Another visit to Belltown’s Crocodile CafĂ© last night, to see the lovely and talented Robyn Hitchcock. It must be more than 10 years now since I’ve last seen him play, after seeing him many times in the ‘80s and ‘90s in Chicago and Denver and possibly somewhere else that I can no longer recall. Hell, I couldn’t even remember that I saw the Sugarcubes. You shouldn’t be able to forget an Icelandic pixie with a stunning voice and a dude with a horn blarting right at you, right? It’s possible I saw Moms Mabley and Beethoven for all I know. I’ve seen a lot of shows.

As I have said, I like the Croc. It’s a good club with a good vibe. Since Seattle is the hippest town in all of the universe, it would be so easy to run a place for tools by tools, but the Croc seems to be blissfully free of that, for the most part. Adding to its allure is Via Tribunali, a yummy upscale-ish Italian place connected to the club. I was hungry and the show hadn’t started yet, so noms were had. I had a Peroni, a beer described by my waiter as “Italian Bud Lite,” a not-all-that-appealing idea but I tried it anyway. With “The Who’s Greatest Hits” playing in the background, I drank my Peroni and channeled long-ago keg parties from dissolute youth. The salame pizza was SO GOOD – fresh fresh fresh light tomato sauce and mozz and these leeeeetle tiny salami circles that curled up with crispy-edged goodness. I thought I was done with pizza forever, but man, I’d have that again in a minute. A Nutella dessert and a cappuccino that tasted like the cigarette butts of a thousand Milanese fashionistas (that’s not a bad thing, btw), and I was ready to go catch the last half of the set from openers the Young Fresh Fellows. Go eat at Via Tribunali. Damn. Yum.

Dumb hungry me. I really should not have missed any of the YFF’s set, because they were grand. Now granted, these guys are clearly no longer young and probably not entirely fresh, but they were bursting with energy and good-humor and ROCK far past what one could imagine aging knee joints could tolerate. I kid; they were just super, with a great mix of pop and garage, grit and melody. And like I wouldn’t be totally won over by a cover of the Kinks’ “Picture Book” anyway. The crowd loved them, local boys that they are, and there’s nothing like having a drummer that is constantly being knocked in the head by his own cymbals.

After the YFF’s finished, I was able to find a nice spot near the front of the stage. I knew the Croc’s lighting wasn’t much better than a few strands of Christmas tree lights, so I gave my little camera the benefit of being a bit closer to the dimness and waited patiently for Robyn to arrive. But even at the cool Croc, there was a RUINER: a tiny and incredibly-rude Asian woman and her babbling friend. I bother to ASK when I move forward in a crowd and do everything I can to not block anyone’s view or bump them or be obnoxious. This thing just BARGED forward, took off her leather jacket and set it on the stage right in front of the guy standing there along with her beer and proceeded to TALK AND TALK AND TALK AND TALK in the most fucking annoying voice I have heard in quite some time. Oh yes, I loved hearing about what a scenester she is and all the cool people she knows and how important she is. She sounded like a horrible squeaky dog toy filled with moldy rainwater. If she had addressed me, I would have told her that and suggested vocal chord removal and to find a more toolish spot to stand.

Another reason why I LOVE Robyn Hitchcock: the FIRST THING HE SAYS when he gets onstage is “IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION, TAKE IT TO THE BAR IN THE BACK!” while Moldy Toy keeps up her VERY loud chatter, oblivious to his comment. I clap loudly. Eventually she and her pal left the rest of us to listen to ROBYN…yay!

I get the wonderful gift of my two very very favorite Robyn Hitchcock songs played right off the bat: “I Often Dream Of Trains” and “Kingdom of Love.” That was so nice, in fact, that I got a little teary for a second, thinking how much those songs have meant to me over the years and how much I have missed seeing them performed live. I got over my emo moment quickly though and proceeded to smile and rock.

Robyn Hitchcock is always Robyn Hitchcock, no matter how much time had passed, and this is good. I guess not as good for me was that Peter Buck is always Peter Buck, no matter how much time has passed. Now don’t get me wrong or nuthin’ – I think he is probably a very nice guy and he is obviously very well-liked and respected by people I dig. But damn. Dude’s only job is to play rhythm guitar, and he’s been playing a long time. CAN YOU TUNE IT, PLEASE? PLEASE? I AM LIKE RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR AMP. AIEEE. Sigh. I wasn’t a happy camper when Buck started playing on Hitchcock’s albums. For me, his style of R.E.M./Byrds 12-string Rickenbacker drone blands out Robyn’s quirky unique sound. Sorry, man. Ex-Ministry and R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin is very good, but almost too good – his vibe for me was like Buddy Rich playing with the Ramones. But Scott McCaughey from the YFF on bass let his sunny personality shine. Maybe he’s funned up R.E.M. too. What an incestuous group, these bastids is!

About 2/3 through the show, the substance that the woman in front of me took must have kicked in. She started putting her head down on the stage and sticking her butt out and muttering. When she started playing with Peter Buck’s effects boxes, he got the attention of some crew, but she stopped and drifted away, perhaps to meet her friend Lucy in the sky.

Minor whining definitely put aside, it was a most enjoyable show. It felt more like someone playing in your rather poorly illuminated rec room than some untouchable rock spectacle, zooming highlights and bum notes and brilliance and charming awkwardness all smooshed into one sonic bundle, held together by Robyn’s surrealist monologues and half-serious/half-embarrassed leadership. Sean Nelson, who looked like he belonged in a Seth Rogan film sang decent backup vocals all night, and pogo stick Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States joined in giddily for a few songs, including the very totally perfect pop song, “Queen of Eyes.” Another local dude came out to play lead on a cover of the Beatles’ “Ballad of John and Yoko,” which could have stood a rehearsal, but no matter. Way fun.

This song, “Up To Our Nex,” was featured in Jonathan Demme’s 2008 multi-award-winning film, “Rachel Getting Married.”

So once again, I end up the evening with a smile, and thank Robyn Hitchcock and friends for a great night. And yes, even a thank you to the Moldy Toy and the Acid Queen, my Content Providers. Hey…new song title, Robyn?