Aplscruf's Music Blog

Todd Snider and the Nervous Wrecks 2.2009

This journal was written in February, 2009. The TSNW show ranks as one of my top three concerts of all-time. Please note, this is a personal journal, written within a few hours after the shows. The rest of the details were added after returning home, without many revisions to grammar or content. I’ve inserted brackets just recently with additional information. I do not have the exact titles to some of the songs I have listed, nor exact quotes from the people we met at the shows.

Concert Season 2009

Thursday, February 12 – Sunday February 15

John Ascuaga’s Nugget, Sparks, NV

Todd Snider and the Nervous Wrecks – Including Will Kimbrough on guitar, Paul Griffith on drums, Joe Mariencheck on bass, David Zollo on keyboards 

Todd Snider with Will Kimbrough

Good Lord. Finally. After at least 3 years of wanting to see a Nervous Wrecks show, we did it. Unfortunately, it had to be in Sparks, the bastard step-child of the bastard step-child (Reno) of Vegas. Sparks is a very ugly, ugly town, but the people are so nice. The band made up for the disappointing destination by playing two amazing shows on Friday and Saturday night.

Room With A View: Sparks, NV

It was crazy busy the week we left; we had to deposit the boy, board the dog, pack the luggage, etc. We took a prop plane (Bombardier Q-400–same kind of plane that crashed earlier in the week in NY) which I wasn’t thrilled about; but we had a smooth flight, and got down there in less than 2 hrs. The landing was perfect! There was a big picture of Todd from his Devil You Know album along the wall of the airport to advertise the shows at the Nugget. Yay, Todd!

It was about 3:00 by the time we got into our room at the Nugget. Smoky, 80’s, gross. The room was decorated less tackily than the rest of the casino, because it was in a recently renovated section of the hotel. I just hate cigarette smoke and casinos. Gag me. But…I had to buck up, knowing I’d finally see Will and Todd together!

We decided to get in a workout before dinner, which was a nice way to unwind. They had a small gym and pool area on the 5th floor. We then ate at Trader Dick’s tiki bar/restaurant. The food was a fairly good Polynesian/Asian variety, and I had a totally strong drink! It was pretty much all vodka and one drop of cranberry juice. I settled down after that, but I could feel my nerves getting the best of me when we were walking around the casino. I kept thinking I’d run into Will or Todd somewhere, so I kept my eyes peeled. Alas, nothing. P tried his hand at a couple of slots (I hate gambling) and then we went up to the room and watched Pineapple Express, which was sooo funny! I think we were in bed by 10:00. Long day.

Feb 13 Friday

In the morning we went downstairs for a café style breakfast. The place was packed because there was a construction school convention at the hotel. I think we were the only people not there for the convention! We then decided to wander around. We stepped outside, and although sunny at first, it later started to snow. It was cold and windy. We walked across the street where there was a boarded up casino. I was hoping to do some shopping, but everything surrounding it was closed except for a couple of restaurants and taverns. Really ugly city. We walked back, a little disappointed and wondered what to do next.

We then decided to taxi into Reno. We found a nice taxi driver who took us to the only location worth(?) seeing in Reno. There are 3 casinos in the strip that are linked together: Circus Circus, Silver Legacy, and Eldorado. So we leisurely walked through, but found no fancy stores like the Forum in Vegas, so we kind of laughed at our white trash weekend. Apparently, mullets never went out of style. It was really a sad, depressed town.   We did find a nice brewery called Brews Bros and had a good lunch and ale. That was pretty much the highlight. We walked a few blocks, but most of the casinos had been boarded up, including Fitzgeralds, which had a sign taped to the window that said, “Casino Closed. Good Luck.” We stayed there with P’s parents about 15 years ago, and it was packed. Bummer. Reno was like a ghost town. We took a taxi back and tried to figure out what to do with ourselves. I was starting to get nervous now!

Not sure what we did next. Maybe watched TV, hung out, then took showers and got ready for dinner. We went back to Trader Dick‘s. Heading over to the show room, I could feel my heart flutter. But alas, no one was doing a meet-n-greet tonight. I just kept telling myself not to expect anything, just go and watch the show!

David Zollo on Keys with Todd Snider

Our seats were way over on the right, but right against the stage. We were near the keyboard player, a bare-footed David Zollo. I knew Will would probably be on the opposite end, which was a bummer. I immediately got cold from the blowing air conditioning, so P was nice enough to go get my sweater. By the time he got back, the lights dimmed, the curtain rose, and there they were! Todd, floppy hat, rolled up jeans, bare feet, navy blue grandpa cardigan and checked shirt. Will on Todd’s right, opposite side of us, in a vintage short sleeve black cowboy shirt and black skinny jeans, shorter hair (good for him, he was starting to look like Weird Al! ha) then the bass player Joe on Todd’s left. The drummer, Paul Griffith, was way in the back, and I hardly got a shot of him. They came out ready to P-L-A-Y!!

Todd Snider and The Nervous Wrecks

Set list, not in order except first 2 songs:

Bass Player

Good News Blues

DB Cooper

Prelude to a Heart Attack-Todd said he was inspired to write this because he had empathy for the guy in the car in front of him at the drive thru who was yelling at the kid running the drive thru window. Todd thought that man must have had a bad day. He had a much more expensive car than Todd, too. What kind of day would he have to have to yell at the kid at the drive thru?

If Tomorrow Never Comes

The Devil You Know

Train Song

Conservative Christian…

Alright Guy-Prelude to this song included a story about meeting Slash at a fancy hotel in LA. Slash was at the bar wearing a Metallica baseball cap backwards, nothing else but the kind of track shorts that Richard Simmons and people in the beginning of soft porn movies might wear. And 16-17 necklaces, 16-17 bracelets, anklets, and even around his waist he had 16-17 waist-lets! [Todd tells the story much better, with much more humor, and adds some additional information regarding recording contracts, etc. Go see his show and you’ll get a good laugh]

The Full Band Experience

Easy Money

Side Show Blues

Is This Thing On

Ode to Michael Phelps

Todd said he’d be out here playing this sh** till they have to wheel him out on stage in a wheel chair, and he’d be playing for our kids.

He also told a story about meeting Bill Elliott, the Nascar driver. Turns out the guy they thought was Bill was an impostor, but by that time he had signed his name all across the front of Todd’s guitar and ate all their backstage food! Todd said he’s still trying to decide if the impostor was his enemy or his hero!

I’m sure there were more songs in there. There were definitely more funny stories. The place was packed; many of the convention guys were there, too, so it seemed pretty rowdy. Some women next to us were locals and knew all the words and got up and danced next to us. The tables and chairs were crowded all around us, so it was hard to get out to an open spot. I was feeling a little shy about doing that anyway. They ended up standing on their chairs!

This other nice couple in front of us looked like they’d never seen Todd before, judging by the way they were reacting to his stories and songs. It was a joy to watch them act surprised, then burst out laughing.

Todd stopped a few times to ramble, including his speech that is on Peace Queer that talks about how his friends have told him that lately his songs seem to be more Opinionated. He writes them because they rhyme. He’s not trying to change your mind about anything; he’s trying to ease his own mind about everything!

I’ve heard Todd 3 other times over the last 3 years, but he was always solo. It was so amazing to hear him with a full band perform my favorite songs. We have never met the Elusive Mr. Todd Snider. Even at small venues like the Tractor, he does a final wave to the crowd and he’s out the back door. [We did sneak back to his tour bus after one show, but I’ll save that for another blog…]

And Will was a f***ing Guitar God. I told P that, too, and he agreed! Will had tons of solos, and he jammed on every single one. Amazing. Alien. Other-Worldly. I only wish we were on the other side of the stage.

I finally got out of my chair and danced along. I wish I could’ve danced right in front of the stage!! The room was full of energy, and the band picked up speed as they reacted to the crowd. It seemed like it ended too soon. They came out for an encore, and then the curtain went down for good.

We didn’t know what to do next. Would they come out? Not sure. So we hung around in the lobby, talked to some really nice locals that come every year. Met the t-shirt guys. The older one with long gray hair told us all about doing the t-shirts for west coast shows, mostly Cal and Reno, not WA. He was really nice, pretty drunk, but gave us good tips on shows not to miss, the best being the Not-All-Bluegrass [not exact title] show at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. A free show, 70 bands, including Todd (I think he’s solo), the Gourds, Emmylou Harris, etc. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss rocked it with Zeppelin tunes last October!

After about 45 minutes of hanging around and realizing they were not coming back, we decided to leave. I just figured that as a group, they probably stick together more and are sequestered to backstage. Bummer. I almost felt angry that we had come all that way and weren’t able to even talk to any of them. I kept telling myself I expected too much. Just enjoy the show. The reason we were here is to have a good time together and to see two awesome shows. And we did, so I can’t complain.

P was visibly bored hanging around, and we were both getting hungry. We went back to the room, ordered a big hamburger to share, and munched down!

I didn’t sleep real well that night. I think I fell asleep fast, but the air conditioner kept kicking on, and we could hear the freeway below, even though we were on the 27th floor! Not very good insulation. We could also hear trucks backing up all am, either food service or maybe for the construction convention. There was also a rail yard on the other side, and we could hear the trains pull in and out.

Feb 14 Saturday Valentines Day

We tried to sleep in, and stayed in bed till about 8:30. I gave P a funny Valentines card. We didn’t know what to do today. Went to a breakfast buffet. We noticed all the workers here are so nice. The buffet was pretty good, and we managed to stuff ourselves and get some good coffee.

Back at the room we checked on rental cars, but no one wanted to rent one to us for just one day! They must lose money. Dang. We decided to see if a movie was playing across the street at the big theatre, the only thing open besides the sparse taverns and restaurants. We ended up being just in time for the movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson. It was very suspenseful, very low-budget 007. Afterward, we were starving, so we went to In-N-Out Burger for our traditional hamburger feast [There is an unwritten law in Washington State that if one leaves the state and enters another where there is an In-N-Out, one must partake in a burger, fries and shake]. It was sooo cold outside and windy again. Everything was gray/brown, desolate, deserted, dirty. Ugly, ugly town. Had a brisk walk back to our hotel to take showers.

As we were walking through the casino, lo and behold, there was Will walking toward us!  We introduced ourselves, but didn’t talk long. We were all a bit tired after last night’s show. We told him we’d walked around town and into Reno yesterday, and how much of a ghost town it was. I told him we enjoyed the show, and that we’d seen Todd 3 times before, but never with a full band, and that was just magical (musically orgasmic, I thought). He seemed happy about that. Talked about how the audience seemed rowdy, and that lots were there for the convention. I also told him we met some really nice locals here. He said they were planning to switch out the songs and play some different ones for tonight’s show. I was glad to hear that, and was looking forward to another night. He had to go rehearse, so he said goodbye. Now I was ready to enjoy the second show, and wasn’t too worried about if we’d see them afterward. I was amazed that we ran into him in such a big place.

Well, it was Valentine’s Day, and we thought we should make dinner reservations. How stupid of us to wait until 3:00 to make reservations!! Of course every restaurant in the place was booked. We had to eat downstairs at a deli. We sat in a booth next to the smoke-filled betting room, where there were people over 75 playing keno and betting on horses. Disgusting, but the sandwiches were ok. We got outta there quickly. How romantic!

Will and Todd


This was all about variety. He played a few from last night, but seemed like he played a ton more this night.

Set list (not in order, except for first 2 again)

Conservative Christian


Train Song

Easy Money

DB Cooper

B-EE-RR-U-N [pronounced B double E double R-U-N]

Hey Hey Hey

Horseshoe Lake

If Tomorrow Never Comes

Prelude to Heart Attack



Alright Guy

A 50’s song

Folsom Prison Blues

Good News Blues

Double Wide Blues

The second show was even more packed than the first, even though the conventioneers had checked out that morning. The crowd seemed more quiet and behaved, but then got a little rowdier as the night wore on, and everyone sang along. Not as much on-the-chair dancing. I did get up this time and danced to several songs. I just couldn’t help myself! Will rocked again, and again I was disappointed I couldn’t get a very good angle with my camera. Mostly took pics of the bass player and a side view of Todd.

Bass: Joe Mariencheck

Again, there were some nice people around us. One guy and his wife and friend sat in front of us and commented how tight the seating was. We were all hoping no one would sit in between us because there was literally no room to sit at our table in any kind of comfortable manner. He was nice, and later we met up with them at Dick’s. The couple behind us forgot their camera and asked me to send pics later. He gave me his business card, and I have since sent him a few pics. He was real nice too, and wrote back that they also might go to the Bluegrass Fest. He thought Todd’s show was the best concert he’d ever seen.

Afterward, we met up with David Zollo, the keyboard player, and I told him it was such a pleasure to watch a full band show, and that he was in my iPod, so he must’ve done some session work with Will, etc. He said he does, and that he is from Ohio, so he just meets up with them when they need him. He was very appreciative and thanked us for coming out from Seattle.

We then went over to the younger t-shirt guy, who was very friendly. We asked if we could get our son’s Peace Queer t-shirt signed, but he said it wasn’t up to him, and told us to talk to the guy in the green shirt, cuz he runs the place. The guy in the green shirt said they are probably not going to come out right now. Another guy was talking about Wayne Newton, who was supposed to play there on Sunday. He said Mr. Newton has had so many facelifts, his penis is now the size of a clitoris! Ha I think he’s the same guy who also said, after I’d said I was hoping Tommy [Womack] would have joined them, that Tommy would probably never be a part of their band again, because…”he never wanted to be a f***in’ side man for anyone!” So, after hanging around again, we decided to just leave. I was disappointed again, and didn’t quite know what to do.

P needed to get some more cash before heading back up to the room and depositing our stuff. We were trying to decide if we should come back down to the casino. While doing so, here comes the t-shirt guy, who told us to stop by Dick’s because they were going to meet for a little party there. I got excited then! Yay, something to do! We stopped back by the room and dropped off our stuff, fixed the makeup.

At Dick’s, the people had gathered in front of the tiki bar.  They pushed some tables together. We didn’t know what to do exactly, since they all seemed to know each other; so we sat at the bar behind them and ordered a steaming (dry-ice effects) volcano drink. The t-shirt guy was trying to take pics of us, but we were goofing around and laughing. I saw him look back at what he’d taken, and kind of grimace! Ha I felt self-conscious, and wanted him to take a better shot of us in case it ends up on his Facebook site or something! He asked if we wanted to join him at the table, so we did. He was from Michigan. The group is kind of an unofficial fan network. They were all so nice. The couple next to us, T and L, were from Bellingham! So we had fun comparing Todd stories. L is a lot like me, a true married groupie. T and P bonded and talked about their crazy wives.

The guy that was in front of us at the show was there with wife and dentist friend. The guy told a story about seeing Todd at Reindeer Lodge…I kept fading in and out of the conversations because I was distracted looking around for the band. The guys said the band might come down there, and that they did last night!! Darn!! I was pissed I missed them. Anyway, the one guy talking about Reindeer Lodge…I interjected that we saw him there, meaning I saw the guy at our show that night. He thought I meant we remembered seeing him at Reindeer Lodge, and that we were getting engaged at the time. I said, “Huh?” He said, “Huh?” Then he realized he was mixing me up with some other couple, and then I told him I meant he sat in front of us at the show tonight! Too funny. He also told a story about seeing Todd at the lodge back in the mid-90’s. He said Todd was so out of it that he ran into a lodge pole that cut thru the middle of the stage and hit his head. He was out cold; end of show!

Then L was trying to get my attention and asked my name. I was staring out into space. Finally, I said, “Huh? Oh! I’m [aplscruf]!” They must’ve thought I was on drugs! Just distracted.

Then Will and the drummer Paul showed up. I kept my cool, kept seated.  I stayed in my seat while L greeted them with hugs. I was secretly envious that she knew them so well! They were standing there talking for about 5 minutes. T finally said, “Go talk to them!” as he knew I was a groupie wife like his own.

I walked over among the crowd of mostly men that gathered around them. I tried to keep my cool and not act too stupid, but I felt awestruck being in the presence of such musical greatness! Other people would come and go and talk too, but in between I tried to keep asking questions. Before I left for the trip, I was going to memorize a bunch of questions, but I thought that would be too disappointing if I never got to see them. So I just winged it.

I asked Will about his recent European tour with Rodney Crowell.  I also asked about his upcoming Australian tour and what cities he would be visiting. I enjoyed hearing about his tour experiences. I told Will that I found out about him through listening to Radio Margaritaville while bored at work. [I found that Radio Margaritaville is a great way to beat the work grind blues] Will has written several songs for Jimmy Buffett and has recorded and toured with him. He told us the story of how he was connected with the Buffett family and how that led to meeting Todd and the other musicians.

[I love hearing about the organic connections that musicians move through from one point to another in their careers. One introduction leads to a gig or a chance to do a session, which leads to more introductions, and the musical possibilities expand, leading to more creativity, more artistic freedom.]

One of the guys asked me why I would come all the way from Seattle just to see a show! I told him, ‘Well, some of us are born to be on the stage, and some of us are born to be in the audience!” I believe they got a kick out of that answer.

They also said I should buy Will a drink, but I didn’t have my purse with me. I told him I would, but P has all of our money! They laughed. What I should have told them was, well, I purchased every one of Will’s albums including the Bushmen and Daddy as well as several of Todd Snider‘s, Jimmy Buffett‘s, and Rodney Crowell‘s albums; I bought their t-shirts and spent many minutes explaining to several people, including a tipsy Alaskan Native in Ketchikan who the hell Will is and why he’s an alien; I paid a guitar instructor to not only teach me how to play Closer to the Ground but also to transcribe it to sheet music; I spent eight hours on the road driving to Coos bay with my 10-year-old son and a chaperone friend on his last leg–literally (he’s an amputee), to see Will and Rodney Crowell play at Music on the Bay and then turned around and drove home the next day; I purchased concert tickets, airline tickets and a hotel room in the Worst City in the World just to come watch him play in the Nervous Wrecks; therefore, I believe he should buy ME a drink!! [Looking back at this paragraph, I realize I am truly a groupie. Or a stalker. Or both. Good Lord.]

P said Reno is the bastard step-child of Vegas. Will said, “Well, then Sparks must be…” and we all said together, “…the bastard step-child of the bastard step-child…”

We continued to talk with the other fans and also met the sound engineer, Michael Romanowski, who lives in Oakland. Michael recorded the shows both nights, and I guess they did some other individual recording while they were there. Very nice man. He just moved to Oakland area. We told him about how we have relatives in Oakland.

We then went over to talk to Paul “Grifter” Griffith, the drummer. I think someone introduced us, and he told me something complimentary. How sweet! He’s also extremely funny and very talented. He shared some hilarious stories. He asked us what we did, so we told him about our current jobs and somehow got on the subject of teaching, and we told him about being ex-teachers of at-risk and special education students. He asked about Seattle, and if we like it. I said it’s great, except for 3 months out of the year! I want to write the Great American Novel so I can leave an go somewhere warm for the winter. He got all excited and said he wrote a novel last year. He said to go on Harlequin.com, because they’re looking for romance novelists all the time! P told him how I write journals about every trip, concert, etc. and have pages and pages of them. Paul said I should start my own blog.[…and so I did! Thanks, Paul!] I told him I was Technologically Impaired. Ha He liked that one!  Paul said he hardly knows the songs Todd does from the mid-90’s. I asked, “Don’t you rehearse?” He said, “No, we did a sound check, but today we played Steve Miller Band!” Ha Amazing that he can just figure it out. He’s that good!

We then decided we’d better get our butts to bed. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and left. But instead of heading straight to our room, we went out for pancakes at the diner. Yum!

A Musically Orgasmic Evening!! I didn’t sleep all night due to the adrenaline rush of getting to chat with my musical heroes!

Flew home Sunday afternoon, back to reality.

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Americana, Concert Season 2009, Music, Todd Snider, Will Kimbrough | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments