Todd Snider’s show is one part music and one part pure comedy.
Touring in support of his latest record with help from Vince Herman (of Leftover Salmon and Great American Taxi), Ben Kaufmann and Jeff Austin (both from Yonder Mountain String Band) he hit the stage at the Boulder Theater for a two-hour set.
Tillamook County Jail
During which the band filtered on stage.
“Thank you so much for coming out y’all, I don’t want to go any further into my portion of the program without thanking my friend Keith Sykes for playing them songs for you!
“I’ll tell you something brothers and sisters there are good and better men all over the world but tonight you got me. My name is Todd Snider and I’ve been driving around this country for more than 20 years. I make this shit up and I sing it for anybody that’ll listen.
“Some of the songs are gonna be sad, some are gonna be funny, some are gonna be both, some are gonna be short, some are gonna seem like they go on forever and some nights still I like to go on for as many as 18 minutes in between the song.
“And I’ll tell you something else that I might have told you before but I told you before because I meant it before the same way I mean it now: my friends tell me that some of my songs get a little opinionated so I want to say before we go to far in the show that while I might share some of my opinions with you over the course of it I’m not gonna share them with you because I think that they’re smart or because I think that you need to know them. I’m going to share them with you because they rhyme.
“I did not come down here to change anybody’s mind about nothing, I came down here to ease my own mind about every last thing. We’re gonna sing some new songs for you and hopefully sing some old songs for you. If you want me to I might even tell you a story or two. These are the Peace Queers, they’re going to help me play for you.
“This is a song I didn’t make up, I learned it.”
“This is my buddy Elvis, everybody, taking care of me. He doesn’t just look like him, brothers and sisters, he sounds like him too.
“I’m gonna do another song for you, I hope you don’t mind me explaining it. It’s a new song, it’s a song I made up one afternoon, I was coming home in my car I decided I wanted to pull into one of those fast food places where they have the window you grab the food out of and while I was in line behind the other cars, a very expensive car, I didn’t know the name of it but it was expensive, I could tell by the way it looked. And the guy that was in it was yelling at whoever was in the window, he was yelling like they had given him cancer, you know? And I thought, ‘What could possibly be so wrong with this man’s order?’ you know.
“And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then I got up to get my stuff and I saw this really, little young guy, only about 16 years old and I could tell that the man in the car was in his 50s and as I was driving home I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And then I wondered, like what would make somebody act like that at the end of the day? And I kept asking myself like what would happen if I got to go into that guy later and say, ‘how was your day?’ I thought it was like this.”
Stuck On A Corner (Prelude to a Heart Attack)
He started Mission Accomplished but then said, “Are you having a good time so far? We’re having fun. And I am gonna be in Telluride, I heard somebody yell ‘Telluride!’ Here’s a story song I wanted to play tonight, it goes like this.”
Just Like Old Times
Mission Accomplished (Because You Gotta Have Faith)
“I want to thank my buddy Vince Herman, Jeff Austin. I’m gonna give them a second to pause for the cause and I want to play this one song for you guys and it doesn’t ever go the same way twice so there’s no way we could all play it together.
“I made this up when I was just a kid, and everybody thinks, well not everybody. Shit, that’s 6.8 billion people. But half of the people that I know tell me sometimes that they think I don’t like to play this song and that’s not true at all. In fact I love this song very much, man. I’m gonna play it for you now with all my heart and soul.
“In fact, I’ll tell you something else. If I hadn’t made up this song when I was about 24, 25, I wouldn’t have got to do half the shit that I get to do all the time. In fact, just off the top of my head I’m thinking, right off the top of my head I’m thinking of this one time when I was in band camp and I was in Hollywood, California because they wanted me to go out there for some kind of meeting about my financial security or some bullshit that I wasn’t interested in.
“So I was down there staying in one of them fancy hotels, you know those hotels on Sunset Strip that that Lindsey Lohan chick takes her shirt off in all the time? So I’m staying around in one of those and I go down, I got this meeting at 3:00 and I don’t even want to go to it. It’s gonna be a bunch of strangers, I’m gonna eat lunch and so I go down to the bar to try to get my shit together and I walk in there, right, and as God as my witness, I wouldn’t lie to you, we’ve known each other too long, I’m walking into the bar and inside the bar there is no one, except for me and at the other corner of the bar, Slash from Guns and Roses.
“And he’s got on a silk hat, backwards. He’s got on like 19 chains – gold, silver, leather, every material you could think of. He’s got all the bracelets you can think of – gold, silver, leather, friendship, all of them – running up and down his shit. He’s got anklets, about five or six on each thing. No fucking shirt at all, no shirt at all. And then, here’s the part that I thought was funny. You know those shorts that people wore in the ’70s, Nike made ’em? And then like, Richard Simmons wears them and sometimes the chicks wear them in porno movies but if you’re not Richard Simmons or in a porno film you’ve just fucking got them shorts on. Well, Slash just had those shorts on. And nothing else, nothing else.
“And I didn’t say anything to him at all, like I didn’t say, ‘You’re Slash’ because it just didn’t feel right. So we sat there, we looked at each other and drank for about an hour and a half. I didn’t say a word. And then, it was time for me to go to my meeting, right, so I said to the lady, ‘Hey, let me pay you out, I gotta go.’ And I paid her and put my drink down and got up to go and Slash, as God as my witness, looked at me and said, ‘Take it easy, man.’
“And you know what, brothers and sisters? I did. I took it so fucking easy, I’m still taking it easy. In fact, I wouldn’t be taking it anywhere near as easy as I’m taking it right now if it wasn’t for that song.”
Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues
“Does anybody have something that they hoped they’d hear if they came all the way out tonight?”
“Devil’s Backbone Tavern? I’m here to please, man. I know every fucking one of these songs.”
Devil’s Backbone Tavern
Devil You Know
“Is it alright if I tell you guys a story real quick? It’s only gonna take about an hour. I’m getting older and it’s harder for me to keep my breath so I gotta stop and tell you some shit. Somebody came up to me on the street today and they asked me if I would tell this story so I’m gonna tell it and it’s a good one, I hope you enjoy it.
“It’s one of those classic, show business stories of being in the right place at the right time. This is how I got to be the lead singer of a band called KK Rider. It goes back to 1994 when I was just playing alone by myself and I got this company to let me make an album. And they said, ‘We’re gonna make an album on you but until the album comes out we don’t want you playing around Memphis no more because when the album comes out we’re gonna have a big party.’ So I told the people at the record company, ‘Well, what am I supposed to do to eat and shit, keep my lights on?’ And they said, ‘Well, you’re gonna be really big when the record comes out.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but what am I supposed to do to keep my lights on and shit in the meantime?’ And they said, ‘We just don’t want you playing around here.’
“So, I looked in the newspaper to see if there was another band that needed a rhythm guitar player and there was this band called KK Rider. They played the country music hits of the day. I went and auditioned and got the rhythm guitar job. And KK Rider was one of them guys with the mullet that had long hair in back and had tassels on his jacket. And he sang with his eyes closed and he didn’t look at the crowd.
“And so we’re playing down the street at one of these places in Memphis. It was a pool hall with a little place in the corner that we set up and the gimmick of the bar, stick with me on this, because I swear I’m going someplace.
“The gimmick of this bar was they had this rope swing that hung down from the ceiling, these two velvet ropes that hung down into a swing and every hour on the hour one of these pretty little girls that waited the tables there would get up on the swing, loft herself up to the ceiling and touch one of the bells on the ceiling, loft herself back up over there and touch the other bell on the ceiling and that meant everybody drank half price until somebody got up there and did that again. But you had to be part of the bar to do it.
“So we’re sitting there, and I’m playing rhythm guitar which means I’m standing here and KK Rider’s standing where I’m standing now. And we’re playing this old song, I don’t know if you remember it, it goes ‘Don’t it make you want to dance? Don’t it make you want to smile? When you’re down, down, down in the country pick and sing a while.’ And I’m over here on the left playing rhythm and KK Rider’s singing lead. A girl gets up, she gently lofts up and touches the bell, touches the other bell the crowd cheers, it’s half price and everybody’s having a good time.
“Up until this other girl, a very, very skinny girl, with a .38 Special tour t-shirt on. She got up on the swing and clearly had no connection to the drink specials at all, she was just up there having a good time. And she got up there, she started swinging back and forth and the owner of the club ran out from behind the bar because of insurance reasons. KK Rider had his eyes closed, I was standing over here to his left watching the whole thing. Now the swing is coming towards the band and away from the band and this girl’s picking up speed. And you know how when you’re outside on a swing and you pump your legs back and forth and that means you’ll go higher? Well, that’s not an appropriate activity when there’s a ceiling involved.
“This woman, she got going faster and faster till she started hitting her head on the ceiling and then she hit her knee on the ceiling. And she was banging that bell fast as all hell, clearly injuring herself. Her old man didn’t care. He thought she looked like she was having a good time so when the owner came over he stood up and got in his way. He had on a .38 Special tour t-shirt too, a different tour. He said, ‘Hey, I paid to get in here. If my old lady wants to swing on the swing, she can swing on the swing.’ And I’m standing over here playing rhythm guitar, KK Rider’s over here singing lead, this girl’s swinging at us faster and faster. And then she does the dumbest thing she’s gonna do all night. Well, I didn’t see what she did after she left so I can’t verify that. But she felt herself going a little too fast and man, she grabbed that rope to slow herself down. Next thing I know, she’s coming at the band, through the air. KK Rider’s got his eyes closed, he’s just singing. I’m over here, watching it all go down.
“She comes flying at us, as God as my witness friends and neighbors, she landed right between these monitors here and the microphone. She sent the microphone down James Brown style, it went all the way down and came all the way back this way and it came up and hit KK Rider right in the chips. Knocked him out. He was laying this way, she seemed possibly unconscious or on the way to it, she was laying this way. They formed a ‘T’ on the stage. I was standing over here. I thought, ‘I know the fucking words.’ It was one of those classic show business stories of being in the right place at the right time.”
Don’t It Make You Want to Dance
“That’s a Rusty Weir song, now just let me play this song for you. Then I’ll play any song you want me to play.”
He moved over to the piano, played a few notes to find the right key and said, “It gets confusing up here, man. You all still with me, now? I just want to lay this one song on you, then I’ll play whatever you want to hear, it’s a touching little piece.”
Piano Song (Money, Compliments and Publicity?)
“You all feel like singing? You sound good.”
“Vince Herman on the guitar.”
Vince said, “How about this man, Todd Snider.”
Todd said, “And over here, we have Mr. Ben Kaufmann on the bass guitar and Mr. Jeff Austin on the mandolin.”
Ballad of the Kingsmen
“Thank you so much, we had a lovely time. Thank you for being so nice to me. Vince Herman over here, Jeff Austin over there, Ben Kaufmann. I hope you got to hear the song that you wanted to. I appreciate you, don’t forget to tip your bartender, don’t forget to tip your friend.
“And don’t forget that if you’ve been drinking and you’re the one driving, like my old brother Skip Litz used to tell me all the time, ‘If you’ve been drinking and driving, you get out on that highway tonight and you drive fast and take a lot of chances. That way they’ll have you pulled over when we come swerving on by.’
“Anyway, listen, I’ve had a great time, it’s always good to be in town. I appreciate you being so nice to me, be nice to each other, God love you, okay?”
Conservative, Christian, Right-Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males
The band left for the first encore break, then returned. Todd said, “Thanks to my buddy Elvis here too.
“I was gonna teach you all guys a song, if I could, I was hoping that you would sing it to me.”
Elvis took the mic for a song, and he really does sound like Elvis.
Blue Suede Shoes
The band left for the second encore break and returned.
East Nashville Skyline
The band left the stage a final time and the big screen at the theater came down for a showing of the film “Peace Queer.”