Eddie Van Halen at the New Haven Coliseum presented by Jim Koplik and WPLR


That since the pandemic hit, NICOLE RECOMMENDS has mostly been digging up unique, entertaining music-oriented things happening online. I love it. Because then I don’t have to do it. Or feel guilty. (I was raised Catholic so guilt is ground into my soul.)

As a music journalist and critic since college, I know full well that all a credible critic has is… their credibility. Present honest, knowledgeable, heartfelt opinions based on years of wide-ranging experience and an open mind, and it will come across. People may not agree or even like at all the opinion you’ve expressed, but if it is credible, they will trust you and come back. If it is fluff or BS, naive or prejudiced, they won’t. They can smell the difference between passion and deadline.

So this is why you have rarely seen me recommend corona-era online events. I’m a live music guy. Heart and soul. Always have been. There is nothing, nothing, like standing there in the same room watching musicians create, on the spot, that which comes through some cosmic generator to their hearts, directly into their fingers and straight to your ears and heart. This crazy shutdown has been hard on all of us and compared to many I have suffered little. But the shutdown of all live music, for this long and for Godknows how far into the future, has been a huge change, a huge loss for me.


Had evolved into a weekly recommendation of the best live shows in town, and when I say town I mean LA, the (formerly) greatest live music city on earth. (Sorry Austin but you are second.) Since my original inspiration for the way I have spent my life was to turn people on to great music they might not otherwise come across, this was hog heaven for me.

To draw upon my openness to every kind of music and my pretty extensive listening experience (2500+ live shows, 7K LPs, 5K CDs, many TBs of digital and access to a universe more — thanks, Rick), I was able to recommend with equal enthusiasm and a few words to back it up, a wide range of exceptional music. Locally, an unending stream of outstanding jazz performers both iconic and little-known from the booking genius of Ruth Price at the Jazz Bakery, unique country, folk and whatever legends at McCabe’s, unconventional, thought-provoking, entertaining classical performances at Jacaranda, some really terrific shows at little ol’ Harvelle’s on 4th Street (since 1931), the occasional killer show at Trip on Lincoln, memorably intimate country gigs at the nearby tiny Cinema Bar, and across town the legendary Troubadour, UCLA, LA Operas from the crazy to the conventional, world class concerts at the LA Phil, an eclectic array of don’t-miss one-offs at the Teragram Ballroom and the Theatre in Ace Hotel, both in DTLA, and if the show was good enough or rare enough I would send people off even further, to the South Bay or Orange County or beyond. Hey, you only live once.


It’s often live but it’s online, streaming, and I’m sorry but this live music lover can’t tell much difference between that and watching a Youtube video. It just doesn’t move me that it is being performed, somewhere, at the same moment that I am watching and listening, on a screen. Maybe it should.

Having said that (and engendered the ire of musicians and club owners — it is so hard to be honest sometimes), let me add two caveats. Obviously I haven’t watched that many online performances and if I had, my opinion might be different. For a while I was watching Rickie Lee Jones’ home performances and found them musically worthwhile and uniquely entertaining, particularly for her off-the-cuff commentary, sometimes longer than the songs. But, I bailed after three shows. Sorry, Rickie. Call me. Don’t lose that number. Whenever I have tuned in to NICOLE RECOMMENDS I have enjoyed myself, sometimes for hours. Still…


Needn’t be your experience. And here’s the second caveat. You know I completely support musicians. Hell, I married one, and spawned one. And I love my clubs, such welcoming spots with such great memories both past and future, usually run by dedicated music lovers. And at this point we really don’t know how many of them will survive. Possibly very few. And that would be a tragedy. Sure, others will eventually spring up, but you can’t replace a McCabe’s, Harvelle’s or Troubadour.

So don’t be like me. Go to the website of your favorite dives and see what they’re doing. They are probably presenting something wonderful to try to keep the lights on, and we should support them full blast. Tell them therealmrmusic sent ya. You could even send a generous check.


Not in my personal pantheon of guitar gods (I can just see Jerry Del Colliano’s twisted visage and the string of disgusted curses) but man that boy could play, and so he must be eulogized.

Maybe it was the two clown singers, maybe it was because they came along after I already experienced incomparable guitar gods, but I was never a fan of VH the band. Only of the guitar licks. His speed and creativity made him probably second only to Henrix in his influence on every rock guitar player since.

He was one of ours, growing up in Pasadena, but he was born in the Netherlands, and so all my friends there are mourning and taking pride, I’m sure. He played the famous Paradiso club in Amsterdam in 1978, the only time his parents returned to Holland, and threw out a little Dutch-speak on stage.

Gone at 65 but he did live life, and made his mark. Can you ask for much more?

MUSIC NEWS FLASHES: Reggae legend Johnny Nash dead at 80, more next Thurs.


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Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,500 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com