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Gabby La La

Joe’s Pub

Gabby La LaA Monday night in the swirling urban banality of NYC, the air cool but not cold easing its way through the end of April, and I, marching into a packed Joe’s Pub, wondering what happened to all the smoke in this lounge, daddy-o?

Les Claypool protege Gabby La La is on stage with the man himself, she in red dress, sultry in a comic book kind of way, cooing in her high soprano that we’d all better “be careful what you wish for, ’cos it might come true—oooh,” Claypool in trademark pig mask manhandling a stick standup bass. Harrison, the mysterious Canadian drummer identified only as those two things—Harrison and Canadian—was in a rhythmic daze, his arms subtly and skillfully conjuring and dismissing gods and old faces as heads all around exploded in well-grooved amazement.

The Primus frat boy contingent was in the house, minor heckling, some take-off-yourshirtery, but La La didn’t miss a beat as she worked over the multiple instruments of her repertoire: butterfly guitar, toy piano, accordion, sitar, and a Theremin which she conducted with simple, poetic movements in a quick solo, it whining at her every precise motion like a begging robot dog.

To experience the show, the lounge, the beer-guzzling assholes—yes, most especially them—and to have it all blown apart by the sheer presence of someone like Gabby La La on stage, is incredible. What some could easily dismiss as a joke I take as performance art, meticulous, creative, highly skilled. On record, she’s catchy, kitschy, an art deco masterpiece. Live, she’s another level of engagement, totally superhuman.

As I sat on a step at the Pub, snuggling the left foot of a well-dressed collegian as he flagged down the waitress and ordered another martini (she stood in front of me, blocking my view of Gabby looping her sitar track so she could conduct the Theremin with a plastic sword), it dawned on me that this environment, nearly stagnant in its ease and establishment poise, posturing, fit music this genuinely artistic the way trucks fit under low bridges.

Even as I’ve gone over each nuance of the songs on her album, trying somewhere to find a crack I can crawl in and hermit myself like a fissure on the side of a mountain, I can claim no real knowledge of the complexities of her music. And if I could, I wouldn’t dare to, as it’s simply above the reach of my comprehension. Let it fulfill the reviewer’s task to say it’s an infrequent occurrence for performers to render one speechless. I haven’t said a word about this show yet.

—by , May 18, 2005

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