Tag Archives: Hotel Cafe

Priscilla Ahn: Tonight’s The Night To Try New Things

February 9, 2010
The Hotel Cafe

Priscilla Ahn

Priscilla Ahn

Priscilla Ahn was tonight’s “Special Guest” at The Hotel Cafe.   Ahn reflected, “I like ‘Special Guest’. . .   I’ve been ‘and more.’  Like when the flier says, ‘so and so’ and ‘so and so’ and ‘so and so,’ ‘and more,’ and I’m the only other one, so I must be ‘and more.’   Yeah. . . ‘Special Guest’ is nice!”

The reason for Ahn’s guest appearance was so she could try out new material before heading into the studio to record.  It’s a good idea, really – to see how it feels to play a song live before you record it.

Ahn began the set by warning, “I’m playing all new songs tonight, so you can’t scream out, ‘Play Dream, gd dammit!'”  She then paused for a moment, as if to confirm something, “I’m pretty sure I’m gonna mess up every one of these songs.”  After taking a minute to tune (and breathe), Ahn struck the first chord and sang her first note.  “”Ok, I messed that up. . .”

If that’s the case, then I hope Ahn messes up more often.   Note after note, song after song, Ahn delivered a captivating performance.  To say Ahn sings songs would be to oversimplify things – Ahn sings stories.   Every story she sang tonight described universal aspects of life, love, loss, belonging, and uncertainty.  The subject matter of Ahn’s music is universal, but it’s not cliche.  In fact, Ahn’s music goes straight to the core truth and vulnerability that you tend to keep safely tucked away.

Priscilla Ahn 2

"Tonight's the night to try new things"

From a tune about being a lost cause to a song about an awkward elf, Ahn weaves you through a web of emotions and reminds you that you’re not alone.  At least one other person has felt this way before and everything turned out okay.  Or, maybe it didn’t, but we’re still here, so let’s just embrace it. . . “This is something I must live with,” Ahn sings.

Among my favorite new Ahn tales was a song about taking a different route to the coffee shop one day and meeting a cute guy.  Break out of your routine, take a different approach, you will be rewarded.  There should be far more children’s books that expound this wisdom.  Try something new, do things differently, LIVE.

Ahn also introduced what she called her “one romantic song,” with a working title of “Torch.” You know this story – the one about that one love – THE one love.  There may have been many loves before and many loves since, but that one person is the only one who really knows you; the only one you really opened up to.  You experienced something more profound and intimate with that person because you allowed yourself to.  A lot has happened; life continues to happen, but no matter what, you will always share something with that person that can’t be described.  But — if it could be described, it would be this song.

I don’t know if you could hear a pin drop when Ahn performed tonight, but you could hear a bottle cap drop, and that seemed far more appropriate.

Butch Walker at The Hotel Cafe, By Request

The Hotel Cafe
November 25, 2009

Butch Walker by request

Butch Walker by request

One of the reasons I love Butch Walker is because he’s honest.  (Either Walker is really honest or he’s a really good liar.)  Another reason I love Butch Walker is because he’s cool.  And not just cool, but sexy cool.  Walker reminds you that it’s sexy cool to be honest.

And that’s what makes a Butch Walker show what it is.  Sure, the music is good; his passion and expressive stage presence is entertaining and refreshing; his sense of humor makes you forget about anything his songs may have made you remember. . .  But what makes a Butch Walker show a Butch Walker show is that it’s one place (especially in LA) where it’s okay to be vulnerable; it’s cool to be unguarded and real.  As they sing along to every song, at a volume that nears screaming (albeit melodic), the crowd acknowledges that they’ve felt that way too.   And while they may not have been brave enough to express it before, Butch Walker shows are a safe place for people to exclaim, “Yeah, I’m a little fucked up,” and then to celebrate that we all are.

Butch Walker

Butch Walker jogs his memory with his song book

Last night’s show at The Hotel Cafe was the last show of Butch Walker’s 4-week residency at the venue.   During the 3 prior shows Walker played one of his albums start to finish.  Last night’s event was a fan request show.  Every song on the set list (except two new songs) was requested by fans via Twitter.   This proved to be more challenging for Walker as it forced him to re-learn some songs he hadn’t played in years, songs he’d forgotten he’d written.  In some cases, he played songs he claimed to never have played live before.  “There’s gonna be a lot of fucking up tonight,” Butch Walker remarked early on during his set.

Fans knew the words better than Walker as he played songs he swore he’d never play live again.  “I hate playing this song.  It’s really hard to sing – it has too many words,” Walker explained before launching into “Suburbia.”  “I swore I’d never play this song live again, but you requested it . . . ”  Walker’s commitment to his fans was reaffirmed numerous times during his 2-hour set.

Butch Walker

Butch Walker plays, the audience sings

Between songs Walker lent insight into the lyrics and where he was (figuratively speaking) when he wrote each song.  He openly explained that some of the songs were hard for him to sing now.  “A lot of these (songs) –  I’m having trouble connecting with them now because I don’t know where I was then.”  Reflecting back, prior to playing some of his earlier material, Walker remembered that he used to scream a lot more when he was younger. At 40-years old he admits to being much happier now.  “I had more things to be angry about back then.  Well, I’ll try to scream tonight. I’ll give it a shot. . .” Walker said before launching into some of his more angst-ridden songs.

Walker played “I’m A Believer” for some fans who flew all the way from Atlanta to see the show.  Walker’s parents also flew in for the show to which Walker remarked, “I never thought I’d be drinking whiskey from a bottle, in front of my parents.  Well, I’m alls growned up now. . .”

Halfway through “Beautiful,” which Walker had trouble singing seriously, he added some lyrics, “I’d go get your fucking money back.”  When he finished singing “Beautiful,” Walker explained his inability to play the song without laughing, “I feel like this song is a hair product commercial.”

Butch Walker Piano

Just like watching it on YouTube

After every song about heartbreak and pain, Walker had a way of making the crowd laugh hysterically.  “I decided tonight I’m just gonna talk to you like I’m on YouTube. Like you’re watching it. . . y’know?  Because when I get home this whole show will be up on YouTube and I’ll watch it and think, ‘Oh, don’t wear that!'”

In response to some holiday song requests, Walker pondered, “There aren’t any Thanksgiving songs. We should make up a Thanksgiving song.”  Then, while strumming an upbeat tune, Walker sang, “White men are assholes.  White men are assholes.  We took this land, took this land, took this land, took this land. White men are assholes. . .  I’m happy to be here.”

Walker introduced “Vampires In Love,” a song he wrote in 1997, 12 years ahead of its time.  “Cuz it would be stupid to do something like that now,” Walker said, referring to the current popularity of vampire stories such as the Twighlight series and True Blood.  “It just reaffirms my belief that I should never play this song again.”  Walker let the audience take over the vocals as he playfully mocked the song with dramatic facial expressions.  After he finished playing “Vampires In Love,” Walker commented, “That song is like Fisher Price My First Song. . . the lyrics are so stupid.”

Butch Walker Cheat Sheets

Reviewing his song cheat sheets

He played fan-favorite song after fan-favorite song, deviating from the fan request format only twice to play new songs.  Walker wrote one of the songs for his young son, reminding him to live a complete, full, passionate, fun-filled life, and not to make some of the mistakes Walker had.

Walker took us on a journey from one side of love to another, singing “Let Me Go”:
Please just let me go
And I won’t be your shadow anymore

Followed by “Last Flight Out”:
Is this all there really is?
Life after you
Is it all there really is?
What else can I do?
I’m just gonna taste your kiss
No matter who I’m with

“This is my get out jail free song. I’m not gonna sing it – you are,” Walker said as he began playing another fan anthem. If that’s the case, all the songs Walker played last night could be considered “get out of jail free songs” – the audience sang every one.

Butch Walker

There's no need to scream anymore

As Walker played the older songs he seemed to get younger. I could picture him, 20 years ago, 20 years old, sitting in his bedroom. . . Just as cool then as he is now. I thought about all the musicians who’ve collaborated with Walker, those fortunate enough to have his producer credit on their album. “It would be a lot of fun to work with Butch,” I thought.  He takes what he does seriously, but he also knows how to have fun.  Butch Walker has changed since he wrote many of the songs he played last night. He’s more relaxed and knows first and foremost how to have a good time. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t scream much any more.

Butch Walker leaves the screaming (and sometimes the singing) to the fans.

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

September 24, 2009
LP33.tv Studios

One eskimO at LP33.tv

One eskimO at LP33.tv

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 LP33.tv 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 LP33.tv 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 LP33.tv about One eskimO

Kristian and Pete tell LP33.tv about One eskimO

After One eskimO amazed the LP33.tv 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 LP33.tv 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

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).

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