This is me and Frank Orrall, lead singer of Poi Dog Pondering, touring percussionist for Thievery Corporation, and one of my musical heroes. Two weekends ago H and I wrestled with whether or not to go to Vegas, but the prospect of a free show with Thievery Corp. and Gnarls Barklay was too good to pass up, so we braved the ridiculous heat. Whenever Thievery comes to town we get backstage, thanks to Holly's friends from the most excellent Baltimore funk band, All Mighty Senators. They are horn players that got tapped to play with Thievery's touring ensemble, and they are righteous dudes.
On trumpet, Dave:
On sax, Frank:
So the show in Vegas was great, it was at the Mandalay Bay beach, where you could wade in knee-deep water and dance, while the band is playing right above you, and Thievery crushed it, especially when Seu George sat in. Gnarls Barklay was, of course, fantastic. And we hung out with the guys until very late. Getting back on Sunday was awful, as a big rig had tumbled off the road just across the border, and we were backed up in stop and go traffic in 112 degree heat. It took 2 hours to go 16 miles. then it was smooth sailing. But we were so wrecked when we got back, we just kept dragging our asses and didn't walk over to the Hollywood Bowl until Thievery's encore. We did hear the Seu George song we wanted to hear, the one Dave said they had arranged that day, and it went over great. Clearly we had missed an awesome show, and we were pretty bummed. But then we got to go to the after party at the Roosevelt Hotel, and that was kind of cool. At the vegas show I had noticed a new guy playing percussion who looked exactly like Frank Orrall of Poi Dog, who I had just seen a month ago at the Troubador. It just didn't make any sense that it would be him, so I put it out of my mind, until I saw him up close at the after party. Dave confirmed it was the same Frank Orrall, and he introduced us to him.
Now I've been going to Poi Dog shows since the early nineties, but that's not too many shows, since they almost exclusively play in Chicago. In fact for me, the chance to see Poi Dog was the tipping point for going to Lollapalooza in Chi-town in '06, or whenever that was. Their show here in L.A. a month ago was such a treat, even though I went alone, because they were playing all these old songs, and had a couple of members from the original line-up, from before they went techno. Frank Orral is one of my heroes because in his lyrics and in his stage-presence he exudes this unashamed positivity that is just completely absent from the music scene. To me it's very brave to be that authentically enthusiastic and just full of love. And I find the shows healing in a way. Also because the lyrics deal a lot with death and misery, but it ends up being in a positive way, a misery and fear that everyone can share and acknowledge. I didn't really get to say that stuff to Frank, but I did gush about shows that I'd seen, and he responded to many details. When I told him about trading a bottle of Makers Mark for a tour-shirt at Slim's in S.F., he knew the guy I'd bartered with, remembered his name, and said he'd most likely had a sip of the booze that night. When I told him how I'll never forget the look on his face when he took the stage at the Fillmore, so surprised how much love in the room there was for Poi Dog, having not played there in 8 years, he said he was so nervous that they'd booked the Fillmore, and he thought they could never fill the place. And of course, I found him to be gracious and kind and attentive to everyone around him. Such a sweet man. He offered to get H a drink, and came back with a tray of drinks for everyone. And he was very cool about my obvious fanboy-ness. So that was a great time, and I really thank Dave and Frank, the horn players, for hanging with us whenever they get to town.
And thanks, Holly, for being so awesome as to bring the polaroid camera!