March 03, 2002

Noise Pop Tour Diary, Day 5

Day 5 brought us the linchpin of this whole damn festival, and the reason I decided to pony up 100-plus clams for a badge: Big Star.

Not even more badge-entry problems (badgeholders were again made to wait in line with rank-and-file ticketholders $#151; how gauche) could dampen my enthusiasm for Alex Chilton and co. The Moore Brothers, on the other hand, almost did. I'm still grappling with how these guys got on this bill and what they thought they were doing up there. Lemme set the scene for you. Two dudes, one guitar. Dude 1: Average white yuppie-looking guy you'd expect to see walking the streets of Cow Hollow or trolling for his next date-rape victim at Ruby Skye. Dude 2: A bloated, redneck version of Robert Smith (sans lipstick) in too-small overalls. How bizarre, indeed. But it gets bizarrer.

Dude 1 opens the show by singing some Irish folk song, a cappella. Dude 2 stands and sways to the music. They trade the guitar back and forth after each Simon and Garfunkel-sounding number. Lyrics are completely nonsensical, making Dada poetry seem positively lucid by comparison. And I'm not sure exactly what's happening. Maybe they're an acoustic novelty/comedy/musical act in the vein of Tenacious D. Maybe they're two escaped lunatics posing as folk musicians. Maybe they're just really, really bad and shouldn't be playing coffeehouses, much less the freaking Fillmore opening for Big Star. I eventually went with the third theory. And all the while I'm standing, waiting for the punch line. I'm still waiting.

After what seemed like an eternity, Imperial Teen hit the stage. Now while I've never been a huge fan, I.T. have been known to rock me. They played good old rocking stuff like "Yoo Hoo" and "Lipstick" and a smattering of new stuff off their forthcoming Merge Records release, "On," due out April 9. No groundbreaking developments on that slab, I'm guessing; more quirky, angular pop.

OK, so for the last, like, 10 minutes I've been trying to find a synonym for "came on" or "took the stage" or something, but none is forthcoming. So I give up.

Big Star came on and they were fantastic, dammit. Original members Chilton and Jody Stephens were excellently assisted by Ken and Jon from the Posies (who play Noise Pop today at 1:30 at Cafe du Nord, so run out now and get in line, kids), who nailed every Chris Bell guitar lick and vocal harmony. Mr. Chilton could have stood stock still and phoned in a set of Big Star's Greatest Hits and the eager crowd would've eaten it up, but this was no novelty act. Chilton appeared to be having the time of his life, smiling and singing and free and easy, and that contributed to the once-in-a-lifetime party atmosphere that prevailed. Rock school was in session, and I only hope a few of the young whippersnapper shoegazey boring dream-pop acts I'd seen this week were there for the lesson.

The great gig got even greater when, as we were walking around the venue for a different vantage point, we came upon one John Doe. I got the opportunity to shake the man's hand and thank him for an incredible set the night before. Big Star and John Doe on the same night. Yeah, I imagine I can die happy now.

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