February 22, 2011
Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles
When I say I want to be inspired by live music – THIS is what I’m talking about. I want to stay up all night and scream (or write) about how exceptional the show was even though I have a full day of work and meetings, beginning very early in the morning. I want to leave the venue without saying “goodbye” to friends I haven’t seen in a long time, to rush home and write about the experience. I want to buy tickets to the next show before I publish this review because once people read this, if they live anywhere near L.A., they’ll buy tickets to see Joseph Arthur‘s final show of his 4-week residency at Bootleg Theater next week. It will sell out.
If you’ve been reading Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend for a little while, then you know about my history with Joseph Arthur, which spans more than a decade. One of my favorite Joseph Arthur memories was several years ago when my friends and I learned Joe was playing a last-minute show, in the small room, at The Knitting Factory. It was about 4:30 pm and we were sitting at work, looking at each other, until we devised a plan (which didn’t take long). My friend, Jen, called The Knitting Factory. “Yeah. . . so we heard Joseph Arthur is playing there tonight. . . in the small room. . . Yeah. . . This may be a dumb question, but are there any tickets left. . . ? And. . .what do we have to do to get them?”
Jen slammed down the phone, “Grab your coats ladies! We need to go to The Knitting Factory right now! They only have 3 tickets left for the show tonight and we need to go get them!” First of all, imagine getting anywhere – quickly – at 5pm, in LA. We looked at each other, without hesitation, vowed to come back to work after the show, and sprinted to the car.
We somehow got to the venue while the remaining 3 tickets were available and Joseph Arthur treated us to a brilliant show. It was special because the venue was exceptionally small and the sound (at that time) was really good. It was special because there were some technical difficulties. . . which allowed time for Joe to get out his notebook and show us some recent artwork he’d created. It was special because Joseph Arthur was playing.
Twelve years later, and I still feel that privileged to see Joseph Arthur play.
What was special about tonight’s show? The paint on Joe’s hands, reminding you that music isn’t just “music” – it’s art. The way Joseph re-creates songs in front of you, piece by piece, looping percussion, vocals, and guitar, with relaxed precision. “Relaxed precision” may seem like a contradiction but that’s how he pulls it off. Watching Joseph paint, not just a picture, but what is to become a central character in the show, while singing. The look on Joe’s face as he
contemplates and serenades the painting he created while singing the early verses of the same song. Watching and listening, awestruck, as Joseph reads several pages of spoken word, the words flowing so fluidly, you can’t imagine he’s actually had the time to read them off the page. The apparent set list written on the back of the poetry – the songs are familiar, but the set is different. . . it always is. Joe’s sense of humor as he introduces a song, “This song is new. . . except for countless clips on YouTube. Oh, the mystique of the music industry.”
The fact that every person who has spoken to me about Bootleg Theater has said what a terrible venue it is; and that it actually turned out to be quite wonderful. The way I was greeted at the door by security, with open arms and a smile, and treated with genuine kindness while getting my ticket. The feeling of gratitude upon remembering that, after a lifetime of seeing shows in LA, some venues truly are home and treat me like family. And, the realization that after all that time, I can walk into a venue for the first time, and that it too can feel like home. Walls upon walls of Joseph Arthur’s paintings in the gallery, leading to the music room. The fact that there is still a music venue that only charges $2 for a bottle of water.
This acoustic rendition of “In The Sun,” featuring C.c. White and audience sing-a-long. No microphones. Vocal mastery from C.c. White (be sure to watch through the end). A chorus of audience back-up singers – the experience of community and collective passion they contributed is another thing that made the night special:
Not just playing songs; re-creating songs:
“Crying Like A Man”
If you missed that show, you missed that show. It’ll never be the same. That’s Joseph Arthur.
The final show of Joseph’s residency at Bootleg Theater is next Tuesday, March 1. Tickets