Marshall Crenshaw

Took the Blue Line to Springfield after work, where Gordon picked me up and drove us to Vienna VA. I haven’t lived in VA for a long time, apparently, since I couldn’t think of how one should go to get from Springfield to Vienna. I would have hopped on the Fairfax County Parkway for lack of a better idea.

Gordon wisely took 495 to 66 to Vienna. We would have been to the show in a little better time but for Maple Ave being completely shut down for a stretch of a few blocks. We had to detour and sit in traffic on the side streets for precious minutes. When we finally arrived at Jammin’ Java it was standing room only.

But as we stood there, me feeling sorry for us while Gordon was proactively putting together broken chairs sitting by the soundboard, I saw a man in the aisle gesturing to a woman sitting down. Looked to me like he’d found better seats and was trying to get her to come along with him to them. So when she stood up, I asked her, “Moving on to greener pastures?” She was indeed, so I grabbed the vacant seats. I looked around for Gordon, who seemed to have quite impressively built like a ziggurat of parts into some actual seating, and he abandoned his construction and came and sat down.

Gordon stayed and saved my seat for me while I went to rustle up dinner. The barmaid looked about fourteen. The guy at the register maybe seventeen. But they had turkey sandwiches and Sam Adams. I brought Gordon his beer while waiting for the sandwiches to be made. I finished my beer while waiting for the sandwiches to be made. I got another beer while waiting for the sandwiches to be made. They came out just as the lights were going down.

I had been to Jammin’ Java once before, to see Peter Case. For that show there were tables set up, so there were like thirty or so people there tops. And some young dude opened the show, and seemed like there were a lot of groupie chicks there just to see him, so it even emptied out a bit before Peter Case played. For Marshall Crenshaw there weren’t any tables, just rows of chairs. And Marshall himself came out right away. No opening act, although he did announce a few minutes later that management had asked him to split the show into two parts. So there would be an intermission anyway.

He opened with There She Goes Again, saying it was from way back, “back from day one,” he said. I don’t remember the rest of the setlists, but he also at some point played Something’s Gonna Happen, Fantastic Planet of Love, Mary Anne, Someday Someway, Cynical Girl, and You’re My Favorite Waste of Time. Whenever You’re on My Mind, too, maybe. Some covers as well: Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown, a Buddy Holly song something like Annie is Working the Midnight Shift, two Gene Pitney songs – Love My Life Away (Marshall said that used to close his shows with this, back when he played with his brother at CBGBs) and Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa (apparently written by Burt Bacharach). Some newer stuff I didn’t know: Sunday Blues and a sweet song, about moving into a new place, called Twenty-Five Forty-One. Maybe Gordon will remember if I’ve missed anything.

The crowd was old, like us, although they started trickling out before the show was over, while we toughed it out. We started worming our way up closer as people bailed on their seats. We had started out in the 8th row, towards the side wall, but ended up like in the 3rd row on the aisle for the last song. We could only see his head from way in back, but up close we could see that he was playing a beautiful old hollow-body Gibson, itself patched into a little Fender amp, which amp had a microphone in front of it. He sang into a mic as well, of course, but there was another one down by his foot, to amplify his foot tapping for percussion I guess. It was his left foot, I noticed, because the shoe on his right foot for some reason didn’t have any laces.

2 thoughts on “Marshall Crenshaw

  1. My friend Jarratt and I saw every Marshall Crenshaw show in DC or the nearby vicinity from 1982 through 1990. Marshall had such energy, promise and hair back in ’83. He slowly lost all of the above. It was sad to see him go from the “next big thing” to “one hit album wonder.” He was still great, but when “Whenever You’re on My Mind” wasn’t the radio smash that it should have been, it seemed to me that it broke his spirit somewhat.

    Later, when I caught a few of his shows in the mid-1990s, Marshall seemed somewhat depressed at times. That’s pretty much why I stopped going to his shows. It was hard to enjoy it if he wasn’t enjoying it. At some point touring seemed to be a grind.

    I think Marshall always puts on a better show when he’s playing off against other musicians. As the 1980s became the 1990s and record sales and what airplay he once got were dwindling, full-band shows became less frequent.

    It’s a shame that so much crap makes it on the radio, and a guy like Marshall Crenshaw toils in near-obscurity. He’s made a lot of great music, much of which is mentioned in the set list, above. I particularly loved the harder rockin’ sound of his album “Life’s Too Short,” which included “Fantastic Planet of Love,” “Better Back Off” and “Don’t Disappear Now.” That’s the last Crenshaw album that I bought, or that I heard in its entirety, except maybe for that cool collection of b-sides and stuff. I don’t know the name of it, but when I saw the cover photo of Marshall standing in front of Sun Records in Memphis, I had to snap it up.

    So, how was Marshall’s mood during your show? I imagine that he’d be quite miffed by the lame folks who ducked out early. Gimme a break. Wish I could have been there with you guys. Sounds like a fun night out. And I sure woulda stayed till the end.

  2. I have to say my take on the setlist differs slightly from Edward’s. I remember it going more like this:

    Set one

    There She Goes Again
    Fantastic Planet of Love
    19th Nervous Breakdown
    Cynical Girl
    Alone in a Room
    Truly, Madly, Deeply
    Sunday Blues
    Something’s Gonna Happen
    (I Wanna) Love My Life Away
    24 hours from Tulsa

    Set two

    Someday, Someway
    Dime a Dozen Guy
    Mary Anne
    From Now Until Then
    What Do You Dream Of?
    Will We Ever Love Again
    You’re My Favorite Waste of Time
    Long and Complicated
    Not For Me (audience request)
    Whenever You’re On My Mind


    Midnight Shift
    Television Lights

    Can’t swear that this is exactly right but it is as close as I can come up with. Wish you had been there with us Paul!

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