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Whoa Nellie! - the funcrunch files


Nov. 24th, 2004 10:59 am Whoa Nellie!

Last night I went with boyziggy and my good friend Gregor to see the fabulous Nellie McKay at The Independent in SF.


Ziggy and I last saw Nellie in March at the same venue. This time the price was bumped up a fair amount, no doubt due to her burgeoning popularity, but we got to see a bit more of Nellie as there was only one opening act instead of two.

Etienne de Rocher, the "appetizer" as he put it, was a weird but entertaining fellow. He came out sporting a tight suit and tie and early-Beatles mop haircut. He proceeded to play several interesting numbers on acoustic guitar and rock organ. His look and the retro-70s-ish sound of his songs, particularly the organ numbers, combined with lyrics on such topics as playing the video game Centipede, resulted in a pleasurable sensation of cognitive dissonance. He crooned well, but there was some feedback on the mic. This would not be the first or last time at this club where Ziggy wished he'd brought chloroform to take out the sound guy and take over. (No, law enforcement snoops, we're just kidding...)

The appetizer departed and after a short time entree Nellie came on stage, festooned with big blond curls and an impossibly frilly pink strapless dress. To the uninitiated you might think she was sitting down at the baby grand to play light classical pieces for a school piano recital. But she launched into her usual repertoire of witty tunes, singing about topics ranging from her cat dying ("how I miss his kitty touch") to her reluctant support of Kerry over Nader ("I'm stuck with John-John till November") to her mock-wistful desire for the homemaker's life ("packing cute lunches for my Brady Bunches").

While the music was excellent, Nellie was a bit off last night compared with her March show. Her voice was not as strong and she made several obvious mistakes in the lyrics, which she corrected somewhat awkwardly. But she had at least a few factors working against her. One is that the concert was being filmed, which made her somewhat self-conscious ("you're going to have a lot of editing to do", she warned repeatedly).

Another is that an obnoxious woman sitting near us (right in front of the stage) went beyond screaming "We love you Nellie!" to treating everything Nellie said between songs as a personal conversation between herself and the star. Nellie didn't seem to mind, but it was annoying. At one point when the woman kept telling Nellie to relax, instead of Nellie ignoring her or telling her to shut up (as I wanted to do by then) Nellie said "I want what you're drinking!" At which point the woman went to the bar to get her a Bacardi and Coke. Now, everyone who's a fan knows that Nellie is underage (20 to be exact) - that's part of her hype. So taking this drink theoretically could have exposed her, the club, and the woman who bought it for her to a lot of trouble. You could tell she was conflicted, but wanted to be nice to her big fan, so after saying "thanks for the Shirley Temple (*wink*)" she just took a couple of quick sips. At one point the obnoxious fan disappeared for awhile and I was hoping they hauled her out of the club and cited her for giving alcohol to a minor, but unfortunately she came back to her seat. (For the record, I couldn't care less about underage drinking; I just wanted that woman gone. She was equally vocal during the opening act.)

As if that weren't enough, at one point late in her set the stand for Nellie's vocal mic slipped. She was unable to get the mic to stay in the proper position, and she fussed with it for several minutes before any of the club staff made a move to help her. Ziggy was particularly appalled; a Union-run hall would never be so sloppy. But Nellie handled it as well as could be expected.


In any case, we had an enjoyable evening. I hope to see more of Nellie in the future - she is definitely a performer to watch.

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