The Lothars

The Middle East Downstairs, November 12, 1997, Cambridge, MA

We opened for The High Llamas, a British band who are often compared to "Smile" era Beach Boys. They made a point of telling their booking agent that they did NOT want another pop band to open for them --- well, we certainly qualified!

We had a few special treats that night. First, Brendan couldn't make the show, so we cajoled our friend Valerie Forgione (who also plays in Mistle Thrush) into hiding behind a third theremin. In addition to the three theremins and the guitar, we had our friend Jonathan LaMaster playing violin with us. Jonathan plays in several improvisational bands (including Saturnalia) and is very inventive on his instrument, so he fit right in.

Our set went ok. As usual, the monitors could have been better; there were times when it was difficult for the theremins to pick up the rhythm of the guitar, although, thankfully, the pitch came through loud and clear. About 3/4ths of the way through our 40 minute set, the bridge on Jonathan's violin broke! We managed to do the last song without him, but it was a still a bit disappointing.

The most exciting part was yet to come. Before the show, the main guy in The High Llamas (the Highest Llama?), Sean O'Hagan, asked Kris and Jon if they'd like to jam with him on the last song of their set? Ow! Twist our arms!

The High Llamas were an eight piece band for this tour: a three piece string section, drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, and Sean, who switched off on guitar, banjo, and keyboards. Despite the large number of people on stage, they chose not to use the drum riser (that's the platform toward the back of the stage that the drums usually sit on). Instead, Sean told Kris and Jon to set up on the riser. We set up before their set began, so throughout their entire set, there was the nifty visual sight of two theremins poking their "heads" above the rest of the band.

When the time came, Sean announced us and we did our thing. The song (which is called "Track Goes By", and which we had never heard before) has two parts: it starts with one of their standard pop songs, but this segues into a long jam that basically revolves around one or two chords. It was pretty easy for us to pick up what was going on. Kris did more sound-effects type stuff, while Jon played a simple scale-like melody. This was definitely the highlight of our night, and we received several compliments afterwards.