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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thoughts on a Night with Liz Phair, Stephan Jenkins, the Velvet Underground, and Practically Every Musician in the Mission

Posted By on Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 12:55 PM

Stephan Jenkins performing "European Son" with members of Os Beaches and the Blank Tapes
  • Stephan Jenkins performing "European Son" with members of Os Beaches and the Blank Tapes
Stephan Jenkins, frontman of Third Eye Blind, is tall. This I realized last night, as I was standing next to the man inside Coda Jazz Supper Club on Mission Street, stumbling for words to introduce him to a sold-out crowd. The S.F. resident says he is also an ardent fan of this city and its music.

As evidence for this, Jenkins was one of the special guests at a performance last night of the Velvet Underground and Nico by more than 40 local musicians, most of them classically trained regulars on the Mission club circuit. Thought up by Classical Revolution founder Charith Premawardhana, Jazz Mafia mastermind Adam Theis, and local event planner Lyz Luke, the one-off night featured two performances of the entire album, with each song by a different set of artists.

Liz Phair and Jazz Mafia doing "All Tomorrow's Parties"
  • Liz Phair and Jazz Mafia doing "All Tomorrow's Parties"
Mark Matos & Os Beaches did a haunting "Heroin," Rupa Mayra and Ara Anderson did a gorgeous "Femme Fatale," Liz Phair inhabited the icy spirit of Nico -- and smoked a cigarette onstage -- for "All Tomorrow's Parties," and Stephan Jenkins howled like a madman for album closer "European Son," a song Lou Reed dedicated to his favorite professor at Syracuse University. These weren't strict covers -- most of the artists reinterpreted the original songs, sometimes radically. The California Honeydrops, for example, did a nearly a capella "Run, Run, Run" -- with only a guitar accompanying their four gorgeous voices.

The organizers asked me to emcee the show as the Velvet-guiding Andy Warhol. I obliged, came dressed as the pop artist himself, and in true Warholian fashion (he's credited with producing the album but didn't actually contribute much to it), offered little more than a bit of history and a few mumbled wisecracks ahead of each song. I also rediscovered the joy of being glib (although try as I did, it was hard to answer every question with "um, yes," or "um, no," as Warhol would have.)

The show, I think it's fair (and only partially biased) to say, was a success. It was chaotic, beautiful, unpredictable, and fascinating. Both sets ran long, largely because setting up for a new band between each tune takes a while. But most performances managed to wring some fresh glory out of these 11 classic songs, and even the ones that didn't reminded us how intoxicating the Velvet Underground's first album still is.

When the second show finished, long after 1 a.m. this morning, only a fraction of the original audience remained. Those that stayed witnessed an extended freak-out jam courtesy of Os Beaches, the Blank TapesPete Devine, and others -- an awesome beer-bottle-slide-guitar, drum-pounding, bass-slapping noise journey (and dance party) that had to be stopped by security because everyone was having too great a time.

Stephan Jenkins was gone by the very end, but he (or anyone else for that matter) will be able to hear last night's performance all he wants: the Mission's own Porto Franco Records plans to release a live recording of the show within a month.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown and @iPORT

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Ian S. Port


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