your Pig. It was very, very strange.

REM was one of the first bands I ever bought from the radio after I heard "Fall on Me." Lifes Rich Pageant then became my favorite record. So I don't ascribe to this "downhill after Fables" business, hell, since I first heard it, "Nightswimming" has been my song of September, what the end of summer sounds like, and it only gets more sad and beautiful with each passing year. Perhaps it helps to have done a lot of country nightswimming, I dunno. What I do know is that REM has been much on my mind lately and I wish so much I'd been at that show. Thanks, ewagoner, you lucky thing.
posted by melissa may at 4:31 AM on September 16, 2006

No, dw, I remember Surprise Your Pig. It was very, very strange.

Yeah, wasn't the cover of "I Believe" just someone with a low voice repeating "I believe! I believe!" over and over for 3 minutes?
posted by COBRA! at 5:51 AM on September 16, 2006

Oh I can't believe I missed this! (and thank the Lord Love Tractor didn't play)

First met R.E.M. at Einstein a Go-Gos in the early 80s, they were hanging out after their Fables tour. Met them again in the same place after the Life's Rich Pageant show in Jacksonville. Everything went downhill after that album (not Fables...though I understand...and you are right Melissa).

*beats self in head* One of my favorite bands, so close and yet I didn't know! *sob*
posted by Dantien at 7:53 AM on September 16, 2006

(Thanks to all my fact-checking couz's, above - that No Alternative CD is one I would see in just about every used CD shop and never thought worth buying...I will go look for that Pavement song right now)
posted by Flashman at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2006

That band went downhill after Chronic Town EP.

I can remember actually thinking that once. When I was 17 I wore out my copy of the first Hib-Tone single, "Radio Free Europe"/"Sitting Still", and had to go buy another one. It's still in my parents' attic somewhere.

The next year IRS took out a full-page ad for Chronic Town in the New York Rocker. "Available this summer", it said! I spent the summer going into every indie record shop in downtown New York asking for it. No one had heard of them and I wound up feeling silly. The record didn't hit stores until the fall. I wore it out and had to buy another copy.

I taped Murmur and Reckoning onto a C-90 so that I could listen to them without having to turn the record over. I wore out the cassette instead of the disks.

On Halloween 1984 they played a surprise show as "It Crawled from the South" along with The Feelies and The Cramps. Best show I had ever seen in my entire life. I made a pilgrimage to Georgia and saw Athens and Howard Finster's house and kudzu growing everywhere.

"Lifes Rich Pageant" was the last R.E.M. album I ever bought. I could finally understand what Michael Stipe was singing and it just wasn't the same as when I got to make up my own words. By the time Document came out, I had lost interest completely.

God, this thread makes me feel old.
posted by fuzz at 10:12 AM on September 16, 2006

Flashman sweets, that song isn't on the No Alternative cd -- just the tape, so don't go getting the clerk excited for nothing. You can find it on the Crooked Rain rerelease or just email me for it. (And fuzz, holy shit, REM with The Feelies and The Cramps? You may be old, but you are blessed.)
posted by melissa may at 12:57 PM on September 16, 2006

No, the song "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence", which is a song about R.E.M. by a band called Pavement, is, indeed, found on the compilation CD called No Alternative, released in 1993, and described in detail here. As detailed at that link, there are are few songs that were only included on the cassette version, but Pavement is on the CD.

And there was never a downturn for R.E.M. Like most significant artists, they have undergone shifts and experimented with different approaches to their mode of expression that have left some original fans baffled (and "this is disappointing" is just an egotistical way of saying "I don't understand this"), but that's largely due to the limitations of the fans, not indicative of some new deficiency in the artist.

Reckoning is fucking great, sure, but so is Out of Time, and Hi-Fi is probably their best album overall. I also happen to think that Reveal is on par with Green. Go back and listen to "Beat a Drum" again. And again. And again. And be restored.

Good band.
posted by gramschmidt at 2:04 PM on September 16, 2006

I just moved from Athens and it is missing occassions like this which make me cry myself to sleep at night. *cries*
posted by jmd82 at 2:05 PM on September 16, 2006

Yeah, wasn't the cover of "I Believe" just someone with a low voice repeating "I believe! I believe!" over and over for 3 minutes?

Yeah, and the cover of "We Walk" that was the unreversed sound of pool balls hitting (i.e. the rumble at the end of the original) and some weird melody. Poorly done avant garde.

The Italian language cover of "Talk About The Passion," though, was pretty good. I haven't listened to that albums since it was stolen with the rest of my collection... in 1992.

I stayed with R.E.M. through Hi-Fi. I was a bit of a fanboy, though -- my first real encounter with Internet life was MURMUR-L. I like Reckoning best of all, but I can still listen to most of their stuff, except Monster. I know it's Michael Stipe's mash note to Cobain and all, but it's so, so, so disjointed.

Sadly, I only finally got to see R.E.M. at Bumbershoot in 2003. I was too young for the IRS days, and the one time they came to Oklahoma (OKC, 1989) my parents refused to let 17-year-old me drive the 100 miles from Tulsa to see them.

OTOH, Wilco did open for at Bumbershoot, and thanks to a Gold Pass I ended up right at the front on the stadium floor. I think Michael thought I was hot; he kept looking at me. Heh. Too bad I'm straight, I guess.
posted by dw at 2:19 PM on September 16, 2006

At the risk of dating myself: The IRS days were the best through to "Fables..." Which at the moment I'm thinking maybe that wasn't IRS actually and there first foray away from Mitch Easter and Don Dixon’s engineering and production.

I wrote Jefferson (their manager) about the music biz in 1984 when I was 17. To my surprise, he wrote back . Said "Don't sign anything w/o a lawyer" and "forget "Management", get a responsible friend to do it. " (good advice that still holds). Met them at a record store appearance in lower Manhattan (J&R, Park Row). I asked them to sign the back of the “Little America” tour card Jefferson (“I think we’re lost”) sent me. The Reckoning support shows were called the "Little America" Tour). Berry did the nicest job with a funny drawing of himself. Mills was friendly and professional. Buck, shrugged and said he learned to play guitar by "listening to the radio". I mentioned to Stipe, (behind secret agent shades), I would see them play at the Beacon that very night. He mumbled something back. (Yes!! Michael Stipe mumbled at me!! Woohoo!!). Sloppiest autograph too.

Afterwards, I hung out with them a bit and showed Stipe where the Minutemen records were and asked Buck if they needed subway directions to the Beacon. He just stared at me like he was going to hug me (I was a pretty nutty and naive kid. Also they were my heroes).

Stood in the rain outside the Beacon with my umbrella listening to their sound check. Hoping one of them would come out and say "Hey you’re the kid from the record store, come watch us soundcheck and maybe play guitar on a song"? (!) Well that didn't happen (although it did happen at a Soul Asylum show, but that’s another story) anyhow after what seemed like an eternity, the show began around 10 PM with the Dream Syndicate opening. They were okay, but after a whole day of waiting, all I really cared about was seeing REM. They delivered bigtime. It was an amazing show. They played a long set the highlights for me being Harborcoat, Pretty Persuasion, Camera, Sitting Still, Talk about the Passion, Radio Free.., Circle, Rockville, Wolves Lower, Gardening at night etc... The performance was inspired and the Beacon sound was overwhelmingly fantastic (Bucks Rickenbacher guitar was jangling and ringing like a goddamn church bell) and Stipe was passionate and charismatic as hell.

Shortly thereafter my REM mania died down. Sorta outgrew them a bit. That level of fandom was too much hard work and anyhow I started getting into other bands and making my own music. REM was changing and broadening their sound, which was okay but at the time, the jump to the majors seemed suspect (for a band into the Minutemen and Husker Du) and, their post punk rock edge faded, although I think "Losing My Religion" is great and stands up to anything they'd ever done, (moreso because they got that song on Top 40 radio). Anyhow, now I really respect that they did push on towards the majors as they paved the way for Sonic Youth and Nirvana and that whole wave of good bands that was stab in the bloodshot eye of the hopelessly f-uped music business in the early and mid 90's (yes, including Pavement). The End.
posted by Skygazer at 10:28 AM on September 17, 2006

That's a great story, Skygazer. (It's starting to seem as if everyone on MeFi has been mumbled at by Stipe except for me.)

So for the error about No Alternative -- some dim memory about having to tape Unseen Power from a friend's cd because it wasn't on the tape seems to be false -- but hey! To make up for it, you should know that the Red Hot series that No Alternative was part of is still going strong. The latest projects are a fine reissue of Red Hot + Latin, and a tribute to Fela Kuti. It's been a truly impressive series.
posted by melissa may at 3:10 PM on September 17, 2006

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