The Loving Touch
8 August 2018
Raise your hand if you met your spouse on MySpace. Wait, you mean I wasn’t supposed to marry her? Well, I blame Jay Farrar.
Back in the aughts (2000s) MySpace was kind of a big deal on the burgeoning social media scene. I got my jollies (in part) reading people’s lists of favorite music and movies and calling them out on stuff. Monica (future bride) had listed Uncle Tupelo (alt-country pioneers) and Wilco (indie legends), but she failed to include Son Volt (less legendary, but just as indie). From that one email, a beautiful family would eventually emerge.
Jay Farrar left Uncle Tupelo to form Son Volt. While former bandmate Jeff Tweedy has led Wilco to greater notoriety, I have frankly always favored Son Volt. I love Jay’s thick, resonant voice and the rich, organic sounds his projects consistently generate. In fact, I turned on to Son Volt before I’d heard of Wilco… or Uncle Tupelo. So when I heard that Jay was bringing his latest incarnation of Son Volt to Ferndale, when I was to be out of town on vacation, I was super bummed. But when I reminded my wife that we might never have met had it not been for Son Volt, she was cool with me making the four-hour round trip back to town. Done! It felt like a pilgrimage.
Son Volt have had semi-regular releases since the band re-formed in ’05. Their latest, Notes of Blue, is their strongest of recent memory. And the Loving Touch gig showed off the strength of the material and the chemistry Jay has with this group. The rhythm section of drummer Jacob Edwards and bassist Andrew Duplantis was absolutely groove-locked. Multi-instrumentalist Mark Spencer provided tons of tasty pedal steel and keyboard. I dug guitarist Chris Frame’s playing and his sweet 80s hair-do.
They kicked the set into high gear right off the hop, opening with “Lost Souls” and “Static,” two heavy rockers from Notes. They dipped back liberally into Trace, the beloved first Son Volt recording from 1995, notably the familiar, comfortable strains of “Windfall” and “Drown.” But they skimped a bit on tunes from Straightaways and Wide-Swing Tremolo, my personal favorites (I learned the drums playing along to these records). I ’bout spilled my drink on myself when they lit into “Driving the View” from Tremolo late in the set.
I really went off when they pulled out some killer covers for the encore. Jay shared with us that they had just played a show at Kent State in Ohio, where National Guard soldiers opened fire on students in 1970. He said, “It’s been almost 50 years, but it feels like it could happen again,” and they kicked into CSNY’s “Ohio” (check out my eyewitness video below). The Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On” was an odd but awesome closer to the show.
I got back to the lake late, but it was well worth it. I kissed my lovely wife and the sleeping children who might not have existed if it wasn’t for Jay Farrar. Thanks, man.