John Vanderslice may possibly be the friendliest and most personable musician I have ever come across. Vanderslice hung out around the merch table for about an hour before the show, chatting and hanging out with everyone who approached him to say hi. He took audience participation to a new level with a wild, fun, fully interactive show. The stripped-down show found Vanderslice performing as a duo with Jason Slota, a talented drummer/multi-instrumentalist who can play a mean glockenspiel solo.
John Vanderslice – photo by Jill Rachel Evans
Ivan & Alyosha opened with their energetic folk rock. They were very thankful to Vanderslice for having them out on tour, and announced they’d be opening the Head and the Heart’s Seattle shows at the end of April, and seemed to be having a great time playing to the hometown crowd. Highlights included the slowly building “I Was Born to Love Her” and the vocal harmony-heavy “Fathers Be Kind.”
Ivan & Alyosha – photo by Jill Rachel Evans
Vanderslice took a couple minutes to converse with the audience – and hand out free Pabst tall boys before kicking off the show. His new album, White Wilderness, was recorded with San Francisco’s the Magik Magik Orchestra. He said as much as he’d love to have them out on tour, a full orchestra is very costly. Instead he decided to wear a different colored Magik Magik Orchestra T-shirt for every date of the tour to acknowledge their contribution.
He kicked off the show with “Scorpio Rising,” a melodic acoustic number and followed it up with “Convict Lake,” a new song about trying to OD on LSD. Shortly after this, the connection with an old Moog synthesizer started malfunctioning, randomly going off in the middle of songs. Vanderslice got fed up with this and ultimately ended up replacing the old Moog and passing the defective equipment around the audience in an impromptu show and tell. Slota then joined Vanderslice on stage. He amazingly played drums with one hand, and synth and additional percussion with the other.
JV declared April Audience Participation Month and he meant it. He called up an audience member named Chris to sing vocals on “Trance Manual.” Chris wasn’t half bad. Vanderslice and Slota then made their way down to the audience to play in the middle of the crowd. The interaction was great for audience members close to them on the floor. Unfortunately, audience members further away couldn’t hear that well because Vanderslice was singing without a microphone.
“Kookaburra” was one highlight of the show with Vanderslice manically switching guitars and instruments mid-song with Slota pounding away at the drums with his left hand and synth with his right. Towards the end of show Vanderslice and Slota returned to the floor of the Crocodile, accompanied by the vocals of friends and a backing track projected from a boom box held high. Vanderslice promised a dance party after concert’s end and true to his word the house music was triggered as soon as “Underneath the Leaves” ended. Vanderslice headed back over to the merch table to hang out with friends and fans.
I have rarely ever felt as much of a part of a show as I did attending Vanderslice at the Crocodile. The audience – artist connection is what makes a Vanderslice show truly special.
Review by Chris Senn & Photos by Jill Rachel Evans
John Vanderslice – photos by Jill Rachel Evans
Ivan & Alyosha – photos by Jill Rachel Evans
Jill Rachel Evans & Chris Senn meet John Vanderslice – photos courtesy of Jill Rachel Evans