On any given night in Los Angeles there will be a great band playing somewhere. I will go, enjoy the music, chat with friends and call it an evening. Sometimes, the gods of music seem to get angry with me and book too many amazing musical events on the same evening, thus forcing me to make somewhat agonizing decisions that, more often than I care to admit, leave me so paralyzed I don’t venture out at all. Monday night I choose to defy those gods as I successfully completed the near impossible feat: Hit up 4 venues in one evening. Here is my story.
It all started with one of my favorite hometown bands, Scarlet Grey. Even since I helped out on their music video for “The Sky & I,” seeing this band has been a bit like a family reunion. The boys of Scarlet Grey are taking off for London for a while and booked their last LA show for Monday August 22nd at The Troubadour. In my calendar it went with indelible black ink.
Soon after, I was incredibly pleased to see that one of my favorite Nashville-based artists, Ben Rector, had booked a gig at my favorite LA venue, The Hotel Cafe. Ben doesn’t come to LA that often, so this was not something I wanted to miss. I went to ink it in the calendar and was dismayed when I saw the date already filled. Fortunately Ben played at 8pm and Scarlet Grey at 9:45 so I could catch both.. Excellent! A full and exciting evening planned with two great acts.
Things started to get a wee bit complicated when I met Bay, a musician in the band Some Hear Explosions, outside The Viper Room after The Veronicas show. Bay handed me a CD sampler and spoke of this magical Some Hear Explosions show taking place at The Viper Room. He painted such an enticing picture, I was excited…until I asked him when said show was to occur. Monday August 22nd. Why Monday is often the most convoluted day of the week show-wise is beyond me. It’s MONDAY! Anyway, after listening to said sampler and cursing the goodness of it, I penciled in the 11:15 SHE set thinking that The Viper usually runs late anyway, so it was entirely possible to make it after The Troubadour…the venues are fairly close together.
Finally, during SSMF, a friend of mine pointed out two additional bands also playing on Monday. Chappo, a Brooklyn-based band I had heard good things about, was playing a set at The Satellite and The Constellations were going to be at The Bootleg. I really wanted to see Chappo because I juuuust missed them at SSMF, but their Satellite set fell right in the middle of my already inked in events, so I cast that thought aside. The Constellations, however, were playing at midnight. The Constellations are a band from Atlanta, Georgia. They make infrequent appearances in Los Angeles and I had been craving a live set since their CD came out last year. I didn’t care about the excess driving, the time crunch, or the fact that I would be too tired to function the next day. I needed to be at that show! I penciled it in right after Some Hear Explosions.
Come Monday night, every little thing just seemed to be working out. Traffic was shockingly light and I arrived at The Hotel Cafe early. I immediately found street parking (something that doesn’t often happen for me) and I went into the venue to find the 7pm act, Korey Dane, still playing. I only caught 2.5 tunes, but I was impressed. Just as I was thinking, “I really need to see this guy again,” someone hands me a flier for BuskerFest, an event taking place this Saturday in Long Beach at which Korey Dane is playing along with Everest , Jay Buchanan, and more.
Ben Rector took the stage shortly after 8pm and for the next 30min or so I was lost in his world. He played many of my favorites (“When a Heart Breaks,” “The Beat,” even “Hank”!) going back and forth from the guitar to the piano. It was only Ben’s second time playing in Los Angeles, but fans were out in full force, singing along, clapping unprovoked(!), and listening attentively to Ben’s stories. There was Frisbee throwing, “Loving You Is Easy” got an improvised verse about grilled cheese, and throughout the whole set I could not stop smiling. My only complaint was that he didn’t play “Moving Backwards,” the song that first introduced me to Ben a couple of years ago. I still haven’t heard it performed live…and this bothers me greatly.
As soon as Ben Rector’s set was over, I left The Hotel Cafe to head to show number 2: Scarlet Grey at The Troubadour. On the way back to my car I passed by The Piano Bar. There was good tune-age coming from within, so I ducked in for a song. Turns out it was Waylon Payne, the guy who played Jerry Lee Lewis in the movie Walk the Line. It would have probably been a great night of music just hanging out at The Piano Bar (I spotted piano extraordinaire Brother Sal in the corner), but I couldn’t stay.
Heading to The Troubadour I was again amazed to find traffic to be light and free parking to be a piece of cake. I walked into the venue in time to hear my favorite Dead Country song, “Euro Thrash” and find where all my friends were hiding before the quickest set change ever occurred and suddenly Scarlet Grey were on the stage rocking out to “No Boys in the Ballroom” and “Fancy Blood.” The band played quite a few new songs that gave me the impression that they are aiming to up the rock factor, adding longer musical interludes and shifting the audience dance from jumping up and down to head banging. The set was over way too quickly but the boys came back out to do an encore which included “The Sky & I” so I was quite pleased.
I was even more pleased to realize I had some time after the set to hang out with The Grey Family for a few minutes before taking off to show number 3. The Viper was easy to get to and for the third time that evening, I made it in time to catch a few songs from the previous band (in this case, The Mulhollands). I was excited to see the cat walk had been brought out and I spent the time in between sets saying hello to some familiar faces in the room and recollecting my last Viper/cat walk experience (Semi Precious Weapons).
Some Hear Explosions started around 11:30. Bay wasn’t kidding when he said a lot of effort was going in to that night’s performance. Lights, video, sound effects in addition to the runway upped the level of intensity for the already energetic band. Some Hear Explosions played a couple songs I knew from the sampler with such panache, it was impossible not to get into it. It was difficult to disengage 20 minutes into the set, but the call of The Constellations was strong.
I arrived at The Bootleg just as Robert Francis was ending (thankfully things were running late). I found my peeps and we recounted stories of our evening’s adventures thus far. Between the three of us, we had gone to 6 different shows before convening at The Bootleg. I was starting to fade but then the set began and before I knew it, the music had taken over and I was a dancing machine! The Constellations proved to be as good if not better than I had anticipated. I love bands that really fill the stage (there are six of them…and only 1 guitarist) and lead singer, Elijah Jones, has a unique voice that sits somewhere between groovy rock and growling spoken word and can hit the most perfect maniacal laugh with impressive ease. New Band Love!!
The Constellations played all the songs I wanted to hear (“Felicia,” “Setback,” “Step Right Up”) and the set had put me in such a good mood, I found myself lingering at the venue for some time after the music had ended. I just wanted to retain as much of that magical energy for as long as possible. I don’t think I want to tell you want time I finally got home that evening/morning. At the end of it all, I had seen two of my favorite acts, discovered a great new artist, added a new band to my local must see list, and fallen in love. For a music enthusiast such as myself, this was not a bad way to spend an evening. 7 Bands. 4 Venues. 1 night. Not bad…not bad at all!