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Reggie Watts @ Mayne Stage last night (late show – review)

words by Parker Langvardt

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Reggie Watts converges the art forms of music and comedy in a way that only a real musician can achieve. Trained in jazz, he cut his comedy chops in New York City and broke into the international music scene by performing at many of America’s top music festivals, as well as Brian Eno‘s Luminous Festival in Australia, and on Conan O’Brien‘s Legally Prohibited From Being on Television Tour. Watts did four performances at the Mayne Stage this weekend, and I was able to attend Saturday night’s 8PM set.

Watts could pass as the black Mario Brother with his suspenders, red t-shirt, and impressively round and comically large Afro. He opened with an accurate analysis of the density of strollers and fixed gear bikes in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, asserting that a truly badass biker would use a fixed front wheel during the winter. Throughout the show he tackled a list of things he was “required” to talk about such as rectangular batteries, and things people had “written in” about, including bagels. His set was equally divided between stand-up, virtuosic voice looping, and keyboard-based songs. He excelled at bass lines, whether he sang or used his voice to replicate the sounds of electric and double basses. Clear, in-tune falsetto vocals were the highlight of “Concerto in D (or triple F flat),” a 60s-style soul ballad which, according to Watts, is about a 16 year old who journeys from St. Louis to Montana in 1856 to become a sub-par sheepherder before meeting a cowboy who teaches him about wildlife and spurs his interest in drawing. What “Concerto in D” actually seems to communicate are vague or alluded-to sentences that become scatted melodies before making much sense.

He spent a couple minutes adjusting his microphone while attempting the beginning of a song on his keyboard, clearing his throat and hitting random keyboard notes before groaning and adjusting compulsively. He finally began the song, which touched on “…diggin’ clams for over 65,000 years,” “…being a steamboat captain for a while,” and how he “…wants shoes in his trousers.” Despite the amount of nonsense in his set, Watts also managed to include some social commentary; He bashed hunters as “pussies” for using camouflage and high-powered weapons, declaring, “That’s not really hunting- that’s a video game!” One of his last jokes was about “regligion,” which led to a Gregorian chant about Israel and Palestine. His extremely entertaining set came to a close with a skit using effects pedals to create the bizarre voices of Voldemort and other antagonists from what I assumed to be the final Harry Potter movie, which he mentioned in a tweet earlier in the day.

Watts will continue on tour, playing the last show of this run in New Orleans on 8/30.

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