Tuesday February 10th 2009, 3:38 pm
In Living Color: Charlie Louvin, Lucinda Williams and Benji Hughes
Filed under: In Living Color | Posted by:

3266538364_32f6dcdb9f_oCharlie Louvin

When I think of folks in their 80s, I picture my grandparents sitting in their retirement community eating prunes and taking short walks around the block to “keep their limbs a-workin’.” I don’t think of them running around the stage, making jokes about sexy women and Jack Daniels, and providing the soundtrack to one of the trippiest nights that I’ve had in years. The legendary Charlie Louvin completely proved my preconcieved notions of a fella “well into his years” oh so very wrong.

3266538448_5e01eabcffCharlie Louvin

India, my daddy-o, and I went over to Spaceland on Saturday night to check out the Grammy-nominated musician’s performance. The night began pretty much as expected. Frank Fairfield and Mike Stinson performed solid opening sets to a packed house, and when Louvin came out, the 81 year old could still command the stage and carry a tune like only those who were born and bred on country music can. He worked his way through a handful of Louvin Brothers classics and mixed in a couple of his favorite songs written by Kris Kristofferson, Dallas Frazier and others. He sounded great. The band sounded great. And then, the night took a turn for the surreal (or as my friend Richard put it “I feel like I’m on mind altering drugs.”).

3265709629_ed18999756_oCharlie Louvin

Half of the lights in Spaceland went out due to the rain outside and an eerie, blue emergency light came on and flooded the room. After about 10 minutes of confusion, the band decided to play on (their PA system still functioned—though at about half power). They started off with a rousing version of the Louvin Brother’s tune, “Atomic Power,” which seemed quite appropriate given the venue’s current state. Then, they decided to take a stab at “Knoxville Girl”, during which a random audience member hopped onstage to join him on the harmonies (without asking of course). This is all good and sweet, except that the girl could barely sing. At the end, he made a comment along the lines of “I don’t know what’s more painful, the girl in the song getting murdered or this girl singing onstage.” I couldn’t help but agree.

Side note: I don’t know what it is about these classic country figures that make people feel like they can just jump on stage with them. That happened at the Roni Stoneman concert too (though that boy could actually play bass). I mean…please! If you decide to invade the stage, at least practice beforehand (or lay off the whiskey sours until AFTER your little “performance.”)

3266539004_93a74ddd0aCharlie Louvin and Lucinda Williams

The music began to unravel a bit after that, getting looser and looser as the charts that they had been following were no longer visible due to the darkness. It seemed like everything began to move in a hazy, slow motion sort of way. This was accented by the fact that a rather liquored up (or so it seemed) Lucinda Williams made a surprise appearance and joined Charlie on stage. After some shuffling of musicians and instruments, Lucinda led Louvin and band in a stomping, unhinged version of her song “Get Right With God.” They pulled it back a bit for a duet on the Louvin Brothers'”When I Stop Dreaming” that gave me some serious goosebumps.

3265710013_6e8e6014d5_oCharlie Louvin and Lucinda Williams

And then, the night got even stranger when Charlie told an anti-Obama joke–which was honestly the only part of the evening that the crowd wasn’t giving him complete love and reveling in his very presence. At 81 years old, you have to wonder if he forgot exactly where it was that he was performing. Obviously, Los Angeles is not the place to joke about Obama getting killed in a plane crash being a good thing. Oy. Shortly after his poorly received “joke”, however, they continued on and he slowly won the crowd back with his version of the “Christian Life.” Half way through the song, however, the rest of the power went out- this time taking the PA with it. Louvin, being the trooper that he is, finished the “Christian Life” acoustically, with the entire audience joining in on the harmonies. Singing “Christian Life” along with Charlie Louvin in the pitch black…wow. I’m not going to forget that moment anytime soon.

3265710137_e4b291e2b8Benji Hughes

With all of the lights and the PA gone, Spaceland called it an evening. India and I split and ran over to Home Restaurant around 1:45 am to catch the tail end of a night featuring Benji Hughes, Jonathan Wilson and Eleni Mandell. We made it just in time to catch Benji settling down at the piano to play two booze-soaked, burned by love songs. It felt like he was channeling early 70s era Harry Nilsson (ala the Lost Weekend) with friends lounging, in various stages of sobriety/consciousness,  around the booths listening to him weave his sad, beautiful tales in the wee hours of the Los Angeles morning. Again, wow. More goosebumps and the absolute perfect way to end the very bizarre, but rather perfect musical evening.

Additional photos (all photos taken by India Brookover):

Frank Fairfield
Frank Fairfield

3265708487_7f6a005f42Frank Fairfield

3266537690_fc12378393_oFrank Fairfield

3266537588_1f4c5a3fb9Frank Fairfield

3265708673_659d9f239f_oFrank Fairfield

3265708843_5fa7a19b3f Mike Stinson with Dave Gleason

Dave GleasonDave Gleason ((Mike Stinson Band)

3266537812_2ef7e286b3Rob Douglas (Mike Stinson Band)

3266538310_ca4d6d06f7_oRob Douglas (Mike Stinson Band)

3266538814_3f9462de41_oCharlie Louvin

3265709671_ba6cf5b163_oCharlie Louvin

3266538978_3b12accb6bCharlie Louvin and Lucinda Williams

3265710045_bf18d19cbdCharlie Louvin and Lucinda Williams

3266538400_cf51176798Charlie Louvin

CharlieCharlie Louvin

3265710353_214e3e46eaBenji Hughes

3266539296_73912bde1c_oBenji Hughes

3266539490_d2732eb9e0Benji Hughes

3265710289_2cfae3bb37_oBenji Hughes

2 Comments so far
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Dave Gleason is the shit. Best guitar player in LA.

Comment by King 02.12.09 @ 4:11 pm

[…] the Louvin Brother’s classic, “The Christian Life”. You can read¬† my full review here, but basically, it was an unforgettable night in the presence of a legend who will be greatly […]

Pingback by RIP Charlie Louvin | When You Awake - Indie Folk, Classic Country and Roots Music Blog 01.26.11 @ 9:58 am

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