On Wednesday my sweetie the_ogre took me to Freight and Salvage in Berkeley to see two awesome solo bass players, John Lester and Michael Manring. I had never heard of Lester before, but I'd seen Manring years ago when he played at the Inn of the Beginning, a club in Cotati owned by a friend of mine at the time.
We had dinner before the show at Barney's which I had always enjoyed when I lived in the East Bay, and I gorged myself as I needed to fast for 12 hours for blood tests the next morning. Unfortunately, being stuffed and having seats uncomfortably close together at the club made me cranky for the rest of the evening. Luckily, the music was so great that we both still had a good time.
Lester performed first, singing and accompanying himself on both upright and electric bass. His songs were mostly originals and were fresh, occasionally humorous, and enjoyable. He also connected well with the audience, making frequent eye contact, which wasn't difficult as there were not many people there so we were all in the first few rows (Aaron and I front and center). I bought Lester's most recent CD at the break, and Aaron bought a couple as well.
Manring came after the break, and played his signature weird and wonderful music on a variety of electric basses, custom-built with special levers that detuned the strings. He had showed me this mechanism up close when I saw him the first time; I don't remember quite how it works, but it's pretty neat and used to good effect. Unlike Lester, Manring was totally absorbed in his performance, often playing with his eyes closed and looking in rapture at times. Lester and Manring then performed a couple of Lester's songs together, one of which does not exist in a studio version (although apparently it's on "Live at the Freight"), so that was a treat.
I had wanted to say hello to Manring too; actually he had said hi to us briefly when we were outside the club, but I couldn't remember if it was him for sure so was too shy to start a conversation. But I was very tired and still feeling bloated after the concert, and it took them a long time to come back out to the CD table. Aaron still bought more CDs, but I was content with the one of Manring's I bought the last time I saw him, "The Book of Flame".
On Friday I took Vicki out to the Great American Music Hall for a belated birthday dinner/concert featuring one of her favorite performers, Jonathan Coulton. I had only heard a couple of his songs, "Code Monkey" and "First of May", but liked both very much. Apparently he's quite popular not only here in San Francisco (the show was sold out) but also amongst my LJ friends-of-friends. While waiting in line, a woman came up and asked "Are you funcrunch?" I said yes, and she introduced herself as saffroncisco; she'd recognized me from one of my user icons! She was in line with some other LJ people and had blogged earlier that day about several others she knew were coming, and then cortneyofeden and ef2p ended up sitting at the table behind me and Vicki. Small world...
In any case, Vicki and I had a nice dinner at the club - though the entrees were limited, one was vegetarian (vegan, in fact), and the meal ticket included bread and salad, though not dessert or drinks, which we had anyway. :-) I chatted with Cortney and found out we went to the same high school in Pittsburgh (Allderdice), and she told me that she had come specifically to see the opening act Paul and Storm, and had never heard of Jonathan Coulton.
I was the opposite, and was pleasantly surprised - no, scratch, that - blown away by Paul and Storm's performance. They were amazingly funny and talented and I was laughing myself hoarse. They both stood there with guitars and sang in harmony, though Paul never actually played his guitar (occasionally he put it down and played keyboard), and sang about all kinds of crazy things from a demented "Schoolhouse Rock" style singalong counting song to a "Randy Newman should do the theme song to every movie" (and demonstrating such for Lord of the Rings and The Passion of the Christ, among others) to "What would Bob Dylan sound like if he were singing from down a well"... and on and on. Also a "Seamen" tribute to the upcoming "International Talk Like a Pirate Day", which had the audience shouting out "Arrr!" well into Coulton's set, even. They also had Coulton sing with them on one song. An absolutely spectacular performance.
After a break, Coulton came out next, and did his own brand of weird and funny songs, accompanying himself on guitar and joined on vocals during many numbers by Paul and Storm. All three performers capitalized on their high geek factor and how well that went over with local crowd. At what other show would you hear the performer talk about his frustration with programming Visual Basic, saying "Oh come on, it didn't even have pointers before .Net"?? Leave it to Coulton. A very funny and enjoyable night out.
Addendum: Forgot to mention that all three guys were out in the lobby after the show. Vicki got to tell Coulton how much she loved him, and I did the same to Paul. (Not that I have anything against Coulton! I was just particularly taken with Paul's performance - and Storm was great too of course!)