Hotel Cafe

One eskimO – What Do They Have In Common With The Strokes?

September 24, 2009 Studios

One eskimO at

One eskimO at

Last night I posted a review of One eskimO’s live performance at The Hotel Cafe.  I thought they were great and really wanted to share some video with you so you could see for yourself.  Instead, I adhered to The Hotel Cafe’s no-filming policy and simply sat back happily and enjoyed the music.  You can read the review and see a few pictures here.

Luckily, the guys who make up One eskimO – Kristian Leontiou, Pete Rinaldi, Adam Falukner and Jamie Sefton – came to today for an interview and acoustic performance.

Here’s some video of One eskimO playing “Amazing”.  Keep in mind, this is B-roll, shot by me (amateur), while staying out of the way of the real crew and dodging equipment.  Once the final cut of this video is done, I’ll post it here as well.

“Amazing” Live Acoustic Take 1:

“Amazing” Live Acoustic Take 2:

Kristian and Pete tell about One eskimO

Kristian and Pete tell about One eskimO

After One eskimO amazed the staff and crew with their performance, we moved outside for an interview.  Pete and Kristian talked about their animated movie, touring, writing songs, and some plans for the future.  When the interview video piece is edited, I’ll post it here as well. As soon as the interview was over each of the guys made a point of going around to everybody they worked with on the team and thanking them.

It's all about the sound

It's all about the sound

I spoke with Kristian and Pete for a bit after the interview, specifically about how good their sound was during the Hotel Cafe show last night.  They told me they found their current sound guy approximately 6 months ago.  They laughed as Pete explained, “You know, usually people will come up to you and say, ‘I love your music.  I love your band.’ They’re always talking about the band. But after we play a live show everybody comes up and says, ‘Man! The sound was amazing!’ and everybody’s talking about our sound guy. He’s really become the 5th member of the band.  We love him.”

Then, they began joking(ish) that they’re a challenging band to tour manage.  They did show up on time, were extremely professional and sincere. . . “You seem like you’d be easy enough to work with,” I offered.

“Yes, it looks that way,” Kristian began, “but we have a tendency to just wander off, without our phones, and not tell anybody where we’re going.  Our tour manager is always hoping we turn up before we need to be somewhere. And we do. . . every time.”

I was immediately reminded of when The Strokes first toured the U.S. before Is This It was released.  They played a show at The Troubadour which I attended.  After the show, I was sitting upstairs, having a drink and talking to a pretty good-looking guy for a while.  The Strokes were runnin’ around, doin’ their thing, “relaxing” after the show.  Suddenly, the entire band came over and dog-piled us.  It turns out the guy I was talking to went to prep school with the band and was one of their closest friends.

“C’mon, let’s go back to the hotel and have another party,” Albert exclaimed.

“Bring her!” Fabrizio said, pointing at me.

All the guys introduced themselves and then Albert inquired, “Hey – do you have a car here?” I told him I did and he asked if we could take my car back to the hotel and if he could drive it.  “I love driving and I’ve been stuck on a tour bus for months.”

So, I walk out of The Troubadour with my friend Brigitte, the pretty good-looking guy, and 3 of The Strokes.  As we make our way down Santa Monica boulevard to my car, we pass by the alley where the band’s tour bus was parked.  From deep in the alley I hear their poor tour manager yell, “HEY! Wait! Where are you guys going??? The bus is over here!!!”

“It’s cool!” Albert replied as he pointed at me, “We’re going with her!”

“Yeah, don’t worry about us.  We know where we’re going!” Fabrizio added.

“WHERE are you going?” the tour manager pleaded for information.

“See you later” all the guys replied in unison.

As we walked away I heard the tour manager’s voice in the distance, “Wait! Where’s Julian. . .?”

When Kristian told me that they too wander off, I immediately recalled that moment with The Strokes.  I didn’t share that story with Kristian, but he must have sensed what was going through my head because he quickly added, “I mean. . . we don’t get into any kind of trouble or anything. . . we just disappear. . .”

And with that, the band disappeared.

But if they make their way to your town, be sure to check them out (and tell them how good the sound is).

Here are some pictures from the shoot today:





interview pete

One eskimO and The Hotel Cafe

One eskimO
Live at The Hotel Cafe
September 23, 2009

One eskimO at The Hotel Cafe

One eskimO at The Hotel Cafe

There are many things I love about going to The Hotel Cafe, one of them being its close proximity to Amoeba Music. So after getting my quick vinyl fix and marveling at the irony that they seem to have more trouble selling CDs than keeping records on the shelf, I continued on to The Hotel Cafe to see about a new band from the U.K., One eskimO (no, that’s not a typO).

I knew little about this band prior to going to the show, but trusted the recommendation of a friend who said I should check them out.  As it turns out, he was right – One eskimO is definitely worth checking out.  Their songs are melodic and the audience was captivated.  Their music is accessible enough for the mainstream, while the band manages to maintain their indie cred.  That’s easier to do now of course than when they really take off (i.e. the current perception of Kings of Leon held by many).

And I’m willing to bet that once word gets out about these guys, they will take off.  Or, if Alexandra Patsavas finds out about them, you’ll be hearing them on an episode of a hit series on ABC.  Is Zach Braff working on a new movie?? He might want to secure this band for his next soundtrack.  But what they (and you) should do is see them live.  What you hear online might peak your interest, but their live performance will lock it in.

Another thing I love about going to The Hotel Cafe is that their sound system is really good (and often underutilized).  Many of the musicians who play there play soft, quiet, songs.  But when you get a real rock band in there (like Billy Corgan & Spirits In The Sky) or a musician who plays multi-layered soundtrack-esque music (like Imogen Heap or One eskimO), the room fills perfectly with sound and you get lost in it.

Bassist Jamie Sefton and singer Kristian Leontiou

Bassist Jamie Sefton and singer Kristian Leontiou

One eskimO sounded great.  I ran into the lead singer, Kristian Leontiou, on his way up to the stage and I never would have suspected that voice came from him. In fact, several times during the show, I closed my eyes and pictured who was singing those notes.  And not once did the guy I pictured look like the guy who was actually singing.  One eskimO are refreshing like that.  There’s a familiarity about them so you feel like you may even know the songs, yet there’s an originality to their sound and certainly to their live performance that keeps you engaged.

This is one instance when I wish I could have captured some video of the show.  Unfortunately, Hotel Cafe has a strict no-recording policy which I respect and abide by (especially since I often spend more hours there than at my own house).  The good news is, I hear One eskimO is stopping by tomorrow – they’re bound to get some great video.

Speaking of videos, apparently One eskimO is releasing a full-length animated film in conjunction with the album.  You can read more about it on their website.  Although, like some of the best movies, I often enjoy going in with little prior knowledge and no preconceived notions or expectations.

When the band finished their set, the crowd demanded an encore.  And here’s where things could become disastrous. . . I recognized it within the first 3 notes. . .  They were playing one of my favorite Neil Halstead (remember Mojave 3?) songs, “Hi-Lo and Inbetween”.

There’s nothin’ worse than a new band covering a song that was done perfectly in the first place (by the original artist). . . unless they get it right.

And they did.

Band of Skulls: Death by Diamonds and Pearls

The El Rey, Los Angeles
September 1, 2009

This one’s gonna be quick because I’m in a hurry…

Death by Diamonds and Pearls

Death by Diamonds and Pearls

I love Band of Skulls. I first met them during an acoustic performance and interview session at in July. They’ve actually been together for several years, morphing and evolving from one band into another until they arrived as Band of Skulls.  Their name can be deceiving which is part of the “joke” they say.  All 3 musicians contribute to the writing process which sometimes leaves Russell singing lyrics Emma wrote, from a woman’s perspective.  Similarly, Emma may find herself singing about things written from a man’s perspective.  The moral of the story – listen to the lyrics and take notice of who’s singing them.  Russell and Emma switch off the lead on vocals, often at interesting lyrical moments.

The second time I saw Band of Skulls was at The Hotel Cafe.  After witnessing an acoustic set at, and knowing that shows at The Hotel Cafe are often acoustic, I just assumed the band would be playing “unplugged”.  Wrong. Thankfully, I was very, very wrong. Band of Skulls rocked a full electric show and played Hotel Cafe as if they were playing a much larger venue. I liked them when I first met them, but I fell in love with them at The Hotel Cafe.

Then, last night they played The El Rey, opening up for The Duke Spirit.  The show was great and it was extremely well-attended for an “opening act”.  The place was packed and the venue seemed to relax on their “no standing outside the taped lines” policy, so people were everywhere. They played a very short set (perhaps 25 minutes), but it was solid as usual. When they finished and the curtain closed the crowd tried to demand an encore and kept cheering for several minutes, until they were certain the band wasn’t going to appear again.  The last time I saw this happen for an opener was when Joseph Arthur opened for David Gray eight or so years ago.

Here’s some video from last night’s show:

Billy Corgan: “It seems I made a rare mistake…”

Billy Corgan and Spirits in The Sky
The Hotel Cafe, LA
August 31, 2009

"Fall into the grace of where you are. . ."

"Fall into the grace of where you are. . ."

It’s not often a rock band plays The Hotel Cafe. I may have just pissed off some bands that play The Hotel Cafe.  However, it is rare that a true, plugged-in rock show takes place at the small venue most often recognized as the home of outstanding singer-songwriters.

But, it has happened:  Perry Farrell has made a couple guest appearances at The Hotel Cafe, including one time with his side project, Satellite Party; Billy Corgan has played there previously (although it was a mellow, acoustic, solo show); Pete Townshend has stepped foot on that stage a few times; Butch Walker had people standing on tables at one time; and Cypress Hill once turned the intimate room into a hip-hop club.

Yet, for the most part The Hotel Cafe is a place where people watch quietly as songwriters sing about break-ups and alcohol. The beginning of tonight’s show was in line with that vibe, although rather than droning on about heartbreak, Corgan sang melodically about love.

Navarro and Corgan during the electric part of the show

Navarro and Corgan during the electric part of the show

Corgan was joined on-stage by Dave Navarro, 19-year old Mike Byrne from Portland who was chosen to play drums in the band after Corgan placed an open-call for drummers online, Mark Weitz on keyboards, Kerry Brown on percussion, Ysanne Spevak on violin, Linda Strawberry on backing vocals, Kevin Dippold on flute and mandolin, and bassist Mark Tulin.

When the mellow set of songs about love, devotion, and dreams came to an end Corgan had a surprise for the audience. Well, it wasn’t a surprise to everyone, just to those of us who didn’t see his note on today: “The tour ought to end with a bang though, as tonight marks the faux Halloween show! Everyone is expected to show up in costume and there will be a costume contest held during the show.”

Intermission: Costume Contest

Intermission: Costume Contest

Corgan said he only expected seven people to show up in costume.  Instead, there were about 50 people dressed in costumes ranging from an elderly angel to a pregnant alien. While unnecessary, the costume contest was entertaining, especially with Corgan’s sarcastic banter.

Throughout the show there was “that one guy” who kept disturbing the peace by shouting out obnoxious comments.  So when the guy belted out, “What’s your costume, Billy?” Corgan responded, “My costume is a guy who fuckin’ hates you. . . it’s a little subtle, but I hope you feel it. . .” That was the last we heard from “that guy.”

The costume contest wasn’t the only form of audience participation. Corgan also enlisted the crowd to sing along to one of the songs.  He got everybody going, singing “oh, oh, oh” and then realized he may have asked the audience to sing too many rounds. “It seems I made a rare mistake,” Corgan admitted.

Navarro and Corgan

Navarro and Corgan

After the costume contest Spirits in The Sky turned on the rock show. Navarro and Corgan crushed it on electric guitars.  At one point, Corgan requested the bow from Spevak’s violin – and I don’t use words like this lightly (or ever, actually)  – shredded.

The band played for 2 hours.  Or just under 2-hours when you factor in the costume contest. When the band exited the stage, the house music came on and the musicians all went back to the dressing room instead of staying at the side of the stage, behind the curtain.  This is usually a sign that show has ended and at least half the audience left.  But the loudest yellers remained and did not stop screaming or clapping until Spirits in The Sky returned for one more song.

“You asked for it. . . ” Corgan warned.

Corgan playing guitar with the bow of Spevak's violin

Corgan playing guitar with the bow of Spevak's violin

Greg Laswell “Comes and Goes in Waves”. . .


I’ve been watching Greg Laswell perform for a couple years. The first time I saw Greg was an accident. I was at Hotel Cafe to see somebody else perform (notice I don’t remember who) and happened to still be at the bar when Greg took the stage.  There were only a handful of people in the room at the time and it’s a good thing I was at the bar because the songs he was playing could depress even the happiest souls.  Not that I’m advocating drinking as a band-aid for depression but, that night, it helped.

Considering the number of shows I see,  I always pay attention when somebody moves me – when they can overtake my happiness or my sadness or my wandering mind – whether there are 5 people or 30,000 people at the show.  I stuck around for Greg’s show and then wondered how long it would take for people to catch on, for him to sell out a room like the Hotel Cafe…

Well, all things considered, it didn’t take long at all.  Greg started filling the Hotel Cafe toward the end of last year, and earlier this year he played 2 back to back sold-out nights at the Hotel Cafe. Then, on Thursday, August 6th Greg played to a sold-out crowd at The Troubadour.

Oh, The Troubadour. Some of my favorite performances have taken place at this venue.  The White Stripes used to play 2-3 back to back nights at The Troubadour – and we’d go every year.  Ryan Adams played there during the tour for Heartbreaker.  The Strokes played there before the US release of Is This It. Queens of The Stone Age. Jackson Browne. Damien Rice. I’ve been seeing shows at that venue for 12 years.  So it was really fun to see somebody, whose career I had watched build up to this point, play at a venue that has so much nostalgia, not only for me but for musicians and fans at large.

Laswell sitting in with Elizabeth... and The Catapult (not pictured)

Laswell sitting in with Elizabeth... and The Catapult (not pictured)

Elizabeth and The Catapult, a band I’d never heard of, took the stage first.  Actually, there may have been another opener before them, but I wasn’t there for that,  so relatively speaking, The Catapult was first.  As I watched this group from Brooklyn captivate the audience with a fantastic performance, I thought about how amazing it must have been for them to play to a sold-out crowd at The Troubadour.  I have a feeling they’ll be doing it again.

Up next was Greg.  This was the last stop on his US tour. . . and he sounded better than ever.  It’s interesting to watch someone play a small room and think that they’re really good.  But when they finally play a stage that’s more their size, you realize just how good they are.  (Note: the converse is also possible).

Meiko and Frank Black?!

Not together of course.

Meiko performing at

Meiko performing at

Tuesday kicked off with an interview and live acoustic performance from Meiko at After exchanging information about some of the restaurants we frequent in LA, Meiko, one of my favorite musicians from The Hotel Cafe family, chatted with about overcoming stage fright, her musical inspirations and writing process, and getting ready to record her next album.  She then performed “Boys with Girlfriends” and her rendition of “Super Freak.”  After Meiko sang “Boys With Girlfriends,” one member of the  team was overheard saying, “that gave me chills!” A little close to home, eh?

Black Francis performing at The Mint LA

Black Francis performing at The Mint LA

Later that night, I headed to The Mint to see Black Francis (aka Frank Black) perform. That was cool for several reasons.  For one, he’s Frank Black.  It was a nice surprise (for me anyway) to hear him chat between songs.  I’ve seen The Pixies and Frank Black perform previously and I don’t remember him being quite so chatty… or perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention before. Anyway, he talked between songs and he was funny, which is important because otherwise I would have wished he didn’t talk between songs.  (Remember when Flaming Lips played Coachella and rambled on about politics through 3/4 of their set?! All I can recall is that Wayne Coyne came out in that bubble, played 2-3 songs and then talked for an hour.  Such a disappointment.  And yet, I’m still going to see them at The Greek Monday night).

Frank Black... on and off stage (one of the look-a-likes)

Frank Black... on and off stage (one of the look-a-likes)

Anyway, back to Black Francis.  He played a nice mix of  some old Pixies favorites along with his solo stuff.  It’s a good thing I was sober-ish or it could have been a very confusing show – there were at least 3 Frank Black look-a-likes in the audience.

Meiko performing “Boys With Girlfriends” at Just a teaser, the Meiko feature is being edited:

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