Michael Cera Joins Mister Heavenly at Cafe Du Nord for Fractured Rock, Bad S.F. Jokes

Categories: Last Night
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Nick Thorburn and Michael Cera at Cafe Du Nord last night. Pics by Ian, with apologies for backs of heads.
Mister Heavenly
Jel
High Winds
December 2, 2010
@ Cafe Du Nord

Better than: [Insert witticism about Michael Cera playing bass in the movies.]

And so it came to pass that last night, Michael Cera plucked a white four-string onstage at the third-ever show of Mister Heavenly, a new group of musicians not as famous as Michael Cera, but previously affiliated with the bands Modest Mouse (drummer Joe Plummer), Islands (guitarist-singer Nick Thorburn), and Man Man (keyboardist-mustache inspiration Honus Honus). 

Since, in the previous two days of Mister Heavenly's live performance career, word has leaked rather precipitously across the Internet of its milky-faced movie star bassist -- thanks Pitchfork -- Cafe Du Nord last night brimmed with humans. Fluttering hearts and gushing tones of "Michael Cera" were heard emanating from packs of twentysomething females for a three-block radius around the venue. The stage end of Du Nord's sunken rectangle matched the fronts of massive festival crowds in its ability to render one unable to move. Despite this, the mood last night in the crowd was the opposite of grouchy.

Cera bounded onstage at the start of Heavenly's set and was quickly coerced into kissing some fan on the forehead. But he mostly hung back while playing, keeping his back to the crowd to face Plummer. So it was up to Thorburn to mix things up onstage through his lanky, apathetic stupor, clueless head-stratching, kick-drum standing, and going over to fuck with Cera. Thorburn got so close to the bassist at one point it looked like he might plop him a kiss right on the lips. Cera, who had barely noticed Thorburn was there, looked up with a grimace and recoiled in fright.

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Perhaps Thorburn's just being silly when he describes Mister Heavenly's sound as "doom-wop" -- he's a notorious misinformer, jokester, and dead-pan lie-teller, after all -- but maybe not. The band's songs, none of which have been released yet, sound like a funereal Neil Young, with a few off-the-wall influences thrown in. One number began with a barroom piano groove from Honus, and morphed into a jaunty folk jam. Another rode warm organ tones into a straight-up dub, and stayed there for a long while. Other songs followed in the vein of the noise-via-pop rock from Thorburn's previous bands, Islands, and his acclaimed (though sadly expired) outfit the Unicorns.

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Nick and Honus
This being the band's third show, things were loose. Smoking a cigarette on Market St. after the show, Thorburn seemed almost apologetic about the frayed seams of the band's songs and the fact that it had nothing for an encore to follow its 50-minute set. (For the encore, Cera came out and tickled the keys on Honus' keyboard for a few minutes, Plummer accented it with some drums, and Thorburn and Honus stood around like they were going to play, but never did.) But on most of this tour, the band is opening for Passion Pit, not headlining. Mister Heavenly didn't dazzle like the airtight onslaught of fellow "supergroup" Wild Flag at Bottom of the Hill a couple weeks ago, but no one seemed disappointed in its fractured classic rock, either.

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And, anyway, there was plenty of silliness to amuse the crowd. Cera crunched his white raisin of a face while playing, making it look like it took all his effort to be a real rockstar. The grizzly-mustached Honus swilled from a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Thorburn told lies ("this is our first show ever," "I turn 22 at midnight,"), and everyone in the band good-naturedly harassed Cera, with Honus making devlish faces at him from behind the keys. 

He earned some hazing. Near the end of the set, Thorburn thanked San Francisco, and Cera presented himself at the mic for joke time: "It's so nice to see a full house in San Francisco," he quipped. The band -- and then the room -- booed solidly for about two minutes. Cera just smiled and took it.

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Critic's Notebook

The crowd: It seemed like there were a lot of people in the crowd who probably wouldn't have come out to Du Nord on a rainy Thursday if Michael Cera hadn't been there. Cera's not formally in the band -- he's apparently just playing on this first tour -- but if he gets in, this group will need bigger venues.

The aftermath: It's cool when the members of headlining bands come out to the sidewalk after the show to talk casually with their fans. Cera didn't come, but Nick and Honus were far more subdued in person than their chaotic stage personalities would suggest.

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