Smile Politely

If you’d like a burrito…

I have been staring at the computer screen for hours, wondering how I can describe my complex feelings about Pete Yorn, in order to write this review of the show on Saturday at the Canopy that I said I would do. I’m kind of in a tough spot; I don’t want to bash his music, because that seems snobby and pretentious, but at the same time I don’t want to pretend I love it in order to write a straight-laced review, because that isn’t the case either. And no offense to Pete himself, but I don’t want to be identified as a Pete Yorn Fan. I guess I’ll just be honest. Pete Yorn is fucking hot, and that was my main motivation for attending the show.

Not that he doesn’t hold a special place in my heart otherwise. After his first album (musicforthemorningafter) came out in 2001, I spent many hours driving around with it playing through the car stereo of my beloved Nissan Sentra, and listening to it while curled up on the couch. It occupies the same mental filing cabinet as September 11, turkey-on-a-bagel sandwiches, red corduroy pants, and step aerobics. I think of Pete when I think of the huge downtown apartment that we lived in, above a tattoo shop where the aroma of marijuana smoke regularly wafted up from underneath our bathroom sink. I haven’t listened to the album for years, so in a way, going to the show on Saturday was like returning to an ethereal Tintern Abbey to see how things had changed.

But anyway. My friend, Emma, and I arrived almost at the end of Wellspring’s set, and sat at the bar while the crowd trickled in. I had expected a greater number of people to be in attendance. I would guess that there was maybe 150 in the crowd that night, and they seemed to be, in general, drunker and more obnoxious than at the average show I see there. During Ben Kweller’s set there were lots of loud and insistent female “WOOOOOO!!!!”s, both between songs and during the middle of them. “OMG we’re in college!” seemed to be the pervasive sentiment of the evening.  

Speaking of Ben Kweller, his set was lovely. He was clad in a green striped sweater that he must have stolen from Kurt Cobain’s closet, and with his shaggy red hair and goofy smile, he seemed unassuming but completely at ease on the stage. I’ve never seen a semi-famous person of his magnitude interact with a crowd so gracefully. People in the audience would scream song titles, and he would smile and launch right into them.

Even though I hadn’t listened to any of his music in a good number of years either, the songs were strong enough to be enjoyable to someone who hadn’t heard them before.  This is not to be an exhaustive setlist, but he played: “I Don’t Know Why,” “Commerce, TX,” “Things I Like To Do,” “My Apartment,” “How it Should Be (Sha Sha),” “Falling – God Only Knows,” “Thirteen,” and “Sundress.” The highlight for me was when he segued from his song “Falling” into a cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” The crowd stood in stunned silence for the first time of the evening, and I can only hope that they were struck by the beauty of the moment, rather than stymied by their lack of knowledge of music history. During the bridge, he flubbed the notes a couple of times, but laughed and said, “It’s a very very hard song to play.” The only thing noticeably missing was his biggest hit, “Wasted and Ready”

OK — now for what you’ve all been waiting for — Pete! And before you all start getting all self-righteous on me and being like, “wait, isn’t your HUSBAND an editor of this fine website?” I’ll let you know that we have regular conversations about how hot Natalie Portman is. We’re all free like that. Enough said.

So, Pete came out, wearing jeans, a black t-shirt that said “Clancy’s”, and a black leather jacket, which he removed after the first couple of songs. What is it about Pete Yorn that makes him so hot? Well, I guess he is the epitome of “my type”, if you know said husband, you’ll understand. I like beards and/or 3 day stubble and long unkempt hair on dudes. And Pete has a great nose, and a great body. RAWR. Moving on…

One thing that Emma and I noticed was the unusual stage and lighting concept. First of all, there were two ficus trees on stage that his band mates would inexplicably move back and forth across the stage between songs. In the back, was your standard large screen with projected videos. The weird thing, though, was that throughout the whole concert, there was no direct lighting on Pete’s face, except for brief flashes, and the dim light that came from standing in front of the projector. Instead, they had several bright lights on stage that they shone into the crowd for most of his set. We surmised that this could be for one of three reasons:

1.  He wants to be known for more than his pretty face, and the darkness surrounding him helps people focus on the music.  

2. He wants to be able to clearly see all of the girls that are eye-sexing him from the audience.  

3.  He realizes that if his face were properly lighted, revealing his full glory, that these girls might riot or stampede.  

He played some songs. A lot were from his first album, actually. Everyone I’ve mentioned Pete Yorn to in the last week inevitably has the same reaction. His first album was good, the rest is embarrassing. It’s good that maybe he realizes this, and we were treated to “Strange Condition,” “Just Another,” “Lose You,” “For Nancy,” “Murray,” “Closet,” um… almost the whole album, really. I’m thankful that he ignored the drunken requests for “Burrito.” He also played some of his newer songs, including “Rock Crowd.”

This is the crux of the problem.  “Rock Crowd” is a terrible song.  The lyrics are too specific, sincere to the point of being trite, and too meta.  

“Before the show I never know if I could make it, I spend each day, each day trying not to fake it, Every morning is a constant struggle, My life makes perfect sense.”

Ughhh. It reminds me of the scene in Freaks and Geeks, where Jason Segel’s character, Nick, sings his friend a song that he has written for Lindsay, the girl he is crushing on, called “Lady L”. It is obviously very heartfelt, but juvenile and extremely cringeworthy. I want to like Pete Yorn for his music, not just his pretty face, and if he was better able to straddle the line between cheesy and pure pop goodness, I would feel better about waxing poetic about his hotness.

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