Monday, September 27, 2004

Jon Brion, Jon Auer

Cranial Connections
Sunset Tavern, Seattle WA

An interesting dynamic plays out for me at some shows where I am standing next to the speaker. You've done this, right? You are at the front and the performer isn't more than 15 feet from you, but for some reason you are crammed up against a giant speaker. For most of the show you get blasted by sound, but sometimes the singer will talk very quietly - either mumbling to himself or communicating with the sound guy. And since you are right next to the speaker, the performer's voice sounds like it's coming from inside your OWN HEAD. It's creepy and erotic at the same time. It was this situation that made Jon Auer's request for more reverb in his mic the most fantastically sexy thing I've ever heard.

This is a pretty tight crowd, meaning that everyone in the room knows at least 10 other people in the room. It's part of the No Vote Left Behind festival, which ideally would have taken place in Missouri if you know what I'm saying. There isn't much fashion to speak of, though there's one guy who takes the indie music nerd look a bit too far and ends up looking exactly like my dad circa 1965 when he played the ukelele. Another guy standing right next to me is wearing this nice suit and he sometimes consults his Blackberry during the show. My friend surmises that he just came from showing a 3 br/2 ba home in Ballard and didn't have time to change. Once in a while he looks at me looking at him and it's a bit awkward.

There a ton of musicians in the audience, and I get a bit frustrated that they don't look more special. If you are a rock star, shouldn't you at least have interesting hair? Leather? Tattoos? This would greatly increase the chances of me recognizing you. Instead the people who fit the bill all turn out to work at record stores. Later when Grant Lee Phillips gets on stage with Jon Brion, he looks so shockingly normal that I spend the first 2 songs in disbelief that he's ever been permitted to board a tour bus. Another friend later points out that Shawn Smith of Satchel and Brad fame is in the room: "the guy who looks like Kevin Smith." Come ON, rock stars!

One guy stands exactly two inches from the stage all night and is transfixed by every chord strummed and every word sung by Jon Brion. This is the World's Greatest Fan. I remember him from the last time Jon played the Sunset -- I believe he was wearing the same outfit and tri-colored cap. At first he moves around and smiles, but once he truly feels the genius impact of Brion's sampling and playing, WGF stands slack-jawed for the remainder of the show.

While some people look at each other as if to say "hey, fun show!", there are a few us (uh, okay maybe the World's Second Greatest Fans) who turn to each other periodically during Jon Brion's set as if to say "are you KIDDING ME WITH THIS??" During some of Jon's multi-layered sampling rock songs, I keep looking back at another WSGF with a WTF?? shrug. He knows what I'm saying. The man is a musical encyclopedia and freak of nature. My face still hurts from smiling.


Blogger smack said...

Holy crap.

I've seen Jon before at the Sunset, but he was playing with Matt Chamberlin and a bassist whose name escapes me ... This was the first time I've seen him to the solo-artist layering on himself with sampling madness schtick.

I have *never* seen anything like this before. I was slack-jawed in amazement. I think I may have also been a bit depressed realizing that Jon's talent put him in a league of his own, and that I'd never be able to come even close to anything like it.

I loved every second of it.

11:44 AM  

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