Posts Tagged ‘Hotel Cafe

08
Jul
12

The International Swingers: Came Out Swinging and Alexandra Lee Gave The Boys Something to Talk About!

A message slipped in my inbox quietly form my friend Dawn Laureen. But the news in it was explosive! Reading it, it appeared that a group of musicians had gotten together with historic pedegree to synthesize a mega group. The International Swingers was their name and the band are composed of Gary Twinn (Supernaut, Speedtwinn), James Stevenson (Generation X, The Cult), Clem Burke (Blondie, The Romantics), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, Faces and Iggy Pop). My interest was primed! The show was free to the public; being set in The Farmer Market and it would be the kick off point to their mini tour of Southern California. This coming Friday they arrived with a little less than a weeks notice. I thought what fun! To get to see this pedigree of musicians and of such legendary Rock bands for free at the Historic Farmer’s Market would be explosive. I knew I was in store for some good times! Dawn and Frank would arrive at The Farmer’s Market a little later than myself, while Clem, James, Gary and Glen were already there setting up for the gig. Steve Fishman and his lovely wife were there too. I immediately struck up a conversation that led Steve and I in the direction of where to find some of the finest Pizza in LA. Steve recommended Tony’s Bella Vista in Burbank. He said the deep dish was nothing of consequence and insisted that the thin crust was totally TDF! Soon Dawn and Frank arrived. Frank coming in to support his old band mate, Chem Burke of Blondie. Dawn Laureen and him wanted to be part of the mischief and fun. Who could blame them! For me it was a special treat because I got to meet all the wives. Something you don’t always get to do for most gigs. For some of the ladies it was a bit of a reunion of sorts. I gazed upon them at the right time to catch what’ve must been a long held tradition. A couple of the girls delighted in a hug that is somewhat mischievous and suggestive flashback to the old Rock N’ Roll days. I watched them smoosh and jiggle their boobs against one another, with giggles and titters, with a prankster’s glee, as they acted out something that must have go back decades. It must have started in New York to tease and titillate the boys. It was good fun to see them let their hair down and be silly! It was an indication of the direction the evening was going to take and I liked it!

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It wasn’t long before the The International Swingers were ready to romp and stomp. The crowd was thick and Rock-Steady ready for a surprisingly edgy performance at a generally conservative place. Gary took the lead vocals while the set started off with Out Of Control and for the most part Gary delivered the vocals. They joked and engaged the audience between songs and owned the stage for over an hour and a half while keeping the hits, or should I say the anti-hits-a-commin’! The second song was Blondie’s Hanging On The Telephone. They did a helacious version of “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”. The introduce an International Swinger’s original called “I like It Both Ways” to general approval. They then plunged into a number of Punk Rock originals with, Generation X’s Dancing With Myself, Blondie’s Call Me , Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant, mixed with a cover of Mott The Hoople’s All The Young Dudes. A fun side note to all this carrying on came as I passed to the other side. There was a nicely dressed couple swing dancing to the Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant with lots of style and panache. They gayly pranced behind the stage as the band played on. I found it completely appropriate and befitting to any anarchist thinking. It was rather lovely the way it fit in with the mayhem being generated up front. Clem then preformed The Romantics “What I Like About You”. Clem was a member of The Romantics for eleven years. He delivered a credible and solid version of the song. Everyone was singing along to this well crafted Pop song by The Romantics. They metaphorically set the stage on fire and ended the set with a blistering version of God Save the Queen and a riveting cover of Iggy Pop’s No Fun. This all links back to Glen Matlock, a Sex Pistol who had a stent in Iggy’s band. I was speaking with Glen Matlock a week later about God Save The Queen at a NoHo coffee Shop. He mentioned that he was a little bit nervous about playing God Save The Queen at The Farmer’s Market because of what it represented. I let him know that there were nothing but friends and peers at the show. There was nothing to worry about and nothing too shocking for that crowd. This caused me to muse about how greatly The Sex Pistols contributed to my thinking and my love for Punk Rock music to him. I really owe them so much from that insane period of rebillion. Of course, closing the set with Iggy Pop’s No Fun was a complete no brainer. All the old Punkers love Iggy and he was a mainstay to all Punkers. Iggy inspired so many bands to play who have created tons of music we all listen to now that it’s hard to frame a list because of it length of who has dipped into that pool of inspiration. The show was full of energy and powwer to the last bar. It was an amazing show that hit all the bases. At the end I was surprised to see Julian Lennon hanging out with us. The fans leaned out but the core stayed to hang out and catch up with old friends. It was a good scene!

For me the evening wasn’t over. I was bound and determined to see Alexandra and the Starlight Band premier her new Ep at Hotel Cafe. I met Alexandra at SXSW where she and her boyfriend Zackary James played at Miles Davis’ House for its inauguration in Austin. I caught Alexandra once before at her Stone Bar residency. Alexandra has a soulful gritty voice that can be compared to Tina Turner style. I was looking forward her performance at Hotel Cafe that night. It was hard to leave the fun at the Farmer’s Market but adventure awaited on my next stop. I arrived in a timely ready for the action. Another female artist was there. I survived it. Had I not wanted to avoid the crowd of pressing flesh in the parlor area I would have seen both Dave Grohl and Ron Jeremy sipping cocktails. I have an in with Dave and now that I think of it I have an in with Ron too. I dated a girl who was his friend and also who also dated Henry Rollins. Hum, dating what a wonderful social lubricant!

I first saw Zachary and then he saw me. It was a pleasure to see him and that ment that Alexandra was coming up soon. While I waited I chatted up these 2 ladies form Venture and exchanged pertinent info regarding Alexandra and music in general. Julianna Young sat down close to me and we kibitzed a bit from the last time I had seen her at her awesome party a couple of weeks back in the Valley. Alexandra entered the stage pumped and had her war paint on. She sizzled through her set singing her old and new material to a captivated crowd. She’s a Funky Soul Sistah burning with Rock N’ Roll passion burning bright and hot as she slipped up to Zachary playing lead on his guitar in a dirty girl way, while singing on Without My Sunshine. That kept every eye targeted on her every move. Why Didn’t Your Mama Tell You sent the room temperature gauge up a couple notches in the room. About this time Karen came up to the front where we both noticed one another. We shared some quick updates and fine points while Alexandra commanded the stage; stompin’ and preening. Alexandra closed out her set with what was a firecracker of a closer, called T.T.M.F. She was on the stage, all over the stage and down and up on the stage: it was fierce! While she did edit the more vivid words from the song, because her Mother was in the audience, the impact wasn’t any less and the temperature continued to sore. Alexandra delivered the good in spades, badass spades! Karen and I were knocked out. We didn’t see it coming and the photos of those moments tell the whole story. And when she said, “suck my thumb” you could feel the hot iron of rage burning. The folks were up and howling! Alexandra left wanting more and showed everybody how it’s done!

I don’t know if there can be a repeat performance of a night like this but there’s no doubt in my mind that I was treated to some surprisingly brilliant moments and amazing performances that you usually wait weeks apart to snag just one of them. So tieing them neatly together in one night comes as one marvelous unanticipated moment in time. Viva la Rock!

30
Jul
11

Mishka: When the Raga Drops!

I was asked to photograph Mishka at the GRAMMY Museum some months back. All of this took place after a remarkable travel bender that started with SXSW in Austin Texas, then a bounce in San Francisco for Easter with friends and eventually ending in Seattle with a familial visit with dear my brother. So, once I touched down at LAX I had little more than two hours to make the GRAMMY Museum and Mishka’s visitation. I had made the GRAMMY Museum for a Miles Davis event some months back, so I had a tight bead on the location. It was the mass transportation variable that was going to make this a difficult hurdle to pass over.

So it all shook out just fine despite some tense moments. I was still able to catch Mishka‘s first performance where the kids are a part of the Grammy Jams program exposing children to music. Mishka, a father himself, did a family friendly set and answered questions for all these exuberant little ones. Later that evening Mishka played an acoustic set for an older crowd. After that set, Mishka was interviewed by Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli in the Clive Davis Theater, while taking a short break from supporting Kenny Chesney‘s “Going Costal” tour. The cosy environment of the Clive Davis Theater was a perfect setting for Mishka to talk about his upbringing, his new CD “Talk About” on JK Livin, his musical interest and influences. The interview revealed a thoughful artist raised on Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. He spent most of his youth and young adulthood growing up on a boat, living with his family, who sailed throughout the Caribbean, being exposed to Island life after his father quit the corporate world to live a more simple life. Mishka’s songs reflect those values intertwined with the spiriituality of the Rastas, merging them with the social awareness of the 60s and the modern concept of “Consciousness”. Afterwards, I spent a little time with Mishka and complimented him on his songwriting and tune smithing abilities. I could tell from the on stage discourse with Bob Santelli he wasn’t posing with his reggae drenched acoustic set. He is truly dedicated to the ideals of Rastafari and “Consciousness”. He truly has knowledge and understanding of the lifestyle. So I encouraged him to hook up with San Diego’s top Rasta, Makeda Dread. Makeda, in San Diego, was the primary promoter of Rastafarian lifestyle and “Consciousness”. She had San Diego’s first vegetarian restaurant and promoted Reggae concerts as seminal as any Punk Rock promoter during that period. She was instrumental in introducing me to Sly and Robbie, which I will be forever grateful! The time I spent with Mishka was validating on both a spiritual and emotional level. It was nice to see the Raga drop in the middle of such a pristine environment as the Grammy Museum.

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As things would have it my Mishka story wouldn’t end here. After a number of months performing the official Hard Rock pre-parties for Kenny Chesney’s “Going Costal” tour, once again, Mishka made a mainland connection for some special concerts and promotional shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles, continuing his support of his i-Tunes and Billboard Reggae charting album “Talk About“. I caught up with him at Rogers & Cowan, getting ready for a showcase for the Rogers & Cowan Summer Concert Series that Karen Sundell puts together to create awareness and interest in the emerging acts represented by the company. The Summer Music Series gives all involved a little hump day time to chill and take in the arts. I was looking forward to Mishka’s set. Everyone circled around him as he performed a satisfying, simple and to the point set of his newest songs from Talk About and old favorites. The room roared with appreciation of the performances of his songs “Give Them Love”, “My Love Goes With You” and closing his set with “Guy With A Guitar”. Soon he was off to yet another event in a week of back-to-back activities that wouldn’t end till he flew back home to Maui. While a farmers work is sun-to-sun, a musician’s work is never done.

For me there was one more chance to catch Mishka lay it down Raga style and that was at Hotel Cafe. Hotel Cafe is the Hub of the singer songwriter scene here in Los Angeles. Mishka had a prime spot to show his talents in a premier LA “Singer/Songwriter” hot spot. I’ve covered Carina Round and Walking Sleep here. I’ve enjoyed drinks and chit chat with Tom Livemore (Carina’s guitarist), Steve Fishman (James White and Hugh Cornwell) and Frank Infante (Blondie). So, Hotel Cafe has had some interesting and warm memories attached to it for me. Some time after my arrival, Mishka dropped in with guitar in tow and headed into the “Artist” area of Hotel Cafe.

I could tell things were a brewing, for sure, inside that room as I quietly sat at the table in the bar area of the establishment. It wasn’t long before Mishka took the stage with his guitar. He powered into his set. Something was different this night. As much as I enjoyed Mishka’s songs and previous performances this was a completely different kettle of fish. He was on fire! He was fiercely intense and ferociously committed to his art. He was vibrant and he rattled and glistened as I had never seen him before! His delivery of the songs was that of a showman and a Shaman. It was riveting, intoxicating and the crowd responded in kind. He started his set with “Long Road”, blazing deep into the set with “Higher Heights”, “One Tree”, “Talk About”, then followed with a sizzling rendition of “Above The Bones”. He shared comments and thoughts with the audience that brought them in closer as he pressed through the rest of the set. Everyone there hung with bated breath, and with anticipation, clung tightly to the edge of their seats as this show enveloped around them. As I learned later, Mishka does nearly all of his shows extemporaneously. Meaning, every show and/or set is done based on the feel of the room and the mood of that moment. So, he kept giving the people what they wanted and finished the set with “Stars Will Be Shining”. The whole show ran white hot. As the show concluded, it was as if the room was blasted with a bolt of cleansing air by of his stirring performance. There were enthusiastic yelps and cheers as Mishka left the stage. For all involved, the night concluded on a high note with some mighty Raga fever!

Mishka is a deeply committed and rooted artist that blends integrity, intensity and gifted song craft into something everybody can relate to. Talk About is his fourth album and there will surely be more from this deep well of creativity. So let the Raga drop!




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