The Darkest Night of The Year in Cinncinati

SO, IT’S BEEN A LONG YEAR

I haven’t been writing much. The events of September 11, 2001 rendered anything that I was concerned about pretty small, and there was certainly nothing that I could write that would make things right or comfort those who hurt. There haven’t been many things in life that made me truly, really speechless, but since then, I have been subdued.

So I stayed silent for a while.

EVERY NEW DAY BRINGS ONE MORE TEAR

Despite all of the sadness of the end of 2001, slowly joy returned. Thankfully, some things stayed the same. The leaves still turned the color of fire and fell to ground, exposing the beautiful hills around the Chattahoochee River. The train still rumbled through the middle of Vinings and children still stared wide-eyed and squealed with joy when the horn blew. I was blessed with friends and free time to wander all across north Georgia. Yes, there was good reason to be somber, but there were still reasons to smile, too.

‘TIL THERE’S NOTHING LEFT TO CRY

Thankfully, with Christmas always comes healing. This year was no different. This year, The Darkest Night of Year would occur in a river side city far from home. I would chase the band that inspired the original Darkest Night of the Year all the way to their very homes in Cincinnati. I would fly to Ohio and discover the very roots of Over the Rhine in the town named after the band.

Walking through Cincinnati really is like stepping into a black and white movie (I wish I could take credit for that quote.) In the winter the trees stand grey against the stone spires of old churches. My wife and I drove up and down the city finding all sorts of landmarks. We ate at the resturaunt filmed in the movie Rainman. We walked through Eden Park. We found the coffee shop where the majority of most of Over the Rhine’s early albums were written. We probably even drove past the third-story apartment mentioned so often in their songs.

We visited sleepy towns like Norwood, Blue Ash, Newport, Glendale, and Mount Adams. Oh, and we also saw a concert.

DARLING, CHRISTMAS IS COMING.

Over the Rhine at The Taft Theater, December 7, 2001

A lot of my friends wondered why I would fly to Cincinati to see a band. After all, why couldn’t I just wait until the band comes to Atlanta? Well, as I would explain, this is show is different. I had no idea how right I would be.

Tiny Erin McKeown opened first on guitar and then Nashville veterans Buddy and Julie Miller came on stage. I was surprised to find out that their self-titled album is their first. I was sure they had more albums than that.

Here’s who was there and how they looked: The band was the five-piece that I’ve seen a couple of times lately:

Linford was on stage right looking nice in a collared shirt and jeans. Looked like he had his keyboard in front and the Wurlitzer facing center stage. It also looked like he had a real Hammond organ behind him. I don’t think he takes this on tour, does he?

Karin looked sharp in a red dress and a backless, sparkly black top. Her hair was up. Karin played her accoustic guitar and played Linford’s keyboard for one song.

Jack was on stage left in his traditional garb. He’s got a nice short haircut that makes him look a little more like Kevin Bacon and a little less like Nick from Family Ties.

Behind Linford on stage right is Wade Jaynes, looking like he hasn’t shaved in a couple of days with his teal Fender bass.

In the back on stage left is Dale Baker. He’s behind the glass wall. Karin remarked that he plays a “tiny drum set” but that he gets a lot of noise out of it.

SET LIST:
If Nothing Else
When I Go
I Radio Heaven
Anything At All
Faithfully Dangerous
Darlin’, Christmas Is Coming
All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue
Silent Night
Moth
Curse These Dreams
Holy Rain
World Can Wait
Hello, Ohio
Green Clouded Swallowtail
Lucy
Miles
Helpless
—-
Jack’s Valentine
Pilgrim

The show started off by presenting most of the “Films For Radio” stuff.

If Nothing Else
When I Go
I Radio Heaven
Anything At All

Karin says she’s cool with bootlegs. Now you’ve gone and done it, Karin…

Faithfully Dangerous
The only Good Dog, Bad Dog so far! When was the last time you went to a concert and heard only _one_ song from this album?

Darlin’, Christmas Is Coming
When I was a little kid, my parents had a bunch of LP’s like “A Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers Christmas” Y’know, stuff like that. Always makes me remember Christmas when I was young. This song kinda of reminded me of that stuff, with an upbeat sort-of country kind of sound.

Kim Taylor joined the band on stage. She didn’t open for this concert, but she is opening for the rest of the tour. Linford shared a story about how Kim and her husband lived with Karin and Linford for about a year at “The Grey Ghost.” He has a strong belief that their first child was conceived at their house, but he didn’t know exactly where.

All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue
It was like being in a smoky lounge without the smoke.

Silent Night
The only Christmas hymn, save Buddy and Julie Miller’s wonderful rendition of “O Little Town of Bethelem”.

Moth
They stepped up the tempo on this one. It rocked.

Curse These Dreams
I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen Jack play an accoustic guitar. This is a song that Jack wrote (its on his new album, _Cheap Tattoo_), but Karin sang it.

Holy Rain
I was prepared to hear the worst from Jack’s voice. I’ve heard the MP3 and his voice was okay. I was pleasantly surprised that Jack’s voice was warm, even inviting tonight and it made the song (which I do like) even better. Great.

World Can Wait
Karin and Linford only. Linford on keyboard piano and Karin singing.

Hello, Ohio
Karin did this solo on Linford’s keyboard. I had never seen her perform a piece by herself and it was neat to see.

Green Clouded Swallowtail
Linford, Karin, and Jack only. Linford and Jack on accoustic guitar.

Lucy
Miles
Does anyone remember when Linford would do a little “rap” at the end of this song? This would’ve been about 8 years ago. No rap tonight, but this song is one of my favorites and it was cool to hear it again.

Helpless
A Neil Young cover, right? Everyone, Buddy and Julie Miller, Kim Taylor, and Erin McKeown joined the band on stage for this one. Is it just me, or did the song sound *exactly* like “Little Blue River?”
—-
Jack’s Valentine
Linford forgets the last verse of this one, but the crowd loved it. Jack played a little solo at the end.

Pilgrim
A cover of a Steve Earle song. Again, everyone joined the band.

I expected most of “Films For Radio” with a couple Christmas songs thrown in, but got much, much more. The whole show was full of wonderful surprises for me. Sure, this may have been “just another” Over the Rhine concert for most people, but for those of us who don’t live in the Midwest, this was special.

This was only the beginning of a wonderful weekend. We had a great deal of fun driving around Cincinnati and discovering Over the Rhine landmarks like Kaldi’s, Emery Theatre, Eden Park, etc. Wish we could’ve seen y’all at the brunch or at Uno’s, but there was just too much to do. Here’s hoping 2002 is great year for the band. Rumor is, they will be touring Europe as headliners…

SALVATION ARMY BELLS ARE RINGING

The days are now short and we’re on a downhill slide straight into Christmas. This really is my favorite time of the year. Everything is dark and mysterious. But there is hope everywhere. Doors of churches are always open. In downtown Marietta, the pipe organ competes with the horn of a freight train and everyone reaches for that high note in “O Holy Night”. Even in the malls you can still hear the name of Jesus over the speakers.

And that is what we call a miracle.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN ANGELS SINGING?

My sister graduated from college during this holiday season and that closed another chapter in my book. I spend many days driving up to Dahlonega to visit her and other friends at the foot of the mountains. Not very far from there, I asked a woman to share the rest of my life with me. (And wonder of wonders, she said yes.) So, it was with joy for my sister and sadness for not having a reason to go north anymore that I went to North Georgia one last time.

LET’S START A NEW YEAR

More changes are to come in 2002. Very soon, we’ll be buying a house. What a scary and intimidating idea. But there’s lots to be excited about. If I have it my way, we’ll be living somewhere between Lost Mountain and Kennesaw Mountain, where no doubt Civil War soldiers camped and marched on my very front yard. I can’t wait.

The days only become brighter from here…