Los Angeles gets its fair share of crap, and I'm as guilty as anyone. Elsewhere, people complain about the weather. Here, people complain about the traffic, the strip malls, and, well, the traffic.
But today I want to focus on one of LA's treasures. Betina asked me in the afternoon if I wanted to go with her and Justing to Largo, a movie-theater-converted-to-music-hall in Hollywood, to hear Fiona Apple. I haven't heard her sing live since a concert at the Paramount back in Seattle many years ago, but I've always enjoyed her voice, that deep and smoky megaphone.
Largo is a cozy little theater tucked on the not-so-cozy mega street of La Cienega, a long stone's throw from the Beverly Center shopping mall. Such are the geographical realities of LA.
It turns out the headliner this night was the Watkins family, consisting of sister-brother duo Sara and Sean Watkins, of Nickel Creek fame (Nickel Creek's self-titled Alison-Krauss-produced debut album is a great place to start if you want to grok them; of the 267 customer reviews on Amazon it has 213 5-star ratings).
But during their long show, they were accompanied by one guest musician after another. Dan Wilson, former leader of Semisonic and recent Grammy nominee, came out for a few tunes. Then Fiona Apple strolled out, with that introverted, nervous body language, until she opens her mouth and that powerhouse of a voice takes over the room. She is our nation's little waif, our little Edith Piaf.
Then Fiona left and Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket fan took his place. I haven't seen Phillips since a concert at Stanford back when I was an undergrad. I'm glad he still looks reasonably young, or I would have felt even older than normal.
And then Dan Wilson came back, and who did he bring on stage for a duet than John C. Reilly, of, well, Talladega Nights fame. Reilly, besides being one of the few people I know who carries his middle initial almost like an honorific, can actually hit his notes.
Great music all night long in the larger but still intimate of two performance spaces at the Largo, and yet there were empty seats in what was an arthouse movie theater sized hall, with tickets only costing $25 each. How that place does not sell out every night is a great mystery to me.
Just the previous night, I was out with some coworkers, and we were comparing LA to Seattle and NYC, and we discussed how one problem with LA seemed to be the lack of a public place you felt you could call your own. Largo feels like such a spot, and I could see myself becoming a regular.
In contrast, I went with some coworkers to The Forum in Inglewood on Monday night to see Coldplay, and that venue is one of the fugliest buildings I've been in. It's like an oversized high school gym, and picturing the Lakers playing there after seeing them at Staples Center is difficult to fathom. Since Coldplay's debut, I've liked each successive album less, and their last album had me swearing them off, but their newest album caught my ear's interest again.
The show was good, but not great. They did not bring a full musical outfit, so on string sections of songs like "Viva La Vida" they just piped in the missing backing instruments which is always disappointing. I also didn't love all the arrangements. But Chris Martin seems like one of the nicer guys in rock, and they have a long list of big anthems to call upon.
The handicapped parking at the Forum filled up, so I had to walk what felt like two miles from the stadium back to the car in the parking lot. I felt like Jude Law in Cold Mountain. When I got home and took off my walking boot, I found a big bloody spot on the back of my sock, recalling Curt Schilling's famous bloody sock. I'm going to frame it as a memento of my heroic effort on that night.