Large Bass Revival
Disclaimer: I was in Temecula for the Balloon and Wine Festival and only heard about the concert because I happened to see a playbill in the Holiday Inn lobby, and the name of my all-time favorite ringmaster, Dr. Johnny LaRue, was included among the performers. The innkeeper said at last year’s show an older woman, upon hearing the first note of the Large Bass Revival, not only leapt out of her wheelchair but also rose up into the night through a hole in the ceiling. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone: I’d get to see the Doc, and maybe they could cure this limp I got from a ballooning accident five years ago. But, sadly, I was so disappointed by the end of the night, if I could give them zero stars, I would.
As for the venue: They’ve set up this huge tent with red and black stripes in a big park down off the highway. Outside they sell moonshine in a jar for two bits (pricey but does the trick) and these meat-on-a-stick things that everybody says are just fantastic, but I found fur in mine (that’s what I get for a dime) and ended up throwing it away after one bite. On top of everything else, I get inside and the tent has hay all over the floor and hay bales for seats, and I’m still sneezing twenty-four hours later. Ugh.
Anyway, at least I found a bale in the front row, and even though many in the crowd showed up late and talked during his set, Dr. Johnny LaRue was great: He managed to hypnotize that rattlesnake on the first try. (I read that sometimes he gets bit in practice, which forces his helpers to be pretty good suckers.) He also pulled a rabbit out of his hat, but I’m sure people in the back rows could barely read the word “Tada” tattooed across the rabbit’s forehead. Not that they would appreciate it.
After a long sound check, the tent was full of mostly young people dressed in white, and the Large Bass Revival hit the stage. Their leader, Isme Possum, pranced around for a few minutes like the next Messiah, looking like he’d been dragged out of the bar at three a.m. I didn’t much care for his dirty leathers and billowy shirt. When he began to speak, while I found the words to be very eloquent, I just couldn’t take his message seriously coming from someone in such filthy outerwear, Messiah or not.
When LBR did play, let me tell you, while excellent musicians, they were just so obnoxious, trying so hard to satisfy some nostalgia for the America of twenty years ago, plucking violins and spinning the upright bass. On top of that, though the harmonies of the instruments in combination with the singing of Isme Possum and his wife Glinda Gossamer almost made me pay heed to Heaven, the overall affect was lackluster and I spent the entire show standing with my arms crossed in protest of Isme and the entire crowd, even though I was in the front row and everyone around me stared at this hole in the ceiling with their arms up and their palms facing the stage.
Eventually, the band got through a couple numbers about life being so tough and yet so beautiful (at one point roses with thorny stems fell from the hole, yet amazingly, when they breathed in the sweet smell, everyone forgot about the damage to their corneas), and Isme extolled the Holy Spirit to come down upon the weak among us, and he expelled demons out of a few people, causing them to fall backwards and be caught by the other members. But no one I saw actually left the ground or levitated in any way.
But the icing on the cake for me was when a gaunt young man (whom I think was also drunk) rushed the stage during the fourth song and yelled into the mike that Isme’s lyrics had that very morning helped him “get through a bloodletting,” prompting Isme to shoo away the stage security and then cradle the crying, frail man in his arms while “taking it down a notch” in the next, very touching song.
At that point I didn’t care if he could heal my fibula, I was just praying he wouldn’t bring the microphone over to me and make me explain my existential woes to these dang bohemians. I left them to it and snuck out with an extra jar of moonshine to find a nice quiet park bench. Sitting here over pad and quill, I still don’t see what all the fuss is about. Frankly, I wonder if the whole thing was staged.
Chris Black lives with his wife in Los Angeles. He is a former associate editor at Black Clock and wrote feature articles on rubber duck races, birds of prey, and other mountain topics for The Vail Trail weekly.