by Andria Lisle
Last night, surrealist singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock officially closed the week-long Indie Memphis Film Festival with a sold-out concert at Studio on the Square.
After a comedic entrance through the exit door, Hitchcock strapped on an acoustic guitar and launched into a performance that spanned more than an hour and included favorites such as "Bass" and "Raymond Chandler Evening," both from 1986's Element of Light. His musical yarns and hilarious in between chatter veered from subject to subject, touching on ants, George W. Bush's DNA, the Pyramid, Johnny Cash's train dreams, Brian Epstein's sexual proclivities and the afterlife.
Had John Lennon hooked up with Brian Wilson instead of shacking up with May Pang during his infamous "Lost Weekend" in L.A., he might've cut the wonderful "Saturday Groovers", from Hitchcock's newest album Goodnight Oslo, which was released on the Yep Roc label earlier this year. Sans all the extra instrumentation, and served up in a Malco multiplex, the song sounded eerie, and tremendous.
It was a no-frills concert — Hitchcock repeatedly joked about the green hued movie screen behind him, occasionally sipped from a coffee mug and, for a good two minutes, writhed about in near silence so that the audience could hear his body creak. No frills, however, was just what the doctor ordered: With no distractions, it was easy to close your eyes and imagine the bizarre imagery he conjured up via songs like "Museum of Sex" and "Olé Tarantula."
The performance, which was filmed by the team at Modern Production Concepts, wasn't the only gift Hitchcock — who starred in the 1998 documentary Storefront Hitchcock and 2007's Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death... and Insects, and appeared in features films Rachel Getting Married and the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate — bestowed on Indie Memphis.
While on a tour of Midtown's Ardent Studios on Wednesday, Hitchcock pulled out a song he'd written the night before. Engineer Jeff Powell immediately set up shop in Studio C, studio manager/Big Star drummer Jody Stephens joined in, and, by the end of the day, a pair of songs were recorded. After mixing in Studio A, Hitchcock took the tracks to in-house masterer Larry Nix, who immediately cut an acetate of the session. Expect a limited edition pressing of 500 vinyl 45s, with all proceeds going to Indie Memphis.