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Friday, February 24, 2012

Did you see? Portlandia: The Tour at the Variety Playhouse

Fred & Carrie in the A Feb. 23
  • Portlandia's Facebook
  • Fred & Carrie in the 'A' Feb. 23
"Portlandia: The Tour" stopped at the Variety Playhouse last night for back-to-back shows, but you probably knew that already because: a.) You read my Fred Armisen/"Portlandia" story (Thanks, you!) and/or b.) You were standing in that line stretching from the Variety Playhouse box office all the way back through Inman Park to North Avenue before one or both of the shows. Just kidding.

No I'm not. It was a really long line.

The show was cute. It wasn't particularly hilarious, or not hilarious, but I went in with relatively low expectations after seeing some online clips that basically made it look like an unrehearsed stage version of the TV show. Because I'm press, I also didn't pay $30 for a ticket, a fact that may have kept cute from becoming disappointing for me, but unfortunately not for some other folks I knew in attendance.

I went to the earlier 8 p.m. performance, which consisted of friendly banter between Armisen and Brownstein, the screening of some unaired season two segments, an audience q&a and a so-so jam sesh featuring Fred on bass, Carrie on guitar, Telekinesis' Michael Lerner on drums, Wild Flag's Rebecca Cole on keyboards, and at the end, Eleanor Friedberger on vocals, singing covers of the Doors' "Light My Fire" and the Patti Smith/Bruce Springsteen ballad "Because the Night."

When I interviewed Armisen earlier this month, he hinted at a special guest he was trying to nail down for the Atlanta show: "There's someone I'm trying to get, but I don't even know if it's a yes, so I can't spoil the surprise. But it's someone who was in a really popular pop group, a trio. And I really used to love them. They're not really a band anymore; they're just singers. Oh, god! I love them so much. I can't say anymore because I haven't heard anything back."

For the life of me I couldn't figure out who it might be and I didn't get an answer last night, since no ’90s Atlanta pop trio showed up to perform. Instead, Margaret Cho, for whom Atlanta's become an adopted hometown, and "30 Rock's" Jack McBrayer, native of Syphilis-friendly Conyers, had a shared cameo to help explain neighborhoods and ITP/OTP to Fred and Carrie. I always like seeing famous people (it's one of my favorite things, actually), but the appearances felt unplanned, like a last-minute substitution for the mysterious pop trio that said no.

My least favorite part of the evening was the audience q&a. People in concert venues cannot be trusted to yell interesting things. In fact, the main function of concertgoers who like to yell at the stage is to say stupid things, like the guy last night who asked Armisen and Brownstein how old they were in high school. Really. Someone really asked that question. One guy did manage to ask a good question, though and requested a drum solo from Armisen, which was a highlight.

But the best part of the evening was a slideshow comprised of images from Armisen and Brownstein's personal computers, including a terrifyingly awesome publicity photo (reminiscent of this photo of Armisen) of Armisen's Japanese grandfather who was a modern dancer in the 1940s, prom and graduation photos, and some pictures of some original poetry by Armisen from the second grade:

"BLOOD. Dracula sucks blood/And so do I/Many insects suck blood/Even a fly. ” — Freddy Armisen: 2nd Grade

Think about it.

So yeah, the show was fun and cute, but was it enough for $30? I didn't hear anyone saying "cacao."

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