I Never Know Where to Start

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!