May 21, 2009

Steve Martin's Big Bad Banjo concert

Last week, I attended Steve Martin's Big Bad Banjo and Conversation with humorist Dave Barry at Club Nokia in LA Live downtown. I'm not necessarily a banjo or bluegrass fan, although I don't dislike it either. After all, the kid on the banjo in Deliverance had a good tune going. I am, however, a big Steve Martin, the Renaissance man. We all know he can do comedy and act, and he even wrote the witty film Bowfinger too. A few years ago, I saw his paintings at The Belagio in Vegas and have been reading his witty articles in The New Yorker for years. I became a true admirer of his though after reading his novella Shop Girl and The Pleasure of My Company. I especially like how he describes different characters, very unique. For example this is his description for just a supporting character:

I see something that describes her more clearly. It occurs in the pauses in her speech when her eyes fix on an air spot roughly waist-high and she seems to be in a trance. And then suddenly it's as if her mind races, trying to catch up to real time, and she continues right where she left off. If you saw her in these moments, you might think she was collecting her thoughts in order to go forward. But I see it another way: her mind is being overwhelmed by two processes that must simultaneously proceed at full steam. One is to deal with and live in the present world. The other is to re-experience and mourn something that happened long ago. It is as though her lightness pulls her toward heaven, but the extra gravity around her keeps her earthbound."
Anyway, back to the banjo and the concert. If all the above wasn't enough for Steve, he has also won a Grammy Award alongside Earl Scruggs, and recently released an album, The Crow (listen here). At Club Nokia he performed and picked along with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's John McEuen and the Steep Canyon Rangers to songs that he wrote himself. The music was fun, foot stomping and surprisingly pretty. The best part of the night though, was that it started with an interview with Steve discussing his music and how he picked up the Banjo. Turns out he's been playing since he was in high school at age 17 and he keeps a banjo in several rooms throughout his home. The interview was infused of course with funny quips, the best being his Billy Bob Thornton-like response when asked how it was playing with Dolly Parton to which he said "Would you ask Tom Petty that question?" lol. I was in the standing area only, which kind of sucks since I'm not six foot tall, but we elbowed our way up to a good spot. Proceeds from the concert benefited the Los Angeles Public Library.

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