Live at the Majestic Theater: Jesse Malin, Light
Fallen Fruit - Bananas (2004)
Jesse Malin is a rare citizen of New York. He is in several rock bands, keeps the company of Jakob Dylan, Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen and Josh Homme, yet he is pretty normal in his aspirations. His sound is very polished and his songwriting is admittedly centered around “hope, struggles and smiles; about finding ways to keep on keeping on." Not the type of New York rock star we are accustomed to, but he does what he does and he does it well.
Let me be straight, Jesse Malin is a professional musician. He seems to be living a life that is beyond most of us, bloggers and fans alike, accurately living as a rock and roll star without the embellished glory. No one wants to be Jesse Malin... he doesn’t bring an austere of culture that is hip or even desirable. So isn’t that what we are always complaining about - a fake scene of blogs and message boards that is transient and full of hollow hype?
If that was the case, we should be embracing this man's honesty and his craft. But this is exactly where he seems to miss the mark by feeling overproduced, dwelling on every moment for sonic crispness. Upon listening a few times, it is apparent why people like Ryan Adams and the Boss are drawn to him. Those men have respect for the industries of Nashville and Abbey Road. They appreciate this style as a tool to harness their overflowing ability to communicate what is desirable about rock music.
In Madison tonight, Bon Iver is playing the Orpheum and Cloud Cult is at the High Noon with American Music Club. Tough choices, and Malin is apparently not the most popular choice. The show is empty, save for 20 or so people scattered around the Majestic Theater. Jesse Malin comes out with just his guitar and another guy on the electric piano. There will be no duet with Bruce Springsteen tonight, just as there will be no drums or bass. But there were plenty of stories, as Jesse Malin reflects in the silence of tonight - interrupting every slight pause in the show with a verse from his life.
Since the show was Jesse Malin light, here are a few highlights from his storytelling.
1) He complains about being in a rock band: the classic complaint that it is not as easy or glamorous as it seems. “Not everything is cool. It’s not cool when a guy puts on the plastic glove at Subway and takes your order. It’s not cool when you have to check your mattress for bed bugs at the hotel.” Then, song.
Some bands do not consider the ability to eat and sleep at a hotel un-cool. It beats mustard sandwiches and van seats.
2) Next, he explains that life was rough for the young Jesse Malin. “I remember when I used to get made fun of for wearing a Ramones t-shirt. In Queens, if you’re even a little bit different, everyone attacks you. This girl comes up to me and gives me shit for being a punk. By the way, this is the girl who had the teased hair, the acid-washed jeans and all that shit that they used to wear.” Then, song.
Hypocrisy layered upon hypocrisy makes for irony. Jesse Malin didn’t control the irony, though, so it was a bit uncomfortable. But the worst was yet to come.
3) He explained that Cracker Barrel has a policy of feeding touring musicians for free if they sign some glossies. So, over the years he has developed various schemes to get free food from the unassuming Cracker Barrel, and in the process became well versed in all things Cracker Barrel. This includes their policy for not serving homosexuals. Not sure if this is official, unwritten, or just made-up by Malin.
“So I walk in there and I say, (in a high society-type accent) ‘Do you serve fruits?’ And she’s like (in a hick accent) ‘What?’ So I repeat it, ‘Do you serve fruits?’ And she still has no idea what I’m talking about, so I say it again: ‘Do you serve fruits?’ And she finally gains her bearings and says, ‘Oh, we have peach cobbler, apple, cherry…’ (laughter) Sometimes you got to stand up for them.” Then, song.
How I imagine Jesse Malin got like this:
I picture Jesse Malin as a boy living in Queens, seeing all different types of people swimming around the metropolitan landscape that is New York. His eyes fill up with disco balls, impressing girls with the way he moves. There is no flaw in young Jesse’s confidence. Not until he sees someone with a ripped t-shirt, speaking with a fake British accent, does he meet what he consideres an equal. Young Jesse does what any good Queens boy would do and calls him a fruit. The punk spits in Jesse’s face and casually ambles towards the tavern. Various personas later, trying desperately to re-create the same awe in other people that loathing punk once created in him, Jesse Malin reads charts and sings for the everyday people.
-- Mitchell Bandur
Jesse Malin - Aftermath (mp3)