The Mariner's Musical Voyage: 6/3 - 6/10 (Side B: Jon Brion revives The Beatles)

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12 juin 2007, 2h36m

Like they ever needed reviving. Before I get down to business:

10,000 tracks
This week marked my 10,000th track play. I stopped at 9,999 and tried to decide what I wanted my 10,000th to be. I then decided: who cares? No one track could sum up the 9,999 that preceded it, so I just set the music free and it ended up being Arcade Fire's Keep the Car Running.

This Weeks Charts
My weekly chart is a little uneven this week. 41 listens for Gogol Bordello. I have an excuse, really I do. Their new album leaked and infected my mind and mp3 player. it just wouldn't stop playing! Perhaps I'll do a review of it soon, but I don't want this journal turning into a 3 parter. Other than that, I also got on an Oingo Boingo kick this week. It got me hyped for the dead man's party show coming up.

Sat 9 Jun – Jon Brion

As I sat and pondered my plans for the evening on Saturday afternoon I played out the different scenario's in my head. The first of which was me ending up Uncle Jesse's house chilling out and getting retarded. All good and well but it reminded me of something...oh yeah, last night. The second being me driving to LA to see Jon Brion at Largo. Hmmm, but it's so much easier to sit around than to drive 2 hours to LA. Forget it, i quickly affirmed, LA is out.

So I arrived in LA at about 4:30pm. Ok ok, i'm indecisive, but so what? It makes things more spontaneous. Besides, Jon Brion doesn't do weekly shows anymore after his bout with tendinitis. My voice was raspy and weathered from the long stretches of belting out lyrics along with the random shuffle of my mp3 player. No matter, though, not like there's anyone to talk to anyway. I'd heard of the legendary "lawn chair brigade" that likes to line up uber-early for Jon Brion shows so a quick drive-by was in order to assure they hadn't already established Douche Central Headquarters in front of the door. Indeed it was douche free, so there was just enough time to get some grub and race back.

With belly full and the clocks cruel shiny face smirking at me I waved goodbye to my chances for an Amoeba Music trip. Only 5:30 and back at Largo (doors at 8:30). You'd never think this place would have the following it does, what with it being in the middle of the not-so-impressive Fairfax Ave, black painted boarded up windows and plenty of shady folks passing by. Nonetheless, I hopped into the already growing line...3 freakin hours early. But if I want a cozy bar seat, that's the sacrifice i've gotta make.

Hours pass, the line grows, a tiny dog tries to steal someones pizza in line, and a celebrity homes tour bus drives by as we wave to the gawking tourists. Screw celebrity homes, this is the real LA. What's this?? Ahhhh, 8:30 finally! My legs can't take much more. Mike, who's always there, lets the bar folk in first. I was finally ready to sit and quench my thirst, and only moments away. He counts each person as they move in the door, 1...2..3..4..5..6...7...8..9......10. But...but what about #11?? I'm #11 damn it! There must be another chair at the bar! I've been here 3 hours, I'll go get you the wood and nails to build another freakin chair, just let me sit! Next time I'll say that out loud, yeah, of course i will. "I'll be back for the rest of you at about 9pm for standing room only" he utters. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! I looked on in bitter disappointment as those with reservations were let in next, walking inside right past my face since I was now at the very front of the non-reservation line. I smiled and nodded as they passed, muttering obscenities in my mind to each person walking by; "Hi, how are you tonight? Good? well suck it! Oh, lovely dress Mrs. Kissmyass". But my bitterness quickly faded, after all, it wasn't their fault and I was still guaranteed to get in. The next bunch of us were let inside in no time at all.

The Venue
Largo is my #1 favorite venue to go to in Los Angeles. As soon as I crossed that threshold the ambiance soaked right into my bloodstream and I was home. The mellow atmosphere, dimmed lighting, candlelit dinner tables, and crimson walls neatly lined with music and poet legend portraits reminds me a bit of Cafe Tosca or Vesuvios in San Francisco. There is no real stage, but rather a small corner stacked with a myriad of instruments and gadgets for Jon to randomly choose throughout the night and use to paint the airwaves with his unique looping performances and unusual covers.



The Performance
Another hour or so passes and Jon takes the stage. Brion is an everything man. He does it all from producing (Beck, Fiona Apple, Kanye West), to singing, songwriting, film scoring (Eternal Sunshine, I Heart Huckabees) and multi-instrumentalist. He never has a set list planned for a night, he just goes off a whim or takes requests from the shouting audience. He started out the night with a classical piano-only rendition of "Someone To Watch Over Me" and moves on to the theme from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Next was a handful of random songs, some written by him (Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad, Knock Yourself Out from I Heart Huckabees) and some just old classics. His glasses of Guinness and red bulls lined up on his piano, he takes a long slow swig with one hand while playing "How Much Is That Doggie In the Window" with the other as he decides what to play next. Following his own Ruin My Day, he plays a single Beatles song, Strawberry Fields Forever, which catapults the night into a Beatles / classic rock frenzy. "Fuck it!" he yells, "I like this direction. For the rest of the night it's just gonna be all fucking Beatles". Various shouts arise from the dinner tables and bar lending requests. Brion soon brings out Benmont Tench, a well known and respected pianist who's recorded with The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Green Day and a slew of other big names. Jon informs the audience "if you know a guitar part and you don't see me holding one, sing it, if you know backing vocals, sing them, if you know lead vocals, sing them. You better fucking sing or there will be hell to pay". At this point the audience is buzzed enough to obey. The party goes on as he switches between a few of his 9 guitars he's got lined up on stage, ripping through Ob La Di, Ob La Da, Every Little Thing, and a half dozen others. Soon it's already midnight, but Jon is cracked out on red bulls and beer and informs us "We're gonna play some more Beatles songs, take a break, then have a Beatles-fest '07 up here. I know you're thinking no set should ever be this long, but fuck it".

Ahhhh, finally people start dropping like bowel-clenching turds at the break, leaving room for me and a couple Austrian guys to sit after 5 hours. Only the true fans are left. 12:30am rolls around when Jon and Ben take the floor again, or maybe it was 1am. I was too fucking tired to care but ready for more. In the second half of the night he played another 17 damn songs. I've never seen an artist with so much stamina. Going to most other shows to see your favorite artist you pay maybe $10-$15 and get about an hour of stuff off their new CD that they're touring. You pay $15 here (which Largo gives ALL to Jon) and it's like having a personal performance of whatever the hell you want in your living room. They played though everything from I'm So Tired to You Really Got Me to My Generation where his guitar strap came loose and he simply exclaims "fuck it! nothings gonna stop me!" and tears the place up. He ends the night starting on drums. He gets a good loop going and moves onto piano as the drums continue to play themselves and gets a good piano layer on top. Then he's onto guitar, layering on a bass part, then electric and just keeps going and going until there's and entirely imaginary, yet very audible band blasting and rocking out on stage playing I Want You (She's So Heavy) behind Jon. It's the kind of finale that reminds me why I went though the trouble for all this in the first place. It wasn't my first time seeing Jon and it sure as hell won't be my last pilgrimage.

Setlist for the night:
  • Swannee River by Tommy Dorsey
  • Someone to Watch Over Me by Gershwin
  • Eternal Sunshine Theme by Jon Brion
  • Nothing Between Us
  • Croatia
  • Further Along
  • Happy with You
  • Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad by Jon Brion
  • How Much Is That Doggie in the Window
  • Knock Yourself Out by Jon Brion
  • Excuse to Cry by Jon Brion
  • The Very Thought of You/You Say You Don't Love Me by Ray Noble
  • Ruin My Day by Jon Brion
  • Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles
  • I'm Only Sleeping by The Beatles
  • Sexy Sadie by The Beatles

*with Benmont Tench*

BREAK

Jon Brion on the Late Late Show (Knock Yourself Out from I Heart Huckabees):


Unaired VH1 Pilot "The Jon Brion Show" with late friend Elliott Smith:


MP3: Life On Mars
MP3: Life On Mars as a Fats Waller song

Benmont Tench (Click for larger):


The Largo "Stage" (Click for larger):




FINALLY, as the last order of business, I had an unexpected trip to Hot Java Cafe for open mic night on Sunday. 12 performers of whom each got to play for 2 songs or 10 minutes. Memorable acts of the night: Paisley. This was one scary guy. He was dressed like a wannabe rocker (with star earrings) and looked like he'd follow you home and rip your arms out of your sockets. His cd label didn't help to disprove this point. It's apparently a picture of his face put through a film negative filter in photoshop. Creepy.
Willie Ames seemed ok, I'll probably give his cd a shot. The chick that came down from LA (and looked as such) sounded out of the New Weird Americafreak-folk genre. One of the last guys play a couple Decemberists songs which I was kind of excited about at first but as soon as he opened his mouth that all just went down the crapper. I'm sorry to say he really couldn't sing and completely butchered the songs. It almost made me embarrassed for him and the band he was covering. Props, though, for getting the balls to get up there in the first place.

Thus concluded my weekend. Until next week folks!

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