Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What Happened?

As a loyal Grandaddy supporter, I carried high expectations to the Fine Line on Monday night to see Jason Lytle perform in support of the now-defunct band's recent album, Just Like the Fambly Cat. In effect, this was Grandaddy's farewell tour, or as close as anyone was going to get.

About three years ago, I saw Grandaddy in their prime at the 1st Ave-Main Room. As a unit, they put on a fantastic show, expertly translating their heavily-produced tunes into a thrilling live performance, led by the bearded-Jason's melancholy crooning, retro keyboards and grinding guitar. So an unplugged Grandaddy...err...Jason Lytle, was sure to be equally great. I was excited to hear how Jason would reconfigure his songs into a more acoustic setting. But as it happened, the Fine Line show was altogether different than I had hoped: it was a resounding disappointment.

If I were to choose highlights, I'd pick the fittingly minimalist version of "Jed the Humanoid" or the slow-tempo "Hewlitt's Daughter." But highlights were few and far between. Jason, clean-shaven, was joined on stage by multi-instrumentalist and fellow-Californian Rusty Miller. The two sat in folding chairs facing each other from opposite sides of a card table. The table was littered with cables, Casio keyboards, Rum & Coke, microphones, a couple recorders and various electronic gizmos. A quirky and quaint sort of setup. But oddly, Jason and Rusty performed to each other rather than to the eerily quiet audience of around 60 people.

Overall, the entire set was sloppy, disconnected and seemingly unrehearsed. But not in a spontaneous and off-the-cuff-creative sorta way. Jason and Rusty, who I suspect were inebriated, appeared to be figuring things out as they went, a problem that could have easily been solved with...I don't know? Practice, maybe? I guess you could say it felt like watching their rehearsal, or better yet, watching what its like to see Jason fucking around on the keyboard with his friend. Sounds cool enough. And it had potential. I still think it could have been great, but in the end, the show was a swell concept, lacking in execution.

Furthermore, the sound was for shit, with incessant feedback buzzing through every song and filling the dead silence in between. We did have the pleasure of watching Jason and Rusty awkwardly swap places, back and forth around the table like musical chairs, tangling cords and passing their drinks after every song. Jason gave little in the way of conversation or even acknowledgment to the crowd. Boring is a word that comes to mind and I never thought I'd say that in describing the mesmerizing music of Grandaddy. To cap things off nicely, the set ended in anti-climactic fashion without an encore. Ta da!

This was not the Grandaddy...uh, I mean the Jason Lytle I had come to see. But perhaps that's my problem. One of my favorite bands broke up and I wanted to see one final triumphant performance. Instead, I saw the talented, but surprisingly uninspiring front man on his own. Or maybe it's just the beard? The beard was Jason's mojo and he lost it somewhere in Modesto, California.

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