Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chuck Prophet; May 19, 2013; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music

That’s right, three shows in three days. A few people asked if I had done this before, and the answer is no, but I’ve been close. Exactly a year ago I did three shows in four days, which was hard, because two of them were on work nights. Back in February I did three shows in two days when Robbie Fulks & the Pussycat Trio played two shows in one night due to popular demand. That was surprisingly easy. And so was this. Most folks who host house concerts do so infrequently, one a month at most. I’ve always said that any time that someone I want to play can play, I’ll do it. And when I got an e-mail saying Chuck Prophet could play on May 19 I didn’t hesitate, even though I already had the previous two nights booked. Prophet has been at the top of my wish list to play at the house since I first actually thought about who would be on my wish list. I’d been ignored by his booking agency, and I probably would have given up if Mission Express members Kevin White and James DePrado hadn’t encouraged me to contact his manager. A couple years and many e-mails later, I had myself a show.

I’d been hoping to have the full band, but I was perhaps even happier to get Prophet solo. I’d only seen him sans band a couple times, he doesn’t do it very often, and those shows were pretty great. There was the solo set at the Yep Roc 15th Anniversary celebration, and a remarkable opening set at the High Noon where he stole the show from Alejandro Escovedo. I’d argue the latter was the best I’d ever seen him. I expected the show to fill up fast, and it did, until it got to 40, then reservations trickled in for the next two weeks till it was full.

Prophet arrived later than he’d meant to, but sound checked quickly and I was able to let everyone into the basement soon after. I like to be known as the venue that starts relatively on time, and this fell within my fifteen minute window. Prophet was loose and gregarious throughout the show, his trademark grin in place. He once again asked us to sing on a few songs, and everyone obliged. While he claimed it sounded great, I’m not so sure. There was a minor breakdown in “Temple Beautiful” where he paused for a moment, I thought he broke a string, turned out he was waiting for the drummer. “I’m used to playing with a big rock band,” he laughed. Since he didn’t have the Mission Express behind him, he did tend more toward the mellow songs. “Pin a Rose on Me” was gorgeous, and early track “Homemade Blood” emotional. Every time he plays it I make a mental note to track down that record.

The songs from Temple Beautiful were great as always. In addition to the sing-a-longs (the other was “Willie Mays is Up to Bat”), he did the always excellent “Left Hand and the Right Hand” (about San Francisco’s infamous Mitchell Brothers, who he describes as “Cain and Abel if they went into the live sex business”) and a solo duet on “Little Boy, Little Girl.” Yep, you read that right. Originally a duet with Stephanie Finch, he sang both parts, the female part in the regular microphone and the male part into the cool, old-timey, echo-y mike that he uses (“you should have to pay extra for this” he laughed). He asked for requests a couple times, but only played a few. Maybe he only asked to confirm that here were some fans in the house. “I like Waylon,” chimed one audience member. “I like Waylon too” he smiled, explaining that he had done a song by song cover of Jennings’ Dreaming My Dreams, “and it’s out there… it’s not very good but it’s out there.”

He ended the show by saying that if every town had a person like Kiki hosting shows like this, “there would be peace in the Middle East, and that van out in the driveway? That van would be paid for.” That was sweet, but even better was the fact that he said he had a great time and he can’t wait to do it again. Neither can I, but in the meantime, I’m going to start working on some of those other people on my wish list. John Wesley Harding I’m looking at you.

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