Live at The Hotel Cafe
September 23, 2009
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
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 LP33.tv 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.
Billy Corgan and Spirits in The Sky
The Hotel Cafe, LA
August 31, 2009
"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
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 SmashingPumpkins.com 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
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
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