Monday, November 13th, 2006

Adventure Rocket Ship

The musical Venn diagram on stage at the Mod Club this past Friday night was an impressive one no matter how you looked at it. Between the four of them, you had portions of The Soft Boys, The Egyptians, Ministry, The Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5 and R.E.M. (amongst countless others) but on this night, they were simply Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3.

Though playing solo, opener Mark Pickerel boasted a similarly diverse and expansive resume including working with Screaming Trees (he was the original drummer) and Nirvana, though in recent years he’s gone and found country, playing with the likes of Brandi Carlile and Neko Case. It was this folker who took the stage Friday night to play a short but sweet set of slow, mellow tunes accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and some clever percussion (keeping time on the kick drum behind him with his heel on the pedal, tambourine under the other foot – brilliant), he reminded me a bit of Chris Isaak but that have just been the hair and the suit. Maybe a bit too low-key to open for Hitchcock in rock mode, but still enjoyable stuff.

Robyn Hitchcock is one of the rare performers for whom you could take a live recording, excise all the actual music leaving just the banter and still have an aural document worth listening to. Each of his songs were prefaced by a story that was either explanatory or a complete non sequiter, but either way it was thoroughly entertaining so you didn’t really care. Even when he seemed to be lost on a tangent, seemingly never to return, he would bring it back around and make some humourous and often political point before launching into another song. There is no denying the man’s wicked and acerbic wit.

My knowledge of Hitchcock’s oeuvre consists pretty much of Underwater Moonlight and Ole! Tarantula but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying every minute of the show – Hitchcock’s tunes are so finely crafted that the hooks will catch on first listen, especially when played by a band as supremely talented as the one he was traveling with (Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin if you weren’t paying attention). Luckily for me, however, the set list leaned heavily on both the albums I do have and I’m happy to say that the new stuff held up very well against the classic material – “Queen Of Eyes” and “I Wanna Destroy You” are for all-time, but “Adventure Rocket Ship” and “(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs” (which was prefaced by a wonderful, extended ramble about Clint Eastwood’s Magnum Force, from which the song draws its title and about which he talks about to the Cleveland Plains Dealer) are no slouches either.

Top to bottom, a terrific show from one of the greats. And it’s always interesting going to the shows whose audiences skew older – Hitchcock’s fanbase are not what you’d call the young and the hip, but they were devout and enthusiastic and I’ll take that any day of the week. Plus they made me feel young, like a spring chicken (though after an almost two-hour set, my back disagreed). And also nice – as I was leaving, I noticed Peter Buck was working the merch table, chatting with fans. You think you’re going to see that next time R.E.M. is in town? Probably not.

If you’re inclined, the show is already torrented on Dime A Dozen – if nothing else, they’ve got the correct final set list, though not the second encore which I believe was a quick “Give It To The Soft Boys”. There’s also this short piece by Hitchcock about the genesis of the Venus 3 (née The Minus 3).

Photos: Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3, Mark Pickeral @ The Mod Club, November 10, 2006
MP3: Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 – “Adventure Rocket Ship”
MP3: Mark Pickerel – “Graffiti Girl”
MP3: Mark Pickerel – “Forest Fire”
MP3: Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 – “Adventure Rocket Ship”
Video: Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 – “Adventure Rocket Ship” (WMV)
Video: Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 – “Adventure Rocket Ship – live” (WMV)
MySpace: Robyn Hitchcock
MySpace: Mark Pickerel

In continuing with last week’s XTC post and contest (which you should definitely read because the responses have been amazing), I direct you to the official XTC fan MySpace, in particular the blog which features a series of interviews with Andy Partridge about the genesis and content of various XTC songs which they also generously stream.

Check out the new video for Rob Dickinson’s “Oceans”, which was apparently shot entirely on camera phone and stands as evidence to Rob’s continuing seahorse fetish. Also note that his live acoustic album, Alive And Alone, is now on sale here and I say – that’s one of my photos as the backdrop. Smashing!

The Deli recounts the story of Asobi Seksu as told by Yuki Chikudate and The Stranger converses with both Yuki and James.

Happy news for the five or six of us who, despite the peer pressure, actually still enjoy Studio 60 On The Sunset Stripit’s going to run the full season. While the show’s not been perfect – far from it, actually – it’s still not nearly as bad as the haters would have you believe. Some of the complaints are justified (the sketch comedy is generally awful) but the one criticism that I take particular issue with is the one that the characters seem to think their job is terribly important and that the fate of the world hinges on their show. Well don’t most people take their jobs seriously? Would it somehow be more believable or entertaining if the cast projected indifference and ennui towards everything they did? Studio 60 isn’t perfect, not even close, but it’s still a decent show with the potential to be much better. And considering that the two-parter “Nevada Day”, which concludes tonight in the US (the show airs Sunday nights in Canada), was the strongest episode(s) since the pilot (and written by Kid In The Hall Mark McKinney), I’m glad that they’ll at least get a full 22 episodes to try and get there. Via

np – XTC / Oranges & Lemons

By : Frank Yang at 8:29 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Garnet says:

    Frank, the problem with Studio 60 is not that the characters take the show seriously but that the disputes are always political in nature, and the politics usually unfolds in very predictable ways. Moreover, I agree with the broader criticism of the show — the earnestness of how the material is presented suggests we really should care whether this nonexistent show is good or bad. The Nevada two-parter at least got them out of the studio, though.

  2. sam says:

    Studio 60 is BY FAR my favorite show of the season. and not because other shows have sucked (they haven’t; we got a great batch of new shows this year), but because it has Aaron Sorkin’s consistently unique intelligence. and if there is one complaint i’d have to make i’d go with the sketches. but, i can live with those, and they seemed to have gone away from it in the past few episodes. other than that – this is an outstandingly dazzling show. period.

    i can’t wait to watch last night’s Nevada Part 2! i forgot it was the two-parter.

  3. caroline says:

    really great photos of robyn, thanks. i passed the link along to fegmania, his mailing list.
    at the show i met someone who has seen RH 40 times in the past 20 years. incredible.

  4. caroline says:

    Oh – I made the Mark Pickeral/Chris Isaac connection too. I think it was the hair, the suit and the blue lighting.

  5. steve says:

    how’s that klosterman book treating you? I’m finally cracking Fargo Rock City.

    and if the malls are doing it, so can I.
    oh holy night is up on my myspace.

    and it’s a little different than the norm.

  6. Karl says:

    You really need to delve into the solo Hitchcock. Obviously, the "popular" album is Fegmania (and it’s sad that w/o keyboards, he won’t do "My Wife and My Dead Wife"), but in Chicago the Venus 3 did "If You Were A Priest" and "Somewhere Apart" from Element of Light, which is one of my faves. I would also highly recommend I Often Dream of Trains, Queen Elvis and Eye, for starters. I haven’t seen him 40 times (I don’t think), but I’ve probably seen most every tour since Gotta let This Hen Out and RH is just remarkably consistent, even when he’s solo acoustic, warbling "When You’re In Love With A beautiful Woman" from the audience.

    Plus, I would add that I’ve always had good interactions with Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck (who once ripped a page out of his copy of Tom Sawyer to give me an autograph, many moons ago).

    Glad to give you good Studio 60 news, too; I’m all about making folks happy. And the least I can do, considering how much I get here.

  7. Karl says:

    Plus, here’s that sideways bootleg video of the M3 covering "Eight Miles High":

  8. Beth says:

    Hey Frank – what was up with the little gung-ho soccer kid doing the seal-fin claps in front?! His air-drumming was phenomenal. My husband also nearly came to blows with the tall dancing guy who danced his way in front of everyone. Anyway, all that aside it was great to see Mr. Hitchcock again, he looks much better than in recent years (laying off the sauce has done him well).

    And I agree with Karl – delve into his back catalog. Fegmania, Eye or Globe of Frogs would be my picks. Or Invisible Hitchcock if you’re feeling sinister (and not in a B&S kind of way).