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Grandaddy At The Henry Fonda Theater, Monday August 13th 2012


Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle


There were lots of truck hats and bushy beards in the audience, you know, the rural lumberjack look, and I noticed a massive guy who was standing next to me, a 6-feet-tall-300-pound-kind-of-guy who seemed to know the lyrics of all the songs. But this Grandaddy reunion concert was really a strange and fantastic experience, strange because Grandaddy hasn’t played for years (they split up in 2006), so listening again to these songs live was an unavoidable trip in the past, but also fantastic, because they didn’t disappoint for even a second.

I was avidly listening to Grandaddy in the early ‘00s, as I had just discovered the polish and sad melodies of their post-technology-angst 2000 album, ‘The Sophtware Slump’, and the devastating songs of their existential-anxiety 2003 album, ‘Sumday’. When the band split in 2006, they had definitively left a void. There was something unique about Jason Lytle’s voice, fragile and sad, detached and tragic at the same time, and especially, not manly at all despite the big-outdoors look of the guy.

His voice is still the same, actually none of them have changed much, it is true we are not talking about very long ago, just a decade, but that’s enough to mess up with your body,… and your brain, especially when strong memories are attached to a specific period. I last saw Grandaddy live in December 2003, just two months after their close friend Elliott Smith’s death, and, it is needless to say there was a heavy atmosphere hanging over the performance of the band that night, as they had toured with him many times. On Monday night, I even thought for a little while that the woman just behind me was carrying a spooky resemblance with a friend who had accompanied me at this 2003 Grandaddy’s show. It confused me a lot for a while, I was in a sort of twilight zone and, I realized just before the encore that all the notes I had taken on my iPhone for an hour or so were all gone! What happened? I had never lost any notes before,… I must have been in a very troubled state…

Despite my wandering mind, last night was not about being into a ‘nostalgia rehashed mode’ as Jason Lytle said at one point of the show, rather they were doing this reunion for fun, with only a handful of dates in the US and Europe, and Lytle was in a joking mood all night long. Wearing an ‘over the hill’ t-shirt, he took the stage with the rest of the band to the Welcome Back Kotter theme song, in front of a fanatic and exuberant crowd, who did welcome each song with the same joy and enthusiasm. I was far away from guitarist Jim Fairchild, but I saw him carrying two guitars at once and playing them both during the same song, while almost moonwalking on stage. Bearded Aaron Burtch was steadily drumming during the whole show, Kevin Garcia was playing bass and occasionally taking pictures of the audience, and I couldn’t see much of Tim Dryden on keyboard in the back. It is true that they were in super form, opening the show with three songs off ‘Sumday’, the mid-triumphant, mid-disillusioned poppiness of ‘El Camino in the West’, the rather optimistic outlook of ‘Now It’s On’, and the poignant sadness of ‘Yeah is What We Had’, then continuing with the strange post-apocalyptic visions of ‘Hewlett’s Daughter’. I realized that I knew all these songs, I meant there all were hits in my personal iTunes collection, although I hadn’t listened to them for a while. But just when I was chewing on this thought, they played this rare song ‘Fare Thee Not Well Mutineer’ that I had never heard before,… no it wasn’t totally about nostalgia anymore,.. but wait a minute here was their number 1 hit ‘The Crystal Lake’, and people cheered and sang along, as joy and excitation was coming from the crowd and the band.

There were a few of these B-sides songs, but it was mostly a festival of songs off ‘Sumday’, ‘The Sophtware Slump’ and Under the Western Freeway’ albums, with these toyish playful electronic noises, wobbling synths mixing joy and sadness, supported by sonic textures of layered guitars and the frail power of Lytle’s vocals glimpsing at his fear of mortality. Any Grandaddy fan knows that it is moving music, which could first sound under-the-basement-low-key, but reaches buoyant soundscapes with dramatic heights that leave you with a throbbing heart,… or the need to dance. As the matter of fact, the massive guy began to completely lose it at ‘Charts N Grafs’, and when I saw him all-leg-jumping and head-banging, I was glad I had moved away from him.

They came back for an encore and an upbeat cover of Pavement’s ‘Here’ and closed with ‘He’s simple He’s Dumb He’s the Pilot’, almost leaving the stage with regret, Jason saying he was hoping we all had fun. I was kind of waiting for an explanation about their sudden reunion, they don’t have any new material and no other plan to prolong this experience, so why now, and why only a few shows? Just for the fun of it apparently.

El Camino in the West
Now It’s On
Yeah is What We Had
Hewlett’s Daughter
Fare Thee Not Well Mutineer
The Crystal Lake
My Small Love
Charts N Graphs
The Go N the Go For it
AM 180
Lost On Yer Merry Way
Beautiful Ground
Laughing Stock
Stray Dog & Choco shake
Summer Here Kidz
Here (Pavement)
He’s simple He’s Dumb He’s the Pilot

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