Back on the horse--several concerts are on the schedule for next week, so expect more reports (as soon as I can write them, anyway). First up, the Nels Cline Singers return to San Francisco!
Nels Cline Singers, Cafe du Nord, November 19, 2008: I frequently mix up my Nels Cline shows, especially when some of the touring lineups comprise the Singers in all but name. Then again, this confusion wouldn't be possible without the embarrassment of opportunities I get to see these musicians--so no complaints here.
I gotta admit, though, that despite the Singers' frequent appearances, I still feel like a complete fraud when I talk about their gigs. But I'll try to offer the 30,000-foot view of the show and what details I can recall after a weekend filled with other people's tunes.
After seeing so many permutations of the group, I had almost forgotten what the three Singers--Nels, Scott Amendola, and Devin Hoff--were capable of on their own. Well, almost--Greg and Satomi from Deerhoof joined them on the first couple of tracks, though their contributions were on the conservative side, encompassing a dusting of percussion and a whisper of vocals. Nels explained that with the first selection, "Boogie Woogie Waltz," he simply wanted to bring together Deerhoof and '70s jazz fusion, but the second track, "Suspended Head" was a more studied choice, as he had dedicated it to the very band on the Instrumentals CD.
I have a majorly cred-destroying (work with me, people) story about the first time I saw Deerhoof play at All Tomorrow's Parties on the UCLA campus, but I'm not going to share it now. Let's just say that despite my early impressions of the band, even I knew it was pretty unusual for both them and Nels to be in town on the same night, so I was glad to see them come together in this tiny club.
Perhaps my favorite song of the night came during the first set: "Thurston County," from Nels's upcoming solo record, out in February 2009. As Nels explained it, it was the name of a real place, and listening to the more laid-back passages in the tune brought to mind the exhilaration of a crisp, clear drive up the Northern California coast. That track's a winner.
The Singers' second set kicked off with a hubbub that Nels admitted wasn't exactly what they had planned. If memory serves me correctly, he may have cited Godzilla as a factor in the number's lurching coda. In fact, Nels displayed a goofy energy all night, even through the more volatile numbers the trio is capable of carrying off. So though we would hear a stately Andrew Hill selection, as well as Nels's somber "Stela for Jefferson," I can't say the show's tone dipped at all, even as the music took us to the extremes of artistic expression.