Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Take Me Home, Country Pigeon

Whoa, I found my old review of my favorite Largo show ever, back when I wasn't properly smitten with Jon Brion. You may note how naive--that is, not obsessed--I sound in this write-up.

Thank you, Yahoo search, especially for ranking me higher than Google does. Grrrr to Google!

Grant Lee Phillips (with Robyn Hitchcock and Jon Brion), Largo, July 31, 1999: I flew in from Silicon Valley, picked up my friends, and headed over to Largo, where a pretty big crowd was already gathered. I guess I should preface "big crowd," as the Largo holds about 100 people. Also, I got a table this time, so that made a difference. We sat down, and I noticed Robyn Hitchcock standing around, drink in hand. I had seen him on the Flaming Lips' MABD Revue in San Francisco earlier that week. I thought that he was just hanging out, enjoying the atmosphere. Not a single suspicion crossed my mind, and I totally forgot that he was a guest player on Jubilee, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that he was the opening act. He played a short acoustic set with Tim Keegan, including the very lovely "I Saw Nick Drake." Jon Brion also joined him for a few songs. I've never been a big fan of Robyn, but he's a very likeable performer and put everyone in a great mood.

A short break, then came--what?! A man in a red and black cape and a gold mask came onstage, accompanied by a creepy single-note piano tune, where a miniature altar of sorts (lots of candles) had been erected. He called up Jon Brion and asked him a few questions, then demanded that he take off his clothes. When Jon refused, he requested that at the least Jon take off his shoes. When Jon again said no, he settled for Jon's offer to play the piano. Then Jon turned the tables and asked the man to take off his mask. He did--and it was Grant all along!

(I know my account is doing this no justice. I'm sure that I haven't been able to express that this was a straight parody of the orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut.)

OK, on to the music. I took a stab at the set list, but I forgot it on my way out the door. Grant was joined onstage by Phil Parapliano and, eventually, Robyn. They did about half old songs (Arousing Thunder, The Hook, Honey Don't Think, Truly Truly, The Shallow End, Mockingbirds, Fuzzy), half new songs (a good five or six of them, featuring lots of sampled beats), one of Jon's songs, and the song on Robyn's album that they did together. Robyn did one verse of "The Hook," ad-libbing one line about "I'm up here singing with Grant," and playing guitar and harmonica. I can't even begin to describe Grant's between-song patter, but he had us in stitches.

Again, another short intermission, then Grant came back on karaoke-style. I have no idea what the backing tune was; it sounded very Bay City Rollers to me. This interlude was much less structured. They took a title ("Maggot Love") from an audience member and made up a song on the spot. Then they produced five different songs about pigeons. The highlight: Robyn's interpretive dances (when he wasn't throwing together lyrics off the top of his head) and his dubious drumming.

Even my friends were very impressed by the end of the evening (and it was quite an evening--I think Grant was on for at least two hours), especially by Jon Brion's chameleon-like ability to jump from the piano to the drums to electric guitar to improvised lead vocals. [Editor's note: Bwahahahahahahahahahaha!!!] If I were a teacher and had both Grant and Jon in my class, I'd probably have to separate them, because they're obviously too successful in encouraging each other's mischieviousness. But when you're going to see live music, that's the kind of stuff you hope for.

Also, there was a pigeon theme for the night...I think these are the five songs they made up:
» The Haunted Pigeon
» The Haunted Passenger Pigeon (Grant sang a line about the pigeon always coming home to you, obviously mistaking the extinct passenger pigeon for the common carrier pigeon. OK, enough National Geographic.)
» Take Me Home, Country Pigeon, "only without the 'country' part," as requested by a mysterious female voice in the sound booth [Editor's note: I now realize it was Mary Lynn Rajskub speaking.]
» Pigeon Lips
» Pigeon Pot Pie (wherein Grant rhymed "smidgen" and "bitchin'"--among other words--with "pigeon")

Oh, there was also a song about Britney Spears in there too.

See also:
» top 5 Largo memories
» please share my umbrella
» unplug the jukebox and do us all a favour

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