Friday, February 11, 2011

"They Play These Songs in Prison" benefit show @ Bottom of the Hill

Last night at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, a benefit concert was held for the legal fees surrounding the release of the 2 American hikers detained in Iran. The event was organized by the sole freed hiker, Sarah Shroud. The lineup was spectacular by both Bottom of the Hill's standards as well as an independent music standard = Tom Morello, aka The Nightwatchman (previously of a little band called Rage Against the Machine), Jolie Holland, Jason Webley, Ryan Harvey, and Lia Rose took turns singing songs that were literally sung by the detained hikers in prison to cheer themselves up. Here are a few photos and notes from the night.

Lia Rose and her band opened the show; arriving early allowed us to catch almost their entire set, which was surprisingly stellar. Make a note, this one's promising.

Second up was Baltimore-born Ryan Harvey, whose political lyrics are matched by his unwavering delivery that alternates between hilarious and subversive. I took this photo standing behind Tom Morello (note the baseball cap) while waiting for my food.

Ryan Harvey

Sarah Shroud was poignant, elegant, and down-to-earth. It was fascinating meeting her in person (as I did after the show) and separating her from the Fox News b.s.

Jason Webley's set was easily the highlight of the night, to take nothing away from the majority of the performers. I can't remember having more fun watching live music. Out of context, this will sound stupid, but the funniest thing during his set (aside from a gloriously butchered cover of The Mountain Goats' "This Year") was his demand that we hold up our fingers, stare at them, and turn around 11 times. Apparently he has a fixation with the number 11. The result = all of us (I don't think anyone abstained from this) stumbled around like drunkards, truly screwed up in the head. Hold your comments, please.
Webley also covered the Mountain Goats' "This Year." Video is here. Shroud was under the impression that Webley wrote the song, and told him how much the song meant to them while they were imprisoned (they sang it frequently). Even though he didn't write it, Webley did his best to learn it quickly in order to perform it. The results were hilarious.

I was honestly really looking forward to seeing Jolie Holland in person for the first time (I always seem to miss her at festivals, etc.). However, her constant bickering over the tuning of her borrowed guitar grew old FAST. All of the prior acts had drawn attention to the reason they were there = Shane and Josh (the detained hikers). Holland made the set seem like it was all about herself... and the audience, if I read my compatriots correctly, was not amused.

Tom Morello's acoustic set was fiery, potent, and foot-stompingly leftist. It was also solid from top to bottom. Morello's stories inbetween songs (such as how he first thought Shroud was a CIA agent when he heard about the detention on the news) kept us engaged.

Tom brought out his sometimes-collaborator Boots Riley, of The Coup, to jam with him for about 3 songs. I've seen The Coup before, and Boots is probably my favorite hip hop vocalist alive today. His stage presence is also second to none. Boots' guest appearance made for a fantastic coup-de-grace (groan...).
For more information about the detained hikers, visit

1 comment:

mp3_pirate_savvy said...

Hey man, I went to this show and I loved your pictures. I actually found myself in the one where you got the majority of the back of Tom Morello's head. Any chance you have some pics of when he had everyone go onstage to sing "World Wide Rebel songs"? I've been looking for pics everywhere and id die to have a picture of me on stage with Morello. You should post it!