Saturday, March 09, 2013

Rhett Miller at Largo: Not like the old days

Having seen Rhett Miller many times at the old Largo club (on Fairfax) last decade, seeing him perform at the new Largo (at the Clarinet Theater on La Cienega) for the first time last Wednesday came with a set of associations.

The old venue was a small club with tables where one was obligated to buy dinner (typically pasta); the new venue is a few-hundred seat theater with rigid seats facing an elevated stage. As such, rather than being a standing-room-only event it appeared about a half-full show; not only did it lack the intimacy but it also seemed like less of a big deal, even though a decade ago his shows happened monthly (because he lived locally) and now happens only on rare occasions when he's in town (now that he lives in upstate New York). We didn't have to watch for the announcement of the show on the venue's website and get on the list quickly before it filled; we literally could have walked up two minutes before show time and only ended up maybe seven rows farther back than we did (which still would have provided a fine view of the stage).

I know how that seems like an improvement, but... well... that's not how a Rhett show should be.

The seats are probably the biggest hurdle, however. Not that the wooden chairs at the tables of the old place were super comfortable, and not that swiveling around to see the stage while leaving room for the servers to bring food and drinks couldn't be confining, but it still allowed for that modest movement; the seats in the theater, being original I imagine, have charm but not much padding, and there's no space for any lateral movement. As such, the show that went well over two hours (filled with a cavalcade of guests joining him on stage) reached a welcome conclusion—not that it wasn't entertaining, and not that we didn't get our money's worth, but rather than hoping for another encore we were happy to be able to get up and exit.

That's not how a Rhett show should be.

And this is all glossing over how the environment made the crowd seem relatively docile—which would be fine had we been watching, say, a play. However, as anyone who has seen Rhett either with just his guitar or with the 97's knows, he rocks out on stage; he has only one mode, and that's best served either with no seats, but if one must be seated, at tables in a small club (being served drinks) is the way to go.

I understand why Largo owner Flanagan took the opportunity to relocate to the larger space. I further grasp why they leave the space more or less as it was (not only for the historic flourishes but to avoid spending the money overhauling would cost). More fans get to enjoy the shows. They can book bigger names, or at least acts with more members (having a full stage rather than a space in the corner).

It's someplace that makes me consider not merely how good what I saw was but the process of seeing it in a way that the old location didn't.

That's not how a Rhett show should be.

I will make clear I still very much enjoyed the evening's entertainment, but if he comes back to new Largo, I must admit I'd have to think about how badly I wish to go there.

But I suppose had I never experienced the shows at the old Largo this new one would be fine, because this would be my standard for how a Rhett show should be.


Yes, I grasp this is the epitome of a "first world" issue. Apologies to those who were hoping for a review of what happened on stage. Perhaps eventually I'll be inspired to talk about when Rhett serenaded his friend Nick Offerman--yep, that Nick Offerman.

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