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For rockin' answers, seek the Pop Oracle

January 17, 2008|Natalie Nichols

Got questions you can't sort out? "The Radio8Ball Show" has answers -- providing you're willing to share with a room full of strangers.

"It's sort of like a game show and sort of like a talk show," says creator-musician Andras Jones, who'll host the next L.A. installment of his ever-shifting mystical musical, featuring singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, on Tuesday. A quirky fusion of interactive theater and live music, the show is inspired by such esoterica as the tarot, the zodiac and, of course, the Magic 8-Ball toy.

A former Angeleno now based in Olympia, Wash., Jones conceived "the Pop Oracle" a decade ago for Seattle community radio station KAOS-FM (89.3). Now he has variations on AM radio, on stage and in a new podcast on (He also does one-on-one sessions.)

Lately, he's been adapting the concept for TV. "It's like an 'American Idol,' but positive," he says. "It's not quite the same, because no one's in competition with each other; everyone's in collaboration with each other. 'AI' is a classic piece of Bush-era entertainment: mean, dehumanizing and fake. We're ready for something better."

All the "Radio8Ball" versions hinge on the Jungian concept of synchronicity -- finding connections between seemingly unrelated events to flesh out the bigger picture. In the stage version, a randomly chosen participant asks a personal question -- like "Should I quit my job?" or "Is my relationship working?" -- and spins a wheel with 13 slots. Twelve zodiac signs represent a dozen songs by the guest performer, and one wild card is for Jones. The artist plays the selected tune, and then Jones, the participant and the performer "do a little divination," he says, "interpreting how that song's related to or answers or reshapes the question."

It's like reading your horoscope, but Jones relishes moments where things line up so spookily that everyone gets "major shivers." (More on that in a minute.) Although it's not a conventional concert, listeners usually pay close attention to the songs. For Sobule, that give-and-take is appealing. "The whole thing just sounds nutty to me," she says, "but in a good and fun way. I get to play my songs and be entertained at the same time."

Jones mentions he's hoping Sobule's song list includes "Heroes," a jaunty number about how our icons inevitably disappoint us. Later, we give the Pop Oracle 39 Sobule tunes to choose from and do a divination session focused on what "R8B" is like. The second question is, "What can you expect from this experience?" What comes up is . . . "Heroes"! And the Pop Oracle says: "Expect to have your art and icons recontextualized. This brings them closer to us, and us closer to them, creating intimacy, disillusionment and enlightenment in equal measure."

For major shivers or just a fresh way of looking at things, "R8B" is a uniquely amusing reminder that humanity has a collective fate. "We get together in a room and pick songs at random and play with our minds," Jones says, "but there's a much bigger game that we're in right now. And you have to stay in it."




WHERE: Hayworth Theatre, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday

PRICE: $20 ($15 in advance)

INFO: (213) 389-9860;

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