In 2009, Steve Earle put out Townes, a tribute to the man he calls his teacher and the man who is my all-time favorite artist. Last time I saw Steve Earle, he really pissed me off. This time, he only sorta kinda pissed me off and it wasn’t till the encore. Last night, I optimistically shelled out $38 to see him perform on his tour in support of Townes. Here is what I learned.
- Steve Earle really knows how to make a tribute to Townes about Steve Earle.
- Steve Earle’s anecdotes about Townes are pretty much about how cool Steve Earle is.
- Steve Earle grew up in San Antonio, Texas, which was essentially occupied Mexico, but does not really give a shit about Texas.
- Steve Earle says if aliens put a gun to his head and asked him who Townes VanZandt was, he would say “Townes VanZandt was a blues singer.” By which he does not mean he played songs in which the first line describes some hardship and the second line reiterates that hardship and the third line leads into a 12-chord progression.
- Steve Earle has terrible, terrible hair and a hot wife who is pregnant with his son and prioritizes having a washer/dryer over a full-size fridge.
- Steve Earle buys a lot of his groceries at the corner deli, which is owned by Mr.Kim, who speaks three languages fluently, which makes Steve Earle feel inadequate, and apparently also like playing the banjo and writing that terrible song “Immigrants”.
- There are apparently a half-dozen dudes in Portland who behave at a seated Steve Earle show as though they were at a Fugazi show and will pump their fists, high five, holler and man-hug upon hearing the opening chords of “Galway Girl” or “Copperhead Road”.
- Townes VanZandt made sure Steve Earle was using clean needles before he played him “Maria” for the first time.
- My favorite Townes VanZandt quote continues to be “There are two types of music. The blues and zip-a-dee-doo-dah.”
- Steve Earle talks way too much about Steve Earle.
- I still adore Steve Earle. The man is flawed, but he is an icon and I am thankful for his body of work.
Here are some versions of some things we heard.
Emmylou Harris: Goodbye: One of my favorite Emmylou songs, off the untouchable album Wrecking Ball. I had forgotten Steve Earle wrote it. It was the first song he wrote upon getting clean.
Lyle Lovett: Lungs: Another great cover of one of my favorite Townes songs and Steve’s favorite Townes song.
Steve Earle: Way Down In The Hole: That theme song from the Wire, with which aging Portland hippies will happily sing along.