Friday, September 22, 2006


Along with Massive Attack and Tricky, DJ Shadow pretty much wrote the book on '90s trip-hop and made me hate almost every other band/performer who tried to capture that seductive sound. For a long time, Shadow's masterful Endtroducing was my favorite soundtrack during hazy, heady Sunday morning drives home, and I still put on the album every couple of months, just because I love it so much.

Thus, I drooled when I first heard of the Massive Attack/DJ Shadow double bill at the Hollywood Bowl, but my venue snobbery kicked in when the same ticket came to my neck of the woods. I guess Shadow picked up this vibe too because he signed up for two separate in-stores at Amoeba Records in the Bay Area instead. That's a true homeboy for you.

DJ Shadow, Amoeba Records (San Francisco), September 21, 2006: In terms of hip-hop time, Shadow was fairly punctual. He arrived only 15 or 20 minutes late, and during his absence, we were entertained by an MC from the Berkeley Amoeba store. He asked for three volunteers from the audience to play a game called Statue while he freestyled over their poses. It didn't quite work out as he had hoped, but he kept us laughing. He also turned over the mic to one of his Statue subjects, a.k.a. MC Hotsauce. El hombre caliente was less effective, but the crowd, at the least, gave him a chance.

DJ Shadow, Amoeba Records (San Francisco), September 21, 2006Meanwhile, I took in the assembled masses. I've been to only a couple of other shows at Amoeba, but the crowd seemed to stretch all the way to the back wall. And though the group unsurprisingly skewed young and ethnic, I was glad to see more than a few faces that looked at least as, er, old school (!?!) as my own.

I'm endlessly fascinated by the species known as Fanaticus musica and their mores and practices, including the way they first claim, then spurn any given artist. I guess the thing that gets me is the love affair, especially the early, giddy days and the eventual sayonara. You know that old cliche of breakups: "It's not you, it's me." But when you are no longer into a band/artist, it's never you, it's always them. They suck, and they've changed, while you, of course, remain blameless. I know it's only music, but the language of the disillusionment is a powerful dialect.

Which brings me to the current brouhaha around DJ Shadow and his new release, The Outsider, which many people are deriding as a sellout because--apparently--there's rap on it. First off, I want to say that I'm the last person who should share any thoughts about hip-hop, but after listening to The Outsider a couple of times now, I don't get the controversy at all. Yes, it has actual rapping on it, but it's far from the usual gangsta and hoes lyrics you find on MTV. Close to my heart, there's a shoutout to "Vietnamese patnas," whatever that means. Does the whole album work? Not on every level, but if you're willing to listen, you can still hear Shadow's trademark multilayered sound in many parts.

For this appearance, Shadow alluded to The Outsider's mixed reviews and thanked us for sticking with him. He made the case that he was, at heart, a music fan with evolving tastes and couldn't make the same album over and over again. But it might've been more telling that the biggest crowd reactions went to the old tracks, especially the always pleasing "Organ Donor." (I've seen Shadow at least a dozen times by now, and I still can't wrap my brain around how he can possibly coerce those incredible sounds from that collection of turntables, samplers, and widgets.) In between, he mixed at least a couple off the new one, as well as at least one tune off Private Press.

Through it all, DJ Shadow remained his usual low-key, generous self, sharing the stage with one of the rappers on his album and a singer named Chris James from Leeds, England, who's featured on two tracks on The Outsider. He lavished much praise on the Bay Area and its role in shaping his sensibilities. Call me silly, but details such as those will likely keep me in the fold for some time to come.

Friday, September 15, 2006

in a barroom, patrons singing

Supergroups are a music geek's dream. Just when you can maybe--just maybe--admit your favorite artist might not hold your complete and undivided interest until the end of time, said musician goes and hooks up professionally with another vaunted musical figure. Thus, you get a whole new venue to examine and deconstruct your hero's musical roots, breakout moves, and songwriting inspirations. Long may you run.

Golden Smog, the Fillmore, September 12, 2006: One of the problems with supergroups is that because their members tend to have other commitments, you never know if they'll tour and who'll eventually show up onstage. So, as with the New Pornographers, who sometimes tour without Neko Case, the Golden Smog roster didn't include Jeff Tweedy this time. As readers of easily fooled might guess, I kinda missed his presence and definitely missed his songs. But it was far from a deal breaker.

Golden Smog, the Fillmore, September 12, 2006Instead, we got Gary Louris in a clear leadership position, Kraig Jarrett Johnson as top homoerotic foil, Dan Murphy also on guitar, Marc Perlman mostly on bass, and a supporting drummer and keyboard player. Unfortunately, I've never seen Golden Smog before, so I can't compare past performances, but I was struck by two main things. For one, I was surprised by Gary's sizzling guitar licks, though I blame this on my own stereotyping of the Jayhawks as strictly a folksy, jangly band. Also, I'm not sure why it had never occurred to me that he would be the main mover in Golden Smog; hell, they only recorded the album at his home in Spain.

Kraig Johnson--and not just his chiseled cheekbones--made the other resounding impression on me. I'm guilty of lumping together the songs not penned by Tweedy and/or Louris in the Golden Smog oeuvre, even the ones I like, so it was a huge eye-opener to connect Kraig with so many great tunes in such a range of styles. There's a song, "5-22-02," on the new album that sounds like a total Go-Betweens paean to me. Who'd have thought that it would show up on a Golden Smog album and that it would be written by Kraig?

Golden Smog, the Fillmore, September 12, 2006Overall, the band played a lot of older stuff, including all the favorites such as "V" and "Looking Forward to Seeing You," and they turned in a lovely "Starman." For a supposed Americana act, they sure betray their glam rock fandom pretty often, not that I'm complaining. For the closer, they brought out Jim Boquist to lend a hand on the anthemic "Until You Came Along" (a song I've been known to play on repeat for hours on end), a huge hit with the crowd.

If I have any complaints about this show (again, this might be my own stereotyping) is that it was neither as loose nor as tight as I expected. I mean, I don't think anyone expected a tight show, but I thought they'd engage in more goofy banter. Still, I've been listening to Golden Smog almost nonstop for the last few days--thankfully, my other senses override those pesky doubts.

Tim O'Reagan, also formerly of the Jayhawks, opened the show with another Twin City-heavy set of players, including the aforementioned Jim Boquist. I like his voice, but he could've rocked out a little more for my tastes. He joined the headliners on "Jennifer Save Me" for a mini Jayhawks reunion.

See also:
» the whole damn crowd seemed so far away
» every day is dreamlike

Sunday, September 03, 2006

sometimes when this place gets kinda empty

Just as I promised, Brianne's first non-Jon Brion Largo show turned out to be a very mellow affair, and I didn't even have to apologize to Mike at the door for hogging up a four-party reservation with only three warm bodies. As always, it's a delight when Evonne joins us.

The Greg Proops Chat Show, Largo, August 30, 2006: Three Largo-related events in five days--that may be a record for me. It would've been my fourth outing in the same amount of time if I had managed to get tickets to the Zach Galifianakis show at the Fillmore, but alas, I've been slipping for some time now.

As this is primarily a concert blog, I'll address the tunage first. Sadly, we couldn't make Greg's last appearance, nor did the junior minions go in our stead, but tonight, we saw a Largo regular other than Jon Brion take up the musical slack: Grant Lee Phillips. He did three songs total, the first of which I didn't recognize, but at the end of the set, he came back for his own "Mockingbirds" and a cover of the Church's "Under the Milky Way Tonight," which you can hear on his recently released album, nineteeneighties.

For the closer, Grant Lee was accompanied by Margaret Cho doing a hilarious burlesque routine. I had my doubts when she described her fascination with this retro form of entertainment, but leave it to Margaret to turn it into a goofy, unique exercise that I doubt you'll see anywhere else. Pussycat Dolls, eat your skinny, no-talent hearts out!

Almost as funny as Margaret's routine were the confused and somewhat concerned faces Grant pulled as she hovered near him. Still, I felt a little weird at the end when I realized we were staring at a nearly naked Margaret Cho, wearing only clear plastic platform boots, panties, two big ostrich-feather fans, and three pairs of pasties on her body.

True to the billing, Greg Proops did indeed conduct a talk show of sorts. After Grant kicked off the proceedings, Greg took the stage for one of his patented long-form rants/observations/schpiels covering, um, a lot of things, most of which weren't included in his rant/observation/schpiel opening for Jon Brion last month. His first guest was Ngaio Bealum, an advocate for safe access to medicinal marijuana. He made a convincing argument, and I liked the "I smoked weed with Ngaio" t-shirts he was hawking.

The next guest was "Lindsay Lohan," if she were trapped in the body of a 40something white guy best known for a TV show celebrating the Ohio lifestyle. Yup, we got Drew Carey sort of pretending to be Lindsay and not doing a very good job of it. Where's a hoedown when you need one??

Margaret and Greg, however, got on like a house on fire, and it was fun sitting in the dark and listening to the two of them just yakking away about every subject under the sun. Greg asked about Margaret's upcoming TV roles, Margaret compared Greg to Marcello Mastroianni, and they both voiced their disdain about being an actor--except they were a lot funnier than I could ever encapsulate.

See also:
» have you tasted the finest of trout
» "My name is Jon, I'm from Connecticut"
» top 5 Largo memories