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Fred Armisen and Friends @ Underground Arts.

November 15, 2013

FredArmisenKurtVile01Text by Grace Dickinson. Images by Luong Huynh.

Fred Armisen, former SNL cast member and current co-writer of Portlandia, brought an eclectic comedic performance to the Underground Arts on Thursday.

“Philly seems positive and cool but a little tough,” remarked Armisen on his initial impression about the city.

His act was one that catered well to the ADD minds of the 20th century, jumping from musical satire to solo stand-up to a small showcase of Portlandia clips thrown up on a projector. Although, it moved around considerably, it was a surprisingly music-heavy production.

Ian Rubbish, Armisen’s blonde-wigged alter ego, kicked off both the music and the show with a song about Rubbish’s beloved Margaret Thatcher. Armisen then transitioned into his brown hair, thick-framed glasses, and regular goofy self, before delving into several more songs for the night.

“This is when I’m happiest. I know that’s a corny thing to say,” remarked Armisen from behind his electric guitar.

He, along with J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., a backup bassist and a drummer, played several tracks from some of Armisen’s fake SNL bands, like hardcore Crisis of Conformity and more bluesy tunes like Massachusetts Afternoon. Before long, the whole audience was joining in.

Sent a bottle of sparkling apple cider to your house. Did you get it? Sent a bottle of sparkling apple cider to your house. Did you get it?

The SNL line was repeated over and over again until Armisen got the entire crowd to sing along. The absurdity of its simplicity sent random burst of laughter throughout.

“Some of the sketches I did on SNL were jokeless but they let me do it anyway,” remarked Armisen later on in the evening.

As with many comedians, it wasn’t necessarily his content but his smoothly simulated accents and intense facial expressions that seemed to trigger the biggest howls from the crowd. It’s also what truly showcased his talent as a comedian.

Highlights from the night included a surprise performance by special guest Kurt Vile and a Q&A with Armisen that concluded the performance. Even here, with Armisen standing on a box in the back of the room, the music-based theme came to life. The audience asked everything from his favorite band of the year (Chvrches) to who he would visit if he could go back in time (Prince – in his early days, although he said The Clash made an obvious alternate). Armisen also delivered several impersonations upon request, including Ira Glass (“Act 1”), and Mayor Bloomberg, and also explained the train of thought behind Portlandia’s catchy theme song.

“You really can’t get much smoother [than ‘Feel It All Around’],” he said of the track by Washed Out.We were going to use it temporarily but then just couldn’t get it out of our heads.”

A few audience members must have felt the same about one of Armisen’s own songs as they mumbled  “Sent a bottle of sparkling apple cider to your house. Did you get it?” on their way out from the show.

  1. Creature Double Feature permalink
    November 16, 2013 1:50 pm

    Man, sounds like an awesome night, I love all those guys. Are there any videos from the show?

  2. Anonymous permalink
    November 16, 2013 2:06 pm

    J Mascis playing a telecaster???

    • Anonymous permalink
      November 16, 2013 7:29 pm

      I read that he mostly records with teles, so it’s weird, but not *that* weird.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    November 16, 2013 9:27 pm

    Les Paul Junior for rhythm, Teles for leads

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