Yes, I know Chuck Prophet is playing at my house next week, but that’s a solo show and this was a band show, and besides, do I really need to justify seeing Prophet as often as possible? And tonight’s show seemed extra awesome. Prophet is ridiculously cool, like Fonzie, you know, if Fonzie were actually cool. He says everything with a wink and a grin, asking a guy up front if he needed a hug, “because you really look like you need a hug.” When another audience member raised her hand excitedly, hoping for a hug, he deflected her, “I don’t have time to hug everyone, but this guy really looked like he needed one.” He called on the audience several times to do some singing, first on the title track to last year’s excellent Temple Beautiful and later on that record’s “Willie Mays Is Up at Bat.” Before asking us to sing the “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, ooh, ooh” from the latter, he jokingly described our effort on the former as pathetic. And I thought we had done a pretty good job shouting back “Tem-ple Beau-ti-ful” in time with the song.
Most of the songs from the new record showed up later in the set, along with the aforementioned two, “Castro Halloween,” and “The Left Hand and the Right Hand,” which as always he dedicated to brothers everywhere, made the set. Usually with a band it seems like the record where you discovered them will always be your favorite, and while Hurting Business will always have a special place because of that, with Prophet it seems like I like every record more than the one before. The last time I had seen him in Milwaukee he got a bit of a surprise when he asked if anyone had a request, everyone shouted back “Pin a Rose on Me” nearly in unison. He had no choice but to play it. This time the random collection of songs shouted out didn’t require such action, “OK, those are some good ideas” he replied when the shouting had stopped, “but we’re going to play this.”
Prophet knows how to pick a great cover, and perhaps the best tonight was the Flaming Groovies “Shake Some Action,” which he announced as the national anthem of San Francisco. Additionally his lovely wife Stephanie Finch stepped from behind the keyboard, strapped on a guitar and took two songs at the mike, the second a duet with Prophet. You would think it would be hard to be in a band with your spouse, but for them it looks like the greatest thing on earth. The rest of the band has remained fairly stable over the years, the always excellent James DePrado on guitar and Kevin T White on bass, but the Mission Express must be hard on drummers, since this was the third new one in just over a year. Prophet seemed to take great joy in announcing his name “Vicente Rodriguez!” like he was coming up to bat.
Local opener the Mike Benign Compulsion was fairly entertaining, and became more so as their set went on. They weren’t particularly tight, but their 90’s power pop was rather infectious. I had Matthew Sweet “Girlfriend” flashbacks more than once. I applaud them for resisting the urge to go with a cheesier name like “Mike Benign and the Tumors” or “the Malignants.” Though admittedly it was pronounced different than expected.
The Mike Benign Compulsion
Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express