The second show of The Magnetic Fields' two-night stand at Boston's Wilbur Theatre was full of memorable moments, and for anyone who's seen them before, you know I'm not just talking about the music. The back-and-forth between Stephin Merritt and bandmate/manager/longtime friend Claudia Gonson ranges anywhere from awkwardly amusing to flat-out funny, and we had a whole bunch of that between the 30-or-so songs they treated us to on Thursday night.
From Claudia's opinion on the Who playing the Superbowl ("It must have been a recession special. Aren't those guys like 70 or something?") to discussion of their intermission ritual (tea-warming and coke-snorting?), to the best place to avoid vampires (gay bars, because there are so many mirrors), the unplanned asides can bring as many laughs as the dry wit in Merritt's lyrics.
But one diatribe in particular struck me, mostly because I'm an Okkervil River fan. Here's what Mr. Merritt had to say before the band kicked into "We Are Having A Hootenanny", off their just-released "Realism"...
Stephin Merritt: So I was just buying this hat, in a clothing store - as you can tell, not a wrinkle on it - and they were playing an album by a band called Aqua-something River?
Claudia Gonson: Okkervil River.
SM: ... Okkervil River. And their instrumentation was shockingly similar to not only the Magnetic Fields new album, but... this show. And I have been telling interviewers how proud we were that nobody has ever had this lineup or anything like it, for two months or something like that, six or seven times a day. Oh yes, who has ever used the 8-string ukulele, acoustic guitar, cello, pianette, and auto-harp together?... Well, they [Okkervil River] have, I think it's auto-harp, cello, pianette, acoustic guitar, 8-string ukulele, and... mandolin, or something like that.
CG: The moral of the story is... don't buy hats.
SM: Yes, don't buy hats, before you play a show.
CG: Don't do anything before you play a show. Including eat gigantic Chinese food.
SM: Yes, that either. But also, they had quite good lyrics.
SM: They had quite good lyrics. Which was a problem for me.
SM: I'm used to saying "I'm not just the best lyricist in the English language, I'm the only lyricist in the English language".
SM: But now there's competition on both fronts. I think they have industrial spies they've sent out...
(he looks suspiciously towards auto-harpist/vocalist Shirley Simms to his right)
SM: ... and it might be Shirley.
(and Shirley stares slyly back)
Gotta wonder if Okkervil River's Will Sheff had a serious case of burning ear on Thursday night as he received that fairly impressive long-distance compliment.
Also pointedly amusing, after the band descended into a downward spiral of banter during the encore, was this quick one...
CG: We're playing to 2300 people in a couple of days (ed: tonight at Brookyn's BAM), and we're going to get our act together. Be professional. We're going to dress up and shut up.
SM: Maybe it's better if you all pretend we ended after the second set. If there are any bloggers out there... (pauses)