Category Archives: Largo

A Love Letter to Largo

November 30, 2011
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Largo,

Where do I begin? If I start at the beginning, at our old stomping grounds on Fairfax, they’ll know how old we are.

Largo

If I attempt to talk about the extraordinary shows. . . Neil Finn. . . Fiona Apple. . . Aimee Mann. . . Jon Brion every Friday night. . .  I won’t be able to name them all.  I’d forget to mention someone who should never be forgotten.

Speaking of someone who can never be forgotten,  I would like to bring up Elliott Smith. I used to watch him transform on your stage. He may not have wanted to perform, but you had a gentle way of reminding him how much he needed to. It went from not being sure whether he’d get on stage to being hopeful that it may not come to an end. Those were special nights. And, in addition to Elliott Smith, you offered us the space to experience the deep friendship between Elliott Smith and Jon Brion. It seemed as if they felt, on some level, that they were the only ones who understood each other.  Jon had a way of “being” with Elliott that seemed to put him at ease, or at least make him feel significantly better.  And Elliott had a way of sparking a look of pure admiration and awe on Jon’s face when he’d sing “Say Yes” with his eyes closed.  This kind of experience can’t happen everywhere.   The moments that “happen” at Largo happen because you’ve created, and consistently provide, the space and tone that are required for them to occur.

We’ve had a long history, you and me. And I only have good memories. But tonight, you outdid yourself. I was having dinner before the show at La Cienega Sushi, across the street. They’re really nice people and the sushi is great. They’re next door to the strip club and they have a sushi roll called “Spicy TT.” I fucking love that place.

Anyway, I was having sushi (and maybe some sake) and the power went out. The blackout spanned a couple blocks. There was an awkward pause as everyone waited to see whether the lights would come back on. When it became clear the power wasn’t going to come back on, the first thing each person in the restaurant said was some version of, “but. . . The Watkins Family. . . at Largo. . . oh no”

I did my best to assure everyone that the show would go on, without power. They humored me, hoping for a self-fulfilling prophecy, but also wondering just how much sake I had drank. They were convinced enough to play Frogger across an unlit La Cienega Boulevard, to see if you’d do it. They wanted you to pull it off, but it was hard for some to imagine.

You reminded them, and all of us: music pre-dates electricity.

You are one place that can confidently continue a show without electricity. The musicians who play at Largo can actually play instruments and sing. Your acoustics are great. You look beautiful in candlelight.

I do owe you an apology though. I’m sorry for using that photo at the top of this letter, without permission. . . but I know how you feel about cameras, so I’ve never taken a picture of you. Truth be told, you are the only place I’ve never felt compelled to break a “rule.” No cell phones. No cameras. No electronics. No talking. Do you have any idea how much I despise the concept “no”? No, you wouldn’t because you’ve convinced me to agree with “no” at Largo.

I remember a time, at the ol’ Fairfax home. . .  I was sitting at one of the tall bar tables, along the side of the room. “Two drink minimum” – as if that’s some kind of challenge we might not enjoy. There were some friends quietly talking at the table behind me. It happened from time to time throughout the show, but I was immersed in the music nonetheless. “Are they bothering you?” the voice of Flanagan came in from behind. That’s the thing about you, Largo, and Flanagan – you don’t have rules just for the sake of having rules. Flanagan wasn’t going to kick them out for an occasional whisper during the show.  He just wanted to make sure they weren’t interfering with anyone else’s experience. There’s a difference between “rules” and “respect”. Largo is about respect.

I watched people enter your courtyard and bar this evening, somewhat uncertain.  Their steps were cautious.  They were quiet, with frequent bursts of giggles, sounds reminiscent of a childhood sleepover.  But, as time went on, they realized you were serious.  The show tonight would happen, by candlelight, and they’d always remember it.  The volume in the bar increased by 10 decibels. People ordered drinks and celebrated.  Inside the theatre, David Garza was playing piano as people enthusiastically absorbed every ounce of candlelight and music you shared with us.

Whose idea was it to invite John C. Reilly tonight? That Watkins Family’s?

It was a really good idea.

When Fiona Apple walked on stage tonight, she scanned the room, with a “yep, this is right” smile.  “Isn’t this amazing?” Sara Watkins asked Fiona.  “Although, it’s kind of weird to be able to see everyone out there,” Sara continued, alluding to the irony that the musicians could see the audience better without electricity than with it.

“Yeah, I was thinking about that. . . ” Fiona replied, standing in the dark alongside her family of  brilliant musician friends. “But I was also thinking – and you guys don’t know this,” she said as an aside to those of us in the audience.  “This is actually what it’s like when we hang out.  It’s just like this.”  “Welcome to our living room,” Sean Watkins chimed in.

Please tell Fiona that we do know.  “It’s like being a fly on the wall”  I quoted when I wrote about one of Fiona Apple’s previous shows at Largo.  Whether the lights are dimmed or the power’s out completely, there’s a feeling Fiona, The Watkins Family, and their extended family create that makes you feel like you’ve been invited to the dinner party.  We get to sit there and experience what happens as their talents, playfulness, humor, and sounds intertwine.

I also greatly appreciated the “bear” theme tonight.  It made me feel as if you and your kind musician friends had been reading My Travel Tales and knew how important bears are to me.  Everyone sang a bear song.  There was that teddy bear, holding things down, stage left. . . Nick Kroll’s hysterical bear story. . . We all loved the dancing bear that carried Fiona Apple off stage and then returned a few numbers later to dance with John C. Reilly. As we individually solved the puzzle of who was in the bear suit on each occasion, it felt akin to the moment you first realized what’s  going on in The Sixth Sense.

Tonight we sat with you in candlelight.  The musicians performed without mics nor amps. Flanagan and Michael lit our way with flashlights if we needed to get up during the show. The music was exceptional as it always is at Largo.  Each of us who was there tonight will “remember that time when. . . ”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, could you please light up your cell phones. Help each other out of here” Michael suggested as we attempted to file out of the theatre in darkness.  Yep, that happened. We were instructed to use our cell phones at Largo.  *That* tells you what a special night it was.

Love,

Colette
Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend

PS – please tell Flanagan: “thank you.”

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The Civil Wars at The Wiltern: We Voted For Talent and Won

November 19, 2011
Los Angeles, CA

The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars (photo by Tec Petaja)

If you listen closely, there are multiple varying tones to applause: polite, obligatory, appreciative, supportive, congratulatory and many more. The sound of applause generates momentum and creates a feeling. Among the most special experiences is when audience applause sets the tone and spirit of a show, in contrast to coming after the events and moments of a show.

When John Paul White and Joy Williams (The Civil Wars) took the stage at The Wiltern, the applause led the show. It lasted a while. It was the sound of great triumph; the sound of victory. I don’t think I’ve experienced that specific tone of applause, in person, prior to this show. I imagine it’s heard during a parade when the hometown athlete brings home an Olympic gold medal. It may be similar to the sound of applause during the celebration of a victorious political campaign.

The applause of the crowd was amplified – we were applauding The Civil Wars, but we were also applauding ourselves. The Civil Wars are “our” band. There weren’t any radio stations, TV talk shows, publicity stunts, or million dollar marketing spends telling us we should listen to The Civil Wars. We discovered them and we told our friends. We purchase their music and sell out their live shows because we support true talent. The Civil Wars sold 100,000 records in 4 months, without a major label. The fans get credit for helping The Civil Wars succeed because there were only 3 factors in this “formula”: The Civil Wars, their music, and the fans.  We did it.  We “voted” for talent.  And we won.

In Los Angeles, we’ve purchased tickets to The Civil Wars’ sold out shows at The Hotel Cafe (capacity: 165), Largo (capacity: 280), The El Rey (capacity: 700) and now The Wiltern (capacity: 2,300).  We’ll follow them to The Greek (capacity: 5,900) and The Hollywood Bowl (capacity: 18,000). We’ll set up the “Who The Fuck Are The Civil Wars?!” website when they win their first Grammy. We’re proud of The Civil Wars.  This is the music we’re choosing.  These are the people we want to succeed.  That is the sound of the applause that preceded The Civil Wars’ show at The Wiltern.

After the applause, the celebration, the fuck yeahs and the thank yous, the show began and, in contrast to the sound of uproarious applause, the crowd was silent.  The music and voices of John Paul White and Joy Williams then carried us from one victory to the next, song after song, we celebrated The Civil Wars.

[Updated December 2, 2011]
The Civil Wars have been nominated for 2 Grammys this year: “Best Country Duo/Group Performance” and “Best Folk Album”. Here’s their interview with The Grammys upon learning the news:

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Fiona Apple at Largo

October 28, 2011
Los Angeles, CA

Largo

“I didn’t want it to end. I could have watched her for another 5 hours”

“It’s like being a fly on the wall”

“I’ve been to thousands of concerts in my lifetime and that was definitely among my Top 10”

“I’m going to need therapy to overcome this! I don’t know if I can ever feel this good again!”

The sounds of people expressing their appreciation as they filed out of the beautiful venue that is Largo echoed the voices in my head. Three of the top 5 shows I’ve seen this year have been Fiona Apple playing at Largo, on three different occasions.

As I experienced Fiona’s brilliant performance again tonight, I began to wonder: “Maybe those old-school record label execs are smarter than we’re giving them credit for – maybe they’re paying Fiona Apple to keep a low profile, so that she doesn’t raise the bar beyond their reach.”  That would be an intelligent strategy because Fiona Apple truly does just that.

Not only is her voice impeccable, her presence engaging, and her performance magnificent, she also seems to have a visible, direct connection to. . .  if you don’t believe in God, you will.  Throughout the show, Fiona seemed to be precisely responding to silent prayers of audience requests, having telepathic conversations with the musicians on stage, answering unspoken questions, and connecting with everyone individually, on a unique and profound level.  Calling it a “performance” does a great disservice as well because that insinuates it’s “put on.”   As it happens, Fiona Apple doesn’t “put on” a performance. She is the song.  They’re inseparable beings.

There’s something about Fiona Apple’s perspective, the way she engages with everyone and everything, that shows you the undeniable connection between everyone and everything.  As the drum she played was carefully carried off-stage, Fiona gently placed the drumsticks on the head of the drum, smiled, and gave them a little pat.  She didn’t say “thank you,” but that’s what was expressed.  Little distinction is made between sentient and non-sentient beings.  The common denominator is vibration: the language of music.

I know there’s more you want to know – all those questions you’ve had all these years, but this is all you need to know.

I dare you to see Fiona Apple at Largo.  It will spoil you.

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The Civil Wars at Largo: The Best Sex I’ve Had All Year

June 13, 2011
Largo, Los Angeles

The Civil Wars (photo courtesy of Tec Petaja)

Sometimes seeing a live show is like having amazing sex – when it’s so good you start to worry, “what if it’s never this good again??”  During The Civil Wars show at Largo last night I was overwhelmed with immense joy and a bit of fear that the next shows I’m lined up to see may disappoint in comparison.  The Civil Wars’ show at Largo last night was the best sex I’ve had all year.

Joy Williams and John Paul “JP” White are The Civil Wars. I could not have had higher expectations for them to exceed and they exceeded them.  JP plays guitar. From time to time Joy plays piano.  Their voices are exquisite.  Their songwriting is beautiful. They’re playful. They’re funny.  They surprise each other and they’ll surprise you.

Williams and White met approximately 3 years ago “at a random song-writing gathering” that neither of them wanted to attend. Prior to becoming The Civil Wars, both Williams and White had solo careers and worked extensively writing songs for other artists.  Following their initial meeting and writing session, they joined forces as The Civil Wars and have sold more than 100,000 copies of their debut album, Barton Hollow, in 4 months, without a major label.

When you hear The Civil Wars’ songs and see them together, a sense of peace and extreme happiness wash over you – you are reminded that everything is as it should be.  You remember that sometimes, when we let go of an idea we held onto so steadfastly, we’re liberated to experience something even better than we could have imagined. You stop worrying about time and pre-conceived notions of how things “should” be.  The Civil Wars are a sublime reflection that there’s nothing to worry about.  When you see Williams and White perform together, you know it had to be this way.  You begin to feel more faith and comfort, realizing that everything you envision for yourself will come in time as well.

I was fortunate to see The Civil Wars perform at Largo, one of my favorite venues in Los Angeles.  Largo has a strictly enforced “no talking, no texting, no photographing, no cell phone” policy that leaves the audience no choice but to get lost in the music. The sound in the theatre is amazing and the elegant stage the perfect setting for this show.

When The Civil Wars left the stage, the audience gave them the most heartfelt and unified standing ovation I’ve experienced in a long time.  Knowing that The Civil Wars were coming back for an encore didn’t mean the crowd sat down and waited.  We were on our feet, applauding, until Williams and White returned, reminded that even if something is a “given,” it’s not to be taken for granted.

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She & Him & Largo

March 15, 2010
Largo, LA

NO!

NO!

Ordinarily I’d be inclined to hate a venue like Largo – it’s full of rules and “no”s.  But Largo has been good to me for the past 13 years.  I’ve experienced some amazing shows at Largo including: Elliott Smith, Neil Finn, Fiona Apple, Ben Folds, Glen Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket), Aimee Mann, E (The Eels),  Robyn Hitchcock, Joseph Arthur, John Doe, Jon Brion, Grant Lee Phillips, Rufus Wainwright, Jack Black, and Tenacious D.  I’ve laughed my ass off at comedy shows featuring Greg Behrendt, Sarah Silverman, Doug Benson, The Naked Trucker, Jack Black, and Tenacious D.

Still NO!

Still NO!

As I sat in the audience having a thoroughly enjoyable night of music, I realized this was made possible precisely because of those fucking rules.  Largo puts music first.  It’s one of the few places where you can completely escape – even planes have WiFi now.  You have no choice but to become entirely immersed in music at Largo.  Well, your other choice would be to leave.  Largo puts the music before the customer.  It’s great for the Artists too because they get to focus on playing their shows.  The musicians aren’t stuck being “the assholes,” asking people to be quiet from stage, enduring the annoying ringing or feedback from cell phones in the monitors, nor averting their eyes from flashing bulbs.   The musicians play. The audience listens.  Largo takes care of the rest.  When it comes down to it, Largo is doing everybody a favor.  So if you think Flannagan’s an asshole, he’s not – he just likes music more than he likes you.

Fact: I’ve only received two criticisms since I started Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend.  The first was for not writing enough about M. Ward in my Monsters of Folk review.  The second was for not mentioning The Chapin Sisters in my review of Butch Walker’s most recent show in LA (the comment was posted on Facebook).  Well, guess what “MB” and Jeff – I wanted to give The Chapin Sisters and M. Ward their own review all along, and here it is:

First off, Largo is the perfect venue for a show like this.  The room invokes a classy, theatrical vibe.  The sound is great,  nobody is talking or clicking away on their cell phones, you don’t hear the noise of the bar or the spilling of drinks.  You can close your eyes and get lost in sound for a couple hours.  That said, you won’t find yourself closing your eyes at this show because there’s an element of artistry and performance conveyed visually, that you don’t want to miss.

The Chapin Sisters, accompanied at times by the Brothers Brothers, were great.  I actually felt like an adult at this show, like I was doing something civilized and sophisticated.  I don’t often like that feeling, but tonight it worked.  However, because The Chapin Sisters made me feel something I’m not used to feeling, I’m finding it difficult to articulate.  Go see them for yourself.  Close your eyes and let the harmonies drown out the voices in your head.   The Chapin Sisters are a perfect complement to She & Him.  Their music and performance evoke a different time and a foreign land. Vinyl seems the appropriate format for listening to this music.

She & Him, headed up by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, blew me away.   At times, I was listening to a seemingly even-paced, “mellow” song, and then M. Ward kicked in with some absolutely insane guitar parts that bordered on psychedelic.   And who wears a fluffy, fuchsia dress on stage?!  Zooey Deschanel does.  That, marks my first-ever  remark about what an Artist wears on stage.  I despise those portions of reviews that talk about what the singer is wearing or the drummer’s new haircut.  Typically, that has nothing to do with the music!  Yet, in the case of She & Him, Deschanel’s dress, and certainly her high heels, were important to the show.  The tone of the show was reinforced by the dress and the heels that, at times, were too high for Deschanel to effectively play the Wurlitzer.

Speaking of the Wurlitzer – She & Him, well actually, “She,” knew exactly how and when to insert humor into the set.  It’s a good thing Deschanel broke things up with light-hearted and quirky banter.  Otherwise, we may all still be sitting there in a hypnotic state.  To pass the time while the band tuned their instruments, Deschanel remarked, “The Wurlitzer is smooth.  Some say it’s smoother than a piano.  . . It’s like a piano, but with fewer options. . . Less lows. . .  and highs.”  The description felt a bit like an analogy for life.  You can live a “piano life,” with all its highs and lows.  Or, you can live a “Wurlitzer life” which may be smoother, but has less options.

Among many highlights of the show was She & Him’s unplugged performance of “You Really Got A Hold On Me.”  You could forget to breathe during moments like those.  “Change Is Hard,” “Sentimental Heart,” and “Take It Back,” were also favorites.  The Chapin Sisters lent their vocals, shakers, and sleigh bells to the music as well.  At one point Deschanel asked The Chapins what they were discussing.  The Chapins then asked Deschanel her opinion about including sleigh bells in the next song.  “You can play whatever you want. Cuz that’s the kind of friend I am!” Deschanel said, exuding confidence and sarcasm.  After pausing for a moment, she added, “I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore!”  That statement scored her hundreds of points in my book.

Approximately two-thirds of the way through the show, Deschenal informed the audience she was done singing new material.  “No more new songs,” Deschenal said, probably expecting a sigh of relief.  Instead, the audience booed.  Deschenal responded, infusing her response with humor, “BUT. . .  old songs!!” she said with a smile.  “Yay!” the crowd responded in unison.

“You’re all so quiet,” M. Ward acknowledged between songs.  “Are you OK?” Yes, everyone was OK – they were just afraid to make a sound. Tonight marked the 1st show of She & Him’s 2010 world tour.  “It’s the first show of our world tour and we wanted to have it at Largo since it’s one of the best venues in the world!” Deschanel explained.  Even though it was too dark for the band to see the set list, and that as a fan, you’ll not find any of this on YouTube, it seemed both the Artist and Audience wouldn’t have done it any other way.  Largo wins again.

Abiding by the rules, these are the only photos I took:

The irony of the “Totally Nude Strippers” sign reflected in Largo’s mirrored sign.  There’s a lot that can be inferred…

Nude Strippers

The mirror of Largo

The rabbit hole is accessible via the woman’s bathroom:

Alice in Largoland

Alice in Largoland

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Joseph Arthur at The Troubadour Feat. Ben Harper

January 23, 2010
The Troubadour, LA

Joseph Arthur and Ben Harper

Joseph Arthur and Ben Harper

“I’m no longer who I was, no longer who I thought I was. . . ” Joseph Arthur sang during a stellar performance of his song, “You Are Free” at The Troubadour. Well, I’ve been seeing Arthur perform live for the past 11 years and I don’t know who he thinks he is, but I think he is still one of the best songwriters around.

The first time I saw Joseph Arthur play he was opening for David Gray at The Palace (now The Avalon) in Hollywood.  He performed solo and I watched in amazement as Arthur used numerous pedals to create and loop sounds, building momentum and evolving into extraordinary songs.

Joe and his pedals

Joe and his pedals

It was the first time I had experienced an audience uproar for an opening act to do an encore performance (this was before Queens of The Stone Age opened for Nine Inch Nails).  The crowd went insane when Arthur finished his short 30-minute set and were absolutely devastated when he didn’t return for an encore.  After David Gray’s set, people were still talking about Joseph Arthur.

Flash forward to January 23, 2010:  At this point Arthur can build a song by looping various beats and sounds, as he creates them, effortlessly.  Once he lays down the tracks, he can paint while singing.

Joseph Arthur live painting

Joseph Arthur live painting

I’ve seen some live painting during concerts in my time, but usually the painter is another artist, not the performing musician.  In Joseph Arthur’s case, he performs while simultaneously painting on several massive canvases.  Arthur wasn’t just painting on stage because he could.  After the show, Arthur sold his paintings, with 100% of the proceeds donated directly to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

It wasn’t just Arthur, a bunch of pedals, and a paintbrush on stage.  Ben Harper sat among Arthur’s very talented band, playing lap steel guitar.  Harper accompanied Arthur on vocals during one of his more recognized songs, “In The Sun.”  Harper also lent vocals to one of my favorite Joseph Arthur songs, “Ashes Everywhere.” In addition to Ben

Ben Harper

Ben Harper

Harper, Arthur was joined by band mates Jessy Green, Sibyl Buck, and Kraig Jarret.

Joe sings to the painting

Joe sings to the painting

As Arthur played, he’d often look back at the paintings as if he was singing a line specifically to them.  “Your holiness is gone. . .” he sang back to a painting, possibly a self-portrait, during “September Baby.”  Then Arthur would turn to the audience and sing, “Sometimes love will make you sad until you know where you belong.”  And then back to the painting, “You’ll dream of what you never had. . . ”

Joseph Arthur

Joseph Arthur

Arthur played for nearly 3 hours, performing songs including “Honey and The Moon,” “Crying Like A Man,” “Slide Away,” and “Birthday Card.”  Several years ago Arthur would play these similarly long sets at Largo, as if he wanted to make up for the lack of an encore during the David Gray show, or just wanted to ensure the audience was satiated.  Nobody left early during those intimate shows and such was the case during Arthur’s set at The Troubadour.  Although in this case, prior to his second encore, Arthur remarked, “That would be it (the end of the show), but I’ve got to finish these paintings.”

After the show, Arthur made his way to the front room where he signed autographs and took photos with every fan. He continued painting between photos and autographs, sometimes with frustration, other times with ease.  Arthur also sold live bootlegs of that night’s show immediately following the set – something he began doing several years ago and that I was pleased to see him continuing to do.

After all these years, thankfully, Joseph Arthur is still who I thought he was.

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Trust A Little In Largo: Fran Healy and Andy Dunlop (Travis)

October 12, 2009
Largo, LA

A dependable old lover

A dependable old lover

Oh Largo, you’re like a dependable old lover. Even when I try to walk away from you altogether, you lure me back in with the pull of good music and the allure of your distanced “I’m going to serve you from behind the safety of this gate” stance.  Although I successfully resisted your temptation since Butch Walker played there December 4, 2008, you sucked me in once again.

And it was even better than I remembered.

“Trust a little in Largo” was the door guy/ticket guy/MC’s response to a question I asked about seating.  I’m sure he has a name and I’d like to know it because he’s one of the reasons Largo exceeded my expectations tonight.  The other reason is, of course, Fran Healy and Andy Dunlop (Travis).

Andy Dunlop & Fran Healy

Andy Dunlop & Fran Healy

Healy explained that the concept of this tour was to play songs chronologically from the first song he wrote to the most recent song he’s written.  The idea is that they’ll write a new song every couple of days, and perform the new song as the last song of the set in the next city they play. “At the end of the tour, we hope to have written an entire new Travis album,” Healy remarked.

Whereas the model has been: make a record and then go on tour to support it, Healy and Dunlop flipped the model to: go on tour to support the making of the record.

Already, I loved them.

Then they played the songs, each preceded by Healy’s entertaining commentary.  Healy introduced “20” as a song he wrote when he was 19, realizing the best years of his life may be coming to an end with his twentieth birthday.  “People make a big deal out of turning 21,” Healy said.  “But really, it’s 20 that’s the big deal because that’s when 17, 18, 19 come to an end.  And those are the best years because you’re doin’ everything for the first time.”  Healy also noted that this is the first song he wrote that he felt was a good song; a sign that he could make a career out of this.

If there’s one thing I like better than ice cream, it’s a funny musician.  Healy introduced “All I Want To Do Is Rock” by showing a slide show about Scotland.  He gave a humorous geography lesson and then ended the slide show with a picture of his view from the window in the building where he wrote the song.  There was a longer story about “Turn” which boiled down to being “a song about wishes.  A song full of wishes.”

“It’s an A&R man’s dream when a lead singer gets chucked,” Healy reflected. “Now he’ll write some proper songs,” said Healy, mocking the overjoyed A&R guy.  This insight set the stage for Healy and Dunlop’s performance of  “A Funny Thing.”

“Flowers In The Window” was written in a house where Travis once stayed.  The host introduced the band to the home saying, “Everybody writes a song here.”  Rebelliously, Healy thought to himself, “well, I’m not writing a song here.”  But that all changed after he received inspiration while looking at flowers in the yard, through a window (and his obstructed view the morning after).

It seemed as if the guys were playing all my favorite Travis songs.  In addition to the songs previously mentioned, they played “Good Feeling” and “As You Are”; “Writing To Reach You” and “Sing.”  Tonight was the 4th night in a row they played Largo and Healy said they’ve changed the set every night.  Although the songs themselves may change, one thing is consistent night to night – Healy and Dunlop remain true to the original concept, playing the songs chronologically during each performance.

Healy spoke about the inspiration for “Why Does It Always Rain On Me” which was written during a trip to Israel.  Somebody told him it would be sunny there (his one prerequisite for the vacation) so he journeyed to Israel.  The moment Healy arrived it began raining, and this song was written.

Healy also spoke about the lyric: “I’m being held up by an invisible man.”  “The invisible man is the A&R guy or manager who’s holding you up (supportively) so you can finish the record.  Of course, there’s a double entendre — they’re ‘holding you up’ (Healy positions his hands as if they’re guns) for the record as well.”  Healy looked at the audience and continued, “I’ve never explained that to anyone before.”   Then he looked at Dunlop, “I don’t think I even told you that. . .” Dunlop nodded in agreement.

Another lyric Healy discussed is: “pillars turn to butter” from the song, “Driftwood.”  He was looking to complete the lyric with the idea of one thing evolving into another, to follow the “Nobody”/”Everyone” dichotomy of the previous line.  “Caterpillars turn to butterflies” was the original line, but it was too long to fit the form of the song so Healy abbreviated it to “pillars turn to butter.”  “But that changes the meaning again. It’s another good visual – these strong pillars turning to butter,” Healy elaborated.

I spoke with the guys for a bit after the show.  Dunlop described how much fun these shows are and how they differ from a typical Travis tour.  “We don’t want to get comfortable during these shows.  When we’re on tour with Travis, we want to get comfortable because we’re going to be playing these songs over and over again, each night with the band.  But here – we don’t want to get comfortable.  There are some songs we may play every night, but we make the experience different.  Especially since we’re playing four shows in a row at the same venue – we don’t usually do that.  We’re aware that some people might come to more than one show and we don’t want them to think, ‘Oh. . . here we go with this again. . .”  Dunlop elaborated.

We also discussed the current state of the music business.  Healy and Dunlop are now off the major label and releasing music independently.  Dunlop reflected, “Music is getting back to what it used to be – small record shops, independent labels, the musician and the fan, spending time with our audience, more intimate shows and settings.”

I asked how they conceived of the idea to go on tour as the central creative process for writing another record.  Again, it was to do something different – to keep the tours and the music feeling fresh.  Dunlop shared his outlook, “You know, we may get nothing out of it.  Or we may get a lot out of it.  If nothing else, we get to travel all around and see some beautiful places.”

Then I shared a perspective, telling Dunlop, “We’d like it if you’d release a double-CD; one CD with all the commentary and another with the acoustic song performances.”  Dunlop mentioned that they’ve recorded everything from each show so far and that they may release it following the tour.

As of now, if you’re lucky enough to attend one of these shows, you can purchase a CD comprised of 80 minutes of live audio recorded during this tour.

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