High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mixing it up, Toughing it out: Webb Wilder @ Fitzgerald's

So, M has a little bit of a Kristen Schaal problem. And by "problem," I mean a part of him retired permanently to his bunk when she did the Wonder Woman bit on the Daily Show. So when we learned that she was performing at the Lakeshore Theater (a venue that brings joy into my simple heart regularly by sending me e-mails addressed to "Dear Jonathan Coulton [REAL LAST NAME],[REAL FIRST NAME]"), we thought to pick us up some tickets. Do you sense a plan gone wrong?

She was performing on both Friday and Saturday. I decided to go with tickets for Saturday on the grounds that M wouldn't then have to rush up there by public transit, hauling his stuff from work. Of course, as soon as I bought the tickets for Saturday, Webb Wilder came out of his quantum state and scheduled a gig for Saturday at Fitzgerald's. Aggravating! But what're you gonna do, right?

Well, what I was going to do was hitch my Saturday wagon ever more firmly to Kristen Schaal's star. When I was volunteering at the resource center on Thursday night, my cov-olunteer confessed that he'd basically done an Og: He'd off-handedly volunteered to do Saturday shifts if no one else signed up, and Colby took him at his word. This meant that on the 2nd, he was scheduled to work from 1-5 in the resource center, then from 5:30-10:30 at Teen Open Mic. He also went for full points on difficulty by being triple booked: His son was also supposed to be spending the weekend with him.

So, being the kind-hearted soul I sometimes pretend to be, I offered to take his resource center shift. He demurred on the grounds that I live so far away, etc., until I finally said, "Look, I'm not actually a nice person. If it was an imposition, I wouldn't have offered. I'm going to be up here anyway for a show. I'll have my husband come up and meet me, we'll have dinner before it. It's all good." He laughed and asked if I would just come in from 3-5, figuring that he'd send his son and son's friend to see a movie at the Davis, and then they could grab some food or whatever before heading over to Armitage.

As soon as that part of the plan was settled, Kristen Schaal's health came out of its quantum state, and by morning I had an e-mail that she had to cancel both shows. (But they're offering a free ticket for every ticket already bought for when she reschedules; I'm not sure how that math works. It may really be quantum.)

So there were to be no underoos, no poison, no garbage bags filled with testicles, and no fighting of injustice for us on Saturday. However, there was really no reason not to have a visit with the last of the full-grown men. The decision to go see Webb on Saturday finished off the quantum cascade: I still went up to Lincoln Square, even though my evening was ending up in Berwyn, and it turned out that J's son didn't come to spend the weekend after all.

But now that this lengthy prologue is behind us, how was the show? Excellent, Pinky. We had dinner at Wishbone and were seated at a table just behind Tom Comet, Jimmy Lester, and Bob Williams. Of course, we didn't know it was Bob Williams at the time, as we've never seen him play with Webb before (and, frankly, I knew as soon as Webb introduced him that I was going to have a hard time with the name, because of its Will Roberts potential). Also, there was another guy with them, but I have no idea who he was.

The opening band, Not Without, was a mixed bag. Their lead singer has a gorgeous voice (although she's going to kill it with the overuse of the yodel technique), and their violinist was great. At least what we could hear of her was great, given that the drums and guitar were about 8 million times too loud. That unfortunately prevents me from saying much about their songs (beyond "far too much drawn-out guitar wanking" and "set was overburdened with drawn-out instrumentals") as I could almost never hear the lyrics or what the songs were supposed to sound like as a whole.

Also, they started quite late, at least partly because band members were still milling around socializing long after the designated start time. Furthermore, many of the people that were there to see them were extremely discourteous during Webb's set. One guy (and I think he was their "roadie") would go to the big table crowded with "their people" at the front of the club, take one person to the back, and then stand there talking extremely, EXTREMELY loudly, paying no attention whatever to the band on stage. This process was repeated, and I am not exaggerating, about 20 times. Rude. This did not leave me with a warm fuzzy about them.

Annnnnyyyway. Webb and the boys got on late, but they seemed relaxed, rested, and in fine form. They opened with "One Taste of the Bait," then went into "She's the Only One." Other selections from the early part of the set included "Human Cannonball," "Horror Hayride," "Poolside," and "Looking for a Fool." I'm sure there were a couple others in there before the first, much-anticipated patter break, which was devoted to Jim Ford. Webb said he'd come across two songs separately, decided he really wanted to learn them, and only then realized that they were both Jim Ford creations: "Changing Colors" and "Juju Man." Really nice choices demonstrating just how far and wide his songwriting ranged, and terrific versions of them, of course.

Later in the set, they did some more from About Time, including "Lonely for a Reason," and "I Had to Laugh." Also, the most soul-wrenching version of "Jimmy Reed (Is the King of Rock and Roll)" yet. (I realize that you all think I'm obsessed with that song, but it's not just me, man.) These were interspersed with older favorites that have often appeared at the end of the set, including a performance of "Baby Please Don't Go," with extended storytelling in the middle (storytelling that included the term "Dumbass," which clearly indicates that Webb has not escaped unscathed from multiple performances with me and JRH in the audience). Webb explained that they'd moved stuff around so that they could approach these numbers "with renewed vigor." I'm for it.

"Louisiana Hannah," made an appearance, too, and just as I was thinking that I hadn't heard that performed in a while, Webb explained that Hybrid Vigor, which had been out of print for a while, was now available on iTunes. That's the first Webb CD I ever had, and it's a bit alarming to realize that it's gone out of print and resurrected in digital form since I've been a fan. I mean, I know it's been a while (in fact, M, who thinks he's a funny, funny guy, tried to argue that seeing Webb at Fitzgerald's could arguably be construed as our first "date"), but sheesh!

Bill only held them to two encores. Apparently, he reserves the dread triple encore for the badly behaved Robbie Fulks. I find that I didn't blog that, but at Robbie's New Year's Eve Eve show, which is now the official New Year's Eve show, rather than its dress rehearsal, Bill didn't bring up the lights or start the background music until he'd rung three encores out of them. That in itself makes not blogging that show a hanging offense, so I probably shouldn't disclose that my failing to blog that show deprived you all of the (second hand) experience of the Possum Hollow Boys (formerly the Possum Holler Boys, but not these Possum Holler Boys, hence the name change) doing performing "Darling Nicky."

But I digress. Webb's encores included "Meet Your New Landlord," apparently at Jimmy's request, and "Stay Out of Automobiles." "The Rest (will take care of itself)" appeared earlier in the set, as did "Tough it Out." If they'd done "Big Time," (which, as far as I'm concerned, they're contractually obligated to do; M foolishly disagrees and claims that Webb is not my monkey), I would have been wholly content with the known and new content (there were several more new songs he did, but my dumb cracker mind has lost them in a sea of Guinness).

Oh, who am I kidding? I was more than content. It was a great, energetic show. We got to see a terrific new addition to the band (and fortunately Webb introduced him early, so we only had a few minutes to consider the possibility—unlikely in the extreme, but disturbing nonetheless—that the new guy was actually Tony Bowles with a hair cut). There was a (nearly) perfect blend of stuff we love and stuff we will love in the future. Also, Webb-a-palooza beats the impostor palooza with a stick.

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