Station to Station — a cross-country art show, curated by multimedia artist Doug Aitken, passing through train stations across America — pulled into downtown Los Angeles's fabled Union Station on September 26, the penultimate stop on its three-week journey from New York to Oakland. Past dates on the Station to Station tour had boasted pop-up concerts by a dazzling array of art-scene-friendly musicians (Suicide, Ariel Pink, Thurston Moore, Patti Smith, Eleanor Friedberger, Cat Power, Nite Jewel, Jackson Browne, Cat Power, Cold Cave, even Giorgio Moroder), and L.A.'s event was just as impressive, featuring one of L.A.'s most revered musical heroes: Beck.
The night kicked off with a 50-person processional through the station lobby, as Chris "The Whip Guy" Camp, a bullwhip in each hand, led the parade towards the outdoor courtyard. There, L.A. experimentalists No Age and Sun Araw performed early sets (the latter accompanied by sixtysomething reggae legends the Congos) against a backdrop of art installations by Kenneth Anger, Liz Glynn, Carsten Holler, Urs Fischer, and Ernesto Neto.
Inside the station, Baltimore electronic wizard Dan Deacon attempted to start an audience parade of his own, but that idea was quickly nixed by the Fire Department. However, his 20-minute pre-Beck set still offered opportunities for crowd participation — starting with an in-the-round dance-off, and ending with an amateur light show created solely by fans using the Dan Deacon app on their held-aloft smartphones.
Beck's set was a little less dancey, featuring songs from the folksier eras of his catalog, like Sea Change's "The Golden Age" and "Lonesome Tears," One Foot in the Grave's title track and "Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods," and a song he penned especially for the Station to Station tour, "Wake Up." But he kept the energy elevated with the help of a vivacious, 16-strong gospel choir, and he finally busted out some funky-fresh dance moves of his own for an epic, extended finale of "Where It's At."
"I used to hang out in this station as a teenager; I'd read books till they kicked me out," Beck joked between songs. But when his set ended abruptly after only seven numbers (and no encore), and fans refused to believe the show was over even after the lights flipped back on, it was clear that no one wanted to kick Beck out of Union Station that night.
The final stop on the Station to Station tour is Saturday, September 28 at Oakland's 16th Street Station, featuring Dan Deacon, Sun Araw and the Congos, and No Age, along with special guests Savages and Twin Shadow.