A couple of days after moe.down xi, my friend Mark texted me and wanted to know if I was "doing anything Jew-ey on Friday night" (9/10). When I realized that Friday was Rosh Hashanah, the text made more sense, and I confirmed my clearance. I had planned nothing Jew-ey, aside from probably blowing my allergy-stuffed nose multiple times and possibly saving some money. Thusly, he invited me to go see Todd Snider and John Prine with him at Governors Island-- which was totes awesome, but also meant I'd have to get on a boat^. Oh lawdy, lawdy!
What was particularly cool about this show, is that I didn't know that I already knew who John Prine was (Mark was like, "You fucking know who John Prine is."), until I looked him up and saw who he was! Ohhhh, THAT guy! Fucking cool!!" John Prine is an American songwriting legend. Johnny Cash used to cover his songs. Dude wrote "Angel In Montgomery"! Famously covered by Bonnie Raitt, less famously (but just as wonderfully) covered by Murky Currents- Tom Pirozzi and Max Verna of Ominous Seapods. Also- Todd Snider is fucking AWWWESOME. Hot diggity damn, this show was gonna KICK ASS!
But first, the boat. Ohhh, the boat. I met up with Mark, a Mike, and then suddenly a gaggle of people and we were all slowly herded onto the boat. As soon as we launched, the 9/11 Towers Of Light Memorial switched on, which was a sad reminder, but also very beautiful. Annnnd-- I didn't puke (at all)! Which was the best! Suc-cess!
When we offloaded, Todd Snider was walking on stage and we had to waaaaaait on another line to get in. Fortunately, we could hear everything as the venue is right on the beach (across from the southern tip of Manhattan). However, I like to see Todd Snider too, so I wanted IN. The place was starting to pack in and people from this last Ferry-batch were finding their spots. We darted past the tacky flashing neon palm trees (???) into the GA seated section to absorb the Todd Snider portion of the evening. This was my 2nd time seeing him and he is just so freakin' spectacular. Honest songwriting, humorous rage, and beautiful stories to tie it all together. He's brilliant and typically barefoot, but not this night. Some guy from the crowd wanted to know "what's up with the shoes?" Snider's response was "it's fucking freezing out!" Hearts.
Soon it was time for John Prine, a teeny, jovial guy, who doesn't ever seem to stop smiling, and has a huge stage presence that locks-in the audience in and never lets go. I have a theory on this, and that is: he is a thin candy shell, filled with chocolate. He was singing Sam Stone, to quote Mark, "The saddest song you'll ever hear." It's about a War Vet who is addicted to Heroin and includes the lyrics, "There's a hole in Daddy's arm, where all the money goes." and everyone who is listening to this, is SMILING... Full of chocolate!
Prine plays with a bass player (Dave Jacques) to his left, and an additional guitar player (Jason Wilber) to his right. These guys were straight-up pros. You can tell they've been playing together for years- it was all really fluid and they were having a lot of fun up there too. They apparently weren't always a trio and I am really curious as to what they were like with drums, keys, etc.. That lineup probably rocked too.
Prine sang a song called "Space Monkey", about a heroic and culturally shocked Space Monkey who was shot up into space by the Soviet Union in the 50's and didn't come down til the '90's, after Communism had collapsed, and it was a whole different world. Poor Space Monkey. This song may have changed my life forever. More songs should end with the words, "Space Monkey".
Todd Snider came out to help sing one of the encores, Paradise- which is exactly when Mark and I ran to the front rail to take pictures, like 15 year old girls. WTF?
Even though we were in the seated area, we stood on the side for the entire set. Sitting felt weird and standing was also keeping the blood flowing- it was chilly! Being layered up at a Fall show rules!
The beach on Governors Island was a pretty cool venue. One thing that kept catching me off guard were the well-timed foghorns from the Staten Island ferries passing right by. There were also a couple of boats filled with people that had anchored right next to the venue to enjoy the show, which was pretty freakin' neat (though, I'd totally puke).
The crowd provided for some real interesting People Watching. There was a particularly shitfaced woman near us who was like the 8th Wonder of the World- because I don't know how she got to the island... Does the Port Authority ship transients down the river now? She must have been psyched when she heard John Prine was coming. When Sam Stone began, she screamed out "OOOHTHIS ISH DA FUCKING ONE!!! ... oh no it's not..." (It wasn't so much a speech impediment as it was The Sauce and some missing teefs.). Mark said, "y'know I really don't ever want to see her vagina", but I think he did miss her once she vanished into The Battery. *insert foghorn*
The show felt like I was witnessing musical history-in-the-making, so I'm going with that. Between Todd Snider and John Prine, it was country-folk rock-Americana American Songwriting personified. It was a really special night.
After the show was a real treat too, I got to meet John Prine and his band (passed Todd Snider in the hallway-- swoooon). Everyone was super-nice, but the best part of the entire night was when the one and only Mr. John Prine himself, read us the story on the back of his Popcorn, Indiana bag of popcorn (apparently, made in Englewood, NJ). Then he lifted the bag up and made it dance around to the words "Popcorn, Indiana!"... I SHIT YOU NOT. Filled with chocolate!
And then I had to get on a Water-Taxi. UGH.
So, I guess the answer was ultimately, yes, Mark. I was doing something Jew-ey on Friday night (besides blowing my nose and saving some money)- and that was: neurotically concentrating on trying not to get sea-sick on a 5 minute ferry ride to Governors Island... and then again on the Water-Taxi ride back. Supplemented by a morbid curiosity of whether John Prine would write a song about it, if I puked right there in front of him while we were passing the (monumentally well-lit) Battery Tunnel's ventilation facility... And I hoped that song would end with the words "Space Monkey".
Todd Snider & John Prine, 9/10/10, Governors Island Beach, NYC: 8 HUZZAHS!
SETLIST (KINDA). These are some songs that Mark remembers (thanks for the notes AND the +1, Mark!) John Prine playing, in no particular order:
That's the Way the World Goes Round
Glory Of True Love
Donald & Lydia
Hello In There
Grandpa Was A Carpenter
Christmas In Prison
Fish & Whistle
Sabu Visits The Twin Cities
Angel From Montgomery
Bear Creek Blues
Speed At The Sound Of Loneliness
Sins of Memphisto
Please Don't Bury Me (1st Encore)
Paradise (2nd Encore w/ Todd S)
^ I am no good on boats.