Revenge of the Book Eaters @ Beacon Theater: 08-23-06

Sometimes chances fall right into your lap that seem so perfect, tailored so specifically to you, that you are automatically a fool and risk being mocked in the afterlife if you pass up on it.

Luckily, as soon as Sean mentioned he had an extra ticket to see Revenge of the Book Eaters, a benefit show performing in six cities to raise money for children's creative writing in the 826 writing centers across the country, I pounced like a large, greedy pouncing thing.

The show opened with John Stewart riffing on the eternal plight of Mel Gibson, and then plunged into a hilarious bit focusing on the new paperback edition of America (The Book) Due to an overwhelming slew of complaints stemming from the numerous "factual errors" in the book, a professional fact checker (played by Daily Show producer Ben Carlson) was hired to provide corrections where needed. John read exceprts from the book while Be provided "factual continuity."

Next up was Dave Eggers, who spoke about the aims of 826 and presented a short film detailing the day-to-day activities of 826NYC. He came out to his own theme song, a quick chorus of Rock You Like a Hurricane performed by folkie/science geek Jonathan Coulton.

Time for a little music. John Roderick from The Long Winters came on for a 3-song solo acoustic set. His voice was incredible - in a weird way it reminded me (at least in terms of cadence) of a strong Michael Stipe. I really enjoyed his set, but was slightly disappointed later when I heard a little of The Long Winters in the car. They kind of buried his voice in a typical soft, Wilco-style folk rock. Oh well - he tore it up live!

In a weird coincidence, after talking about Sufjan Stevens to Steve and Dave over the weekend, I get to see him live! He had a stripped-down version of his regular touring band, and played 4 songs, including the excellent "The Dress Looks Nice on You" from Seven Swans.

A little request for some money, courtesy of MC for the evening and author/Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman and all-around kickass acerbic wit Sarah Vowell. Buckets were passed around while Dave Eggers ran through the theater offering to give hugs to anyone who would give him $20. As enticement for their bucket goal of $5000, John mentioned he might be able to get Sufjan out again to do a little number with David Byrne.

Awesome surprise for me! Sarah Vowell came back out to read a new essay detailing the life of Charles Pruess, with special guest Eric Bogosian providing the voice of Pruess. One of my strongest college memories is coming across Bogosian's Pounding Nails in the Floor With My Forehead in the library and devouring it in one sitting. It was a revelation to me, and introduced me to a whole new way of opening yourself up in your writing.

And now we come at last to David Byrne, whose voice is just as strong as it was when he fronted Talking Heads. Only for a benefit would a thousand-plus people cheer to hear David Byrne say, "Well, tonight I'm going to play a set of country music for you." It was good, but the highlights were (of course) a countri-fied cover of "Big Country" and a duet of "Saginaw, Michigan" with Sufjan Stevens. Hooray! We made $15000!

So was the eternal question "Words or Music - Which is better?" answered? Who knows? I was too busy laughing and enjoying the night.