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!

 

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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