LOS ANGELES, CA- I’ve always tried to be a good person. I’m not necessarily a religious person, but I believe in the whole, “Do unto, others as you would have the do unto you,” thing. And you know what?… being a nice person really does pay off!
I met @lamusicscene_ (Gary) several years ago. When I started to take concert photography seriously, I always got to the venue early, and there would always be a handful of die-hard concert goers who were waiting in line to get in. Gary was one of those die-hards.
Gary has pretty good taste in music. After all, he’s going to shows that I’m going to…😜. I reached out to Gary earlier in the year with a Bands In A Barbershop question, and he invited me to a private show he was putting together … in his backyard. The invite couldn’t have come at a better time. I was itching to see as much live music as I could, and his Saturday night soiree fit right into my calendar.
It would be an intimate evening of lovely music by three rising L.A. talents: Talker, Alicia Blue and Kat Hamilton. They would be performing in front of a warm crowd of close friends and family, under the Tujunga stars. The artists would be performing stripped down versions other music on a stage affectionately hand crafted by Gary.
Talker (Celeste Taucher) would be the first artist to step onto the hand-made stage, and I was particularly excited to finally see her perform her solo music live. I’ve seen her perform plenty of times before, but she was always playing in the backing band. In fact, I had just seen her about a month ago when she played keys for Jen Awad.
I’ve been listening to Talker’s music since 2020 when I heard her single “Suck Up”. That single was an earwig, and I couldn’t get the chorus melody of “So there’s no way I’m not a mistake, I’m a suck up to myself, “Wish I was someone else” out of my head. It had real a crisp, emo-punk vibe with some serious pop leaning. That led me to her 2020 EP Wax, and I was hooked. Celeste knows how write some serious catchy, and hard hitting hooks (i.e. “Learning The Feeling”). Her 2021 collaboration with Crooked Teeth, “Light Me Up”, has been getting significant attention, validating my notion that Talker has definitely got something going on.
I loved the stripped down versions of the hard hitting, studio polished tracks that I was already familiar with. “Learning The Feeling,”, “Collateral Damage” and “Suck Up” (which she closed her set with). There were a handful of songs that I wasn’t familiar with, “Sad Chick”, “Don’t Want You To Love Me”, “Summerlin” and “Personal Space”… songs that I can’t wait to hear get “dressed up”.
I had just seen Alicia Blue perform at the Teragram opening up for Lauren Ruth Ward, but I certainly didn’t mind seeing her again so soon. In my thoughts about that performance, I noted that she gave “the audience something soothing to stir the auditory senses”. Well, try to imagine that, then try to imagine something twice as soothing.
Accompanied by Ben Greenberg with an additional guitar (who also is very capable of pulling off some serious falsetto harmonies), Alicia performed 6 songs and once again I was caught up in her rapture. Her “sad songs with silver linings” really cast a spell into the night air. The stillness of the residential neighborhood and the silently beguiled crowd really emphasized that mysticism. Even her more raucous song “Dirty Hippie” had a certain energy that in this stripped down performance was markedly different from her performance with the full band at the Teragram. Her voice just pierced more this time around, with the lyrics just cutting your mind a little deeper. Dunno if that make sense to you, but it makes sense to me. 🤷🏻
She pulled in even more mysticism when she covered Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”. That cover was absolutely sublime. In fact… I may get shamed for saying this… but I may actually like her version of “Running” over Kate’s. Perhaps it’s the sparse instrumentation of Alicia’s version that really brings home the vulnerability of that song, and that was just powerful stuff.
Closing the evening of music was a performance by Kat Hamilton. This was also my first time seeing Kat Hamilton perform live.
There are certain things I love about artists. One of those things is vulnerability, and the way artists allow the music take over them. On this night, I was able to learn a lot about Kat, though our brief introductions and through her music.
In person, Kat was perhaps the most genial person at the party. She was quick to spark conversation with me, and was all smiles at every turn. Now, this being my first time seeing her perform and only being somewhat familiar with her music, you can imagine how disarmed I was when she commenced to pour her soul out on that stage.
Perhaps I should have become more familiar with her 2020 album Recovery Songs, a heart searing collection of 9 songs that dive deep into topics like mental health and sobriety. Then again, this unique concert experience seared an impression in me that’ll linger for a while.
Kat performed a majority of the songs from Recovery Songs (“Medicine Line”, “Empty Room”, “Amnesia”, “Ohio”, “Afraid of Your Body”), and a couple of unreleased songs (“fuck” and “Fuck You, you fucking”). Kat occasionally broke up the heavy tone of her setlist with the bubbly personality that I was introduced to earlier in the evening, but those emotions revealed itself on her last song, “Afraid of Your Body””. It all came flooding out. That pain and hurt was palpable, and as emotional as that moment was for Kat, it was even more so for me. That powerful moment was about as authentic as it gets, and it was beautiful was witness.
When the music ended, the artists each signed a corner of the stage. Gary has suggested that he’ll try to hold evening like this on a regular basis. I imagine that that stage will become adorned from end to end with signatures over time.
Evenings like this are rare. Sure, we can all light a bonfire and jam for a bit, but it takes dedicated music lovers to organize and set up a worthy DIY event. Hell, Gary built a freakin’ stage for Christ sake!
In this ever changing landscape of social concerns and potential lockdowns, I think it never hurts to have more LA Music Scene’s IN the scene putting these kinds of events together. If we’re going to keep the fire of music burning, we’ve got to keep stoking that flame. And if you don’t have that drive, just be nice. Make friends. Maybe you’ll get invited to a gig.
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