Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Max Weinberg Comes to Town!

I used to write love letters to Conan O'Brien. Okay, to be honest, most of them were in my head. But I do remember actually writing down at least one. It was written in a hotel somewhere, on hotel stationary, and it was never sent. But still, I wrote it. I suggested he have me as a guest on his show. My talent, or contribution to the show, would be me reciting a scene from West Side Story in which I'd play four characters. It's the scene where Maria wants Anita to make the neckline of her dress lower. I had it memorized and had different voice for all the characters and everything. I wrote Conan a letter encouraging him to invite me on, as well as professing my love for him in that letter. I'm a teensy bit glad I never sent it.

Anyhow, I really did think I was in love with Conan. His wit, cleverness, and intelligence balanced so well with his painfully awkward and nerdy personality. Weird hair, skinny wiener legs, and god, oh so white...? For some reason, I thought he was my perfect man. You'll probably be happy to know that my taste in men has changed a lot since then. Not to hate on Conan or anything...but I digress. Back to Conan.Yes, this guy.

I'd watch his show religiously, regardless of homework or my job or my social life. I was enthralled by Conan and Andy and their hilarious skits and nerdlinger conversations. I loved that there were often times when nobody would laugh but the two of them. I didn't really care who the guests were; I mostly watched the show for Conan and Andy. And honestly, for years and years, I never appreciated the man who really made the show come alive. The quiet, sort of creepy guy sitting behind the drums that Conan and Andy made fun of and made out to be a total perv. That's right, I'm talking about Max Weinberg. Max Weinberg is one of the most amazing drummers ever. Duh. Not only does he lead an incredibly tight band on Conan's show, he rocks so hard with Bruce Springsteen! I saw Bruce in March of 2008 and was amazed and humbled by Max's playing. How does he make so much sound and so much rock come out of those drums when he barely moves his torso? For real, I don't understand. He sits so upright, almost rigid, and barely changes his facial expression. But the sound that comes out of his drums is insane.

Thanks to the lovely local website dane101, I won free tickets to see Max Weinberg on his latest musical endeavor: Max Weinberg's Big Band. Creative! God, who even cares what they're called?! They could be called "Piece of Poo" and I'd still go see them and love every minute. Anyhow, dane101 often posts opportunities to win free tickets to fantastic shows, and I just happened to win these tickets about 8 hours before the show last night. Fantastic!

The show was at The Majestic, which is the same venue in which I've danced and sweated to DJ Rekha, Dan Deacon, Peaches, and, ahem, a Guns n Roses cover band. And damn, they really classed the place up for this event. It's a good thing, too, since it seemed like about 90% of the audience was above 50, and would prefer a classier (read: cleaner, nicer, less beer spilled on the floor) venue. Nice work, the Majestic. We also had a great view from the balcony, right above the band.

Max's band is made up of 15 musicians including himself; four trumpet players, five saxophone players, three tromboners (ya heard me), a pianist, a bass player, and a drummer. Named Max Weinberg. They sat in a typical big band style, all behind podium music stands, and whenever somebody would solo, they'd stand up to do so. At the end of the solo, everybody claps. Now you know and won't be embarrassed when you see your next big band. Yeah, you're welcome. The band was amazing; so tight and so in tune with each other, but without being uptight. I really feel like Max actually let loose a bit more than he has when I've seen him on television or at the Bruce concert. It was definitely unexpected, and definitely exciting to watch. Look at those sticks!
Max was way more personable and comfortable than I thought he would be, and than I'd seen him on the show. I mean, don't get me wrong, he was still a straight up nerd, but he didn't seem quite as uptight and weird. He was friendly, joking with the crowd and professing his passion for Frank Lloyd Wright and Madison in general. At one point, while he was speaking into the microphone, his voice cracked a bit and he made a joke about how he was becoming a man and going to get Bar Mitzvah'ed next week. Oh Max! You slay me!
He kept the talking to a minimum, though, and played for a solid hour and a half with a pretty diverse repertoire of songs like you would have heard Count Basie play. He also did quite a few cop show theme songs, for some reason...One of my favorite songs that he did was the beautifully lazy and luxurious sounding "Only the Lonely," made famous by Frank Sinatra:

It was so cool to watch the band watch each other. I've thought about this before, specifically in watching Emanuel Ax play with an orchestra and seemingly getting lost in them during his own performance. The members of Max's band watched each other solo and clapped for each other when they could. There were a lot of smiles and laughing between the impeccable playing, which made me smile and laugh as well. It was a really great way to see this band, and I really appreciated the intimacy of the venue. I feel really lucky to have seen him and his band in this capacity.

Check out Max's drum solos at the end of the show. My battery was dying, so each video only lasts about 30 seconds, but you'll get the idea:

Max Weinberg! See him if you can. It's totally worth it.


SophisticatedBrew said...

i think you showed me your letter to Conan when we were little freshies. I didn't understand your love then, and I don't know. but I respect it. glad you got to see some awesome music. i love concerts with old people!

miriam said...

Love the whole story and that you had so much fun. Rawk!