You May See the Meaning of Within

 

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Largo Stage Set Up for Jon Brion’s September show.

Jon Brion at Largo at the Coronet on September 29, 2017.

The show was opened by comedian Kumail Nanjiani who was trying out his monologue in advance of appearing on Saturday Night Live. There’s a nice round-up and link to the video of his monologue here courtesy of Vanity Fair.

When Jon appeared on stage he noted “I’m going this way” and headed straight to the piano, as usual for the start of the show.

#lastnight #JonBrion 9/29/17 Get your seat for his next shows @ largo-la.com

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  1. The first piece he played began in a melancholy mood, transitioning to a light melody with a fast interplay between the right and left hands. He then slowed down to a chord-based theme, ending with notes ascending the range of the piano.
  2. Strings That Tie to You” from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Piano with synthesizer twiddling sounds over the top which he then looped. He played a fairly standard version of this one, briefly changing to tack piano during the bridge.
  3. The more equipment on the stage the greater the likelihood for technical difficulties, so it seems with Jon’s shows. Assistant Pete was called to the stage as Jon noted to the audience regarding the video running on the right screen, “We’ll leave that fine video up there; give you some entertainment in the meantime. It’s educational!” Meanwhile words such as mnemonic and language appeared on the screen with definitions and drawings to illustrate their meanings. Jon then quipped, “I’m a fan of dead air, so this is my favorite moment of the show so far.”  Jon set up a video of a man fingerpicking guitar on the left screen. He began playing on the piano with his right hand and the miniKorg with his left hand as he launched into Harry Nilsson’s song “One.”
  4. Next, Jon headed toward center stage, picking up his black and white Gretsch and stating, “Let’s see what this does.” He fiddled with the settings and began playing some nasty little noises which turned into the heavy, slow burning, unrecorded “At It Again.” Note, this Gretsch was currently minus both the B and E strings.
  5. Jon chose to head back to the “19th Century Technology,” aka the piano, and introduced Paul Cartwright on violin. The duo performed Jon’s astute song and crowd favorite, “Here We Go,” from Punch-Drunk Love. Upon completion he remarked, “I just had one evil idea so given how it’s going — I’ll do that later.”  This is foreshadowing the 12th song on this set list.
  6.  Jon decided it was singalong time and the audience was game as always for David Bowie’s “Changes” — which was almost a simultaneous request between myself and another audience member sitting near me. Definitely some good harmonies happening in the crowd that night.  Paul headed off stage after this song.
  7. Any Major Dude Will Tell You” — cover of a Steely Dan song played on piano. Afterward, Jon beckoned for further refreshment, “I have a request for more Guinness as I intend to be drinking tonight.”
  8. Play the Game”  — cover of a Queen song. I’ve been loving this song so much since hearing the version Jon recorded. When finished playing he addressed the audience, “I’m starting to sense a theme, so we’re going to go with it. Let’s take more requests and have as nice a communal time as humanly possible.”
  9. Same Mistakes” from Meaningless. Again on piano, I just sat back and enjoyed this one.
  10. Stop the World” unreleased original Jon Brion song. When setting up the song he referred to the right screen, “We’ll leave some video on their just ’cause.” It continued on to show an old film with terms about computing, such as Boolean logic, nanosecond, and pattern recognition, followed by one on how to assemble an Eames Lounge Chair.  On the left screen, Brad Mehldau provided piano accompaniment to Jon’s song.
  11. Knock Yourself Out” from I Heart Huckabees. Aptly played in a seemingly thematic sync with the video on the right screen of the “Solar Do Nothing Machine.”

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    Jon’s Choice of Guitars, with Paul’s Violin on the Far Right

  12. “When I said I was going to do something dangerous and stupid this was one of the moments I was referring to.” Jon then headed over to the drums and played a very familiar drum beat, the one that belongs to The Beatles’ song “Tomorrow Never Knows.” He put that rhythm on a loop and moved to the piano where he played that high repeated chord sequence in the song and some additional chords that were all looped in. Next he picked up the orange Gretsch and added a bass line using the lower strings. The effect of the building music appeared to power the man. He became bolder with each addition, demonstrating it physically by kicking a buzzing amp, as well as a chair.  Then he brought his full attention to the guitar, playing it heavy on the tremolo bar. Down on his knees playing the melody on guitar, completely consumed in the music, one single man channeling the brilliance of all four Beatles and George Martin, the sound full and all encompassing. Still on his knees, he wrenched hold of a microphone and sang some of the lyrics. Then, forget about the microphone, he appeared to be singing into the guitar pick-ups and in the next moment his mouth was on the guitar strings while he appeared to effortlessly bring forth an epic solo on the guitar. He continued down to the floor in a rapturous finale of the guitar portion. Then moving back to the piano and layering more of that on to the mix. He hit a low rumbling note and cranked the volume on the synth sounds. He added someone on the left screen who may or may not have been Robert Plant, as well as a boy playing drums. Jon’s fingers danced their way through a variation of the song’s melody on the high notes on the piano. He added orchestras to both the left and right screens. I felt enveloped by a wall of sound that was so powerful that I wondered if my body might burst into a million molecules at the excess of it. Or the whirlwind of music would lift me into the air and spin me around in its fervor.  The experience was absolutely unparalleled. The drums, the bass, and the original piano were still looped at this point too. There was one last addition to a screen — of three women singing an indecipherable song. The master finished at the piano with full chords constructing the melody. I have seen a lot of performances in the last few years, but I have never before witnessed something so incredible as Jon becoming one with this song. It was the best performance of his I have ever seen and one of the top musical performances of anything I have ever seen in my entire life. How to follow that? With a total change of pace by calling up a guest artist.
  13. John Wickes of The Records was called to the stage and appeared with an acoustic guitar. Jon introduced the song as one of his favorite songs of all time, “In the pantheon of great songs written about people in the music business by a musician,” with John Wickes adding, “About the perils of the music business.” “This is the song we had a hit with after firing the manager.” Jon Brion accompanied on piano for “Starry Eyes.”
  14. Teenorama” John explained the song was about a 20-or-so-year-old guy wanting to date a 17-year-old girl and that the song had been taken out of context on the Internet to suggest a much larger age gap. You couldn’t help but image that when listening as he sang the lyrics. Jon again joined in on piano and backing vocals.
  15. Jon concluded the main stage show with Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” and again an audience singalong.
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Right Before the Magic Started in The Little Room

Then all the smart people headed to the Little Room because we all knew the amazing night was going to continue. It certainly did so with Jon on piano, Paul joining in on violin, and Jacob Scesney, saxophonist-about-town and often a player with Postmodern Jukebox, taking over the Little Room stage.

  1. Ok, I can’t even read my notes on the first song, but it was “JAUNTY!”
  2. I Wanna Be Sedated” — Ramones cover with the audience in full voice.
  3. Waterloo Sunset”  — The Kinks cover, more singing along with the audience.
  4. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” – with Jon in gorgeous piano playing mode and Jacob giving it the sexy saxophone treatment, this was an absolutely spine-tingling rendition of a classic jazz standard. After, Jon asked for requests and there was some banter with an audience member about The Turtles and a song being “sterile.”
  5. I Ain’t Me Babe” — Bob Dylan cover and another singalong.
  6. Only Love Can Break Your Heart” — Neil Young cover.
  7. Take the A-Train” with the piano, saxophone, and violin it was off the rails amazing!
  8. SNL Closing Theme (A Waltz in A)” Performed as a nod to Kumail who was off to do SNL and because Jacob was right there and able to blow the house down on the sax — what a way to top off an incredible night. Finished off in style. Amazing!

The great Jacob Scesney played his horn with Jon Brion tonite in the wee small hours @jsayswho

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Change Your Heart, Look Around You

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Stage Set Up for Jon Brion’s August Show at Largo

August 25, 2017 — Another Friday at the end of the month, must be time for Jon Brion‘s show at Largo at the Coronet. Owner Mark Flanagan came on stage and greeted the audience, remarking “It does feel like when you’re in this room…fuck everything else! Everything’s gonna be alright.” Then he introduced special guest Zach Galifianakis to open the show with a set of stand-up comedy. Stand-up is not my area of expertise, but Zach had me laughing with his down-played, nervous-looking delivery and exaggerated life commentary and observations (at one moment opening the door to the Largo alley and pretending to check on his kids as if they were parked in a car outside). His set was fairly short and soon enough Jon strode on to the stage.

  1. Jon headed straight for the piano for his usual improv warm-up, starting off playing rather rapidly, with an ebullient style. Eventually he decelerated into some closely played, pretty tones, then built tension followed by resolution, culminating in jocular stride piano. Referencing the multiple pieces of equipment on the stage, Jon announced that we were in for a “public soundcheck.”
  2. Moonage Daydream” — David Bowie cover. After asking for requests from the audience, this song title was immediately shouted out and Jon obliged. Checking through different rhythms on his beat machine, Jon picked out one that had a samba feel to it, remarking that it was “the best so far” and thus he performed the song with a piano lounge feel, also incorporating the miniKorg into the show.
  3. After asking for more requests he briefly teased the audience with the most recognizable components of a few different songs, including, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Theme,” “Whip It,” “Mr. Roboto,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Then came the irrepressible request for “Freebird.” Jon remarked, “‘Freebird,’ so early in the set? ‘Freebird,’ third song of the night. I was gonna close with that.” He went on to play the song with swatches of “I Wish I Was in Dixie” and “Hail to the Chief,” mixing in modulating chords and some segments of those songs in a minor key.

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    Ready for Looping

  4. Strings that Tie to You” from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Played on the piano and making use of the movie screens and projectors on stage, Jon put up an older man playing guitar on one screen and Maria Callas singing a song from Tosca (I believe that I’ve found that correct video at the link, she was certainly singing next to those candles that appear around 1m14s) on another. From where I was sitting there was an interesting visual juxtaposition so that it looked like Maria Callas was singing into the microphone that was placed at the front of the Largo stage. I was itching so badly to snap a photo of that (no photos allowed at Largo though). Meanwhile, Jon had looped the repeated piano part of the song and while that was playing back he played chords on the piano and the bass line on the miniKorg, occasionally blasting accents of Maria’s singing over the top of it all.  As the song finished, assistant Pete brought out another Guinness for Jon, to which Jon said to him, “Nice mind reading job.” Pete responded, “It’s the ‘Freebird;’ got me thinking.”
  5. “At It Again” —  one of Jon Brion’s unrecorded original songs (I love this song, please record it already). As Jon picks up his black and white Gretsch he comments to the audience, “Remember that public soundcheck I mentioned earlier? We’re in it.” He thumbs his way though the righteous bass notes to begin this song. There’s a buzz attached to the Gretsch being on and after the song an audience member is heard to exclaim, “Oh shit!,” which may or may not have had anything to do with what was happening on stage. Jon acknowledged it with a “maybe.”
  6. Why Do You Do This to Yourself” — co-written with and recorded by Evan Dando. Jon poignantly sings this toward a certain audience member who may or may not have been dozing off in the front row (not me). Indeed, I wondered the same thing. At the conclusion of the song and annoyed with the continual buzzing and unplugging the Gretsch Jon curmudgeonly curses, “Misbehaving bunch of motherfucking shit!”
  7. He headed back to the piano saying, “Let’s start this whole thing over again.” He asked for requests and took his time deciding what he was going to do all while playing part of “Over the Rainbow” on piano. Someone called out “Gershwin plays The Police!” Jon began playing what I thought was a teaser of it, but then he created the mash-up, basing the rhythm on the quarter note beats of “Roxanne” while mixing in the melody of “Summertime” with “Rhapsody in Blue” riffs and possibly other references I missed. The was one of the magic moments of the night.
  8. Theme” from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Rapid tremolos cleared the path into this soporific, emotionally-drenched, gorgeous theme. Finishing the piece, he laid down something jazzy on the piano for a minute and then switched to tack piano, keeping it all very atmospheric, before playing directly into a straightforward rendition of the next song.
  9. Knock Yourself Out” from I Heart Huckabees
  10. All the Young Dudes” — cover of David Bowie’s song made famous by Mott the Hoople. “Okay motherfuckers, it’s singalong time. Anyone who knows the verse lyrics on this, sing ’em.” Well, that turned out to be led by one soulful gentleman in the audience and the rest of us mainly chimed in on the chorus. I guess it should be my homework to learn that whole song. At the conclusion of this one Jon noted he was hearing, “A lot of Hall and Oates and a lot of Velvets requests; it usually wouldn’t happen on the same night. (People laughed.) Don’t worry, I’m not going to smoosh them together.” (Spellcheck doesn’t think smoosh is a word, but I think it is a perfectly good one. Obviously it hasn’t heard what Jon Brion can do.) Next, Jon began to fiddle around trying to find a beat on his beat-making machine, but couldn’t find anything that suited him, remarking, “The rhythm machine let me down.” (Sounds like a great album title.) He headed to the drums on stage and tracked his own rhythm and played that on a loop.  While strapping a different Gretsch on, he headed to the center of the stage and announced, “Hi, I’m Jon, I’ll be your human karaoke machine.” He started tuning the guitar and added, “I’m going to tune for you, not every karaoke machine will do this.”

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    Guitar Options

  11. Alison” — cover of an Elvis Costello song. This was a decent version of the song with a fair amount of the audience singing along.
  12. This is Where I Belong” — cover of a Kinks song, performed with the same Gretsch and thoroughly enjoyable.
  13. Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime” — cover of the song by The Korgis. Jon began this one by looping his drum track first. He gave no indication as to what he was about to play and that was when I realized that part of the appeal to me of Jon’s shows is the feeling of wondering what he is going to do next. Because it could be anything and usually at least one time per show, there is that one song or medley when it is (such as “Gershwin plays The Police” earlier in this show). This particular piece he’s been returning to somewhat regularly for the past few years. To me, this song, with its succinct lyrics and uncomplicated rhythm, is like a mantra one could create a mediation session around and Jon’s performance of it on this night found me feeling emotionally and mentally expanded. So I’ve honored this song by using its first line as the post title. While playing it on the piano, Jon also gave the song the big screen treatment, sticking an orchestra up on the house right screen and dueling guitarists on the left screen, before Eric Clapton won some solo screen time at the end. This piece closed the set, ending a little earlier in the night than usual, as Jon had promised to play a few more on the piano in the Little Room.

True to his word, Jon performed in the Little Room, though a brief set of six (not-so-brief) songs. He began with jazz improvisation on the piano, followed by a jaunty stride piano piece that had Jon’s body possessed by its rhythm, with feet stomping, body twisting, and heels grinding down. He even broke a fingernail while playing it. He drew from his I Heart Huckabees score for the third one, incorporating “You Learn.” On conclusion, he remarked, “Any wrong notes, blame on the microphone,” as he pulled a microphone out of the inside of the piano. I had noticed that microphone laying on top of the piano before he started playing for the evening and was sure his actions had caused it to fall inside. I was in the front and muttered under my breath, “You knocked it in there.” I guess Jon heard me, because he then said, “I know I knocked it in there playing raucous stride piano.” He then took a request for “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” playing a beautiful, intimate, and understated version. I wondered how he could stay focused on it when we could hear someone’s car radio playing something else just outside the Little Room door off the street. The next piece he called a “Soundtrack for a Silent Film That Hasn’t Been Made Yet” and it sounded exactly like that. Brilliant. He closed with a full audience singalong of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” with every voice filling the small space of the room. Jon tacked on an extra ending for the song, “Look at the law men beating up the wrong guy, oh man, I guess it’s Sheriff Arpaio. Fuck Trump and his show.”  Upon finishing, Jon briefly addressed the audience, “You can either go gentle into that good night or not.” Hear, hear.

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The Little Room (Where Magic Happens) at the End of the Night

Sweeter Each Season

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Toad the Wet Sprocket

For my summer vacation I decided to follow two of my favorite bands around California. I’ve been loving Toad the Wet Sprocket since the early 1990s and their opening band Beta Play for the past three years, since I first saw them open for Toad at an unforgettable show in Fresno under their former band name Tommy and the High Pilots. This post covers four shows that I attended and will be a little more personal than my usual posts — part travelogue, part recap. The first show I saw on this road trip was at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento, CA on August 2, 2017. The next night was at The Fillmore in San Francisco, CA and amazingly though I’ve been to that city a few times before, it was the first time I attended a concert at that historic venue. It was my favorite night of the four. On August 4, 2017, it was on to the Golden State Theatre in Monterey, CA. Then I took a night off while Toad headed to L.A. and I caught up with the two bands again on August 6, 2017 at the Libbey Bowl in Ojai, CA.  Both bands kept their set lists the same for all four concerts; I’ve listed the songs played below followed by my thoughts on each band at each concert.

Peforming with Beta Play — top: Tom Cantillon, Michael Cantillon, bottom: Mike Dyer, Josh Daubin

Beta Play

The band Beta Play is comprised of lead singer and guitar player, Tom Cantillon; keyboardist, backing vocalist, and sometime guitar player, Michael Cantillon; bass player and sometime keyboardist, Mike Dyer; and percussionist and occasional backing vocalist, Josh Daubin.  Their set list was as follows:

  1. Messin’ Around” — new unrecorded song, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  2. Man of My Word” — new unrecorded song, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  3. Tug of War” — new single available for purchase on iTunes or stream on SoundCloud, etc., video from The Fillmore at the link.
  4. Fire to My Feet” — new unrecorded song, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  5. Heaven is Under the Sun” — from the Beta Play EP.
  6. Young Love” — new unrecorded song, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  7. Somebody Make a Move” — song from the album Only Human, from the band’s previous incarnation as Tommy and the High Pilots.
  8. Next to You” — new unrecorded song, video from the Golden State Theatre at the link.
  9. Do You Love Me” — from the Beta Play EP, video from the Golden State Theatre at the link.

Crest Theatre — I was with a friend in Row J for this show. We warned the people sitting behind us that we would be standing up and dancing for the opener and thankfully they were okay with that, so we did. After the second song in Beta Play’s set, Tom asked for some bright white lights shining on the stage to be brought down, adding “We look way better when you can’t see us.” Haha, no! It made taking photos of the band a little more difficult as the lights were pretty dark for the show and most of my photos turned out fairly grainy from trying to cope with the lighting. Half of the songs in the Beta Play set were completely new to me at this show.  On first hearing, “Fire to My Feet” was an immediate standout for its catchy chorus with perfect backing vocals by Michael and a highlight for Tom’s showmanship as he put down his guitar and cavorted about the stage. The sentimentalist in me was appeased by the beautiful melody, spine-tingling vocals, and sweetness of the lyrics of “Young Love.” Cool to see Jonathan Kingham joining them on slide guitar on “Do You Love Me” (link to video captured by someone at the show). After the show, it was fun being able to hang out in the lobby afterward and grab a picture with the whole band. I also met a fellow Beta Play fan who was going to be hitting the same concert stops that I was making.

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L to R: Josh Daubin, Tom Cantillon, and Michael Cantillon of Beta Play at The Fillmore

The Fillmore — Arrived early to line up only to watch half of the line disappear as the Toad OMG! VIP ticket buyers were taken inside early. A band member brought my new Beta Plan fan friend and myself  in to the theatre just in advance of the doors opening time and we were able to secure a spot at the front rail. This allowed me to get some up-close videos (maybe better for visual quality than sound quality) and decent photos at this show. The crowd was slow to build but by the time Toad took the stage the place was packed. Beta Play received a lot of love from this room and it seemed their were a few other fans of this band also in attendance. As it was GA with people standing on the main floor (a few seats were scattered around the sides and in the balcony), it was a lot easier to dance to the band, not that I was doing a lot of that here as I was shooting video and trying to be still. Tom introduced “Young Love” by saying that it had been inspired by his wife, who was his high school sweetheart, and that they’ve been together for fourteen years, having just gotten married last year. A few random cheers came from the crowd and then Tom added, “And you thought I was gay,” which got a laugh (you know people must have been thinking it, especially after seeing his sequined jacket and groovy dance moves).

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Tom Cantillon of Beta Play Performing at the Golden State Theatre

Golden State Theatre I spent the morning in San Francisco and then stopped in the San Jose area for lunch and to play tourist. With the heavy Friday afternoon traffic, I didn’t end up getting to my hotel in Monterey until almost 7pm. The show started at 8pm. I was very tired from the drive that took me twice as long as I expected (as well as being tired from the two prior late nights out) and had only eaten some snacks I had with me for dinner. I felt pretty out of it during this show, though I managed to befriend the lady sitting next to me. I was in the front row again, though this was a seated show, but stood up and danced for a few songs. Because of how I was feeling I was pretty lax about taking any notes or photos, but was glad to grab video of two songs I didn’t get at the Fillmore. The band won the crowd over pretty quickly once they started playing.

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Tom Cantillon of Beta Play Performing at the Libbey Bowl

Libbey Bowl — Learning from my travel error the day before, I left Monterey early, stopped for lunch in Santa Barbara, and got to Ojai about an hour before doors opened. The crowd was very slow to arrive for this concert and despite the venue being sold out, it was half empty when Beta Play took to the stage. I watched their set from my assigned seat in Row B, though should have stayed seated at one of the tables at the front where I had been talking with an L.A.-area friend before the show. My new friend who also toured around to these four shows grabbed the empty seat next to me and we enjoyed the Beta Play set together and we were probably the most enthusiastic people in the place. The sound was messy at the Libbey Bowl with Josh having barely any volume for his backing vocals and then when they finally turned it up, they were louder than Tom’s vocals. The crowd seemed indifferent to the band, though I enjoyed myself thoroughly and was happy to run into Beta Play’s former drummer in the audience.

Performing with Toad the Wet Sprocket — top: Glen Phillips, middle: Dean Dinning, Todd Nichols, bottom: Jonathan Kingham, Josh Daubin

Toad the Wet Sprocket

Toad the Wet Sprocket was celebrating the 20th anniversary of their album Coil on this tour, so brought out a few songs from that album that hadn’t been played in recent tours. On the road for Toad were Glen Phillips on guitar and lead vocals, Todd Nichols on lead guitar and backing vocals, Dean Dinning on bass and backing vocals, filling in for Randy Guss (who was out of commission due to broken ribs) on drums was Beta Play’s drummer Josh Daubin, and as Glen introduced him, “doing the work of three men,” on keyboards, lap steel, mandolin and backing vocals, was Toad’s regular utility player, Jonathan Kingham.

  1. The Moment” from New Constellation
  2. Whatever I Fear” from Coil
  3. All I Want” from fear
  4. Something to Say” from fear, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  5. California Wasted” from New Constellation
  6. Architect of the Ruin” from the Architect of the Ruin EP
  7. Windmills” from Dulcinea
  8. Good Intentions” from In Light Syrup
  9. One of Those Days” — new song from the upcoming Animal Crackers animated movie, video from the Crest Theatre at the link.
  10. Amnesty” from Glen’s most recent solo album, Swallowed By the New
  11. Desire” from Coil, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  12. Don’t Fade”/”Breathe” from Coil and appended with a short Pink Floyd cover
  13. All Things in Time” from Coil, video from the Crest Theatre at the link.
  14. Come Back Down” from Pale
  15. Nightingale Song” from Fear
  16. Crazy Life” from Coil
  17. Something’s Always Wrong” from Dulcinea
  18. Fall Down” from Dulcinea
  19. ENCORE “Rings” from Coil,  video from The Fillmore at the link.
  20. Nothing Can Stop My Love” from an upcoming Roger Miller tribute album
  21. Walk On the Ocean” from fear, link to a fan video from The Fillmore.

Crest Theatre — I was greatly anticipating this show, especially as it was the first time through this set list and there were a few of these songs that I’d never heard Toad play live. Before “All I Want,” Glen asked everyone to singalong and then sang briefly the lines, “She’ll be coming around the mountain,” and “someone’s in the kitchen with…”. Ha, okay, not that kind of singalong! Though wouldn’t that be fun? I want to go to a campfire where Glen is leading the songs. The crowd was getting fairly enthusiastic early on (this theatre had all the movie theatre snacks you could want including popcorn and big boxes of candy, as well as alcoholic drinks). Plus, Beta Play had warmed up these concert attendees pretty well. The audience sang their hearts out for this hit song and afterward Glen remarked, “You are a Friday night crowd on a Wednesday night,” which received a loud cheer. As was his patter each night, he dedicated “California Wasted” to people who were sad and depressed and those who love them.  The mini Coil set in the middle of their song lists was a treat.  Dean encouraged everyone in the audience to stand and clap for “Nightingale Song” which the audience did and remained on their feet the rest of the night. The cool percussion ending with Gavin Shea stepping up to join in the drumming each night was fantastic (check the video I linked from the Fillmore show). During “Something’s Always Wrong” three women of a certain age, perhaps filled with the beverages sold by the establishment, went dancing in a line down one aisle, across the front of the audience, up the other aisle, and down the aisle splitting the house into the front and back areas, and then around again. At the song’s conclusion Glen remarked, “We’ve never had a conga line to that!”  Each night when returning for their encore, Glen would promote their partnership with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign — an effort to mobilize people to act locally in an effort to encourage cities to obtain 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The Fillmore — Following Beta Play’s set, the crowd was pretty amped up and ready to rock once Toad took to the stage. They might have also been lit up too as the smell of pot hung heavily in the air at times becoming over bearing for me in the front row. Oh, San Francisco!  Glen was chilled out as could be, engaging in the most stage patter of all four nights. To the audience before “All I Want, “Yes, we’re happy to be back at the Fillmore. You’re so intelligent, attractive and successful. Singalong.” Yes, flattery will get you everywhere, of course the people sang.  When introducing their new tune “One of Those Days,” Glen commented, “All our friends (e.g., Counting Crows, Smash Mouth) had songs in computer-animated family films and we decided that was the next step.” At one point Glen headed off on one of his tangents more common in his solo shows, mentioning “utopia,” an author named “Morris,” and the location of “Jefferson” in California, then abruptly halting, “I’m going to stop talking because I’m making an ass of myself.” Not sure what he was aiming for there, but completely curious now. Post-show the security was not thrilled with people hanging around in the theatre for very long afterward, but it was sure nice of them to hand out apples to audience members on the way out. The Toad bus was right outside the theatre and this was the only night I was able to say hello and have a short chat with all of the band members. And I got a banana from Jonathan Kingham (not a euphemism).

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Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket Performing at the Golden State Theatre

Golden State Theatre — As I mentioned above, I was so tired and hungry during this show, there was a lot of sleepy dancing from me because I had reached that place where my brain had no self-conscious cares. Best comments of the night came in regard to the song “Good Intentions.” Glen remarked that Dean wanted the song dedicated to Martin Shkreli and then stated, “This is about Karma.” Dean added, “And Pharma.” Another funny moment was after the song “Desire” when Glen described the song as, “The odd love child of Jack Canfield and Foreigner.” It was particularly amusing to me personally as I’ve been inspired by the writings of Mr. Canfield in the last year and hoping that embracing some of his ideas will help me find my purpose, you know, other than following bands around. Loved hearing that song live though, so powerful!

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Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket Performing at the Libbey Bowl

Libbey Bowl — The friend I made at the Monterey show had a seat at the table up front next to the stage and she had an empty chair next to her, so I joined her for Toad’s set; no one came to claim that spot.  This was Toad’s last performance on this leg of their tour and they have a few weeks off before starting up again in September.  Thus, we had Glen thinking out loud about getting to sleep in his own bed that night, hiking on the Cold Springs Trail the next day, taking a nap or attempting to take one, but probably writing a to do list instead, before they played “All I Want.” (Perhaps the chorus running in Glen’s mind was, “All I want is to sleep in bed, to hike Cold Springs, to take a naaap!”) After experiencing only a few days on the tour circuit, I certainly have a new appreciation for the rigors of touring and completely understand the need for more sleep!  Following the song he noted, “We tune because we care,” as the band all tuned their instruments. That is very much appreciated by all of us with a decent sense of pitch. This time Glen introduced “Good Intentions” as being about “mistakes that were fun to make.” Hmm. In the mini Coil set, Glen remarked, “The Coil album came out 20 years ago, so this is a little birthday party.” Dean, as usual, led everyone in standing and clapping for “Nightingale Song,” but the audience sat down immediately afterward. For the encore, I got up and stood right next to the stage and encouraged the people around me to do the same thing. Some people also filtered down from their seats behind the tables to turn this into a partial GA show. This brought the whole audience closer to the band, improved the crowd energy, and finally for the last three songs of the night there was a clearly enthusiastic audience.  Then after the show, it was so good to run into even more of my L.A.-area Toad fan friends and a few from further afield, which has become one of the nice things about seeing Toad shows close to home, it is a mini reunion of friends. Good music. Good friends. Good times. As the “Walk On the Ocean” lyrics close, “Just memories to hold, that grow sweeter each season, as we slowly grow old.”  So true, so I borrowed a line from this song for the title of this post.

We Got Seriously Down

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Rhett Miller Performing at the Troubadour

If you’ve been following my blog, it is no secret that Rhett Miller is one of my favorite songwriters and performers, so of course I go see him play every chance I get. This time he brought his solo show to the Troubadour in Los Angeles, CA on July 29, 2017.  It was apparently also take your children to work day on the Rhett Miller Tour as Rhett had his son (President of the Anti Social Social Club, according to the back of his shirt) and daughter along. They joined him on stage to introduce the opener — actress, musician, and icon to quirky, cute girls everywhere, Kate Micucci.

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Kate Micucci Performing at The Troubadour

Kate brought along her sappy, goofy, amusing, twisted observational comedy songs and a few friends with questionably funny skits. It was a different choice for the Troubadour stage before a rocking music show, with some of the audience members absolutely loving it and others not so much. Her show progressed as follows:

  1. I Love You” — Kate said she wrote this song the day after the US election in November to cheer up her friends.
  2. I Want to Be a Nun (The Nun Song)
  3. Mr. Moon” — A song inspired by driving east on the 10 and seeing the moon set in the ocean.  This was followed by a fake introduction of performer Allie Awesome (Kate can’t remember her last name and just calls her Awesome) and a bunch of nonsense with the pretend stage manager Dan Beam, portrayed by actor Davey Johnson.
  4. Sad Clown” — A song inspired by Kate having a brief job as a clown, which she quit because of her inability to make complicated balloon sculptures.
  5. Happy Song”  The one that starts, “I wanna be happy, I wanna be sad.”
  6. Happy Song” (a different version) — written for Scrubs, when they “needed a happy song to play under a sad scene.” (Scene at the link.)
  7. Soup in the Woods” — Kate told the story of making soup in the woods with her dad and family during a blizzard and while at the time the focus was on the soup, but really they were making memories.
  8. Dear Deer” — A letter to deer as a warning about her Dad hunting. Followed by a strange trombone bit with Kate and Dan and then the strange sleight of hand/magician/weirdness of the character Mesmerizo, portrayed by Ron Lynch.
  9. Doreen the Whale” — Kate’s song was based on the true story of a male whale who communicates in decibels too high for other whales to hear (though in Kate’s song it is based on a female who sings too low).
  10.  “Have You Met My Robot” — Song at 11:30 in the program at the link.
  11. “The Ghost of Pasadena” — Inspired by doing a ghost walk around Pasadena, the live version included audience participation for the ghostly “ooo’s.” This was followed by Kate pretending to talk to her mom on a flat paper phone.  Kate’s brother, Matt Micucci, was also partaking in some of the sketch comedy silliness that evening.
  12. Fall Asleep” Introduced as a song for Jessie, explained and performed at the link. Followed by further business with Dan Beam getting a proper sip of coffee.
  13. Walking in Los Angeles” — Allie Awesome finally appears to accompany Kate on violin. When her set is done, Kate and Rhett’s kids introduce Rhett.
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Kate and Allie (Yes, I had to caption in that way — ’80s sitcom fans represent!)

I’ve written about Rhett so many times before I’m just going to stick to the round-up of what he played and said at this concert. I don’t have to go into detail about how much I love his clever lyrics, rich vocals and powerful held notes, rapid guitar playing, signature WindMiller move, hair flinging, hip swinging, sweat streaming, and spit spraying performances. Phew! So how about that set list?

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Rhett at the Beginning of His Set

  1. The Melt Show” from the Old 97’s album Too Far to Care
  2. Our Love” from The Instigator. After this song, Rhett explained to the audience that he was wearing one of those shirts where the button placement is either too low or too high and his daughter made him button his shirt, but he felt so weird with it like that for the first two songs he had to unbutton that top button. Though he promised the audience, “I’m going to try to keep the nipples inside.” My dream is to hear Rhett sing this one live with Jon Brion recreating his guitar solo.
  3. Jesus Loves You” from the Old 97’s new album Graveyard Whistling. Rhett said it was about a guy having difficulty trying to date a girl because “the guy she was hung up on died. But he did get resurrected – supposedly.”  Link is to video I shot last year at the Troubadour. You can pretend it was from this year though, he was wearing the same shirt!
  4. Wish the Worst” from the Old 97’s album Hitchhike to Rhome. Rhett introduced this one by saying that he was in California because he had a cousin who just got married and she asked him to sing a song after the toast and left it up to him to choose which one. He joked that he went through the list of possible songs with his kids and this was the one he played.
  5. Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On” from the Old 97’s album Most Messed Up
  6. She Hates Everybody” from Graveyard Whistling
  7. Singular Girl” from The Believer
  8. Nineteen” from the Old 97’s album Fight Songs. Rhett introduced this song by saying when he first wrote it, he thought his band would like it. They recorded it, but then wouldn’t play it live (so he plays it solo). Funny connection with that age and this show, the security guy’s jaw dropped when checking my age on my license during the entry process and said he thought I was 19! In honor of that I’ve chosen an apt lyric from the song, “We got seriously down!” (in the party/dance sense — so many possible meanings there) for the title of this blog post. DSC00559
  9. All Who Wander” from Graveyard Whistling
  10. Big Brown Eyes” from the Old 97’s albums Wreck Your Life and Too Far to Care
  11.  “I Don’t Wanna Die in This Town” from Graveyard Whistling. Rhett was joking before this song that the Old 97’s don’t rehearse and I think that was related to why this song wasn’t played much on their last tour. So it was very cool to hear his solo version, which I videoed at this show; find it at the link.
  12. Question” from both the Old 97’s album Satellite Rides and Rhett’s album The Believer. He told the story that he discovered his daughter was teaching herself to play the piano with this song. Also, of course this was the song that he actually played at his cousin’s wedding. He included the French verse in this rendition.
  13. Picture This” from The Dreamer, link to video I shot at this show.
  14. Rollerskate Skinny” from Satellite Rides, video from last year’s show.
  15. Fireflies” – Rhett asked for a volunteer from the audience to sing this duet with him. Local singer Tara Kelly joined him for her moment to shine on the Troubadour stage. Video I shot from this show at the link.
  16. Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” from Most Messed Up
  17. Most in the Summertime” from The Traveler. Rhett introduced this one by saying,  “I wasn’t going to play this song until the L.A. Weekly guaranteed it.” Rhett referenced the L.A. Weekly article by Jackson Truax recommending readers see the show, “Expect one of the evening’s highlights to be ‘Most in the Summertime,’ a standout from Miller’s bluegrass-leaning 2015 album, The Traveler, that’s already become a sing-along showstopper.” Well, I am glad he played it, as it was the only song of the night representing that album.
  18. Barrier Reef” from Too Far to Care
  19. Drinkin’ Song” from Graveyard Whistling
  20. Four Leaf Clover” from Too Far to Care
  21. Doreen” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Wreck Your Life
  22. ENCORE “In Spite of Ourselves” John Prine cover (duet with Kate Micucci), video I shot at the show at the link.
  23. California Stars” cover of a Billy Bragg song, Rhett told the story about learning a bunch of songs in order for the Old 97’s to be Billy Bragg’s backing band in the UK, but then their visas were revoked. Rhett feels some regret over that, but then he added that if he had done it, maybe he would be a different person (which from the way he said it, it sounded like he wasn’t sure that he liked that idea).
  24. Timebomb” from Too Far to Care, Rhett and the Old 97’s always close a show with this one. As usual, Rhett delivered one helluva show to a crowd that absolutely loved it!

 

 

 

I Never Know Where to Start

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Stage Set Up for the July Jon Brion Show at Largo

No, I really didn’t see any concerts between Jon Brion‘s June show and his show on July 28, 2017 at Largo at the Coronet. Therefore, I was definitely ready for a night out to experience one of the best musicians Los Angeles has to offer. The Largo email the week of the show tantalizingly promised a “Very Special Guest” as well. There was much conjecture as to who this might be. Pleased to hear owner Mark Flanagan introduce David Garza to open the show. At the same time, slightly panicked when Flanny mentioned he was “fighting with the landlord over this place.” He quickly assured the worried murmurs of the audience, “But I’m going to fucking win.”

The supremely talented and ever creative David started the show by heading to the piano to play one of his tunes, “Blondiecaxe (Why Are You So Shellfish).” He clever crafted this one to include multiple puns and references to sea creatures, with lines such as, “Why are you so crabby?” and “Cling not to the lowly crustacean.” He followed with another original, “Little Mercy, ” harking back to the classic jazz standards of the 20th century as he beguiled the audience with his smooth, expressive voice.  Switching over to his guitar, her performed the grooving and verbose tune, “Summer Love Jam.”  David referred to his set as “The Friday Night portion of the show,” as if to suggest we all unwind, pack up our cares, and celebrate the moment.  He finished his brief set with “Drone” from his album Overdub.

Jon came on stage and welcomed the audience to the show and remarked on his appreciation for David’s right hand (skills as a guitar player). He then crossed over to the piano to begin his portion of the night’s entertainment.

  1. “Random Poly-tonal Noise.” Jon began by feeling his way around the piano keyboard and getting his fingers limbered up, though a few times getting quite attached to one particular note creating a rhythmic pattern with it. Just when we were about to be exhausted with its repetition, Jon fluttered out a stream of chords, like a person with a point to make who has been forced to hold their words in and is finally allowed to express an opinion. This was followed by a short section awash with tremolo and flowed into a section that was reminiscent of the beginning of Sondheim’s “Another Hundred People” and concluded with a series of arpeggios. Jon provided his title for this piece after finishing playing.
  2. Night and Day” — cover of a Cole Porter song. Jon began this one tentatively before easing into a full-on jazz version; a beautiful rendition like the one he pulled off at his February show. When finishing the song he noted, “I woke up fighting a cold today and so I’m fighting through the fuzz.” He then asked the audience, “What’s next?” Someone yelled out, “Gershwin.”
  3. Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin, he played a succinct portion of the song and not just a few teasing measures, as sometimes happens, and then seamlessly transitioned to “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
  4. Stop the World”  Jon picked up his notes and began fiddling with his decks, putting up Percy Grainger with “Maguire’s Kick” on screen right and Brad Mehldau on the left, in a repeat of the performance Jon gave at his March show. I’ve borrowed a line from this song for the title of this post, in recognition of those who struggle with beginnings.
  5. Something light on the piano that seemed familiar, but I could not name.
  6. “Please Stay Away From Me,” an unrecorded song of Jon’s, introduced as, “A song that for the time being, I dedicate to our dear leader.” A refrain of “Hail to the Chief” was tacked onto the close of the song. On finishing, Jon noted, “I compose at the pleasure of our leader.” He then clarified, “That last one is one I have had for ages…it’s a personality type.” Aptly followed with…
  7. Your Mind is on Vacation” — Mose Allison cover. The first time Jon sang the line, “Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working over time,” he got a big laugh from the crowd.
  8. Meaningless” from Meaningless. All the previous songs were at the piano, but Jon picked up his Epiphone acoustic guitar for this one. He began it and it sounded like he might play “Same Thing” but then launched into this tune.  On finishing he put a capo on and was fiddling around with the guitar tuning, but was hampered by the celeste being a little too close to the chair he was in. He said, “I’m the victim of an ill-placed celeste.” After noting that was not a phrase one uses/hears every day, he had a change of mental direction. In a slightly shocked tone he said, “I just spoke of my celeste like it was a cabinet member. I need to not shame it in public.” He then praised the celeste and turned to play it.
  9. Celeste Medley, incorporating. “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Theme,” “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” Buddy Holly’s “Everyday,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” and his own “Strange Bath” from I Heart Huckabees. (Dear Jon, When playing a celeste medley, how could you possibly miss playing “Hedwig’s Theme?”) After adjusting the microphone so he could sing, he continued on the celeste with another one of his songs.
  10. Knock Yourself Out” from I Heart Huckabees.
  11. Dancing in the Dark” Bruce Springsteen cover. Jon set a simple beat going on the machine on top of the piano, called for a Guinness, and headed back to the celeste — that’s right, a Springsteen song on a celeste — and gave a flawless rendition of this song, pushing through powerful vocals over the celestial accompaniment. It was such a committed version, I was waiting for him to hop to the front of the stage near the end and pull me up there to dance with him à la Bruce and Courtney Cox in the video (I would have totally ’80s-style danced, I’ve had practice)!  Fantasies aside, as he was concluding the song, he realized the beat machine was going to keep pumping out the beats and he couldn’t make a clean ending, so he ran to the machine, waited out a measure and timed the last beat before shutting off to coordinate with the tonic bass note on piano to give it that final accent. Thoroughly enjoyable and the most surprising song of the night.
  12. “Scott Joplin Produced by Bjork” — a medley of songs that Jon strung together on the piano after asking for requests. He waited a good long time to hear what the audience wanted and after a couple minutes remarked, “We’ve got about three sets of material, I’ll get to what I can.” He began with a slow, deliberate version of “Lithium” by Nirvana, morphing into Nilsson’s “Good Old Desk,” then another song that everyone chuckled at when they heard it, which I couldn’t identify. He added some synthesizer sounds in by this point and launched into the “Maple Leaf Rag” on piano and then while the synth sounds were still blooping, he remarked, “Let’s see if this fucks with it enough,” as he crossed the stage and played on the celeste.
  13. Round Midnight” — a version of the song that was so much in contrast to how he typically plays this on guitar, that I didn’t immediately recognize it. He had a ballet dancer en pointe up on the left screen and was looping sound there, but I didn’t catch what song that was, while he also filled in bass notes with the miniKorg, and looped in reverbed synth sounds. After this song, Jon asked, “Is David still in the building? Send for him.”  David soon appeared on stage with his guitar.
  14. My Silent Love” Jon listened for most of the song, then joined in on the celeste toward the end of David’s sweet performance of this romantic 1930s tune. Love being introduced to old treasures like this via the Largo musicians.
  15. Pride and Joy” — Stevie Ray Vaughn cover. Remember it was Friday night, David picked up the tempo for this rocking cover. Jon turned the miniKorg into a bass to cover the low end of the song. On finishing, David remarked on how glad he was to join in the show and that “Fridays just feel weird without Jon.” With a reference to 60s rockers MC5, the duo decided on the band name of “The MC2 of La Cienega.” They then joked around about planning and rehearsing, “There’s a lot to be said about knowing what you’re going to play.” Before playing the next song, David stated, “This is as political as its going to get.”
  16. I Fought the Law” — an earnest cover of the song first made popular by the Bobby Fuller Four, with David on guitar and Jon playing around on the piano and having some difficulties with his looping, though briefly we witnessed a man on theremin. David exited the stage after that one.
  17. While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Beatles cover. Jon took requests on how to end the show and this one came up. He decided to play it on piano, with synthesizer on, and bass notes on the miniKorg, with Jon and the audience singing together. He finished the piece with a bit of “Moonlight Sonata” and an excerpt from Beethoven’s 7th, Second Movement.
  18. ENCORE “Good Times, Bad Times” — Led Zeppelin cover. Jon returned to the stage for an encore, not something that has been a guarantee lately. He addressed the audience from the chair on center stage, “You brought me back here, what do you want?” Many requests rang out. Jon went to the piano mentioning “a capella instrumental versions.” Then, “I’m gonna answer the Led Zeppelin (request) without guitar and not in the style of Led Zeppelin.” There was an audible gasp from someone in the 2nd or 3rd row that perhaps doing such a thing would be tantamount to sacrilege.  So Jon responded by walking over to the Gretsch he had on stage and had not yet used that night, plugging it in, fiddling and adjusting the tones and tuning, and then launching into an electrifying version of the Zeppelin song.
  19. Here We Go” from Punch-Drunk Love. Jon concluded the main stage show back at the piano with one of his own songs that had been requested multiple times throughout the night and is a sure crowd pleaser.

After Show in The Little Room

David Garza hosted the very informal, intimate after show in The Little Room, with Mark Gasway joining in on the upright bass.

  1. Soul Custody” from Overdub, a request David played on piano.
  2. “Lost at Sea” another David Garza song
  3. Rhymes for Honeys & Beats for Boys
  4. “Just the Bass” in A minor, an improvised song with Mark working hard on the bass and David freestyling like a pro. Some sirens went blaring past as the song kicked off and they complemented the music.  “Just the Bass, four strings in your face!”
  5. Shadowland” K.D. Lang cover, which David played on piano but switched to his guitar for the solo.
  6. More Pretty Girls Than One” an old bluegrass tune. Sean Watkins chose this song and sang the lead.
  7. Tomorrow is a Long Time” — Bob Dylan cover as an instrumental, with David on piano, Mark still on bass, and Sean on guitar.
  8. Graceland” Paul Simon cover, with Sean Watkins singing the lead and the small audience singing along, including harmonies. I love Largo.
  9. Rude Eyeshadow” from Human Tattoo. When starting his song, David said, “Take these chords and think about your life.” Pretty sure that is a daily practice for me with music.

What can I say, but another fantastic, fulfilling evening at Largo! Oh yes, there is one more important announcement. If you’ve ever experienced the call of nature while in the Little Room, you know that the Little Room bathroom would be an excellent candidate for a makeover show, particularly the Toilet That Wouldn’t Flush.  But worry no longer Little Room patrons, there is a New Toilet in the Little Room bathroom!

 

The Way It Went

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Sparse Stage Set Up for Jon Brion’s June Show at Largo

Summer had arrived in Los Angeles and with the ushering in of higher temperatures and extended sunny evenings, I was once again at Largo at the Coronet for Jon Brion‘s show on Friday, June 30, 2017. While the weather couldn’t have been better, I sure could have been, having suddenly come down with something that was making my eyes and nose operate like a faucet someone forgot to shut off. So prior to the show I had taken multiple cold remedies, off the shelf and homeopathic, and eaten a bunch of foods with antihistamine properties. I was feeling a little strange and considered staying home, but at the same time I desired to get out of the house and the medicine seemed to be working.

Laura Kightlinger opened with a stand-up routine, getting the audience laughing with her nothing-held-back delivery.  I am guessing she may have been trying new material, which comics regularly do at Largo (as a safe place where the performances are not recorded). She is supposedly working on a special.

Jon walked onto the stage and straight to the piano as customary, playing a tasty starter of a warm-up piece, which had some descending chords in the left hand and a light melody in the right hand. When finished he said, “I have a nice frog in my throat that will come leaping out on some semi-eighth note” and sang the words “Life on Mars” while croaking. He stated he would like to “start with something different — how about a request?” Several song titles and artists names were shouted toward the stage, but one rang out clearly and he took on that vocal challenge to really kick off the show. The show proceeded as follows:

  1. Life on Mars” — David Bowie cover. Afterward he talked about the condition off his voice again, “I will eject it (the frog) like an LA landlord!” Then he decided, “Let’s do the whole show in reverse: singalong ones, maudlin material, then energetic to make up for the maudlin material…that should give us a good finish.”
  2. God Only Knows” — Beach Boys cover, as a singalong. Sebastian Steinberg appeared on stage with his bass to join in for the rest of the evening. Nice, crazy jazz ending with Jon getting stompy and then holding a pattern on piano while Sebastian walked the bass line under it. When the song finished Jon turned to Sebastian and noted, “We’re operating in reverse.” Sebastian responded, “I’ve cried already.”
  3. The Way It Went” — one of Jon’s unreleased songs and the first time that I have heard it. The only recording I could find of this song was in the middle of the podcast at the link. The song starts about 31 minutes and 20 seconds into the conversation. I’ve used the title of the song for the title of the post because it could not be more apropos.
  4. Ruin My Day” from Meaningless
  5. Strange Bath” from I Heart Huckabees, after concluding this one Jon called out, “I would like more Guinness and duct tape.” Pause, then continued, “Sounds like I’m about to abduct somebody and I’d like something smooth and creamy while I’m doing it.” He asked for requests again.
  6. Don’t Fear the Reaper” — Blue Oyster Cult cover, “The Peanuts Version,” as Jon called it, aka in the style of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, with some mashing in of “Linus and Lucy.”
  7. No Expectations” — Rolling Stones cover performed by Sebastian Steinberg on guitar.
  8. “Please Stay Away From Me” another of Jon’s unreleased songs. Jon is still on the piano for this one and Sebastian moved back to his bass.
  9. The Thrill is Gone” — cover of a song written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell and covered by various musicians. Jon played this song after getting a request for Chet Baker. Before starting up the next tune, Jon put duct tape across the piano strings and plays a few measures of “Popcorn.”
  10.  “Don’t You Want Me” — Human League cover, another audience singalong, with mixed results on the verses. When finished Jon quipped, “We all get a participation trophy!” Then, “It’s 2017 again” as he takes the duct tape off the bass strings of the piano. He leaves the upper half on for the next song.
  11. Waterloo Sunset”  — Kinks cover. When he finished singing this one, he removed the rest of the duct tape, joking, “The piano’s parents paid it’s ransom.”
  12. Isolation” — John Lennon cover. For this song, Jon requested only the low end on the microphone and then he put it down on the floor under his foot and turned it into a kick drum.
  13. Looney Tunes” medley. I wrote down “scheming” in my notes, I can’t remember why, but I think Jon was messing around on the piano and Sebastian was happily joining him on bass. He commented, “We’re scoring an imaginary Bugs Bunny cartoon.” Jon included bits of “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” and Elmer Fudd’s “Ride of the Valkyries” inspired “Kill the Wabbit” before concluding with the Looney Tunes theme.
  14. Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin (and more than just a couple measures) with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
  15. Here We Go” from Punch-Drunk Love
  16. Stardust” – Hoagy Carmichael cover. Jon said, “I’m not used to hearing a Hoagy Carmichael request,” and so the requesters wish was granted.

It was a mellow and loosely-formulated night, with Jon spending the whole show at the piano. Nothing seemed like too much of a stretch. All these songs were old favorites that have made his playlists before. There was some talk in the courtyard after the show that Jon might play in the Little Room, but as he had not announced that from the stage, there weren’t enough people hanging around the venue afterward to make up an audience. Maybe next time?

 

 

 

Feelin’ Good Again

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Stage Set Up for the June Watkins Family Hour at Largo

The Watkins Family Hour has been doing an excellent job lately at drawing some compelling guests to play at their shows.  I was eager to attend their show at Largo at the Coronet in Los Angeles, on June 13, 2017, after learning that my favorite singer Glen Phillips, as well as astute songwriter Langhorne Slim, and L.A. “SoCal country” favorite, Sam Outlaw, were on the bill.

We were advised to “let your laughs go” as comedian Tom Papa took the stage to kick off the evening. He was practicing for his performance on Conan (routine available at the link) for the following night.

And @tompapa opened up tonight! 6/13/17 @watkinsfamilyhour

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— Tom Papa

Thank you @watkinsfamilyhour! Another one for the books! 6/13/17

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— Sara and Sean Watkins

Moving on to the musical part of the evening, Sara and Sean Watkins welcomed everyone to Largo and the set progressed as follows:

  1. Never Call” — a Fiction Family song from Fiction Family Reunion
  2. Fiddle tune, which I failed to identify and they didn’t specify.
  3. Brother Wind” — Tim O’Brien cover, Sebastian Steinberg stepped on stage to join Sean and Sara. After the song, Sean was dealing with sound/guitar issues and the set list got torn in half.
  4. Wave as We Run” from Sean’s album All I Do is Lie. After the song there is banter between Sean and Sara about using the word introduce or announce for bringing out the first guest. Sean concluded, “Why don’t you use the word introduce and I’ll use the word announce.” He announced Glen Phillips, who remarked something like he prefers to be announced because it gives him a sense of importance. Glen stepped off to the side of the stage and Sean then properly announced Glen as he returned.
  5. Nobody’s Gonna Get Hurt” — one of Glen’s new, unrecorded songs. It was a treat to hear Sean playing electric guitar on this one.
  6. Baptistina” from Glen’s album Swallowed By the New. Glen gave quite a long introduction to this one, explaining the origin of the song (the Baptistina asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs), but that he later learned that scientists discovered it wasn’t the Baptistina asteroid after all (sorry Glen!). It remains a mystery where the asteroid came from; however, since “mysterious asteroid” doesn’t fit the song he’ll continue on singing “Baptistina.” Glen leaves the stage following the song.
  7. Steal Your Heart Away” — Lindsey Buckingham cover available on the Watkins Family Hour album. Singer Molly Jenson joined in on stage.
  8. Damaged” — a Fiction Family song from Fiction Family Reunion. Sean switched back to acoustic guitar. This song was performed by Sean, Sara, and Sebastian. After the song, Sam Outlaw was introduced.
  9. Look at Your Now” from Sam’s latest album Tenderheart, Molly Jenson returned to sing harmony.  Sam told the story of how an Uber driver rolled over the back of his foot that day! Glad he was okay and could make it to the show.
  10. Keep It Interesting” from Sam’s album Angeleno. He introduced this song by stating it was “about the importance of variety in a healthy relationship.” Sam and Molly exit the stage on finishing it.
  11. Lock and Key” from Sara’s album Sun Midnight Sun.  After this song, Sean goes off on a tangent about “Tom the Shoe Guy,” a regular member of the audience who drives up to the show from San Diego and comments about Sean’s shoes.
  12. For the Sender” — a song inspired by Alex Woodard’s project to write songs based on letters from fans. Sean wrote this tune based on a letter from Emily in Connecticut who would write an annual letter to her deceased spouse (the purpose of doing so being more for the sender). Molly was back on the stage to sing BGV with Sara on this one. Langhorne Slim was then introduced.
  13. Never Break” — Langhorne’s unrecorded song. He told the story that this was a song he wrote on November 9, 2016 and commented, “If there ever was a time for us to look each other in the eye and say I dig you brother, I love you sister, now is the time to do it.” He introduced the next song as being a “similar story with different words and chords.”
  14. Changes” — Langhorne Slim and the Law song from The Spirit Now. Langhorne exited the stage after this one.
  15. The Truth Won’t Set Us Free” — Sara’s song from her album Young in All the Wrong Ways. Sara sang, with Sean, Sebastian and Molly supporting.
  16. Bring It On Home to Me” — a Sam Cooke song sung by one last guest: dynamic singer, Sarah Dugas.
  17. One More Last Chance”  — a cover of a 1990s country classic by Vince Gill, with Sam, Sean, Sara, Sebastian and Molly all performing.
  18. ENCORE “Feelin’ Good Again” — cover of a Robert Earl Keen song, which was requested by a member of the audience.  I’ve used the title of the song for the title of the post, because I was definitely feelin’ good again after seeing this show. With all those talented songwriters in the show I would have been feeling great again if they would have continued on to The Little Room afterward, but it was not to be.

We got to hear a few from @glenphillipsmusic too! #SebastianSteinberg @sarawatkins @watkinsfamilyhour 6/13/17

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— Sara Watkins, Sebastian Steinberg and Glen Phillips

— Glen Phillips and Sean Watkins

Special guests @samoutlaw and @mollyjay performed at @watkinsfamilyhour 6/13/17

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— Sara Watkins, Sam Outlaw, and Molly Jenson

And @langhorneslim sang a couple too 6/13/17 @watkinsfamilyhour @sarawatkins

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— Sara Watkins and Langhorne Slim

Free My Heart

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Ryan Adams and the Unknown Band at the Greek Theatre on June 3, 2017

It already seems like a few months ago that I saw Ryan Adams play at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, California on June 3, 2017, rather than a few weeks ago. With the wrapping up of the school year and school-year-based activities, June can get pretty hectic and have been crammed full of events for my family. But that Saturday it was all about rocking out, having fun with friends, and enjoying the perfect Southern California weather, as Ryan Adams and the Unknown Band unleashed their music into the night.

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Karen Elson (Center) Opened the Show at the Greek Theatre

Singer and guitar player Karen Elson opened, promoting her recent album Double Roses, with a band made up of a guitarist (Megan), fiddle player (Augusta), a harpist (Mary), and sometimes filling in with additional guitar and providing tech support, Jackson Smith. The musicians played beautifully and it was a unique experience to hear a harp as part of the opening band for a rock show. Karen’s songs were delicate and fairly mellow, sung casually with her pretty voice. The tunes were pleasant enough and provided a soothing ambience as people found their way into the theatre, but after a few songs that were of similar tempo and style, I was wishing for more variety in the pacing and approach.  Her set list included the titles:

  1. Wonder Blind” from Double Roses
  2. Double Roses” from Double Roses
  3. Hell and High Water” from Double Roses
  4. Distant Shore” from Double Roses
  5. Call Your Name” from Double Roses
  6. The Ghost Who Walks” from The Ghost Who Walks
  7. “Marcys”  — was listed on the set list, I have no idea what that means, I can’t find a song with that title
  8. Wolf” from Double Roses
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Ryan Adams at the Greek Theatre

In contrast, Ryan has the personality and the musical goods to more than fill the stage and the carved out hillside of the Greek Theater.  With his “Unknown Band” of ace players: Todd Wisenbaker on guitar, the “man who runs Pax-Am,” producer/engineer Charlie Stavish on bass, Ben Alleman on keyboards, and Aaron Ficca, who joined the touring band recently, on drums. In one of the amusing moments of the night, Aaron got mercilessly teased by Ryan for wearing a button-down shirt, “What the fuck is that shirt?  It’s got buttons.” Ryan started up an impromptu song about the shirt and some woman in the audience yelled, “Take it off,” to which Ryan responded, “I’m not getting involved in that!” She called back, “I will.”

 

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Ryan Adams: Jamming at the Greek Theatre

Ryan played a broad mix from his back catalogue with a few numbers from his latest album, Prisoner, and none of the tunes from the recently digitally released Prisoner (B-Sides). I understand with a big show like this one the desire to play the hits, jamming tunes, and more accessible songs. How I’d love to see an intimate show focused on recent deep cuts from Prisoner and the B-Sides. There is such a wealth of material there and so much of it so truly lyrically on point regarding the process of ending a relationship, it seems a shame to leave some of these pieces to only recordings. But perhaps as they are so personal it would be uncomfortable for him to perform some of them live?  That’s a good thing that he can play through 22 songs and leave me still wanting more. Set list was as follows:

  1. Let It Ride” from Cold Roses (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  2. To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” from Heartbreaker
  3. Magnolia Mountain” from Cold Roses (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  4. Two” from Easy Tiger, link to video I shot at this concert
  5. Gimme Something Good” from Ryan Adams, another video I shot at this concert

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    Loved Ryan’s Shoes

  6. Dirty Rain” from Ashes & Fire
  7. Fix It” from Cardinology (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  8. Prisoner” from Prisoner, Ryan began this as an acoustic song at the front of the stage and finished it with the full band. The video at the link was one I shot at this concert. This was a highlight of the night. I’ve borrowed the first line of the song for the title of the blog post.
  9. Outbound Train” from Prisoner, After the song Ryan talked about hearing other musicians complain about playing in L.A., saying something like, “I don’t like L.A. crowds, they’re so jaded.” His response, “Yeah, but have you tried our weed?” He also told a woman who was constantly holding up her phone recording the show and taking photos, “You’re going to get Carpe Diem Syndrome.” I don’t think she got the joke.
  10. Shakedown on 9th Street” from Heartbreaker
  11. Do You Still Love Me?” from Prisoner, link to official video
  12. Stay With Me” from Ryan Adams
  13. When the Stars Go Blue” from GoldDSC00106


  14. Ashes & Fire” from Ashes & Fire
  15. Peaceful Valley” from Jacksonville City Nights (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  16. Dear John” from Jacksonville City Nights (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals)
  17. Doomsday” from Prisoner, complete with A-Bomb detonations showing on the TV screens on stage
  18. Wonderwall” from Love is Hell (Oasis cover)
  19. Everybody Knows” from Easy Tiger
  20. Invisible Riverside” from Ashes & Fire
  21. Implied Encore “New York, New York” from Gold, I recorded this video at the Greek, but the sound didn’t come out very well. Still you can see what it looked like at this concert. Another highlight for the night. The one song I really wanted to hear during this show as it has taken a special meaning on for me since I took a trip to New York not long after Ryan’s show at the Greek last year.
  22. Come Pick Me Up” from Heartbreaker, performed with Karen Elson, link is to video someone else shot at the concert.
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Ryan Adams and Karen Elson Sing “Come Pick Me Up” to Close the Show

Add Some Music to Your Day

DSC09965On Friday, May 26, 2017, I was fortunate enough to attend the “Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour” featuring Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and Blondie Chaplin at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA. They were backed by a solid group of musicians, including Al’s son, Matthew Jardine, who convincingly handled the falsetto parts on many of The Beach Boys‘ classic hits. The concert was divided into two halves, the first including quite a lot of their Top 40 hits and the second embarking on a trip through the songs from Pet Sounds. The show concluded with a six song encore to make a total of 38 songs played live. I know that some of these songs are short, but it felt like I certainly was getting my money’s worth! The full set list is up on Setlist.fm. I borrowed the title of one of the songs for the title of the blog.

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Brian Wilson and Al Jardine Leading the Band

What an absolute honor to be in the presence of this incredible genius of a man, Brian Wilson and to be able to hear him sing and play. His singing ability has been affected over time and while I never expected him to sound perfect it was saddening to feel that passage of time in his loss of breath control and vocal range. I experienced a strange contrast while I watched the show — my heart was heavily feeling the length of a lifetime while simultaneously enjoying the feel good music bursting forth from these fine musicians.

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Pet Sounds Anniversary Tour: Full Band

 

 

I Am in Paradise

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Stage Set Up for Jon Brion’s April Show

DSC09921I can’t stay away from Largo at the Coronet for very long and so I was back there on Friday, April 28, 2017 to see Jon Brion. After a brief welcoming of the audience and introduction from Largo-owner Mark Flanagan, Jon strode onto the stage wearing fuchsia trousers, carrying a notebook, and clearing his throat. He sat down to talk to the audience. He had rapidly eaten some Japanese food right before the show and was feeling the burn of doing so. There was a lot of equipment set up on the stage that night: a rack of guitars, with a couple freestanding, a small drum set, the Largo piano — of course, two screens, synthesizer, and for the first time since I’ve been going to see him, a vibraphone. I was excited about that, as I’ve been wanting him to play some other instruments for a few months. Last month, we were treated to the celesta and now this month, vibraphone. These things make me happy, though referring to the contents of the stage, Jon said, “I brought a bunch of extra shit just to see if it would make things interesting; it just made things complicated.” Well, I for one appreciated the effort. The show went on as follows:

  1. “Cole Porter to Zeppelin Dark Piano Sonata Instrumental Style” This was the name Jon gave to his first piano warm up number, which he played in D minor on request from an audience member. The description of the piece is in the title.
  2. Moon River” Jon then played what he said, “Will be the vocal warm up song.” This commenced with him playing on piano while singing a lot of ooos and ahs as he warmed up his voice and cleared his throat of any lingering food obstructions. It then turned into a proper performance of “Moon River,” one of my favorites. During the song he turned on the synth sounds as he played piano and set it to pick up the notes from the piano and duplicate them in its output. He played through the whole song and then jazzed it up. At one point he looped in some cascading notes (think the beginning of “One Day More” from Les Misérables) and played it back, finishing the song off with some low notes on the MiniKorg.

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    Jon Brion’s Guitars

  3. Trouble” from Meaningless. There was quite a bit of down time between the previous song and this one. Jon headed over to the guitars and selected an acoustic Epiphone. He had the audience choose between guitar pick A and pick B by show of applause. Sebastian Steinberg was brought on for a bass solo while this was going on. Pick B was selected. There was some monologuing about picks, these were a couple old picks from the 40s/50s. Some guy shouted out that they sounded the same to him and Jon admired his honesty, but said that he could hear a difference and others could hear a difference. It was only a slight difference to my ears, with Pick B creating slightly more pop or fullness of sound. Jon commented on the state of the show said, “Think of the beginning of this show as a DVD extra.” And also, “The show is going to get more high energy and streamlined as we go along.”
  4. Same Mistakes” from Meaningless.  The arrangement of this song sounds really different performed on the guitar. Nice extended instrumental in the middle, but did I hear him navigate his way out of a wrong chord? That might be the first musical flaw I’ve ever heard him make or maybe my ears were wrong because I’m not used to hearing this song on acoustic guitar.
  5. Blue Moon” Jon commented that there are “some things I do at the studio but not live — we’ll be messing around with that.” As he was making various adjustments, he remarked, “This is the worst pacing of a show.” I haven’t seen the black and white Gretsch come out in a while and enjoyed hearing it on this song as well as “tape echo.”  Jon referred to it as “giving it a little Sun Records.” And it really was a proper echo, sounded fantastic.
  6. “At It Again” I thought this unrecorded song of Jon’s was forthcoming as he set up some gritty tones on his guitar. Toward the end of the song he had a pedal on the guitar that he pressed to fade the sound in and out as he was playing, which created a rhythmic pumping effect. Love this one. Will he ever record it?
  7. I Was Happy With You” was requested from the audience. I thought I heard Jon ask for a drummer, but no one appeared. He played this one on piano and sang, also adding the synth duplicating the piano again. There was a prolonged ritardando at the end of the song, slowing down so much that it sounded like he was playing a different song to finish.
  8. Strings That Tie to You” from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Still at the piano, Jon said, “Let’s invite Andres to the party,” as he put Andres Segovia playing guitar on the screen on the right side of the stage. Then opera singer, Maria Callas was put on the left screen and Jon manipulated the sound. He changed the piano to tack piano as he began the song in earnest. As he finished, he held a long low note on the MiniKorg.
  9. Time of the Season” Zombies cover. Still on the piano, Jon encouraged the audience to, “Sing every word you know, sing every harmony you know.” The audience also got into the beat of this, stomping on the floor too. Good choice.
  10. Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” Bob Dylan cover. Jon got out his harmonica for this one and played it on tack piano. He shifted his position on the keys and went straight into the next song.
  11. I’ll Keep It With Mine” Bob Dylan cover. Gratifying couplet of these two songs.
  12. Theme” from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Still on piano. The sound of this was encompassing and relentless. I started taking fewer notes at this point as I was wondering if I needed to take a break.
  13. Waterloo Sunset” Kinks cover. Jon headed toward the vibraphone and took a request for this cover. The link is to a rough video of Jon doing this same thing in New York last year. I was not as emotionally wrecked by this song as I was the last time I heard Jon play it and I take that as a personal victory. Maybe the novelty of the vibes helped. I’ve borrowed a line from this song for the title of the post, because it reflects how I feel about where I live and also my affinity for Largo.

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    Vibraphone at Jon Brion’s April Show

  14. “That’s What People Do” an unrecorded song of Jon’s which may or may not actually be called that. It was requested from the audience by that name but after he performed it someone else shouted out, “What was that?” and Jon just said it was one of his but didn’t give the title.  He also was adamant that “It is not an anti-marriage and anti-procreation song.” That those things were fine for people who wanted them, but not to push others into those areas or judge them if they are not interested in such things.
  15. I Don’t Really Want to Know” 1950s song popularized by Eddy Arnold and Elvis.  Jon played this one on lap steel, which I’ve also never seen him play before. There were some crackling sound issues during this song that Jon tried to get around by shifting in his seat, but there wasn’t much he could do about it.
  16. Tainted Love” Soft Cell cover. This old chestnut again.  Jon said, “We gotta throw this shit uptempo somehow,” as he began it. Jon played the song on it a little edgier than usual, using the orange Gretsch, but he seemed to be having trouble with one of the switches as he was bashing at it harder than seemed necessary and muttering a couple instances of “motherfucker.” The Gretsch was sent back to the rack right after this one.
  17. Piano medley of various songs, including: Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” Gary Glitter’s “Rock N Roll Part 2,” and Lovin Spoonful’s “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice, and finishing off on the piano with an instrumental I didn’t recognize.
  18. DRUM SOLO. Someone shouted out “drum solo” and Jon took him up on it.  He strode over to the kit, sat down, and played a little bit and noted, “Sounds like drumline.” So he then went on to play a very marching band/drum corps kind of solo. He finished the solo off by holding a cymbal wedged against his body and playing it with a stick that had a mallet on one end and a teardrop-shaped tip on the other and alternating sides of the stick. He began pushing on the cymbal to warp the sound while he hit it and played all across the top of the cymbal all while keeping immaculate time. It was so creative and amazing. Who knew you could get so many tones out of cymbal? Not me, but Jon Brion knew!
  19. Play the Game” Queen cover, on piano. Myself and a few others called that one out as a request at the previous month’s show. I’ll take it, even if a little late. Thank you! The link to Jon’s recorded version of the song for a Queen tribute album.
  20. You Won’t See Me” The Beatles cover. Jon wanted a singalong and someone shouted out “The Beatles”. He put a beat on the drum machine and went back to the piano to play this classic. The funny thing about this choice was that five days prior I was at a jam session of local musicians in which each person made a request from a list of about 100 songs that the group has chords and music written out for, in order for everyone to play on guitar and sing along. This was the song I chose. Thrilling to be on the same wavelength with Jon.

Jon said he was going to head over to the Little Room to play piano and so a crowd filled that space. Upon entering, the Little Room, Sean Watkins, David Garza, Sebastian Steinberg, and Dominique Arciero were all already on the stage playing and singing. They continued to do a set for the crowd and Jon never did make it to the piano. The songs they played included:

  1. Walk Away Renee” Left Banke cover, sung by Sean.
  2. Up” one of David Garza’s early songs, available on Eternal Tambourine. He played the mandolin on this one.
  3.  “Wicked” one of David’s songs from April Fool, he sang and played on his guitar. He referred to it as “music to order lots of beers by.” It had lyrics such as “No matter how much you give me it’s not enough.” (Beers?)  “Let’s get down and dirty, let’s get wicked.”
  4. Will the Roses Bloom” Sean took the lead vocals on this one.
  5. Stand By Your Man” Tammy Wynette cover, sung by David and with him starting off on the piano and switching to guitar on the chorus. First time I’ve ever heard this song sung by a man.
  6. I Fought the Law” popularized by the Bobby Fuller Four. Another one led by David.
  7. Lost to a Stranger” popularized Ricky Skaggs. Led by Sean.
  8.  I believe this is another one of David’s songs, a jazzy little number that starts, “Kiss me once, it’s shame on you” and also had the line “Show me a little mercy.” I’ve heard this one before but I can’t figure out the title. I thought it was “Show Me a Little Mercy,” but I’m not finding it online.
  9. Everyday” Buddy Holly cover. Jon should have brought the vibes in.
  10. Walkin’ After Midnight” popularized by Patsy Cline. Domenique Arciero joined in the singing.
  11. David played a teaser of the chords from “What I Am” on the guitar while they were working out what song they would finish with.
  12. “Exit Music” the group played an instrumental jam to close the show, which David called “Exit Music.”

What else can I say? Another fun evening at Largo getting to see some talented musicians. Totally fulfilling.