Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Live at the Hotel Cafe

So, have you ever gone to a concert not knowing who the opening act was, only to find it is a great band that you love? Actually that is a possible thread if anyone wants to comment. Anyway, what a surprise to find out that Minibar was the opening act last night. I was supposed to see them perform a year ago at an Italian restaurant in Long Beach only to find out that they had cancelled because they had a gig in Austin.

Minibar is a 4 man band consisting of up to 4 vocals with an acoustic guitar, bass, drums and a pedal steel guitar. When they are all singing it is like country rock heaven. Think early Eagles. They aren’t exactly country rock: It is more like mellow modern rock. But with the steel guitar wailing and those harmonies, well it is easy to get confused. And when they kick it into gear, it isn’t all that mellow either. They played for about 45 minutes. I would love to see a full set by them. It was nice to finally to see them live.

I saw Gary Jules a few weeks ago and this set was very similar to the last (although he was missing his pregnant backing singer). The album he is working on is going to be very good; probably better than his first two. Highlights so far include Pocahontas and Little Greenie (although song titles may change as he has already changed at least one of the names in the last few weeks). Pocahontas appears to be about a woman living in L.A. who “believes in radio”. Obviously this is a fictitious character. Another excellent song is called “Wichita”. You can buy a version of this song on the Live at the Hotel Café compilation. I asked Gary why he doesn’t promote this when playing the song and he said that he makes no money on the live CD and “Wichita” will be on the new CD. You’d think he wasn’t happy about the live CD, but when I asked if there was another live CD coming from the Hotel Café he was genuinely enthusiastic, mentioning that they were working on another one. Gary will be back at the Hotel Café next Tuesday and will be with Minibar at the Viper Room on the 20th. Go see him.

And then Julian came out. When I saw Julian Coryell a couple of weeks ago, it was just him and a stand up bass. This time he had his full band, which, along with the bass included keyboards and drums. And like Gary, his new material may be his best ever. The best way to describe the new material would be to imagine a John Mayer type, but with a jazz base. These are interesting songs (“this song is an argument between someone who believes in God and someone who doesn’t”) with good melodies and then these great jazz and sometimes rock solos. Julian is a great guitar player and he really gets to shine when he has a band behind him (first time I’ve seen him with a band). His upcoming CD is third on my anticipation list (Bruce and Kate fill up the first two slots… which reminds me, they say Kate Bush is just months away from releasing a CD). This was a great set and way to short (45 minutes). Julian will be on tour playing in Aimee Mann’s band this weekend. I’m not sure how many shows that is.

A side note… The Hotel Café seems to have a very unique way of presenting bands. The first show is just after 8 and is usually 45 minutes. The main attraction is then at 9 and goes for anywhere from 45 minutes (A Girl Called Eddy) to an hour and a half (Gary Jules). Then, the closing band plays at around 1030 or 11 for 45 minutes. It is an interesting format.

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