Eels, Great American Music Hall, August 11, 2011: I've fallen into the formerly anathema habit of not buying concert tickets ahead of time and letting the chips fall where they may. This often means missing the gig entirely, or I turn to Craigslist for an extra. For the eels gig, several sellers contacted me, but I also got an imbalanced exchange with another would-be ticket holder. I'll excerpt his emails below.
I'm currently trying to recruit a girl to come along; but she doesn't know who EELS are and is recovering from surgery. So I'd say chances of you getting it are even higher than I am (hahhahahah - don't worry about the only one who thinks I'm funny). I live in [town name] so I'd have to meet you in the Tenderloin. The only thing I need you to do is look out for police officers and crackheads with weapons while I score my dope. (Unarmed crackheads are easy to handle). Just kidding of course......
Man....chick said a week and a half ago she'd love to go. Now I get a text on the DAY OF THE SHOW that she isn't coming 'but if you want to come to [town name] for a few drinks I'd be happy to have you.' I CAN GET ALCOHOL ON JESUS' BIRTHDAY WOMAN! What the fuck is that? Granted E tours way too much and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the Bay Area before New Years......It is not an everyday occurrence. She probably drinks fruity smirnoff shit anyways. Damn I'm pissed. Kinda nice how my sarcasm stays in tact when I'm really mad though :) Up at [university name] used to pay 400 for a single football seat when the face value was something like 112. I don't want to rip you off though; just want you to see a band you enjoy and have enough money to survive the week (I'm frugal......Danish. Not Jewish. But frugal). Can you do $50 in unmarked Canadian bills?
Note: This does not include a surprise Gchat session littered with jokes (?) about chemical dependency and mandatory sentencing -- watch your privacy controls, kids! I ended up buying a ticket elsewhere in a completely professional transaction, and when I informed the fellow above, he replied that he'd "found a total cutie on Match.com who loves Eels." I'm pretty sure I dodged a major bullet on this one.
I can't tell you whether this guy was serious, but if it was performance art, it was fitting for an eels show, where a dose of theatrics has always been the norm. Tonight, early hints of these dramatic touches included an impressive bank of lights, three small trophies topping various amps and monitors, and a reinforced barrier at the front of the stage. Also, "Eelvis Presley" warmed up the crowd with a short selection of famous tracks from the King.
It soon became apparent why the barrier was in place; it allowed room for three wooden blocks in the gap between the audience and the band. E, in turn, worked this short expanse as something like a catwalk, ambling out to the edge throughout the night. But let's face it -- this was hardly a teenybopper crowd. We greeted him enthusiastically, but no one launched themselves onstage.
It's a little odd to think that the eels have been around for 15 years now, with a full discography to prove it. I've managed to catch them on several tours in this time, and one thing I've grown to expect (in addition to the aforementioned flourishes) is the band's ongoing transformations of the of their back catalog.
Back in 2008, the two-man gang banged out stripped-down treatments, but with six supporting players, the latest version of the group went all out. The only description I feel comfortable reporting is "I Like Birds" went all cock rock. Also, during the new-style "Novocaine for the Soul," I kept wondering what kind of miracle occurred that such an unorthodox piece of pop could be considered a hit. Finally, I never would've guessed that the former standard bearers of the '90s Silverlake sound would burrow so heavily into roots rock, but that kind of discovery is exactly why some of us stick around. They rounded out the setlist with a cover of "Hot Fun in the Summertime," though only after confessing to thinking they were in San Felipe, Mexico, for New Year's Eve.
E held court with Letterman-esque proclamations ("That was fun!") and minutely detailed band intros. I recognized a few of the faces, such as The Chet on guitar and Knuckles on drums. We were told Tiny Al on bass came from the same family that gave us Crazy Al and Big Al, which I suspected all along. The three other players looked less familiar, but they fit in nicely with their shades and sport coats. You can't say the eels don't set the scene.
The Submarines opened the show, and after a couple of hints, I remembered they were featured in an Apple commercial a little while ago. Speaking of LA fads, they hit the current sweet spot of boy/girls vocals in combination with a folksy, poppy sound. They charmed me, which is a rare feat these days.
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