It was about a year ago when I ran in to an odd youtube featuring a heart shaped transparent 45 that lifted the soul crushing opening drums from Lee Dorsey's version of "Get Out Of My Life, Woman". I was immediately hooked on the slower tempo churner that boasted of one lover's realization that things just weren't going to work out.
Now the identity of the 45 has been revealed, packaged and promoted (in Stones Throw's own grassroots fashion) profusely as, who we all know now as, Mayer Hawthorne.
Riding hard on the back of his first full length release on Stones Throw ("A Strange Arrangement") and it's subsequent current single (re: a New Holidays cover) "Maybe So, Maybe No", the Ann Arbor, Michigan native finds himself on his (I would think) first whirlwind tour spanning two continents.
Having been able to earnestly dissect the entire album for more than a week (I'm looking at you Pendleton Round-Up and your mind numbing 4 hour drive) and becoming an honest fan of what I like to call an "ambitious" first effort that roots itself in a deep Doo-Wop and Motown sound, I found myself with the unique opportunity to see the live product intimately at our local jazz lounge, Jimmy Mak's (thanks to Portland's annual Musicfest Northwest).
Now before I go any further about the actual show, it's important to mention the mentality of the crowd, due in part to the fucking disaster that is James Pants, upon my arrival. This guy. Man. This fucking guy. Seriously, it needs to end. We were all subjected to a 40 minute "DJ Set" (term used as advertised) that basically translated in to him on stage, mumbling incoherently in to a mic and flailing around like a wounded duck while he played with his iPod. It was basically a Tony Clifton-esque karaoke performance (oh yes, sunglasses and Elmer Fudd Hunting Cap intact) that had strange tones of a Tim and Eric (Awesome show. Great job.) skit that went horribly wrong. I hate even the idea of even giving this clown this much exposure, but I couldn't pound my drinks fast enough to make it stop and thus the crowd responded accordingly in mood and anticipation for the end. I'd be pissed if I had paid to see that circus.
That being said, young Mr. Hawthorne came to the stage to a welcoming, hungry and standing-room-only crowd. Immediately launching in to his current single, I notice the absence of the horn section and, in effect, my favorite part of the album. Meh. My interest still holds. 10 minutes later, I find that the 2 biggest hits from the album have been played and I'm listening to a steady barrage "Rest in Peace so-in-so" and oddly southern twanged "Whurr all my ladies at". Huh, I didn't know they said slang terms like "scurred" in Ann Arbor? Go figure.
His stripped down band, and in effect his hour long show, moved along at a steady enough pace to hold my curiosity but not my complete interest. There were lulls and surprises throughout the rest of the set, most coming from his selection of covers. Most notably, a surprising ELO track (sorry, the name escapes me), then morphing his own "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" in to Slum Village's (re: J Dilla's) "Fall In Love" instrumental and a respectable version of The Isley Brothers "Work To Do" (check for the Average White Bands version, my personal favorite - thanks Danny).
All in all, the dude has ambition and great taste. I prefer the final product of his album over his live show due in part mainly to the exceptional production, but I'm not knocking the guy's show. I fully endorse any opportunity to catch his act as it's easily better than 75% of the acts on tour at this time.