Thursday, October 30, 2008

Author Mark Everett and Red Cortez

Tuesday (October 28, 2008) was the book signing event at West Hollywood's Book Soup for Mark Oliver Everett and his book Things the Grandchildren Should Know. The Eels leader has published an autobiography in conjunction with the American premiere showings of the BBC/PBS documentary, Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives on Nova.

I got into The Eels music a couple of years ago when they played the Sunset Junction street festival and they were amazing. I had really enjoyed the video for "Trouble with Dreams" and seen them on some late night show. I picked up Blinking Lights and Other Revelations and was totally intrigued by the tales told by E and the sheer beauty of the music. I learned of a guy who had overcome a difficult childhood; a distant, alcoholic father who died young, a sister's suicide and his mother's subsequent death from cancer. All the while, trying to find his place in the world.

His lyrics reveal an ability to analyze these experiences with honesty, humor and forgiveness, but without a trace of self pity. It seemed a not untypical contemporary story of the broken American family, until, gradually, pieces of the puzzle began to disclose themselves. I learned that his father had been Hugh Everett, the physicist who came up with the "many-worlds interpretations of quantum physics", only to be dismissed and scorned by the scientific community at large. Subsequently the theory has become generally accepted as a highly possible explanation of quantum mechanics. But Hugh Everett had felt defeated and dejected and never really recovered to see his theory gain credence and stature.

In reading E's book, I learned that he only found out about his father after his death, and his subsequent journey, as detailed in the documentary, meeting his father's colleagues and having his father's theory explained to him, allowed him to understand and feel compassion for this man he barely knew. It's an unexpectedly moving story and is so valuable in understanding The Eels music.

I'm almost through the book and thought going to his book signing would be the best way to meet him. There's never any hope of bumping into him at a show because the band is simply too famous.

That afternoon I had read the chapter "Happy Trails" in which, at one of his lowest points, he has a kind of epiphany and realizes that he has to write music in an autobiographical style, otherwise all his music would be just a pose. Ruminating on this sadness which had become such a part of his life, he writes a sentence that will alway burn in my brain for it's direct simplicity, "I could make something from all this."

The Book Soup event was limited to a recording of The Eels' bass player reading a selection from the book and then Mark Everett answered some questions from the people assembled. It was during the book signing that I got to meet him and tell him how moved I'd been at this chapter of the book and specifically, that line I quoted above. He asked if I wanted him to sign that page and that was exactly what I wanted. Now he'll wonder about that guy who didn't want him to sign the title page. That's cool.

Wednesday provided a sudden opportunity to see Red Cortez emerge from the remains of The Weather Underground in their first concert under the new moniker. Set to debut on Tuesday, November 11 with Earlimart and Afternoons at the Echoplex as it hosts the revived Indie 103.1 "Check One...Two" series, now called "Check One...Twosdays", Red Cortez gave a surprise warm up show at the Silverlake Lounge.

I've been neglectful of this band and realized it mosty acutely watching Elaine Layabout's videos of their recent garden performance as The Weather Underground. I thought that was pretty stunning so I listened to some recorded work and could see their potential.

I had seen them finish their set at the Troubadour on July 7th when they opened for Alan Sparhawke's Low offshoot, The Retribution Gospel Choir. But I only saw maybe two songs and the sound mix didn't do them justice. Plus, with this band, you need to see them do many songs, just to get a sense of their range.

I arrived as opening band The Capshuns were starting and I enjoyed their party rock set. No deep thinking, just good, flat-out dance rock with a twist of glam. I can see why their opening for Mando Daio next week at the Troubadour.

Met up with Travis (Web in Front) and Mouse (Classical Geek Theatre), both big fans of The Weather Underground, who acquainted me with what to expect. But I wasn't prepared for Red Cortez to literally blow my socks off.

Harley Prechtel-Cortez is such a powerful singer and player that, at times, he'd become a strobing blur of movement. He has talent just oozing from him and sings in a fine voice that seems to do exactly what he asks of it. Thrilling guitar work and even more impressive keyboard skills, where he can sometimes pound away on the keys indiscrimanently and still make beautiful music, add to the musical compound.

He's backed by musicians of comparable stature. Ryan Kirkpatrick on bass and vocals, Diego Guerrero on drums and vocals, and new player Calvin J. Love on guitar. All play with passion and precision.

I'm not too familiar with their songs yet, but recognized a few from video and recordings I've heard. They also played some new material, I was told. I met their manager, who was great to talk to, and from whom I got a couple of their EP's.

I look forward to becoming more familiar with them and I'll be at The Echoplex show.


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