Friday, March 16, 2007
The second time I heard Blake Jones play live, I didn't have to listen through the door. I could actually see him play. This was at the 2005 Rogue Festival, where once again he was my venue manager. This time, with his "Ill Advised Solo Show," Blake sang and accompanied himself on acoustic guitar, and playing tunes on the subject of politics and religion. Songs like Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In," and a lot of originals, like "Don't You Be Stealin' My Jesus," a lament from a liberal Christian who finds the political influence of the religious right maddening.
Upbeat songs, mostly. A warm and welcoming stage presence.
But no theremin. None of the toy pianos and lush wall of sound his friends, fellow musicians, and reviewers adore him for. His one gig in San Francisco this year was when I was out of town.
Third time's a charm: Finally, this year in Fresno, Blake was fronting "Send the Trike Shop to Liverpool," a concept concert which was nominally a fundraiser to pay off the Visa card debt that accompanied their recent booking of upcoming gigs in Liverpool. A ha! Now I could hear it! Bookended between pitch perfect covers of "Strawberry Fields" and "I Am the Walrus," the Trike Shop brought Blake's songs to gorgeous life. Now I understood the comparisons to Brian Wilson. This wasn't just infectious nod pop, it was toe-tappingly fun retro DIY avant-goodness. (It was also the loudest thing I've heard in the past decade, but it was my choice to sit in the second row in the nightclub directly in front of the six foot high wall of speakers).
The Trike Shop's Myspace page prominently features their Frank Zappa tribute. If you're like me, and not familiar with the Mothers of Invention and their charms, it's hard to see Blake's pop roots here.
Their Garageband page has just two songs, but they're pop heaven. "Snapshots" calls to mind Nilsson and the Beach Boys. "Clever Things" evokes Ray Davies by way of Jonathan Richman. Both seem like they came out the same era as the Beatles' Rubber Soul and Revolver.
And, if you'd like to hear Blake's theremin, check out his CDBaby page (last track).