Joseph Arthur 04/14/11
Venice Sound Stage – Venice, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
Just the other day, I was outnumbered by my older (and dare I say slightly out of touch) co-workers. #Twitter is useless they all claimed. Well, had it not been for that useless social media outlet, I would have never known that Joseph Arthur would be playing a last minute show less than five miles from my home. With plans of an early bed time thrown away, I headed down to a place called the Revival: Venice Sound Stage for yet another round of magic with Mr. Arthur.
Before we discuss the music, it’s important to describe the Revival: Venice Sound Stage. It is hidden in a large brick building complex that is buried in a residential neighborhood in Venice, CA. If you know where the Del Taco is on Lincoln, it’s three blocks behind it. After walking up a long driveway, past what I can only assume are clothing factories and artist lockouts, I finally found unit G. Having been told earlier in the day that the music started at 9pm, I assumed I would be casually cool walking in around 9:30. Wrong, as it turns out, the place was not yet opened and I was the first “fan” there (our pal Y was the only other individual I saw inside the venue). The gal at the plastic card table accepted my $10 donation and allowed me in despite the fact Arthur was messing with his massive pedal boards’ mid-sound-check. Looking around, the inside is actually rather sweet. Some small stools/chairs set up; random art exhibits spread across the floor and a sweet dog named Chumash thrown in for good measure. Truly an exciting place that I hope I can check out again in the near future.
I found a seat and as a few more folks wandered into the venue, we got to hear Arthur perform “Out On A Limb” to make sure everything was working properly. When sound check ended, Arthur roamed the room saying hello to various friends as Y set up. If you read our coverage of the Bootleg Theater residency back in February, you know all about Y. While his partner in crime with the pink guitar was MIA, Y warmed up the room with a quick three song set. Well, four song set if you include his sound check of the Poison classic “Every Rose Has its Thorn.” The first song was called “Lonely Angels” and in talking to Y after the set, he told me it’s his “Black Dog” in the sense the songs title is only mentioned once within the song. The second song was very familiar from the Bootleg Theater run. If Y had a hit at this point in his career; “Give It Up To Love” would be it. He closed the brief set with another solo acoustic song called “Mars.”
Y’s confidence from that first unannounced night at Bootleg has truly blossomed. After the set, he jumped off the stage and came over to say hello. What happened next I must give Y mad kudos for. If I had a dollar for every time someone said Justin-time or Justin-credible to me, I could pay off the server space/web URL’s for this site for the next 15 years. In telling him my name was Justin, he was like oh like Just-in The Wind (in melody with the Kansas jam Dust In The Wind). That was a first and it truly made me laugh. I thanked him for the sticker, and he traveled to the next crowd member sharing his tales of when he was a pirate upon the high seas.
Arthur hit the stage at 10:45pm and opened with “Vacancy.” It was the only time all night that Arthur was joined by a special guest. That guest of course was the venue’s four legged resident Chumash whose bark harmonized well with the opening number. Arthur even joked about the bitches guest vocals as he tuned up for his official performance of “Out On A Limb.” While the sound check version was stripped down and minimal, Arthur brought out multiple layers of loops and effects for the 20-25 folks who made it out to Venice on a windy yet warm Thursday night. While there were multiple layers, the song never lost the delicate touch that makes it so magical in the first place.
As a fan of jam bands, I love when Arthur segues from song to song. On this particular evening, he pushed it three songs deep with “This Is Still My World>Smile That Explodes>Too Much To Hide.” The high water mark in the sequence was the piercing jam that connected “This Is Still My World” to “Smile That Explodes.” We all know “World” is Sibyl Buck’s favorite pop song of all time, and even after watching the replay I am still not sure how Arthur got such a loud snarling bad ass mamba jamba jam out of the soft ballad. I also must ponder if the string of songs would have gone longer if not for Arthur’s amp crapping out on him during “Too Much To Hide.”
In between random tales of his recent trip to China, Arthur shared how the venue felt more like a living room and how he truly felt naked upon the stage. As smells of marijuana and In & Out Hamburgers started to choke the room, Arthur asked if anyone had any requests. I knew this was my shot to hear a song I was dying to hear without being that asshole who shouts requests at inappropriate moments. Three songs were screamed out, which Arthur performed in reverse order of how they were received. First up was “I Miss The Zoo.” This could very well be the first time Arthur has performed “I Miss The Zoo” without having multiple pages of lyrics in front of him. Very stripped back, I am rather confident he nailed all the lyrics, which was damn exciting for someone who has seen this jam grow from early versions during his April 2010 Venice residency.
Up next was my very bratty request. From the Could We Survive EP – I have always been a huge fan of “Morning Cup.” Sadly, in all the shows I have seen Arthur play, the man has never busted this gem out. It took him a bit to remember the opening chords, but once he did, it was as if he had played it nightly for the last decade. With minimal stage lighting, Arthur continued on with the requests, strumming and singing both “History” and “In The Sun” from his best known record Come To Where I’m From. Despite never leaving the stage, Arthur declared that “Echo Park” would be his encore.
Had much of LA not already been committed to Coachella, Janet Jackson, Prince, Big Audio Dynamite, Duran Duran and Sleigh Bells, I must assume more folks would have made it down to the Venice Sound Studios. To be totally honest, I am glad it was such an intimate event. I’ve seen Joseph Arthur in concert, on this Thursday night in Venice, I got to see my pal Joe perform some jams for a room full of friends.
Venice Sound Stage 04/14/11 Set list
Out On A Limb
Out On A Limb
This Is Still My World>
Smile That Explodes>
Too Much To Hide
I Miss The Zoo**
In The Sun**
*With Guest Vocals from the venue’s resident dog Chumash
** By Request
***Arthur never left stage for a traditional encore break; instead he simply declared that it was his encore.