Be honest, now: would you call this guy THE FACE OF FUN? A GOOD-TIME KINDA GUY?

Hmm. No, I think you probably would not. I think you would more likely figure him for some kind of inscrutable surly gang member or someone you might find on a "No-Fly" list. London police gave brief consideration to the latter possibility this past summer, as a matter of fact. Upon questioning Mark Oliver Everett, aka "E", aka EELS, a well-respected American indie musician, they determined he was not at all a terrorist and that Hyde Park was under no threat. The moral is: don't judge a book by its cover, or its primary reputation for sad songs that say so much. Everett and the other hirsute gentlemen who make up the EELS touring band played the Moore Theater in Seattle last night, and I, also not a gang member nor terrorist, but not at all hairy, was there.

For some reason, I had completely forgotten that I had scored FRONT ROW TICKETS for this show quite some time ago, so when I arrived at the theater, I was pretty darn excited. My excitement made a brief foray into a sinkhole of awkwardness as the first opening act appeared onstage.

"Marianne," I can hear you ask, "Marianne...is that a...ventriloquist??" Yes, I answer you, yes, it is. "Why?" you ask. I don't know, dear...I just don't know, I sadly answer you again. I hear that EELS have had different ventriloquists open for them on this tour. Perhaps it is some kind of Ed Sullivan-style nostalgia. Perhaps Everett has a perverse fondness for acts better-suited for the nursing-home set. Oh, well, Steven Taylor and Pinworms The Porcupine or whatever its name was, at least you kept it to 15 minutes. The last bit was bringing an audience member onstage to mime to "I'm a Little Teapot." I was so hoping the dude would puke through the mask Taylor put on him, because that would have been incredibly entertaining.

I can't say that if I were singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop I'd be all that happy to follow an unfunny comedian. As our good luck would have it, Hoop came out onstage, alone except for a hollow-body electric guitar and her large hair, and quickly won the audience over with her stunning voice and sweet manner.

(A few more photos here.)

Instantly, I thought of Joanna Newsom -- the same kind of pure, skilled voice, sort of quirky-girl appearance and mannerisms, the measured way of speaking, the quiet humor. Hoop is less ethereal, more connected to the audience. She was incredibly gracious as well, and repeatedly thanked the crowd for listening. Here's "Whispering Light," a song she wrote, she explained to us, after teaching her Mormon mother, over the phone, how to smoke pot to relieve her cancer pain.

Watching Hoop's set, you had the feeling you were seeing something kinda big ready to happen. Make a point to check out her music.

After enjoying some fine instrumental-lounge versions of rock standards over the PA, the lights went down and the symphonic swells of "When You Wish Upon A Star" played (like, the whole entire song). Oh, E, you so silly. As Everett took the stage in his white jumpsuit (think Dickies, not Elvis), fans rushed forward, something I had not seen before at this seated venue. Well, not one to be left viewless in the front row, I went forward and got my position, which was totally sweet. The show began quietly with Everett and guitarist/vocalist The Chet on pedal steel.

It's true -- Everett is primarily known for writing songs about loss and longing over his almost-20-year-long musical career. He's had a tough, strange go of it in life, which he wrote about in his superb autobiographical book, Things The Grandchildren Should Know, but guess what? He's not really all that emo. For woven throughout all of Everett's work is a sense of the absurd, the weird, the funny, and ultimately, the hopefulness that seems to spark in people even under the most trying circumstances. AND...he is someone who CAN and DOES ROCK. ROCK!!!

And this is what happened. EELS put on a crunchy, loud, upbeat, fun, masterful set that was just a blast to watch. E and The Chet were soon joined by pals P-Brew on guitar/vocals, Koool G Murder on bass, and Knuckles on drums/vocals. You don't need to know their real names because you aren't the London police, so there.


The show included quite a few songs from EELS most-recent rapid-fire concept trio, albums Hombre Lobo, End Times, and Tomorrow Morning, with "Fresh Blood" "That Look You Give That Guy," and "Looking Up" some of my faves. ("Hombre Lobo" was hands-down my favorite release of 2009.) Funnily enough, the two videos I got were of covers, both originally done in 1966: The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In The City," and Billy Stewart's wild version of the Gershwin classic, "Summertime." FUN? YES!

(More EELS photos are here.)

The show almost had a revival-fervor to it, which the crowd happily responded to. Everett has over the years built a nice fan base; he doesn't have to work a day job, but doesn't have to date Ke$ha and whore out on American Idol either. He is a fine songwriter and musician, and his collaborators are similarly top-notch.

Touching, funny, unique, retro, unexpected, and most importantly, big-time rock n' roll -- that was EELS in 2010. In 2011, who knows -- maybe they'll open with a plate-spinner and shave! I'll be there whenever and wherever they are here, that I know.

Thanks to Jesca Hoop and EELS for a great night.