review fragment of laura veirs old demo: girl with dragon tattoo

with thanks to or sorry to ever kipp:
Lisbeth Salander I mean
Ever picking up a loose thread is that the girl with the dragon tattoo is Noomi Rapace or Karen Orzolek yet it is Laura Veirs who sent me a demo of “Tiger Tattoos” that I am just now reviewing and looking forward to her upcoming 2012 show in SF.
On this track Laura sings (plural – more than one part) and plays at least four instruments: guitar, bass guitar, banjo and mbir – thumb piano for the non-Setswana spearkers. Yes, Tucker Martine produced the demo and played drums on five tracks. It says “Made by Tucker Martine and Laura Veirs at Flora Ave. Studios” which presumably is a producer credit. Rob Syrett was jonesing for a clarinet part when I played him “Tiger Tattoos” today in my dented but I would have had to zip ahead to track 9 to, yes, hear Amy Denio on “alto saxaphone and clarinet” – sic. Oh shit, I am just noticing that it lists Bill Frisell on “Tiger Tattoos”, on National Guitar – is that the loud metal acoustic type? – and  electric guitar on two other tracks. I still have to catch myself sometimes calling a National guitar a “steel guitar” which would be a horse of a whole nuther timbre. The demo she sent me has 10 tracks and I don’t recall really listening to it at the time but today I notice that tracks 2 thru at least 8 have hisses and scratch noise that don’t sound quite right and track 8 doesn’t seem to want to be heard at all; it seems to skip back to 7. Laura notes that these are rough mixes; it sounds more like a poltergeist or a ghost in the machine.
Mark- here are my two best records. Keep in mind the new one has rough (underlined) mixes! (bang) Hope to hear from you again re. putting together a show or two. Laura.
That’s on a teeny sized green post it note and there’s a second one that I guess I had moved to the verso that says “more info inside jacket”.
I had noticed Laura’s name on a website of a venue in town – in this case at that time I presume Seattle – because I was doing a Danny Barnes show and she was appearing somewhere supporting Danny. The Danny Barnes trio show featured Amy Denio and a couple others – not the Bad Livers and certainly not and probably before the Willies. It was kind of an Americana showcase that also featured my clients The Blue Eyed Devils – featuring Chris Cotton who eventually got signed to Yellow Dog – and Jerry Hannan who went on to if not fame than at least a good story as a writer for Eddie Vedder – Sean Penn was a longtime supporter of Jerry – you used to see Sean and Woody Harrelson gaping and awing at Jerry at that little club up in Marin. I remember sitting side stage on a bar stool so that I could less obviously watch Jerry and his audience simultaneously. Anyhow I guess I called Laura and sort of explained myself or in this case set myself up to make promises I could not deliver.
For five or so years I had been four-walling shows into the Cubberley Theatre in Palo Alto , a community space that sat 300, and sometimes free shows just for kicks (or licks) at Stanford’s CoHo – the student union. For instance: Dar Williams, John Doe and Jonathan Richman – ok, plus Bill Frisell a couple times – at the Cub and Matt Nathanson, Tim and Greg from the Motherhips and once (“Once”) not Glen Hansford but Freedy Johnston at the CoHo. (Actually Matt opened for John Doe at the Cub…) But the Cub became harder and harder to work with – for instance they almost tried to deport Femi Kuti and his wife and they locked Danilo Perez and I – he was the cultural ambassador from Panama – out of the box office; with the cash; they locked us out of the box office and I had to pay Danilo out of pocket – I was supposed to, on orders from his manager not give him cash, to write a check for his bonus, but the check book was locked in the office – some kind of juvenile throwing his weight around by the new sheriff techie. So the Danny Barnes show – this is about Laura Veirs – was at the old Edge or Keystone nightclub –and even there they almost wanted to switch the show, based on slow advance sales, to the green room rather than the main stage – there is a sad pattern here – and when I talked to Laura for the first time I had just agreed, or so I thought, to produce a three times a week series at a jazz club, from Memorial Day in May thru Labor Day, like 50 shows or so, in San Jose. I was calling it Din Din Din and booking it creatively – jazzy things but not jazz jazz straight jazz per se. You can picture that based on the way I tell this story. I never go straight. My straight lines are all Euclidean not Cartesian, or worse. Poinescare and all that.
I never got around to offering Laura a show I had been fired before that. The venue apparently wanted nothing but girl singers with a backing doing standards. The series started with Josh Roseman – who got a big write-up in the San Jose Mercury but soon I was hearing back from the musicians that they were being mistreated and hassled and people told me that they didn’t want to play. I had to call Leni Stern and tell her not to play. A sax player, with a record deal, told me the club called him and asked him to bring a vocalist. Ralph Carney, who has probably played everywhere from Carnegie Hall to a NASA windtunnel, got through his gig but told me the thing was a bad trip, man. So it is probably a good thing that I didn’t try to book Laura Veirs there. (That she ended up on Nonesuch probably proves my point that she was jazz enough; jazzy enough for Bill Frisell, Eyvind Kang and Amy Denio at least). I was just a talent buyer.
Maybe two years later, 2005 or 2006, I was in Austin for SXSW and I caught the last couple songs of Laura’s showcase. It was right on Sixth Street, right in the window. People like me were watching through the opened window, her back to us, from the street. The room was packed. I went up to her as she was packing up her gear and effects and told her who I was and she may or may not have recalled it, or she remembered vaguely that I had maybe let her down. That’s the only time I have seen her – maybe I tried to book her or checked her avails over the years although I don’t do shows even that regularly anymore. But I have noted and clipped various reviews over the years and watched a video or two and maybe bought a cd and watched her ascent or development –certainly noticed getting signed to Nonesuch and I think that set was reviewed I saw in Time Magazine, I think I recall. I met Tucker Martine at SXSW at his panel in 2009.
So I was psyched and motivated to find this old demo in my storage space. What a great song, the one that plays. I don’t know who the speaker is – a girl? A boy? – or who the subject is – I don’t generally take lyrics that seriously but the sound, the quality, the chops, undeniable. I mean I want to take credit yeah I dug this, starting in 2002, but kinda dropped the ball in not “working with” her any further. And writing you and writing this is not really working (or as Mac MacCaughan might have said, I’m working I’m just not working for you). I almost asked Robert Syrett, he has done album covers for Matmos, for Matador – to draw a dragon character to fit the song – or someone with shocking pink socks – to send as a fan gesture to Laura, we had just come from hanging his show, 11 pieces, at a little café in SF, in South Park, at Caffe Centro. We actually met two guys from a little label nearby, Om Records, doing a photo shoot for some collateral for Mark Farina and Miguel Migs. This is either the worlds worst preview for an art show or a pretty lame fan letter. I can edit to add the actual details of Laura Veirs upcoming local show; I think it said Feb. 25, 2012 at Café DuNord in San Francisco. Maybe by then Robert Syrett can be tricked or cajoled into drawing his version of a tiger tattoo. There’s also a great show here in Palo Alto – this could be a lame and confusing preview or review of several things – at Smith-Andersen Gallery in Palo Alto featuring work most relevantly of Kara Maria tattoo animals.
If  Noomi Rapace were there in 2002 she would have avenged the dissed musicians and put the lame promoter (lamer than me) in his place. Actually the American remake looks pretty cool.
edit to add: I guess I saw the trailer for the film with remake of Led Zep and Karen O.
Tiger Tattoo, Dragon Tattoo, plus we have Akira Tana at Santa Clara University De Saiset Museum for opening party of Smith Andersen tattoo art show “Indelibly Yours” already actually open and reviewed in Metro. Here is someone recently posted music to Youtube for the actual song I am starting with, a chestnut:
this actually ended up as track 7 on a 2003 release, first of seven full-lengths so far. on my copy it was track one and the only thing that played without pops and glitches.

edit to ad, years later, 2020, during the covid-19 sheltering in place:

also, i am just learning that the term “chestnut” for a song is more pejorative than what I mean. It’s from a play where a guy tells a joke over and over, about a tree, but he forgets the type of tree and the audience his friend corrects him “chestnut”. Also, I wonder if I am conflating Laura Veirs and Jolie Holland – I had some Jolie/Danny riffs. And maybe I am confusing Tucker Martine with Bob Boilen of NPR. I think Mary Halvorson stole Laura’s act a bit.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player, and blogger; he also sang in local choir, fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads 'Howl' and owns a couple musical instruments he cannot play
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4 Responses to review fragment of laura veirs old demo: girl with dragon tattoo

  1. markweiss86 says:

    from last week:
    Laura Veirs — I was re-listening to a Laura Veirs demo from 2005 or so she sent me, girl with a tiger not dragon tattoo and wrote a draft of something and sent to her publicist maybe I will cut and paste it in here. I get confused Laura Veirs, Jolie Holand and Mary Halvorson. She has cute puppet videos, I recall. Or paper dolls.

  2. markweiss86 says:

    the rob syrett art show also came and went but we sold two pieces to an architect who sent us to try

  3. markweiss86 says:

    first hamburges then asian box

  4. Pingback: Sharon Jones please help Sharon Jones | Plastic Alto with Mark Weiss

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