The Baked Potato is a jazz landmark not far from my clamhole digs here in the SoCal beach cities…but I've never been to it. The drive from the conservative/yuppie hellhole of Manhattan Beach to Studio City (the latter named for the old movie lots that used to festoon the area, and still do to a degree) wends through Lost Angeles and Hollywood before arriving at the venerable institution, and I'd rather piss God off than hazard that nefarious route. Sigh!, what I miss, though, safe in that hermited traffic-o-phobia sometimes makes me eat my own teeth. In a late 2010 gig there, Mike Keneally added bosom buddy Griff Peters to his quartet format, and so the listener here gets a three-guitar quintet figuration that's as complex as it promises (well, four stringsmen actually, but we all know what a red-headed stepchild the bass is), oft Zappa-esque but as sifted as ever through Keneally's demented wont of urban fairy-tales gone berserk.
Bakin' @ the Potato's liner claims fans were jammed into the venue, and I have no reason to doubt it, myriad gents probably hanging from the rafters, slipping into the spittoons, and boring holes through the walls to dig the fractured groove. Thus, let me right off the bat get to a fact all and sundry in the long haul are more than aware of: Mike's no Caruso, more like Todd Rundgren on a tone-deaf day; thus, don't expect Robert Plant in the vocals dept. It's Keneally's fretted acumen and wickedly bizarre chops and comps the fen slaver for, never disappointed, and, sure as hell, labyrinthine improv solos and comp deviations abound, at times Widespread Panic-ish, then thundering, every so soften angling in from Pluto. On the other hand, tell me if Chee doesn't frequently sound like a long-lost cutting room floor rescue from Todd's epochal debut Todd Rundgren's Utopia, the one with Icon.
The DVD is the visual component of this DVD/CD set and is several songs longer (the CD's damn near maxed out at 80+ minutes) than the purely sonic disc but really well filmed and kinetico-perspectively painterly. Not at all another of these hand-held shakily shot fan-o-rama cheap-out deals so damned prevalent nowadays (but, oooooooh, such things are so New Wave, Mr. Critic, sir!!!). When you see the crystal clear quality and well-chosen camera angles, you're gonna be glad as fuck this is a DVD package first, audio second. Not sure who shot it (Dave Foster?…kinda hard to tell), but if the guy doesn't soon have ground-level groups pounding the doors down, the music world contains even more idiots than is otherwise indicated. In fact, screw any notion of listening to the CD first, ya hafta glom the DVD and then put the disc in the car for trip-out time on the way to work tomorrow morning.
The menu is a repertoire of fan faves as well as rarely performed numbers, but the effect and tone overall indicate an evolutionary process in Keneally's taming of the art-damage route he's taken over the last so many years (his being an ex-Zappanite, I'm not sure one could claim the guy ever cleaved to orthodoxy), with things falling far more smoothly into place, one jolt after another. An added bonus is contained in up-close views of Mike's acumen on the piano, an adjunct far from insignificant. To hear his ivory riffs is one thing, but to see those phalanges flying over the board is entirely another. All up, then, if you're a long-time fan, this is indispensable, and if you're a newbie, welcome to the club, brother or sister or alien, you couldn't have chosen a better place to start.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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