The car trip across Missouri and Illinois was plagued during the final three hours with torrential rain, high winds and lightning to rival any concert's light show. It was reminiscent of the trip back from seeing Neil Young's solo show the previous spring. Seemingly endless hours of clenched muscles, eyes peering to find the space between the lines that is supposed to be your path and a continual adrenaline pump takes a heavy toll not to mention several glasses of wine to bring one's self back to 'normalcy.' Never have I been so happy to reach a destination safely. Again, it brought to mind the lengths we go to out of the love of live music.
The 90-minute drive the following day around Indianapolis, past Noblesville to Deer Creek was, by comparison, a cakewalk. This venue is really off the beaten path and I am extremely appreciative to the person who posted specific directions on the MFC board.
Unlike the Deer Creek show here two years before, the weather was lovely mostly sunny, 70s and lower humidity than typical for August in the midwest. Venue security was being more lenient than usual, allowing people to stay by their cars in the lot, listen to music and eat and drink from coolers. I wanted to conserve my energy and this was pleasant and mellow.
Eventually we proceeded to the gates where a minor inspection proved that cameras were no problem. In fact, they were giving away the Nothing As It Seems and Light Years promo singles just inside! Was this the same Deer Creek I'd traveled to exactly two years ago to the day?
I saw Pete and walked to him ...
"Are you Pete?"
(putting my hand out) "My name is Jean and I just want to say 'thank you' ... for what you do."
(looking a little shocked) "You're welcome."
We enjoyed all of Palo Alto's 45-minute set on the side stage. They said they had been opening for the Stone Temple Pilots and were pulled from that tour to "tour with Pearl Jam." They didn't understand that they were not actually appearing on the same stage as PJ, but thanked people for coming to listen to them ... "We know the ticket was expensive." They said they were happy to play on the same bill as these two other great bands. This was their last appearance before returning to L.A.
Onto Sonic Youth. They were loud and I wore my earplugs. It was a good performance and the crowd was polite and accepting.
A quick break to meet up with my husband, Tony. We had split up so I could have a decent seat with his brother. His fan club seat was 19 rows back on Mike's side. I observed where the sun was setting and noted that the now waning full moon would rise up from behind the center of the lawn area. Yes!
Returning to my seat, it was just a short wait until the instrumental "Baba" echoed, I said "This is it!" and everyone stood up and didn't sit down again.
My memories are a bit blank here, but my emotions were full high. There they were so good to see them! They launched directly into a commanding instrumental that no one in my proximity seemed to recognize. I thought it sounded like a Stones song, but quickly realized it had to be Interstellar Overdrive. This quickly segued into Corduroy and I instantly noticed Stone at the front of the stage, ripping at his guitar strings and doing the backward skipping step, revved up. At the finish, Mike was holding his fingers in his ears, a reaction to the loudly cheering audience. I detected his newish tattoos spilling out from beneath his shirtsleeves. The lights abruptly went off and the stickers on Mike's flying V glowed vibrantly, much to our delight.
Grievance was next and Stone played on through, despite the broken string incurred during Corduroy. The third punch of this powerful intro was Spin The Black Circle. I was surprised and dumbfounded by this combo of songs.
Ed finally spoke while instruments were exchanged. "Thanks for that ... hello, hello, hello" (looking around the venue). He thanked Sonic Youth and spoke about the heat in the midwest. "Last night in Nashville it felt like hell, so Indiana feels like heaven ... ah, well heaven," and he mumbled something like "it's debatable."
Dissident well, not on my top 10 list. I catch my breath and Ed takes a drink of wine. He motioned to the band, rolling his hands in a gesture to convey "mix it up" (I thought) and they slid into Brain of J.
The cymbals crash lightly four times to release Animal. The lighting is brilliant; Ed is flailing about, his eyes rolled back. I'm feeling exported back in time. GTF I love hearing the Yield songs. Two years later, these seem richer and developed to perfection. I hear a loud rumbling resembling a plane taking off and see others peeking above and behind. An effect, purpose achieved.
I circle to search for the moon. Disappointed, I don't see it. I see a few signs, one in my section in Mike's sightline that says "MIKE" on one side and "BABA" on the other. Mike sees it and points (and I agree with both sentiments!). Mike is fully communicating with the crowd. He looks relaxed and is simply joyful to watch.
Someone is holding a sign in front that says "Believe You Me." Ed notices it, shakes his head and laughs, motioning to put it down. "This song is off of our last album. It's called Nothing As It Seems and that's Mike McCready, right there" (pointing). While I'd had the magnificent fortune of hearing this song premiere at the Bridge Benefit show, and it totally stunned me there, it has been refined and sharpened. People respond by raising their lighters. I'm watching Mike through the binoculars and he spots me, pointing dead at me. I turn red, feeling embarrassed, busted! ;)
I'm utterly joyful for Even Flow. Ed messes up the lyrics and I DON'T CARE. Jeff takes the first jump. Ed takes number #2.
Ed reaches for his jacked, fumbles in the pockets and extracts a cigarette and lights it. Not recalling if I've seen him smoking on stage before, this makes me sad. He was wearing a dark, new looking Dead Moon shirt, under a couple of layers that he removed and replaced throughout the evening.
A song begins that I don't recognize initially. "Talk of circles, and punching out ..." ahhh! Pilate! Jeff sings proudly from the front of the stage. I've never heard this live before! Pilate slides into Lukin and I'm surprised that everyone in my proximity is going nuts and pogoing like crazy! Matt transitions Lukin slickly into Light Years, a notable progression. I am so joyful to hear this, singing loudly, watching the lighters throughout the crowd, missing Tony and emotionally reaching out to him.
Ed steps into the spotlight, performing his classical solo guitar intro to Better Man. Again, not on my "must hear" list, but a crowd pleaser and a splendid Save It For Later tag makes it a winner.
Something about "this is a true story" and we continue to Leatherman. Wow! I haven't heard this before and Stone is really enjoying this.
Not For You. If I'd had thoughts this setlist was slightly atypical, now it was confirmed. Delivered with punch:
"Check it out ... if you hate something, don't you do it, too"
"Small my table, seats just ONE
got so crowded, but it's still fun."
Stone is going after the solos; Mike does a split jump and lobs out a series of picks.
We get smacked with Insignificance; it builds to an insane intensity. "Play C3 let the song protest!" Darkness … long, silent pause. They burst back into it, Jeff steps up to sing while Mike travels over to Stone's side and they seem to engage in a humorous (apparently) chat.
Go! Ahhhhhhh! I marvel at Matt's drumming on this song. I've always loved hearing it, but Matt brings it to a new level. The drums thunder like explosives!
And they're off for a break. I sit down momentarily to load film and swap batteries (and catch my own breath). Jumping back up to cheer them on, everyone is kind of looking at each other with uplifted eyebrows, surprised. I glance furtively for the moon ... where is it?
Ed returns alone, guitar in hand. "It's too beautiful a night to leave just yet." He makes a comment about how he visited the "back 40" during Sonic Youth's set and he toasts the people in the back (a "toast to everybody with a view of the moon"). "My brother's here tonight and I haven't seen him since we got back from Europe so it was really great to see him and I'm gonna dedicate this song to him 'cause life is short beautiful but short; too short sometimes." This leads to a exquisitely, beautiful Throw Your Arms Around Me and I do feel tears and I do miss Tony and reach out to him again. Ahhhh, this is so, so sweet. I notice couples embracing.
The rest of the band joins Ed and they rip into DTE. Ed throws in a bleating goat sound at one point. This song is tight, snappy and they have it down. Like Go, they know this song like the back of their hands and it seems effortlessly great, guttural and in your face.
State of Love and Trust. Ed points to the back of the venue, excited but the song has already started.
Next, "Here's a number we've been trying as of late and but before we start it I don't know if you can see the moon in the back, cause we can see it from up here it's beautiful ... so why don't you all look up for this song." Ed again points to the rear of the venue and the moon has emerged. "This one, Stone begins." Incredibly, a full version of Crazy Mary unfolds, started by Stone with Ed close by. For some reason, the stage is set so that Ed and Stone are very near one another in proximity. It seems to bring a closeness.
"We play this one right here tonight in Indiana because we know there's a lot of 'em," leading to a lovely Elderly Woman, again with Stone leading off and Ed at his shoulder. Ed flubs the lyrics.
Last Kiss. Mike and Jeff are clowning with each other. I spy Stone also goofing in Jeff's direction. Ed sings on, intently. The crowd is singing and swaying.
"Oh, here's another car song only this one doesn't wreck," and we're off to an mind-blowing RVM. There's so much going on during this song it is hard to describe. This is really the only point in the show where PJ employs a "light show" as the song climaxes with smoke rising and strobe lights flashing while Ed is balancing the mic stand on one hand. He's punished his guitar, including breaking a string and one of the guitars is making an unintended popping distortion. (It may have been Stone's as I noticed him reach for the plug to try to plunge it back into connection.) Ed leaps Townshend style five times. A favorite song a fantastic finish to the first encore.
They leave, the crowd roars pounding the seats in front of them with their hands. What next?
I look to the left and notice Jeff's standup bass being loaded into an enormous, white case. It looks odd, like it houses an instrument crafted for a giant.
Encore #2: They promptly return and people are holding up signs in the front. Ed, cigarette in hand, steps forward and collects two: "Believe You Me" and "Free World." He folds them and leaves them at his feet.
I had anticipated the Soon Forget/Yellow Ledbetter closing combo, but Jeff is seated and I'm pleasantly surprised to hear Indifference. Ed is snapping his fingers, beat style, and motivates the crowd to clap. He takes a drag from his cigarette and holds it for an extended period after the "I will swallow poison" line.
I'd hoped for Baba to close and wished not for YL. We got RITFW which was just fine and well executed with Mike effectively sounding like Neil punishing his guitar. Ed held up the "Free World" sign at one point and changed the lyrics to "a thousand points of light, for the re-pub-li-cans."
And it was done.
26 full songs in 125 minutes, a nearly flawless show with little time to catch your breath. No long speeches, no pauses maybe they were aware that Deer Creek has an 11pm curfew and so they packed in the maximum amount of music possible in a short time tight, focused, intense. How often do they play a show with more 7 cover songs, seven songs from Vs. and one B-side?
We raced back to the car and I phoned the setlist to Caryn, finding it difficult to read my writing as we bounced in the parking area in dim light. As I ended the phone call and we finally found the path home, I gazed upward and spied the moon beaming down, finding it a source of comfort knowing it was guiding us all along through the night.