Shuggie Otis : San Francisco Fillmore Auditorium
Re-emerging West Coast psychedelic rock legend proves he may have left his talent - and much of his mind - back in the '70s...
Brian Wilson can fuck right off. Thanks to the efforts of booklovers like David Byrne and Gilles Peterson, there’s a new lost soul re-emerging from the golden glazed seventies West Coast abyss. His name is Shuggie Otis. And he’s twice as mental. Stumbling out on the historic Fillmore stage a decent 40-minutes past his scheduled set time, he faces a house packed with indie kids who were still making messy in their pants when he originally issued his recently salvaged 1974 classic album ‘Inspiration Information’.
But Otis is not here to revisit the acid-washed summer grooves of breath plundering songs like ‘Happy House’ and ‘Strawberry Letter 23’. He’s got more important matters at hand – like tuning his guitar, standing up straight and getting acquainted with his pick-up band, whom having missed soundcheck and all earlier in the day he’s just met for the very first time. Is it any wonder the drummer has brought a basketball with him to stay entertained, or that the saxophone player spends more time picking out his ‘fro than blowing his horn?
Otis, meanwhile, lurches around in his standard issue highway patrol sunglasses and gray Lionel Richie suit playing fractured, street-fair quality blues riffs. He starts one song and finishes with another. He sits on the organ stool and promptly breaks it into five pieces. Having neglected to bring along any guitar stands, he simply drops his instrument when he wants to switch to another one, letting out a squall of feedback. And then he repeatedly yells at the hapless soundman: “Turn the organ down! And the vocals… keep them the same.”
Otis makes disastrous stabs at Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘Everyday People’ and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ (new chorus: [I]”Butterflies and zebras don’t mean shit”[/I]), but mainly produces rambling blues workouts for nearly two senseless, godless hours. And then he discovers the set-list. So Otis starts the whole show over from the top, finally bringing it to a merciful end some 20-minutes later with a second misguided go at ‘Everyday People’ while his blank-faced band looks on.
The best part is that he’s only managed to fit in the first two verses of ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ somewhere in the whole jumble as his only acknowledgement of ‘Inspiration Information’. “I’ve got to get the fuck home,” he mumbles to the rapidly fleeing 50-or-so people left in attendance. No doubt.