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Usually, the “City” in Sarcasm And The City refers to the towns in and around Orange and LA Counties. You know, the beach cities. Without the snow and tornadoes.
Who knew that life — with good music — existed beyond southern California? My good friend BAMS recently got hitched and moved to Kansas, and sent this review of a Joshua Radin show she recently attended. I’m beyond jealous, as Laura Jansen opened for him. The two of us saw her a few years ago and I got to catch her recently at a Christmas show in LA. But Mr. Radin? I’ve never been able to catch his sweet voice live. Yet. But BAMS has. Here’s her take.
DISCLAIMER: I’m no expert when it comes to the intricacies of music and such. However, I do love me some singer songwriters – my favorites being Katie Herzig, Tyrone Wells, Jay Nash, Meiko and Joshua Radin. So when I noticed that JRad (as me and SATC affectionately call him) was playing a show at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, KS, (along with Laura Jansen and Cary Brothers) I was beside myself with giddiness.
Laura took the stage first, and I was excited to see her again! She captivated us right off the bat with her infectious smile, strong, soulful voice and storytelling (between sips of whiskey from her red party cup.) Keepin it klassy Laura. I like it! I was really impressed with the range of her vocals and was a little bummed when, on songs like Wicked World, her strong keyboard playing somewhat overpowered her beautiful voice and distracted from the witty lyrics. BUT, she more than made up for that with songs like Bells, the title track from her new album, and her cover of Kings of Leon‘s Use Somebody. In these songs, the piano took the backseat and her amazing vocals were showcased. Her US debut album, Bells, drops March 22. I’ve marked my calendar so I can be first in line (or first online?) to get it. You should too!
I’d never heard of Cary Brothers, but after reading his Wiki page, I feel like I should have. Oops. I’m also embarrassed to admit that, for some reason, I had decided in my head that Cary Brothers would be two banjo playing brothers who would take the stage barefoot and play some foot stompin bluegrassy music. You can imagine my confusion when only one guy, Cary Brothers, walked up to the mic. Oops time infinity. I’ve probably just lost all singer/songwriter lover street cred in your mind huh? His first song he sang sans band. Once his band joined him, the music mostly drowned out his vocals and I couldn’t understand the lyrics unless it was one of the rare moments when he was belting it out. I should point out that his band in and of itself was fantastic, but I was bummed about not being able to understand the words since the main thrill I get out of going to concerts is hearing the emotion and creativity of the lyrics. I’m going to chalk the quiet vocals up to the acoustics of the venue (or perhaps I’m just hard of hearing at the ripe old age of 28) because I’m listening to some music from his album right now and he sounds fab! I’m moving to the Nashville area soon (which is where Cary hails from), and I want to give him another listen so I’m going to keep an eye out for an acoustic performance by Cary (but not his barefoot brother(s)…won’t make that mistake again).
And then it was time for [swoon] Joshua Radin [/swoon]. The bottom level of the venue near the stage was standing room and the top was a balcony with seats. We were in the balcony, but the chicks near the stage were all atwitter when he sauntered out, and I’m surprised there wasn’t any panty throwing. From what I counted, he played at least 15 songs (a couple of which Carey and Laura joined him on) so we got a mighty good dose of JRad. His interaction with the audience made the concert a lot of fun (might have had something to do with the whiskey he was drinking from the red party cup…how come I didn’t get my mitts on some of that?) My two favorite moments were at the beginning and end. He started with No Envy No Fear and, at times, he was standing a few feet to the side of the mic and belting the song out at the top of his lungs so that those of us all the way up in the second floor balcony could hear him just fine. AMAZING!!! He almost lulled us to sleep with his breathy crooning one moment and then snapped us out of our daydreaming with the power of his voice the next moment. I haven’t really noticed this back and forth between soft and strong vocals on his albums so it was a nice little surprise to experience the range and power of his voice in person. My other fav moment was when he sang a cover of Sam Cooke‘s Bring it on Home. HOLY COW CRAP!! JRad’s got some soul!!! For most of the song, he was again standing well away from the mic and singing his heart out in a husky, bluesy manner that left me wanting more more more. I think we need to start a “Joshua Radin needs to record a blues/soul album” petition on Facebook. Who’s with me?
Pre-order Laura Jansen: Bells
Buy Cary Brothers: Under Control
Back in April, I saw Meiko at Saint Rocke in Hermosa. Laura Jansen was one of the openers. I never heard of her but was quickly impressed. And though I had a final paper to finish for class, I immediately went home and scoured the internet to find an mp3 of her track, “Wicked World.” To no avail, since it hadn’t been recorded yet. I finished the paper, though. Thanks for asking.
When I was a kid, I loved those fairy tale books where the Big Bad Wolf or the Wicked Witch would tell the “true story” of what “really happened” in their far off place. “Wicked World” is a bit of a take on that. Jansen’s piano skills and the story she creates through the instrument are what really drew me in when I first heard that song, and every time I listen to it. The lyrics are simultaneously hilarious, yet still encompass reality. Like many of her songs on her Single Girls EP, Jansen highlights relationships, as in lyrics like these:
Once, I tried to be so good
All sweet and spice like good girls should.
But I don’t see why I try — why do I try?
When every time I climb that hill,
My Jack is up there chasing Jill.
If you like music and you live near LA or Orange County, June is a good month for you. Even if you don’t live around here (and I must admit, I am a bit jealous if you don’t), then fret not… check out a few bands you may not have heard of before, and see if they’re stopping in your area.
Want free mp3’s of each of these songs? Then join the newsletter, and I’ll send you a link. Hooray.
Listen to “Elijah”
She was part of the Ten Out of Tenn tour, and has many bloggers and indie radio stations singing her praises. Let me know what you think.
June 1 (w/ Castledoor and others) @ Spaceland (Silverlake) [FREE SHOW]
June 3 @ Hotel Café
June 10 @ Hotel Café
June 17 @ Hotel Café
Listen to “Gun For A Tongue”
Sara Watkins (Watkins Family Hour)(pictured)
Go to this show and make me jealous. Watkins (and her brother, Sean) are part of the bluegrass group Nickel Creek. Say what you will about country… it’s already well known that I’m not usually a fan. But this group is amazingly talented. God bless the mandolin.
June 3 @ Largo at the Coronet (LA)
Parson Red Heads
I featured their song “Got It All” on my April Playlist. Expect to hear a lot more of this band in the future. They’re not going anywhere.
June 4 (with Cotton Jones and Linda Draper) @ Spaceland (Silverlake)
June 23 (w/ the Boat People) @ On The Rox (Hollywood)
Listen To “Out To Sea”
Listen to “Stuck To You”
Listen to “Navy Wives”
I forsee their newest album being on my top 10 list for 2009. They only have one stop in Socal, so get your tickets. Now. And one for me, while you’re at it.
June 19 @ the Wiltern (LA)
Listen to “Cheerleader”
Explosions in the Sky
Everyone I know who has been to an EITS show labels it as a “spiritual experience.” “One of the best shows ever.” I’m not exaggerating. Everyone.
June 27 @ Hollywood Palladium (LA)
I wasn’t a huge fan till this past album. Now I’m a believer..
Listen to “Mama, I’m Swollen”
Listen to “I Hurt Too”
Listen to “Pistol Dreams”
Never heard of Meiko, Emily Wells, or Laura Jansen? Well you’ve probably heard their songs. All three are the darlings of network TV lately. Meiko has been featured on numerous Grey’s Anatomy episodes, while Jansen’s song “Soujah” was placed in MTV’s Newport Harbor (and don’t give me the “I don’t watch reality shows about rich teenyboppers. You do. Don’t lie.)
I saw these three two nights ago at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach. It was a great cap to the weekend.
Laura played first. The girl is fun to watch, period. A smile was plastered to her face the whole night. I LOVE to watch talented artists who love what they do. She played piano while occasionally incorporating a backup musician.
She only has one EP to her name, but a second album is probably coming soon, as she played many new tracks. She performed her most popular track, “Souljah” (which you already know, since you’re a closet Newport Harbor watcher.) She also charmed her audience with “Single Girls”, which is sings about the trials of recently becoming, well, single (“One more glass of wine before I turn off the lights/this time I’ll be fine“… no, I’m sure no girl can relate.)
She introduced her song “Elijah” by saying “You know, every singer/songwriter has to write a song about organized religion to fit the mold.” This may be true, however not many people choose to write about an Old Testament minor prophet (or was he a major one? I dropped out of bible college after 3 semesters.)
Laura Jansen – Souljah
Visit – myspace – facebook
Buy album – Trauma
Emily Wells played next. Her latest album, Symphonies, is primarily instrumental, which is probably why it’s my favorite album of hers. That is honestly not an insult to her. I’m just not a fan of her singing, yet think she is a very talented musician. Emily is an inverted oreo – white on the outside and black on the inside. She has an obsession with the Notorious B.I.G and even covered “Juicy.” Hence the title of this post.
My two favorite songs of hers – Symphony 6 and Take it Easy San Francisco – were played beautifully.
During “juicy” and a few other songs, Emily did turn tables. It just looked awkward. While Laura Jansen seemed to play for every single person at Saint Rocke, Emily seemed to be playing for herself. Again, my opinon, but this is my blog dang it, and I can say whatever I want. So there.
Emily Wells – Symphony 6 (Fair Thee Well & Requiem Mix)
Buy album – The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties
Meiko played a more extended set, and played through most of her self-titled album. “Boys with Girlfriends” and “Under my Bed” (arguably her two most popular songs) were the most well-received, though my friend Steph was disappointed that she didn’t get to hear “Piano Song.”
Meiko is a crack up. She’s hot, talented, and funny. Hell, I’d go out with her. Wait, no I wouldn’t.
She prefaced most of her songs with an explanation of the song. “Under My Bed” was about her ex she moved to LA with, but broke up with him soon after because “yeah, he sucked.” Another song was about a boy “who wasn’t very nice.” In short, Meiko writes songs about every girl’s love life.
Most of the songs were acoustic, with a few supported by drums or trumpet. When it comes to lounge shows, I’m a fan of the raw, stripped-down sets and Meiko didn’t disappoint.
But bottom line: Show was good. Buy their albums. You will like.
I had a lot of fun at the Rascal Flatts show. Of course, it had a lot to do with the company I kept (don’t let that get to your head, Mark), and the highly entertaining opening act. Would I ever spend half as much money on tickets to a country show as I plan to spend on U2? No. But the cowboys put on a good show, there were enough rednecks for me to laugh at, and I was able to be my obnoxious, yet lovable, self. Fun was had… despite the fact that my cardigan was covered in a sticky mixture of Coors, Miller, and some other fluid I prefer not to identify.
I had never been to the venue, so was not sure what to expect. I couldn’t find many reviews or anyone who had been there before, so I expected the worst. had a rather stressful week that involved the flu virus, finals, telling a boy “I’m just not that into you,” a few migraines, a family reunion, a country show, and driving too many miles under the influence of too many pain medications. Bottom line: I didn’t want to stand all night, didn’t want to be in a rowdy crowd where I was the oldest person in a room full of pre teens, and wanted a better selection of alcohol than beer, beer, lager, and beer.
Saint Rocke, I love you.
For those who live in the immediate area, this lounge is perfect for happy hour. The food is reasonably priced (kobe beef burgers and most appetizers come in generous portions and are 10 bucks or less), the lighting is dim but not too dark, and the crowd is… get ready for this… this may be a shocker… NOT ANNOYING. Take this from someone who has been to many an all-ages show at the Glasshouse: Saint Rocke is 21+ and the people who were there tonight were there for the same reason: chill and talk with friends at a reasonable decibel level, listen to some good music, and mentally prepare for the insane week ahead.
My two friends and I settled in a comfy booth and stayed there the whole night. The server checked on us countless times, but never did we get the feeling we were pushed out. There were a handful of people who stood for all three acts, but they probably didn’t need to. Saint Rocke is deceptively large, and though some tables were out of view of the stage, the majority had a pretty clear view. And there were flat screen TV’s all around. Though they didn’t do much because the camera was not zoomed in at all, it was a nice touch and hopefully that can be fixed soon.
I’m sure that the above could more or less be said for any night at Saint Rocke. But here is why I plan to head to this venue again on a Sunday night. Sundays are dubbed “Rhythm on the Rockes” and feature singer/songwriters. Everyone in attendance is expected to refrain from talking during sets, and flash photography. The guy who announced Laura Jansen asked that all phones be on vibrate or silent and I DID NOT HEAR A CELL PHONE GO OFF ALL NIGHT (yes, the caps and bolding are necessary.)
Saint Rocke, I love you. I already decided I shall celebrate my birthday at this establishment, as Tuesday nights are dubbed “The Piano Bar.” Bonus points if 1)no beer is spilled on me, and 2)I’m allowed to dance on the baby grand.
142 Pacific Coast Highway – Hermosa Beach – CA – 90254