I Am in Paradise

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.

    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.

    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.