I used to think that LA was a cultural void. I mean that was its reputation for years and years, right? I think perhaps it is the car culture that gets in the way. LA is not a street walking, neighborhood town. It is a get in your car and drive city. That makes going out and taking advantage of events a challenge at times. And yes, brutal traffic and overpriced parking can dampen an evening pretty quickly.
And yet, I will say that things have dramatically improved in the years since I have been living here. At least I notice the artistic, musical and cultural offerings much more, though I have always been paying attention. So maybe things are just better.
Last night at the Skirball, things were great.
The surprise charge for parking aside, which only came in a night before confirmation email, getting to the Skirball was fairly easy. Getting seats… well… that was a bit tricky, too… and many folks were not happy. Lesson learned about getting into the outdoor area faster and earlier and putting down those jackets and sweaters!
Take out those two elements and the having to stand in the back, and the evening was pure musical joy. I highly recommend getting there for one of these musical nights and for the fantastic Paul Simon: Words & Music exhibit (thru Sept 3).
Thanks to the amazing Skirball and to co-presenter The Bluegrass Situation, (and Amy) whose goal is to support a “new generation of roots and Americana musicians reinventing the genre while deeply connected to its history.”
Thank you to the sponsors, including KCRW, KPFK, Pepsi, US Bank, The LA County Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs.
And of course, a most special and grateful thank you to the amazing artists and modern-day troubadours who filled the warm evening with such soulful and harmonious tunes.
This was the first Sunset Concert of the season and the program American Tune featured Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour, Works Progress Administration), Cary Brothers, Gaby Moreno, Joey Ryan (half of Milk Carton Kids), Madison “Made” Cunningham and the Bee Eaters, celebrating “the legacy of Paul Simon and the past, present, and future of America’s vital and vibrant singer-songwriter community.”
A DJ set by dublab’s Liz Warner started things off.
The first round consisted of Paul Simon or Simon And Garfunkel songs, and Cary Brothers’ rendition of my favorite S&G tune “The Only Living Boy In New York” slayed me. I have been a fan of his for a while, (Under Control And Who You Are are album must listens) and just figured out that he may be a fellow Northwestern Wildcat! Go Cats!!!
And part of what makes Joey Ryan and Milk Carton Kids such a great act, aside from ridiculous harmonies and insane musicianship (Another Day/Another Time: Celebrating The Music Of Inside Llewyn Davis concert is an absolute MUST SEE), is his/their fantastic sense of humor and patter. This was on full display last night, especially when he talked about how hard it is to write a great political song and then broke out the Louvin Brothers’ “Satan Is Real.”. The appreciative and mostly anti-DT crowd loved the reference and there was no question which devil he was singing that song for and about.
Round three consisted of originals and gave us a stunner from Madison Cunningham that had Joni Mitchell all over it. I need to track that one down… and a new one from our evening’s intrepid and self-deprecating (and apparently home-schooled… his joke) leader, Sean Watkins.
I loved how the versatile Bee Eaters (Tashina Clarridge on 5-string fiddle, her brother Tristan Clarridge on cello and Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer) were able to plug in to almost any song, including a spontaneous fill in with Cary.
Everyone sounded great… looked great (lighting was top notch), and with the courtyard and LA skies in the background, this was a most wonderful night!
Los Angeles is lucky to call all of these musicians home-town talent, though they come from places far and wide… so yeah, LA’s cultural and musical scene is alive, vibrant and essential. Come on out and support it whenever you can!
Now if I can just keep my bluegrass watered and healthy…