Tag Archives: Sebastian Steinberg

Watkins Family Hour at Largo Los Angeles

watkins family hourWatkins Family Hour is the perfect show leading up to the holidays. With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, Sean and Sara Watkins’ sheer talent, along with a healthy dose of murder ballads are welcome reminders of how blessed we are to be alive.

Once a month, for a decade now, The Watkins have been bringing their guitars, fiddles, and friends to Largo for what has long been one of my favorite shows in LA.

They often share the stage with some other people you may recognize, including Fiona Apple, Dawes, Jackson Browne, Van Dyke Parks, and John C Reilly. Yet, Sean and Sara are the foundation of the show and even if no on else were to join them on stage, they’d still have one of the best shows in town.

To play the way these siblings do requires that they actually listen to each other, constantly. It’s as if the universe has simultaneously presented them with a brilliant gift and ever-present joke – you’ll make great music together, but you have to get along. Perhaps that’s why the only detectable sibling rivalry seems to stem from their sense of humor. The murder ballads are balanced by Sean and Sara one-upping each other with witty observations. Their snarky sense of humor showdowns are a testament to how much they respect each other, as family, as musicians, as friends. Eventually, one of them acquiesces, “Ok, that was good!” and they jump into the next song.

The Watkins Family band is unparalleled: Benmont Tench on piano, Sebastian Steinberg on bass, Don Heffington on drums, and Greg Leisz on steel pedal guitar.  It’s worth attending this show monthly, for the musicianship and camaraderie alone.  Throw in a lot of laughs, some special guests, frequent surprises (dancing bears and such), and the perfect venue, The Watkins Family Hour is an exceptionally worthwhile way to spend an evening.

Last night’s show was no exception. Although I attend The Watkins Family Hour monthly, I’m always moved – as if I’m experiencing it for the first time – by how uplifting The Watkins’ shows are.  The shows vary significantly from month to month, but some things are consistent: beautiful voices, blended with remarkable musicianship and laughter.

The next Watkins Family Hour takes place on December 19th at Largo. Sadly, it’s the one show this year I have to miss.  Luckily for you, that means there will be a couple extra tickets available.  I highly recommend you get tickets in advance and round out 2012 with what is sure to be an amazing and memorable evening.

For those of you not in LA – and those of you in LA who would like to re-live some of the shows – there are 7 free podcasts of The Watkins Family Hour at iTunes. Episode 7, recorded on an iPhone due to a power outage, is the show I wrote about here. It remains among my favorite lifetime experiences to date.

Thank you for another wonderful year, Watkins Family.  I’m still campaigning to have a “Season Tickets” package available for purchase.



Fiona Apple at The Greek Theatre LA

Fiona AppleI’ve heard some people say, “Fiona Apple goes crazy on stage!” I wouldn’t call it crazy; I’d call it entranced. Apple is completely overcome by the music when she performs. The reason it may feel “crazy” is that people are not accustomed to experiencing that.  In fact, much of the time, society requests we “keep it down,” hold it in, smile when we want to cry.

Seeing Fiona Apple live broadens my perspective each time. Not only is every show different,  every moment is different. Her shows are real and alive, unpredictable by nature, and dependable in quality. They transform, evolve, and shape-shift around you.

There’s a set list, but you can go to every show and you won’t hear Apple do a song the same way twice. It’s the rawness, the realness, the aliveness that fans connect with.

The show envelops you. It’s as if you’ve arrived at a civilized dinner party, but when you raise your hand to knock, you realize the door is wide open.  Welcome.  There aren’t any elaborate light shows or over-the-top sets.  What’s before you during a Fiona Apple show is: music.

Apple has a way of spontaneously moving notes through her vocal range, making them sound so perfect, it’s as if that’s how the song was always intended.  I don’t imagine “always” is a concept Apple is too attached to.  The songs are sung as they are intended, moment by moment.

Seemingly aware that their voices would likely not match Apple’s, there was only one crowd singalong, fan-initiated: “Happy Birthday”.  Apple’s birthday was the night prior to her show at The Greek. The audience’s appreciation for and celebration of Fiona Apple’s life was felt as authentically as the show itself.

It was an abnormally warm summer night, even by LA’s standards. At times Apple would grab a fistful of ice. As she sang, water poured through her hands, along with the songs.

Fiona Apple fans have grown accustomed to waiting long periods of time between album releases and tours.  It’s not their preference, but fans “get it”. It’s easy to imagine executives at the record label each time Apple delivers a new album, wearily gazing at one another, shoulders shrugged, as if to say “What are we supposed to do with this?! This doesn’t fit our model.”

That’s precisely why it works. There is nobody like Fiona Apple.

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple