Monday, October 19, 2009

"Forward Into The Past" Firesign Theatre Live at Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, Hollywood October 16, 2009

So I wanted to write a brief description of last night's show cause there seems to be a lot of interest. As we typically do, cause I'm pretty anal, we left REAL early from Oxnard to beat Friday night traffic. Had a real early dinner in Los Feliz, and still had hours to kill before show time, but Barnsdall Park is very cool, Hollyhock House, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, while not open gave us something to check out. Plus a cool sculpture garden and the Hollywood Hills to look at, and of course an awesome sunset.

We were one of the first inside the theatre, our seats were right where I thought. Fourth row of right hand section on the aisle. Wonderful vantage point. Small 299 seat theatre came close to filling but never did. Wider age range in the audience then I would have guessed. Sure most were our age, but there were quite a few 20,30 and 40 somethings also. Great place to see a show! Smaller than your average high school theatre these days, low stage only about a foot or so higher than the floor, pro sound and lighting.

Finally the houselights dimmed and the four guys took the stage. They pretty much all look like older versions of the guys I remember from back when (duh!), David Ossman seemed to look the most different, I'm guessing from years of playing Rocky Rococo maybe? They immediately went into the beginning of "Waiting For The Electrician", learning our next three words in Turkish, bath, towel,border, and then of course "May I see your passport please" right through, I think the whole side of the album, including "Beat The Reaper" which has taken on new levels of meaning for me now! It then morfed into "Porgie and Mudhead" from "Don't Crush That Dwarf".

I should pause and mention that the guys are holding scripts in their hands the whole evening, like they are doing a radio show, which essentially has always been their format. If anyone was disappointed for their $60 they didn't get to see costumes, sets, special effects, etc they were misguided. Firesign was always first and foremost about imagination, both theirs and their audiences'. Theatre of the Mind. Much more effective in its own way than theatrics! I thought the format was perfect. Their classic material presented so you could keep those same mental images we all carry from the old days but with the addition of facial expression, body language,sound effects both live and recorded, even a couple of tunes, the Loosner Castor Oil Flake jingle and the Porgie Tirebiter theme song.

The end of the first half was new material, not too much of it, but funny. I wish I could remember any of the new stuff, but it didn't stick. I wasn't about to be taking notes at my first and only Firesign concert! There was a short intermission and we went outside cause it was really warm evening. I checked out the merch and noticed they had but one "Beat The Reaper" T shirt left and it was my size and seemed destined to be mine and now it is! Very meaningful shirt to me on a couple of levels! Lots of other merchandise, I almost bought a Ralph Spoilsport license plate frame until Becky reminded me I'd have to get rid of the "On Loan From The Smithsonian" frame that graces my 65 Dodge Dart (can you believe some woman once asked me what was on loan, me or the car?lol)

The second half began with "Nick Danger,Third Eye" but was greatly abridged from the original. Rocky Rococo only had two lines! But very classic. Funny thing, Peter Bergman tried to do a fireplace sound effect by crumpling paper, it was the wrong paper, not cellophane as needed and it failed miserably much to the delight of the the other three amd the audience. There were several of these "in the moment" reactions throughout the night, knowing or sarcastic looks, adlibs even a "balloon boy" reference. Made the guys very real and human and the material come alive.

After the Nick Danger bit they went into something I've never heard, Firesign Shakespeare, which if you know me at all, is pretty close to a description of my own personal nirvana! And they were spectacular! Very literate, in iambic pentameter and often rhyming but at all times typically Firesign hysterical. From there they became high school teachers talking to their students in the audience at the Shakespeare play discussing the curious upcoming menus at each of their four schools. They ended with some more new stuff and encored with new material that morphed into that poem on the first album, the poet escapes me now, but its famous, that "yes,yes, a thousand times yes" bit that closes, I think the first album.

The guys were going to be out after the show to sign autographs and chat, but I had been up since 4 am and on the go since, and we were at least an hour from home so we had to pass on that. Kinda regretting it now but maybe we'll have another chance. Well that's it as I remember today. I'd be glad to try to answer any questions if I can. If you have the chance, go see these guys. They haven't "lost a step" and still got their "chops"! One last note, Becky, who was aware of them back in the day but never a "fan", had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed it and got all but the most "inside" references. I wouldn't hesitate to bring anyone who has an open mind with you.