Sunday, April 13, 2008

(04.13.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#52: Largo
432 N. Fairfax

(explanation of series here.)

The theme of yesterday was Homecomings. We started the day blogging about the topic, and ended the day with one at Largo.

First, a little about Largo. It's more dinner theater than rock venue. It has a tiny stage and a room with tables to fit about 100. In addition, there is a bar that fits another probably 10 people. The shows are very intimate, in part because the place is tiny, in part because the venue has strict anti-talking policies, and in part because artists come to Largo to push their boundaries and experiment in front of polite and well-versed audiences. The club is perhaps most known for its Friday night Jon Brion residency. Brion has used the Largo stage to introduce to larger audiences the likes of Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Elliott Smith, and Rhett Miller.

Which brings us to last night. Rhett Miller is a long-time blog favorite. Here's a old post/ode to the Old 97s that sums up most of our feelings toward Rhett and the Old 97s. We had heard whispers that Largo was closing this month [1]. We had also heard that Largo had called home old favorite Rhett Miller to put on two solo shows before the club closed. Finally, we heard that the set of shows was to be recorded and released as an album; Rhett's personal tribute to his years at Largo. With these facts and rumors in front of us, we headed out to Largo.

Table reservations at Largo usually sell out quickly. So your only hope is to show up and try to get a coveted bar stool spot. With doors set to open at 8:30, we rolled up at 8 and had no problem getting in.

In addition to music, Largo plays an important role in the Los Angeles comedy world. As such, many shows feature both comedy and music. Last night was no exception, as the comedy warm up act turned into something of a Rhett Miller roast. The room was really buzzing with excitement for the show -- probably nobody more so than Rhett.

This night was clearly important to him: his wife was in the audience, he played some of his all time favorite songs that will appear on the live record (off the top of our head we remember covers of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Kinks, The Ramones, The Pixies, Tom Petty, Simon and Garfunkel, Pete Seeger), and he appeared to get a little misty eyed at times regaling the audience with old war stories both of Largo and of recording sessions in general, including a pretty funny one about a time Waylon Jennings recorded "Old Brown Shoe" with the Old 97s, which led to Rhett playing an awesome version in which he'd start off doing his best Waylon Jennings voice and then would flawlessly and effortlessly segue into full-on Rhett cowpunk glory.

It was a classic Rhett show. We've stopped trying to figure out why he's not one of the biggest rock stars on the planet. We just go and enjoy the shows now, unencumbered by what-ifs and why-nots. And last night, my oh my, it was special. There are few things we enjoy more than seeing great artists channeling their talents in intimate spaces, but when it's Rhett Miller on a night that was so obviously important to him -- well, that makes for a show that we'll remember for a long, long time.

[1] Largo as it as now known is, in fact, closing. However, the owners are opening a larger (and therefore presumably less intimate) space on La Cienega.


Vanessa said...

Last night really was a magical show. I've seen Rhett and/or the Old 97's a lot, but last night was something really, really special.

Isabel said...

What a cool experience for you. Thanks for the recap...!

Also, like you, I've almost given up wondering why Rhett Miller is the most popular singer/songwriter on the planet.

Thanks for the pics!