Saturday, August 16, 2003

LIZ PHAIR was in town tonight, and we had tickets! I love Liz Phair. Yeah, the new album is a disappointment, and the sellout philosophy she has adopted is a bit disturbing, but I don't care. The first three albums were classic. "Whip-Smart" isn't the critics' favorite, but I think it might be the strongest. "May Queen" is one of my favorite songs ever, and "Jealousy" isn't far behind. Of all the acts I'd never seen live, Liz Phair was the one I wanted to see most. When I heard she was touring, I bought tickets immediately. Good thing, too: The show -- like her last one in Washington, which I missed -- sold out.

Usually I take the scared-I'll-miss-something approach to shows at the 9:30 Club and similar venues, and so I get to stand around with sweaty people and listen to sucky opening acts and get a sore back. Jacqueline and I did this, more or less, for X and then for Blondie, also at the 9:30 this year. This time, for once, we would be cool. All day I checked out the 9:30 Club's Web site, which always posts estimated starting times for all the acts. This time, however, somebody forgot to update the site, and so most of the day Friday's times were posted. When the update finally came, it said simply: "Doors Open 8:00. Sold Out." And the club wasn't answering its phone number, or even putting up a recording. But from experience and the Web site's FAQ, I reasoned that headliners normally don't start until 11 or 11:30, so we had a leisurely 9 p.m. dinner and called a cab around 10:30. Normally we'd take the Metro or the bus, but it was rainy out and we can afford the occasional lazy luxury and frankly we aren't getting any younger.

Yellow Cab's line was busy for a while, and took a while for the cab to arrive, and the driver took the slowest route possible, so we were prepared to join Liz Phair already in progress as we walked in -- but we got lucky. No music yet! Not only that, the backup musicians started to take the stage about 10 minutes after we staked out our position. Excellent!

The lights went down and the applause started to swell, and up to the microphone stepped . . .

Some hillbilly yokel! Yep, Liz's set had come and gone.

Well, yes, the show was billed as "Jason Mraz & Liz Phair." But all the articles about the show and about Liz Phair's tour made it clear that this was a Liz Phair show. Jason Mraz is from Virginia, so I figured the billing was a bit of a local suck-up but it was also chronological. It didn't say "Jason Mraz With Liz Phair." They got equal billing, but it had to be him and then her. It just had to.

The sad part is, I would have liked to have seen the opening opening act, the Mersey-beat Norwegian teenager Sondre Lerche, whose style is at least something that would appeal to Liz Phair fans. But Jason Mraz (no offense -- some of my best friends are hillbilly yokels) isn't someone I could bear to listen to, even without bitterness and disappointment coursing through my veins. Mraz is a Dave Matthews Band/John Mayer opening act, not a Liz Phair opening act, and certainly not someone Liz Phair should open for. This was just so wrong on so many levels.

So, let's see, $25 plus $5.50 "service charge" per ticket, a $14 cab ride there and a $10 cab ride back. Eighty-five bucks well spent.

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