Sunday, September 25, 2005

Michael Penn w/ Rosie Thomas @ Schuba's - 9/25/05

The last time I saw Michael Penn (which was also the first time) was about a week or two before I re-started this blog, so there was no review. Anyway, he was back in town playing material from his new album, Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947. Some of you probably remember him as being the brother of Chris and Sean Penn who sang that Romeo in black jeans song. Or perhaps you know him as Aimee Mann's husband. You probably don't know that he did the music for P.T. Anderson films "Hard Eight" and "Boogie Nights". His new album is his fifth.

Rosie Thomas started the evening off. It's fairly typical singer/songwriter fare, but she was plenty entertaining, and pretty funny. She also has this weird voice thing going on. When she speaks, it's in a very high, Victoria Jackson-esque voice. Then she starts singing and her voice transforms into a lower, almost Joan Baez-like tone. But not really like Joan Baez. Anyway, it was a mystery. Still, she has a beautiful voice, and what seemed like a delightful personality. Michael Penn followed, and here's an incomplete and out of order setlist:
  • Out of My Hands
  • Denton Road
  • Don't Let Me Go
  • Long Way Down (Look What the Cat Drug In)
  • Bunker Hill
  • High Time
  • Walter Reed
  • Brave New World
  • No Myth
  • Bucket Brigade
  • Me Around
  • Try
  • Figment
  • I Can Tell
  • A Bad Sign
  • You Know How
  • On Automatic
I'm pretty sure that's it. That's a lot though, so it's not like I'm complaining. He didn't play everything I wanted to hear, but he hit some of the big ones, inlcuding I Can Tell and Bunker Hill. He even gave the backstory to Bunker Hill this time, which, in his words, is a love story set during the L.A. riots. For those unaware, there's a big hill in downtown LA called bunker hill where a lot of rich people lived and lodged about 100 years ago. A funicular train was built to take people from third street to the top of Bunker Hill and vice versa. There are references to Angels Flight in the song. A couple of years ago, after it had been restored and put back in service, they had an accident and someone died. For my Angeleno readers, especially those with an interest in the area and some knowledge of it's history (Matt, I'm looking in your direction), you should check his stuff out. It's chock full of L.A. regional references.

Anyway, if you've never been to Schuba's, it's a little corner bar with a back room, which has a stage. The room can only hold about 150 people, so it's a really tiny venue. There's no "backstage". The artists enter from a side door that opens onto the sidewalk on Belmont. I think every time I've been there, the band/artist has talked about how they can't do the cliche encore, because there's nowhere to go. As MP put it, he'd have to go stand on the street like a jackass until we clapped loud enough for him to come back in, and if we didn't clap loud enough, he'd come back in anyway.

This show was recorded for playback on the WXRT Sunday Concert Series. I don't listen the radio enough to know when they're going to play it. And I'm not sure if they archive those, although I suppose it would be easy enough to figure out. You can go here and listen to him perform on KCRW. Probably a similar experience.

Thumbs up for this one. I'd still like to see him with a full band and an electric set up. He said he really longs to do that, but it would be too expensive. Maybe someday. Hopefully it's not another 5 years between albums.


halofan said...

The restored Angels' Flight was fabulous, but i noticed there were no seat belts and got a little antsy. There is an editorial tht would have been prescient...

mdhatter said...

That was a great read.

I suspect you like his work as much as I do. I only saw him once, years ago, in a much less cozy space, and I'm about to miss seeing him play at Club Passim (capacity 100-ish) in cambridge (boston) since I'll be out of town.

THANK YOU for the tip re:rebroadcast.

i'm green with envy, especially since he opened with my personal favorite tune.

Seitz said...

I can't guarantee he opened with that. Such is the mystery of the incomplete and out of order setlist.