Thursday, June 29, 2006

my own blood is much too dangerous

Oddly, I'm not feeling any PCD at the moment. It probably helped that just as I left Chicago, I was on my way to see a show featuring a bunch of performers with strong ties to that very town.

Neko Case, Bimbo's 365 Club, June 27, 2006: Neko herself claimed that she had never played three--let alone four--nights in a single city, but leave it to San Francisco to take her in, dust her off, and tell her to put her feet up. Some people in front of me were planning to go all nights, but I knew that Neko didn't change her setlist much, so I didn't feel the need to hit more than one show. My only miscalculation was that they added a fourth night (with Eric Bachmann from Crooked Fingers opening, no less) long after the initial run had been announced. Thus, I couldn't adhere to my rule about going to the final night of any multinight stand.

Neko's definitely not an artist I would've investigated if it weren't for my Wilco conversion, but boy, am I glad fate ran its course. It's all about that voice. Never mind the Grand Ole Opry and its silly ban on her--not even the Grand Canyon could hold Neko's pipes.

For this tour, Neko highlighted her most recent album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, devoting about half the setlist to the newer songs. In between, she interspersed older titles, such as the erstwhile opener "Favorite," which moved to the number two spot for the night. We also heard chestnuts such as "Set Out Running," "Deep Red Bells," and "In California." (Note to non-Californians: Everything in that last song is true.)

I've seen Neko a number of times now, both solo and with the New Pornographers, as well as accompanied by various backing bands. From what I can tell, she thrives in an environment when she's surrounded by strong personalities to inspire her hilarious banter and to give back as good as they get. One of her best foils is, of course, Carolyn Mark, but in her stead, Kelly Hogan fit in beautifully. (The other is Carl Newman, but that's a different story.) I think my favorite statement from Kelly was how she felt like a "pallbearer at a hooker's funeral," referring to the bustier she wore under the sound man's (?) blazer, in combination with her red fuck-me high heels. On the other side of the stage, Jon Rauhouse--master of all manner of stringed instruments but especially the pedal steel--threw out jokes at Neko. She in turn put him on the spot more than once, but it was all in good fun. Frequently during the show, Neko would look to him, confirming my suspicions that he's one of her most invaluable collaborators.

More important, both Kelly and Jon provided gorgeous backing for Neko's songs. Kelly's voice is ridiculously pretty, and Jon practically stole the show with his expressive, soulful riffs. By the time they ended with "John Saw That Number," you could feel the connection throughout the room--not only between the band members but with the audience as well.

The opener was the local singer/songwriter Sonny Smith, whose appearance belied his show. He started off modestly on solo acoustic guitar, then was joined on the second song by two guitarists--one of whom was Leroy Bach, formerly of Wilco. As Sonny's set progressed, more people joined him. Soon enough, he had a full band, and by the end of the set, when both Kelly Hogan and Neko Case also took the mic, we were in for a downright hootenanny. Sonny's songs were quite good, populated by vivid characters, all contained within rousing hooks and choruses. If you think folk music is boring or old-fashioned, this show could change your mind.

See also:
» listening for too long to one song
» you may be sweet talking, daddy

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

satan is real

It's not over yet! The last but certainly not least installment of this most recent Chicago adventure.

Edward Burch and friends, the Hideout, June 25, 2006Edward Burch and friends, the Hideout, June 25, 2006: The festival gang hit the next mark on this music-filled weekend with a visit to the legendary Hideout. My buddies have often described the Hideout as something akin to Largo, and I can see the point, but the Hideout can definitely stand on its own.

Ed Burch and gang were doing a tribute to the Louvin Brothers' epic Satan Is Real that night. Every now and then, Ed took on the character of a preacher and/or explained the significance of some of the songs in his own life. It was a sweet (and perhaps necessary) touch in such a small club, but even on their own, the songs said a lot, and the multipart harmonies emphasized the simple yet glorious roots. I admit that it's a lot twangier than I usually go for, but the thought barely entered my mind amid the gorgeous voices. As a capper, they ended with "Atomic Power"--I'm vaguely familiar with that one. :)

Thank you, Chicago! I can't wait to come back!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

the power of suggestion, the element of chance

Is it too nerdy to admit how long I've been waiting to write up this particular Jon Brion concert review? Is my cred shot? Bwahahahaha.

Jon Brion, Intonation Festival, June 25, 2006: It was the moment of truth, the date that had been circled in triplicate in red and surrounded by little gold stars and rainbow signs on my calendar since the beginning of time--Jon Brion's return to the stage, in the midst of his unexpected bout of tendinitis. I can't even remember when Heidi got the tickets for us, but the only thing that mattered was that we were here now and that Jon Brion was playing. Even better, Brianne, Chandler, Gina, Paul, Sam, and Sooz deigned our histrionics reasonable enough to endure.

Jon Brion, Intonation Festival, June 25, 2006As it was a festival, the set changes took place in front of our eyes, and we ate up every second that Jon was present, regardless of whether he was playing actual music. We worried for Sami, who--sporting a summertime Mohawk--faced the unenviable task of setting up the equipment in a mere 40 minutes instead of the leisurely pace of a typical Friday night set at Largo. Along the way, Jon joined him onstage (looking uncharacteristically pulled together in a lovely light gray pinstriped suit), accompanied by the always welcome Benmont Tench. Well, I guess that was one surprise out of the bag.

Together, Jon, Sami, and various local crew members tried out the loops, pedals, and mics, though seemingly not to full satisfaction. In between testing out his guitars, Jon turned his eyes and ears to Blue Cheer on the other stage, smiling approvingly at various points. The festival had started out late but had somewhat caught up over the course of the day; Jon must've set them back another 15 or 20 minutes in all. He definitely didn't start out on time.

We were spared the "comedy" routines that had preceded every other performer that day. Instead, one of the Intonation bigwigs took the self-proclaimed honor of introducing Jon. To his credit, the same guy stood at the back of the stage through Jon's set and seemed visibly moved by the music. I think there's been a lot of speculation on why Jon accepted an invitation to this festival, a far cry from Largo; this guy's earnest appreciation may give us a hint.

At the very start, during Jon's extended hello to the crowd, those of us in front could see him wringing, massaging, and stretching his stricken hand--not a good sign. It was perhaps just as telling that the set didn't begin with the piano noodling that normally opens his Largo shows. Instead, he took up the guitar and stayed on it for most of this performance.

In no surprise to me, he opened with "Same Thing," which I always love to hear. Sure, we didn't get the hammer/piano treatment I adore, but the outro is my favorite part anyway. Somewhere in there, he threw in different guitar licks, but that's as much as I can say and not feel like a complete fraud. He remained on guitar for the next song, "Just Fooling Myself," bringing Billie Holiday to the festival masses in grand style.

The stage was no Largo, but Sami and company had set up the drums and a small electric piano, and it wasn't long before Jon took advantage of them, jumping to the drums for a song build of the infectious "Happy with You." From there, he layered the piano, followed by, of course, guitar. At this point, I was just happy that Jon was going for an uptempo set, not one of those brooding meditations we sometimes endure in Los Angeles.

Jon Brion, Intonation Festival, June 25, 2006Next, Jon brought the preternaturally unflappable Benmont onstage, and the two greeted each other warmly. While Jon tuned his guitar, Benmont improvised a charming piano tune. Jon was so taken by it that he pretty much turned the stage over to Benmont and supported him. With the ice thoroughly broken (not so much between them but with the audience), they went into "Why Do You Do This to Yourself." At Largo, Benmont tends to join in on the second set, so we usually hear him on odd covers, not on Jon's own songs--score another one for Intonation. Jon also announced his appreciation of Benmont, saying that playing with Benmont was like getting to see a concert for himself.

From the Vice stage, Robert Pollard's band could be heard soundchecking, and Jon incorporated the drum beat into a couple lines of "Tell Her No" by the Zombies. But that gave way to a build of "The Girl I Knew," another unreleased gem.

A voice from the audience requested "Knock Yourself Out," to which Jon nodded, but it looked to me that he already had his acoustic guitar in hand anyway. He donned the harmonica headset as well and checked with the sound guy on a couple of points. When it seemed that he wasn't happy with the first question, he opted for the second option--it turned out to be a sexy, understated, and gasp-inducing "Don't Think Twice It's Alright." I think I spent the first half of the song staring at Sooz and Heidi in disbelief. Fortunately, I had somewhat returned to earth by the time he seamlessly segued into "Knock Yourself Out," which saw Benmont's return and a respectable audience sing-along.

The easy hook for pimping Jon Brion is to tell the prospective fan of all the amazing musicians who've worked with Jon in the studio or joined him onstage at Largo. But those of us who've braved workplace obfuscation, transcontinental flights, and Largo "cuisine" know that Jon needs no hook. Still, the guests are a treat, especially when that guest turns out to be the drummer in your other favorite band. We had been speculating and whispering of the prospect among ourselves, but seeing Glenn Kotche of Wilco join Jon at Intonation was beyond a thrill. And once again, I'll pointedly gloat of having had the honor of witnessing this commingling of talents before. Neener neener neener.

Jon Brion and Glenn Kotche, Intonation Festival, June 25, 2006Benmont and Glenn accompanied Jon for two consecutive covers: "This Will Be Our Year" and "Baby You're a Rich Man." The latter brought out a robust sing-along from the audience and Jon's exhultations of "More!" to his cohorts. If that weren't emphatic enough, he set his attention solely on Glenn and coaxed a lengthy, wild drum solo from him. It was no "Star Spangled Banner," but we loved watching Glenn unleashed in a manner that we don't usually get to see with Wilco or at his solo shows.

Jon closed with a build of his own "I Believe She's Lying," a song rife with possibilities, especially during the guitar outro. Throughout the show, Jon seemed to be in high spirits, even with the occasionally faulty equipment. His energy took another turn during this song, culminating in his kicking over the electric piano. The keyboard went flying--we went agog.

Though Jon had far exceeded his allotment, the aforementioned promoter/fan boy took a cue from our wild cheers and brought Jon back for one last song, joined again by Benmont and Glenn. From the moment I saw Benmont onstage, I had my suspicions, and this one came true too, as the trio crafted a dreamy, otherworldly "Waterloo Sunset." By coincidence, the sun was waning, and you could see Jon look to the western sky.

As for Jon's hand, it looks like problems persist, and the piano may be the more vexing instrument, as he barely touched it. Sure, "Here We Go" would've been a treat, but then again, my friends probably wouldn't have wanted to pick me up off the lawn after the set.

I'd be lying if I said it was enough, but the set was just right--for now. In the meantime, we'll keep checking Largo's schedule for Jon's eventual (we hope) return.

Oh yeah, the rest of the festival. We took it easy on Saturday but managed to catch part or all of the Stills, Roky Erickson, the Boredoms, and Ghostface Killah. I'll single out the last one for a song equating women with ice cream--which I've defanged to a criminal extent with that description. Sunday, we were glued to the Virtue stage, where we saw excellent sets by Bill Dolan and the Constantines, as well as endured Annie and the Sword--at the least, the latter was a lot more interesting. Oh, Neil Hamburger turned up too!

The setlist:
Same Thing
Fooling Myself
Happy with You [song build]
Benmont's piano improv while Jon tuned
Why Do You Do This to Yourself *
Tell Her No [snippet]
The Girl I Knew [song build]
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright/Knock Yourself Out *
This Will Be Our Year **
Baby You're a Rich Man **
I Believe She's Lying [song build]

Waterloo Sunset **

* = with Benmont Tench
** = with Benmont Tench and Glenn Kotche

If you've read this far, you certainly deserve to check out a video from the festival (thanks to Ariel for the clip):

See also:
» As long as I gaze on Union Park sunset
» how can I deny what's inside
» i'll be out on the town
» public service announcement
» top 5 Largo memories

Monday, June 26, 2006

huevos rancheros

We only had a big ol' two-day festival staring down our craw, but that didn't mean we couldn't cram music into every waking moment of our luxurious four-day visit to Chicago. Let the games begin!

Calexico, the Metro, June 23, 2006: Heidi and I arrived about 15 minutes late for Calexico and missed all of Jason Collett's opening set. Sam assured us he sucked, but I wouldn't have given up dinner with Laura anyway.

Instead, we settled in the balcony with Sam, Rosie, and the hobbled Sooz for Calexico. I've actually seen Calexico a number of times opening for other bands, but this was the first time I caught a headlining set. I can't say I'm a big fan, but the horns send me swooning, and those rhythms are infectious, no matter what your moves on the dance floor. Alas, no "Love Will Tear Us Apart" this time, but we got "Alone Again Or" again, as well a smidgen of "Personal Jesus." I probably could've done without the last one, but it was suitably varied to keep it interesting.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hiphopotamus Meets Rhymenocerous

I wasn't sure this show would qualify as a gig, but as the New Zealand duo averred at one point in the show, they are indeed a band. And it certainly sounded like music coming from their guitars. If it quacks like a duck...

Flight of the Conchords, Largo, June 19, 2006: I dug deep to find an excuse to go to this show, as my usual alibis of efficiency and conservation wouldn't work. For one thing, it would have to be a one-night stand, so to speak. For another, there's the matter of my looming life as a deadbeat slacker. But in light of the lip service I paid earlier this month to the wonders of Largo, I'd be a hypocrite for not putting my money--while I'm still earning some--where my mouth is.

To jog your memory, I had the pleasure of seeing Flight of the Conchords opening for Jon Brion back in March. They were such a revelation that I told Evonne right away when I saw that they were coming back to Largo this month. It took a while to overcome my aforementioned denial, but fortunately, I was able to join her reservation for the night.

The line at Largo was incredible for a Monday night. I guess the HBO special has been making the rounds! Amazingly, the cover charge was only $5--as if my LA fantasies need more fuel. Though the Friday nights may not be as hopping as before, it was good to see the rest of the Largo corral taking up the slack.

I'll keep this relatively short and sweet because I'm not in the business of mangling comedy routines, but Bret and Jemaine were as adorable as ever, and they even varied their set. Granted, their 15-minute slot back in March probably wasn't meant to be representative of their act, but they didn't spit out a carbon copy of the HBO special either. Don't mind me, though; my favorite song of the night was one of the tunes I heard in March. And with that, I'll leave you with the Conchords' list of the three jobs appropriate for the hottest girl at the party, if not the world:

  • waitress
  • air hostess from the '60s
  • part-time model

Don't let me ruin it for you; just keep your ears open for their Sub Pop debut later this year. Or in the meantime, you can see some clips on YouTube as well.

See also:
» i am in paradise

Sunday, June 18, 2006

less a deluge than a drought

Happy Father's Day!

Aimee Mann/Seu Jorge, Stern Grove, June 19, 2006: It's a joke (I hope) among my family and friends that I operate on full throttle when it comes to shows, but that's not entirely true. Granted, my more zealous episodes are well documented, but I occasionally show up at a venue right right when the band comes on. Or I misfire and am overwhelmed by throngs who arrived much earlier than me. And sometimes, I throw in the towel and sit out a show altogether.

That was the case Saturday night, when I skipped the Aimee Mann gig in the North Bay, thanks to a foot injury I can blame on only personal ineptitude. But I knew Aimee would be in San Francisco for a free show on Sunday, so I opted for the more local appointment and the podiatric relief, though I knew I'd be trading in the intimacy and comfort of a small club. Them's the breaks.

Fast-forward to Sunday morning, when I drove over to Stern Grove on an uncharacteristally sunny day right after fulfilling my duties at the Fillmore box office. I've seen Aimee in San Francisco in the past, and it's always been totally mellow. I figured if I could get to the Grove by noon, I'd be OK.

Boy, was I wrong. At 11, just about every nook and cranny of the lower grove was occupied, though I managed to find a tiny spot for myself. I overheard the woman behind me saying that she had arrived at 8 a.m. It worked out fine, though. They opened up some of the benches in the front, and I was able to get a decent seat for the actual show.

Stern Grove's concert schedule had been announced months ago, so it was a happy accident that Seu Jorge and his band were welcomed by flocks of sexy Brazilians (and those who aspire to be such) decked out in the familiar green and yellow and celebrating the beautiful weather and their home team's World Cup victory that morning. We all danced along to the slinky, seductive rhythms, and I could hear plenty of voices singing along to the more famous songs. Alas, he didn't do any Ziggy Stardust tunes, but I respect him for not giving in to the easy hook. His band was fun-loving and energetic, performing various feats of tambourine. I couldn't help but wonder how Aimee's introspective, finely wrought tales of crushed hopes, abject failure, and crippling delusions would go over with this party crowd.

Aimee Mann, Stern Grove, June 19, 2006A couple of months ago, I saw the best Aimee Mann show I've had the good fortune to witness. As it turned out, her appearance at Largo was a warm-up for her summer tour, and this show was the road version of it. That is, start with the Largo show, then strip away the intimacy, the respect, the interaction, and Flanagan's hair. Voilà--you have the Stern Grove appearance!

OK, maybe that's too harsh. Free gigs are notorious for apathy and opportunism on both sides of the stage, especially if you're a fan who wants to hear a full set of music. Aimee and gang put in a solid effort, even as the crowds streamed out and/or talked over the music. It was certainly no contest for my ringside seat from April, though I made it all the way to the front by the halfway point of the set. We got the solo acoustic "It's Not Safe" again, as well as "One," which I hadn't heard before. We also saw Aimee on the baby grand for "Nothing's Good Enough," and she celebrated her victorious turn on the keys by triumphantly throwing her arms in the air.

If impending unemployment weren't part of my near future, I'd consider catching Aimee in another town on this tour, just so that I wouldn't have to think back on this show as my last view of her. But I won't be doing that--at least, unless she comes back to Largo. Them's the breaks, indeed.

See also:
» i'm the stuff of happy endings
» you're my favorite faith healer
» the Book of Brion 2 has landed

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

just keep counting the stars

I'm nothing if not efficient, so barring extenuating circumstances, one trip to Los Angeles usually equals two trips to Largo. There was no reason this weekend should be any different.

Nels Cline solo and not, Largo, June 3, 2006: This show was originally slated to be the fifth installment of Nels Cline/Jon Brion improvisational series, but Jon's tendinitis altered those plans. Still, I never doubted that I'd make it to the gig.

As expected, Bobb Bruno kicked off the proceedings, and the stuffed animals were back (yay!). His set was really cool, once again featuring samples and other electronic sounds. It was a mellow, transcendent set, and besides, you can't beat a guy in a huge bunny head.

Back in November 2004, before I got this blog on track, I embarked on one of my favorite rock tourism runs of all time, catching seven consecutive Wilco shows between Portland, Oregon, and Tempe, Arizona. (It helped that three shows were in the Bay Area and two more were in Los Angeles.) Even better, we managed to cram one Wilco book signing and one Jon Brion show into the few idle moments!

That trip is memorable for many reasons, and I even wrote up a report on one of the two highlights: catching Glenn Kotche accompanying Jon Brion at Largo. The other highlight was meeting Jon Brion backstage at the Wilco's first night at the Wiltern, thanks to Sooz's mysterious and persuasive ways. I don't usually get nervous around musicians, but I was pretty much out of my mind with joy at that moment. In fact, I still think I look certifiably crazed in photos from that night.

I bring this up not to drop names but to emphasize the turn of events and to shed some light on how I felt when, after Bobb's set, Heidi and I spied a lanky, chapeau'd figure back by the bar. It was too good to believe, but we weren't mistaken. It was Jon fucking Brion in all his glory. How we managed to not dance on the table at that precise moment, I have no idea, but we held it together (barely), racing heartbeats, manic joy, and all.

I think it was Heidi who introduced the concept of setlist zen, of living in the moment and letting events and/or song selections work themselves out. It was in that spirit that we approached this gig, even if we couldn't admit that we invested all the aspirations that our guarded yet rose-colored outlook would allow into the "and not" billing. But still, what were the odds? Apparently, they were great.

Nels came on shortly afterward and rolled out a fairly lengthy introduction, explaining the circumstances that led to the evening's agenda. He mentioned Jon's ailment and said that Flanagan and Jon had pressured him into proceeding with the show. In his charmingly self-deprecating style, he warned us of his upcoming intentions to sing. He also claimed that the "lovelorn ballads" and "existential angst" we were about to hear had no reflection on his current emotional state. (Say what you will about Nels Cline, but I get the idea he's not that good a liar.) He also built up our expectations, promising a second set comprising entirely Neil Young songs, with the strong possibility of guest vocals by Jon fucking Brion.

I admit to some trepidation over the thought of a Nels Cline solo show, but this was unlike anything I've heard from him. For one thing, he sang. And in contrast to his shows opening for Jeff Tweedy, he opted for more conventional songs, though he put them through their paces. I didn't take notes during this portion, but I can report that he looped, tweaked, thrashed, and strummed in his signature style, even with the surprising choice of covers. I could see Low and Sonic Youth in his record collection but the Mamas and the Papas and Joan Jett (in a manner reminiscent of Iggy Pop and/or Tom Waits, no less)? Color me impressed. His voice worked better on some numbers than others--he sounded pretty good on the Low song, for example--but I love his fearlessness all the same. From my seat, I spied Jon fucking Brion watching the entire set from the side of the room.

During the short break, the band Mad Cow (a tribute to Crazy Horse) set up, and Nels once again took the mic: first, declaring his love of Neil Young, then singing the initial song, "Hippie Dream." For the second song, David Garza took over most of the vocals, while Jeff Gauthier of Cryptogramophone added violin and Nels contributed backing vocals. For the third selection, it was just David again, then came the moment Heidi and I had been waiting for: Jon fucking Brion took the stage. He traded vocals with David for the rest of the set, and that was enough for our table. And we were hardly alone in our celebration. I could see Flanagan whooping it up during "Walk On."

Throughout the set, Nels offered comments on each song's place in the Neil Young discography and his reasons for choosing it. And much later in the set, when he saw that we were still listening, he said apropos of nothing, "You guys are cool." If I could, I'd assure him the feelings were mutual.

In no way was this a Jon Brion show, though in keeping with the spirit of his gigs, he obviously hadn't rehearsed. All he did was sing, though we both noticed his stricken hand subtly miming some chords on one song. In fact, he used lyric sheets--not a common occurrence--and David had to prompt him a couple of times. We'll take it regardless; Largo is not the same without him.

Set 1 (Nels Cline solo)
Look Through My Window [Mamas & Papas]
Tom Violence [Sonic Youth]
I Hate Myself for Loving You [Joan Jett]
I Got No Answers [Joan Jett]
Little Argument with Myself [Low]

Set 2 (and not)
featuring Mad Cow, the backing band
Hippie Dream
Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)*
Don't Cry **
On the Beach ***
Walk On ***
Fucking Up ***

* = with David Garza and Jeff Gauthier
** = with David Garza
*** = with David Garza and JON FUCKING BRION

After the show, we were able to say hi to Nels, who, as usual, looked completely shocked to see us. It's amazing how little he takes for granted. And as a topper, we were able to ask Jon a couple of questions. Apparently, his arm is getting better, though it's still not there. However, he assured us that he would be ready for the Intonation Festival, which is all we wanted to hear anyway.

If I may step out of Girl Reporter mode for a second, I want to say that this weekend proved why Largo is so special, even without the Jon Brion factor (though that always helps). We saw some incredibly creative people doing their thing in their own way, and even better, there's an audience for it. I'm so glad to be able to witness it. For the last year or so, I've been sheepishly rationalizing my many visits to Los Angeles, but I don't think I'll do that anymore. Largo is the coolest place in the world, and I'll be back--without apologies--as many times as I can.

See also:
» and when you touch down
» mask

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

the heart of rock 'n' roll is still beating

Before I start, I want to throw out huge props to Heidi for coming all the way to Los Angeles just for the hell of it, regardless of our MIA RSBF. It wouldn't have been the same without her!

Zach Galifianakis Is Real People, Largo, June 2, 2006: As this is a concert blog, I hadn't originally intended to write about this show, but Zach had musical guests, in the form of David Garza and Fiona Apple, join him. Their contribution was rather short, to tell you the truth. They started with David on guitar for a few of Fiona's standards: "Paper Moon," "You Belong to Me," and "Extraordinary Machine," and David finished up their initial set with a reworked "Electric Avenue." Later in the show, David provided musical accompaniment for a few songs, and Zach commanded Fiona back to the stage for one more. In her typical manner, she looked like she had no idea what to do until David kicked off "Rainbow Connection."

Although the musical section was probably intended as the surprise treat to the Largo faithful, Zach was by far the best part of the show. Three comics preceded him, and though they were funny in parts, he clearly outshone them all. I hate trying to describe comedy--if there's a funny way of saying things, odds are the comic has said it--so I'll just comment that he was hilarious all around, from his characters to his ad-libs to his traditional jokes and setups. Oh, if you like details, he pulled a couple of people off the street and made them part of the show, had a troubadour-style friend who sang and/or embellished his jokes, turned over a large part of the show to a woman who had come from Portland, Oregon, to interview him, and came up with the best use of Huey Lewis and the News' "Heart of Rock and Roll" that I can ever hope to witness. And based on my limited exposure, he repeated only a few jokes.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this was my first Friday gig at Largo for someone who wasn't Jon Brion. Although Jon's absence was palpable, I was glad to see that Largo is still going on, though in a slightly different capacity.

And I can't end this without including a quote from before the show. As we were waiting by the door, we overheard a group of people going in. One of the women said, "Those were my old boobs. These are my new boobs." (I had to check with Heidi to make sure we didn't make this up.) I love LA!

See also:
» top 5 Largo memories
» that ain't working, that's the way you do it
» there was no way of knowing

Monday, June 05, 2006

i like birds...and eels

Paolo graciously humored me by hanging out in San Francisco one more day and catching another show.

eels, The Fillmore, May 31, 2006: I've bored many, many people with the story of how I first became an eels fan, but I'm nothing if not consistent. I was actually pretty sick of them in the mid-'90s, when the overflowing Dreamworks coffers afforded them a snazzy Mark Romanek video and overexposure on MTV. A shambolic (in a bad way) radio station gig confirmed my suspicions, and it would be another three years before I truly opened my ears to them, thanks to the wonderful environs of Largo. In fact, it was with a very heavy heart that I admitted I couldn't make their show at Largo with Zach Galifianakis on May 12.

eels, The Fillmore, May 31, 2006Since then, I've tried to catch them every time they've come to San Francisco. I know I missed one show because it conflicted with a Wilco gig at the Fillmore, but on every other occasion, I've been rewarded with odd theatrics.

There was the show, for example, when E, acting frail and possibly blind, was physically escorted onstage by two roadies. That was also the show when, after the houselights had come up and the crew was moving their stuff offstage, they came back on for one more number. And the last time they came to the Fillmore, E kicked off the show not onstage but in a small booth at the back of the room. See why I'm in love??

So it was with much anticipation that I welcomed this show--and I wasn't disappointed. After the lights went down, a big, burly guy wearing a Security shirt (Krazy Al, I believe) took the stage, looked around, and beckoned the band to come up. He would be sort of a court jester for much of the evening, engaging in a wide range of activities: protecting E, doing calisthenics, lifting weights, and even playing instruments.

As for the eels, they were a different lineup than the other times I've seen them. I miss Butch a great deal, but in his place was Knuckles, a guy in a Civil War getup and an era-appropriate beard. In comparison, E and the other guitarist (the Chet?), looked fairly pedestrian in their standard-issue jumpsuits with aviator goggles.

We thought they were supposed to be promoting Eels with Strings Live at Town Hall, but in fact, they seemed fairly oblivious to their latest record. Instead, we got a good cross-section of their discography, including a reworked "My Beloved Monster" (heavy on the organ), the awesome "Last Stop: This Town," a raucous (and Jon Brion cowritten) "Not Ready Yet," and a few from Blinking Lights. More surprising, however, were the choice of covers. We heard, among others, Peaches' anthem "Rock Show" and the old standard "I Put a Spell on You" with a huge nod to Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

And to cap it off, toward the end of the show, Krazy Al donned a latex glove and made his way to the edge of the stage--to high-five random audience members (Paolo!). One of the roadies handed him a can of whipped cream, and continuing the crowd participation, he squirted it into the mouths of all who wanted it (me included).

The young sister duo Smoosh opened the show with their spunky and cute songs. I give them credit for not going the Hillary Duff route, even if some tunes started to blur together. They got a dedication from the eels during the latter's set and even returned to the stage for the encore, which saw them dancing to the music, taunting and eventually winning over Krazy Al, and contributing vocals to "I Like Birds."

But it's still not over, folks. They faked us out again and returned to the stage for one more song, "Saturday Morning," after the lights went up. My love affair with this band continues.

See also:
» public service announcement
» top 5 Largo memories

Sunday, June 04, 2006


What a week--on all levels. I have a lot of catching up to do, so let's kick off this jam.

Cryptonight, Yoshi's, May 30, 2006: Paul, Annie, and I made our way to Yoshi's with just enough time to spare before the start of the first set. Living in Northern California, I'm privy to a ridiculous amount of Nels Cline one-off appearances, and I think I've seen many of the different aspects: the Nels Cline Singers, solo, and with Banyan and the Scott Amendola Band. But this show was different. First of all, it was a group of musicians associated with one of Nels's main labels, Crytogramophone. But more important, Alex Cline was playing that night! In fact, I believe Paolo made the trip out West specifically for that reason. As for Annie, she likes jazz and sushi--and how often do you get to combine the two?

Once more, I'll throw it right out there: I know nothing about jazz and only wish that I were underqualified to report. But I can say that we saw an extremely cool show. Two of the highlights for me were an emotional, meditative song called "Solflicka," written by and in memorial to their friend Eric von Essen, and "Mask," by Jeff Gauthier himself. For the latter, Jeff explained that he was inspired by a New Years' Eve spent in Mexico. He had drunk a bit too much tequila, and around midnight, he could hear a radio playing a Billie Holiday song while the local church's bells rang out. Incredibly, the band incorporated both elements, most notably in Alex Cline playing the gongs (!) to convey the church bells.

For the last two numbers, they brought on three horn players and Scott Amendola to perform a couple of Herbie Hancock pieces. As a child of the '80s, I only know "Rockit" when it comes to Herbie, so there was no way I was prepared for the wondrous cacophony and celebration that followed.

Nels, as always, was in fine form, showing his vast range of talent and formidable mastery of styles. He's a national treasure :)

See also:
» and when you touch down
» in the beginning, we closed our eyes
» I hear you sing a golden hymn
» smarty pants
» Nels nights