It’s gotta be intimidating playing “Pinball Wizard” on an acoustic guitar with Pete Townshend sitting right in front of you. But being the consummate pros that they are, Jack Black (even suffering from a case of strep throat) and Kyle Gass, a.k.a. Tenacious D, did so effortlessly and hilariously as the first act up on Attic Jam #7 at Los Angeles’ Hotel Café Saturday night.
Attic what? You ask. Allow us to bring you fully into the loop. The Who guitarist Pete Townshend is gallivanting around the country with his longtime gal-pal, singer-songwriter Rachel Fuller, on an acoustic tour of small clubs inviting special friends like the Raconteurs, Death Cab for Cutie and the Kooks, among many others, to play short three-song sets in an intimate setting.
Two weeks ago, they took the train to New York’s Joe’s Pub, where Lou Reed joined Pete on stage for duets of “White Light, White Heat” and “Waiting for the Man.” (Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis and former SNL-er Jimmy Fallon were also on hand.) This past weekend, it was L.A.’s turn as The D, folkie Joe Purdy, cutie Alexi Murdoch and the infallible Ben Harper took the tiny Hotel Café stage.
It was, not surprisingly, standing room only, as the room was filledwith its share of hardcore Who-heads, with even more waiting outsidefor a chance to buy a ticket. I mean, how often do you get to seeTownshend’s actual fingers running up and down the fret-board with yourown eyes, some 10 feet in front of you? And speaking of fingers, Petehad hurt one of his, “nearly knocked his fingernail off,” Rachelannounced to the crowd, so some augmentation to his playing had to bemade. “It’s incredibly painful,” he explained, “so the only way to dealis to bang it up a couple times… I have to thrash to get through it.”
Rock on, Pete! That’s the way to get an audience excited for anacoustic rendering of “Acid Queen” (to which he had to be reminded ofthe opening verse, FYI). But Pete wasn’t the only highlight of thenearly four-hour show. Fuller, a delightful host in addition to being adynamic performer herself, grabbed everyone’s attention. Joe Purdy,joined by his dad on mandolin, wowed with a gospel song from hischildhood in Arkansas. And Ben Harper had a surreal first song. Whilelap-strumming the quiet and pensive “Lifeline,” the purr of very loudchopper echoed in the room like the sound of helicopter blades. Anappropriate accompaniment considering the song’s lyrics: “I can’t knowthe hell you love / Don’t give me a reason to mourn.”
But it wasn’t all somber. After all, Tenacious D got the partystarted with classics like “Tribute” and “F— Her Gently” and therelatively new song, “Dude (I Totally Miss You).” With actors likeLaura Dern and Black’s School of Rock costar Mike White inattendance, they certainly got this Hollywood crowd pumped. And noteven Billy Corgan, who showed up later with a mysterious brunette athis side and a hat on his head, could rain on that parade.