Thursday, November 5, 2009

Howlin Rain Live @ The Sidecar, Barcelona, Spain. 11.12.08

Photo by Le.Aguant 2008.

This Sidecar show is a warts and all event no doubt about it. The recording quality and "looseness" of the band are all part of the glory and charm. This show holds a very fond place in my memory both for the audience enthusiasm and because an old friend of ours from Humboldt County, Aolani Beere, came down from the Spanish hills where she now lives as a gypsy musician to join us on violin for a 12 minute version of "Nomads". To this day I feel that the sound and soul she brought to our song with her playing is among the most transcendent and beautiful moments in the history of Howlin Rain's music. Alas, Aolani's bright star is not the only thing special about this show. Herein also lies the sound of a band that is road weathered.
Here’s the thing, I believe that every band that tours in album cycles, usually anywhere from 6 months to 2 or 3 years per cycle, straddles this "performance elevation" trajectory that goes something like this: first 3 or 4 months the band is sinking into the songs and trying to really harness them. At 4 to 8 months the band has both enflamed the power of the beast, enlarged it and at the same time has harnessed it and controlling it nearly to perfection---this zone is the perfect zone to see a band play live in---it's when they take the stage and just command the room, the songs, your emotions, your adrenaline---they are doing something where intellect, physicality and primal knowledge have combined to create transcendent performance. This phase is a high-energy phase and for a few reasons can leave the band with a bit of a serotonin depletion in the next phase. Somewhere around 9 months and on up to the finish of tours (some bands can hold the "in the pocket" phase for up to a year or more but usually it's 9 months or so) a couple things can happen. Because the band has played the songs so many times, the power and tightest moments of the songs and the set are starting to lose some of the high for the band--thus the drug “come-down” metaphor. Musicians inspiration, just like listeners ears, can't just keep beating out these musical subtleties and climaxes and transcendent connections with the same conviction and finesse over and over forever. So at this phase as far as I've seen 2 things usually happen. One is the band has just memorized everything including seemingly spontaneous feeling etc and performs in a satisfactory way so that the fans get to hear the music and see the performance and, they don't feel ripped off, but deep down there is a nagging feeling that a ghost is walking over the grave of the music you so deeply love. This happens a lot when you go see a world touring stadium band that is in their 2nd year of touring a hit record. The other thing that can happen is that because the big headlines and bold print of the songs are no longer providing the challenge and rush that they once did the band begins to look between the lines. A crack fiend endlessly brushing his hand over a white shag carpet for crack crumbs that most likely never fell there--but the motion is wild, focused and invigorated. Or a mad man no longer reading the bible itself but now attempting to decode it's meaning by studying the nuances of color in a plain white wall. The band still has the pedal to the metal, fists white-knuckled on the wheel, burning the fuel reserves down to the rolling gravel at the bottom of a rusted tank but the wheels are coming off the rig and the vehicle is coming apart fast. The Finesse, the precision, the tightness is gone and rusted through but the maniacal pursuit of these things continue. Anyhow, that's all to say that this second option is where Howlin Rain was by this show in Spain. We were days from the end of a year and a half of touring these songs and to me there are echoes of life confusion and tour psychosis there. In a subtle way, Between the notes. There aren't a ton of guitars in this recording. So of course I will be putting up a guitar heavy show at a later date to counter that aesthetic misrepresentation. Despite the lack of guitar bombast this one is about the ghost in the room---not a good or bad ghost---just kind of strange. This is one of my favorites, warts, partying Spaniards, Aolani, ghosts and all.

Get it here:


  1. Ethan,
    Do you feel after an extended break from touring the songs become fresh again?
    And any plans on writing a book or something of the sort?
    Keep trucking man cant wait for the next release

  2. Magnificent reflexion about touring.
    I've heard you'll come on March to A Coruña in Spain... I wait impatiently!
    Thanks for your gifts!!

  3. Mr Miller, Thank You Very Much,


    david harris

  4. seen the Comets whenever the come to Nottingham but missed the Rain at least I can check out a show!
    plus I really appreciate the other grooves on the site, plastic crimewave comps et al!
    wishing you good feelings and free erb!

  5. This is a fantastic piece of writing here, my friend. I know the transcendent feeling of seeing and watching a band in their element. An example being the Comets secret warehouse party/show the night before Sub Pop 20. It's rare, but ocasionally you get treated to something so powerful it's euphoric. Thanks for posting this!

  6. I was there!!!
    I'm happy to see that Ethan felt the same feelings as we the crowd who were assisting the gig. I even talked to him after the concert and was very kind to sign me the Comets On Fire "Sub Pop Promo Jams". I'ts a pity my english is average and being shy only made it more difficult. Anyway I still have good memories from that gig and it's one of the best I've been in. It was more than a concert. It was like a trascendence experience I'll never forget. I went to the concert because I admired Ethan as a big Comets on Fire fan that I am (and was) but I didn't know what to expect from his new band. I only needed 5 minutes to realise I was in the best place I could be at that precise moment in Barcelona. I kenw the venue only held like 300 people (and is extremely hot inside) and the sound is not the best but that night there was something in the air that's very difficult to see in the most of the concerts. People were in ecstasy by the perfomance of those folks that before the concerts looked very tired and very average looking people. How could they display such a big amount of energy?? Well, I've not seen live Comets but tomorrow I'll be able to see play another of its members: Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance. I hope the concert will be at least at the same level as the Howlin Rain was. Ethan, thank you very much for the mp3 of the gig and remember that if you have it on lossless I'll be the first on line to go for it :)

  7. Thank You all for the thoughtful responses to this post, the support and insights mean a lot to me. Great to hear from you guys about some of the past Rain and Comets shows. Very interesting to hear Serge's take from the other side of the stage in Barcelona. I will work on getting some of this stuff up in Lossless format. At this point I am just trying to get some stuff up here once in a while and not leave the blog cold for months at a time. To provide the music in Lossless as an alternative to (shitty but quick and easy) MP3 will take some time for me. BUT I will move toward that, including going back and posting the lossless for past posts. Thanks for the notes!

  8. Sunday evening I assisted to the Six Organs of Admittance concert at the Sidecar, in Barcelona. The performance of Daniel Gutierrez, the supporting act, was in my opinion too long and it nearly irritate the audience. Ben Chasny didn't get on stage until 12:00 pm! If someone came looking for the stuff he usually plays with Six Organs I'm sure they could feel at least a little lost in the wall of sound the band comprised by him, Elisa Ambrogio (Magic Markers), Andrew Mitchell and Alex Nielsen displayed on stage. I love Ben's folky stuff but I was also very happy to see him in action playing the guitar as if he was playing with Comets on Fire. He only played one song on his own in an acoustic way! And the concert lasted just one hour. In conclusion: Short but intense concert and it recalled me more of Comets than more calmed music Chasny does on his own, what's not bad at all :)

    P.D. Thanks Ethan for being receptive with the Lossless stuff matter but I wouldn't want to bother you with that. Just do what's in your hands.

  9. I've listen to the Sidecar show... just amazing!

    Ethan and others who may interest: I've found the video from Azkena Rock Festival 2009 with the Howlin' Rain show included emited by etb television; there is a torrent link:
    And here The Black Crowes show on that festival:

  10. spanish people love you guys, come here this year!

  11. rapidshare says this file can only be downloaded by becoming a premium member, fuck rapidshare, switch to mediafire !!!!!

  12. the last anonymous was asking you to come to SpainDecember 15, 2009 at 3:42 PM

    OMFG !!!!! HOWLIN RAIN in spain, in march, yeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssss !!!!! yeeeeeeeeeesssss !!!! yeeeeeeeeesss !!!!

    15 days before i was desiring this, in this blog, look up!


  13. Download this awhile ago and never thanked you for it. Thanks! I am rocking this now. I seen Comets on Fire live @ the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, but never got the chance to see Howlin Rain. Incredible recording!!!