Words by J.D. Swerzenski • Photos by Todd Cooper
Sturgill Simpson is not the loquacious type. The most talking he offered the audience during his Nov. 15 set at the McDonald Theater was a few post-song "thanks" and a requisite band introduction. But then Simpson takes his cues from classic country’s greats, types like Waylon Jennings and George Jones who honed the formula for creating a killer show: recruit a top-shelf band, sing your guts out and let the music do the talking for you. Simpson followed that formula to a tee on Sunday.
The Kentucky-born singer has been riding high since the release of last year’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, a record uniquely designed to appeal at once to the camo hat and Birkenstock sets. Both sides of that fan base came out in force in Eugene, bearing witness as Sturgill and his five-piece backing band tore through a nearly two-hour set.
With material culled primarily from his most recent two albums, Sturgill hit appropriate high-notes with the Metamodern single “Turtles All the Way Down,” which had the crowd in an unlikely sing-along of “marijuana, LSD, psilocybin and DMT.” Better yet was When in Rome cover “The Promise,” whose climax hit even harder when he sent that glorious baritone ringing out over the rafters of the McDonald.
In true showman fashion, Simpson saved the best for last. This tour has seen Simpson bring forth all sorts of unexpected covers, including Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” and Otis Redding’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” Still, little could prepare the already revved-up crowd for his freight train of a closer, a medley of “Listening to the Rain” and “The Motivator.” The latter, a bluegrass-infused double-time take on the T. Rex classic, let his band cut loose for an Allman Brothers-worthy jam.
Eight-minutes later, after the audience had screamed out the last of their lungs, Sturgill brought it all home with a final howl of “sitting here wondering, listening to the rain!” The encore chants roared on long after the band had exited stage right, but they went ignored. Sturgill had said all he needed.
On Friday Nov. 20, the UO's chapter of Young American for Liberty is hosting a poker night on campus with raffle prizes of a two handguns and a rifle.
According to a Facebook event page, YAL believes the university's gun ban "puts students in danger." And the free poker night seeks to "spur a campus wide discussion on gun rights and the right to protect yourself on campus."
The page says, "This year, Oak Grove Gun Shop in Eugene donated a .40S&W Sig Sauer handgun. Mazama Gun Shop donated a Weatherby Vangaurd 243 Rifle with a Simmons Scope 3.5-10/40."
It later adds that a Bersa Thunder handgun is also a prize thanks to a donation from the Oregon Firearms Federation and Mazama Sporting Goods.
The page features a photo of the Sig Sauer and clarifies that because guns are not allowed on campus, "the transaction will take place off campus at a federally licensed firearms dealer and follow all state and federal regulations. They will never be brought to campus."
YAL went before the Associated Students of the Unversity of Oregon to ask for funding for the event. Members "requested $950 to reserve the ballroom in the EMU and pizza at its five-hour event on Nov. 20," the Oregon Emerald reports, adding that the event is estimated to attract 200 students and last year about 90 attended. The ASUO voted down the request.
In light of the recent killings at Umpqua Community College, the gun giveaway is causing an outcry on the event page and elsewhere on social media. In response to a Facebook post on the gun giveaway sahred by the UO's YAL chapter presidesnt, Thomas Tullis, on his Facebook page, that says "If you think the easiest way to get a gun in this country is by beating 200 other students in a poker tournament, then I challenge you to show up and win to prove how easy it is," one of his FB friends writes, "Surely you wouldn't be providing anyone with a gun who couldn't otherwise secure one. Just seems like a huge dick move in light of recent events."
The poker night and raffle take place 5 pm Friday, Nov. 20 at the EMU ballroom on the UO campus.
UO graduate music student Tony Glausi has written and produced this video in an effort to "bring hope to the many broken hearts and wounded souls that are suffering today."
Photos by Todd Cooper, words by Andy Valentine
I have seen, now, the eye of a storm — the perilous tremor of full-blast thrusters, the sound of 10,000 white hands clapping. I have witnessed a prophet addressing his subjects. I have seen an earthquake's living heart. The epicenter: A$AP Rocky.
Thursday night, Nov. 12, the Harlem-born rapper stepped onto the stage at Matt Knight Arena to a roar so deafening, so decibel-stretching, that a lesser man might have cowered in fear. Thankfully, hip-hop's latest success story is one of experience. After performing extensively with Drake and Kendrick, A$AP Rocky — born Rakim Mayers — is touring solo. Well, almost solo. He brought with him the ever-brilliant and magnanimous troll Tyler, The Creator. This decision was well advised. After a full-set's worth of Tyler's music (which I love, and forever will love), A$AP Rocky had a bar to reach. The crowd was so hot that a single flicked bic might have sent us up in a sweaty inferno.
Shit. He took the bar and curled it one-handed.
A$AP Rocky's sophomore release At. Long. Last. A$AP (RCA Records, 2015) is, at first glance, your average trap-heavy rap album. But the more you listen, the more you find the soul in its crannies. The record is brutal in all the right places. It's hard, sleek and bitterly honest. These aspects translate on stage to create a spectacle so far beyond what the average hip-hop show should accomplish that I was left, in the end, with a hole in my gut.
Perhaps the pile-driving bass was to blame. But I'm convinced, now, that greater forces were at work. A melding, let's call it, of potential and kinetic energies. An atmosphere of love and respect fostered over each dirty beat. Yes, the beats were dirty. But I have a penchant for language and word. Many factors make up a great show but, in the end, only one thing matters: the artist says what he means to say.
The set was really grooving along — a spitfire's pace — bangers and bangers of floor-shaking mayhem. But right there, at the crux of it all, with the crowd so alive in the palm of his hand that he physically moved the blood through our veins, Mayers decided to put things on pause. With mic poised, he laid bare his thoughts with a brief sermon about humanity. His message was this: Race, religion, color or creed, every human is striving, simply, just to exist. To feel alive. Also, let's be honest, smoking weed is pretty great. But more to the point, every one of us — male, female, blue, green or pink — deserves to be here, grasping this moment.
Shoulders back, chest protruding, arms flung wide in charged embrace, A$AP Rocky drew the arena into his heart from a spot some twenty feet in the air. Tier-two of his three-tiered stage — some kind of light-up hashtag, a tic-tac-toe of metal and lights. A hip-hop Fuck You to Hollywood Squares. Columns of steam rose into the rafters. My eyes twitched inside my skull. Then the lights went down.
When the lights go down, you feel for a second the gravitational pull of the earth. The soles of your shoes are held to the ground. Your knees buckle. The roar pitches up.
At long last, the bass returns.
Tyler, The Creator
The Union of Concerned Scientists has a new report out on their analysis of electric vehicles and how they perform over time in terms of pollution. This report deals with some questons that keep coming up, such as: What about the source of the electricity? Does it make sense to drive an electric vehicle powered by coal vs. solar or hydro power? The interactive website allows readers to make calculations depending on where they live. In all, it's good news for the electric vehicle industry.