Mar 262007

Thanks to Townsman Hrrundi for sending me this video!

I’ve had just under 13 hours of sleep from hitting two shows (You Am I and last night’s bonanza of bands from afar – The Prayers (San Diego, CA), The Mint Chicks (Auckland, New Zealand), The Broken West (Los Angeles, CA), and Oppenheimer (Belfast, Ireland) this weekend, and working back-to-back mid-to-night shifts. Okay, so here is the rock story: Do musicians trying to use me for their cocaine hook-up somehow make me dirty? And no, I’m totally not into cocaine. Never touched the stuff, don’t plan to. Tim Rogers sang BOTH of my song requests on his acoustic to warm up the show! “Jaimme’s Got A Gal” and “Please Don’t Ask Me To Smile”.

Does the fact that he kissed me on the cheek after his sweaty performance and whispered my name and then, “I love you…” into my ear make me a super-fan? Was all of this just a big wet dream? I had to walk away before I became glued on the spot because Tim Rogers was walking around with an acoustic guitar and singing to a group of people remaining like a rock n’ roll version of Jens Lekman while the door-guy was trying to get everyone to leave. When I came in at 3:30 am on Friday night, I was still just shaking my head in disbelief and trying to get the ringing out of my ears.

Earlier in the day, I had packed my cassette recorder and a blue sharpie in my bag for work, as well as their album Deliverance (how do you decide which albums to get signed?), earlier in the day, with the full intention of getting autographs, an interview quote – or something!

I somehow messed up my tape recorder tape on the way to trying to figure out which batteries worked in it – I had to steal one from my Walkman and one from another source in order to get my mini tape cassette recorder to work. The tape was everywhere before I rewound it. Me in the upstairs of The Khyber, feeling the pressure, frantically rewinding a mini-cassette tape. Well, goddamn it if I didn’t finagle myself into a 10-minute interview in the back room with Tim Rogers and Davey Lane and the tape recorder wouldn’t work — EMBARRASSING! I’m literally standing there, going “I think this should be working.” (Click-click, click-click – nope.) So while apologizing profusely, I ask Tim if he minds if we just talk and I do a write-up about the interview, and he says “Sure,” he wouldn’t mind, grabs me a chair, moves his guitar rack out of the way to make room, and we both sit down. He offers me some warm beer.

Tim Rogers is the lead singer of the Australian band You Am I. He doesn’t want to be seen as the everyday asshole musician. He’s had enough comparisons to The Who, their similar features, his Pete Townshend windmills on guitar, and high stage leaping rock n’ roll antics, and The Who covers not withstanding. Rogers wants to be known for having a good heart, being the good guy, letting it all hang out, and getting along with the rest of the guys on the tour –having a great time, but not getting too out of control. Basically, he’s not the guy who’s going to be gluing the furniture to the ceiling here. I’m not sure if I’m disappointed, or approving of this in a motherly kind of way.

Image, Pete Ottery: taken at Big Day Out.

We talk about how one of the guys from the ’60s band The Monks chastised Dave Davies backstage one time for not being nice to a fan who just wanted his autograph. “I’ve seen Ray Davies. He seems like he’s kind of sad about all of that, like, he wished that they had been a lot better, a lot nicer, as people… really, humble now.” I have to agree about the humble part. Davies most recent solo album (Other People’s Lives) would definitely have to be a choice for a humble album pick on RTH. “Sure, there are jokes, everyone has jokes, but we don’t let them get too out of hand,”

“Does anyone do cocaine here? Can you get us some cocaine?” I’ve never been approached in such a goofy way about trying to get a line on drugs. “Do you know anyone here? My voice is kind of gone. Last night I did a line and I think it slipped right on down into my throat and that’s why I have a sore throat…”

Lying closed on the back table next to the door, I spot a worn book and notice Tim is reading The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellows. As Davey Lane sits next to us at the table, he listens in and types away quietly on a Mac, laying out tonight’s setlist for the band. Rogers tells me about how much he loves the character descriptions in the book, and what an amazing writer he is. Yes, I ask him if he’s read Haruki Murakami. He looks at me as though I’ve gone off the deep end and we have a moment of intense staring as he says “I can’t believe you just said that. I just finished his book Kafka On the Shore and loved it!” Which leads me to believe that everyone should read Murakami’s writing eventually.

I ask Tim about their latest album Convicts and how it’s doing in the US. It still hasn’t been fully released here, he tells me. He gives off the vibe that this is just old material to them now and I assume they must just be selling it through shows. Convicts is another amazing rock album for the band. It’s a double-CD as well, with live tracks from the concert Triple J Live at The Wireless.

Who wrote most of the material on the album? Tim is quick to point out that people think that it’s all just him, but that Davey had quite a bit to do with the material on this album as well in collaborating with him. They’re working on new material again, but there isn’t always material and Tim still has the odd dry spells. I ask them what they would do if they weren’t in a band. In a moment of complete softness, Tim almost whispers, “I mean, we’re useless without music, without the band… Ask Davey, right Davey…?” I look over at Davey who is typing away and he looks up a bit to nod slightly. I imagine Tim Rogers and Davey Lane without their music and it makes me kind of upset too.

Lane and Rogers are quite a pair, like two kid brothers. While the taller, older brother (Rogers) lays out the stories, the other (younger) plays the silent, shy one (Lane) and adds his bits only when prompted or necessary, although Lane seems happy just to listen in to Tim’s side of the story, and Tim seems to want to include Lane just the same.

Rogers tells me that he isn’t the only one that has a side project (Tim Rogers & the Temperance Union) and is eager to point out that Lane is just as valuable a player in the scene with his own going on (in his recent band The Pictures, as well as being part of The Wrights.

“The Wrights were a one-off Australian rock music ‘supergroup.’ They consisted of Nic Cester (of Jet), Kram (of Spiderbait), Chris Cheney (of The Living End), Davey Lane (of You Am I and The Pictures), and Pat Bourke (of Dallas Crane). They are named after Australian music legend and former Easybeats frontman Stevie Wright.” – Wickipedia

We go on talking and I get the guys to write out their favorite gear for me – if you haven’t guessed already, this is one of my favorite questions. Here are the notes that they left behind in my notebook:

From Tim:
Hi, I’m Tim Rogers. I play guitars made by my friend PIERS CROCKER, who lives in Sydney but now makes guitars too fuckin’ expensive for me. They’re a mix of Rickenbacker, Gretsch + Guild Parts. I love gut-string acoustic guitars and one day want to play like Caetano Veloso. Fender Tonemaster Amps are gas. I hate my other instrument, my fucking weedy, outta fire voice. With Love, Tim.

From Davey:
Hello! I play a Gibson Pete Townshend SG –as if I wasn’t being obvious enough. And a Telecaster Custom Sunburst, which I bought after I saw a video of Steve Marriott playing “Song of A Baker” on said guitar. A Hiwatt Custom 50 (again, obviously giving away my influences!) and a few boxes that make those Syd Barrett squaks, and squeaks. Thank You! Davey

A New York friend named Mike bursts backstage like a character out of some long-forgotten punk rock movie telling them they should play some of The Damned’s songs tonight. He’s silk-screened his own face onto a crazy striped t-shirt, and Tim greets him like he was family clasping his hand and hugging him with Davey grinning! We talk for a while and I listen to their stories about the old days, tours, how Tim Rogers has never had long hair when he’s played these parts (he always gets his hair cut around the time he reaches here – I’ve seen photographic proof!), and a good one about Evan Dando that I wish I had recorded.

I’m wondering if I should stay or if I should go. Both Tim and Davey are being very accommodating, signing my CDs and telling me that I’m welcome any time to come back during the show to hang out or just to talk. I end up going to check out the Bon Savants, who are quite fun on stage. I hear the last two or three tracks before I head back to see if anyone is coming out for their last song.

I overhear someone saying that Tim Rogers reminds them of a rock n’ roll Willy Wonka without the top hat and the curly hair – perhaps because he’s so tall and lanky and such a characterization of his vibrant personality. Tonight he’s wearing a huge orange fake flower in his navy suit vest and rust colored jacket. When I suggest that it’s a really nice looking fake flower, he makes me feel like I’ve just broken his heart so I offer to smell it and tell him that it’s actually quite exotic looking and I’m sure that the crowd will eat it and his Look up!

When the full band takes the stage, people are already crowding the front and although the venue isn’t sold out, it feels like it’s packed and I’ve stationed a spot to dance with my new friend Linda, who has never seen You Am I before either. The band rips into a good chunk of material from Convicts – getting the crowd to sing along to “Thank God I’ve Hit the Bottom” and making you believe they know what they’re singing about. Tim and Davey just feed off eachother, performing jumps and rock moves on the stage during songs – and Tim maneuvers his windmills like a mad man, knocking over his mic at one point and getting wound up about it disconnecting! There’s even a someone on the tour tuning all their guitars and handing them different ones for each song, Davey breaks a string, new guitar. Guitar goes out of tune, new guitar. Bassist leaves the stage. What? Well, the band does what they have to – they improvise the rock. Okay, the bassist came back and no one knows why he originally left. Tim thanks him for coming back. Thank God for the guitar rack! Anyway, I had just about the best time at this concert and this wasn’t exactly the professional write-up that I was hoping for, but hopefully it will turn some new people on to You Am I’s great rock n’ roll music! Gotta run before I’m late for work!

You Am I Official:
And yet, more You Am I:


  One Response to “Friends Like You: A YOU AM I Concert Report”

  1. KingEd

    I saw these guys once. For all the Who-inspired windmills and Jam-like song structures, the other band I most thought of when watching them was The Replacements. They were like The Replacements had Westerberg’s talent been placed in the hands of hard-working showmen like Boston’s dearly beloved Neighborhoods. Anyone remember them?

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