Last Night People Talking and Singing, Town Hall
posted by November 10 at 8:28 PMon
By Ross Simonini
It was adorable. First there was an argument between this little eight-year-old mop-headed boy named Elijah and John Roderick (The Long Winters singer) about who would host the evening. Elijah said, “I know who you are. I happen to be very up on my indie rock stars,” and Roderick said, “I am the right person to host this event, not you.”
Then Rosie Thomas came out and offered to massage the audience’s buttocks. She talked in a little squeaky voice about cute things, like how she just got a facial (“Is it supposed to feel this stingy?”) and sang in a really, low rich voice about sad things. She did a slowed-down sweetened Windham Hill style version of REM’s “The One I Love.”
Roderick came out and said, “As an M.C. I’m from the no-preparation school.” He asked the lighting guy to sex up the room, but no dice, nothing happened. He showed everyone his missing tooth—right in the front, very noticeable—and then played the first song he’s ever played without a tooth, so he said. He faked a lisp. He complained about how Gibson guitars (a sponsor) don’t include strap buttons on their loaner acoustic guitars and how he had to play in the “ye olde” style of holding the guitar while he played.
Then he introduced Sasha Frere-Jones, the New Yorker’s newly controversial pop critic, saying, “For years I read his column thinking he was an African American woman.” But Frere-Jones said zilch about music all night. He said, “I write for a magazine called the New Yorker, but tonight we’re going to be focusing on other writers,” and then two little kids came out and read stories and he interviewed them. It was like a hip version of “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”
A seven-year-old girl named Ameera read a story that went, “The next day we skipped. The next day we skipped. The next day we skipped,” and Frere-Jones asked her questions about it—“So why do you think your friend wanted to stop skipping?”
A boy named Issiah read a story called “Food Dude” that went, “I’m the one who mourns when a buffet restaurant closes.” Food Dude’s arch nemesis is Paris Hilton, who sticks her finger down her throat and vomits moldy corn on the cobs and chewed up hot dogs in a defensive maneuver.
Euguene Mirman bounded out. “Somebody moved the fucking kids,” he said. “I was gonna come out her and talk about boners.” His topics included Russians, Bill Cosby, Meth Awareness Month, and Classmates.com. “We’re all one hippy collective,” he said. “Trying to save a generation of kids.” He left the stage, announcing, “My cat can rape people. It’s really cool.”
Dave Eggers laid out the whole 826 deal—a non-profit free tutoring center for kids up to 18 years old—emphasizing that they “STILL NEED MORE TUTORS.” He read three stories from his collection How the Water Feels to the Fishes. There was “Old Enough” about wanting to be elderly so he could do crazy things, like “kick dogs, even if softly.” There was “We Can Work It Out” about Yosemite Bears who don’t like E.M. Forester. There was “The New Rules” which said if you don’t read 10 books a year you might get “disemboweled by bears.”
He apologized for wearing a t-shirt and jeans, explaining that he had dressed in the dark and, consequently, put on a sweater with a hole in the elbow. “A t-shirt is better than a sweater with a hole in it,” he said.
Geologic of Blue Scholars took the stage solo, sans DJ Sabzi, and played his songs acappella. He said that Sabzi usually covers up his words. “Most of the time,” he said, “I could be saying anything up here…This is a chance for those who are familiar with us to focus on the words.”
He went through a spoken-word, slam-poetic version of “Inkwell.” His wife called in the middle and he looked at his cell phone and smiled. He did “Morning of America,” a song about the ’80s—“VH1 never played hip-hop at all”—and then one called “Joe Metro,” about Seattle’s public transportation, including the light rail, which he criticized for displacing people in southern Seattle (especially the ones living along MLK.).
Then there was the hugging part—this happened last year, too—where people donate money and get hugs for it. Roderick and Mirman auctioned off $20 hugs from Dave Eggers and Sasha Frere-Jones (“They cost $30 in New York,” Frere-Jones said). They wheeled out a mechanical El Vez (the real one?) on a dolly in a tiger-print skin-tight outfit, and he gave some hugs, too.
Todd Barry came out and talked a lot about how he’d performed at Carnegie Hall the night before, how playing Town Hall was, comparatively, “a huge fucking letdown,” and “how (he’d) done four events for 826 and still (has) no idea what they do.” All in the art of comedy, of course.
Everything ended with Rosie Thomas and John Roderick playing requests from the audience: “Thriller,” “Freebird,” “Stairway to Heaven,” etc. They admitted that they didn’t have any idea how to play the songs and sang purposefully out of tune and did a funky version of the “Charles in Charge” theme song. Then the whole crowd sang the first verse of “Silent Night,” gospel-style, where everyone stomped feet and clapped hands. It was adorable.