Itís billed as the ìSounds Eclecticî evening, and it was just that and more. KCRW, arguably the nationís number one destination for ground-breaking new music, held its annual concert to celebrate the artists who make the station so special and the listeners who are lucky enough to live within its broadcasting range. The bill boasted Jem, Damien Rice, Gary Jules, Jurassic 5, Liz Phair, The Polyphonic Spree, a surprise performance by the sultry Shelby Lynne, and a solo acoustic performance by Beck.
By the time I negotiated the parking lot traffic at the Universal Amphitheater, I had missed Jem, Gary Jules and most of Liz Phairís set. I did, however, catch her energetic acoustic rendition of ìSupernova.î This set the stage for the Shelby Lynneís unbilled performance. As she rolled to center stage on the ìlazy susanî-style rotating stage with her cropped blonde hair, she couldíve easily been mistaken for Beck, and the comparisons donít stop there. Lynne was followed by Beck and the two seem to be kindred musical spirits. Lynneís set was highlighted by ìLonesomeî which she wrote ìforty years too late for Patsy Kline.î And Beck channeled Hank Williamsí rockabilly spirit in ìLonesome Whistle,î a song previously released on KCRWís Sounds Eclectic compilation. Beck has matured as a performer and his voice has never sounded better. From ìThe Golden Ageî to ìKangarooî to an Elliott Smith tribute (ìAlamedaî and ìClementineî) to a funked-out mix of Nellyís ìHot In Hereî and his very own classic ìWhere Itís At,î Beck epitomized the eclectic nature of KCRW.
Beck finished his set funk-style and got the crowd on its feet for another half-turn of the lazy susan, which brought Jurassic 5 and the musical genius of their DJs Newmark and Cut Chemist. In one of the eveningís many highlights these beat freaks tore it up courtesy of four turntables and a Fischer-Price set-up that would make any toddler envious.
The evening was all about big sounds and Damian Rice and his 5-piece brought the biggest. Drawing off his debut release O portended even bigger things to come in his bourgeoning musical career. But to say that the eveningís finale was big would do it no justice. The Polyphonic Spree, whoíve gained notoriety for their track in the Volkswagon Beatle/iPod spot, stormed the stage like an evangelical rock & roll gang. Part Jesus Christ Superstar, part Ween and part lord-knows-what-else, the 23-piece mÈlange jumped and jumped and sang about beautiful, sunny days.
After all, thatís what KCRW is about ñ making everyday that much more beautiful with music. Ultimately the nightís real stars were the KCRW programmers ñ and they were thanked at every turn of the lazy susan. Hats off to Nic Harcourt, Ann Litt, Tricia Halloran, Liza Richardson, Garth Trinidad, Jason Bentley and Ariana Morgenstern for making the evening and all of our days eclectic.