Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Tonight I dragged Chan to the Joanna Newsom show at Webster Hall. Just to review, Chan and I each became fans of a different blonde-haired, female, quirky singer/songwriter back in '04, and have been following their careers and trying to turn each other on to them ever since. He got me into Nellie Mackaye (it's almost 4 AM, I never can remember how she spells it, and I'm not looking it up right now, thanks), and I've been trying to get him into Joanna Newsom. Newsom hardly ever played the US after her first album came out, so he didn't get to see her until this past summer. Tonight, he would give her another shot.

It now rains on me wherever I go, so I again was soaked to my socks as I arrived at Webster Hall to meet up with Chan. Turns out I'd never been there before. I seem to have gone to all the major NYC concert venues exactly once. They had pizza there, which was good, since all I'd eaten up to that point was half of a celery stick and half of a piece of cauliflower, at my office party right before.

It was good to see the place filling up quickly, in anticipation for Joanna, who was touring for her new album, which comes out tomorrow. She was actually playing her second show of the night, another good sign that she is finally getting the recognition she deserves.

The opening act was PG Six. More like TJ Six. I'll leave it at that. After they finished, I looked up to the sides of the hall and behind me, to see a mass of people leaning over the balcony, like the Beatles were about to deboard the plane.

Joanna came out and did two classics, plus a traditional Scottish song, or something like that. Her vocal is often a half-step behind where it is on the album, but, hey, you try playing the harp and singing at the same time. We can just chalk that up to one of her quirks. Plus it's cool when stuff is different live than it is in the recorded version. Regardless of that, she did a great job, and everyone was psyched. She's in this phase where it's still a select few people that like her, but they're all absolutely nuts over her. After every song, there'd be a full minute of applause. She never had a chance to segue from one song to the next. She had to wait for us to fully show our appreciation after each number.

Then she brought out her new band, which consisted of one woman and four dudes, each playing a wackier instrument than the next. A saw was involved.

But even on the tunes they accompanied her on, their contributions, though awesome, were minimal. I hear the new album has a lot of crazy arrangements. I just hope they didn't overdo it. It should be all about Joanna and her harp. I'm sure anything Steve Albini did on there will be great.

So the band went through the new material with Joanna. These songs are ridiculously long. If you play long songs, and you're not Tool, Jere doesn't like you. However, Joanna is breaking the rule. These songs deserve to be as long as they are. They're like stories anyway. I've only heard them twice at most, but I'm already digging them. Especially the one about meteors, meteorites, and meteoroids.

Then they all left the stage, and she did the now-traditional pre-planned encore. However, this one was earned, as we were going crazy for her to come back out. And she did, by herself, for two more classics. The four classics played tonight were "Bridges & Balloons," "Book of Right On," "Sadie," and "Peach, Plum, Pear."

When I first saw Joanna, it was by accident. But I'll never forget people calling out for her to play "Sadie," and then crying like babies when she did. And I thought, like Swayze of Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, "What a crock of shit." A few months later, it all made sense to me. So it's cool to hear "Sadie" live. And in "Peach, Plum, Pear," she changed the line "I am blue and unwell" to "I was blue and unwell." I guess she was telling us that she's doing better now than she was when she wrote the tune, and I can relate, as I fell in love with her album while I was blue and unwell, and I'm now in a better place as well. I've recently been thinking about appreciating sad things while you're happy. You should try it.

As we walked back to the car I'm currently borrowing (I'm taking some vacation time this week, if you couldn't tell), Chan told me how great he thought the show was, and that he'll buy Joanna's new album, and get the old one. That's right, people, cynical Chan has seen the light in this case. We have each officially turned the other on to our asterisked musician. He noticed what we Newsomians have known for a while, that she uses an incredibly variety of (big) words in her songs, saying that, like him, she must've gotten the three-book set for Christmas: Thesaurus, Dictionary, and...something else. Good call, Chan. Then I shot the traffic light curl all the way up 3rd Avenue. It was a thing of beauty, I must say. Tomorrow I'm back up to Boston, where I'll see Joanna again.

In Japanese pitcher news, uh, I don't know. Same deal as before. If you're looking for any info before the crack of noon tomorrow, don't look here.

photo (totally not from tonight) from lateur.com

Was actually thinking about checking her out tomorrow in DC, just to see what the fuss is about, but the show is sold out at the Black Cat- didn't realize she was that big...
I caught the same show at Webster Hall. Fucking fantastic. The crowd was amazing too. And the band really was odd.
Cool. Re: your review: The bouncers were mean afterward. "Stay outta the street." "Exit to your left only!" They can't make us go left, thats' BS!

(I purposely walked in the street, where there were no cars anyway.)
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Location: Rhode Island, United States