August 14th, 2006 5:33 pm | by BECKY OHLSEN Music | Posted In: Columns, Live Cuts, Columns

Richmond Fontaine, Aug. 12 at the Doug Fir Lounge

Richmond FontaineMan, I love this band, but they are bad for my health. I'd give my liver to write songs like Willy Vlautin. But nobody wants my liver. So I tend to pummel it instead, whenever I go see his band or play the records - soak the poor old thing in beer and whiskey and hope for the best.

My fascination with Richmond Fontaine is permanently intertwined with alcohol. I guess that's nothing strange. Most of the lost and broken souls in Vlautin's world are stuck in eternal wrestling matches with the demon booze—or seeking solace in its arms, maybe from heartache, or weakness or depression. There are songs you just can't take sober, and then there are songs that kick your ass out the door to the bar. Richmond Fontaine plays both kinds, and also the kind that make you want to creep off to some fetid hovel, paint the windows black and curl up around a gallon jug of rotgut for days. (Those are my favorite.) But last night they played at the Doug Fir, where a sip of whiskey costs you six bucks, and like anybody who writes for a living I am broke. So I accidentally spent the first two bands' sets at the Sandy Hut preparing. Which is too bad, because I really wanted to see Grand Champeen. I bet they were great. I'm an irresponsible, degenerate slob, and I'm sorry about that. But Richmond Fontaine made it not matter. They made it seem...kind of good to be that way. A bunch of cheap drinks and them, and that was almost everything I needed for the night.

I don't mean to say they wouldn't sound great on ginger ale. I just don't think of them that way. I mean, can you listen to the Pogues without getting smashed? No you can't, and why the hell would you. But unlike the Pogues, Richmond Fontaine can ruin me if I'm in a certain mood. Like booze, sometimes their songs wrap you up and comfort you, and sometimes the same songs turn you dark and mean. They can be dangerous, they can wreck your resolve and send you down those long ugly streets where you can't be followed. If you're lucky though, sooner or later one of those streets will lead you back home to your CD player, or the Sandy Hut, or the band's next show, wherever it may be, and you'll feel better.

Things I found written on my half-broken hand when I woke up this morning:

Willamette w/w-out band: This one's easy. Couple weeks back I saw Vlautin do a solo set at Mississippi Studios, opening for Jon Dee Graham. It was devastating and much too short for my liking. He sang "Willamette" and it was awesome and sad like it is on the record. But last night, with the whole band, that song was scary. Earthshaking. I think the thunderous bass did it. Cool.

Gits: About halfway down my thumb. They played this great song about the Gits and the sad fate of Mia Zapata; RF recorded it a little while back for a Hurricane Katrina benefit CD (info on their website).

Suitcase and 2 coronas: Self-explanatory - a case in the middle of the stage acted like a table, holding the beer. Why I recorded that fact I don't know.

No (or Me?) something something on: Sorry, clueless.

2 coronas and a (whiskey): The beers on the suitcase got company.

Dead Moon: As they have done many times before, the band people like to call "Americana" or, worse, "alt-country" thrashed the shit out of a Dead Moon song. Fuck yeah!

Richmond Fontaine:
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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