Monday, March 02, 2009

Fun from A.B. to A.C.

It was some Friday in Santa Barbara, with Anthony Bourdain--Live in Concert! (or so it seemed, what with people and their "I need 2 tickets" and "Will serve you truffles for tix" signs) at the sold-out Arlington as just the start of an evening (well, the evening started with sunset, of course, and then Amy and I did eat delish steak tacos from that leftover tri-tip that we washed down with blood orange margaritas as we have 8 blood oranges this year and want to use them)(plus we shared a Maracaibo Especial from Jolly Pumpkin after that--what an ale! Thanks, Smitty!). It seems it was such an evening it will mean more parenths than usual. So parenthetical discretion advised.

Meanwhile, back at Bourdain, who was exactly as full of himself as he should be, kicking off by admitting, "I have the best job in the world," and prowling the stage (no podium for a world traveler, c'mon), just riffing, probably doing standard bits (we got the how he got Kitchen Confidential published story, of course), and lots of shots at vegetarians and most of the Food Network (even the folks he admires, like Mario Batali, got a bit of the rough treatment--he called Batali a "spiritual leader" who knew how to partner with the right people).

The Q&A could have gone on for hours--or maybe it just seemed like that. Too many people got up there to talk not ask, as if I got my complimentary tickets to hear them yammer. You'd think countries made flunkies from their visitors' bureaus stalk Bourdain at his appearances, so many people tried to sell him on a location for an episode of No Reservations. ("Tony, Tony, you must do an epsiode on Lower Slobovoda, my people are from there and they will curse you if you don't.") Oh, and don't ever ask him if people in the kitchen should get a share of tips. Just saying. The good news is he gave a big thumb's up to his spot for a pre-show dinner, Julienne, so here's hoping that endorsement keeps their business going strong in this period when most businesses are getting sand kicked in their face. (And there's no way to finish that metaphor, I know--I mean, who the hell is the bully in this scenario? and who gets to be Charles Atlas to save the scrawny one's bacon one day? Well, at least I got bacon in there.)

Speaking of skinny guys who probably got beat up, there's Dent May, who was the middle act of a triple bill at SOhO, luckily just down the street from the Arlington. So off we ran to catch May and A.C. Newman as Santa Barbara now has cool shows--thank you promoter Club Mercy. May is a bit hard to describe, as he sounds like lots of people but as is the case with someone like that, while you can play "spot the reference" it all adds up to something that's sui generis. He plays ukulele, so I think of folks like Carmaig DeForest, but that's an even more obscure comparison. For there's also The Scene Is Now, and Jonathan Richman, and anything do-woppy '50s-ish, and on his MySpace page May even fesses up to R. Stevie Moore, who I hadn't thought of in years, but yeah, him too. And then there's a sort of Edwyn Collins thing going on with his voice (harder to pick up live), so there's Orange Juice. But he's from Mississippi, not Scotland. And he covers "When You Were Mine" in a way that would make Crooked Fingers proud.

Headliner A.C. Newman came with a full band, all who played several instruments or played and sang or whistled so there was plenty o' sound. The violinist even fulfilled a Newman contractual obligation, as he always seems to have a hot redhead in his band (although there's Neko Case and everyone else is a tragic falling off from a Platonic ideal). Newman performed what felt like every cut from his two solo albums perfectly capturing his herky-jerk rhythms and lovely layers (like the vocal piling up of "all of my days" at the end of the song "All of My Days and All of My Days Off"). And cuts like "Secretarial" and "On the Table" from his first solo disc The Slow Wonder wonderfully rocked live, but that's what happens when Jon Wurster from Superchunk is your touring drummer, I guess.

Newman takes pop song forms and rejiggers them just enough to make them new and strange, having backing vocals not sing harmony but unison, adding oomph to phrases, dropping out instruments so that melodica suddenly soars out of the noise like a clarinet might in a klezmer band, offering lyrics that work imagistically, impressionistically, never easily but that's part of their inviting charm (I mean, I can get what "Like a hitman, like a dancer" might mean--there's all sorts of grace and precision out there--but then there's that next well-sung line to grapple with.) And anyone who can have the phrase "Yo-ho" repeat in a song and not make me think he should wear an eyepatch and parrot has to be mighty talented.

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Blogger Mike said...

I like Bourdain, but what is this? What was the occasion for his "performance"?

4:16 AM  
Blogger Smitty said...

I am an uncultured twit from the Midwest, so I have no frame of reference for how good this guy is, (though for other reasons, I can share in the annoyance of other people whose "questions" are self-indulgent statements), let alone who this guy is. A speaker? A singer? Wha?

Glad you liked the Maracaibo.

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Rob said...

Yes! One of my main pet peeves is the Q&A sessions after lectures where people get the mike to show "how smart and clever they are" rather than to just ask a question!

9:46 AM  
Blogger George said...

Sorry I was obscure (as if that's something new).

Anthony Bourdain is a celebrity chef who came to prominence after writing the best-seller Kitchen Confidential. Since then he's done several TV shows; the current one is No Reservations on the Travel Channel on which he goes to a place, eats and drinks there, and reports on it.

As for the performance, it simply was "an evening with..."--he's not even really out flogging a new book. And all he did was talk, but he's a very entertaining talker. And very much gives off the rock star vibe.

A.C. Newman is the way Carl Newman bills himself when he's doing his solo project as opposed to his better known group project the New Pornographers.

Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele [warning MySpace page so sound] are a group from Mississippi.

The Arlington Theatre is a terrific old time movie palace also used for concerts and public events in downtown Santa Barbara. Opened in 1931, the inside is designed to look like a Spanish village.

SOhO is a nightclub/bar/restaurant just a block and half down the street from the Arlington. While the Arlington seats 2000, SOhO probably stands a couple hundred, so it's a fantastically intimate venue for a show.

George is a writer who too often assumes his readers live in his brain.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

George is a writer who too often assumes his readers live in his brain.

Ha! When hoes George get a Q & A?

3:25 AM  

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