Todd Snider seems to come to town every year around spring break for two nights of shows, and I’ve always missed him, but finally caught him last night. Snider is in his early 40s and has been playing for almost 20 years; is from Portland Oregon originally, started his career in Austin as a devotee of Jerry Jeff Walker, Kris Kristofferson, Bill Joe Shaver, and John Prine, and is based in Nashville these days. I have two of his albums, both really great, The Devil You Know and East Nashville Skyline (the latter a Dylan joke of course).
We (Sarah and Judith and I) couldn’t quite figure out who the audience was. It was probably the most enthusiastic and loving crowd I’ve experienced in long while — it seemed as if everyone but us knew most of the lyrics. There was a lot of singing along, shouting requests, and behavior like randomly standing up on a chair for a couple minutes in appreciation of a favorite song. Definitely not a college crowd (maybe he comes during spring break on purpose?), maybe libertarian, pot-smoking country music fans?
Probably the most obvious comparisons to Snider would be John Prine and Steve Earle (with a bit of Arlo Guthrie and James McMurtry). His songs are funny/witty with shaggy-dog elements and a populist/political edge, a few of them about stoned/drunken misbehavior ending up in the holding tank. He ambled on stage in bare feet, baggy jeans and preppy sweater and a crushed felt hat. Came on a bit like a street busker, inviting requests, chatting a lot.
This song seems like his theme — everyone sings along:
“Conservative Christian, right wing Republican, straight, white, American male.
Gay bashin’, black fearin’, poor fightin’, tree killin’, regional leaders of the South
Frat housin’, keg tappin’, shirt tuckin’, back slappin’ haters of hippies like me.
Tree huggin’, peace lovin’, pot smokin’, porn watchin’ lazyass hippies like me.
Tree huggin’, love makin’, pro choicen, gay weddin’, widespread diggin’ hippies like me.
Skin color-blinded, conspiracy-minded, protestors of corporate greed,
We who have nothing and most likely will ‘till we all wind up locked up in jails
By conservative Christian, right wing Republican, straight, white, American males.”
Here’s an interview — I was charmed by Snider’s explanation of his approach to his finances:
I have to admit that I’m pretty blind to all the money and everything. I’ve always given mine to this guy named Chuck. I went to the Jerry Lee Lewis school of music business. You can have my publishing for a bong hit and a ride back. Which some people may think makes me poorer than I should be…. A guy with a guitar doesn’t need a boat. What rich guy in his right mind, doesn’t want some drunk scamp with an acoustic guitar on his boat? …I got into music by giving up on that part of the world, and promised myself I’d keep it that way. I knew when I was 19 that I wanted to forget about money forever.
Here’s a video of Snider in a Nashville record store playing “You Got Away With It” a.k.a. “the Tale of two Fraternity Brothers”: