Reggie Watts @ Webster Hall, May 20th 2012

Reggie Watts is the closest thing we have, as a nation, to a living cartoon character.  He should be treated as such, and allowed to live his life in a way the rest of us are not.  He should have the power of flight, invisibility, invincibility, and be able to do anything that occurred in a Warner Bros. cartoon, without the thought of legal or social repercussions.  Reggie is simply different from the rest of us.

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This became apparent immediately last night at Webster Hall.  There are comedians, there are people who make sounds without the use of other instruments, and there are singers, but there is no one else who combines these in such a way.

If you have never seen or heard of Reggie Watts, he is a performer who possibly fits under the heading of standup comic…if only because his material makes you laugh.  But each nonsensical part of his performance transitions into an improvised musical piece, done with nothing more than his own voice, and a looping pedal.  There are no other musicians, and nothing is pre-recorded.  He occasionally plays a keyboard, but it’s mainly just vocals.  He’s Bobby McFerrin from another dimension.

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His set last night went to some strange places.  He takes on any convention you have about a comedian or musician, and blows them to bits, as if it were a Roadrunner cartoon.  He constantly adjusts the mic stand, like you see any nervous performer do, only when Reggie does it, it becomes an insane ritual, as if moving that mic just a little will unlock the key to all the secrets in the universe.

He unplugs all of his pedals, fumbling around with every cable, asking the audience if anyone has any C batteries, otherwise the show cannot continue.  This will be followed by a completely silent song, with all the dance moves and enthusiasm of a Beyonce performance.

The dance moves….He moves like he’s being animated in real time.  Pixar could base an entire character on him, and it would make the Toy Story franchise look like Suburban Commando.

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This is the thing we all chase in live events.  You want to see something no one else can do.  Something that could immediately fall apart at any moment, yet somehow continues to be amazing.  If Reggie Watts ended up playing Madison Square Garden, I would not be surprised for a minute.  I would also line up early to get in.

One more thing brought a smile to my face.  Surprisingly, there were some loud drunk girls behind us at Webster Hall.  I believe this might have been the first instance of anything like that occurring at a live event, and most definitely at Webster Hall, a venue known for its respectful crowds.  Anyway, they talked through the opening acts, proclaiming how they could do much better.  And were very excited once Reggie came on stage.

They lasted through the first few songs, cheering on whenever he made a New York reference…which he did in a Hype Man voice… at he expense of the very people cheering him on.  About 20 min in though….the ringleader, lets call her Tramp Stamp McMurrayHill (because all she talked about was the tattoo she got that day, and I’m guessing on both the location of the tattoo and her apartment)  decided she wanted a Hamburger.  That is all she would talk about.  Eventually, they left, hopefully to get said hamburger.  And no, I do not hope they got food poisoning from this burger.  Any hype surrounding Reggie, was clearly not enough to please her very wide and varied cultural tastes.  I’m glad Reggie could benefit financially from this group’s attendance, but I’m even more glad it was a little too weird for them.

Why don’t we close with a classic, an undeniable hit…..

Dawes at Webster Hall

We all get discouraged from time to time, at the lack of amazing young songwriters.  We troll the music blogs, hoping to hear something other than the frantic yell/sing dance type vocals, so watered down with reverb its like a white wine spritzer.

When historians look back at this generation, for the books they will write on some unforeseen invisible tablet type device, it is my opinion that they will focus on the technical prowess, rather than songwriting skills.  Can you think of any truly beautiful songwriter type albums in the last 5 years, that weren’t overly produced/auto-tuned to tell (either for effect or necessity?)  There are less than a handful.

So despite my traditionally Jewish and cynical outlook, I would like to talk about Dawes, their Webster Hall show last night, and how good it feels to know they are out there making music.   This band is made up of 4 young dudes, the singer/guitar player and drummer are brothers, the drummer has a FANTASTIC afro, which bobs as he plays.

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I heard about them a few years back on WFUV, at the time of their North Hills album.  Something was said kind of like “here’s a new band, they recorded this album all together in the same room”  which is always a lovely thing to hear.  The single “When My Time Comes” is pretty much perfect.  I don’t care if it’s a bit cheesy, I’m singing along to it, god damnit, and if you don’t like it, you can come back to Webster Hall on Halloween club night and catch chlamydia at a foam party.

So Webster Hall is an interesting venue.  Its used most nights of the week as a dance club for underage guido/guidettes and the various shiny new jersey types.  Occasionally Bowery Presents books shows there, and you can hear thumping bass from other rooms in the building.  Lets start off with a few problems before we get to the music.

First, if you leave during the headlining band’s set, don’t expect to return to your spot.  If you try to get through with 3 beers while wearing a backpack, I hope one of those lions from Ohio miraculously escaped capture, somehow made its way across the Ohio Tundra to New York, and bites off your dick.  The problem with the live music experience is that you have to interact so closely with so many people you have no interest in being close to.  Where is Steve Jobs to solve these problems, we truly need him.

But enough of my whining, let’s discuss the music.  Blitzen Trapper opened. Some people love this band, some people also love unflavored rice cakes, because they’re not necessarily bad for you, and there are much worse things out there.  All I’m going to say, is that someone needs to get Blitzen Trapper a metronome, and turn it to something other than 86bpm, ok?

Seeing Dawes, felt as though all of the well dressed and slightly annoying people in Webster Hall suddenly disappeared, a cool breeze began flowing, and an easily accessible bar without 8$ bud lights was lowered down.  They were so fucking tasteful.  Just four people, drums, bass, guitar and keyboards, with some lovely harmonies.  No one threw too many notes out there, every solo was well placed, and the harmonies were like the ice cream sandwiches at the Meatball Shop.

The Goldsmith Brothers, on drums, guitar, and vocals are just so complimentary to each other.  Griffin on the drums has this slightly nasal voice which fits so well behind the slightly gruff lead, kind of like the Graham Nash of the band.

What came through most though were the songs themselves.  I had not heard about half the songs played, but still, the melody and lyrics carried weight.  You could tell the songs meant something to Goldsmith (either that or he’s the world’s most convincing performer.)  By the end of the set, his voice was a little shredded, but no one seemed to mind.  Fantastic lyrics, delivered with sincerity and not too much flash, I was all about it.

The next show will probably be at Terminal 5 or something equally as cavernous, so if it is by chance a smaller venue…I encourage you to go, but also to buy tickets after I do, because lets be honest, as the great Rodney Dangerfield once said…we all need to look out for number 1, and don’t step in number two!  (RIMSHOT!)

Sorry about that last one.  Really.