Saturday, June 25, 2011

R. Stevie Moore - one week later

Playing right now: Trotsky Icepick - Baby (It's not that I've been playing it continuously since it arrived in the mail. It helps me get moving, so I don't either turn on TV and get pulled away from listening to music and writing, or else get bogged down in the eternal question of what should I listen to.)

A week ago today was the R. Stevie Moore show in Pittsburgh. Half of the previous week was spent transcribing interviews for an article on the Ladybug Transistor for City Paper that will run this coming Wednesday. So when that was finally put to bed, I didn't feel like writing nothing. Plus I think I was fighting some kind of sickness that I hope I'm finally shaking.

So I haven't been able to get to writing about the show until now.

In short - what a performance! What a songwriter! What a ham! (All good things in the Shanley book.)

In long.... the show took place at Modern Formations. Andy Mulkerin said I "hit it out of the park" with my article in City Paper that week. See for yourself. Stevie was such a great interview, and so full of good comments that it was hard to figure out what would make it into the article and what wouldn't.

For as much as he sounded shy about being around adulation, there he was standing in the gallery of ModForm, talking to a few guys between sets. (I think they were Hot Dog Forest who I had missed. Sorry guys.) Unlike a certain other "legendary" musician that I interviewed prior to a performance in town, Stevie at least seemed to remember our conversation and was a personable guy. I gave him a copy of the article and he gave me a copy of his latest CD, Advanced (which you should be able to find on iTunes soon but not right now). Nice fella.

As his band was setting up, he ambled onto the stage, setting up his bass and arranging song lyrics on a music stand. Then he held up two different tops that looked like the kind of scrubs that you might see on a nurse walking down Liberty Avenue near West Penn Hospital. "Which one?" he asked the audience. We picked the one in his left hand. And that point I remembered a comment from our interview, that came out of a discussion of his beard and how he thought he shouldn't talk about his looks. He shifted gears: "I am a fashion plate. It's getting really big. I'm starting to buy real gaudy women's clothing, mainly for stage. Rapper's hoodies, I'm really showing off. Way beyond my means. It's not my style to boast and show off, but I'm so desperate for attention these days."

Then he took a big swig from a wine bottle and one from a seltzer bottle and says, "Thank you for coming to my concert." (It's always so quaint to me when someone refers to a small-venue show as a "concert.")

From the get-go, the band sounded amazing. Stevie played the bass with his thumb the whole time, strumming it, not popping on it. The only other person I've seen do that is the guy who played with Tito Puente in the '80s. The first song wasn't really psychedelic in the traditional sense, but it contained a certain level of psych feeling, and it wrapped up with a great boogie coda. "Pop Music" (which appears on Advanced) had some Brian Wilson high vocals and 7th chords, along with some clipped and extended time signature tricks. Later on in the set, some Byrds influence could be felt. He quipped that "Theorem" was something that "meets fuckin' Timberlake or Bieber." (On Advanced it sounds like something from Forever Changes.) The thing to remember is that even though Moore has some of these cultural touchstones in his music, he wasn't trying to really emulate them. It all sort of flowed from him naturally and helped him make something original.

The band (drums, guitar, guitar/keyboard + him) played five songs and then walked offstage, which puzzled all of us. He came back by himself and played a couple songs on guitar, including one about seafood that ended with a weird tag about Popeye and it was hard to tell if it was spontaneous or part of the song. (I hope the latter.) In all, he played about a dozen songs.

"Carmen Is Coming" was the final song of the night, which sounded like the metal freakout that Stevie mentioned in the interview. It has another mutant proggy blues line and by the end, when the sound refused to die, he wound up lying on the floor because that's where the spirit put him. It was a good way to end the show. (Point of interest - the version of "Carmen" on Advanced sounds less like metal and more like a Captain Beefheart melody played on nylon string guitars.)

In closing, if you have an opportunity to see R. Stevie Moore perform, do it. And buy as much of his music as you can. I bought one more disc on the way out.

Weird Paul played just before Stevie, pouring on a helluva lotta ham: He sang a new some short tunes, some classics and even had his son sing along. Even though he wasn't there. The preprogrammed tracks featured his voice, at which point Paul pointed the mike at the picture of his son.

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