muse ick

It’s gonnae be a super-hectic weekend, which means I’ll have nae chance of making this blog feel loved. But I just had to put down something about the fabulous music I’ve been hearing: live, on the radio, on last.fm and in my head.

Last Friday saw us finally getting some tickets to the concert venue closest to our home in SaMo: McCabe’s Guitar Shop. I’ve been itching to see something there ever since popping my head in to buy some picks a few months back. It’s celebrating it’s 50th birthday this year, and in LA, I reckon that’s a pretty big deal since everything’s a temporary tattoo here. Anythehoo, McCabe’s has a back room where they host concerts every weekend. I have to confess to never having heard of most of the artists¹, but I overheard excited whispers regarding a certain Hansard fellow while picking my plectrums². Unsurprisingly, it was a sold-out concert and not for the likes of me³.

This Friday past, on the other hand, must have been the day off for my Ticket Tormentors4. Their slack resulted in us being blown away by the amazing Peter Mulvey, of Wisconsin. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s a very engaging performer with an easy patter. His folk rock was part of his patter, or is it the other way round. Anecdote after anecdote, he charmed us all and really raised the bar for the main act, Patty Larkin.

She was amazing. The things she did with her pedals made her one-person show a full aural spectacle. And like Peter Mulvey, she was on fine form with the stories and explanations. We were left in no doubt that she’s mighty annoyed about her MySpace squatter (thus leading to an evening of puns, which you’ll be pleased to hear I won’t be repeating here). I think if I’d heard her music before the show, I would have enjoyed the experience a lot more. As it was, I sat captivated by the technique, the meshing of different sounds. And quite forgot to listen to the music.

How can Blink-whatever-number get so much airtime and a wonderful and truly gifted musician like Patty Larkin never be on the radio at work? Oh yes, I work in a lab filled with teenagers. Fortunately, when I remember to put batteries in, I have my trusty FM/AM/LW-bigger-than-an-iPod radio which allows me to drown out Kanye with KCRW. Which was most fortuitous this morning because I suspect a very sneaky Fran Healy leaked one of the band’s latest songs on Morning Becomes Eclectic.

Oh yes. Immediately after the latest Coldplay single (which, btw, sounds very Travis-rock-like), a two-chord riff jarred out of the earphones and a very familiar voice launched into J Smith5.

there’s a man on the street
and he looks at his feet from his window
and he swears at the sun
and he curses the moon for his shadow

take a leaf from his book
take a thread from his suit
he’s a new man
and he prays to his god
that he reaps his reward for his new plan

It’s a good song. It’s lean yet anthemic. A touch of Queen with the dramatic Latin/Italian chorus. And yet saved from becoming melodramatic with the chew and growl of the guitar, driven by a rough bass line, accented with perfect bursts of drum. It’s raw but smooth: like a freshly caught fish, sashimi-ed in front of your very eyes. If you’re not a sushi person, think Lagavulin: smoky and peaty, with a hint of acid that threatens but never emerges, leaving a rolling smoothness in your mouth. Only it’s aural not oral.

I’ve gone from feeling like my music tastes had stagnated to being overwhelmed with choice. Despite my complaints about Ticketmaster (it hates me, I’m sure of it), we have a list of summer events to make up for the end of the LA Philharmonic’s season. This weekend sees us back at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, but for the Kronos Quartet. Halfway between here and there, we’ll see KT Tunstall at the Wiltern. I’m off to be eaten by gators in Florida after, and then get lost in the Smithsonian in DC, but I’ll be back for REM and Modest Mouse at the Hollywood Bowl.

And maybe I’ll just stay at home in June. Maybe.

2nd May 2008 Update: My little delurk (see footnote 5 below) made the front page of the Travis website. Woot!


1 Not because they’re not good or famous. Just chalk it up as yet another thing in a bajillion that I know diddly squat about.

2 I settled for the variety pack by the counter, thank you very much for asking. And my favourite of the random pack is the Pickboy 100; a solid plectrum with dimples for grip. P likes the really thin own-brand pick. But plectrum or pick choice has not turned us into Turin Brakes. Maybe we need guitar straps?

3 There are many, many concerts that I am clearly unworthy for, as Ticketmaster often reminds me. They have very rightly screened the potential audience for plebs, and have informed me in no uncertain terms that I’m not good enough to see Flight of the Conchords or Radiohead live. But I thumb my nose at them, for I am one of the privileged few to have seen the f*lksome twosome when they were selling themselves as Figwit and friend at the Edinburgh Fringe. Surgeon’s Hall, if I remember correctly. The Fringe was always a little surreal for me: comedy in my lecture halls.

4 Like Dementors, only they suck out the joy and excitement you feel in anticipation of a concert and replace it with that bottomless dread of having to tell your fellow concert goers that you have failed in your mission to bring joy to their lives.

5 If interested, go to the Morning Becomes Eclectic page and listen to the 1st of May edition at 40 minutes into the show. Hearing it was enough to prompt a de-lurk on the Travis messageboard. Back under the rock now…

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3 thoughts on “muse ick

  1. you’re a star on the travis board! yay! have you seen the videos?

    i have one ticket for flight of the conchords. i am verra tempted to go, but i think i might mosey up to berkeley for the other REM shows.

    speaking of them, i had the absolute luxury of seeing them, natalie merchant, steve wynn from dream syndicate, and a host of bands you’d scratch your head at in that mccabe’s back room…all in one night. it’s a pretty magical stage.

  2. Oooh, no I hadn’t seen the vids. I got lucky with hearing it on KCRW. I was so pleased about it that I sent them some money!

    They’ve set up a myspace page for Ode to J Smith too. Nothing from the new album yet, but the early 4 tracks are awesome.

    Even though I’m scratching my head, I’m envious of your dilemma. Now excuse me while I scurry off to last.fm to find those of whom you speak.

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