We were faced with an interesting decision on Cannery Row Friday night: Venture upstairs for San Diego’s Americana-influenced indie rockers Delta Spirit — who we’ve seen and enjoyed a couple of times before — or hang around downstairs for the absurd and potentially idiotic antics of Tim & Eric’s Chrimbus Spectacular Tour. But to hell with decisions. We opted to do both.
We made it to the Ballroom in time for the kick-off of Tim & Eric’s monstrous weird-out fest, which was introduced by a video featuring popular Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job! regular and bizarro outsider musician David Liebe Hart. Video “spoofs and goofs” played prominently in the show — we had a hard time seeing the screen at the back of Cannery’s stage at times, but continuity and seamlessness aren’t really the point of Tim & Eric, so we didn’t worry too much about it. In a live setting, some of the duo’s material landed, but other moments left the audience looking conspicuously befuddled — which was kind of an awesome thing to see from a sold-out, $25-per-ticket crowd.
Anyhow, some bits elicited a genuine chuckle from The Spin: bringing the house lights up and claiming the show was over after just 10 minutes; the “Jim and Derrick” skit, a play on MTV douchebag-riddled Punk’d-style programs; a Terminix-sponsored “Blues Brothers 2012” performance peppered with egregious product placement and a cover of “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” Mostly, however, the overriding theme seemed to be “When in doubt, make a diarrhea- or vagina-related joke.” Compounding the absurdity of the evening’s affairs: A) countless dorks letting their freak flags fly, wearing Awesome Show-inspired costumes and wigs; and B) the swift realization that a certain local frontman/associate of The Spin appeared to be under the influence of some sort of psychotropic substance all evening.
Rumors that noted actor and frequent Tim & Eric collaborator, John C. Reilly, was in attendance floated around all evening. The rumors were confirmed about an hour into the show, when Reilly appeared in character as the beloved, bumbling Dr. Steve Brule before a fleet of raised cell phones and cameras. Reilly has reportedly only appeared at a handful of shows on the Chrimbus tour, and he claimed, as Brule, that he was happy to be in “Asheville, Tenn.,” where he had never been before. Perhaps Brule hadn’t been here before, but Dewey Cox certainly has. Reilly did roughly 15 minutes of Brule, which included asinine health tips and an unsuspecting audience member — who seemed to be a good sport — getting her breasts fondled and being barraged with bizarre come-ons. Everyone was pretty enamored, though — dude’s an Oscar nominee who isn’t above dick jokes.
We figured we’d gotten our fill after Reilly’s bit, and we weren’t too interested in seeing Tim & Eric’s band, Pusswhip Banggang, who closed out the night. We get plenty of joke bands around these parts, and genuinely good bands trump potentially funny ones any day, so we ventured upstairs just in time to see all of Delta Spirit’s set. (We heard Pusswhip was terrible, anyhow. Surprise.) Delta Spirit were not only much more hirsute and chilled-out-looking than when we’ve seen them in performances past — they were also tighter, more energetic and more urgent. It was the most motivated, well-rounded set we’ve seen from Matthew Vasquez & Co., and featured all of the best tunes from both Ode to Sunshine and History From Below. We even kind of enjoyed Vasquez’ brief rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” which swiftly transformed into Delta Spirit’s “Trashcan” and then “Bushwick Blues” — for our money, their two best songs.
Basically, we needed a solid dose of ingenuousness after the debaucherous clownery we’d witnessed downstairs, and that’s what we got. Also, Delta Spirit’s set helped us realize that the best time to see a rock band is often on their second full record cycle: They have enough material to fill out a strong set, and they’re road-tested but not yet completely cynical. Good palette cleanser after all the diarrhea jokes.