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September 30, 2014

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Ice Ice Billy

Todd Snider had me at ‘hinges’

Todd Snider had me the first time I heard, "Say, girl, you're hotter than the hinges hangin' off the gates of hell." That's kind of how most things strike you, don't they? Someone paints a picture, you look a little harder, and the next thing you know you're reading all of Vincent van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo.

Musically, Bruce Springsteen had me when he commanded that we weren't going to that previously mentioned fiery damnation for just being glad to be here. And John Prine owned me when he sang of a new joke where one screamed to another, as he jumped off a bridge, "You lose."

There is a lot to be said about those who say a lot without saying much.

Snider continued, "Don't be afraid to turn to me, babe, if he don't treat you well."

Last march I busted down to the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach — down San Diego way — to catch Snider play live. I couldn't remember ever having a chance to see him here in Las Vegas. After a beer or three or more, I bought a Todd Snider toque and a "Play a Train Song" bumper sticker, and popped off to a part of the Snider crew that if they were up for it I'd bring him in to play after a Wranglers home hockey game.

"And by he, he meant me, so I laughed and I shook his hand."

Now, let those without sin cast the first stone. There are a number of tremendous artists that pass Las Vegas by on their tours. There are those in the valley who have not been served by a local Todd Snider show. So the Wranglers booked Snider to play after the game this Friday, Feb. 1. He and his band will hit the stage less than 30 minutes after the end of the game (around 10 p.m.), and Snider fans with wristbands will be able to stand right up to the stage.

If you're coming, get close. Snider's gift for rambling and hilarious setups to songs are built on the best comedians' timing and ability to surprise. He knows how to time a harmonica solo as a rim shot. And he'll turn phrases that you won't see coming and wonder why you didn't — or couldn't — think of that.

"He laughed a little bit louder as he'd yell up at the band."

There is an admitted slant to my take. I like funny. But to promote Snider as funny is the same as promoting hockey as fast, or a Red Ferrari as pretty. Snider is one of America's most highly regarded songwriters, which requires far many more qualifications than just being able to make words rhyme to form a joke.

Snider reminds you that comedy and tragedy carpool to work together each day, and both are out of sick days. And if you're in the back seat, you pay attention to the one you prefer, or at least the loudest. We'll laugh at the comedy because we want to, or perhaps, have to. But big ol' Mr. T is sitting there, silently, making it all possible.

"And though I tried with all of my sadness somehow I just could not weep, for a man who looked to me like he died laughing in his sleep."

He's been called folk-rock, alt-country, and grunge-folk. This has the side effect that Snider is difficult to categorize and to promote, and I'm guessing he wouldn't have it any other way.

He has written and sung about how 65% of all statistics are made up on the spot, Doc Ellis' perfect game while pitching on LSD, and how his baby-mamma's been incarcerated. This has the side effect that on Friday he will make you laugh.

And thank Todd for that.



Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers.

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