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.”
Ben Harper played a special benefit show at The Mint in Los Angeles to raise cancer relief funds for Babette Ho, wife of legendary Dogtown and Z-Boys / Zephyr surfboard maker Jeff Ho. Harper was joined by numerous special guests, including: Jackson Browne, Joan Osborne, Tom Morello, and Tal Wilkenfeld.
It was a brilliant night of music and community; an evening that cannot be summed up in words. For now, here are some videos from the amazing benefit show last night. I hope to add more insight later. Then again, you kind of had to be there:
Huge thanks to The Mint, Ben Harper, all the participating musicians, and the amazing community of fans who were there!
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.
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.
Tuesday kicked off with an interview and live acoustic performance from Meiko at LP33.tv. 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 LP33.tv 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 LP33.tv team was overheard saying, “that gave me chills!” A little close to home, eh?
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)
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 LP33.tv. Just a teaser, the Meiko feature is being edited: