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On an average night in Los Angeles, the one-and-only Beck staged an expectedly curious event to promote his recent book release of sheet music sans-recorded audio entitled simply, Song Reader. Not surprisingly given Beck’s stature, there was a gigant line outside the venue, seemingly five times what Sonos Studio could reasonably hold. Once inside, attendees enjoyed free drinks and a slew of artwork directly from and inspired by the Song Reader project. (the studio exhibit will be present and viewable to the public until March 24th). A small stage stood set up with a bevy of instruments. Numerous celebrities crowded the space (Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass and Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat among them) and generally, there was a tinge of excitement that in addition to other performers, the man himself might perform a little.
All photos by Raymond Flotat
The night started off with a simple Q&A session with Beck, McSweeney’s Editor Jordan Bass, hosted by seemingly ubiquitous KCRW DJ Jason Bentley. The questions are straightforward enough, and seem to confirm much of what has been implied previously about the Song Reader project–that these songs most likely will not be performed by Beck himself. He explains, “I thought there was something interesting about the period before recorded music where there was nobody telling you how to play it, how to hear it or how to feel it.” Fair enough. A few questions to the packed crowd on hand are less helpful. One girl shouts out “When’s the first time you had sex?” and another asks “When’s the last time you dropped acid?” Not terribly surprising, but still hard not to feel like a missed opportunity with someone of Beck’s spectacular, amorphous and forward-thinking career.
After that short Q&A, Beck retreats to the back near the dressing room, and is scarcely seen again. The remainder of the evening is chopped up by a few newcomers, and a few acts we’ve known and loved for years. First up is singer-songwriter Amy Regan who strums away at a ukelele pleasantly. Right after comes the band the End of America, who take on the material with more of a folksy harmonizing approach in the fashion of Mumford & Sons or The Dunwells.
Immediately following that, Tim Heidecker (of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) and Nicholas Thorburn (from Islands and before that, The Unicorns) join up for a few electric takes. Heidecker seems noticeably frustrated by the crowd of partiers loudly proclaiming, “If you’re talking or looking at your phone, fuck you and go to hell.”
Then, the strongest performance of the material of the night is done by new duo Adam Green and Binki Shapiro. The two have a playful, and charmingly saccharine style, that makes them seem warmly endearing. After they’re done, Bentley arrives to awkwardly ask the two to play one of their own songs. They oblige, and perform one of their new songs without the backing band. After that though, Bentley has the unfortunate job of having to break the news that Beck will not be performing after all. He tries to convince Kyle Gass standing at the front of the stage to jump up and perform, but KG’s having none of it. The night ends there.