Friday, July 17, 2009

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings at Largo 7-16-09

So last night the wife and I went to see Gillian Welch at the Largo. I have one of her albums and the O Brother soundtrack, so I’m familiar with her stuff but not a hardcore fan. I just figured it would be a good show, and the Largo is an awesome venue, which seats about 280 I think. She comes out with David Rawlings, her longtime partner who I also know from their work on Ryan Adams’ first album. Two of the first three songs are from the album I have (Time the Revelator), and Rawlings is an unbelievable guitarist. Neither of them is plugged in, they just have their acoustic guitars (and occasional banjo) mic’d and it sounds phenomenal. He is also hysterical, and their between song banter is really funny. You can tell they’re having a good time.

After 45 minutes or so, Gillian says they’d like to bring out a few friends, but they’re going to take a break first to figure out what to play. They come back out, play a couple more songs, then ask Benmont Tench to come out. I knew he was the keyboard player for Tom Petty, so I thought that was pretty cool. They play a song but you can’t even hear the piano, which was disappointing. After the song they ask John Paul Jones to come out…and I’m floored. JPJ was the bassist for a small indie band called Led Zeppelin, he arranged the strings on R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, and I’m sure he’s done a ton of other great things (and probably some bad ones). But did I mention he was the bassist for Led Zeppelin? Anyway, here he is the mandolin player.

So the four of them play a song, and after it Gillian asks if we could hear JPJ (we couldn’t) and someone yells out we couldn’t hear Ben either. So they fix that for the next song, they bring out Sara and Jon Watkins, who play fiddle and guitar, and Jon Brion, who’s playing acoustic guitar (he also owns the Largo, is a record producer, film score composer, and puts on a phenomenal show of his own…but I digress). They run through a few songs and it sounds really great, and the wife and I are having the time of our lives.

Before the end of the set, they mention that after the show a few people will be playing in the Little Room, which is a small venue in the Largo “complex.” They say only 50 can get in, so we figured we would give it a shot, but we weren’t overly optimistic. When the show ends, a mad rush of people head out to get in line at the LR, and my hopes are dashed. I go to get some cash (LR is cash-only and they want people to buy drinks), the wife gets in line, I meet her and count about 35-40 people in front of us in line. Feeling better about getting in but still trying not to get too excited.

To make a short story long, we get in, get a beer and grab a seat. It’s not even full in there, which is surprising, but we’re not sure what to expect. The Watkins get up there and play a few songs and sound really good, then they ask if Jo(h)n can come up and play. Brion comes up and they ask if any other Jons want to play, so JPJ goes up there, as does Benmont. Again, this is a concert for about 40 people, and the bassist for Led Zeppelin is playing (in case I didn’t make that clear). There is one microphone and a piano on a stage that is probably 10 x 10 feet, if that. They run through a few songs, and then Sara Watkins asks if Fiona is there. So Fiona Apple comes up and sings lead on a few songs, and she sounds unbelievable. Then they ask Gillian and David to come up, so now it’s Sara and Jon Watkins, Benmont, Fiona, Jon Brion, John Paul Jones, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings on stage playing a couple songs, including Leadbelly’s “In the Pines” that Nirvana famously played on Unplugged.

The show ends, we leave and walk right next to JPJ and Fiona, out the door and back into reality, not really believing what we just saw (all apologies to Jack Buck). Someone on the street asked if the Little Room just got out, but I didn’t hear them and they had to repeat the question. We probably looked stoned or drunk, but we didn’t care. One of the best concert experiences of my life.

1 comment:

  1. What a spot on review! I was sitting there as well and it was a most amazing night, before, during, and after!