Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


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Special appearances

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

Last August, I was unexpectedly invited to a private friends-and-family music festival Robert Wheeler and his wife Linda decided to throw on their farm by the river back in the outskirts of Milan, Ohio. I had met Robert, the synthesizer and theremin player for the world’s greatest band (that would be Pere Ubu) online a year or two earlier, and he knew I’d gone to their shows here in LA for decades, and then down to San Diego to see them on their most recent tour, and then went last spring to London expressly to see the only play date on their tour to feature all nine members who appeared on the most recent album. So for the third time in a year, I got on a plane to see the band — because who wouldn’t want to go see the world’s best band in a private concert on a farm long held by the family of Thomas Edison’s sister? I wouldn’t have missed that for anything.  I wrote about that trip, and that incredible homespun music festival here.

Last Saturday, a smaller, and very LA version of something similar played out here and I got to go again. And again, it was thanks to the internet.

Just before Christmas last year, I was reading the reviews of holiday albums posted by Rolling Stone online. Every year, I like to buy a new holiday album just to bring some new spark to the Christmas festivities. I had already bought The Monkees’ Christmas album, hoping for a repeat of their true final album, the sensational Good Times!, but was disappointed to learn that essentially it was two solo albums (Micky and Mike) sutured together with one abominable performance by the ailing and soon to be deceased Peter Tork. While it had its bright spots, it so hit-and-miss that I couldn’t imagine playing it when friends came over. So I was looking for another.

KringleTingleThe artwork for this one stood out, as did its title:  “The Kringle Tingle.”  Here’s the review, courtesy of Rolling Stone:

I look them up and see the words “country soul” and “swamp funk.”  A strong start with covers of “Linus & Lucy” and “Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag” and I love the sound of the horns.  It really kicks in with the original “Christmas Time In Bossier City” which feels like a song every radio DJ should be adding to their holiday broadcasts, it’s like the ghosts of vintage Springsteen and Van Morrison conspired to create a melancholy new holiday classic with some meat on the bone.  “Don’t Go Chasing Santa Claus” is a straight-up TLC spoof, believe it or not, and is the more festive option for that holiday party playlist.  “Santa Comes To Atlanta” is another original that is goddamn lovely.  Fuck it, I start skipping ahead a little, not because I am bored but because I am confident this is a solid record.  Good covers throughout, nothing too obvious, and even better originals.

So I sample it online, can’t believe how great this sounds — how incredibly fun and energetic and soulful and just filled with the joy of being alive, so I buy it. And then, from Christmas straight into January, I listen to it over and over and over and over and over again, knowing nothing about “Shinyribs” (is that a person? and band?) but loving every instant of it and wondering how the hell it wound up at NUMBER 50 on the list of 50 new Christmas Albums in a review that damned it with faint praise. If it shouldn’t have been number one, it still merited a ranking higher than FIFTY.

Come March, I’m on my way to another godforsaken dental appointment, wondering how terrible this one will be, and I’m listening to music on shuffle in my car, and damn if a track from this album did come up. Magically, I suddenly felt better. Sure, at some point I might have whole suspension bridges erected inside my mouth, but there will always be Shinyribs music, and it will always perk me up. Feeling extremely moved by music — as it is the job of music to do — I look up the Shinyribs website to see where and when they or he is going to play and see that it’s usually Texas (that’s where Shinyribs is from), and consider a trip to Texas, and wonder how I can wrap it up in some business work to write off the trip, but then I realize this is unrealistic for now given my schedule, but I do see evidence of a West Coast tour! I look at the dates… but somehow, inconceivably, there are no Los Angeles dates. Not a one. A little chastened, I find Shinyribs on Twitter, post a heartfelt tweet about how great the music is and how sad I am to see no play date in LA, but optimistically offer that at some point I look forward to coming down to Texas to see the show. Shortly thereafter, I get this unexpected private message:

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I couldn’t believe my good fortune! The kindness and generosity of these musicians and, in 2019, their lack of paranoia about my possibly being a nut job, still floors me. My business partner says that when you put something out into the universe, it comes back to you — so, yes, they are responding to my love for their music. But still:  They’re taking a risk on me.

As the date drew closer, and I exchanged a few more messages with Kevin Russell, the lead singer and guitarist of Shinyribs (yes, it’s a band), and after I’d watched all of their videos online and bought more of their music, this was sent to me:

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And that’s how my wife and I happened to be at a private backyard concert last Saturday, hoo-dooing with Shinyribs and about 50 strangers. Everyone we met was nice, the food and drink and hospitality of the host were incomparable, as promised we brought a nice gift for said host, and we had an absolutely awesome time. My wife said of the band, “They’re in the business of joy.”

My wife Valorie, Kevin Russell of Shinyribs, and me

My wife Valorie, Kevin Russell of Shinyribs, and me

The video snippet above unfortunately doesn’t include Kevin’s soulful, energetic, singing. But it does give you a taste of the band, which is in my mind somehow related to the band Little Feat, with similar energy but more heat. If this is how good they sound at a backyard function, imagine how great they were on Austin City Limits. (Or:  go watch to it.)

Two nights ago, my wife and I went to see Eddie Izzard at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Throughout the show, Izzard says you’d better make your life an adventure. I do my best to enjoy every day, and to help other people enjoy theirs if I can. But I will always remain dumbstruck by the sheer luck I’ve had throughout my life in meeting tremendously talented people who are also generous enough to invite me to things like this.

Old music

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Elton John at Staples Center

Last night, I saw Elton John on his stop here in Los Angeles in his multi-date sold-our performances at the Staples Center as part of his “Farewell, Yellow Brick Road” tour, billed as Elton’s final tour. He wants to spend more time with his children, he told us from the stage, adding that this would be his last time playing the Staples Center.

True.

Of course, he’s playing the also-in-Los-Angeles Forum tomorrow night. And the night after. And again. And then, yes, he’ll be touring the world for another two years, including a couple more stops back here in LA with multiple play dates each time. By the time he’s done with this tour, those kids won’t want to spend any time with him anyway. (I speak from experience.) But, no, he won’t be returning to the Staples Center. I came away from the concert liking Elton, but also thinking that he’s so good at splitting hairs that maybe he should be an economist.

I’m not really an Elton John fan. My wife’s a fan and so we went, and we had a fantastic time at the show, but I’ve never much cared for his music. I don’t like the songs that are too saccharine, and I actively hate the ones that to me sound like they’re perfect for playing at roller rinks. (“Crocodile Rock” typifies that sort.) In concert, he largely avoided the type I hate, and the saccharine ones were fortified with strong musicianship from his band. When the band took the stage, I wondered why Elton John needed three drummers. I found out. To my immense surprise, Elton in concert proved to be a rock and roll show, and a highly enjoyable one at that. He’s singing in a lower key these days, which in addition to keeping the songs singable by him, produces the further benefit of making the vocals sound bluesier. Attaching a powerful band to that — and Elton has a very powerful band — adds punch.

I looked it up, and Elton will be 72 in March. He looks good, although overstuffed, and is a generous performer. He played for three hours, apologized for not being able to play every hit (he’s had 50 songs in the U.S. top 40), and not only routinely left his piano to make bows and gestures from each and every corner of the stage in appreciation to all members of the audience in those far-flung corners, but also rode the piano around to various locations of the stage as one would a hovercraft. He’s a true showman.

By the time this tour wraps up, Elton John will be just shy of 74. My wife and I have concert tickets for two other shows this year:  Bryan Ferry in the late summer, and the Who in October. Just after we see him, Ferry will hit 74, Pete Townshend will also be 74, and Roger Daltrey will be 75. In this crowd, Elton John is a whippersnapper.

Valorie says we’d better find some younger bands to like, because these guys are going to be dead soon. I do have younger bands I like — hello, Broken Bells, where’s your new album and tour? Gnarls Barkley, are you still out there? TV on the Radio, what’s up? — but now seems a good time to express immense gratitude that the members of Pere Ubu are only in their 50s and 60s.

Just how important music is

Monday, November 26th, 2018

I’ve been reading an interview with founding Pere Ubu synthesizer player Allen Ravenstine and just came across this. It’s an exciting — and sobering — reminder of just how important the arts are, and music in particular. When people are deprived of it, they’re willing to risk everything for it.

I’ll tell you one of my favorite stories. We used to play a club in Berlin called the SO36. It was a very small place and it had almost no ventilation in it. It would fill up and it was so steamy in there that condensation would form on the walls. And I remember one night getting up on the stage and the opening moment of the performance was a woman throwing a shoe at us. And it was just un-bear-ably loud! It was so loud in there, it was painful. And at the end, I went up to the soundman and I said ‘why does this have to be so loud? What is that about?’ He said ‘well, it’s because the club is right up against the Wall. The kids in East Berlin sneak in to the buildings on their side of the Wall to listen to the music.’

And Cutler was the one who had me read a book called The Bass Saxophone Player. It’s a fascinating story about how in the Second World War, the folks that lived in the occupied territories would sneak off into the hills on the weekend and they would get into these little clubs, hotels and they would put on zoot suits and stuff and they would spin the stuff that was going on over here, like Benny Goodman. And they would dance to it and they would have a lookout watching the road and when the Gestapo would come, they would jump out of their zoot suits and put on their folk costumes. And the band would play folk music and they would dance to that to hide what they were up to. And the idea that… you would risk your life to hear some kind of music… just unbelievable. And so that story was always fascinating to me- those kids were risking their necks, sneaking into these abandoned buildings to hear this. And this club (Ubu was at) was cranking the music as loud as it was so that there was some chance that they could hear it on the other side.

I consider myself lucky that I’ve never had to risk getting shot in order to listen to music I prefer.

The whole interview, which references the birth of post-punk, a clash with Devo in the early 70s,  and Ravenstine’s unexpectedly huge influence that he still doesn’t fully comprehend, can be found here. If you want to get a sense of what it might be like to be in a band for years, and touring the U.S. and Europe, with a boatload of differing personalities, you’ll find this interesting.

Assorted good news

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

We’ve all heard the bad news. Occasionally, I like to share some good news here in a vain attempt to balance it out. Here goes.

  • Last month, the California Department of Motor Vehicles fined almost 500 not-disabled people for using parking placards reserved for disabled people. Those who were caught had their disabled parking placards taken away and now face fines ranging from $250 to $1,000. This makes me absolutely delighted. My late brother-in-law was in a wheelchair his entire life, my mother now occasionally uses one, my brother is fighting Parkinson’s and has difficulty walking, and I have several friends in wheelchairs.  That’s who those placards — and parking spaces! — are reserved for. They’re not meant for people who just want to park a little closer while they run in to buy coffee — they’re meant for people who face real challenges getting into and out of vehicles and need to park closer and in wider spaces. I wish the DMV great success in finding and fining even more of these thieves.
  • On a personal note, my new play is moving along nicely. I knew you were wondering. Plus, my back is, well, back to fully functioning.
  • Earlier this week, the great band Devo was nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While this is not as momentous as if the even more revolutionary and distinctive band Pere Ubu had been nominated, this is still well-deserved, and I rejoice in their nomination. Their rendition of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” remains the superior version, far outclassing the first version, by those Rolling fellows. I hope they get inducted and only wish that Bob 2 had lived to see it, but I’m glad I got to see him and the rest of the band while he was still around.
  • Incredibly, another band high on my list was nominated at the same time. I have every Roxy Music album and listen to them endlessly. Ditto for Bryan Ferry’s solo disks — every one of them, except that one where he covered his own songs in a precious 1920’s style (no thanks); I’ve also got five or eight of Brian Eno’s albums and one of Phil Manzanera’s. The later Roxy Music albums are filled with beautiful yearning; the early Roxy Music albums are raucous and twisted, stuffed with songs that started fake dance crazes,  proselytized the delights of anonymous post-midnight pickups, and pledged love to a blow-up doll. When you can deliver an anthem built around lyrics like “Plain wrapper baby, your skin is like vinyl … deluxe and delightful, inflatable doll,” you deserve to be in a hall of fame.

So: There. It’s not all bad in the world.

Down by the River

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

It’s been 12 years since I’ve been in the friendly state (that would be Ohio, because it says “hi” in the middle), but I’ll be there tomorrow through Sunday. The reason I’m going makes the place seem even friendlier.

About a month ago, I got a strange invitation on Facebook. It was to some event called “Down by the River… We Had a Party!” and it seemed to be… I wasn’t sure what… some sort of outdoor event in a rural area about an hour west of Cleveland… but what it was was uncertain.

And then I got a direct message from the man who had invited me to this event, a gentleman named Robert Wheeler whom I’ve gotten to know better in recent years.  His message read: “I don’t expect you to make it, but I didn’t expect you to fly to london either….”

That’s when I realized that Robert, who plays synthesizer and theremin for the band Pere Ubu, was inviting me to a private concert with the band at his farm.

Jeez!

Yes, I did fly to London a few months ago to see this band. And, yes, I flew to Chicago about six months before that to, again, see this band (and my son, sure — but also to take that son to the concert!).

And, yes, I saw the band in LA less than a year before that, and in San Diego the night after the LA concert, and I’ve seen them… I don’t know… a dozen times before that, stretching back to 1989 I believe. I’ve seen them at the Roxy on the Sunset strip, and at a bit of a low point for them at a little guitar shop in West LA, and anchoring an entire weekend at UCLA. I’ve seen them many times, and I sure hope to see them many times more, because they are the best and smartest band anywhere around. (I could go on about why that’s true — trust me, I could go on about why that’s true — but not right now. But believe me, their music is open-minded, wide-ranging, heartfelt, noisy and consistently astonishing. And in 40 years of it, there is not one bit of treacle in it anywhere.)

So I have seen the band in all these locales over all these years… but I’ve never seen them at an invitation-only event at the farm of one of the band members.

But I will on Saturday!

This is a lucky time to be alive.

 

The price of admission

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Yes, I want to see Public Image, Ltd. in November at the Fonda Theater with a friend of mine. Johnny Rotten is probably the last “get” for me — a music hero I haven’t seen who I’d like to see. The tickets are $50.

But NO, I don’t want to pay $16 for a “convenience fee.” That’s thirty-two percent of the ticket fee!

A few years ago, I read four extremely dull books on pricing, because I was curious about the subject and wanted to see what I could learn. I learned a lot. One of the things I learned about, for example, was anchor pricing. Once you know how to recognize it, you’ll see it frequently on menus and in other places. Here’s how it works:  In a clearly visible area of the menu, you place something outlandishly priced, like the frutti di mare at $200 a plate. You’ll think, “That’s crazy!” and not order that — but now that your eye has been drawn to the crazy price, the nearby lobster, at $69, looks like a deal. You’ve been anchored at $200, so now $69 is reasonable. Watch for that dynamic and you’ll start to see it everywhere.

These dull books were chock full of useful and enlightening information, but the major thing I learned is something that, in retrospect, looks obvious. All good pricing relies on fairness. If you believe you’re getting taken, you won’t buy. If you are spending a lot, you expect a lot:  either higher quality, or faster delivery, or better service, or scarcity of availability. I remember a story many years ago about the producer Joe Papp, and why in his Broadway production of “Angels in America” actors had to ride in already seated, and why in a previous production of something of his people had to have little working cars on the set, and so forth. (In LA, the actors simply carried in their chairs and sat.) Papp said the production always had to look like the high price was justified. Of course. Or people would resent it otherwise. You have to believe  you’re getting something in fair return for what you’re paying, or you feel ripped off.

Adding 32% (!!!) as a “convenience fee” when I know damned well that there is nowhere near a $16 cost in providing that ticket, there being no physical artifact and the electronic system to deliver that electronic artifact — the e-ticket — having been perfected and paid for years and years ago now, is unfair. I’m not paying it.

So, instead, I’ve asked my friend to drive into Hollywood and buy the tickets at the box office for us.

Seems fair, right?

The strange dream of Yoko Ono

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Last night, I dreamt that a small group of us, really just a handful, were in our theatre, Moving Arts, where Yoko Ono started performing a song. It was just Yoko and an abbreviated electronic getup, something computerized.

When she had finished, I turned to the colleague next to me and asked, “Did you record that?” and when I found out that she hadn’t, I was pretty annoyed, even though no one had known that Yoko was going to burst into song.

Then I realized that I was being unreasonable, and that the person I was actually mad at was myself. (Not an unusual occurrence.)

So then I decided I’d be happy with a photo. Yoko agreed to pose in a photo with me. She stood to my right, and I was ready to do a classic arm-around-your-shoulder pose when I decided that that was too passe, and that instead, we should stand very stiffly next to each other, almost like mannequins shoved up against each other, and wearing blank expressions. Yoko played along, but said to me, “You’re strange, Lee.” Which, coming from Yoko Ono, is remarkable and possibly a compliment.

Then someone I used to know well, a wealthy patron of the arts I knew 15 years ago and had a falling out with, showed up and it turned out that Yoko was staying with her, and then I was really annoyed.

And then I woke up.

I should add that I’ve always been a fan of Yoko’s work, that for 40 years I have been the proud owner of her double album “Fly” on vinyl (which has more ideas on any given side than most artists will have in their lifetime), as well as other recordings of hers on various formats, and that I don’t care if you think she broke up the Beatles. (And I like them, too.) Why she would stay with that disreputable person from my past when I would gladly put her up I don’t know.

What Everybody’s Listening To At My House

Monday, May 7th, 2018

We can’t get enough of David Byrne’s new album, “American Utopia.” It’s on constant replay on the home stereo (such as it is), in my car, and in my head. (Fitting, for a former Talking Head.) It’s a terrific album, filled with fun weirdness.

It’s also provided a backdrop against which to note the evolution of what I’ll call David Byrne’s positioning. The David Byrne of the 1970s and 1980s, who evoked the jittery discontent of modern life through abstruse words and a highly neurotic sound, is long gone. The more recent David Byrne, heard here and on his collaboration with Brian Eno of 10 years ago, “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today,” is very direct in his concerns and somewhat homiletic. “Is this meant ironically? Is it a joke?” he asks in the liner notes re the title of the new album. “… These songs don’t describe an imaginary or possibly impossible place but rather attempt to depict the world we live in now. Many of us, I suspect, are not satisfied with that world — the world we have made for ourselves. We look around and ask ourselves — well, does it have to be like this? Is there another way?” Byrne was similarly earnest on that surprisingly upbeat disc with Eno, and has gone so far as to launch the blog “Reasons to be Cheerful,” which promulgates the good news from around the world about Economics, Education, Health, Culture and more. If you fear that, say, Climate Change is hopeless, you’ll want to turn here. I don’t think it’s just because he figures we can’t handle any more bad news. Somehow, David Byrne, who always seemed emotionally remote, has become a warm-hearted social activist.

Three weeks ago, I took my wife to Las Vegas to see Byrne’s show, at the gorgeous Smith Center, where the acoustics proved to be remarkable and the performance even moreso. In addition to reinventing his music, Byrne has set out to reinvent the stage show that accompanies it. Note, below, the absence of an onstage set or, even, the normal components of a live concert: no drum kit, no cables, no amps, no keyboard stand, no guitar rack, no foot pedals, indeed, no nuthin’ except the musicians and whatever they can carry. This is very much a marching band.

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Rock concert? This didn’t seem like one. My wife said it was more like a combination of performance piece with music. Above, they set a mood for “Burning Down the House.” Below, note how the band, including the 65-year-old lead singer, plays dead while just the keyboardist carries on.

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And, here, how he opens the show, simply sitting alone onstage and singing about the workings of the human brain.

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That photo alone shows that Byrne is an interdisciplinary artist, not a rock musician. (As did this sensational and odd installation he put in the Pace Gallery in Menlo Park, which I went to see last year.) He’s a musician, yes, but also a visual artist, a film director, and a writer of non-fiction books, including “How Music Works.” His show is also tightly choreographed, and filled with joy — the joy of the music, and also the joy radiating from the performers who are delighted to present it.  In that same week, my wife and I saw another interdisciplinary artist, Laurie Anderson. (Byrne on Wednesday night; Anderson on Friday night at the Wallis in Los Angeles.) Byrne has said he won’t be reuniting with Talking Heads because that would be an exercise in nostalgia and he’s not interested in that. Laurie Anderson, meanwhile, is on what’s clearly a nostalgia tour:  a clip show of her greatest hits, of sorts — video bits; some spoken word; talk about past events; very occasional electric violin. It was disappointing to see such a provocative artist reduced to just showing up and pulling bits out of a hat, and even more dispiriting to learn that, when unscripted, she can’t tell a good story.

Byrne’s show featured eight songs from the (highly recommended) new album, eight Talking Heads songs, and six songs from his many collaborations over the years. If there are tickets left somewhere near you, you might want to get them. Maybe watching this recent appearance on “Colbert” will help convince you.

The David Bowie Listening Party, part one

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

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For Christmas, my longtime friend, playwright Trey Nichols, bought himself the recently released boxed set of David Bowie discs from 1977-1982, “A New Career in a New Town.” Last night we were finally able to coordinate our schedules so he could bring it over for us to listen to it together.

Listening to three Bowie albums in a row reminded me that no matter how much I love and appreciate an artist in theory, there’s nobody I love in toto. I admire a lot of Kurt Vonnegut’s work, and Philip K. Dick’s work, but I will never again read “Slapstick,” and I’d like back the hours spent trying to read Dick’s execrable mainstream novel “Voices from the Street.” Much as I like the Beatles (at times), I never need to hear, say, “Octopus’s Garden” again.

I had the great pleasure of seeing David Bowie on tour twice — on the “Serious Moonlight” tour in support of the “Let’s Dance” album, in 1983, in Philadelphia; and on his final tour, at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim in 2004. Both times, with very different shows and very different set lists, he and his band sounded great. On “Stage,” though, an early live album reissued in this new boxed set, I don’t hear any of the sort of magic I heard onstage. Instead, these are almost rudimentary live versions of songs that are far more magical on their original recordings, as performed here by what sounds like an above-average local cover band. Ouch.

The next disc we listened to was “Re:Call 3,” made up of rarities of a sort:  non-album singles, somewhat-different versions of album singles, b-sides, and ephemera. This was more like it, with different versions of some of my favorite Bowie songs:  “Heroes,” “Breaking Glass,” “Fashion,” “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” and more. It also includes the soundtrack version of “Cat People,” which I hadn’t heard in years, a 1979 folkie version of “Space Oddity” that I’m fine without, and, most interestingly, Bowie’s songs for Bertolt Brecht’s “Baal,” which I’d always heard about but never actually heard.  Now that I’ve heard them, I can say unequivocally that I prefer Bowie the rock star over Bowie the musical-theatre singer; in the former, his femme operatic voice is balanced out by the hard punches of rock-and-roll, while on the latter all his fluty indulgences flit around unanchored in a way that would have me running for the exit.

Finally, we listened to Tony Visconti’s recent remix of “Lodger.” Visconti, who was Bowie’s longtime producer, has stated that he didn’t feel the album had gotten the credit he deserved, and now he’s taken a swing at producing a better mix in hopes of better serving the music. As an enormous fan of this album, Trey was able to point out all the subtle differences; being less familiar, I didn’t hear them. Listening to it — and enjoying it — did give me occasion to look up this very positive review from Pitchfork, which left me howling with laughter. Here’s just one wonderful excerpt:

The music is punky and dramatic and a little odd, with detours into reggae and near-Eastern tonalities (“Yassassin”) and nebulously exotic “world” sounds (“African Night Flight”), all filtered through the ears of a British guy with plenty of money and the imperial leeway to appropriate whatever he felt like. To this day, no musician has better mastered the hermetic intensity of cocaine, a drug that makes you want to have long conversations with everyone you’ve ever met without leaving your room.

Whether you care about David Bowie’s music or not, I strongly recommend reading the entirety of that review for the pungent wit alone.

Given that it was approaching midnight, we didn’t get to the other albums in the boxed set last night, and unfortunately we didn’t get to sit outside and have cigars while doing this because Los Angeles was uncharacteristically approaching freezing, so we’re looking to set another play date, in March. That’ll give us a chance to listen to what may well be the best three albums of Bowie’s career:  “Heroes,” “Low,” and “Scary Monsters.”

Monkee don’t

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

On Friday night, instead of going to see “Blade Runner 2049,” I almost went to see The Monkees 2049, the age that the surviving members are fast approaching. I was on Twitter when I saw that Mike Nesmith would be joining Micky Dolenz for his concert at the Canyon Club, not far from here up in Agoura Hills. Last year, and a few years before that, my friend Richard had gone with me twice to see the Monkees. (You can read about those concert experiences here and here.)  So I emailed him:

Late last night, I learned that Mike Nesmith will be joining Micky Dolenz in his little club shows this Friday.

It’s pretty last-minute — but I’m toying with the notion of going.

Want to go?!?!?

Nesmith has tweeted about it and said he and Micky are rehearsing “Me and Magdalena.”

My main interest here was, of course, in Mike Nesmith, who had said that last year’s appearance in Hollywood would be his final concert with The Monkees. Although I’m a huge fan of their 50th anniversary album of last year, I’m not much of a Monkees fan; what I am is a fan of Mike Nesmith’s singing voice and his Monkees songs. That this appearance would feature Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz and no Peter Tork just seemed like a bonus:  even more focus on Nesmith.

Richard passed on the opportunity. I’m not much of an agonizer, but I have to admit even after Richard said no I was agonizing a bit about whether to go to this show. The Canyon Club is not my favorite venue; to get a seat, you have to order a (bad) dinner. When I went to see The Tubes there, the steak I ordered could have doubled as home plate, and I think it cost me thirty-six bucks. It’s like dinner theatre, with aging rock bands or people who’ve been kicked out of their bands putting on solo shows. Some time ago, Adrian Belew played there with some other former members of King Crimson. I’m surprised Pete Best isn’t playing there as “Best of the Beatles.” So you can pay handsomely for both the concert ticket and an inedible meal but claim a seat, or you can buy just the ticket and stand in the back for hours, through the opening act(s) and the headliner.

Finally I decided that as much as I would have liked to see Mike Nesmith, especially singing “Me and Magdalena,” one of my recent favorite songs,  I’d pass. Instead, I took my wife and kids out to dinner and to Amoeba Records in Hollywood, where I bought myself another copy of Pere Ubu’s exceptional new album, “20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo,”and bought my wife a copy of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits because she wanted one and because I guess we were the last household in America to own one. Between dinner and the record store and my wife stopping in to ask excited questions at a sushi place where all the sushi comes along on a  conveyor belt and you just pick what you want, and then her oohs and aahs when we stepped into the Arclight Hollywood and then the Cinema Dome, movie palaces she hadn’t been to before, we were having a terrific time, and then we went to see “Blade Runner 2049” and all of that slowed to a crawl… much like the movie… which left me thinking that maybe I should’ve gone to the Micky Dolenz / Mike Nesmith show.

Except:

As Micky Dolenz continued to tweet (or retweet) promos for Mike Nesmith’s forthcoming appearance at his show, the message got subtly changed:

Tonight! Join @TheMickyDolenz1 & special guest Michael Nesmith (1 song) in Agoura Hills, CA at @canyonconcerts

Note the “(1 song)” part. I had read that at the end of dinner while I was waiting for the check to arrive. Somebody felt the clarification was important (perhaps Mike Nesmith himself) — but didn’t it come too late for all those people who’d already bought tickets?

Here, by the way, is that one song (although it appears that Nesmith joined in for an encore at concert’s end as well). It gives me no satisfaction to note that Nesmith isn’t playing guitar… and that his vocal is off-key. Ouch.