Of Puppets, Power Suits, and Economy-Class Omniscients

I thought I’d update you all on a couple of activities from the month of April

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I found out from my good friend Leo that Avenue Q was touring, with a short run at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. Leo also told me about this magical thing called “student rush”, where you wait in line before the show and they sell unclaimed seats to students and seniors for a discounted rate. When we got our tickets, we asked if we could pick our seats but, alas – the tickets were randomized for student rush. We were assigned to the orchestra section, row “BB”…..I figured that wasn’t a good sign and we had been placed so far back in the orchestra that we’d be lucky to catch a glimpse of the show through the sea of heads in front of us. This is what greeted us when we found our seats:

Avenue Q set

Second row center, baby! Can’t beat that for $25 per ticket (and bought with a long-expired student ID at that!) Overall, the show was great. I was afraid it would underwhelm me because of how much I’d heard about it from friends, but it completely deserves all of the hype. I found myself relating to several of the characters in the show, perhaps because I do feel a bit like a lost, recent college graduate trying to find my purpose in life. One of my greatest fears is that I’ll amount to nothing, living a life doomed to mediocrity. One of the main themes of the shows is that some people never find their purpose! And I’ve just got to learn to be OK with that.

The puppets were operated by their voice actors dressed in gray. At first this was distracting: I didn’t know whether to look at the puppets or the actors’ faces. By the end, I found myself still looking back and forth between the uncannily subtle and true-to-life puppetry and the exceptional acting from the human actors. This amounted to a unique experience in all, and a great pre-celebration for Jose and mine’s 4th anniversary the next day.

I decided at the very last minute to join my brother Andrew and his (now official!) girlfriend Vanessa at the Jenny Lewis show on April 13, 2009.

I have a general policy that solo artists from bands for which I have great admiration will never really “bring it” live, just relying on the tricks that made them good with their former bandmates, and therefore leaving me wanting something more. This is the same reason why never shelled out the cash to see Gwen Stefani when she toured for “Love Angel Music Baby”. Forget that Sweet Escape bullshit – only worthwhile tracks were “Yummy”, “Lonely Winter”, “Flourescent” and “Don’t Get It Twisted”, the latter two being co-written and produced by band-mate Tony Kanal.

I rest my case.

But, experienced the first exception to this rule with Jenny Lewis’ performance

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Clad in an only-works-on-her, power-suit-esque outfit (complete with the requisite hot pants and weird fucking hat), Jenny Lewis made me realize that a lot of the live appeal of Rilo Kiley Jenny Lewis herself. An understated, but powerful, stage presence drips from her slight frame, particularly when she spurns her guitar for the microphone. The set began with “Acid Tongue” with her bandmates backing her up, moving into the rollicking “Fernando” and a few other tracks both from “Rabbit Fur Coat” and “Acid Tongue”. Mid-set, her band went backstage, leaving Jenny to do a brief acoustic set where Jenny delved into some of her Rilo Kiley catalog: Under The Blacklight (dedicated to “my friend Blake”….awkwaaaard! What exactly do you have on Blake, Jenny?), Silver Lining and an attempt at “Rabbit Fur Coat”….the audience seemed perfectly forgiving when she forgot the words.

This acoustic portion made me take note of the surprising attentiveness of the crowd. I’m not sure if this was because the show represented a rare opportunity to see the queen of indie rock in an (almost) hometown gig in a relatively small venue, or that just her stage presence was just that captivating. In any case, during the interlude folks jib-jabbing it up in the restroom were told to “Shh” a little less than politely. Lastly, her actor/musician BF Johnathan Rice joined her onstage for an underwhelming cover of “Love Hurts”, an epic, EPIC performance of “The Last Messiah” (my personal highlight of the evening), “Happy” and “Rise Up With Fists”. Just as a disclaimer, I’m writing this from memory….so if I missed something or mixed up the order, well…..suck my balls.

Overall, a performance that rocked in so many ways that were distinct from the way in which Rilo Kiley usually rocks. But, true to my policy, it left me wanting more: I really hope Jenny Lewis continues without Rilo Kiley. See seems to have found a voice for herself.  But I also hope Rilo Kiley can fan away the fart that was Under The Blacklight. Although I have my doubts….I really do.

On April 22, 2009 I attend Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California’s Capital/Lobby Day, wherein all of the state’s crazy pro-choicers descend on the capital to pester politicians and generally have a good ole time.

So long, So Cal!

So long, So Cal!

Hello, Nor Cal!

Hello, Nor Cal!

P.S. When did Southwest airlines become do damned informal? If I wanted stand-up hopefuls dressed in t-shirts and cargo shorts cracking jokes during my journey, I’d just hop on the Jungle Cruise.

Ain't no power like pro-choice power.

Ain't no power like pro-choice power.

It was BLOODY HOT….with an extra dash of humidity and no breeze whatsoever. BUT I did get to see my good friend Lori and we were able to catch up a little bit. I realized after I returned to Orange County that afternoon that I’d forgotten to mention my plan for me and Jose to meet her and her boyfriend, Ruben at a cabin in Yosemite. But, I was treated to special surprise on the way back to Ontario:

If you look really closely, you can see Yosemite Valley!

If you look really closely, you can see Yosemite Valley!

This  made me realize why flying is so petrifying, and why seeing things from above is so fun for me. By being so high in the air, you’re able to see SO MUCH with the naked eye. Under my watchful gaze are every needle on the pine trees, every bug zipping through the air, every cliff-face, road, car, person….it almost gives you a feeling of god-like power. But then you turn and realize that you’re just cramped into a pressurized metal tube, hurtling through space. And this power starts to feel tremendously unnatural. No wonder humans didn’t evolve wings.

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