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October 24, 1997 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-24

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 24, 1997

Whiskeytown, Adams whirl into A2

By Anders Smith-Lindall
Daily Arts Writer
To some, Ryan Adams is a genius.
To others, he is a pariah. While these
positions are extremes, it is certain that
he is a controversial, compelling and
enigmatic figure.
Meet Ryan
Adams - singer, P 1
guitarist and chiefv
songwriter of
Whiskeytown (play-
ing the Blind Pig
tomorrow night).
Adams, 22, leads
a band that has released two critically
acclaimed albums (including the new
"Strangers Almanac") and is recognized
by many as the torchbearer of the bur-
geoning alternative-country scene. But
some fans believe that success has gone
to his head - and it's true that the band
has been unstable. Three of the six mem-
bers quit just two weeks ago in not the
first personnel shakeup in
Whiskeytown's brief history.
"This (success) is just as fucking baf-
fling to me as it is to anybody else,"
Adams said in a recent interview. "I've
been 100 percent excited and glad for


it, but it really came out of the blue."
This surprise success has been stressful,
Adams said. "It's a lot of pressure to put on
anybody and I think that those pressures
only help to create a weird, strange envi-
ronment," he said."You just try not to pay
any attention to it,
because if you think
E V I E W about it, then you're
gonna fucking drive
hiskeytown yourself crazy."
Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Through it all,
Blind Pig Adams tries to
with Citizens' Utilities maintain a sense of
perspective, but the

glare of the spotlight can have a distort-
ing effect.
"A lot of people put a lot of stuff on us,
saying we're 'gonna be the Nirvana of this
scene' and all that crap. I just kinda laugh
and go, 'You're kidding me, right?' I just
try to make sure the band is healthy. I try
not to read too much press on the band
because it might freak me out."
Much of that press has heaped effusive
praise on both band and songwriter.
Those who call Adams a genius point par-
ticularly to his lyrics, which illuminate a
dark landscape of confusion and loss.
While the album is far from flawless,

Adams shows flashes of an uncanny
ability to cut to the quick. He and the
band are at their best when the songs
and stories are stripped down - as in
the straightforward but heart-rending
"House On The Hill," the subtle, dev-
astating "Avenues" and this profound
but simple line from "16 Days": "I've
got 16 days; 15 of those are nights /
Can't sleep when the bedsheet fights /
It's way back to your side."
Those who view Adams as a villain
or pariah will say that his emotions
aren't always expressed only within the
confines of his songs, citing instances
like Whiskeytown's now-infamous per-
formance at Mac's Bar in Lansing this
past summer, when the band played a
short and sloppy set before storming off
the stage to a flurry of boos, curses and
even tomatoes lobbed by the crowd.
"I suppose a lot of (the Mac's audi-
ence) went to see their favorite band
and it turned into a band that they hated.
I can't blame them for that, but that was
honestly one of the times when there
was so much pressure on us as a band
and on me that I think that it got to be
too much," he said.
Such incidents, coupled with band

members' semi-public infighting and
rumored alcohol abuse, contribute to
the perception that Adams is a bad guy.
He is also quick to speak his mind, a
trait that can rub some the wrong way.
For instance, he is less than tactful
about his disdain for critics who he
feels do not respect the band.
"The Village Voice said something
like, 'Old 97's and Whiskeytown are
playing; you can be sure that they'll quit
doing this as soon as it's not profitable,"'
Adams said, relating a preview written
last week by legendary critic Robert
Christgau. "What an asshole. I was very
offended because I have been coming up
to New York with my bands since I was
18 years old ... three or four times a year,
sometimes more. We never went up there
to prove any point and then this fucking
Christgau wants to act like we just blew
into town last week."
To be sure, a profanity-laden indict-
ment of such a well-respected figure is
not usually the way to win fans. But
Adams is under tremendous pressure at
a young age.
Thrust unexpectedly into the intense
gaze of public scrutiny and subjected to
relentlessly high expectations, his per-

Ryan Adams, lead singer of "Whiskeytown," comes to the Blind Pig on Saturday.

sonal and interpersonal struggles have
been complicated and magnified to
ridiculous proportions.
Encouragingly, since parting ways
with former guitarist Phil Wandscher
- the chief protagonist in many of the
band's misadventures - in the shake-
up two weeks ago, Adams seems to
have reflected on his situation with
remarkable maturity.
"Whatever talk there might be of
how mature I am at 22, people have to
remember that there do come mis-
takes," Adams said. "I am not perfect.

It takes me a long time to learn how to
be comfortable in my situation.
"And I just couldn't be sorrier, I
could never be sorrier for playing a l
show for somebody that paid money o
go see something that they believed in
and then I'm not even believing in
myself. Those are the bad days; those
are the bummer days. That's what
makes next records, I suppose."
Ryan Adams is neither a genius nor a
pariah. He is a human being - at times
frighteningly talented, at times just plain

Raban treks through'
'Bad Land' tonight

By Jessica Eaton
Daily Books Editor
It all started when a friend
approached him with a copy of his
father's memoir; he wanted to know if
his. father's book, memories of home-
steading in eastern Montana in the early
1900s, might have
a chance at publi-
cation. Jonathan PR
Raban, a British Jon
travel author, read
the manuscript as a
favor to his friend,
just to give him his
opinion. He was riveted by the descrip-
tions of the stark, unfamiliar landscape,
and suddenly he was planning a trip to
visit the state of Montana. Within a day
of his arrival, Raban knew that this was
a book that he wanted to write himself.
"Bad Land: An American Romance"
is the product of that decision. "Bad
Land" investigates in gritty detail the
recent history of this area of eastern
Montana and its socio-economic rise and
fall. The story is well known to students
of American history - in 1909,
Congress offered 320-acre tracts of
Montana farmland to anyone willing to
claim them, and with the financial back-
ing of the railroad companies, produced
brochures and color advertisements lur-
ing people west. The life as a property
owner on a country farm was an incredi-
ble dream for many people, and they
eagerly emigrated into Montana ... only
to be left at their train station with noth-
ing but a view of a landscape "almost as


alien as the surface of the moon."
In a recent interview, Raban
described the present-day landscape
the settlers' ruined dreams in a tone
mournful solemnity. "The dead far out-
number the living. Their houses, their
rusted farm machinery, their now-
ruined fences
stretching across
EVIEW what is mostly
than Raban empty rangeland,
Tonight at s p.m. with a few cattle
shaman Drum grazing in the dis-
Free tance. There is.
the surface of tl
land the rotten remains of a whole
hopeful human civilization."
"Bad Land" leaps between the
researched stories of the original home-
steaders' journals and Raban's personal
experiences visiting the present-day
towns. Montana has evolved from the
land of the American Dream to the land
of the Unabomber, the land of economic
desperation at its worst, and yet it remains
a land full of people fiercely proud a4
ready to defend their position in life.
This is Steinbeck's "The Grapes of
Wrath" rewritten, only it is easier to
relate to. It is the story of modern human
existence on the basest level, and only an
author such as Raban could recreate the
land's beauty without resorting to senti-
mentality. This is not a book about histo-
ry, or about economic struggles oreven
about people. It is a book about the prid
of America. Listening to Raban's exW
riences this evening at ShamaniDrum
will be an opportunity not to be missed.

The University of Michigan
School of Music
Friday, October 24
Symphony Band
H. Robert Reynolds, conductor
Hill Auditorium, 8 p.m.
Guest Recital
Xiang Gao, violin; Howard Watkins, piano
* music by Bach, Paganini, Schumann, Paik, Saent-Saens
Britton Recital Hall, E.V. Moore Bldg., 8 p.m.
Saturday, October 25
Dance Department Guest Artist Series
Coco Fusco and Nao Bustamante, choreographers
* Stuff, a performance art work
Betty Pease Studio Theatre, 8 p.m.
Tickets $8; students & senior citizens $5 (313) 763-2584
Sunday, October 26
Halloween Concerts
University Symphony & Philharmonic Orchestras
Kenneth Kiesler and Pier Calabria, conductors
Hill Auditorium, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
[remaining tickets $5] (313) 764-0450
Monday, October 27
Composers Forum
" new music by composition students
Britton Recital Hall, E.V. Moore Bldg., 8 p.m.
Tuesday, October 28
Piano Department Forum Lecture
"Claudio Arrau: Musical Tradition and the Lineage from
Beethoven" by Daniela Ballek and Agathe Wanek
(The Mainzer Klavier Duo)
Britton Recital Hall, E.V. Moore Bldg., 11:30 a.m.
University Choir
Sandra Snow, conductor
* music by Argento, Parker, Walker, Britten, Kulesha, Ramnsh
Hill Auditorium, 8 p.m.
Guest Recital: Mainzer Klavierduo from Germany
* music by Brahms, Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc
Britton Recital Hall, E. V. Moore Bldg., 8 p.m.
Wednesday, October 29


- ma I m-l w IN-I-



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