Day #44: Crystal Castles – “Cry Babies”
I love Portlandia. That show is the perfect jab at the self-indulgent hipster generation. Or really, the self-indulgent white middle class. Co-writer/co-star Carrie Brownstein perfectly captured what it’s all about in their recent interview with the New Yorker:
I was standing in line at Whole Foods, and the guy in front of me says, ‘I really wish you guys sold locally made fresh pasta.’ And the cashier says, ‘Look, we do.’ And the guy says, ‘No, no—that’s from Seattle.’ Really? You don’t have a bigger battle?”
So when my friends and I, recent devotees of the show (finally something hilarious that wasn’t produced in Britain first!), learned that Brownstein, and her co-star, Fred Armisen, were taking the show on the road, we were pretty stoked. For an under-publicized tour that only started up in late December, the Portlandia Tour has been quite successful. What started as a six city tour (yes, that includes Portland) almost immediately sold out before extra dates were added. They performed at the 9:30 Club here in DC last night.
Carrie cranks the arm of a giant invisible antique cash register while Fred looks on.
This tour may have been something developed on the fly, and turned out to be a larger success than either Brownstein or Armisen expected. The event at the 9:30 Club was originally supposed to be a sit-down show. Then, I guess the cha-ching chimes went off after the show sold out within an hour of tickets going on sale. It then became two shows, both standing room-only. Clearly, a lot of people around here are big fans of the show, and were expecting something good. Unfortunately, as the title of this blog makes obvious, it was immensely disappointing. (If you are heading to any future Portlandia tour dates, you may want to read this first: 12 Things We Saw, Heard and Learned at Last Night’s Portlandia Tour Show).
I will stop here to say that the biggest foul was committed by the venue itself. We arrived just after doors opened, only to find ourselves at the back of a very long line. By the time we got in, the place was packed, and we found standing room on the upstairs balcony. “I just hope they don’t plan on using that screen,” Steph said. A set of hanging speakers blocked the views of people standing on the left and right balconies. Well, they did use the screen. A lot. So, it was kind of like paying to go to a ball game and sitting behind a view-blocking pillar. That really made me feel like I got screwed out of the decent chunk of change we paid for our tickets.
Thank God most of this material is going to show up on TV anyways. (photo credit: SportsJournalists.com)
Well that, and that the show was pretty horrible. (Note: most of what I’m about to describe has already been said by someone else in 12 Things We Saw, Heard and Learned at Last Night’s Portlandia Tour Show). Perhaps the first (really second) sign of bad news was disembodied Kyle MacLachlan (as Portland’s mayor on the show) appearing onscreen to remind us, the audience, to mind our manners. I’ve never been to a show before, even the kind where people get really aggressive, where we had to be reminded to respect those around us. And hipsters (yeah, perhaps not surprisingly, they were the majority of the audience) are quite possibly the tamest crowd around. Was there a performance earlier in the tour that was stopped because of the sudden eruption of a riot in the audience that we weren’t aware of? But that wasn’t the worst of it.
Throughout the show we were played as-yet-unaired skits from the show. They were funny, but you had to wonder how people felt about paying $30 to watch something that they’ll eventually see on TV in a few weeks. And that’s the thing about the Portlandia live show: It didn’t seem all that planned. It was amorphous. It had no shape. — Brian McManus
Steph pretty much said the same thing after we left the show. Going into this, I was expecting something ala Flight of the Conchords or the Mighty Boosh. You know, where they may recreate (either with sets or just dialog) something like you’d see in Portlandia. They didn’t. Instead, it was half-related to Portlandia (and much of that was in the form of the show’s opening credits and not-yet-aired skits, which of course, we couldn’t see), and the rest was Fred and Carrie and a handful of unknown guests on stage trying to fill up an hour and a half and call it a night. Fred and Carrie invited some guy named Ian onstage to acquaint themselves with the crowd and talk about living in DC. There was a skit about text messages (which was sort of like something you’d see on Portlandia). Fred and Carrie went through a reel of old photos from their laptops and a lot of it felt like if you had seen old photos of your own friends and pointed out all the funny things about their outdated clothes and dorky poses and such. They did open the show with the “Dream of the 90’s” song, and later played one about making jewelry. There was also a Q & A which was kind of interesting, since people didn’t ask totally stupid questions. We learned that Anthony Keidis, John Waters, and Tom Hulce had been asked to guest star on the show, but their schedules made it impossible. And, a girl named Genesis (no lie) asked Fred and Carrie if they wanted to see her Eddie Vedder tattoo (a joke from the show, in case you’re unfamiliar). It wasn’t until she was finally onstage that we learned that it wasn’t of Eddie Vedder, but lyrics from a Pearl Jam song. And really, only three or four words from their song, “Black.”
I was eying the door when Eleanor Friedberger of Fiery Furnaces (someone else I didn’t care about and didn’t pay to see) appeared on stage at the end to play several songs from her solo album. When Fred and Carrie and their two backing musicians joined in for Natalie Merchant cover song, I was ready for the first time ever to walk out of a show.