Review of Mike Keneally / Marco Minneman At Baked Potato (11/4/2006)

@ The Baked Potato, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, November 4, 2006

Wow. Where do I begin?

The evening began by my roommate’s cat, Puck, dished out a shit storm on my sleeping bag as I was putting on my shoes and heading out the door. Do you know how heavy a wet sleeping bag is? Heavy enough that I almost couldn’t get it back out of the washing machine in time for my friend, Brendan Davis (producer of Life With Fiona) to pick me up on the way to the Mike Keneally show.

So there I am, tugging on what feels about as heavy as a giant squid with gallons of water pouring out of it, as I hear him pull up outside. I can barely lift half of it out of the top of the washer as a waterfall pours out the bottom (and down my legs) and begins to fill the laundry room. I grab a bucket and at least a couple of gallons fill up, with no apparent end to the deluge.

With all my might I heave the sleeping bag out the door and slop it down on the side steps… and we ride in Brendan’s Mercedes over to The Baked Potato… as I wonder what my roommates will think when they come home. Flooded laundry room + the stench of feces + wet sleeping bag = wow.

With less than a clear conscience, we arrive at the Baked Potato.

The venue is quite tiny and exclusively serves over twenty different types of baked potato to devour while you listen to such math-rock fusion renegades as Virgil Donati, Tony McAlpine, and Terry Bozzio — who frequent the stage on any given night. I decide to go all-out and order a rumored 3,000 calorie ham and mozzarella baked potato… a modified #3.

The walls were plastered with fusion rock posters and autographs by “everyone that I listen to that no one else does.” The bartender informed Brendan and I that Terry Bozzio has a custom drum kit built to the specifications of that exact room, with his cymbals 9″ from the ceiling… and that when he sets it up in there, it takes up the exact size of the stage. The place is so fucking cool that it, itself, has endorsements from SWR and DW. I’d say the room was maxed-out at a capacity of maybe forty people, most of them sitting comfortably at tables.

We met up with this drummer kid from Myspace named Cristos, who later purchased a CD from me. We talked a bit, and in walks Steve Vai’s guitar tech, Roger. Next I spot drummer Joe Travers, who is currently serving on the Zappa Plays Zappa tour.

We watched the show for a while, and it was phenomenal. I was so inspired halfway through the first set that I wanted to go home right then and work on my new album.

Marco Minneman is a nut. He played a near flawless set, conquering some of the most complex instrumental rock music in the world with little effort. During intermission, I heard Mike Keneally telling someone that Marco had just moved to San Diego from Germany the other day, and that they had only played together once before. Bassist Bryan Beller was also freaking out over it. Marco’s sounds and stylings are remarkably similar to Morgan Agren’s — with all the small effects cymbals and dry tone. I don’t know if it’s a European thing or what… it would take a highly trained ear to tell them apart, but I doubt they even know each other. Marco had definitely mastered the art of fluttering bass flams — and effectively inserted them during appropriate pauses.

Once in a while, either he or second guitarist Rick Musallum (dubbed, “Riff Musallum” by Keneally that night), would trigger funny Homer Simpson samples, to which the band would begin playing along to.

The whole band had an amazing improvisational chemistry, particularly noticeable between Keneally and Beller. I have never seen a band with that level of intricacy with their spontaneous cues and stops and starts. It was really bizarre to sit there and see it happen as it happened. At 10:05, Keneally paused during a song and asked said, “Let’s keep this improv going until 10:30.” Everyone laughed and buckled in for a very wild and entertaining free jam. Double solos and juxtaposed rhythm guitars were played all night by the duo of Keneally and Musallum, and they wove together so well that it sounded like one insane dude with too many strings. Keneally would begin a phrase over here on the guitar and end it over there on the keyboard, while laughing to himself. One man shouldn’t be allowed to have that much fun.

There were two sets, so during intermission, I went out back and mingled with the band members. Chris Opperman was running the merch booth out of the back of Keneally’s car… and just as I got back there another fan of mine came up and wanted to buy my album. I felt bad and Chris Opperman yelled, “We get 20%!” So I gave him a MutantMall 10% off coupon. Anyway, I agreed to pay the Keneally Merch Mobile 20% of all my sales that evening. Later on, Opperman interrogated me to find out if I had sold any more. “Maaaaaaaaaaaybe,” I said, which caused Keneally to burst out laughing. I forked over another $4.

Before that, I introduced myself to Keneally, who had listened to Beller’s copy of my album but did not have his own, so I gave him one. We talked a little bit about Negativland, a group of performance terrorists that we both idolize. I said hello to Beller and Minneman as well, and everyone warmly welcomed me. Bryan was actually the one who had gotten me on the list, and we chatted a bit about common acquaintances.

Also during the intermission, I talked to Opperman about carrying the Keneally catalog on MutantMall, which will now happen.

The second set was supposed to start at 11:30. We all went back inside as Keneally spontaneously guessed the time without looking and said, “It’s 11:07, fuck it, we’re all friends here, you wanna do this shit?” They launched into an even more impressive set, in which Mike simultaneously improvised a solo on both keyboard and guitar, one with each hand, in harmony. Both sets were full of laughter and funny ideas, but the second set contained Zappa’s The Black Page and another familiar Zappa piece. The band sounded even better, and Marco really nailed the through-composed pieces.

At some point, during all the insanity, I looked down the bar, and 3 seats away from me is… no joke… ARSENIO HALL, eating the motherload of all baked potatoes and nodding his head to the music of Mike Keneally. It appears that Arsenio Hall, like me, appreciates the finer things in life, such as pentuplets and polyrhythms.

I think I’ll move back to Florida because Los Angeles is boring,


P.S. Here is a picture of me and Marco Minneman. I’m not small, he is just really BIG and GERMAN:

Carl King and Marco Minnemann meet for the first time.

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