Saturday, August 07, 2004

Jon Brion!!

Largo, Los Angeles

Silly me for thinking this was a casual affair. Since Jon Brion has been doing a weekly gig at Largo for over three years, I thought you could waltz in to the club just before showtime. That is SO not the case. There is dinner, required reservations, lines, and lots of waiting. Since I lack planning skills, my friend and I ended up in the loser line stuck behind people waxing political beginning with statements like "I've learned a few things in my 23 years..."

Finally we get into the club and even get a stool at the bar. There was good fashion inside (we are in West Hollywood after all) and many many Lacoste polo shirts on the men. Largely seated at tables under dimly-lit Tiffany chandelier things, the crowd was tame and attentive. That part was sort of a downer.

(It should be noted that the guy working the door smells like he has been dunked in a vat of liquid incense. There is a visible incense cloud that trails him whenever he breezes by us. He reminds me of taking T'ai Chi in the late 80s. My friend claims him as her new boyfriend.)

Right away we meet Bob - a teacher who was reading Anna Karenina by candelight, and who is a semi-regular at the Brion gigs. Bob quickly surpasses Walter, the voice of the navigation system in my friend's Accord, as the new Ideal Man. He gives us the inside scoop about Largo and Brion's gigs: there is an etiquette policy that orders patrons to shut up while the performer is singing; you can get a sense of how the show will go by how much Jon drinks; and that lately Jon has been way more professional than in the past.

Jon brings out his first guests: the Section String Quartet. HFS. These people are incredible. They do two Radiohead songs and one Alejandro Escovedo tune. And THEN they accompany Jon for two songs, which sound as if they were WRITTEN for a guitar and a string quartet.

The next set is equally incredible. Jon is now solo, but he has a sampler on stage with him that lets him lay down 16 bars of drums and gets that playing over the speakers. Then he does the same with bass and piano. And then he plays his guitar and sings live over his own accompaniment. For other songs he bangs and scrapes on the piano creating this cool soundscape track under the other instruments. Oh, and he had a vocorder. The man is an effing genius.

At one point during a super-extendo version of Stairway to Heaven, a guy behind me says "..and this is how Jon Brion makes it through four hours every week." When Jon asks for requests from the audience, people immediately call out the songs or bands they've been holding on to all night. One guy keeps yelling "Fool On the Heeeeel! Fool On the Heeeeel!" over and over.

After that set a group of ten linebackers installs themselves directly in front of us, blocking the view of the stage. There is no escape, and I am forced to go to the other end of the bar and rudely block the view of someone else. It's a dog eat dog world, people. Jon's next guest is Benmont Trench. Holy cow this guy is an amazing pianist. The crowd is finally getting a bit more lively (though not, of course, while the musicians play).

By the end of this long evening we have seen Jon drink at least 5 beers, heard amazing covers of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Billie Holliday, Cole Porter, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and most of my favorite songs from Meaningless and some from Ro Sham Bo. We are tired and happy. Finally, JB at Largo. I can die now.


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