There is a scene I love in the movie “Baby Mama” where Steve Martin, as a pony-tailed vegan guru, rewards Tina Fey for a job well done with “five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact.” It’s just as hilarious and uncomfortable as it sounds, hence it was the first thing to come to mind while seeing Jamie Stewart sans Xiu Xiu at Café Du Nord last Friday. The now solo artist didn’t let a lack of accompaniment get in his way…which was extremely weird.
Normally, Stewart’s fluttering vocals and piercing wails are right at home with a full band of pitch wavers, mandolins and other scarcely-seen-even-in-indie instruments. Without them, even Jamie Stewart, a veteran of the Bay Area underground for over a decade, seemed not only naked but pornographic.
The air was thick with awkward giggles as Stewart performed songs like “Sad Girl” and “Suha” with lyrics like, “This is the worst vacation ever. I’m going to cut open my forehead with a roofing shingle.” Perhaps we always laughed at those lyrics but this was the first time we were able to hear each other do it. And shame ensues, just like is does after looking at dad’s Hustler.
After overcoming the strange tension, you realize the only person in the room who doesn’t have it is Stewart, eyes closed, pounding riffs out of an electric guitar like he’s headlining at The Forum and not just one guy at a moderately sized SF speak-easy. While he loses himself, he doesn’t fail to take you with him and make you forget how much you’re going to miss Xiu Xiu. IBOPA and Ten In The Swear Jar, however, are another issue. I still miss them.