Last night I had what some might call an opportunity of a lifetime. I hope that is not the case because it might all be down hill from here. I found out at work around noon yesterday that Beck would be playing a stealth unannounced show at Washington D.C.’s Black Cat. Later on word started spreading to more mainstream sources here in DC. Not sure if it was going to work out, I headed down to the venue at 745pm to go take on the line snaking down 14th street.
Since I was on the guestlist for the night’s actual show of Apples in Stereo and DC’s Benjy Ferree, I easily got in and had first dibs at buying a ticket to Beck’s midnight set for a mere twelve dollars American! Now the waiting game. The Mainstage room was nearly empty for Apples in Stereo, but they proved to be quite fun to watch as well.
Finally around midnight, they started bottlenecking us into the tiny room downstairs as we fought the pushers from behind to get a good view. There was very little breathing room, but as soon as Beck and crew took the stage, a few decked out in long foppish wigs, it mattered very little.
So, my reaction? I should say that I guess I figured that it would be the introspective acousticy intimate Beck (ala Mutations\Sea Change) considering the he was playing Black Cat’s Backstage, a tiny small stage and room that only held 150 people tops. I was wrong. So so wrong.
Instead it was Beck and his band in total throwdown slamfest mode, attacking us with an all out stream of consciousness set of funky disco punk, whitenoise guitar riffs, thuderously grooving basslines and California hiphop distortions. Obviously without a setlist, and often calling out to the audience for requests, Beck bombarded the small but jampacked crowd with sloppy and sweaty renditions of all his uptempo grooves from Odelay, Midnight Vultures, Guero and the recently released The Information. The energy never let up once in the whole set. With each song, the band danced and pounded boozy rhythms; it was like nothing I have ever seen in a long time, if ever.
The whole time I felt like this is what those famed underground hip hop or hardcore punk shows might have been like back in the early days. It’s so refreshing to see someone of Beck’s stature playing just for the sake of playing without the pretense of theatrics. You could tell they were having just as much fun as the audience especially when he stated “The club owner said if we do good at this show, we can play the upstairs next time.” In all quite a long but memorable night.