Last Night: Reggie Watts, Rory Scovel, and Chris Thayer at the Hemlock
September 9, 2009
Better Than: Sitting at home like a giant shit-fuck stack.
No one deserves the title of Vocal Artist better than man behind the looped, scooped, and pooped renderings of last night's headliner at The Hemlock's "Club Chuckles," Mr. Reggie Watts. The room was packed by the first show of the evening (we went to the 8pm show -- there was another one at 10pm), and the crowd seemed eager to laugh even before the show's host, local comedian Chris Thayer, took to the stage.
Watts started out his set by laying down some ground rules, which included: "don't go there unless you have to," "take'er easy," and "apply slowly." Given the rest of the show, it's clear that the headliner is not a big fan of rules. That being said, he did ease the audience into his set by buttering us up with some love for San Francisco. More specifically, the Tenderloin, where he says one can just "feel the municipality." If the feeling was something like having a rash, then we've felt the municipality in the Tenderloin too. He then launched into a stream of consciousness song about the city that mentioned all of the famous parts: the hills, the bridges, the market by the bay where we can go "get some onions and shit." It ended with a Journey tribute (because, let's face it, SF was the only reason that band was ever able to take the power rock ballad to the next level).
Watts is a multi-talented performer, working his kleenex-box-sized mixer like it was an extension of his body, and manipulating his voice to create different characters that he would invoke given the personality of the song. His show verged on performance art, with long streams of consciousness mixed seamlessly into stand-up routines or beat-boxing. The crowd had to pay close attention to the words to catch some of the best bits as Watts jumped from one subject to the next and then back again. Many, if not all, of the songs he performed last night incorporated an element or two of social criticism. But he avoided preachiness by turning those elements into poop jokes -- which we thought made his points much more convincing and effective.
Although Watts set himself apart from his opening comedic acts in more ways than one -- i.e. via dancing, theatrics, and essentially blowing the house away with that sweet falsetto of his -- the entire evening was across the board funny. Preceding Watts, Rory Scovel whetted the crowd's comedic appetite with a straight-up stand-up routine that brought the house down, even though Scovel appeared to think otherwise (and he voiced those negative thoughts throughout his entire set). Club Chuckles host Thayer was equally self-effacing, despite the fact that he also drew solid laughs from the crowd.
Personal Bias: It was refreshing to see Watts avoid the self-effacing stuff after watching Scovel and Thayer bash themselves for an hour. On the other hand, all three did well to avoid the other trap of making everyone in the front row the butt of every joke.