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What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

Oh-- and please welcome God to the APW team. We're thrilled and humbled to serve as His earthly vessel.

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Location: NYC

I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Jill Sobule at Joe's Pub; 9.22.05
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Jet Pack
One of These Days (false start)
High Five
Hot in Herre (Nelly cover; featuring Jill’s Mom)
One of These Days
Sonny Liston
Love is Never Equal
Goodnight My Love Goodnight
Ready for the Rapture
Houdini’s Box
Under the Disco Ball
Lucy at the Gym
Resistance Song
I Kissed a Girl
Karen By Night
Somewhere in New Mexico
Now That I Don’t Have You
Cinnamon Park (APW on trumpet)
Underdog Victorious

Big Shoes (Jill’s mom on rap, backing vox)

Jill Sobule returned to New York for the first of two shows at Joe’s Pub last Thursday night. The shows were presented in association with the New York Jewish Music and Heritage Festival, so Jill did her regular set, but complained more.

She took the stage without an opener at 9:30 sharp, resplendent in hippie blue skirt and matching girlie heels, all Sex and the City from the ankles down. There was a banjo mounted on a guitar stand stage right, but she came out with the Vagabond. She immediately strummed the opening chords to “Jet Pack,” her love song to New York and a frequent show opener. Jill moved to LA from Brooklyn maybe a year ago, and I realize now how spoiled we’d become from being able to see her around town so often. Now the beneficiaries of her home town largesse are the patrons of LA’s hip Largo. Still, she says that New York is her home turf, and I believe her.

Just as I was absorbing the impact of Jill in heels, she kicked them off and began the second number of the night in her bare feet. It was “One of These Days,” only the power from her Vagabond guitar gave out (it turned out to be a faulty power cord that plagued her all evening.). Fortunately she had the banjo (which she’d bought the week before). Instead of using it for a song or two, it bailed her out often during the set. She turned to the banjo, brought someone up from the audience to hold her laptop (she does this when she has new songs for which she hasn’t yet memorized lyrics), climbed onto a stool, and treated us to a banjo rendition of “High Five,” a brand new song with the refrain, “Good job Brownie, high five!” The banjo, the stool, the bare feet-- suddenly Jill had gone from Carrie Bradshaw to Minnie Pearl (but in a really good way.) Next she invited her mom out, and the two of them treated us to probably the world’s first Jillbilly version of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” Apparently Jill's mom is a hip-hop fiend, like most middle-aged Jewish ladies from Denver. Her mom sang (or rather, rapped) the chorus, which features the line, “Gonna take my clothes off” (presumably because it’s so hot in herre.) At song’s end Jill lapsed into her throaty soul girl church voice, putting it over the top.

Finally Jill returned to “One of These Days,” the guitar back (for the moment) in working order. We are told about Jill’s addiction to online Scrabble. Then one of a handful of extremely poignant numbers, “Sonny Liston,” off The Folk Years, which is only available at shows and at her web site (hint hint). “Sonny Liston” is a story song about losing one’s personal artifacts-- the things that define a life-- in a basement flood. Obviously this was a minor flood, but the story resonated deeply with the images and devastation of Katrina fresh in everyone's mind. Jill has a way of being funny, approachable, inclusive (inviting audience members onstage), a little kooky-- then assaying a song that is just so spellbinding and jaw-droppingly good that it is a little jarring. This was one of those moments, and there would be more.

“Love is Never Equal” continued the mood, and the audience remained rapt. Then she sang “Goodnight My Love Goodnight,” a song off her Valentine’s Day EP that she mentioned was included in the TV series Starved. (Jill noted she’s getting a lot of play from TV, between this and Unfabulous.) Starved is a series about four friends with eating disorders (“You’ll laugh till you purge!”) airing on FX and the brainchild of Eric Schaeffer, an obvious fan (he also directed the film Mind the Gap, in which Jill stars.) Jill says she wrote the song on piano, and it features some delicate fingering, almost classical guitar playing.

Next up was “Busy Getting Ready for the Rapture,” based on an email correspondence she’s struck up with Steven Bennett, who runs this site for converting homosexuals (could he BE any gayer?) It is a peppy song, kind of a whistle while you work on the afterlife.

Next Jill veered back into the gripping, with “Houdini’s Box,” in which she uses the magician’s greatest escape trick as a metaphor for a relationship. Both seem to be some kind of trap:

“There's a secret passage out of here
But I don't want to reappear
I just want to stay with you in here”

Always a highlight.

“Under the Disco Ball” is a response to a request, and she dedicates it to Bennett. Then “Lucy at the Gym,” exquisite and delicately played, then rocked out at the end. Then quickly into “Resistance Song,” with the room joining on the chorus “la-la-la’s.”

The juice goes out again on the guitar, so Jill straps on the banjo and performs a totally unplugged version of “I Kissed a Girl”-- no amplification of voice or banjo, just her in the house. She jumps onto a table in front midway into the song, and soon announces that this was not such a good idea (her aside, “I’m sorry!” to the woman at the table was priceless.) But the song is a total triumph, oddly working on banjo, the whole room pin-drop quiet in order to hear the un-amplified Jill, until we all join in on the refrain.

“Karen By Night” follows, a popular choice. Then a breathtaking read on Pink Pearl’s “Somewhere in New Mexico,” and the equally poignant “Now That I Don’t Have You.” At this point it is getting near time to wrap, and Jill looks over toward my table. “I see Josh is here, and he’s my trombone player-- wanna come up?” She asks. Well, ahem, sure, I guess… So I make my way onstage, taking care to walk into position at the back of the stage, never taking attention from Jill. I find my place at the second mic, which was set up for her mom’s songs. I ask her to strum the chords once through-- I know we’re doing “Cinnamon Park”-- and she does, after yet another cord revolt and a switch back to banjo. She plays the chords through, and I play “air trumpet”-- pursing my lips and blowing, imitating the horn line of Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park,” the riff of which is the basis for Jill’s song. My peeps in the audience give my part an especially hearty response, so I jazz up the second line. At one point Jill loses power; “I got you covered,” I say, and vamp the melody on invisible horn until the banjo is hot again. At one point she stops singing the chorus and turns to me, and I sing the line flawlessly. (“You can sing too!” she says to me later. Yes, I’m an all-around threat.) Oh, on the close, she looks at me, and we make one of those musician non-verbal connections, and as she plays the final chords bringing the song to a close I hit a major seventh thing reminiscent of the way Chicago's "Color My World” ends. I think the song is a highlight, but what do I know?

As I discretely make my way off stage, Jill banjos her way through her own “All the Young Dudes,” the anthemic “Underdog Victorious.” Lighters and cell phones are held aloft all around the arena.

Her first encore is “Big Shoes,” which features her mom’s answer rap. (Jill's mom brings her pocket book out onstage. "There was no place to put it! she protests when Jill gives her a look.) Then “Bitter,” a nice song to end on.

I suspect Jill was disappointed by the power outages that marred the set. But she should not have been. Often a little adversity brings out the best in a performer, the way a grain of sand in an oyster irritates into a pearl. This was a pearl of a show, featuring a totally unplugged “I Kissed a Girl,” new stuff, old favorites, and spellbinding takes on “Sonny Liston,” “Love is Never Equal,” Houdini’s Box,” “Lucy at the Gym,” and “Somewhere in New Mexico.” And of course, after rocking the house, if you wanted she signed your CD on the way out. She signed my friend Max's poster.

Alas I did not get to see the Friday night show.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 4:12 PM  

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