All words: Ross Bonaime — All photos: Blinkofanaye
Let me just preface this by saying that Reggie Watts has always been sort of hit-or-miss for me. I’ve enjoyed him in smaller doses on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast and his various appearances on Conan, but in a larger quantity, such as his 2010 album Why Shit So Crazy?, his material becomes too frantic and spastic for my tastes. So my quest to 9:30 Club to see Watts was a sort of experiment. Would seeing Watts live change my opinion of seeing him in a longer context?
Opening for Watts was Justin Cousson, a comedian who announced that he has been kicked out of 9:30 Club at 14 during a Velvet Revolver concert. His short set consisted of jokes about trying to unsuccessfully seem manlier than he is, Wii games and summer board game movies (“The Monopoly movie will be nine hours long and will end with your family and friends in jail”) The sets biggest laughs came from a white boy rap, with beat by Watts, that proved why he quit trying to be a rapper. Cousson’s set was short and had some decent chuckles throughout.
Watts then took to the stage doing a robot walk to the mic. He welcomed the audience the the “4:20 Club” and stated that he had performed here five times before, one of those times he joked, as the lead singer of Fugazi. From there, Watts went into a funny spiel about how train riding should be made sexier and how he also was kicked out of 9:30 Club when he was 17.
Watts then went into his first song of the night, giving a set up about a horrible summer disaster that was the night’s most hilarious bit. Regardless of what you think of Watts’ music or comedy, what he can do with a mixer, looper, keyboard and microphone is incredible. The man is a musical genius, even if his songs can go into tangents that involve non-sensical languages.
Then Watts got to speaking about D.C., saying how an election is really just about whose face you want to see on TV more for the next four years, the Mormon or Obama, pronounced like it rhymes with “Omaha”. His song on D.C. was also quite hilarious, as he discussed that Virginia isn’t as south as he originally thought it was and how the Lincoln Memorial looks like Abe is stuck in a prison.
After praising 9:30 Club as one of the greatest venues in the world, the middle of Watts set lulled a bit, as he combined weird sounds and unusual songs for a few minutes and went on bits about The Smiths and how he quit using Facebook because he doesn’t like the blue and white colors.
Near the end of his set, Watts discussed his problems with iPhones and Androids, as well as logical faults in the Reese Witherspoon film This Means War, before performing the first song that he said could “qualify as a song,” a new track he claimed to be about tacos.
For his encore, Watts came back to the stage to unleash his dead-on Cosby impression, and after earlier saying all of his actions were directed by Christopher Nolan, broke into a version of “Proud Mary”, which replaced the lyrics “rolling on the river” with “Nolan on the river.”
Watts’ finale for the night was an incredible song he created after running from one side of the stage to the other, playing small parts on his keyboard, looping them, then continually tweaking into a song that sounded incredible. The song continued for quite some time, until after getting the audience to chant back “It puts the lotion on its skin,” the song ended and so did Watts’ varied set.
The best way to describe Watts is from his song “Fuck Shit Stack”, where he stated, “I’m a cartoon character, you’ll never be able to be like me.” After seeing him live, this makes complete sense. Watts is always changing, trying new things out and running around the stage. Watts’ set is clearly mostly improvised, going on odd sidetracks, some of which work, some don’t. But when Watts’ material does work, it works great. Sometimes he gets almost too weird, but when he finds that sweet spot of unusual and hilarious jokes/great music, Watts is one of the best out there.