Just like last year, last night’s Bookeaters benefit was one of those all-time classic events, custom tailored for indie nerds and charitable lit geeks alike. Carl Newman, Grizzly Bear, Britt Daniel, Feist, Kevin Drew, Jim James, Demetri Martin … we’re still reeling. And so we really have no choice but to offer you an exhaustive blow-by-blow (don’t worry, pretty pics too!).
Got a little late on the way up to the Theater (unfortunately missed Carl Newman’s set, luckily he’d be out again later), but walking in to Dan Rossen singing Grizzly Bear’s magical rendition of “Deep Blue Sea” got us in the mood to rock for literacy right quick. The guys were joined by Grizzly tourmate Feist for a song (Demetri, we totally coined “Feisty Bear“) and later offered up a rare and gorgeous take on Yellow House’s haunting “Marla” (written by Ed Droste’s great-aunt in the ’30s, a failed singer-songwrter: “Hopefully we don’t follow in her footsteps!”). The set closed with Dan and Chris Bear’s cover of “Graceland,” which you really oughta hear. Thankfully, the guys sent over a demo a while ago, so check the MP3 below. As always, Grizzly were great (and made a huge fan of Travis singer Fran Healy, on hand and in the wings all night).
Demetri Martin was an inspired host choice because a) this was a literate crowd, and Demetri loves his wordplay; and b) this was a benefit, and Martin’s an appropriately nice guy. Unless you’re heckling him. During a great bit on wondering if he could put an exclamation point in a sympathy card and make it appropriate (“The best I could come up with was ‘Sorry for your loss … God! … Why!'”) a heckler yelled from the rafters “Put the bands on!” After a robust round of boos, Demetri went off:
Just so you know, they’re not booing me; they’re booing you for being such an idiot at a benefit concert [cheers and applause]. You want the bands to come on? I want the bands to come on, too! I’m telling jokes so they can set up behind me. What do you think, I came down here and was like “Hey, I know you’re getting all these bands to play, but do you think I could go out there to tell two minutes of jokes in between to piss off the asshole in the balcony?”
Served! From the shadows behind him, Jim James came out and offered his support to Martin with a loving pat on the shoulder. Demetri hung his head and sauntered off. “Fine, you win…”
“I was offering encouragement to Demetri, not asking him to get off!” Jim said as he sidled up to the mic. No purple tux this time, just a nice suit and 15 minutes of straight shivers. After an awesome, acoustic “Bermuda Highway,” JJ busted out that wacky Omnichord contraption (like at Angel Orensanz last year) for “What A Wonderful Man” (“Some people think that song is about God, but it’s not.”). And after a funny and perfectly random story about a hole in the roof of a church in Louisville, KY (Jim bookended it hilariously with “Some people think this next song is about God, but it’s not”), Mr. James tore down the Beacon with an instantly classic “Gideon.” The night’s longest and loudest applause, it’s most talked about post-show moment, and probably the greatest single outbreak of goosebumps we’ve had this year. Next time you see him, buy that man a drink. Somebody, please: YouTube.
After Jim came a skit from Sarah Vowell, Leo Allen, Eugene Mirman, and Demetri, acting out the life of George Washington (“no relation”) both with and without the tutoring help of 826NYC. Demetri reminded us we could donate by filling out the check boxes on the supplied form (“remember that last option says ‘$10,000 or more,’ so don’t feel limited to $10,000″).
Stirring moments from the Arts & Crafts family. Lovely Leslie Feist’s performance consisted of reading some childrens’ stories (enchanting, of course), followed by a trip to the piano for a mesmerizing rendition of The Reminder knockout “The Water.” Later, it was Kevin Drew (joined by fellow BSSer Brendan Canning) on Spirit If…‘s “F–ked Up Kid” and Broken Social jam “Superconnected.” Brendan played some schmaltzy piano music while Kevin tuned up (“it’s adult contemporary night here at the Beacon — we’re gonna get Bruce Hornsby up here in a sec, ’cause that just the way it is…”). We also learned Kevin’s favorite book (The Secret). Unfortunately no Kevin and Leslie duet. Guess we’ll just have to see what goes down at McCarren on Wednesday. Afterwards we had a chat with Kevin and couldn’t help but bring up our favorite live show of ’06. He said he’d been approached about that very show a few times last night alone. Sounds about right. Here’s hoping the full BSS fam is back and touring soon.
The night closed out on a high note with Spoon man Britt Daniel, killing it solo on “I Summon You,” later joined on piano by Lara Meyerratken (“Black Like Me”), and then by newlywed Pornographer Carl Newman on Alex Chilton’s “Hey! Little Child.” Britt told us later that he felt some nerves, though you’d never have known. But clearly he was moved by the night — as were all the performers — playing such a beautiful theater (one that he’d last been at as a fan for an Elvis Costello show in ’99), for such a great cause.
BRITT DANIEL & CARL NEWMAN
Waiting on video of that! In the meantime, have you seen Keepon’s latest Spoonchrynicized dance?
For all the gush, there was one disappointment: no giant superjam! But they needed everybody out by 10PM (it’s a union thing), so it goes. And after last night, it’s impossible to complain. So, here’s your reward for slogging through the babble:
Until next year … donate! Your accountant and the next generation of expositive writers will love you.