Let’s see… where did we leave off in Part One of my weekend travelogue to Los Angeles? Oh yes! We were just about to take a seat in the orchestra to see Jack White on his first of two nights at the Shrine Auditorium.
Opening the show was a folksy three-piece from Nashville known collectively as the Luke Winslow King Trio. They played a very entertaining brand of roots music with standup bass, guitar and washboard. Yep, no drums, but the woman on washboard sure did rattle up a storm of good percussion! They were quite engaging and a lot of fun.
Next up was Jack White with the mystery of the night being, which of his two touring bands would be called upon to play that night. He’s been touring with a pair of backing bands—one all guys (Los Buzzardos), one all girls (The Peacocks)— and you don’t know what you’re going to get until the lights go down and the band walks on stage.
Prior to the show’s start someone from the tour took the mic to welcome us to the show and to discourage people in the audience from using their cellphones to take pictures, promising that professionally shot photos from the show would be posted to Jack’s web site the next day for all the free downloads our computers could bear.
Back in the day…
Here’s where I wax poetic about the good old days before iPhones, cellphones, and the digital revolution that has put the socialization of every waking moment at your fingertips. Way back when taking pictures at a concert—unless you had a media pass—was really hard! Equipment was big and bulky and the bouncers who frisked you on your way into a venue were specifically looking for cameras and recording devices (and drugs & alcohol—weapons back then were an afterthought). You had to be more than a little clever to get contraband into a concert, and just as daring to use your smuggled equipment without being eyed by security for a quick exit, confiscation or (depending on how paranoid the band might be) arrest. While in college I went to all kinds of elaborate lengths to sneak sophisticated audio equipment into live concerts: cassette recorders as large as a small backpack, external microphones, extra batteries and tapes, all cleverly hidden on my body or spread amongst friends also in attendance. Once inside, it was an exercise in paranoid terror to set up equipment and record the show without a single person around me aware that I was doing something that was technically highly illegal. I recorded some pretty incredible live shows and traded tapes with other venturesome audiophiles around the globe.
Today you whip out your iPhone, thrust it into the air, and no one seems to care. Well, no one except the people standing behind you who now have to deal with an illuminated 3″ version of the action on stage, now bouncing like an animated bubble beween them and a clear view of the “live” event. Likewise, the musicians on stage look out at a sea of outstretched arms, each waving a cellphone, the eyes of the audience strangely trained on the cell screen, rather than the eyes of the performer singing 10 feet away. It’s really weird!! And, annoying as can be.
The announcement from the stage that the show would be professionally photographed came as a welcome relief, and it did cut down on the concert cellphone phenomenon, making for a much more enjoyable show.
True to their word, photos of the show were up the next day on Jack White’s web site.
Hey! Wait a second! Where did that photo come from?!?!?
Yeah, okay, so I took a few pictures…. But I don’t own an iPhone. I used a real camera, dammit! I just don’t know how to use it very well from the back of the venue under low light conditions. I also tate my shots through the viewfinder, so I’m not holding the camera over my head in the line of sight of others in the crowd. So there.
And here are a few more.
And… I juuuust may have run video on one of the songs during the encores, even though my little Canon SD1000 is not the best equipment in the world for recording concert video. I did clean it up a bit on my Mac. Old habits die hard!!
As you can see from the photos and video, on this night we were treated to “the guy band” who played with a pretty hard edge. Good show overall, in spite of a dense and overmodulated sound mix through the first 4 or 5 songs. The concert was also a meaty mix of songs from Jack’s recent solo album, Blunderbuss, along with a wide array of tracks from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather. Also tossed in were a couple of fitting covers of songs by Hank Williams and Lead Belly. Here’s the full setlist:
The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
I Guess I Should Go to Sleep
I’m Slowly Turning Into You
We’re Going to Be Friends
You Know That I Know
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
The Hardest Button to Button
::: Encore :::
Freedom At 21
I Cut Like A Buffalo
Steady, As She Goes
The whole show clocked in at around an hour and a half. Not long, but considering that Jack had played a free 4 song set earlier in the day at Mariachi Plaza in downtown LA, I suppose he was entitled to a shorter performance.
John Doe with Gram Rabbit at Pershing Square
By no means was Friday night the last of my LA concert experiences. Staying with friends in Eagle Rock I discovered that John Doe, one of the founding members of X, would be playing a free show Saturday night in downtown LA, and—if we so chose—could get reserved VIP seating. Uh… yeah! Opening for John Doe would be Gram Rabbit, one of the quirkiest bands in the land, hailing from the high desert country of Joshua Tree.
We were in the first row at the start of the show, which was close enough to compensate for my embarrassing inability to take decent nighttime photographs. Later, we moved back a little ways where the audio mix was a little better (and photography became a bit more challenging). The shot above is of vocalist Jessika von Rabbit. She had super glittery rock star eyelashes!
Here’s a shot of the whole band, which for this performance included only musicians. Gram Rabbit concert veterans tell wild stories of dancing rabbits and other on-stage cavorting during their club appearances.
Lots of video available from them online, so make sure you check ’em out!
The evening’s headliner was John Doe, from X, who I interviewed back in college before an X gig at the main gym at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He was pretty cool then, and remains pretty cool now, mixing in a variety of rearranged X tracks (More Fun In The New World, etc) with solo material and covers. Very energetic set from him and his band, which he claimed had never all played together before. Didn’t believe him though, they seemed to be on the same page throughout.
After the show he was hanging out at the mercy tent, taking photos and signing autographs. I was tempted to ask him if he remembered the bad interview I’d conducted all those years ago, but refrained from the humiliation. Somewhere in my vast library of deteriorating cassette tapes I have the full interview and the show I produced that split clips from the interview with X material. One day, I promise I’ll dig it out of storage and post it to my blog.
And that concludes the live concert portion of my weekend sojourn to Los Angeles. Still more travel stories yet to come, so keep your eyes right here for installment number three!