Headed up to the 32nd Ward tonight to see Michael Penn play at Schuba's. Schuba's is the type of place that makes for good concerts, and they tend to book the sort of acts who will benefit from the intimacy of the room.
Michael is the brother of Sean and the late Chris Penn, and you may recall him having a hit in 1990 with "No Myth," which you might think is called "Romeo in Black Jeans" or possibly "Someone to Dance With." He makes fun of this confusion in concert. He also hates to banter between songs.
It isn't that he cannot entertain a crowd with idle chat, it just seems to be something in which he has no interest. He's always looking for ways to replace this activity with something else. At a show I attended in 2000 (a tour with his wife, Aimee Mann) they used a comedian to handle all the chat that might need to take place while musicians were tuning. He was a great fit for the show, and the whole night was hugely entertaining.
This time, he had a microphone set up near the sound board for the audience to have a try. He told us that anything was fair game except for comments about him or Q & A. Most of us were reluctant to get up and try to entertain the crowd, but a couple of folks got up there and told a joke. I can't say this added much to the show, as Mr. Penn was far and away the best entertainer in the room. He usually got a laugh just responding to the person with the microphone. But of course, no one had come to see Slightly-Tipsy Middle-Aged Woman do her comedy routine.
He still sounds amazing, and there was a kazoo solo. What more needs to be said?
Schuba's was one of the places we were very hungry to play during the map of july years, but both times they asked us to come down were times when we were already booked to play another room. It was painful to have to decline. I'd still love to play Schuba's, but I have to admit that my chances are pretty slim unless I put together another band. Might happen one of these days. Who knows?
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