Tuesday, January 24, 2017

purple rain

I have no idea why it took me so long to blog this, but here you go, in case you were wondering how Jon Brion's last show of the year at Largo went.

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, December 23, 2016: I managed to hit only two Jon Brion shows this year, so obviously I've missed a lot of developments at the club, but there was no way I could've predicted that two other women in the front row would also be taking notes. Is this where I mention I've been doing this for more than 10 years?? Deep breath, serenity now, namaste. Anyway, welcome to the crew, ladies!

By now in California, we're almost used to the return of rain after so many years of drought, but I have to admit this night in LA was as rainy as I've ever seen. And thanks to the city's inadequate drainage system, whole intersections (I'm looking at you, Melrose and La Cienega) resembled shallow lakes. It was a sight to behold. Largo wasn't exempt, as small puddles gathered in the entryway. Thankfully, the inner sanctum was nice and dry.

In a nod to the Largo legacy, Bobb Bruno opened the show in his customary bunny suit. His set was lovely, morphing from dreamy and melodic to hip-hop beats and ending with Mariah Carey. It's always great to see him at Largo.

Once upon a time, everyone at Largo knew Bobb on sight, but when Flanny took the stage, he helpfully supplied an intro and mentioned Bobb's gig with Best Coast. Flanny also mentioned Largo's upcoming 20th anniversary, which conveniently gives me a chance to link to my first Jon Brion show. (Yes, I've been doing this for a while.) I recall that Flanny promised good things to come in 2017 (at Largo, anyway), but you can say that about the club at any time.

Finally, it was Jon's turn, and per usual, he went to the piano, where he eventually drew out "Punch-Drunk Melody" and "Someone Else's Problem Now," at which point I knew it was going to be a good night. I don't go to Largo as often as I used to, so it's an extra treat to hear the older songs. He ended the opening run at the piano with "Over Our Heads," adorned with Moog and vocoder.

He next picked up an acoustic guitar, kicking off with a decidedly satirical "Hail to the Chief," along with a quick mention of the "incoming totalitarianism." In fact, Jon would sprinkle several comments about the new president through the performance, alternating between gallows humor and encouraging us to stay strong. At this juncture, it led to the more traditional fare of "It Looks Like You" and "Why Do You Do This to Yourself."

Jon returned to the piano, and later in the night, he would explain his guitars were reacting badly to the weather. But at that moment, all we heard was "Happy With You," as Jon's feet kept time.

As I said above, I haven't been to many Largo shows recently, but on the whole, Jon now seems to favor a sparse setup, and tonight was hardly the overload we've seen in the past. However, the video mixers were back, apparently for the first time in a while, and Jon made sure to put them to use. He called up clips of Andres Segovia, Maria Callas, and Leopold Stokowski, and eventually, they chipped in for "Strings That Tie to You." I'm going to be honest -- I'm not entirely sure what they brought to the song. Then again, Jon admitted he was a little rusty on the video mixers, though he showed a defter hand as the night wore on.

Jon finally opened the floor to requests, and as you can imagine, the floodgates opened. He started with Bowie, but the Prince requests also gained steam, to the point where Jon took an unofficial poll to gauge interest. It sounded like a draw to me, but Jon proceeded regardless, starting with a video of a drummer counting off, then joined by another clip of guitar lessons and an orchestra. The payoff was "Moonage Daydream" and, after more video magic from Jon, "Purple Rain." I heard Jon cover this song a while ago, and I recall the absolute thrill of recognizing the tune. But it's a good thing I keep notes -- according to my post, it was a wordless Les Paul-style cover, not a rousing singalong as I wanted to believe.

Tonight, we belted it out, though not quite as smoothly as some of us probably hoped. As a group, we pretty much forgot everything but the first verse and the chorus. However, in Los Angeles, the audience is bound to include people who not only know all the words but can sing the harmonies too. One of the night's heroes happened to be sitting in the row right behind me, and because of his proximity to the stage, his words actually reached Jon to guide him. You're the real MVP, buddy!

The next tune was a request for "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime," featuring footage of Eric Clapton. This was another classic I was so happy to hear and was glad to be reminded of its brilliance in Jon's hands. Jon then hit on "Same Mistakes," before entertaining a request for "Ignition Remix." I thought I heard Jon mention Paul McCartney, but a Google search turns up R. Kelly, and my notes offer no further illumination. If you have more information, I'd love to hear it. The counting drummer made another appearance for "Misty Mountain Hop."

Jon moved over to the electric guitar for, at first, "Waterloo Sunset," which continues to wow. I don't know how many times I've heard Jon cover this song, but it still sounds so damn good. Jon followed up with "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," a no-brainer for the evening. Jon sort of vocalized the Bacharachian horns, and the audience clapped along to keep the beat. Thus, the main part of the night drew to an end.

I'd like to mention that our semi-typical Largo gang (Evonne, Paul, and me) welcomed a couple of new faces for the show: my best friend Doreen and her six-year-old daughter Penelope. With this in mind, when I finally managed to get in a request at the start of the encore, I made sure it was a good one, a song that was not only treasured by Doreen, Evonne, and me, but that (duh) Jon could and probably would do. Mind you, I'd been throwing out requests all night, but this one happened to stick. Jon prefaced the song with the comment that he'd been doing it a lot lately, but I was glad he went in anyway. The song was, of course, "More Than This," featuring clips of a Latin band, Percy Grainger, and Jacques Brel. If I've mentioned listening to Roxy Music as a teenager, let me say now that Doreen was playing and listening to them with me.

Jon closed the night with his own "Please Stay Away From Me."

In case you were wondering, there were no guests tonight and barely a mention of the yuletide, not even a bar or two of "Jingle Bells," as Jon has snuck in before. Even for Jon Brion, this was the least Christmas-y show I may have ever attended at Largo. However, we got a great night, with Jon in good spirits, and we were up for several hours afterward, discussing the gig. No wonder it's my favorite way to ring in the holidays.

Setlist
Bobb Bruno opener
-- piano
-- Punch-Drunk Melody
-- Someone Else’s Problem Now
-- Over Our Heads
-- Hail to the Chief
-- Looks Like You
-- Why Do You Do This to Yourself
-- Happy With You
-- Strings That Tie to You
-- Fantastic Voyage
-- Moonage Daydream
-- Purple Rain
-- Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes
-- Same Mistakes
-- Misty Mountain Hop
-- Waterloo Sunset
-- Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

encore
-- More Than This
-- Please Stay Away From Me

Ghosts of Christmas past:
» i'll be a rock 'n' rolling bitch for you
» let your heart be light
» i'm offering this simple phrase
» it's been said many times, many ways
» with soul power
» it's the end of the things you know
» you could say one recovers
» a really good time
» the things you do to keep yourself intact
» i've heard a rumor from ground control
» strangest times

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

name me a song that everybody knows

I'm lagging on this one, so let's get right into it.

Jeff Tweedy, Chateau du Polpettino, Dec. 2, 2016: Let the record show that it took this long to figure out a date that worked for the Tweedys and for our group. Then a last-minute development further changed plans. And yes, it took a few years to get this train rolling again, but as always, a huge salute to Jeff and Susan Tweedy for giving it another go. Fortunately, it worked out for almost everyone, and long story short, we had a wonderful evening.

Long story long, it began in the typical manner with food, drinks, and friends. Our new hosts put together a gorgeous setup, which made it even easier to sit back and enjoy the evening in creature comforts. Even Jeff couldn't resist settling down on an ottoman for a song.

As for the music, Jeff stuck to his own tracks, though many of us tried to sneak in a few covers among our requests. I don't blame him at all -- I mean, the man had only come back from a European tour a few weeks earlier -- but you know we're going to try, given the opportunity. Thanks to Andy for my perennial favorite "Lost Love," to Patti for the sobering "Country Disappeared," and to Susan for "You Are My Face," which I don't think I've ever heard solo acoustic before. How did it take so long for that to happen?



I loved hearing the newer songs acoustic-style, not to mention our friends' contributions. Jeff had more than a few stories and comments throughout the evening, including his thoughts on the incoming administration. Selfishly, I'll treasure his kind words about sharing these shows with us over the years. I know they've rank among my most treasured memories.

Per tradition, we ended on "Candyfloss," complete with the usual jumping around -- until someone realized we were still due Tamala's request for "Dreamer in My Dreams." We stayed on our feet for the epic, and I had a flashback to one of my most intimate public gigs I've been to: Liberty Hall in Marfa. Hey, I'm happy to have been a part of each of them.

Overall, the whole night was extremely well handled. In earlier incarnations, our shows sometimes felt like they might slip beyond our control, despite the hours, weeks, and months of planning that proceeded them. But even the afterparty cleanup felt manageable and orderly, even if we were eating delicious tamales over the sink at 2 am. Speaking of afterparty, there were plenty more tunes after the Tweedys left, thanks to our talented friends. I'll never hear "Hallelujah" the same way again.

You never want to take anything for granted, so I think of each of these shows as standalone events, and I never assume the same circumstances will happen again. If you're lucky, you might remember to take pictures, but you always treasure the friends and the songs and the refreshments. It's the winning formula every time.

The full history
» i wish that i knew what I know now
» people say i'm crazy doing what i'm doing
» the message
» all the ladies and gentlemen
» that year
» springtime comes
» turn our prayers to outrageous dares
» every day is dreamlike
» it's been a while

Friday, October 14, 2016

wasn't the question you asked

I've never been obsessed with being young -- not even when I was young -- but I've reached the stage where many of my favorites are hitting milestone ages. It's always a gut check, but if you're lucky, it can be a celebration too. Man, I'm glad that Spiral Stairs, aka Scott Kannberg per Pavement, decided to share his 50th annum with us, the unwashed masses.

SpiralpaloozaSpiral Stairs' 50th Birthday featuring Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, The Chapel, Oct. 1-2, 2016: The Clean were the original headliners for Saturday night, but for a reason I never learned, they couldn't make it. Also, Kelley Stoltz couldn't make it because he was touring with Echo and the Bunnymen, which is amazing news for such a talented guy. Thus, it became two nights of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, along with the accompanying Pavement expectations -- in due time.

For Your Pleasure -- a Roxy Music cover band -- opened on Saturday night, and they were great. They made no attempt to ape Roxy's sartorial style, but the lead singer came close enough to Bryan Ferry's tones, and the rest of the musicians held their own. Their song selection was fantastic, and I loved the hits as well as the deep cuts. ("Mother of Pearl"!) However, I laughed at the guy who complained about the lack of "In Every Dream Home a Heartache."

Honestly, I can't remember the second band from Saturday, and the opener on Sunday was fine, if not spectacular. All you need to know is the various musicians mixed and matched in each other's bands; it was those kind of shows -- basically a big house party with damn good tunes. In fact, as we hung around the back early on Saturday night, we saw various friends approach Scott/Spiral and heard a few mentioning high school.

Spiralpalooza

I've already covered this in the blog, but I'm not a reunion person. Through no fault of the bands, reunion shows now make me sad and feel my age. I loved Pavement like few other bands and jumped on tickets when the first reunion shows went on sale. However, I never made it. I think I was out of town when the dates finally rolled around, but my mind was already made up at that point.

As for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, color me shocked that I haven't seen them since 2008! I know I missed a tour or two because I was too lazy to buy tix to more recent shows, and I think the band took a long hiatus somewhere in there. But I had no idea it's been that long. I've said this before, but Malkmus strikes me as this era's Robyn Hitchcock: the leader of an underappreciated seminal band who goes on to a much weirder later career.

I'd be lying if I said I loved the more recent stuff, and it was hard to dial into the superextended guitar noodling passages that seemed to characterize every song. In fact, I'm not sure they did anything from the first couple of records, which are the ones I listened to the most.

Spiralpalooza

But that's not the point, because this was Spiral/Scott's birthday, and they basically presented him with a musical birthday card. They sprinkled in several songs that influenced his own music career, including tracks from the Clean, the Stranglers, and of course, Echo and the Bunnymen. On the second night, Stephen commented Saturday's proceedings basically amounted to a high-school sausage party -- which we had suspected all along -- but from the outside, it seemed like a very sweet gift to an old friend.

Oh right, the Pavement tracks: Everyone knew they were coming, and several of the more enthusiastic attendees started in with the requests early on. Too bad -- Scott and Stephen had a plan, and they were sticking with it. It took me a few tunes before I realized the criteria: They were doing Scott's tracks, not random Pavement songs. It made sense on every level, so we got most of Scott's titles, along with one from Preston School of Industry and a tune from his new project. "Date with Ikea" made both nights, and one of my absolute favorite Pavement songs, "Kennel District," made the cut. In fact, the song jogged my memory and reminded me that I used to see Scott at a million shows in town. Those were the days.

The two semi-surprises the first night were "Summer Babe" and "Stereo," though in retrospect, I guess the latter gave Scott a great chance to take the role usually claimed by Bob Nastanovich. Neither are Scott compositions per se, but I'll take them both. They were smart enough to mete out the tunes and give us "Two States" the second night, along with fan favorite "Box Elder." By the way, none other than GARY FUCKING JOHNSON joined them for the tune and finished off his portion with the requisite headstand. No, he isn't looking well.

Spiralpalooza

Even I have to admit a reunion show can be a ton of fun, and I couldn't stop singing the songs or thinking about how much I love(d) Pavement. You know how it is -- now that all of my music is on my iPhone, I'm too lazy to swap out songs. It's easy to forget I have the entire Pavement discography at the ready, if only I remember to check some boxes now and again. I'll do that tonight, I swear.

Happy 50th to you, Scott/Spiral. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

See also:
» richard avedon would surely approve
» pre-easily fooled
» used to be one of the rotten ones