Future Bibles Heroes Live in California
By Rachel; April 14, 2003
I teach the New DJ Training course at KUCI. As the training class meets Thursdays from 7-8pm, I was unable to attend Future Bible Heroes' show in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 10. Although, from my interview with Claudia Gonson and Christopher Ewen on my music show earlier that week, their Friday night show in San Francisco sounded even more appealing: Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) planned to perform "I'm a Vampire" with the group. Faced with this seemingly hopeless I'll-never-see-Future-Bible-Heroes-live situation, I decided to teach training Thursday night (and be reminded by a trainee that Future Bible Heroes were playing in LA right then), and ditch my paying job on Friday to drive up to San Francisco.
I'd only visited SF a few times before, and enjoyed it as much as I can enjoy a big city (big cities being places I generally avoid whenever possible). This trip has secured San Francisco's place as my least despised big city, though. Having left SoCal far too early, my Mom and I arrived in SF with time for a tourist-style afternoon at Fisherman's Wharf. Walking from our hotel (called 'Columbus,' and with a phone number ending in '1492.' Plus, they gave us a room with a view of Bimbo's 365 next door, where Future Bible Heroes would be performing that night.), we passed through the Cannery but didn't stop because the sole employee at the all socks store would be back in five minutes. Our hunger led to the standard clam chowder in a bread bowl from the Boudin bakery. It tasted and cost exactly the same as it always does at all of their locations.
Heading back towards the all socks store, Mom spotted an ice cream shop and decided that she needed ice cream. It was in this 'Anchorage' shopping center that didn't exist the last time I was in town, about two or three years ago. The guy who runs the ice cream shop sounds like Peter Lorre. It was so cool!
At the fabulous sock shop, I purchased a white pair of socks with little red crabs on them. The instrumental music in the store sounded familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. The lady who took my Visa complimented me on the buttons on my purse that I make myself. I left with a beaming opinion of her, until I realized that the music in her store was John Williams' score to "Catch Me if You Can." I guess no body's perfect. (You can tell a score is by John Williams when the catchy main theme becomes grating after only four minutes of tumbling through your brain.)
Then I noticed that the Tower Records we passed on our way to Fisherman's Wharf had a separate Classical Annex across the street. While waiting to cross the street, a lady in the passenger seat of a car waiting at the same light asked my Mom and me if we were having a good time. We of course smiled and said "Yes," and when safely inside the Classical Annex commented on how odd that was. As far as the music store goes: If only the Tower in Orange County had such a vast classical selection! After my difficult choice to purchase only two Olivier Messiaen albums, the clerk at the Classical Annex also complimented me on my many buttons. He was wearing a patriotic button collection, and bought a button featuring Michael Moore from me. I left the Classical Annex feeling very happy. I felt as though I'd found a place for myself, even if it was the kind of place I generally avoid whenever possible.
About 35 mintues before the doors opened at Bimbo's 365, Mom and I exited our hotel directly opposite the club's stage door. The bouncer was very friendly and Mom asked him if the club served food. He said that it didn't (it does, but we figured the bouncer's definition of 'food' might not match that of the club's kitchen), but recommended any of the Italian restuarants up the street, or the restuarants across the street. We didn't go far enough up the street, though. The Mexican/juice bar restuarant where we ate served their chicken raw and their smoothies bitter. I didn't mind so much, as the possibility of meeting any member of Future Bible Heroes in person was making me very nervous and neutralized my appetite, but Mom was hungry so she was particularly unhappy. We did get to see Chris Ewen walk past the restaurant's front window, but I declined Mom's suggestion to tail him.
Once inside Bimbo's 365 (which is famous for its "Girl in a Goldfish Bowl" attraction and therefore must be the restuarant shown in "The Chris Issac Show"), we laid claim to a table towards front/center of the house, but on the right aisle. I like sitting on the aisle at shows. I feel less trapped that way. A couple eventually sat down to share our table, and while I was in the restroom Mom told them my whole life story. (I'm her favorite topic of conversation.) All four of us agreed that the opening act wasn't so great, but some of his songs reminded me of Andras Jones' style, and I enjoy listening to Andras Jones, so he wasn't all that bad.
Future Bible Heroes started with "The World is a Disco Ball," complete with real disco ball action. It's probably the most thematically upbeat song off of their latest album, "Eternal Youth," and was a relatively cheery way to get things going. Claudia's singing was as beautiful as always. Mom agreed. I was pleasantly wowed by how amazing Stephin Merritt sounds live. The feeling stirred by his voice carrying through the club was awesome, in the old-fashioned sense. I began to wonder why manufacturers of compact discs claim to deliver high quality sound reproduction, when I've never heard a CD of Stephin sound as good as his real live self did that night. Or maybe I should just turn up the bass on my home stereo.
Claudia's announcement of "I'm a Vampire" got me on my feet, as there were far too many people standing in front of our table for me to actually see the stage while seated. Claudia began singing and I began to wonder where Mr. Handler was at. Then he discreetly entered from stage right and took his place on a riser behind Claudia and Stephin (Chris' place at the baby grand was sort of not on the stage proper, plus he didn't sing, so all I can say is that his music sounds just a faboo in person as on the CD. I guess Stephin's the odd man out as far as recorded quality is concerned.). When the first iteration of the chorus arrived, Mr. Handler was lit from above by a hellfire red and gloriously hammed his way through lines such as "I am the bitch goddess from beyond your grave." Although I doubt that the entire audience knew who he was, Mr. Handler's performance was well received. He even came back for the end of the song to laugh maniacally.
Future Bible Heroes' style can be described as synth-pop, and their recordings are fun for dancing. Their live performances are generally less high-tech than their recordings, which adds heaping helpings of charm to the beautiful music and witty lyrics. One of my favorite Future Bible Heroes songs is "I'm Lonely and I Love It," from an EP of the same name. It has a good beat and I can dance to it, and describes an ex's joy at breaking up. Stephin performed it solo, on ukulele, and very deadpan. It was enchanting! I think a majority of the audience was unfamiliar with the piece, as they were laughing at all the right places as though the joke were completely new to them. Lots of fun.
Anyhoo, as we were situated on a corner of two main aisles, I'd seen Daniel Handler walk past us a couple of times and gotten all twittery about seeing him in person. When I'd at last figured out where he was seated, I walked over to his table and interrupted his concert viewing. I was able to coherently thank him for writing such good books, and he said "Oh, thank you," and smiled and I smiled back and said something in the way of good-bye and left. It was so cool! I didn't completely freak out like the last time I met someone whose work I adore, and I doubt that the exchange would qualify as stalking, so it was definitely a good thing.
Future Bible Heroes continued to perform fabulously, and came back for an encore and everybody was happy. At least, I was happy and that's all that really matters, right? Exactly.
After waiting for most of the audience to clear out, Mom and I got up to leave. She then shoved me towards Chris Ewen, who was being encircled by friends and groupies alike. I introduced myself and thanked him for talking with me on Sunday. He was very nice and humble and seemed overwhelmed by all of the attention he was getting. Again making to leave, Mom and I ran into the nice bouncer and we chatted for a bit. Mom made a quick synopsis of my life story, focusing on my interviewing Claudia and Chris earlier that week, and having just met Mr. Handler in person. Claudia was back on stage breaking down and packing up equipment/intruments, and friends and groupies were chatting with her. Mom shoved me in that direction, but I had a hard time getting Claudia's attention. After a few moments, the nice bouncer got Claudia's attention and I introduced myself and Claudia was very nice and we chatted for a moment and then I said good-bye and managed to not make a complete fool of myself. Mom and the nice bouncer had watched the exchange and were being far too cutesy with me about the whole thing.
Usually, when faced with celebrities, I either ignore them or freak out because I really want to meet them but am naturally inclined to being very shy, and so get very neurotic and spaztic. But that night I think I managed to act perfectly shy and awkward, which is my normal reaction to meeting regular people whom I know nothing about for the first time. I think it was a good step, personally. I didn't freak out and embarass myself. Yay!