During the rare occasions when I consider the possibility of leaving Los Angeles, I remember experiences like Damien Rice playing at The Hotel Cafe Sunday night. It’s a “once in a lifetime” opportunity which thankfully has happened more than once in this lifetime.
L.A. – where you can wake up on a Sunday morning, ease into your day somewhat aimlessly, and find out that one of your favorite musicians – somebody who typically sells out much larger rooms – is playing a last-minute show, that same night, at one of your favorite and most intimate venues.
On Sunday morning, October 7th, it was announced that Damien Rice would be playing as part of Nic Harcourt‘s 88.5 KCSN Presents show at The Hotel Cafe later that night. It was the first in what is to become a monthly series hosted by Harcourt at The Hotel Cafe. It was also the first time Rice has played in Los Angeles since 2007.
The show sold-out in a matter of minutes. People who didn’t have tickets lined up 6-7 hours early in hopes additional tickets would be released at the door. People who did have tickets lined up 6-7 hours early with the goal of obtaining a prime position, close to the stage, for the standing room only event.
The evening’s openers, Kita Klane and The Lonely Wild, had an exceptionally rewarding and equally challenging job before them: opening for Damien Rice. Harcourt kicked off the evening, introducing the radio station (one of my favorites) and his new, curated, monthly concert series. He expressed his enthusiasm that Rice agreed to join the line-up, while sharing his concurrent enthusiasm about introducing the audience to two newer bands he’s passionate about. Harcourt did an amazing job of setting the tone for the evening and the audience was attentive, receptive, and engaged, during both opening performances.
The crowd’s attention to Kita Klane and The Lonely Wild is quite a testament to each band. What was once going to be an important, yet more low-key evening, was suddenly an even higher-profile show, playing to what could have been – and in many cases would have been – a difficult audience. Kita Klane and The Lonely Wild stepped up to the challenge in a way that inferred “we’re this good all the time, not just tonight.”
The spectacular evening was also a testament to the crowd. Rice’s fans appreciate music. They listen. They dance, laugh, clap, and cheer, when appropriate. They trust the venue and the evening’s curator to present shows that will be of the highest quality. Their expectations are high, as is their confidence that expectations will be met.
Rice began with “Delicate” and concluded with “Volcano”, complete with a crowd sing-along, in the round. Everything in between was as exceptional. Rice’s voice is impeccable, his songs honest.
Rice guided the audience through his set, describing the various stages of his failed relationships, the resulting introspection, and the songs that emerged in the end. He sang with eyes closed most of the time, but opened them each time he belted, “I remember it well. . . ”
His honesty and humor shared the stage with his music. Introducing “The Professor & La Fille Danse,” Rice asked the crowd to imagine if, when they were younger, someone gave them a million dollars every day, along with the advice, “do good with it.” Then, the next day they show up to give you another million dollars, and so on, for the rest of your life. “Well, we are given a million sperm each day,” he said, adding that this is the root of failed relationships. Later, endearingly labeling himself an “asshole,” Rice debuted a new song, “Greatest Bastard”.
What happens when Rice sings – and consider this your warning – is he unsuspectingly draws you in with his exquisite voice. Then, you’re enveloped in the story and you begin to feel what he’s experiencing. The pain is mitigated by his voice, his sense of humor about it all, and the drink in your hand. As Rice sings, and the songs build, you realize you’re fucked. Welcome to Damien’s world.
His relationships may fail, but his shows are always a success.
For a person so beyond their years in sheer talent, chronological age can be rather insignificant. In Laura Marling‘s case, her age is relevant only in that she can now enjoy a glass of wine on stage. Long-time fans have experienced this coming-of-age with Marling, surely the most noticeable change between tours. The quality of her voice and the content of her songs maintain their excellency.
The crowd was captivated as Marling delivered a beautiful set at Hotel Cafe Sunday night. As she tuned her guitar between songs, the room remained silent. “My father dreads coming to my shows. He just can’t believe I don’t do more to make everyone feel comfortable,” Marling said.
One of the unique things about a Laura Marling show is precisely that – these moments between songs, their silence further punctuating the songs themselves. Perhaps the reason her father noticed is because it’s rare – the uncomfortable silences as everyone hangs on whatever it is Marling may do next – tune her guitar, critique her wardrobe, or offer additional insight about a song. The crowd doesn’t stir, fidget with their cell phones, nor move to the bar for a drink. They are spellbound.
At one point, Marling mentioned that she was a bit nervous about the transparency of her dress. “My mom always said to wear matching underwear in case you get hit by a bus. . . but she didn’t say anything about standing in a room full of people in a see-through dress.”
Marling played for just over an hour. As she made her way toward the end of the set, Marling explained that she doesn’t do encores, joking it’s one way she avoids awkward, self-conscious moments. I can tell you about the silences and stillness between songs, but her performance and the songs themselves are something you should experience first-hand.
Doors: 8:00pm DJ Kevin Bronson (Buzz Bands LA): 8:00pm Little Red Lung: 9:00pm Wires In The Walls: 10:00pm Telstar: 11:00pm
The Mint: 6010 WEST PICO BLVD. LOS ANGELES, CA 90035
The Inspiration: I was on a conference call while driving to a show in downtown Los Angeles, during an unseasonably cold December night. The show was taking place at a venue that was new to me, so I enlisted the help of my vehicle’s GPS to navigate. “Turn left onto South Boyle” the GPS instructed. “Left onto Whittier Blvd” the digital voice continued. “Guys – I’ve gotta go!” I interrupted our conference call and hung up abruptly. My GPS routed me directly through Los Angeles’s Skid Row, one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States. It’s estimated that more than 4,000 people sleep on the streets of LA’s Skid Row every night.
I didn’t hang up the phone out of fear. I’ve walked through the area at night previously. I hung up the phone out of respect. The content of the phone call was business. It was important. Yet, my mind could not handle the juxtaposition of what I was seeing on the streets with the discussions about business ringing in my ears. There was a van in front of me, driving exceptionally slow. I watched people set up their tents. They have a system. People seem to be well aware of their individual role in the community. During my drive, I witnessed how LA’s homeless population works together as a means to survive. The slow-moving van in my path forced me to take it all in. “Look at what’s happening here. . . This happens every night. . . You need to do something,” thoughts raced through my head. By the time I made my way through the area, I had witnessed a small city being built before my eyes.
Skid Row map
“What can I do, beyond what I’m already doing?” I pondered as I continued to make my way toward the venue. I felt so blessed. . . and so responsible. My life is exceptional. Everything and everyone I’m grateful for sparked in my mind, rapid-fire. I couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. “I just turned up the heat in my car, on my way to a show, to have drinks with friends, and enjoy an amazing night of live music. I need to do something. . . ” So I called upon some of the friends who popped into my mind as I was giving thanks for all that I have and the people who contribute so greatly to my life. “What do you think about doing a benefit concert, in support of LA’s homeless?” I asked. One-by-one, and without hesitation, they agreed.
Also among those I gave thanks for that night is YOU. We’ve shared live music experiences, anecdotes, and #overheard humor here, on Twitter, and YouTube. Many of us have met in person and cultivated friendships that extend well beyond a “like” button. I would love to share this evening with you, my community, as we lend much-needed support to LA’s homeless community. Details about the artists, charity, and venue are below. Tickets are available here: http://www.themintla.com/show/detail/56568 Please share with your friends, invite them to join us. Thank you!
Kevin Bronson of Buzz Bands LA: Kevin and I initially met several years ago at a Buffalo Tom show at The Troubadour. At the time, Kevin was an editor/writer at Los Angeles Times. He knew more about the music scene in Los Angeles than most people I had encountered up to that point. We hung out long after the show ended, talking about music and bands including Mercury Rev, The Shins, and Beachwood Sparks. We’ve been friends ever since. Currently, Kevin heads up BUZZBANDS.LA, an independent website focused on music made and played in and around L.A., offering news, reviews, interviews and song downloads. Buzz Bands has become the go-to source for fans seeking what’s new and who’s cool. Kevin also hosts a weekly radio program on KCSN, Sundays 7pm – 8pm (Pacific Time). If you want to know what’s happening in music before it happens, this is your guy. It’s an honor to have Kevin DJ this event.
LA-based quintet Wires in the Walls explores a textured space between Americana, anthemic indie rock, austere post-punk, and pop. Since the band’s formation in 2009, they have played many of LA’s top venues and toured the east and west coasts, with their well-received 2010 EP “Call Signs” receiving local and national college radio play. Wires in the Walls takes a hands-on DIY attitude to their promotion, including the screen printing of all of their own merchandise. The band spent 2011 writing and recording their debut full-length album New Symmetry, released October 25, 2011. Wires in the Walls is: Warren Sroka (vocals/guitar – NYC), Nick Tracz (bass/vocals – upstate NY), Bryan King (drums/horns – Virginia), Dave Irelan (guitar/vocals – Oregon), & Dave Sicher (everything – Illinois).
“We’re really excited to be a part of this show for a such a good cause. Los Angeles as a whole has been super supportive of us and our music throughout our brief life as a band, and so it’s great to be able to give back in some small way to the larger community. Plus the lineup is fantastic, so it’s like a double-whammy of awesomeness.” Bryan King said when asked about Wires In The Walls’ participation in this event.
They are among my favorite people in the world. Chris Unck, Eva Gardner, and Stew Heyduk (“Telstar”) have “official bios” and credits that include P!nk, Feist, Mars Volta, Butch Walker, and Veruca Salt. Why do I love Chris, Eva, and Stew? They are amazing, kind, supportive, brilliant artists, not constrained by convention. They have a way of simultaneously existing in the past, present, and future, like a living time machine. The energy and spirit of their live shows has been the highlight of nights full of highlights. They’re playful, funny, and experts in creating, as well as participating in, the party. Chris and Eva are also talented visual artists and will be displaying some of their work during the event.
I’ve written quite a bit about their music and live shows, some of which lends insight into the people they are, but none of which can substitute for you experiencing Telstar yourself.
It was during a show at The Mint in 1999 or 2000 that I decided I wanted to work “in music”. There were only 8 or 9 of us at the venue. As I watched an unknown musician play in a nearly empty room, I had a strong feeling he would go on to be quite successful. “If I could get paid to do this. . . to experience music, help support it, and tell people about it. . . ” I resigned from my movie studio job the following week. As soon as the musician finished his set, I approached the man who booked the venue at the time. “Who was that? You need to book him here again,” I said. “I would love to keep booking him, but he doesn’t draw (an audience),” the man responded. “What’s his name?” I pressed. “Jack Johnson,” he replied.
Needless to say, I have a long history with The Mint. It’s a wonderful venue, with a great team of people behind it. You can enjoy a clear line of sight to the stage from nearly any point in the venue. The bar is perfectly situated for optimal efficiency. They have great food. I’ve seen artists including Frank Black, Ben Harper, Jackson Browne, Joan Osborne, and Tom Morello play The Mint.
What I love most about The Mint is the people who work there and their ongoing commitment to the community as a whole. There’s a sense of Southern hospitality at The Mint. If you’re there, you’re family. As an organization, The Mint is dedicated to giving back to the community. They’ve hosted numerous fundraisers and are generously opening their doors to us on Thursday, February 23rd as we come together to lend support to the homeless.
PATH (People Assisting The Homeless): During the last six months of 2011, PATH helped 544 people in need move into permanent housing. PATH’s mission is “To break the cycle of homelessness by empowering people with the tools for self-sufficiency.” They do this by helping homeless individuals and families find work, save money, secure housing, and empower their lives. PATH provides numerous essential services to the homeless including counseling, legal advocacy, housing services, employment and outreach services. All proceeds from the door during our event will be donated to PATH. For more info about PATH, you may check out their fact sheet here: http://www.pathpartners.org/factsheet/files/Fact%20Sheet%20-%20PATH.pdf
[Updated: February 17, 2012]
We are pleased to announce an addition to our line up: Little Red Lung. “Why such high praise? Well, perhaps because vocalist/keyboardist Zoe-Ruth Erwin has seemingly been summoned from the collective wombs of Tori Amos, Amanda Palmer, and Florence Welch with as much artistic depth of her own to gain the type of devoted following each of those women have. Yet there’s something a bit more sinister about the musical magic this band conjures up, a seductive witchery of waltzes that would incite even the most devout crossbearer to do the devil dance. They’re brilliant. The band is releasing free tracks up until the release of their new album through Bandcamp. You need to download them all.”