With my own Christmas plans somewhat derailed this year, it's nice to know that at least some traditions are going strong. Also, if you have room at the stable for me and two dogs this Christmas, drop me a line!
Aimee Mann's Second Annual Christmas Show, Bimbo's 365 Club, December 2 and 3, 2007: Back when I sent out Christmas cards, I may have pulled the supremely cheapo move of collecting extras from years past and mailing them, with the hope that the same card wouldn't land in the same friend's mailbox.
I don't know if Aimee Mann does that, but her Christmas show, in a manner of speaking, does not.
So though we saw some of her friends (Paul F. Tompkins, Morgan Murphy) and bandmates (bassist Paul Bryan, pianist/keyboardist Jamie Edwards, and drummer John Sands, accompanied by new--for the group--addition Mark Spencer on lead guitar) return to the lineup, we also got a good dose of fresh material too.
The biggest update was a little film Aimee presented, charting her "Peanuts"-like "journey" to the Christmas show. I won't try to describe it too much, except to note that it was hilarious and that both Aimee's and Paul F. Tompkins's acting chops were spot-on. Oh, friends-of-Largo John Krasinski, Emily Proctor, Fred Armisen, Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Ben Stiller, and Will Ferrell turned in cameos too. But don't let those names dazzle and derail you; as good as they were, Aimee was the star attraction.
Also new this year was a seemingly local emphasis on musical talent, as Aimee tapped a couple of Bay Area figures for the show. This is where I hang my head in shame, as my incessant rock tourism has led me to squander a lot of opportunities to see the acts who happen to live and work in town. Thankfully, artists such as Aimee take up the slack, as both Sean Hayes and Chuck Prophet were pretty awesome, though in different ways.
Sean Hayes, who graces Largo from time to time, exhibited many of the characteristics you'd expect from someone familiar with the club. That is, his songs were thoughtful, wry, and effortless, and his stage presence assured and welcoming. On the second night, he and Aimee performed a duet that will appear on her new album, and both nights, he rolled out the only song in his repertoire that could be vaguely connected to Christmas: a tune about having sex on the living room floor with Mary Magdalene.
Chuck Prophet, on the other hand, brought the rawk. He and Aimee belted the Christmas song that Michael Penn and Jon Brion wrote a million years ago, then with just her band, he dug into covers of Iggy Pop and Alex Chilton songs. The second night, the band seemed to especially relish the second number, roaring out the "hey"s in unison.
Paul and Morgan reprised their roles as comic foils and showed off their musical bent along the way. Paul provided the especially louche-sounding half of "Baby It's Cold Outside," complete with a moral to the story ("no means no"), as well as the more authoritarian tone to "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch." In between songs, he also worked his stand-up, sharing a combination Christmas story/public service announcement that DARE might want to get behind.
Morgan donned the body suit and tutu once more (along with a big cardboard cut-out of the Star of David hanging on her chest) for her turn as the Hanukkah Fairy. This year, however, she was more than the window dressing for the show, as she also kicked out a rap about the story of Hanukkah, complete with backing vocals from Aimee herself. Yet again, I will invoke audience privilege and not attempt to replicate her rhymes, except to say that there was a shout-out to Loehmann's and the Trader Joe's on Geary and Masonic among the couplets. Though she stole the show, the Hanukkah Fairy couldn't join us the second night, as she had to fly back to L.A. for a one-line role in a Jeremy Piven movie. Hmph.
Aimee's musical contributions were fairly similar to what we heard last year, highlighting songs from her Christmas album, and for the most part, they hit the older tracks you'd expect too. Thus, we got some of the slightly more holiday-themed songs ("Clean Up for Christmas," "Jacob Marley's Chains"), as well as her go-to favorite hits ("Deathly," "Save Me"). I always want to hear "Deathly," but Aimee reworked it this round, starting out with just her voice and the acoustic guitar, bringing in the band, then ending on a gospel-like flourish, in the process delivering on the song's grand arc, both lyrical and musical.
On the second night, Aimee also tried out a couple of tunes from her forthcoming album (due out in the spring), including the aforementioned duet with Sean as well as "Freeway," which I recall hearing the one time I've seen her at Largo.
December means a lot of things to me, as it does to many people, but if Aimee's willing to make her Christmas show a regular gig, I'm glad to add another item to that long list of associated events.
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