Photo by Tenaya HillsBECK
The Pacific Amphitheatre
Thursday, July 21
I caught a brief whiff before Beck Hansen even emerged, but the fumes were so faint I couldn't get a proper read on them. That's definitely not a sensimillan varietal. Fortunately, by the time the wee Silver Lake dynamo and his boy dancers got to, oh, I'm pretty sure it was around the middle of "Black Tambourine," the gorgeous and unmistakable aromatics of California Indica—a fine blend of orange-flavored Californian strains, sweet acidity and a delicate finish—had brought my long-dormant sniffer out of retirement.
The first half of the show leaned toward the uptempo, perhaps to wake fairgoers out of any lingering deep-fried avocado/Tilt-O-Wheel/miracle-of-witnessing-live-sheep-birth funk. Heavy on the funk. White-boy funk. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, bottles and cans and that was a good one, Ray! funk. Double daters in section 2, row K, seats 34-38 responded with ferocious autistic gyrations despite each having approximately 12 inches by 24 inches of room to let the get-fresh flow.
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Up onstage, a twig in a brown jump suit stripped down to too-tight short-shorts, or as Beck jokingly referred to them, "poor man's air conditioning." Kicking into "Devil's Haircut," something gawdawful nasty filled these diseased lungs: My God, is that the paraquat-laced Kathunderfuck my buddy in Berdoo brought back from Alaska lo those many years ago? That may be Carnation Imitation Hashish in George W. Bush's America, but back in my day, bucko, that was called low-grade merch. Thankfully, the harsh was undone just for a lead-foot groove into "The New Pollution," the smog wafting over Pac Amp suddenly shifting to a delectable Jamaican Marley's Collie, its pleasing notes of petrol, lime and jasmine backed by a lightly sweet finish and hint of spice.
This completely surprised my secondhand-smoke toker, who surely would have wagered that here on the West Coast, it'd more likely encounter a Fallbrook—the kids still grow the stuff in Fallbrook, right? Or did those crappy Temecula Valley grape vineyards swallow 'em all?—or, better yet, a Mexican Oaxacan. By the time the show reached the molasses-slow middle section—culled mostly from SeaChange,or, as I insist to everyone who ignores me, "Beck's best album"—fallout from the adjoining Paradise Cafe's nacho glop, all that earlier boogie-oogie-oogeying and, yes, what the kids call The Pot had combined to put many a butt in a place it hadn't been the whole set: its seat. Oh, sure, the folks did rise as "The Golden Age" melted into the familiar strains of the more radio-playlisted "Lost Cause," but that was only a brief leg stretch. Those double daters in section 2, row K, seats 34-38 were now sprawled across their seats like oil riggers who'd just come off double shifts. Just in front of me, a guy was patting the back of a younger girl, exhausted and shaking her head in pain from the early onset of the Budweiser hangover she would wake up to the next morning. (That's Bud: the official beer of Pac Amp!) Noms,pinchegero!the audience seemed to be telling Beck.
And that is when the wave of some strong-ass Super Afghani blew the lid off my territory like a London Tube explosion, its pungent smell (and swift ignition of my lingering bronchitis) a small price to pay for the near-psychedelic contact high it produced. 'Tis true what the experts say: the shit do pack a bigger wallop these days. But while it might've reinvigorated Tommy Chong, it did nothing for this crowd, which remained stuck to their seats until Beck announced, "Okay, guerosand gueritas. . . " and, again, the Pavlovian prompting of chords they'd heard on the Roq (That's the Roq: the official sponsor of tonight's Pac Amp show!), in this case the opening of "Qu Onda Guero," got 'em up before—whooosh!—right back down again. Jeez, up, down, up, down—if I had wanted this, I'd have gone to a Catholic mass.
The finales ("Where It's At" and "E-Pro") finally got everyone up for good, and the peace-pipe offering for the accompanying tribal dance to their genius god—this tribe being composed of skinny, horn-rim-wearing young whiteys who work at the Spectrum—was surely a Dutch Passion varietal—I'd wager the elusive Purple Star. Heavily perfumed. Burnt-cinnamon/dried-cherry aroma. A 25-points-off-your-SAT-score kick in the kabooty. Yep, that's the Star, all right, a perfect nightcap to a pleasing night outside with the once and latest heir to the Bob Dylan mantle. (And I swore no boning up on Hilburn before writing this!) Have a nice drive back to the 323, wonder boy! I knew fair admission was included, but who knew there was a free buzz, too?