Joseph Arthur & The Fairy-Moans (w/ Chris Joyner) 04/23/10

The Stronghold – Venice, CA

Words/Photos/Videos by

To say my life has been flipped upside down this week would be a colossal understatement.  With my mind somewhere far away, I stood against the brick building that is The Stronghold unaware that Joseph Arthur was about to invade my personal thoughts and help sooth some very mixed emotions.  Standing outside on yet another chilly spring night, the entertainment started long before the doors opened.  Patron after patron approached the door trying to get into the venue with no success.  Each time, the door man would turn them away, and each time the same conversation would occur:
Door man:  Doors open at 9:30
Patron:  I’m here for Chris Joyner
Door man:  Doors open at 9:30
Patron (with a very confident look upon their face): But, but I’m on the guest list.
Door man: That’s nice, so are the other 150 people in line
Patron:  So, I have to line up?
Door man:  You got it.
Based off the simple natured fans, I assumed that Chris Joyner would be some kind of Jack Johnson laid back three chord surfer bum that drives the ladies/Asian-Americans crazy.  When the doors opened about 10 minutes late, many fans were in a panic that they were about to miss Joyner.  Not worried at all, I walked up the stairs and to my delight discovered that the couches from the first week (as well as a lazy boy chair) had returned to the front of the stage.  I plopped down in the lazy boy (since I was once again flying solo) and watched Joyner panic that his large fan base would not make it in before he was scheduled to start.  By the time the music did get underway (after apologies from Joyner for the wait) I got the panic within seconds.

Holy smokes – of all the opening acts I have seen over the past few weeks – Chris Joyner was hands down the best.  Not that other acts were bad, but they can’t even compete with Joyner.  Backed by a bassist, guitarist and some dude beating on a box, for approximately 30 minutes Joyner lead his band through a set of Wurlitzer fueled funk/soul/hippie jams.  The secret weapon in this musical outlet is clearly guitarist JinSoo Lim.  A mix of Duane Allman and Trey Anastasio, the modest player laid down epic solo after epic solo much to the delight of all in attendance.  I could listen to that man play all day and never get sick of his licks, and the kicker is that he does it straight faced with great ease.  Perhaps the most impressive thing about Joyner’s set (besides the music) was how quiet his fans were.  For those who have read my reviews or seen any of my videos the past few weeks – you know The Stronghold is a chatty venue.  During Joyner’s set – you could hear a pin drop.  Nothing but respect from his fans, which now includes me amongst their ranks.

After a fairly quick set change (considering how much equipment had to me moved) Joseph and his mad mob of musicians took to the stage for a “sound-check.”  After a quick warm up jam, Arthur (who was a total chatter box all night – unlike I have ever seen him be) addressed the crowd:
Are you the light?  Are you guys inspiration personified?  Magic and glowing before us all?  That’s what we inspire to be for you.
Understatement of the residency here.  It’s hard not to be inspired to live life a little harder after watching Arthur do what he does.  Still “sound-checking” Arthur and friends launched into a soft song that I was unfamiliar with (it is unreleased and it the tentative title is “This Is Still My World” per twitter user @_benzo).  It was absolutly beautiful and got my mind right back on the same thoughts that have now haunted it for nearly a week (or is it four years?).  I will be honest, I always sucked at analyzing books or lyrics or whatever.  I tend to just take little snippets and relate to my day.  While “You Are Free” probably has nothing to do with what I had on my mind, I’m no longer who I was – no longer who I thought I was sure as hell haunted my mind.

If Arthur’s performance the prior week was a bit of a technical train wreck, this week felt as if the band had been on tour for three years.  “Vacancy” was a real spaced out deep sea kind of affair that comforted my chemical confusion.  Kicked off with only Arthur on acoustic guitar “Famous Friends From The Coast” built up into a huge roots-rocking romp that was rich with melody.  Taking an accordion break on the couch to my left, Arthur joked that he was singing “Even Tho” for Rami Jaffee.  The song morphed into a slow sustained kind of jam that slowly grew in speed as Arthur lead with a sitar-sounding solo.  I swear at one point guitarist Joel Shearer threw in some “Shakedown Street” teases during the disgustingly sick jam.

Much to my shock, Arthur announced that his new band would be going on summer tour with Phish (of course this was when I had my camera turned off – FAIL).  The band discussed briefly the name Phish and debated if they could legally use it as part of their name.  I am going to assume coincidence that Arthur then talked about David Bowie as his hilarious introduction to “All The Old Heroes”.  Yet what happened next made me realize that Arthur could probably win over a Phish crowd.  “Black Lexus” became a massive bonnaroo-caliber hippie jam.  If I had to guess, I would say it went 10-12 minutes long.  Between Phish 3D and this show, I have done my fair share of noodle dancing via chair this week.
Before taking some fan requests, Arthur announced his backing bands name. It’s best that I let him explain:

More hilarious stage banter preceded the first request – “Birthday Card.”  Fairy Moans did not allow the fact they didn’t know the song to stop them from creating perhaps the hardest rocking balls to the wall version of the song to date.  A bit later, Joseph passed his guitar to backing vocalist Sibyl Buck who then nervously lead the band through a song.  Keeping up with the requests, the sound-check (as mentioned by drummer Brendan Buckley) carried on with an electrified version of “Slide Away.”

It was about 12:40 AM Saturday when the sound-check finally ended.  Someone from the crowd screamed for a keyboard solo and Jaffee was happy to begin to play a clunky chord progression.  Very soon, Arthur jumped in, singing/talking sporadic lines over the almost toy piano melodies.  The song – “A Pig In The Mouth of China” eventually a psychotic/psychedelic romp that would make Pink Floyd and the Flaming Lips proud.  It was pure genius, and well worth the 35 song sound-check.

The night finally wrapped with “Running Out of Time/I Love You – Thanks For Coming Out.”  I have added the second title because Arthur sang a new song focused around that line within the existing song (battery died by this point so sadly no video).  On a night where he played with my emotions, teased me with my favorite band to my face, stole my jokes and rocked my stinking socks off – the man is now singing “I Love You – Thanks For Coming Out”.  Imagine that.  Those words, if he only knew.  While I appreciate the thanks, really anyone who made it into The Stronghold the last month should be thanking Joseph Arthur.  I saw three totally different shows, all special, all unique and all amazing.  With just a few days left before May, April 2010 has been one for the record books for me.  When I grow old and look back to this point in life, Joseph Arthur will always be the soundtrack.


A direct descendant of the outlaw Jesse James and star of a 1983 Kilpatricks Bread radio commercial, Reverend Justito has taken his gift of ADHD and put it to good use by creating one of a kind concert reviews. A bootlegger at heart, the man lives off Whiskey, Taco Bell and the love of San Francisco sports teams.
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