Posts Tagged ‘Hotel Cafe’

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With her brilliant smile, athletic body  and mischievous eyes, the diminutive Maggie Szabo put on a show Friday night at LA’s premier showcase club this Friday that topped even her high-energy performance  record.  Nobody sat still as she rocked  through  11 songs – mostly new material including the new, soon-to-be-a-hit “Paralyze”,  along with favorites like “Sweetest  Heartache” and the solid pop-anthem, “Slow Fire”.

Having seen her live four times,  I  could tell that there has been both a creative burst and a lot of hard work in her career since I started following her about a year ago. New songs  blended smoothly with her audience’s established favorites, making the evening  seem like a  party  with old  friends;  there were no dissonant  notes, no “where is Maggie going?”, questions.  It  just all worked.  Even when she took to the old  upright piano in far stage left and shifted mood for “Touch the Ground” and “Take Your Time”,  she was  on  target both as a singer and as  a performer. Plus she gave a preview of some of  the new songs on an EP  she is now wrapping up a new EP, Truth.

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It was the performer side of Maggie  that really seems  to have grown.  A consummate  relationship builder online, with tens of thousands of Facebook and twitter  followers, Maggie has always been able to transfer that likeability to her performances – a skill I marveled at last February  when I attended her album release  party on the same stage.  But this Friday night she brought a  new confidence and a new capacity to connect personally with individual  fans  – the way Bill  Clinton does  in a crowd.  She was singing to you, personally.

A Canadian-born,  Nashville-trained soul-pop singer with ferocious energy packed into a compact, constantly moving frame, Maggie  has moved from an online hit wonder to full-blown top writing, signing and touring performer.  In the short time she has been in LA, I have watched her tighten her song-writing, elevate her command of the stage, and pull her current band – Steven Shook, Sam Campbell, Frank Grande, Sonny Kennelly, Aaron Aiken, Chantel McCrary together into a well-oiled and joyfully focused machine.

Stepping up to her trademark pink mic stand and microphone, dressed in formal short black dress with a bare  midriff that let the rhinestone in her belly button flash as she moved, Maggie was  confident and energized.  She kicked off the evening with a new song, “Tragedy”, telling  the song’s recipient of her attitude, Cuz I’d be the one who would make you feel/Like a million dollars every day of the week while letting us know she would make us feel  like a million dollars that night.

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And she did,  introducing us to the new song, “Paralyze” and then  upshifting even more to her full-tilt dance cut,  “Slow Fire”.  The room bounced  and swayed as she told us Baby, we can burn all night-  and we were ready to do just that.  As she moved through the set list, including the two  songs with her at the piano and back to the band with “One Sided”,   her command of the performance and the audience expanded, like the lens on  a spotlight opening up to illuminate a growing circle.  When she gave the band a downbeat and launched into the pop-constructed “Sweetest Heartache” with  its ultimately singable hooks, people  in the back of the room couldn’t  restrain themselves and started dancing, clearing a tiny  space  in the standing crowd.

“Relapse” and “Forgive and forget”  kept  the energy up.  Maggie finished on the highest note  in reparatory, her  hit single “Tidal  Waves and Hurricanes”.  It was over too soon.

Early on in the performance Maggie told us that the Hotel  Café is her favorite venue in LA and she rocks it wonderfully. But  I would love to see her in a larger space, either solo or opening for a national  act where she could bring in her legions of fans and give them room to dance. Her pop  constructions can easily cross from iPod Playlists sand Pandora  downloads to into  room-filling anthem/dance music  A larger space as a solo or big tour warm up act would also give her the freedom to lengthen her songs from radio-ready 2 to 3 minutes to concert length, 5 – 7  minute cuts.  She has the energy and the material – “Slow Fire” and “Tidal Waves and Hurricanes”, for instance – and her current band  could easily kick it up even more with drum and guitar solos.  But  most importantly, Maggie has  the authority on stage to translate to a larger venue  and a growing audience. She deserves it and so do we.

~ Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, MusicFridayLive!

 

Maggie Szabo

Allaboutmaggie.com

https://twitter.com/allaboutmaggie

Hotel Café, Hollywood CA

11/7/14

Jack Kovacs_

Hollywood. You come to a live show to get something extra you don’t get by listening to an album. Jack Kovacs gave that something extra to us Saturday night at the Hotel Café, he gave us himself, in words, music and conversation. Billed as an EP release party, Kovac’s appearance Saturday night was less of a party and more of a gathering of friends as he debuted his new EP, “The State Line”. The crowd was tight and intimate at the storied venue, relishing his music and his just darn plain friendliness. In a world in which many performers are uncomfortable talking and seem at times to hide behind their music, Kovacs was not only comfortable conversing but in his wheelhouse. He obviously loves people and we loved him.

Kovacs and his six person band took us on a melodic and introspective look into the mind of a young songwriter just beginning to discover his power. He has learned to inhabit the in-between spaces that separate public musical expression from internal contemplation. The result on an EP is poetic, dreamy, otherworldly; the result on stage is all of that, but also happy and energetic and very real. He took us into dreams and nightmares and made it all sparkle.

Kovacs filled us in on the backstory behind almost every song , but even when he didn’t, when he sings and we know we have been there in the place his lyrics describe. Whether it is the strange and spooky “The Empty House” or the soft and sweet “Jenny”, Kovacs connected with us and reminded us of our own dreams and thoughts and memories. Carried by soft, precisely picked and strummed guitar, he brought back some people’s past and foretold other’s future, all the while keeping the conversation going, musically and otherwise.

He opened up slowly with the mesmerizing title song “The StateLine”, taking a full 5 minutes to transport us on a Colorado road trip, signaling that this night was going to be an emotional as well as musical experience. Then brought us back to reality with a conversation about a girl he proposed to, “Jenny”, and then sang us into a sunny day with her (he was coy about whether or not she said yes). He shifted into a more mysterious vein with “Something Strange”, and then got even more mysterious – calling it “the Halloween part of the show” – with “The Empty House “sung ominously, harmonizing with his female accompanist. For fans who have seen the disturbing video, hearing it live brings back those images and makes you shudder a bit. This must be a band favorite because they seemed to grow with energy and presence when the song started and the show moved to a higher energy level afterward.

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He upped the tempo and brought us back to something close to reality with “Mariana Trench” and then encased us in total musical beauty – and a delicately picked banjo – with “Voice that Only Sings”. All this after regaling us with a story about his grandfather’s jacket which he was wearing, strange cults and a pocket-sized Rosetta stone.

Sensing that his audience was thoroughly with him and did not want a break, he moved through “Carolina”, and “Human Nature” with his trademark mesmerizing harmony and intriguing lyrics. By the time he announced he had one more song, we were all quite happy and did not want it to end, but the finale, “Song of the Summer”, was perfect. Starting gently, the music built up; the drumbeat amplified, the base throbbed and the bands voices crescendoed as they sang We are looking for a chance to be young/And listening for a brand new song to be sung/We will be ready for this moment for the rest of our lives. The audience was clapping and tapping and cheering and wanting more. And a few of us thought, he’s right, as we looked back and forward over our lives.
Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Music FridayLive!

The State Line, Jack Kovacs
http://jackkovacs.com/

https://twitter.com/jackkovacs

 

Hollywood. Patrick O’Heffernan. Juliette Ashby was in constant motion. Her hands, her arms, her body all swayed and circled and pointed and touched as she sang, hypnotizing us, drawing us in, capturing us in the heart inside her bare chest.  Tall, beautiful and confident, yet down-to-earth, Ashby took the stage Friday night at the Hotel Café in Hollywood and looked over the packed room with a smile of satisfaction and greeting.  Statuesque in skin tight black toreador pants and a lime green silk sleeveless blouse open down to her silver belt buckle, seemingly without make up, she radiated not so much sensuality as openness and honesty.  The songs she gave us were exactly that – open and honest, and they proved beyond a doubt that she is one of the most talented entertainers on either side of the Atlantic.

Ashby is known as a neo-soul, R&B singer-songwriter, but she is so much more. With a high-pitched, almost Jamaican voice  that ranges from reggae to soul and R&B, she is simply in a universe by herself. There is no one like her. When she left the stage Friday night, it was an end of a nine-song set, but the beginning of a transatlantic love affair with her new California fans.

She and her guitarist opened with a stripped down rendition of  “Grow Like a Seed”, weaving its complex lines and rhythms together like a trance dance, without benefit of the strong calypso band and effects of the recorded version.  Just her, and we loved it. She shifted gears to “Make it or Not”, a free download on her website, leaning forward and touching her heart as if she were singing to you, personally, even though the words say “I do this for me.”

 She followed with the gentle “Home” and then the  heart wrenching “Hoping”, about her friend Amy Winehouse, pulling the tears out of us with the lines I’m trying to look back to where it went wrong years ago/When I look back it’s plain to see that/There were other people pushing you down this road.  She introduced “Home” with a short story of Winehouse, deepening her relationship with the audience as if, for tonight, we were family.

She moved on and joked with the audience about the relationships that inhabit some of her songs, like “Waiting”, which many in the audience seemed to know, mouthing the refrain with her.  She picked up the pace with “Not Trying to Get Over You” with its telling verse,

Is that I miss you madly/I miss you badly/That’s why I’m not trying to get over you

As the set neared the end of the set, she gave the audience what they had been waiting for, her hit song “Over & Over”.  As she sang Falling in love with you, yes I be falling love with you/And it be like over and over again, the audience did just that…fell in love with her all over again.  The standing crowd was swaying as they watched her body weave and her hands trace invisible patterns in the air.

She wrapped the set with her trademark earworm “Take It Over”.  But her take on that song Friday night was slowed down, more personal as she pointed to people in the audience,, emphasizing the “bang, bang, bang”, enunciating each syllable as if she was in a musical conversation – a change from the reggae beat of the recording.  The effect was deep and personal.

Juliette Ashby’s recordings are on the top of my playlist (as well as on Billboard charts and radio stations in the UK), but seeing her live was a new experience.  Her videos and photographs project her beauty, but they don’t reveal the beautiful person who stood in the hard light of the Hotel Café stage and handed us her heart.

Juliette Ashby started a mutual love affair with America Friday night and I can only hope is grows with many more visits.

Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!

 

Juliette Ashby, Hotel Café  8/22/14

www.julietteashby.com

https://twitter.com/JulietteAshby/

https://www.facebook.com/JulietteAshby

songs and albums available on the website in the UK and Reverbnation in the US.

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Wednesday night in Hollywood at the venerable Hotel Café, usually a slow night with no problem getting a table.  Not this Wednesday night.  Tables were gone early and the floor was packed as the warmup act, Justin Furstenfeld, wrapped up. The crowd sang with him and applauded enthusiastically, but they were really waiting for a brunet slip if a young woman with an old/young chiseled face and a sensual voice that perfectly matches her undulating body, Lena Fayre.

There is a reason Rolling Stone tapped Fayre as one of the “10 new artists you need to know”  in its February edition.  Although she is only 17,  the maturity of her command of lyrics, sound and audiences is that of a woman with a decade of stardom. That maturity was in full display at the Hotel Café, hushing an adorning audience.  Onstage in a black sleeveless top, open midriff and muted electric blue tufted pants, Fayre’s voice and body writhed and swayed like a demonic serpent pushing the drugs of emotional, ethereal pop. And we happily bought it.

Fayre has said that her biggest influences are bands like Grimes, St. Vincent, Junior Boys, and the Baltimore-based synthpop band, Future Islands, for their “multifaceted ‘pop but not pop’ vibe”. But the performance she gave at the Hotel Café moved beyond her past “smart, savvy teen-pop with heightened emotions and killer hooks”.  She has combined ethereal and aggressive into a form that defies categorization.  .

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Starting with no introduction, she launched into the angelic “Every Man is a Warrior”, spinning out the song’s lyrical poetry:  in his mind he’s a warrior/his hands soft so i never know, no, no/in my heart is a hazard shell/i’m biting down on a burning rope, slow, slow

While seeming to float slightly above the stage in a personal world we can see into and hear, but not fully join, she moved effortless up and down the scales, carrying us with her.

The personal world she slipped into in that first song characterized the rest of the evening – separate but engaged.  Fayre’s separateness, so powerful even when she seduces with body language and rippling voice,  should turn the audience off  but instead it focuses them. I saw Wynonna Judd and the Big Noise a few nights later, who is nothing if not fully present and connected to her fans,  and somehow found myself more engaged with Fayre who drew me in rather than exhorted me.

Moving on to “Games” another song from her new album OKO , she added more energy as her guitar accompanist ramped up the tempo.  Then she changed the environment completely with  “I Am A Soul”, making us ponder verses like the light in the corridor is dimming 

your eyes drift out of your skull swimming, swimming while we enjoyed not only the shift in rhythm, but her down modulated voice.

As she glided through the rest of her 9-song set list,  all from the new album, it became apparent to fans that she has moved far beyond the orchestrated pop of “Jukebox Love” and the high school image of “Love Burning Alive” into more ethereal and often melancholy world of the  recent “Belong to You” video,  staged on the Santa Monica Pier.  Her ability to conjure of a “4th wall” between herself and her audience by singing from a place so deep inside her and so far outside of her current reality is at first off-putting and then very, very appealing. Her control of that wall would make an experience actor proud – she can slip through it to introduce her band and thank her fans, and then move back into it to sing while focused enough to  manipulate her electronics on the fly.

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The highlight of the set for me was the single release “I Am Not A Man”  with operatic vocals and the disturbing but so often true lines I hear what you say, but not what you’re saying/I know it’s a game, but what are we playing. “I Am Not A Man” displayed her complete range of vocal control, powerful writing, insight into the current zeitgeist that her audience loves.   She wrapped the evening with the up-tempo “Everybody’s In” and, given her separateness,  its somewhat ironic lines, Is anybody else on the outside?/Is anybody else on the outside?/Is everybody else on the inside?/Everybody’s in.

 Lena Fayre’s live performance adds a critical element to her work, her visual body language and ethereal delivery above and beyond her audience.  The effect is greater than the usual live performance excitement – it is truly an extra dimension. As Fayre continues to tour to support the new OKo album, I predict fans will flock to see the visual Lena Fayre and let her mesmerize them in hushed rooms.

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host Music FridayLive!

 

Lena Fayre at the Hotel Cafe, Hollywood CA 7/28/14

Oko available on iTunes and Amazon.com

 

MATT HOTEL CAFE

 

By Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Music FridayLive!

 Matt Jaffe brought his high energy rock band The Distractions to North Hollywood’s Federal last night, energizing a respectable audience and demonstrating that he can play in larger venues in Los Angeles, the nation’s music capital.  This was a return trip for the young new wave band, having previously opened for bands at The Central in Santa Monica and the venerable, if smaller, The Mint.

The young (he just finished his first year at Yale) northern California-raised guitarist and his band mates drummer Alex Coltharp and bassist Sammie Fischer have mastered the high-spirited sound that he shifted to when he exchanged the acoustic music of his high school days for an electric guitar.  With songwriting that shimmers with the best of the hard rock groups in the Southland clubs these days, Matt led his bandmates in nine new songs that showed how he has moved far beyond the slick blend-into-the-background pop music that surrounds us. And his lyrics always give us something to think about.

I suspect the audience would have been much larger if the Federal had been an all-ages club – no one Matt’s age was allowed in, although some tried.  The set was more geared to a young audience, almost exclusively featuring high energy new wave rock and rambunctious stage dancing, leaving out some of the group’s more complex songs and the exquisite guitar solos that Matt is capable of.

Matt Jaffe and the Distractions - Sweetwater - 3/9/13

However, the major appeal of  The Distractions may be Matt himself: “He’s so cute!” exclaimed a barely 21-year old  tattooed Latina sitting with her head-bobbing friends in a booth as the group rocked through “Overboard”.  But his charm is far more than cute;  his voice is distinctive – there is nothing like it in the hard rock world.  And his guitar-playing is superb – grounded in years of classical training that makes the instrument an extension of his body and his mind. That was evident to ex-Talking Head member Jerry Harrison who was so impressed with Jaffe’s guitar playing and overall talent at a local open mic evening that he offered to produce Matt’s music.

Matt’s set list at The Federal was a wise choice – new songs.  While regular fans may have missed his standards “Backs of our Eyelids”,  “Armistice Day” and “New Continent”, he chose to play his latest works.  He was likely testing them before going into the studio in Berkeley next week with Jerry Harrison who has drafted  Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty) on drums and Nathan East on bass to produce Matt’s first full album.   Although new, each song was tight, from the kick off songs like “Write and Song “ and “Summer”  to the wrap up tunes “No Hesitation” and “Chore”.  Each was structured around Matt’s penetrating song-writing and the impressive choreography of the band – never missing a beat either in the music or in their stage presence.

While the family home is in Marin country, north of the Golden Gate, and Matt is currently based at Yale University where he juggles studies and music – with music being his self-proclaimed first priority.  He is wise to build an audience in Southern California where clubs proliferate and opportunities to grow abound.  This will serve him well when he releases his debut album – as yet untitled. What else will serve his well is the large inventory of songs he has built up in the few short years he has been playing rock. Last night we heard nine new songs – enough for an album if he wanted to stop there.  But he won’t.  In addition to the songs in his inventory like “Stoned on Easter”, “England Prevails”, “My Avalanche” and of course “Backs of Our Eyelids”,  which have helped build his career, Matt Jaffe has an arsenal of tunes to choose from for the album and the strategic smarts to carefully ration out the best so we will want more. And we will.

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Music FridayLive!

Matt Jaffe and The Distractions

http://www.mattjaffemusic.com/

https://twitter.com/mattjaffemusic

MATT.FEDERA.GUITAR

 

My favorite artist, Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October has announced his five week residency in Los Angeles at the Hotel Cafe. He will be performing his “Acoustic Storytelling” and it promises to be an amazing night. It is set for five Wednesdays, starting on July 30th at the Hotel Cafe and it will be a unique acoustic storytelling experience which will include songs and stories. It will have an intimate atmosphere which allows you to connect with the artist through his words and music.  If you were lucky enough to attend one of Justin’s Open Book Tour nights, you will understand what I mean, when I tell you how magical the night will be. Check out our coverage from his Open Book Tour.

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Justin explains the residency, “I’m happy to say ill be doing a residency in Los Angeles . I’d love to know which songs you’d like to hear ? Which songs you’d like to hear the stories behind ? I cannot wait to meet and shake everyone’s hand . It’s these types of nights that I love , up close and personal where you can hear a pin drop. It’s exciting to me to play stripped down and in front of a fairly new crowd. Thank you everyone for your endless support I am very very grateful to have this chance.” Tickets are on sale now for all five shows:https://www.hotelcafe.com/tickets/

I hope you come on out and join us for a very special evening with Justin Furstenfeld. We are set to head out in August and will bring you full coverage of the night and hopefully an interview with Justin. You can check out our previous features on Justin and Blue October which include many photos and videos. I will leave you with you a tribute video that Rockin Ryan made to Calling You.

~ Enjoy, Marisol

Information & Links:

 

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The duo of Alyssa Coco and Matt Merritt, known as Roses and Revolutions played the 9 pm set last night at LA’s famed showcase club Hotel Café and proved they are even more fun live than on their superb recordings.  The crowd of about 50 or so fans – not bad for a Tuesday night – had been warmed up nicely by the humor and tunes of Eliza Rickman.  As they loaded Alyssa’s Yamaha keyboard and Matt’s acoustic and electric guitars on stage, a record producer and talent scout quietly slipped into the room.

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The equipment set up, tuned and ready to go, Alyysa, brilliant in a white brocade bodice and very short multilayered flared skirt greeted the audience, joked about assuring her grandmother that the skirt was not really too short (it was close)  and opened with “Home”.  The song  is a contemplative pop ballad embroidered with piano and Matt’s skillful instrumentation that the pair wrote for their first album, Earth and Everything. Alyssa’s Norah Jones-like voice filled the room and got everyone’s immediate attention.

The duo’s romantic chemistry was joyfully visible on stage as they moved on to “These Walls” from their latest album, Roses and Revolutions. They had the audience swaying. Their delivery of the achingly personal song about Alyssa’s OCD was every bit as powerful as the track on the album which features a guest appearance with Elvio Fernandes, who was in the Hotel Café audience, cheering them on. They followed with “The Scientist”, another powerful display of Allysa’s American Idol-trained vocal range and how perfectly Matt’s superb guitar works with it to weave a melodic whole.

The tempo ratcheted up with “Take Me With You”, a track on the new album and the soundtrack for their very popular pop-culture referenced music video.  That got everyone head-bobbing and foot tapping.  Although the stage version is more stripped down than the recording, the effect is the same – an earworm that is both thoughtful and fun.  They followed with “Down”, an early tune also on the recent self-titled album, whose soft power quieted the room.  Alyssa’s voice turned breathy, intimate and very personal as she sang the lines

I want to be right where you are/

So let me be, just let me be where you are

and soared in the outro,

I fell it coming, feel you coming/Feel us coming.

The producer and scout, who had taken seats next to me, and I whispered simultaneously, “these two are something special, something very special.”

And they are. In today’s music scene, especially in Los Angeles, the most competitive music market in the nation, talent is is a requirement, but a guarantee of success. Only those with a lot of determination survive. Alyssa and Matt have that determination. Although both from Rochester, New York, their journey to music was by very different paths .  Alyssa came to it when her early passion led to teen-aged album releases and then American Idol at 17 where she was in the Hollywood round in Season 7. Matt arrived through a late pickup of the guitar followed by a number of bands, rigorous guitar training at SUNY Purchase and his final band, Tinted Image, which incorporated Alyssa and the rest is history.

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Tuesday’s show moved to its closure with a humorous story by Alyssa of her damaged piano and Matt’s lost and then returned laptop. They they served up a powerful cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” – not as poignant as the original of course, but very well done with R&R’s stamp on it. They wrapped up the night  with “When a Heart Gives Out” from Earth and Everything and  pulled out all the stops, Alyssa’s voice soared and Matt’s guitar riffs – including magical solos in the middle of the song – delighted their fans, who clearly did not want to see them go.

Alyssa Coco and Matt Merritt have something special and as Roses and Revolutions are something special. Every song on their new album is a winner and, if Tuesday night was any indication, their shows are pure joy. People have been saying for some time now that they have a bright future.  I think their future has arrived and it is very, bright indeed.

 

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Music FridayLive!

  

Roses and Revolutions (Alyssa Coco and Matt Merritt)

Hotel Café May 20, 2014

Albums available on ITunes.

 

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