Cat Power, Fais Do Do Ballroom, Los Angeles, 1/13/00
My poor, unfortunate decision to wait to the last minute to buy a ticket for the show this evening allowed me the opportunity for an unexpected real-world economics lesson. So, I thought I would share what I learned, in the form of a quick quiz:
Do you know what $100 will get you? Second-hand this evening, I learned that it will buy you a ticket for the Cat Power show if you're desperate enough, waiting on the sidewalk outside the venue.
OK - how about an honest smile and a look of pathetically helpless ticketlessness? If you're lucky, and you happen to pick just the right person (one with a ticket to spare) - I learned that if you're in the right place at the right time, sometimes you can get in for free.
After donning the appropriate quantity of honest helplessness, I happened upon just the right person who generously offered to share her extra ticket. Upon entering the club, it became apparent that she had complimentary tickets courtesy of KCRW. "Thank you so much for sharing - by the way, what is your name?" "Tricia." I thought her voice sounded familiar... "Um, you wouldn't happen to be Tricia Halloran, would you?" "That's me."
The funny thing is that back in the fall of 1998, it was Tricia Halloran's radio show Brave New World on KCRW (89.9 FM in LA, or www.kcrw.org everywhere else) that gave me my first exposure to a Cat Power live performance, when they played a brief set on the air from KCRW's studios. It's funny how things sometimes come full circle under the strangest circumstances.
After parting ways with my generous benefactor, I linked up with some friends who had been more wise in the ways of buying tickets in advance for the show, and collectively we waited for the show to begin.
Tonight's show differed from the set on Brave New World in that in this venue, Cat Power was just vocalist Chan Marshall playing solo without a backing band. She doesn't need a band to achieve her trademark mournful bluesy sound - in fact at the best of times, she may get there more easily by herself, when her songs blend seamlessly one into another, creating a magical hypnotic continuum of minimally repetitious strummed, plucked guitar or aimlessly sinuous piano noodling with her simple, quiet, plaintive voice so full of sweet melancholy laid warmly over top. I could, quite literally, listen to her sing all night.
But at the worst of times, she seems to lose focus or lose confidence, hopelessly derailing the brooding ambiance like an unexpected pinprick to the finger. About one third of the way through the show tonight, she seemed unable to finish her songs, seemed displeased with the way she sounded, and eventually regressed into telling knock-knock jokes to pass the time - and shouts of 'Get it together!' from the back didn't seem to help matters. But slowly. slowly. she managed to climb back to a position of confidence and finish the set off with two mesmerizing songs.
I'm sure I should have felt gypped, but I didn't. Those few perfect moments became all the more precious when they lay scattered around the rough.
A few things I took away from tonight's concert:
1) Of all people, I should know by now - always, always, always buy tickets in advance.
2) Cat Power's albums are more consistently hypnotic than her solo shows - but I would still go see her any time she's in town for those few precious moments (and for the numerous wonderful songs that she hasn't released yet).
3) In addition to running a terrific radio show, Tricia Halloran is an honestly nice person.
4) KCRW is likely to get a bit larger donation from me this year.
"I will miss your heart so tender, and I will love this love forever.
- Chan Marshall
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