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Man Versus Monkey

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 12, 2007 5:05PM

2007_03_jonbrion02v2.jpgLast night we hiked out to one of our favorite clubs, Hideout, to take in the super sold-out Jon Brion show. The celebrity-festooned event (read: we think we saw the dude that played Darlene's husband on "Roseanne" there) packed the Hideout music room to the beams and rafters with an eagerly expectant crowd.

Brion is famous for a variety of reasons (producer to the stars, composer of avant-pop movie soundtracks, mind-boggling grasp of musical history and mimicry), but the crowd was there last night in hopes of seeing an approximation of his famous long-running residency at the Largo Club. Brion takes requests from the crowd, builds songs piece by piece (literally) and leaves the room stunned.

At Hideout he did all of this. It's always stunning to see a man sit down and loop a drum segment, then add piano, and bass, and organ, and whatever else he can fit into the bursting sonic cauldron before finally laying live guitar and vocals over the top of it all. Even something as simple as a request for the old surf tune "Pipeline" expanded into a jaw-dropping display of virtuosity as Brion constructed the whole tune, piece by piece on a single instrument.

It was mind boggling, actually.

2007_03_fumanchu.jpgThe only thing that tugged at the edge our our sleeve and kept us from getting lost in the music was this thought: Brion is certainly insanely talented, and his live show is transfixing, but the base of the mesmerizing act isn't an emotional one. Instead the crowd is wowed by the mad genius of this esteemed craftsman, and while we all experienced a truly memorable experience, it's questionable whether it was a moving one as well.

On the flip side was the Fu Manchu show at Double Door we ran to after Jon Brion's performance. In a case of sonic whiplash we were wrenched from the vaunted tower of a master craftsman and thrown into a cage full of rabid apes. The funny thing is, we think we had a better time pumping our fists in the air in return to monosyllabic phrases and thunderously simple guitar riffs. Brion was meant to be respected and appreciated and to be viewed through glasses of awe; Fu Manchu was meant as an all-night soundtrack to drinking and fucking and smoking. One was a once-in-a-lifetime event; the other was a truly life-affirming event.

We're glad we got to experience both in the same night.

Jon Brion photo by Jennifer Brandel
Fu Manchu photo by Mike Sage