It was a firsts kind of a night all the way through. A friend had suggested that we meet at Moshi Moshi for dinner and, since I'd never been, I was game for a first trip there. I beat him to the restaurant and, as it turned out, was greeted by a hostess/bartender I knew, but didn't know worked there...she and I go way back and would laugh to admit to anyone else how we know each other.
My friend soon arrived, so we jumped right in with the pot stickers, moved on to miso soup and then shared the Spicy Beef Salad, a Tofu Curry dish and Spicy Salmon cut rolls, all extremely well executed. It was when that last course arrived, full of spiciness, that the subject of my sake virginity and the need to address it arose. My introduction was Momokawa Pearl sake, an old-style roughly-filtered sake, served cold and tasting tropical: pineapple, banana and coconut-like. My friend was well acquainted with sake, but even after my first glass, I felt inadequate to describe the experience. Accordingly, I attempted subsequent Pearl tastings to better solidify my sake understanding. Before we knew it, it was time for us to part ways.
And then it was time to go see M. Ward under the guise of the Monsters of Folk show at the Landmark. I'm not saying he was the focus of my evening, but, yes, I would have paid the same price to see him alone. As the usher was leading me to my seat, she turned around and said, "Wow, you have a great seat!" which was true: it was in the first row, as in, nothing but a stage in front of me, which meant plenty of leg room. Another couple of nice firsts- row and leg room. The night was getting better and better.
It was a listening-room environment, except for the occasional obnoxious Jim James fan yelling out stupid things like, "We love you Jimmy James!" and "You need me to kiss your feet, Jimmy?" But those idiots aside, it was a really good experience all around. Like the Neko Case show, no cells phones were allowed in use, not for texting, not for photographing, not for anything at all and they had attendants to keep watch over the audience to ensure that the policy was adhered to. I loved that.
The show was harmony heaven; when you have three vocal talents like M. Ward, Conner Oberst and Jim James, admittedly, you've got a lot to work with. Mike Mogis, the only member of the group not doing vocals, superbly acquitted himself on anything with strings. But the highlights for me were those songs that featured M. Ward singing lyrics like, "Love will get you in the end" and "What do you do with the pieces of broken heart?" Le sigh. Best of all, when he wasn't out front playing guitar, he was on the piano (and sometimes keyboard), banging his heart out a la Kermit the Frog. It was amazing to witness him standing, sitting, crouching and just tearing up those keys. And that voice of his, well, yes. Oh, yes.
More than one person, when I told them about the show, responded by saying that they didn't really like Conner Oberst much. I'm not the biggest fan, either, but he won a lot of points late in the show when he mounted the drum kit, balanced precariously and wailed on his guitar all the while; then during his dismount, kicked a cup of water out of his way. So rock and roll cute.
Although this was a "folk" show, the latter songs in the set allowed the band to jam in a most un-folk like way, noisily working up the audience as they went. That would be, I suppose, why they're called Monsters of Folk.