Jack o’ the Clock, Live

Back in February, I made the trip to to Viracocha in San Francisco, finally seeing the band Jack o’ the Clock. It was a busy night — Laura, who’s curating music shows there, was telling me how the antique store’s theater space was furnished for poetry gatherings, and maybe some of those folks seemed to be there, curious about the music. Some friends of the bands, too, of course. It made for a large and warm crowd.

I’d raved about this band before but missed every single show of theirs in the intervening year. (Thanks; it’s a talent.)

They were well worth the trip. Lead vocalist Damon Waitkus plays guitar and banjo as well, and I hadn’t paid much attention to those instruments’ contributions on CD. (My ears spent more time listening to the other trappings — violin, vibraphone, bassoon, electric bass). From the CD, How Are We Doing and Who Will Tell Us, they played two solid tracks: “Last of the Blue Bloods” and “First of the Year.” Great stuff for Gabriel-era Genesis fans, with an acoustic, folky touch added. (CD review here.)

The set ended with a new one called “Ten Fingers,” full of busy percussion including Waitkus playing tuned tin cans. It was a busy piece consisting mostly of a rapidly thumping tribal rhythm. Jason Hoopes on electric bass would fill the gaps with thick, throttled soloing — what a great sound. It’s a terrific song that I’m hoping they capture to disk someday. Another new track was “Salt Moon,” a spiky instrumental.

Waitkus using metal rods to hammer at tin cans during "Ten Fingers"

The evening’s middle act was a nice change of pace, a folk-rock band from Sacramento called Be Brave Bold Robot. Dean Haakenson writes some pretty good guitar-based songs and fills them up with sophisticated, literate lyrics. Some songs had fresh and complicated takes on the usual relationship themes; others… well, put it this way: One song starts with a guy’s revelation that if he uses the toilet sitting down all the time, he doesn’t have to clean the bathroom as often. I think it was a love song in the end, but this first part got discussed in a whole lot of detail. It was pretty funny.

The whole show had opened with Death of the Cool, a piano trio with Hoopes on bass and Glenn on drums, with pianist Michael Dale. They did three improvisations, with Dale featuring a crystalline, floating style on piano at first, almost feeling tentative. By the third piece, they’d gotten into it, and Glenn laid losse with all sorts of jazzy color.

I wish I’d gotten this post out in time for Jack o’ the Clock’s two shows in Los Angeles — they’re playing tonight, March 25, if you hurry — but I don’t know what the venue is. Bay Area fans can see the group again on April 13 at The Orange Room (2885 Ettie Street, Oakland).