Well, we didn’t get “The Other Shoe,” but we did get the Cramps’ “New Kind of Kick.”
That day we woke up in Costa Mesa, ready to make our way north for the last of the driving portion of the trip. So far I was pleased with our luck in travel. Discounting our late takeoff out of Denver and the overwhelming desire to squash the smarmy Thrifty car rental agent like a bug in San Diego, getting from place to place has been refreshingly without incident. True, we did manage to blow a red light, skip paying a toll completely, and make an illegal right-on-red turn all in the same day. But compared to what could have happened on a southern California road trip, I’d say we got out of it relatively unscathed.
In Los Angeles, we grabbed a late lunch (gyros again, oddly) at the Farmers’ Market and then checked in to the kitschy Best Western Hollywood Hills adjacent to the 101 Diner. (I’m told it’s the diner where Swingers was filmed but personally, when we grabbed breakfast there the next morning, I was more enthralled with the orange-juicing machine. Oranges squeezed as you watch. Hypnotizing.)
So. The Hollywood show. I’ll write in listy form, ’cause that’s the way I think.
The venue: grand. As in, the Music Box is indeed a grand theater.
Beer selection: abysmal (and horrifically expensive, which is the worst combination).
Videographer girl: still there, front and center, with her two cameras, but I was too far away from her to worry about her arms.
Friend factor: insanely awesome. As I’d expected, Los Angeles was less about the show than it was the people. Matt, Julie and I lingered for a two-hour sushi dinner with Kim and Courtney, longtime L.A. girls and longtime 97’s fans. And the food—besides music, this vacation was all about the food—was pretty fantastic. As more and more sharable sushi dishes were set in front of us I even forgot we had a show to go to. Eggplant stuffed with albacore and almonds? More, please.
Murry’s shirtwear: pearlsnap, long-sleeved.
Set list: just all right. People who saw only this show might not agree, but for us the third show felt a little repetitive. Besides the punk interlude (which I’m told should be up on YouTube already, or at least a portion of it), there was nothing remarkable about the set list. It was the first time we got Indefinitely, and Jagged, and, shockingly, Big Brown Eyes, which I hadn’t yet realized had been absent the past two nights. But nothing was pulled from the dusty archives.
Band’s mood: downright giddy. It was obvious that they were loving the hell out of this venue in a city that at least half of the band has been able to call home, and they were clearly feeling the energy in the crowd.
The crowd: a little different. The crowd was … odd. I don’t mean that they weren’t into the show, because they were. Or that they didn’t know the band’s repertoire, because they did. From my ten-rows-back vantage point (first between Rhett and Murry, then on the crowd fringes at extreme Murryside) I found myself looking around and assessing, trying to put my finger on what was different. About halfway through the show it hit me: this crowd was so male. Not that guys are a rarity at an Old 97s show, but usually they’re attached to a girl or sparsely placed throughout. But there were pockets of guys all over the audience. And they really wanted to be there.
The crowd was also BIG. Upon arrival we took one look at the floor and rejected it in favor of the upstairs outdoor roof patio. Which was perfect. We could clearly hear Langhorne Slim—and I now have a new favorite song of his, even though I can’t tell you what it’s called—but we could also still hang out and laugh about unfortunate Coachella camping experiences, discuss Taylor Swift’s mad self-booking skills when she was still a nobody, and weigh the merits of “Cash” as a first or middle name.
When we came back downstairs, the crowd had redistributed and we made or way to about 10 rows from the front, but that was all I had in me. I’d rather be able to see and breathe than be within range of pick tosses, so I was good.
The band was tight and the songs fast and furious, but I felt a little off-kilter all night. I still had a great time and there was nothing about the show I disliked, but the vibe was just … different. In the future, if I had a choice to see the band in LA or, say, Texas … I might pick Texas.