6/19/10: Steroid Maximus/Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio!

June 19, 2010 at 10:26 am (Uncategorized)

So, to recap:

Small crowd at first. By 7:00, there were plenty of empty seats. In fact, volunteers started making the rounds, giving out yellow wristbands to pleebs so that they could move up to the VIP section. We had great seats already, which was the only thing that kept me from chasing down one of those volunteers and stealing one.

By 7:10, Thirlwell starts making his way through the crowd, saying hi to friends. Now, look – this is my favorite musician on earth and his music changed my life and blah blah blah, but it’s clear that the guy is uncomfortable in his skin and not at all out to be a Famous Rock Star, so I’ve always thought it would be inappropriate to walk up to him and be all, “OMG! You’re so amazing!” The way I see it, he gives me incredible music, I give him the gift of leaving him alone. But the guy was making it really, really difficult for me by hanging out about six feet from where we were sitting for a good ten minutes, all the while my insides and my outside are having this war, where my insides want to rise up and go OH MY GOD THANK YOU FOR SO MUCH AMAZING MUSIC, YOU HAVE NO IDEA AND I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE ABOUT SIX FEET AWAY FROM ME WE ARE BREATHING THE SAME MICROBES and my outside is totally beating that voice into submission, forcing it to be polite and let him talk to his friends. My outside won; Thirlwell moved on to talk to other people.

By about 7:20, an older guy comes and sits next to me and Jeff. At first, it’s just polite chatting. And then he starts asking me things like, “How do you know him?” and I’m thinking, Him? Who? “Oh, the guy performing… he’s a blond guy, originally from Australia…”. Wait, JG Thirlwell?

Ok, to jump to the chase: the “older guy” was 88 year old painter Albert Kresch, who (I would only find out this morning by Wikipedia-ing him, shame on me) was one of the original members of the Jane Street Gallery (insert art history squeal of happiness here) and used to hang with, oh I don’t know, Willem de Kooning and Frank O’Hara. And now he’s basically the biggest Thirlwell fan on the planet. Do things actually get any more awesome than this? And the concert hasn’t even started.

Al and I sit talking about how awesome Thirlwell is (Al is not a Foetus fan, but loves his instrumental work). Apparently, the two have hung out together and Thirlwell went to Al’s last exhibition opening and all sorts of good stuff like that, so Al was on this very sweet, almost paternal mission to educate the crowd on all the wonders of Thirlwell’s talent. He was thrilled I knew his music, but downright horrified that so many people around us didn’t, so he kept striking up conversations with everyone trying to make sure that they knew exactly who they were going to see perform and how awesome he is. It was a little like seeing a school play while sitting next to next to the star’s parents who point to the stage and whisper, “That’s my kid!” the whole time, but only in the best way possible.

7:30 on the dot, Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio plays. Smith is the happiest man on earth and smiled throughout the performance, which was overall terrific:

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a performer quite so comfortable performing to a large crowd as Smith was; he was in equal parts soaking up the crowd and also ignoring them, just transfixed by his own music.

8:30-ish, the crowd is filling up, and Steroid Maximus takes the stage. There’s 16 of them (well, I thought 20, but Al insisted on 16 and I’m willing to give that to him), with Thirlwell conducting. This means I got lots of pictures of his back, which is… great. I guess.

Whenever he turned around to acknowledge the audience, he looked totally dour and miserable, kind of the absolute opposite of Smith. But when he was conducting, it was like watching a dance performance or something; he was totally absorbed and the whole thing was incredible. And the music – wow.

They played whole sections of pieces that sound like they’ve been lifted from old James Bond soundtracks and then – somehow, seamlessly – transitioned into something else entirely. You get sort of sucked in by the familiar, and then the whole thing gets completely mixed up with about a million different other sources and turned out until it’s not recognizable at all. I’m not sure how someone can quote (in a musical sense) such cheesy movie music cliches as he does, and yet do this magic on it where it gets transformed into something not at all a cliche, but rather something thrilling and real. And seeing it performed live? By an ensemble and not at all pre-recorded computerized whatever? OMG.

Ahhhh!!! So amazing. Al was on cloud nine and so was I. By 10:15 the whole thing was over and I practically skipped home.



  1. siouxsielaw said,

    Ahh, this sounds so great. It has been a long time since I have been to a show that I was really excited about.

    And thanks for the rec.

  2. Very strange day (JG Thirlwell at the Whitney museum, as part of Christian Marclay’s show) « working said,

    […] Suddenly I realize: It’s the guy I sat next to at the Steroid Maximus show. This is completely insane. I sort of tap him on the shoulder and he turns around and remembers me […]

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