On St. Patricks Day, Los Angeles fans were treated to a stripped down, bare bones performance by one of indie rocks’s most heartfelt and earnest voices in music – Thao of The Get Down Stay Down – in Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Masonic Lodge.
It was standing room only in the Lodge, with attendees standing should to shoulder in the cool glow of blue lights under the venue’s Spanish Baroque painted wooden rafters and towering ashlar style concrete walls. This building was erected in 1931, vacated by The Masons in the 60s, and now stands as a landmark theater for live music and shows. While the likes of Johnny Ramone rest peacefully outside in the cemetery, it was a lively Thao who took the intimate stage, sans band, and performed as a solo artist, making plenty of noise.
At first, I felt disappointment. I adore the rich, layered, and complete sound of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. Their songs are love letters (and sometimes hate mail) to life, love, and longing. To hear the full accompaniment is an auditory experience and I wanted the two friends I had dragged along with me to experience that.
However, my disappointment was replaced with elation once Thao began to perform; and after the show when we had parted ways, both friends texted me “thank yous”. One even bought the album “A Man Alive” on vinyl and spun it that night and the next morning before she caught a 7am flight to Mexico. Mission accomplished.
Wielding a small collection of instruments including banjo and slide guitar, Thao performed as if still backed by her band and as if in a large auditorium with a full sound system; just pure energy and commitment to the mood and tone of the songs. With her Jack White abilities to shred on the guitar, and her signature vocal stylings — sometimes melodic, sometimes accusatory, and always riveting — Thao entertained the wall-to-wall audience with most of her recognizable and cherished tracks including “Astonished Man”, “Holy Roller”, “The Evening”, and “Guts”.
When listening to her and hearing lyrics like “Taught to be loyal, never shown loyalty”, “We get naked, but not naked enough”, and “You know I’m so easy to find, you won’t come get your girl”, it reminds me just how universal heartbreak is; just how much yearning and desire rarely equal attainment, and how love, lust, & feeling lost are all too often the hallmarks of the artistic and utilitarian life.
Subtle and gentle, this performance may not have awoken the dead outside, but it probably set them all at ease and allowed them to rest peacefully knowing that the living were still enjoying beautiful music made by an edgy and genuine artist.
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Thao Nguyen @ The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever 3/17/17. pic.twitter.com/BsYtbPrLrm
— Derrick K. Lee (@methodman13) March 21, 2017