With a human voice underneath.
Owl John, the Crepe Place, June 23, 2014: My old rock tourism reflexes began twitching as soon as the Owl John tour dates were first announced, but following the Echo gig, I had to make it happen. Early on, Visalia was particularly intriguing, as I'd seen British Sea Power there a few years ago, but other obligations foiled those plans. That left Santa Cruz, which was entirely doable, even after a day at work and a significant drive out of town. Best of all, it was a bona fide tertiary market.
I'd driven past the Crepe Place before, but had yet to venture in. It's right across the street from the fabulous Rio Theatre -- and what's not to love about a concert venue that puts food first? But even knowing Santa Cruz's laid-back reputation and the possibilities of seeing a gig at a creperie, I had thoroughly overestimated the room's capacity and formality. The doorman told me the stage was to the right of the entrance, but he neglected to mention the mic stood planted directly on the bar floor, 10 feet from that initial ingress.
In fact, the Crepe Place was divided into two spaces. In the back, diners sat down in the nicely sized restaurant. In the bar, not even 100 people convened to watch the musical act. Funny enough, in terms of setup, the Crepe Place brought to mind the Cellar Door in Visalia and probably a bunch of other venues I've frequented in the past.
Taking the stage, Scott immediately reported that a lady in the audience had asked him not to do "old shit," then let us know she'd be disappointed, as that was his main plan. The rest of the crowd was glad to hear it.
For this smaller room, Scott went with the acoustic treatment, borrowing a guitar from Withered Hand, the opener. Once again, he began with "Old Old Fashioned," more recognizable this time in acoustic form. When he called for requests, the small audience turned out to be enthusiastic and fairly knowledgeable. In a repeat of probably every solo gig Scott ever does, "Poke" and "Keep Yourself Warm" jumped out right away, and Scott had to remind the room that he had to save the hits, for fear of everyone leaving prematurely. Here's a hint, based on my attendance of a grand total of three shows: "Poke" and "Keep Yourself Warm" are almost guaranteed to come up, likely near the end of the gig. It pays to be patient.
With an entire Owl John gig already under my belt, I quickly realized that Scott was sticking to the same general song list, with a surprise or two thrown in every night, which I believe is the same model Frightened Rabbit uses. The rarity tonight might've been "Foot Shooter," which was great to hear. I managed to get in a request for "State Hospital," so thanks to Scott for obliging.
Two differences stood out to me about this show. First, Scott seemed even more talkative than usual, and it's not like he'd been taciturn and shy in Los Angeles. For example, he explained that "Scottish Winds" was a song about where he came from, but after a beat clarified it was not about his mother's womb. In fact, he said, he hadn't written a song about his mother's womb ... yet. He also disowned "Snake," from Frightened Rabbit's first record. And in an aside about "Heads Roll Off," he brought up a guy who had been singing a little too well at one of his earlier shows (probably Los Angeles), adding trills and embellishments Scott couldn't do himself. Scott would refer to him as "Beyonce," probably in the best sense possible. Finally, Scott also told us about the time he lost his voice and saw the accompanying medical photos, in which his throat looked a lot like a vagina. Hey-oh!
Scott also briefly brought up seeing Radiohead's Kid A tour and about the metal tuning (drop C) he uses on "Swim Until You Can't See Land." Somehow this led to a riff on Suck Satan's Cock, the band.
The second -- and related -- difference: The show was notably longer than Thursday night's gig. I counted 21 songs at this date, compared to 19 for Los Angeles, but Scott himself noted it was his longest show yet on the tour. There's probably no single reason for this variation. I suspect Scott grew more comfortable over the course of the intervening gigs and simply wanted to play more tunes. Or maybe Santa Cruz was suitably intimate and low key for him to keep going. No one was complaining.
Scott closed the show with "Keep Yourself Warm," the sorrowful Highland howl nearly an instrument on its own. The crowd helped out, and though Los Angeles had us beat in musicality, the audience did well for the numbers. In fact, the handful of enthusiastic, dedicated fans was evident from the beginning and showed Scott he was as welcome in this town as in any metropolis.
Owl John in California
» Los Angeles: four worn-out limbs and not one love song
» San Francisco: her heart beats like a breezeblock
» fans of alcohol
» the high lonesome truth