March 31, 2010
Crane’s Tavern, Hollywood
Jamie Drake (photo by: Daley Hake)
I remember seeing The White Stripes at The Troubadour a few times a year, in the very early 2000’s. We also used to go see these singer-songwriters named Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles, and Brett Dennen, play at The Hotel Cafe all the time. I was one of 8 people who stumbled into The Mint and saw Jack Johnson play in 1999 or early 2000, well before the masses knew who he was. The Strokes, Metric, Snow Patrol, Keane, Scissor Sisters, Ben Harper, The Airborne Toxic Event, Amos Lee, Ray LaMontagne, The Black Eyed Peas (way, way, way back), Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes, Muse, Arcade Fire, Queens of The Stone Age, Portugal The Man (you’ll see what I mean about that one soon). . . the list of “new bands” that I’ve seen perform in tiny venues, before most people knew who they were, is endless.
What does this have to do with Jamie Drake? Well, if you want to get in early on this one, now’s the time. I was introduced to Jamie via a contest she won. Jamie was hand-selected by A&R veteran Michael Rosenblatt (Madonna, Depeche Mode, New Radicals, etc.) to receive his guidance and to record an EP with a respected producer. “Listen to this! Listen to THIS!” Rosenblatt would command, while bouncing out of his seat, with a huge smile on his face, referencing Drake’s early demos. Then, 2 minutes later, “did you listen to it??” By the third minute he was playing Jamie Drake’s music for me from his computer. At that time, I had worked with Rosenblatt for nearly one year and had never seen him that excited about anybody.
On first listen, Drake’s songs are unmistakably good. Upon subsequent listens, they’re brilliant. The art of the album is dying – people are buying (or not) singles and EPs. The coming generation isn’t familiar with the concept of the album as a holistic piece of work, as a story and art of its own. People are consuming songs, legally or illegally, at a rapid pace and churning through them as quickly as they find them. Yet to endure, the songs need to be better. As a listener, you need to feel something every time you hear a song, not just a catchy little tune that will soon annoy you, as it becomes overplayed. You deserve something that moves you, something you can revisit several years from now and still connect with, songs that are themselves a holistic piece of art. Jamie Drake gives you that.
The better an album is, the longer it takes me to get though the first listen. I geek out on songs, listen to them on repeat, hear all the parts, identify where the emotional hooks are, understand the impact of the intersection of the sound of various instruments at a specific moment, inflections in the singer’s voice. . . It took me two weeks to get to the final track of Drake’s album – which also happens to be the title track, and my favorite – “When I Was Yours.”
I listened to tracks one through eight, over and over, on repeat until I understood, down to the second, where and how each song made me feel a specific range of emotions. Eventually, I made my way to track nine, “When I Was Yours.” That song is still on repeat. Minutes 2:12 – 3:02 will break your heart even if your heart has never been broken before. But it’s minutes 0:01 to 2:11 that get you there. Drake’s songs are not simply “good,” they get inside you and fuck you up. The songs stand alone, but they also, conceptually, take you through the journey of the album as a whole. And just like we want to relive the best parts of our lives, I’ve repeated my way, song by song, through the album numerous times now.
I’ve seen Drake perform live a handful of times. The more she plays, the better she gets. Even if she never gets any better than this, she’ll still blow you away. Drake is currently playing Crane’s Tavern in Hollywood on Wednesdays and has an album release show at The Hotel Cafe on May 13th.
For more info: Jamie Drake on Facebook
October 14, 2009
Library Alehouse, Santa Monica
Carson Daly Taping
People sometimes ask me why I “bother” with Twitter. They don’t understand its application in everyday life and think of Twitter as another unnecessary distraction. So here are a few reasons I love Twitter: Nine Inch Nails last show ever, Thom Yorke “secret” show at The Echoplex, Imogen Heap TweetUp, David Gray last-minute show at Hotel Cafe, and Brett Dennen intimate performance at Library Alehouse.
As with all the amazing music experiences noted above, I found out about Brett Dennen’s performance at Library Alehouse via Twitter. Dennen announced this show with a Tweet, at 1:43pm today. I re-read the Tweet a few times because Library Alehouse is not a music venue (not that all shows must take place in a proper venue, but. . .). Library Alehouse is one of my favorite pubs slash restaurants in Santa Monica. They have an amazing selection of beer on tap, including a few that are hard to find elsewhere (I only know this because I’ve been there with some guys who know this). They also have a great year-round outdoor seating area in the back (I know this because that’s where I like to sit).
Brett Dennen at Library Alehouse
So when Brett Dennen Tweeted that he was going to be performing at Library Alehouse for a Carson Daly taping, I thought perhaps he had one too many glasses of really good beer. Yet the Tweet was very specific and Library Alehouse was on the way home (as “on the way” as anything is in LA), so I decided to stop by. Good thing I did because Dennen was entirely sober and indeed performing at Library Alehouse tonight.
I first became aware of Brett Dennen several years ago (2004-ish), at The Hotel Cafe. Marko, who co-owns and books the venue, told me I had to come down and “check out this guy Brett Dennen.” I remember it was a late show. . . No, actually. . . Whoever had played before Dennen started late (or ran over time) which pushed Dennen’s set back. It was approximately 11:43pm on a weeknight, after a very long day, and with an early morning ahead of me. If anybody else told me I needed to be out that night, I would have ignored them. But when Marko tells me I need to see someone, I show up.
Consistently, 0n any given night, The Hotel Cafe has a solid line-up. It’s the kind of place you can go, even if you don’t recognize the names of the artists playing, and be guaranteed to hear some good music. In fact, I often go there “on the way home” because I’m certain to hear something I like. Marko doesn’t call me every time an amazing musician is playing at Hotel Cafe (if he did, he’d be calling me four times a day). So when he does say, “you’ve gotta come check this out,” I don’t question it; I just show up.
In the case of Brett Dennen, that meant I was one of approximately 8 people in the room when he performed what are now some of his most requested songs. He was, without a doubt, phenomenal which left me thanking Marko profusely and questioning where everyone else was. It also reminded me of a time when I was one of only 5 people seeing Jack Johnson perform at The Mint several years prior to that. In both instances I wondered how long it would take for people to catch on. And in both instances the answer was: not very long at all.
Brett Dennen at Rothbury 2009
The next time I saw Dennen perform at Hotel Cafe the room was packed. The time after that it was sold out. After playing a few sold-out shows at Hotel Cafe, Dennen graduated to larger venues, but he’d often come back to Hotel Cafe and play special shows. The last time I saw Dennen perform at Hotel Cafe, not only was it sold-out, but people hovered outside the window on Hollywood Boulevard, with their ears pressed against the glass, straining to hear as much of the show as possible. Most recently I watched (or rather, danced) as Dennen performed to thousands of fans at Rothbury Festival.
So that’s Brett Dennen – nobody knew about him, then everybody knew about him, and now those who know him on Twitter are the ones who knew to show up for his Carson Daly taping this afternoon. And just like old times, we were among the few (40 people) who got to experience this show.
Dennen began by playing a brand new song, “Dancing At The Funeral.” It’s not as morbid as the title may lead you to believe. “Dancing At The Funeral” is a song about celebrating life, an important message to share. Next, at the request of the audience, he played “Desert Sunrise,” a song off his debut album. Dennen spoke about his fond memories of the Bay Area and how he weaved a break-up storyline into the song prior to playing “San Francisco.” “It’s really a love song,” Dennen said. “I love that city.”
Next, he told a story about recording “Heaven” with Natalie Merchant. Like several artists, Dennen likened the song to a child. But unlike other artists, Dennen’s “child” had a different upbringing. Hopefully they leave that story in the show so you can hear it for yourself (I’d only f*ck it up if I tried to repeat it). Dennen finished the set with “It Could Make You Cry,” another ironically happy tune.
And with that, the show slash taping ended, and some really good beer was the substitute for an encore.
I didn’t find out when the show is going to air, so your best bet is to follow Carson Daly on Twitter.