Monday, January 23, 2006

The Land of Oz

Los Angeles just finished its annual G'Day LA event... Which probably a lot of people never even heard about. This year, it was a bit more high profile as there were ads running on the Independent Film Channel featuring the likes of Nicole Kidman and Geoffrey Rush saying, "G'Day LA!"

Basically, it's a week long series of wine, art, food, and political events which are supposed to strengthen the ties between Los Angeles commerce and Australian commerce.

I think G'Day LA would be benefited by bringing some of their rock and roll to these shores for some live music, myself! And one band I'd love to see live again would be You Am I.

(For anyone keeping track, I've just hit the letter "Y" on my alphabetical musical countdown.)

You Am I has never made it in this country, but they are huge in Oz. They headline festivals and sell out big venues with regularity. Here, they've opened for Soundgarden, Oasis, and - the last time they were briefly in the States - the Kills and the Strokes. They are Big Rock. And Pop. And a little bit country.

You Am I started out as just another grunge band in the early 90's, releasing their first CD in '93. You could hear the pop through the sludge though, and singer Tim Rogers' lyrics were always smart and touching. By their third release, Hourly Daily (my favorite by far) the grunge was nearly gone and the quirky pop which owed more to early Who and XTC had taken it's place. And now, they've definitely moved into Whiskeytown territory, sounding like with their time on the road they finally dived into the cache of country music belonging to their parents. It all sounds great.

If you track down some You Am I stuff, I'd highly recommend both Hourly Daily and Tim Rogers' first solo album, What Rhymes with Cars and Girls. The second album Hi-Fi Way is also pretty genius and I rally liked the last one, Deliverance, which is all country-rocked out. But I'm getting old.

I was lucky enough to see You Am I once, in a small club in San Fransisco, back in 1998. I had been in a minor and stupid car accident the night before, and was stiff as a board. But the band was so rowdy and the set so great, I just clamped my hand around my neck and jumped around. It was sort of all I could do. Then, towards the end of the night, Tim Rogers picked me out of the crowd and led me in a waltz. Damned if I can remember what song it was to, I was mostly just concerned about not being so stiff while we were dancing. I learned later that he does this at small shows, and the girls fight for this place of honor, and I felt pretty lucky indeed.

I don't think he could tell that I had a minor concussion.