Monday night (September 30), Steely Dan kicked off their first of seven shows at New York’s Beacon Theatre, playing full albums and greatest hits, and even holding a fan-request night. Radio.com editors Jillian Mapes and Jeremy D. Larson, two twenty-something Dan fans, attended to the first ‘Aja’ night and hopped on IM (whilst listening to ‘Aja’ yet again) to talk about their experience of being the absolute youngest people there by 15-20 years.
Photo Gallery: Steely Dan live at Beacon Theater, September 30
Jeremy Larson: My first question for you: How do you feel the next day? Do you have a Dan Over, as they probably don’t call it?
Jill Mapes: I feel… enriched having seen Becker and Fagen. I feel like I had a little too much fun, though. Like when I was fist-pumping to “Kid Charlemagne”… you didn’t see me cuz I went to the bathroom and then ran back in. But man. I was Vibing.
Jeremy Larson: I would like to state for the record that you were also doing the “fish-reeling” dance during “Reeling In The Years.”
Jill Mapes: Yeaaaah. #wine
Jeremy Larson: It kind of felt like we were at a lame wedding a lot of the time. But there were pockets of people having a really great time — like the back-right section of the auditorium smelled like weed. That’s where the rebel Dan fans get tickets, so they can sneak in their marijuana cigarettes.
Jill Mapes: I think everyone, sans weed or $14 Deacon Blues cocktail, was having a great time. Besides the lady sitting next to us!
Jeremy Larson: The lady sitting next to us was in her own personal hell. This is the odd part — she was plugging her ears the entire time.
Jill Mapes: At first I got it. My dad dragged my mom to a Steely Dan Aja show a couple years ago. That woman is how I imagined my mother. This woman, though… it was like someone was trying to tell her how Breaking Bad ends and she was plugging her ears, “la la la”-ing and going to her happy place. These were $155 tickets. I mean…
Jeremy Larson: OK but wait, the most important thing about this woman who was plugging her ears and having a miserable time… Was that her date, or her partner, or whoever was next to her was visually impaired. So it was a super bizarre energy next to me.
Jeremy Larson: I’m sorry you had to take your BLIND FRIEND to a Steely Dan concert.
Jill Mapes: I feel bad that this woman had such a terrible time, that she doesn’t Get The Dan.
Jeremy Larson: Which is super easy, because they’re really good!
Jill Mapes: I mean, I get why people don’t like Steely Dan. I just don’t think they’re one of those bands that’s super unbearable even if you’re not into them.
Jeremy Larson: OK, wait — why don’t you think people like Steely Dan? Because there’s a reason why we were the youngest people there by easily 15-20 years. I was the only guy there without an earring or pony tail or a 45-adapter pendant necklace.
Jill Mapes: I think people think they’re kinda snoozy, right?
Jeremy Larson: Well those people are kind of right but also more accurately they are totally wrong.
Jill Mapes: OK, so how did you get into Dan?
Jeremy Larson: I grew up listening to classic rock on the radio all throughout high school, so I knew the early singles off Can’t Buy A Thrill. But I remember when I was in 10th grade, our jazz band did an arrangement of “Aja” and I played tenor sax (first chair) and I got to do the solo on it.
Jill Mapes: (first chair) That’s a pretty serious sax solo.
Jeremy Larson: Yeah I transcribed some of it — I did that in high school because I didn’t have a lot of friends.
Jill Mapes: I can’t understand why.
Jeremy Larson: Which, ergo, why I really started to get into Steely Dan. But that was mostly for the music — I loved the arrangements, and the jazz-fusion stuff in it, especially “Aja.”
Jill Mapes: See, I loved the lyrics. The music was well-arranged and non-offensive, but a little jazzier than I usually tend to go for.
Anyway. The year is 2000. Two Against Nature comes out. On blast in my house. I was 12, lover of all things pop-punk, but having been raised heavily on classic rock, I knew the Dan. And my dad and brother, 14-15 at the time, couldn’t get enough of this record. When Two Against Nature won the Album of the Year Grammy, people were pissed. None of those people lived in the Mapes household.
Jeremy Larson: It beat out The Marshall Mathers LP and Kid A.
Jill Mapes: Oof. You know what… still, now, understanding the significance of those albums, I still say Two Against Nature takes it.
Jeremy Larson: She’s kidding. You can’t see her face. But she’s clearly kidding. I think.
Jill Mapes: I’m stupid biased, though. I was a childhood freak singing along to “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” a good 10 years before I understood what he was singing about.
Jeremy Larson: You know we’re listening to “Deacon Blues” right now and that line “They got a name for the winners in the world/ I want a name when I lose” and I think that’s a pretty pivotal line for understanding/liking The Dan. They are wildly uncool — and despite they fact that they beat Radiohead and Eminem in the grammys, they never really have been associated with coolness… or winning.
Jill Mapes: Coolness is not winning an award.
Jeremy Larson: They have a song about safe sex called “The Fez.”
Jill Mapes: Do you think the people there last night were all outsiders or something?
Jeremy Larson: Well we were the only people with phones out — that’s for sure. You and I made the only two Vines of that show, I’m positive of that.
Jill Mapes: That has more to do with age, me thinks, than coolness. We aren’t cool, Jeremy. Vines or otherwise.
Jeremy Larson: I mean — I knew that “The Fez” was about safe sex, that’s pretty cool. I looked that up on the internet once.
Jill Mapes: Do you think anyone was getting laid after that show?
Jeremy Larson: Oh SO many people
Jill Mapes: Not saying Steely Dan are the Rush of jazz-rock, but…
Jeremy Larson: People were lit up!
Jill Mapes: I just feel like a lot of the women there were there are favors to their hubbies.
Jeremy Larson: Let’s not mince words here — Steely Dan fans party.
Jill Mapes: We’re on two different planets…
Jeremy Larson: Steely Dan fans are bearded guys who all play in wedding bands and either spend time at/teach lessons at/work at Guitar Center
Jill Mapes: It’s the Upper West Side, dude. That’s a very midwest evaluation of Dan fans. I think they’re more… Frasier-y.
Jeremy Larson: Jeremy Don’t Live in That New York City No More
Jill Mapes: Like I always felt like Steely Dan and the TV show Frasier were kindred spirits together.
Jeremy Larson: Oh yeah?
Jill Mapes: Esoteric and witty, and yet, surprisingly popular and mainstream.
Jeremy Larson: I see that — I mean I think that’s similar to how I see it, but I think Steely Dan is the connection between Jazz Cats and Dead Heads.
Jill Mapes: ooh
Jeremy Larson: The venn diagram between the two is where, from my POV, where Dan fans lay. Or more specifically, where I see myself.
OK on to the show itself: The drummer was incredible.
Jill Mapes: Keith Carlock. The drum solo in “Aja.”
Jeremy Larson: Yeah, I mean there was nothing sloppy about this show, there’s no missteps, no rough edges. Everything was 100% in the pocket.
Jill Mapes: I need to quibble over one thing.
Jeremy Larson: Quibble away.
Jill Mapes: Walter Becker is content with playing rhythm guitar, it seems. The touring guy, Jon Herington is his name, ate his lunch. But I guess when you wrote those parts, you don’t need to have an ego about playing them.
Jeremy Larson: It was odd to see him literally out of the spotlight most of the show.
Jill Mapes: And the guy is next to him closer to side stage, and if you weren’t paying attention to the very subtle lighting cues, you’d think Becker were playing the solos.
Jill Mapes: Dude does not care to show off, and I suppose that’s admirable. He lets Fagen run the show, attractive, young back-up singers surrounding him. Except! That monologue.
Jeremy Larson: The “Hey Nineteen” monologue…
Jill Mapes: Starts normal enough, and then he devolves into, “well this apartment actually belongs to your sober brother-in-law so let’s make cocktails using the contents of the medicine cabinet.”
Jeremy Larson: Yeah, talking about witch-hazel and Colombian weed.
Jill Mapes: It was great. I wanted more of that.
Jeremy Larson: And talking about how our brains were were swiss cheese from all the DMT.
Jill Mapes: Get Weird, man. This band is not snoozy (though we, uh, both dozed off there in the middle a little).
Jeremy Larson: That was such a classic like “Hey we’re not too old to party, guys. Let’s let it all hang out with $14 cocktails.” I fall asleep in every show I go to…
Jill Mapes: We were appreciating on another level.
Jeremy Larson: This is a thing about me — no matter what. I have to take a little snooze. That snooze happened during “Godwhacker” because that song is dumb.
Jill Mapes: Yeah, some of the “hits” picks were… not the choice picks.
Jeremy Larson: I don’t know if it was hits? totally?
Jill Mapes: That’s how it’s advertised: Aja plus selected hits. But did you really mind after hearing ALL of Aja, front to back? I could roll along with it.
Jeremy Larson: That was the best — I think that album is sequenced really well, too. So while we got the big numbers up front (including several people Drunk-Aunt Dancing to “Peg”) there was a nice place to just listen to the band play before jamming to “Josie.”
The Bipolar All Stars, they were called.
Jill Mapes: Drunk-Aunt Dancing is so accurate.
Jeremy Larson: One guy was wearing a red fedora.
Jill Mapes: They were all wearing fedoras in their hearts.
Jeremy Larson: *On their hearts, tiny little heart fedoras
Look I really like Steely Dan. I like them for all the reasons everyone likes them: they’re bizarre in a supremely funny and lame way — I mean the old joke is like “Oh my god do you actually *know* what they’re singing about? They write smooth jazz tunes with *those* lyrics?” And maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to them for a while that I don’t even question why people would find sax solos and Fagen’s voice unspeakably lame. And I had a huge smile on my face the entire time last night because I loved hearing sax solos and Fagen’s voice.
Jill Mapes: Also, #wine
But no, you’re right. The crowd, save for the miserable woman next us, was into it.
Jeremy Larson: Yeah #eightdollarbudlights
Jill Mapes: I’ve been to A LOT of shows we’re I’m the youngest person there by far. Classic rock radio favorites. Save for McCartney, that was the most excited crowd.
Jeremy Larson: Yeah — they stood up and clapped after every song!
Jill Mapes: They were feeling it, jamming in their own subtle ways, reacting quite nicely.
Jeremy Larson: Lots of seated-grooving
Jill Mapes: Fagen and Becker, particularly Fagen, are…well, they’re kinda crotchety, y’know? I think I half expected the fans to be like that.
Jeremy Larson: I caught Fagen smiling — and he said this was what, their 42nd stop on their tour?
Jill Mapes: Something crazy like that. First of seven shows at the Beacon.
I hate to focus on “old.” Old is unoriginal. I’m not trying to say, “For being old, this crowd got #turntup”
For being Steely Dan fans, this crowd was more reactive than I expected. Because of the smooth jazz element of them. Though the lyrics are downright crude in places.
Jeremy Larson: Agreed.
What’s one song you wish they would have played?
Jill Mapes: It’s pretty lame.
“Cousin Dupree,” off Two Against Nature.
What about you?
Jeremy Larson: I would say either “Brooklyn Owes The Charmer Under Me” or “Katy Lied.”
Jill Mapes: Katy Lied! I take it back, “Do It Again, “for the intro alone.
Jeremy Larson: I would have loved to hear everyone try to sing along to this.
Jill Mapes: OK, final thoughts for real, we’ve been doing this for an hour.
Though I suspect a number of women there were there with their big-fan husbands, obviously that’s a blind assumption on my part and not true for many genuine female fans. It made me very happy to see as many ladies there. This is a band I’ve never had a conversation with another woman about. Besides my mom saying, “ugh, I hate the Dan.”
Jeremy Larson: I think that’s one of the requirements of the Bechdel Test… “Are there two women and do they talk to each other about Steely Dan?”
Jill Mapes: If you liked cougars, you’d be set.