Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tina Dico at The Hotel Cafe

It was a cold and rainy night as I walked up to the Hotel Café. Okay, this is Hollywood, so when I say cold and raining, I really mean low 50s and drizzling. But I was the first in line so I stood under the doorway and listened to Astrid Swan I believe (I could be completely wrong here) as she did her sound check; sounded like Fiona Apple as her voice was filtered through the walls. I was all prepared for an evening alone; had my IPOD with me. But shortly after I arrived three people rolled out of a car and became my new best friends. Ed, Amanda, the guy with the hat (sorry, I just can’t remember his name) and I had a fun filled pre concert conversation, talking about everything from gas explosions (guy with hat works for Gas Company) to Chucky Cheese (Amanda used to be a rat). As the line grew, we were talking about gas blowing up in your face and this guy behind us tells us about his burns. Someone asked what the gas was and he said, “Petroleum Ether” (or something like that). I couldn’t resist, “Was that the last time you did freebase”? “Uhmmmm, actually it was hash oil”. Okay, enough nonsense.

The doors opened and in we went. If you haven’t been to the remodeled Hotel Café, they did a great job. You enter from the back now and there is a big lobby area where you can sit at cocktail tables and drink (there is a second bar too). You then go through double doors into the old room. They have widened the room by about 1/3 and instead of 2 rows of tables; there are now 5 or so rows. The capacity on the wall says 189, but that probably includes the back lobby where you can’t really hear the music. They did not change the stage one bit and yes, the red curtains are still there.

We sat down at the front table against the wall and awaited the opening act, Kristin Hoffman. Kristin is, according to her bio, classically trained. Part way through the first song you figure out that her instrument was her voice. One of the highlights of her performance was her cover of Joni Mitchell’s, “Case of You”. She hit all of the low and high notes. It was very impressive. There were a couple of really good songs in the set also, but it seemed like her voice lacked the emotion required to pull off this kind of music. Ed thought her piano playing on her right hand was a little heavy handed. Overall I enjoyed her show though. As she sang, you could hear the rain beating down on the side of the building (this time it really was rain) and Kristin commented on how cool it was and that it was like being in a cave. Yes, a cave filled with beautiful female voices.

And then it was Tina’s Turn. You can not start out a discussion of Tina Dico live without talking about her statuesque beauty. All legs, blond hair and the sweetest smile, this native of Denmark is as beautiful as she is humble. What you realize when she smiles is that she probably knows that she is beautiful, but that this is her art and that is what is important about the evening. The music isn’t about a producer making some beauty the next big thing, it is her personal life and she wants to share it with us.

And then she starts playing and wow! She played the guitar (a Gibson Hummingbird, which just sounded so good) with confidence and sang with the kind of emotion you get from sitting all day in an unfurnished flat in London with no money and only your music to get you by. Most of the evening was dedicated to her new CD, “In the Red”. No band was needed for this music: You can see that the songs are really that good. For her encore she dipped into her past for a couple of songs. One of the funny moments was when this guy yelled out an old song. She told the crowd that last night in San Diego someone yelled out that song and she said, “I’m sorry, I don’t really think I know that one well enough. Next time”. And the guy in the crowd said, “No problem, I’ll see you tomorrow in Hollywood”. So, there he was and so, as she promised, she sang it. For those wondering, she did not sing any Zero 7 songs (unless I missed one).

It was a great show that lasted about 45 to 50 minutes. Afterward we hung out in the lobby. The doorman said that after he let all of the people waiting in line for Jose Gonzales in, we could buy tickets. He assured us it wouldn’t sell out. So the 4 of us talked for about an hour. I slipped over and chatted with Tina for a few minutes. She really is so sweet. At about 10:30 the gang left. We said goodbye, never to see each other again. And I waited another 20 minutes. It became apparent that the line outside was continuing to grow and when I peaked my head into the room, it was packed all the way to the back of the bar. They were sold out (at least the fire marshal would probably say so) even as they continued to let people in. At just before 11, with no music started, I decided that as much as I wanted to see Jose, it was time to leave. I could barely see the stage and the sound in the back of The Hotel Café is usually overshadowed by talking. With Jose Gonzales, you really want to be right there: The music is so intimate. Maybe next time. He is playing at the Echo tonight, but I can’t see driving out to L.A. again.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Jill Sobule and Julia Sweeney at Largo in Hollywood

A funny thing happens when you combine a SNL alumnus with one of music’s most interesting, humorous, A.D.D. songwriters. In fact lots of funny things happen. Which is what we got last night at Largo as Jill brought up Julia Sweeney for a bit of fun on stage. The way it worked was very simple. Jill and the band (Adam Levy on guitar and Dave Carpenter on stand up bass) would play a song and then when it ended, the band would continue playing and Julia would tell a story that related to the song. So, when Jill sang Angel/Asshole, Julia talked about a guy she dumped (not to mention throwing up all over him). This went on for 4 or 5 glorious songs/monologues. There are always plenty of laughs at a Jill Sobule concert, but it went into overdrive with Julia doing her one woman act. Still, there are few people in the world as quick and funny as Jill and during the encore Julia was stumped when Jill made her come up for an unrehearsed story after singing “Under the Disco Ball” a story about a young gay man. Julia didn’t know what to say until a man in the audience yelled out, “Have you ever dated a gay man?”. Julia laughed and said, “Yes, but neither of us knew it”. It was a fun funny evening and those of us in So.Cal. may be lucky enough to see it again in the near future.

Opening the show was Adam Levy. Adam is best known as Norah Jones guitar player, but has played on everyone from Tracy Chapman to Amos Lee. And, yes he is a good guitar player. But what really got me, were his vocals. He is a cleaner/deeper/softer Jon Dee Graham. I can’t believe that he hasn’t been singing on his CDs. His songs, even when they were about doing the wash, sounded so special and important you were ready to cry. I look forward to hearing more from him down the road.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

This Weeks Play List

Lots of music to add this week, so I’ll keep the comments short…

Grant Lyle – Grant Lyle (2006) An indie artist. He sent me some mp3s that I liked. You can hear more at http://www.grantlyle.com/music.htm

KT Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope (2006) Another one of the hot new artists you may be hearing a lot about this year. Very very good CD.

Elvis Costello (Live with the Metropole Orkest) – My Flame Burns Blue (2006) Not many artists take the risks that Elvis does. And when it works, it works real well. You start by enjoying the jazz remakes of a few of his songs, but even the new songs sound great. Yes, it is a jazz CD. But it is also an Elvis Costello CD. My favorite on the CD has to be the samba raved-up version of “Clubland”.

Etienne de Rocher – Etienne de Rocher (2006) Thanks to Mike for raving about this one. I really don’t know how to describe this guy. The first thing that came to mind was how much I kept thinking about Beck (not that he sounds like him). This is one talented guy who shouldn’t be on an indie label for very long. http://www.etiennederocher.com/

Willie Nile – Streets of New York (2006) I saw Willie at the “Light of Day” concert in Hollywood a few months ago and loved his music right off the bat. You can hear everything from Dylan to Springsteen in his influences. An excellent CD.

Hem – No Word from Tom (2006) This is the first time I’ve heard these guys. This is an odds and ends type CD based on performances over the last 5 years or so. Think Cowboy Junkies and you have a good idea how special they are. But I bought this CD just because of one song, REM’s “South Central Rain”. What a great version.

Sia – Colour The Small One (2006 – U.S. Release) This is the official U.S. release with a couple of new songs and 2 more versions of “Breathe Me”. Neither are as good as the original release, but well worth the listen.

Saint Etienne – Tales From Turnpike House (2006) A concept album for the new millennium. This one is about the people living in this apartment complex. The music at times takes you back to the days before the Beatles and Stones took over the world. At the same time they can have a very techno feel. This is a fascinating CD.

Slacktone – Slacktone (1997) I heard “The Bells of St Kahuna” in concert and realized for the first time how good surf music can be. These guys are as tight as any prog rock band. Best surf music I have ever heard.

Luke Doucet – Broken (and other rogue states) (2005) This may be the breakup CD of the year (maybe the new millennium). There are lots of songs about cold and broken hearts (or lack there of) and, well, I just love this CD. His future wife, Melissa Mclelland sings backup vocals on many of the songs. He is the indie poster boy of Canada. Someday… Buy this CD! http://www.lukedoucet.com

Beaver Nelson – Motion (2004) We saw Beaver in Austin last year and picked up this CD (yes I am way behind on my listening). A very enjoyable CD… but I have run out of time. http://www.beavernelson.com

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jenny Lewis at the Glass House in Pomona

An art center, right in the middle of Pomona: Who would have thought it was possible. This is a very cool alternative to driving all the way into L.A. Although, if I’m in the OC at 4pm, it ain’t gonna happen. I was able to adjust my schedule this week and work at my client’s in Chino Hills Wednesday, so I lucked out this time.

The Glass House is an old furniture warehouse, according to Bill. It is one big open space with a stage in the corner; allowing for a wide viewing angle. At the back of the building, there is a small upstairs area with a few seats. Although it would have been a comfortable and reasonable place to watch a concert, we were afraid of how the sound would be, so back down we went; into the crowd. We figured it was heavily a Claremont College crowd. And what a wonderful crowd it was. Maybe the best I’ve been in since the last Springsteen show. It was so uplifting to me to know that there were young people today who come to concerts to hear the music. Even if… well, we’ll get to that in a minute. I think I was the oldest or second oldest in the crowd. We found 2 others who looked our age. Otherwise the crowd was pretty much not at drinking age yet (I understand it is a 16 and over club). The thing was, they were respectful. There was little talking during the show, lots of enthusiasm for all of the songs from all of the acts and it was just obvious that they were really there to hear the music. How refreshing that was.

Opening the show was Whispertown 2000. So, before I say what I have to say about their performance you should know that it was their first show and Morgan was sick. She actually came out and immediately sprayed something into her mouth. You expect that when an artist is sick they have trouble hitting notes. But what you forget is that it also can affect their hearing. I’ve been listening to their site on Myspace and am now sure that is what happened because, well, Susie and I kept looking at each other with painful looks on our faces as Morgan kept hitting notes that should be made illegal (and may be in some parts of the world). It was really painful. No. It was really really painful. I can’t even begin to talk about the music itself because it was just so hard to get past the vocals that night. Listening to songs on their website, I can see how they could go so wrong. She/they do not produce typical melodies and if you miss some of those notes, it’s like hitting a gravel patch off the side of they road; you’re in deep trouble. The crowd was very supportive though. Some even started clapping along with one of the songs.

Michael Runion was the second act on the bill. He did a fun solo set playing music that reminded me of Jack Johnson. The lyrics sounded pretty interesting too. He is someone I am going to keep an eye on. Probably the highlight of his act though was his back and forth dialog with the audience. He is a very funny guy and had the audience laughing out loud at some of his off the cuff comments. I’d love to see him in a small club sometime.

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins started the show in very dramatic fashion: With the band already on stage, they started singing the a capella opening to their CD, “Run Devil Run”. Slowly the three of them walked onto the stage, continuing to sing without microphones. As they hit the last note of the song, Jenny strummed her guitar creating a huge amount of feedback. It wasn’t what she had in mind, but this was opening night of the tour. Actually, sound was a problem all night for all three groups. Jenny apologized, they got the sound levels figured out, and off she went singing about God and religion and life in the big city. I love the new CD and they focused on it throughout the night; playing only a few songs outside of it. There were no Rilo Kiley songs, which seems to show how strongly she feels about this CD. Although I enjoyed the show, she really didn’t add to the songs. This is the first night of the tour so maybe it will take a bit of time and maybe I’m expecting too much; but I do like to see the artist push beyond the limits of the studio when they are in concert. One new song stood out, “Jack Killed Mom”, a funny rollicking blue-eyed soul/country song that turned into a gospel like rave at the end. During the encore they did an a copella version of “I met him on a Sunday”. The standout piece of the evening was the title track from “Rabbit Fur Coat” which she sang accompanied only by her guitar. It is a very powerful, semi-autobiographical song about growing up in Hollywood. The band, is comprised of a couple of Rilo Kiley members along with Michael Runion on bass and Jonathan Rice on guitar. Rice did a nice job playing lots of acoustic solos. Overall it was a good show and a fun evening.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen