Connan Mockasin at the Echoplex – 5/19/14

I came in during the middle of Connan Mockasin’s opener. Due to a series of unforeseen events I was unable to arrive at the venue on time, but I believe this worked out in my favor. I was in a such a rush to get in that it was a full two minutes before I realized that I had entered a room awash with emotion and energy. That “Holy shit, when did this happen?” moment was priceless. It was a feeling similar to the first time I saw Portugal. The Man live, though the music couldn’t have been more different. It was a very personal retrofitting of an amalgamation of 80’s styles. This was Kirin J Callinan. I had recognized his deep, soothing late-night-radio voice and his unmistakable haircut from a Yours Truly video segment. He was very animated but the rest of the band was absolutely still. This had a pretty cool effect on the way the sound was perceived. It was silly and serious. It was an I’m operating dangerous machinery at a control panel and if my concentration wavers people will die sort of thing. It gave the music urgency. That and Callinan’s voice, an emotive blend of the best elements of George Thorogood and Billy Idol. By the end of the set his shirt was off and he was dancing – he had some great banter with the crowd (it felt like he was talking with you, not to you) and then he was off to collect his gear.

Connan’s set began with an introduction by a tall, dry (but very funny) German man and a sensual jam that would become “Why Are You Crying?” It was a wonderful beginning to what would prove to be one of my favorite live experiences. Connan came out carried on Callinan’s back. He hummed a few bars from his perch, the band vibed out together for a while, and Connan climbed down, looking sleepy with a charming grin. Callinan brought Connan his guitar, he played a few licks, then stopped and told the crowd he wished to do a stage-dive. He spent a minute or so supported by the audience before returning to his post and beginning the song proper. They were all smiling to themselves. This introduction didn’t seemed rehearsed – it was just a bunch of friends having a good time on the last show of their tour. They were amusing themselves. It was a pleasure to witness and to participate in what was a show for them as much as it was for us. Several times throughout the set Connan noticed the crowd’s enthusiastic singing and allowed them to take over. During “Faking Jazz Together” Connan assumed the role of conductor – in a very bugs bunny esque way – and guided the audience’s collective voice to soaring, intense heights, and keeping them there, before dropping into the jam. The set was a wonderful mix of Forever Dolphin Love and Caramel. One floated through the FDL tracks and was caught in the sticky sensuality of the Caramel bits. During “I’m The Man That Will Find You” it felt like we were all stuck together in a sweet gooey mixture that was slowly being pulled apart. They ended the set proper (not including the encore) with a 15 minute steadily accelerating jam of “Forever Dolphin Love” that called openers back on stage and left me in awe of how I hadn’t wet myself.

I stood wide-eyed wonder at each member’s passion, dripping from each note. None more than Connan himself. He reminded me of Jimi Hendrix – soft-spoken and humble but an emotive master of his craft, dazzling with his energetic, sensual musicianship.

Connan Mockasin’s show at the Echoplex last Friday was one of the most enjoyable sets I have ever been a part of and I cannot adequately express my gratitude to the band for crafting that experience. I implore you to check them out next chance you get – you will not regret it.

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