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Tim O’Brien concert at Freight & Salvage Coffee House in Berkley

May 1, 2009

This is a follow up to my article from February (Tim O’Brien; the musician, not the author), when I “discovered” Tim.

My friend Joy and I went to see Tim O’Brien at the Freight & Salvage Coffee House in Berkley, CA tonight and it was fantastic.  Some of you know I just discovered Tim recently because I wondered who the vocal was on the first track of Steve Martin’s new banjo CD and I did some research and found more of his music and just loved it, I’ve since picked up most of his albums.

Tim is huge in Bluegrass, American Roots, Folk music and it’s beyond me how I never new of Tim before, but oh well.  Better late than never I reckon.  So, I checked out his tour schedule and Berkley was the closest he was getting to me, so a couple of days ago, I headed south from Lynden, WA, just south of the border, and arrived here in San Fran yesterday.  So, this post is for the Tim fans out there.

dscn6816Tim came out on stage playing a fiddle tune I didn’t recognize.  I later shot a pic of his play list on the stage floor during the intermission and the first song listed said Huntin, not sure if that referred to Let’s Go Huntin.  He did deviate from the play list a bit during the show, so I don’t know.  It didn’t sound like Let’s Go Huntin though.

Next was one of my favs from Chameleon, Father Forgive Me.  In the middle, he stopped singing but kept playing the guitar and said “Folks, I know I’m way out tune but there’s not much I can do about it at the moment” and he kept playing for a spell, then said “maybe it’s OK for the blues”, so he changed up the tempo and gave it a blues feel.  A few bars later he said “guess not”.  He eventually got back to the vocal and finished the song with an out of tune guitar, but I doubt most people would have noticed had he not said anything.

dscn6803Next up was Where’s Love Come From and half way in, he forgot the words and gave up.  I’m starting to think what the heck?  He apologized profusely and said he’d have to go back and listen to the record and then moved on to the next songs.  He did Hoss Race, The Garden, Red Dog in the Morning, Megna’s, Chameleon, World of Trouble, and Get Out There and Dance, all from Chameleon and they were all great.

dscn6809During the break is when I snapped a picture of his play list on the floor of the stage.  Tim, if you read this, the guy at the sound desk said it would be OK.  Of course, he deviated from the list quite a bit… Geez Tim, what’s the point then of… oh whatever.

He came out and joined the crowd a bit and took requests.  I had already written a note and on put it on top of his play list, yeah I really did, so I went and grabbed it and got his attention.  I shook his hand and introduced myself and gave my requests of Brother Wind, the slow version from Atlantic Sessions, and Daddy Played the Banjo.  Yeah, I know I know, it’s not Tim’s song, it’s Steve Martin’s but it’s the one that led me to Tim, so…  Anyway, we had a nice short chat I told him I was one of his newest fans.  At the beginning of the show, he told the audience he was from West Virginia, the part that sticks up between Ohio and Pennsylvania, the part he and his affectionately refer to as the middle finger.  So I told him that although I grew up in Ohio, much of my family is from WV and he asked me where.  I just said southwest of the finger.  He said he wasn’t sure if he could do Steve’s song, primarily because he couldn’t remember it.  Oh yeah, and since I was all blathering idiot like, he probably thought I was some sort of stalker or something.  Oh well.

He came back from the break and the first thing out of his mouth was “Well, I listened to the record”, everyone laughed and he proceeded to try Where’s Love Come From again and he got all the way through it, he redeemed himself and the audience gave him a little extra lovin.

While he’s tuning his instruments, which he does often, he tells pretty good jokes.  I wish I had payed more attention to them because I wanted to steal a few.  Oh well.  The only one I can remember; he did a segway into something regarding the inventor of the toothbrush being from West Virginia.  “He must have been from West Virginia” he said, “cause if he were from anywhere else, it would have been called a teethbrush”.

He did some other requests including Brother Wind, apparently I wasn’t the only one that wanted that one.  It wasn’t quite as slow as the Atlantic Sessions version nor was is as fast as the Rock In My Shoe version.  Somewhere in the middle, and he changed it up a bit, it was actually quite nice.  Other songs included Less and Less, a gorgeous rendition of Pretty Fair Maid in the Garden, a really fast Corn Bread Nation – even faster than normal if you can believe it, and an awesome Bob Dillon song Lay Down Your Weary Tune.  He also did Like I Used to Do for a couple that was celebrating their 50th anniversary (..the only thing I still do like I use to do – is carry this torch for you…).

Then he said “Maggie”.  “Maggie requested Daddy Played the Banjo” he said, and he plugged Steve’s album and explained why he couldn’t do it.  But then he said “Maggie’s from West Virginia and so this one goes out to Maggie”.  He kept using a lot of other words with my name but all I heard was “blah blah blah Maggie blah blah, blah Maggie”.  Joy had to fill in those other words for me.  He discussed this for a good two minutes.  He mentioned another couple of requesters by name, but only once; he mentioned mine four or five times… so… there’s that.  So, after “this one goes out to Maggie”, he sang Mountaineer is Always Free which just happens to be another of my favorites.  How about that?  Two months ago, I discover Tim O’Brien, get all his albums, I drive 900+ miles to see him and he sings me a song.  I looked over at Joy and I said “hey, he’s singing me a song”.  Daaaaannnggg!  This Tim guy… he’s alright.

dscn6805He wrapped it up with his fiddle and the old mountain tune Workin on a Building and he did a couple more in the encore with the last being Nothing to Say; seemed kind of apropos.  The place was packed and many were standing in the very back.  Early on, I got the impression that many were not that familiar with Tim and they seemed pretty subdued.  But in the second half, people started to lighten up a bit and get a little more rowdy.  As most of you know, Tim plays several instruments; tonight he put to work the fiddle, guitar (his own signature model Martin of course), banjo, and the bouzouki.  Missing in action were the mandolin and the mandocello.

Awesome night. Thanks Tim, great job, it was well worth the trip.

If you’d like to know more about Tim, visit his site at, tell him Maggie sent ya.

Actual play list courtesy of sfTimfan from the Tim O’Brien forum
Tim O’Brien (solo)
Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse
Berkeley CA Thursday 4-30-09
Set 1:

  1. Chinquapin Hunting (Fiddle instrumental) Thanks Earl
  2. Father Forgive Me
  3. Hoss Race
  4. Where’s Love Come From (abort)
  5. Pretty Fair Maid In The Garden
  6. Ragtime instrumental
  7. Megna’s
  8. The Garden
  9. Get Out There and Dance
  10. Red Dog In The Morning
  11. A World Of Trouble
  12. Wayfaring Stranger
  13. Phantom Phone Call

Set 2:

  1. Where’s Love Come From
  2. Brother Wind
  3. Less & Less
  4. Lay Down Your Weary Tune
  5. Cornbread Nation
  6. Like I Used To Do
  7. A Mountaineer Is Always Free
  8. Ireland’s Green Shore
  9. Foreign Lander
  10. Working On A Building
  11. Encore: All I Want Is To Go Back Home (New Tim)
  12. Nothing To Say

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Earl permalink
    May 7, 2009 12:55 pm

    The first tune was “Chinquapin Hunting” (it’s an instrumental.)

    • May 7, 2009 2:17 pm

      Thanks so much for that Earl, I was wondering. Hey, were you there?

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