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Live

'Lovage'
Jan. 8, Slim's

It was 8:30 on a Tuesday evening at Slim's, local trio Live Human were opening for Dan the Automator's onstage production of Lovage, and it was becoming painfully obvious to my friend and me that we would be spending the evening with an audience made up almost entirely of rock fans.

"Hey, there sure are a lot of guys here," I said, laughing, to my friend as Live Human took tracks from their Elefish Jellyphant album and relentlessly improvised, rendering them completely different from the originals. Bassist Andrew Kushin, drummer Albert Mathias, and DJ Quest took turns leading, keeping time for one another as the others added their own spontaneous licks. Live Human's tightly wound, enigmatic blend of hip-hop and bebop struck me as reminiscent of the spirit, if not the sound, of jazz.

Still, when Kid Koala took the stage for a 20-minute DJ set an hour later, and the Cure's "Close to Me" elicited louder cheers than his equally inspired cut-ups of A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation" and Black Sheep's "Similak Child," it was clear that this was going to be a funk-free environment. Which made sense, for Dan the Automator's latest album, Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By, is a downtempo pop affair inspired by legendary lounge lizards like Serge Gainsbourg and Bryan Ferry. The mood throughout it is mellow and as orgasmic as predawn sex.

As a movie screen descended in front of the stage, the audience was treated to a preview for '70s softcore flick Young Lady Chatterley, for which Kid Koala capably spun the soundtrack. When the screen rose, all of Lovage's primary players were present: Dan in his Nathaniel Merriweather guise and vocalist-provocateur Mike Patton, both clad in silk pajamas, and Jennifer Charles of New York outfit Elysian Fields, messily made up in a red negligee. Of course, all the guys couldn't wait to begin tossing out lewd remarks. "She doesn't look that great!" one observed. "I wanna take you home and clean you up!" another yelled.

Charles and Patton played to the crowd's horny rages, smirking and mugging repeatedly. "You never know what to expect when the pussy is in heat," Charles cooed during "Stroker Ace." Not to be outdone, Patton repeatedly bugged his eyes out, making all kinds of faces while effortlessly accomplishing vocal feats made easy by a four-octave range (I'm estimating here). In one of the evening's funniest moments, Patton introduced Dan as a man who "specializes in water skiing and double penetration"; Koala, he noted, "starred in such films as Stuart Little, Home Alone, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," double entendres intended.

Even if Koala took the brunt of that joke, he proved to be the star of the evening, with his trademark rhythm scratching, or spinning two copies of the same record back and forth. The two spotlight tracks he was given, "Everyone Has a Summer" and "Koala's Lament," didn't last long enough.

Musically, the concert was interesting but difficult to absorb, with all the onstage (and offstage) antics. The Lovage ensemble gave a rather strict interpretation of the album: save for "Archie and Veronica" and an intense, slow-burning cover of Berlin's new-wave chestnut "Sex (I'm A)," they didn't really improve on or detract from the original – but they brought it to gloriously kitschy life, complete with lots of playacting.

As my friend and I headed over to the bathrooms after the hour-long show ended, she asked, "This is all about sex, isn't it?" (Mosi Reeves)