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Beachwood Sparks / Lou Barlow, the Troubadour, Los Angeles, 3/6/98

Beachwood Sparks - So they did this thing where they played songs. And used these, um, like, guitars. And drums. And stuff. Yeah. They sang some, too. Not all of them. Just the, um, singing guys. The ones with microphones...oh, enough already. In case you were wondering, this is just my roundabout way of saying I wasn't really paying attention. There was this nice woman who probably would wish to remain anonymous, so we'll call her 'Sarah', which also by mere coincidence also happens to also be her real name. Anyhow, 'Sarah' was convinced that I was this guy named Jim that she met once, and so I tried to be accommodating, and do my very best Jim impression. I have to admit that was pretty distracting - I really didn't have much to work with, and you can say, "Hello, my name is Jim" just so many times convincingly before you blow your cover. Right. So my apologies go out to Beachwood Sparks. I'll pay more attention next time.

Lou Barlow - I have felt for a long time that Lou Barlow is one of the most underappreciated songwriters around today, but he generally flies below most people's music radar since his bands don't get much in the way of airplay. I say bands plural because he's a pretty busy guy - he plays in the rock band Sebadoh and his solo side project Sentridoh, as well as the low budget hip hop outfit The Folk Implosion. (Actually, one of the Folk Implosion songs 'Natural One' did get some notice on the radio when it was used in the soundtrack to the movie 'Kids', and you'll probably be hearing more soon, since they're about to get signed to a major label.)

Unlike the typically squawky assaults of Sebadoh or the beat-laden grooves of The Folk Implosion, tonight's performance was a relatively rare solo acoustic set of some old favorite songs balanced with a few new songs - one of which he had only just completed backstage. Though intimate, the show was also a little unrefined and raw since he hasn't played live for sometime, and is just now getting acquainted with his new surroundings in LA after moving from Boston:

"So here I am in LA - this is a really weird place, you know. There arethese people who drive around our neighborhood in their little white rental cars and take pictures of our house. Sometimes it makes me really paranoid. But maybe that's a good thing. I wrote this next song during a really big paranoia attack during the Gulf War."

Calm, subtle paranoia is a recurring undercurrent in Barlow's songs, pulling you into his melancholy world where transparent feelings are questioned and love is almost never certain:

"So this next song came about when I went to Washington D.C. to visit this woman I really liked, but by the time I got there, she had a boyfriend who had a motorcycle, and he'd take her down to the ocean where they'd stand on the big rocks and look out over the water...So the song was really the best thing that came out of that trip, since my ego was totally destroyed...but that's OK, because I had rock and roll on my side."

Even though from time to time his songs aren't really the jolliest (and he's the first to admit it: "Oh, I'm sorry. When I started playing, I was in a great mood, but all of my songs have just really bummed me out."), their simple structure and melody balanced with his signature choppy guitar strumming make them strangely enticing with a kind of quiet urgency. I for one am excited to have Barlow in the neighborhood and look forward to hearing him again in the near future. I'd recommend seeing him sooner rather than later, because it's only a matter of time before his name gets around and the crowds grow - Beck was at tonight's show - who knows where it goes from there?

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