A SELF-INDULGENT EXERCISE IN NOSTALGIA?
This digging up of the great shows I saw in the last year of it, 2019?
Maybe. Nostalgia for the long-ago world of a year ago, when we were still able to hear live music and mostly took that for granted?
Well, who could have known? Live music has been around for millenia. Hmmm — I wonder if Caruso stopped performing during the great flu pandemic? He died in 1921, so, probably. Before that, black plague and so on, they didn’t know much about disease transmission so kept going to the theater and gathering for wandering minstrels, and so, died happy with a song in their hearts.
We’re modern and resourceful, so bands perform with each player six feet from the others, but still, not live, usually. And streamed. So it’s kind of like a video.
I WANT IT BACK!!
I want to be standing there five feet or even 50 feet from the stage, seeing the fingers bend strings, sweat pouring off a face contorted in the real emotion of the song, that sound hitting my body. Is it possible that will never happen again?
We really don’t know. While some were planning their fall tours last spring, I’ve said from the very beginning that we’re not going to have anything even near normal until probably 2022. But is even that optimistic?
Well, I’m an optimist and an idealist and I have a radio station poster in my office that says, in big colorful letters, NO MUSIC, NO LIFE. So I am just going to stubbornly stick around, and y’all are invited to hear some great players at my 100th birthday party, got it? (The way I’ve been feeling lately, that will be in a year or two.)
So this isn’t an empty exercise, it’s my way of reminding us, looking at fading memories in the rear view mirror, of how wonderful and precious and life affirming live music is. And of acknowledging some of the musicians and the venues that present them who have added so much to our lives. And shall again.
So, here comes
THAT GREAT MUSIC YEAR, 2019, AGAIN!
Mar. 29, Sam First — Last week I missed mentioning that the same night I dug my two country faves at the Cinema Bar, RICK SHEA and I SEE HAWKS IN L.A., I caught the early set at our lovely LAX jazz club Sam First, of CUNLIFFE, OLES & ERSKINE. It was my first time seeing renowned pianist Bill Cunliffe (Grammy winner, longtime player/arranger for Buddy Rich) and I became an instant fan. I’ve known his rep for decades but had never seen him. I’m a recent fan of bassist Darek Oles, and was seeing SM skins magician Peter Erskine for the umpteenth time but it is never enough. That was some night of music!
Apr. 22, Maui Sugar Mill Saloon — SONNY GREEN & the Soul Brothers, straight outta Compton, and Inglewood, rarely venturing this far north, this diminutive soul and blues crooner is a giant, believe me, I’ve seen him many times on his home turf, and the Soul Brothers are a band to reckon with who can play everything through the roof from Otis to the Stones to the Tempts to Johnny Cash to Nipsey Hussle. But very sadly, this was the last time I saw and visited with the mighty DUFFY, on keyboards, who passed away shortly after. That man had charisma and chops and could absolutely take over a room. He could sing and play any cover and often make you forget about the original. Mick who?
May 4, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion — finally, after thoroughly enjoying so many of his LA OPERA company’s performances, I got to see the legendary PLACIDO DOMINGO himself on stage, in one of his favorite and underperformed operas, “El Gato Montés (The Wildcat)” — bandits, bullfighters, a beauty, some flamenco thrown in, straight from Madrid, what’s not to like? Placido’s tenor was not what it once was, i knew, but he accommodated and was still a terrific actor. And I could enjoy the moment because the bad news that tainted his reputation had not yet come to light.
May. 5, Walt Disney Concert Hall — finally, after 40-some years, after missing the young pianist in Albuquerque, I got to experience one of the top classical pianists of our time, EMANUEL AX, with the marvelous ESA-PEKKA SALONEN once more leading the amazing LA PHIL. It was late Mozart, early Beethoven, and a master of the 88.In moments like that I am reminded why I moved to L.A. He probably took one look at that turnout in ABQ and crossed it off his tour map.
TOMORROW IS BANDCAMP FRIDAY — Bandcamp will be waiving its revenue share on all sales, as it has been every first Friday of the month since March. I have written previously about blackbandcamp.info, an incredibly comprehensive crowd-sourced list of black artists on Bandcamp (you can search by artist, genre, or location), so what better way to kick off Black History Month than by supporting the artists currently writing the soundtrack to today’s history?
Browsing for just a few minutes I found some pretty beautiful neo-classical work by pianist Sylvester Draggon Jr., who also writes chiptunes (https://sylcmyk.bandcamp.com), a really good Austin-based shoegaze artist alexalone (alexalone.bandcamp.com), and a deeply rich, soulful, synth-layered alternative jazz and R&B EP “Vortex,” by LA-based artist-producer Teira, who has a voice like velvet (teira.bandcamp.com).
Go down the rabbit hole, come out the other side with something good: https://blackbandcamp.info
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 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 firstname.lastname@example.org