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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

LARGO: The Last Hurrah on Fairfax Ave.

by Joe Cortez

The night felt like a memory before it even began, but that was expected as the clock ticked away on the last few hours remaining of Largo's old home on Fairfax Avenue. Nuzzled between a trendy book shop and a shuttered store front across the way from Canter's, Largo has featured some of the most amazing performers you've never heard of and a few you have. Most importantly, it was a home for wayward souls, performers and patrons alike, that wandered in from the harsh light of L.A.

For well over a decade under owner Mark Flanagan's reign, Largo has been a special club to many but not always for the right reasons. There is a general lack of appreciation by paying customers (myself included initially) for Largo's strict rules: no photos, no talking and most certainly no cell phones allowed. But to bemoan these rules is to ignore the fact that they are in place for the talent and that's exactly who Largo caters to and is intended for. That's what made this place so special for so many and that's why last night's final show seemed all the more bittersweet to everyone in attendance. An era had ended and we knew it.

As the line outside the club began to snake down Farifax earlier than usual, chatter about who might be on the bill for the last night began. No one knew for sure since, well, the line up was unannounced but given Largo's penchant for the occasional surprise guest, this night was not likely to disappoint. Although the club is known for a diverse range of shows and types of shows featured throughout the week, Monday's are almost always comedy nights and it was anyone's guess just who would show up.

Faces both famous and familiar filled the small space as Oasis and The Smiths blared through the house sound system. Before the show began, Flanagan made a surprise announcement saying that, at last, we were allowed to take photos inside the venue. So much for the rules on the last night.

Doug Benson, of Best Week Ever and The Marijuanalogues fame, was the host for the evening that featured Largo regulars Morgan Murphy, Laura Kightlinger, Todd Glass, Jim Gaffigan, Greg Behrendt and very special guest Janeane Garofalo. Each set was a brief showcase for the stellar talent on dispaly this evening that veered from the sentimental while still managing to wax nostalgic every now and again (you know, in between the dick and fart jokes). Benson did an excellent job serving as both presenter and entertainer mixing in the occasional joke and impression
throughout the show.

The evening closed with a very special performance by Jon Brion who was joined by Fiona Apple to perform the classic "Tonight You Belong To Me," made famous in Steve Martin's "The Jerk" and later revisited by another L.A. fave Janet Klein. Apple and Brion closed with a fitting farewell in the form of a new composition written just for Largo that name dropped the staff and some of the key performers from the club's past and present. I'm not a fan of Apple's work but there was something undeniably special about the song she sang that made the room feel that much smaller and more intimate than usual. It was something I'll never forget.

With its dinner theater-like atmosphere, Largo on Fairfax always seemed to me like the anti-concert venue where everyone was just a guest in the company of Flanagan and his crew. Last night was a summation of all that made Largo a club equally loved and loathed by all that have walked through its doors at one point or another. Now that it's home will be the more traditional Coronet Theater on La Cienega, I have to imagine that no matter how great the new venue may be it will never have that same appeal, that same magic that made Largo on Fairfax what it was. Sure the rules will still likely be in place, as will Jon Brion, The Watson Family and the rest of the rogues gallery that have made each night at Largo special but it just won't be the same after Monday night. Better maybe, but the same, never.

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