How was The Spin both at Bonnaroo and at Conan O'Brien's thing Thursday night? We don't know. We didn't even know we were at the Conan thing until after we were at Bonnaroo. Or something like that. Anyway, we were among the lucky 300 or so humans to witness Coco's surprise stopover at Third Man Records. We were also lucky enough to skip ahead in the absurdly long line to get in, which started in the alley by the back door of the studio and wrapped around an entire city block, spilling onto Eighth Ave. like a sweaty, drunken python.
The show was to kick off around 8 p.m. We hopped into the press line around 7 and sheepishly faced off with the unwashed throngs who'd been baking in the sun since 6 a.m. Let’s just say, drunk people who are willing to risk unemployment and heat stroke to see a former late-night chat host are also willing to end your life if you even smell the slightest bit entitled. We averted our gaze and humbly stewed in our privilege.
Our anxiety about being beaten to death for jumping ahead in line quickly dissolved once inside. Within moments of the doors' closing, Jack White appeared onstage as emcee, and the tiny area filled quickly with Conan’s Legally Prohibited Band. We positioned ourselves stage right and ended up being well within sweat-splash distance of La Bamba and the rest of the horn section. The pompadoured one bounded out, wielding a guitar, and immediately tore into “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “On the Road Again,” where he took the liberty of altering some lyrics to reflect his plight as a traveling comedian. Conan played with the swagger of a seasoned performer and was clearly feeding off the manic energy of the crowd.
The highlights included his impromptu cover of Radiohead's "Creep," sung in the style of a Cockney chimney sweep, and a rendition of “Polk Salad Annie” wherein Conan waxed facetious by talking about his incredibly difficult upbringing in an upper-middle-class suburb of Boston. With a nod to the surroundings, the band broke into an instrumental cover of “Seven Nation Army,” and then White reappeared for Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock,” followed by Ronnie Hawkins's “Forty Days.” The only break in the evening was mandatory and occurred when the tape needed to be changed for the reel-to-reel recorder.
The entire night was a raucous, surreal event that we’ll never forget (and, due to the recording, will live on for posterity). Seeing a performer some might call iconic, coupled with the feverish hum of genuine excitement and awe, is something we rarely get to witness in our jaded little industry town.