Weezer's Rivers Cuomo Jams with Fans in Long Beach
by Sheri Zampelli
Fans lined up outside Fingerprints in Long Beach an hour in advance for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jam with a rock star. Meanwhile, Rivers Cuomo and his Batman-suit clad sound engineer, Ken, poured over fine details of the event such as drum-set placement and the ultimate height at which to hang the dry-erase board for the set list. Cuomo scrawled a headline across the top of the board: "Rivers Cuomo - Home Alone II". He wrote with crooked letters on a slant attempting to make it as "down home" as possible.
Once the scene was set and the timing right, doors opened for 125 fans. Nearly 50 had musical instruments. They brought everything from guitars to keytars. Instruments ranged from flute and saxophone to kazoo. Producer Caroline Yeh brought her clarinet. There were keyboards like the Omnichord and stringed instruments like a banjo alongside guitars with names like Epiphone, Yamaha and Fender.
The hootenanny began with a good old-fashioned democratic discussion of what should be on the set list. Cuomo lead the audience through the decision-making process by having them do things like pick a number and cheer loudest for the song they wanted most. A song was only allowed on the list if at least one musician in the room knew it. Once the playlist was constructed, it was adhered to until each of the 12 songs were played in full and recorded at least twice.
The set list started with Blast Off and ended energetically with The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived. What took place between the first song and the last was the equivalent of an over-sized "jam session." Before starting a song, Cuomo would brainstorm with fellow musicians on the best way to approach the piece. Spur-of-the-moment decisions like playing Butterfly with nothing but a banjo back-up and doing a ska version of Buddy Holly were decided upon and changed, on the whim of those who spoke first or loudest. At times, Cuomo would ask the audience matter-of-factly, "What do you guys think, any other ideas?". Songs on the set list included Across the Sea, Can't Stop Partying, Lover in the Snow and Getting Up and Leaving.
Cuomo conducted this impromptu orchestra with style. He wore a crisp new pair of striped overalls, a red bandanna around his neck and an engineer's cap. When he wasn't holding a lyric sheet, he held a musical conductor's baton.
Once the final song was played, fans asked Cuomo to come to In-and-Out Burger with them. He smiled, blew his train whistle and walked off stage. Guest musicians broke into playing Undone (the Sweater song). Once it was clear that Cuomo wouldn't be back for an encore, fans began to walk toward the exit. On the way out they picked up limited-edition Fingerpints/Cuomo posters and a signed copy of the Alone II - The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo CD. They also took home the exhilaration of experiencing a night, up-close and personal with one of their favorite musicians, the highlight of any fan's life. At this time, there is no official word on how the recordings from the evening will be used. One possibility is an exclusive music video like the one shot for Troublemaker in August.