Review: Mraz at the Catalyst, April 4, 2008

How can you possibly sum up a show that had so much going on, so much talent on the stage, so much energy, so much creativity, and was nothing like any show you’ve ever seen before? Chronologically. Here goes.

6:30ish (All times, names and quotes are approximate because I couldn’t be bothered to take notes or anything official – yet another reason I was a terrible journalist and switched to more creative forms of writing.): I get into line with Christine, a very nice, cool girl who I met via the RKOP message boards and who volunteered to drive to Santa Cruz in exchange for my extra ticket. A very fair trade as I did not want to drive the windy road out of Santa Cruz late at night, half asleep.

6:40: Bushwalla comes out and makes balloon animals for people in line. I heard someone say the Makepeace Brothers were around as well, but I didn’t see them.

6:45: Jason comes out in jeans, tshirt, wool hat and glasses, hops into a little red car with an unidentified woman and older man (managers? press people?), and waves to the crowd as they drive away.

6:50: Toca comes out and chats with the crowd, takes photos, signs autographs, and I get to shout at him. It went something like:

Toca: I’m here at the back of the line where the real people are.
Some Chick: Oh, but the people in front have been waiting all day.
Toca: That’s true, they’ve been here a long time.
Me, butting in: Some of us had to WORK all day.
Toca, raising a fist in solidarity with the working people: That’s right, people are working for a living!

That was about it. He went inside after that.

7:00: Doors open and we go in. For the next hour we stand, looking at an empty stage.

8:00: Right on the dot, Justin Kredible takes the stage and begins his emcee work. He’s cute, and very tiny. He pulls off a couple of quick tricks and then introduces the Makepeace Brothers.

The Brothers sound a lot like Simon and Garfunkle, but there are three of them, and they really are brothers, like Hanson. I liked the cute one in the middle that wasn’t allowed to sing. It only occurred to me hours later that I was yet again drawn to the bass player. What is it with me and bass players? I don’t know, but it’s a definite trend.

8:30: It’s going to get a bit hazy now because I’m not sure when everyone was coming and going, and I’m getting bored with recording this chronologically. I should have gone by theme, or maybe by color coding outfits. The gist of it is that J Kreds, Bushwalla, Mraz and some other band members came out and did a big sing-a-long for the Brothers’ song “Things Gonna Wait”. It was reminiscent of the Curbside Prophets tour when all the acts sang together after Raul Midon’s part of the show, which is what Jason said would happen. The Prophet does not lie.

Next, Bushwalla took over the stage. I don’t just mean he took his turn, I mean he took the stage over his knee and he owned that bitch. He reached into the darkest, smelliest corners of the venue, sucked every person there into his time-music vortex and made us love him. All I knew about Bushwalla before this was what I saw on YouTube with him and Mraz (lesbian furniture anyone?), but seeing him live is a whole different animal. He’s vaudeville, he’s a Vegas lounge act, he’s the long-lost third Conchord, and with a voice like that, I imagine he could take over Broadway if he wanted to. It was quite a performance.

Mraz in Disguise

Then there was the black electrical tape. I just… well… it was… hmmm. It was Jason proving yet again that he has no ego, he doesn’t really care about being the center of attention, and that he’s just a guy who likes to hang out and make music with his friends. I mean, gosh. He’s swell.

(Update 4/14/08: Just found a good chunk of this show on YouTube from user sweetcacophony.)

More magic happened – magical magic, not musical magic – some of it pretty impressive (see clips here). Then Mraz took the stage, but with more of a soft caress than Bushwalla did. It was the kind of stage taking that would let the stage wake up the next morning thinking that he really cared, and wasn’t just walking all over her. He opened by himself with “Mr. Curiosity”, and it was… strange. Don’t get me wrong, he sounded great, it was just an odd way to start. The crowd by this point was super excited, screaming, ready to have a great time, and so to start with a really calm song that’s kind of a downer was an odd choice.

But, as soon as that was over the rest of the band joined him and they jumped into “Tonight, Not Again” which took me back to the first Mraz headlining show I saw, in Boston, 2003. It’s one of my favorite songs, starting with a little foreplay then building up to a powerful climax, then… *sigh* a relaxed state of bliss.

I didn’t keep track of the set list after that, but he mixed old and new, doing the four songs from We Sing along with “So Unusual”, “Butterfly” (a song he said he wrote after wondering whether there was a strip club anywhere in the world playing his music, deciding there wasn’t, and trying to write a song that would be strip club worthy), “Remedy”, “You and I Both”, “Dynamo of Volition” and a few more.

Bushwalla and the Makepeace Brothers came back for a huge grand finale that included the greatest freeze-action Polaroid photo shoot ever, and yes, there was an encore, and it was blah la la lovely.

A few other notes on the night:

Last week, Jon Baron asked me whether any guys went to Mraz shows, because the live stuff I gave him to listen to sounded like a Backstreet Boys concert with all the squealing and screaming. I assured him that lots of guys go to the shows. Well, during the audience participation segment of “Remedy”, Mraz said, “Just the ladies now!” The ladies started their part and Mraz laughed and said, “It doesn’t sound any different, does it?” He then encouraged the men to give it a try and even lowered his voice to a super baritone, to increase the testosterone in the room.

Mraz didn’t do a lot of talking, but did mention that the tour was going green, from the bio-diesal buses to the reusable drinking containers (no plastic bottles!). There was the usual love, love, love fest, chatter about being good to each other and good to yourself. And before saying a final goodnight, Jason left us with the overall message of the night: Practice kindness. Practice gratitude.

I think I’ll go practice right now.

We’re just one big family,


3 responses to “Review: Mraz at the Catalyst, April 4, 2008

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