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Monday, October 07, 2013

Calexico, Justin Townes Earle & Jessica Pratt @ Way Over Yonder Fest at Santa Monica Pier

Justin Townes Earle was clearly intoxicated on stage at the Way Over Yonder Fest but who gives a shit, right?  Grump old people, for one.

Newport Folk Festival Presents
Calexico, Justin Townes Earle & Jessica Pratt
@ Way Over Yonder Fest
at Santa Monica Pier t
Los Angeles, CA.

Calexico kills live.

  Before going to the Saturday edition of this two day festival, I spent a small amount of time wondering whether someone would mention Bob Dylan's famous 1965 performance at the annual festival in Rhode Island.  The subsection of Newport Folk Festival Wikipedia  page devoted to the subject is called "The Electric Dylan" controversy.

  During that performance Dylan "plugged in" to hoots of derision from the Audience.  In the words of the Wiki, "some audience members booed" the performance.  If you are someone who seeks to understand the history of popular music in 20th century, this episode stands for the proposition that Audiences can be wrong.  Obviously, "the electric Dylan" controversy is a case study in the management of Artist/Audience relations, but one lesson that SHOULDN'T be extrapolated is that Dylan was some kind of victim.  I would wager that he intended to evoke such a reaction, and he was making a clear statement that as an Artist he wouldn't be limited by genre conventions. It's a standard Artist tactic, but the electric dylan controversy is probably the best, and certainly most famous example.

 So, it happened 15 minutes into the set of the first Artist I saw perform, Justin Townes Earle who is not to be confused with Robert Earl Keen.  It is fair to say this is a brave new world for me in terms of taste.  On the drive over I heard the latest Blake Shelton number, Sure Be Cool If You Would, which was played about 1,000 times on Last FM last week- that's good but in no way great.  It was crazier then the time I listened to an Afrojack DJ set on Sirius/XFM driving back from LA at 3 AM a couple months back.  In a different way of course.

 Regarding the first reference to the Electric Dylan at the Way Over Yonder festival, it was during the performance of Justin Townes Earle, who was obviously intoxicated, but not in an unprofessional way.  I've seen plenty of unprofessional musicians, and I thought that Justin Townes Earle was funny and disarming and has real talent.  Polished, he was not.  For me though, imperfection is part of successful Art.  Perfection is robotic, corporate, monotonous.

 However some fans did not agree with my benevolent assessment of the performance and there was some heckling to which  Earle responded by referencing the Electric Dylan controversy in a more-or-less coherent fashion. So everyone had to drink.

 The festival was held in an outdoor setting at the Santa Monica Pier.  I would say that the combination of venue/promoter/talent was just short of being "magical."  The Santa Monica Pier is a pretty accessible location, with plenty of parking at the venue and in nearby Santa Monica.  The location is essentially behind the row of shops and restaurants that line the Pier, and in front of the Ferris wheel and other ride type features.

  If you haven't seen a show at the Santa Monica Pier it is worth a look.  They also show movies in the same location.  Calexico was the reason I agreed to go to the show and they did not disappoint.  In fact, they crushed it.  It was a regal, commanding performance, with slide guitar, mariachis and cover versions to spare. (Joy Division! Minutemen!)  The crowd ate it up and so did I- Calexico is so good.

Jessica Pratt is the real deal.

 On the way out I caught a couple songs from Jessica Pratt- who I've now seen 3 times in the last two months.  She is a real talent!  You should see her if she plays your town.

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