No Surf Music


The No Surf Review


The Lowdown:

Todd Snider

Based In:
East Nashville, TN



Live: The Storyteller

Release Date:
February 1, 2011

Aimless Records

Previous Releases:
Songs for the Daily Planet (1994), Step Right Up (1996), Viva Satellite (1998), Happy to Be Here (2000), New Connection (2002), Near Truths and Hotel Rooms (2003), East Nashville Skyline (2004), The Devil You Know (2006), Peace Queer (2008), The Excitement Plan (2009)

Americana,, folk, crazy-ass hippie storytelling


Related Articles:

Todd Snider, Live: The Storyteller album art

Rating: 9 out of 10



May 7, 2011


Todd Snider: Live: The Storyteller

by Jason D. 'Diesel' Hamad


Pictured: Todd Snider

Todd Snider: poet, class warrior, social conscience of a generation, dirty, pot smoking barefoot hippie, my kinda dude. Photo by Todd Purifoy.

In the realm of great concert experiences, there are four main types:

First are those artists of whom you are simply in awe to be so near, such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson or Lucinda Williams. Even if he did nothing else but walk out on stage, take a giant dump and leave, you can still tell your grandkids on your deathbed that you smelled Willie’s asshole from the fourth row and your whole life would have been worth it.

Second are the technical masters like Rush or Yes, who leave you wondering how it is physically possible for human beings to play that kind of insanity. You spend days just trying to figure out how Geddy Lee can pick a bass like a banjo, how Alex Lifeson makes a guitar soar that high without actually launching it into orbit, or how Neal Peart can play a twenty minute drum solo without his arms falling off.

Third are the absolute ass kickers, like Old 97’s, Drive-By Truckers or Ha Ha Tonka. Not only are these shows just pure fun, but they are tributes to human endurance and force of will where the performers excite the very molecules of their bodies to a fever pitch and expel every single ounce of energy on the stage, leaving themselves and the audience in a post-orgasmic state of complete deflation in the afterglow.

Forth are the performers who just make a show fun. They may not be holy figures, they may not be musical savants, they may not leave the stage in a sweaty heap, but they have a knack for engaging the audience in their own quirky way and absolutely forcing them to have a really good time. For my money, in this category there are two masters: Robbie Fulks and Todd Snider.

Snider, that self-described tree-huggin’, peace-lovin’, pot-smokin’, porn-watchin’, lazy-ass hippie, has a style all his own. His storyteller persona is legendary. He walks onto stage alone—barefoot and wearing a big, floppy, wide-brimmed hat with tufts of hair haphazardly sticking out behind his ears—slings his guitar over his shoulder and promptly (or not so promptly, if he feels like playing a few songs first) informs the audience:

My name is Todd Snider. I’ve been drivin’ around this country for more than 15 years. I make these songs up and I sing ‘em for anybody that’ll listen to ‘em. Some of ‘em are sad, some are funny, some are short, some’ll seem like they’ll go on forever. Sometimes I may ramble on for as much as 18 minutes in between a particular song. I wanna let you know that I also might share some of my opinions with you over the course of the evening. I’m not gonna share them with you ‘cause I think they’re smart or ‘cause I think you need to know ‘em; I’m gonna share ‘em with you ‘cause they rhyme.

Having issued this informal legal disclaimer, he gets right down to business, telling those stories, singing those songs, changing the lyrics around (sometimes on purpose, sometimes because he’s just too stoned to remember his own words), and just generally being himself.

One day, barely fifty hours before the dawning of the year 2011, Snider walked onto the stage of the Beachland Ballroom, somewhere east of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Halfway through the show, he broke into one of his most well-known songs, “Alright Guy.” Where the original stated “I was lookin’ at that new book with pictures of Madonna naked./ I was checking it out,” he inserted:

I was lookin’ at them pictures of LeBron James naked
And I thought… I thought it would be bigger than that…
I just thought of that just now.
I’m sure there’s some other shit that rhymes with this…”

After finishing the verse—and still strumming along—he proceeded to give his condolences to the city of Cleveland, saying, “I’m not even a jock. I’m a pothead and I thought that was uncool. To have a big show like that, and dance around like that… I’m sorry.”

From the front row, I, being a good Clevelander, jumped in and shouted, “Fuck ‘im.” Todd just smiled, said “Yeah, fuck him,” and went straight back into the song:

I know I’m dirty, I know I’ve smoked a lot of dope in my time.
Ain’t like I went on tv... God I didn’t even have to say it… I didn’t even see it coming… Jesus!

He then replaced “tearin’ up pictures of the pope” with:

And announced the team I was gonna play for like that douchebag did that time.

The verse completed, he noted “I’ve said a lot of shit on stage… I think that might have been my first ‘douchebag.’ It’s not really a word I use. I think it might be because of that Kanye West guy.” It was absolutely priceless and classic Todd Snider fare.

Snider does an admirable job of recreating that same freewheeling style on Live: The Storyteller, his new two-disc Bonnaroo concert recording. While it is impossible to recreate the experience of actually being there on any live album, just enough of it comes through to make it a worthwhile experience. The only difference between this and many of his smaller-venue shows is that he is backed up by a full band on some tracks. Although it makes the experience less intimate, adding electric guitar, bass, piano, organ and backing vocals to the usual man-and-his-guitar (-and-sometimes-his-harmonica) mix does add an additional layer of interest to several of the songs.

Snider’s lyrics are always unique and forcefully nonconformist. Like Johnny Cash, he sings many of them for the oppressed, the forgotten, and the just plain nobody, but with a humoristic edge that Cash never had. “Stuck on the Corner” recounts the maddening claustrophobia of the modern suburbanite lifestyle with lines like:

Pictured: Todd Snider

Snider, in what is most likely the artsiest photo ever taken in East Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Todd Purifoy.

Makin’ money out of paper, makin’ paper out of trees.
We’re makin’ so much money we can hardly breathe.

“Looking For a Job” is a song for anyone who ever got pissed off at an asshole boss and reminds the powerful:

Watch what you say to someone with nothing.
It’s almost like having it all.

“The Devil You Know” gives a big ol’ fuck you to the cops and other soldiers of subjugation with lines like:

There’s a war goin’ on the poor can’t win.
Helicopters over my house again!

“The Ballad of the Kingsmen” is a screed against censorship and social crusaders in the form of the story of the band that made “Louie, Louie” famous. And “Conservative Christian, Right-Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males” is a hilarious skewering of the bloated, pompous, self-serving hypocrites who spend most of their time screwing the rest of us out of the good life.

Other compositions are just funny or poignant experiences that he committed to memory and recounts as he strums his guitar. Some are both funny and poignant at the same time, while others start out as one and end up as the other thanks to a mid-song story. “Rose City” is a serious composition about reliving hometown memories and days of youth, but ends up as a hilarious tale about how he went back home to play a show, got shitfaced, and wrote “Todd Snider Rules” inside a tunnel, just as he’d done high school. “Bill Elliot Story” describes how NASCAR drivers are dillholes. Or maybe just one in particular. Or maybe it wasn’t even him. I don’t know. Fuck it. I don’t even know who Bill Elliot is, anyway. “45 Miles” is a song he claims to have written during a snowstorm 45 miles from Reno, Nevada in the moment of time between when he realized he was about to crash his rental car and when it actually impacted. It comes with the disclaimer that “I hope you will understand if there is only one chord in the song. I was pressed for time.” “America’s Favorite Pastime” is the heartwarming, uplifting true story of “the day Doc Ellis of the Pittsburg Pirates threw a no-hitter on LSD.”

Whatever your familiarity with Todd Snider, this album is worth a listen. If you’re a longtime fan, it will remind you of your favorite shows, if only in the spontaneous ways that they are completely different every time. If you’re a Snider newb, this album serves as a good primer, containing a broad range of songs from throughout his career. After listening to it, you’ll understand why your life just isn’t complete until you’ve joined him for a show. And you won’t even have to stick your nose up his ass to come away with some good stories.


Buy Live: The Storyteller on Amazon!
mp3 cd


No Pop. No Crap. No Surf.