It’s A School Night Knocks It Out Of The Park With A 5 Act Bill Marisa Maino, Woolfy, talker, Oliver Malcolm and Charlotte Jane All Take The Bardot Stage
LOS ANGELES, CA- Since 2010, School Night has curated some fantastic line-ups featuring some of the greatest artists in the world when they were just getting their start. Some notable names include Alt-J, Billie Eilish, and Haim. I’m sure that if you went down their alumni list, you’d find a few of your favorites nestled somewhere between Gary Clark Jr. and Lizzo.
It had been a long while since I attended an “It’s A School Night” showcase. The pandemic and lockdowns notwithstanding, it’s been at least 4 years. It takes a bit of motivation to get out on a “school night”… even more so when that school night is a Monday. My motivation to leave the office early and commute over an hour to Hollywood on this particular Monday night? talker. I’d been following her music for a while, had recently got to meet her at an intimate “backyard concert” and was performing to celebrate her new EP, In Awe of Insignificance. Plus, she has played in a bunch of backing bands for lots of my friends in the L.A. music community. I think that was motivation enough.
I wasn’t at all familiar with any of the rest of the acts in the scheduled line-up … but as School Night has done for the past decade+, they brought their A-game and didn’t disappoint. With a total of five acts on the roster (their first 5 act night since the pandemic), this would be a full night of great music.
The first act to step up onto the stage was Marisa Maino. When doing some internet research following her performance, I learned that she was part of a pop-punk group that got a little negative press in 2021. I won’t bother to rehash any of that nonsense here as she didn’t perform any of those group songs and focused on her solo material.
Marisa released a solo EP in 2020, Stages of Love & Heartbreak, and while her set consisted of a couple of songs from that effort, it focused mostly on music she’s released in the past year including some songs that haven’t been released yet.
Backed only by an electric guitar, Marisa’s set really allowed for the power and emotions of her vocals to shine. I’m sure if there was a pulsing bassline and driving drum track behind her, her performance would have been more kinetic, but stoically standing at the mic I think really allowed her to focus on her breath support and gave her more opportunities to engage the intimate crowd with eye-contact and facial expressions congruent with the lyrics of her songs.
I was a big fan of her songs “Bitter” and “Jenny”. I could only imagine how big the song “Bitter” could have been live if she had been backed by a full band. Though she shrugged it off, I thought she nailed the belted notes. I was thinking, “Man, if she had a full stage and could really use her body to get into those notes, that could really be something.” As for Jenny, I actually preferred the stripped-down version to the studio recording (which I also really enjoy). The sentiment of the lyrics felt more earnest when the layered vocals and studio airbrush are removed, making the song more impactful for me.
The next act to take the stage was Woolfy, who is originally from Surrey, UK, and is now based in Ojai, CA. Even though I wasn’t familiar with his stage name, I have a feeling that I’ve probably heard a bit of his music somewhere, sometime, in my life. After all, I’m a pretty big fan of LCD Soundsystem, and Woolfy (nee, Simon James) was signed to James Murphy’s DFA Records.
Woolfy’s set caught me a bit off guard. His performance was a musical buffet of all types of different flavors. I know I shouldn’t be doing it, but I was trying to pinpoint his aesthetic… but this proved quite difficult as he morphed into something different with each song. One minute I was feeling those DFA vibes… then I got a song with some psych-folk vibes… then some Rusted Root vibes when Woolfy and his band threw in some calypso sonics … I even got some Jamiroquai-type vibes when Woolfy got into a reggae mood with a track.
Clearly, Woolfy is an artist’s artist. He’s suggested on his social media that more new music was forthcoming. I’m keen to hear which direction his vision is headed, and how it will all come together.
talker, aka Celeste Tauchar, and her new eight-track EP, In Awe of Insignificance, is a fantastic collection of emotionally impactful, pop-infused, indie rock. From the get-go, the opening track “Sad Girl” sets the stage for the emotional outpouring of frustration, despair, and isolation that’s obviously coming from a personal space. The heavy themes, however, are contrasted with pulsing rhythms (other than the purposefully mellow numbers) and catchy riffs so that the themes are never overbearing. It is a solid album, and if you are in the mood for some angsty alt/grunge rock tunes to sing (or yell) along to in your car on full blast, you can’t go wrong with talkers new album.
As for her performance, this was my first time seeing Celeste perform her own music with a full band… and boy… did she deliver. The only other times I’ve seen her perform were either as part of a backing band for another artist, or solo acoustic. While I thought she had a solid stage presence when she performed her acoustic set, she absolutely commanded the stage for School Night.
Performing almost all of the songs from the new album in order (excluding her most mellow track “Little Bird” and only doing an interlude of “My Meds” three-quarters of the way through her performance), Celeste was able to really let her star shine, and let the music, and emotion, flow from her throughout the performance. It was a side of her I hadn’t seen before, and it was an eye-opener, proving to me that she has the stuff… the music, and stage presence… to really take a big step forward for her solo career. As far as I’m concerned, she needs to find a way to tour with a full band and let others around the country realize what I realized in person, up close and personal.
A couple of other things to note from the performance: (1) continuing the “talk” theme, she included a whimsical cover of Talking Heads’ “Burning Down The House” into her set, and (2) Daniel Murcia p/k/a “Ex Manana” (formerly, El Manana), joined on stage for the track that he produced, “IRL”.
It’s not like the room needed more energy after talker’s set, but that’s exactly what we got when Swedish-born, London-raised, Oliver Malcolm stormed the stage with his unbridled confidence and raucous bangers.
Man… I don’t really know what to say. As far as I’m concerned, this young man has got it. The charisma. The banter. The stamina. The bangers. I mean, all you have to do is watch video clips of him performing … and watch the reactions of the fans in the crowd while he performs. You could feel all that good energy all up in the room. The kid’s a rock star.
As for the music, I was feeling it. If I understand it correctly, Malcolm got his start in the music industry writing and producing tracks for other artists. I could hear that experience in his music. The melodies and the mashing of genres remind me of all the best parts of some of my favorite music from the UK. There were some Blur-like Alt/Brit Pop vibes. Some Idles-like punk vibes. A little bit of everything and maybe even the kitchen sink as well… and I loved it all. It’s hard not to love the music when the performer smashed the performance. As I said earlier… this kid is a rock star.
Closing out the evening’s musical fare was the soulfully lovely singer/songwriter Charlotte Jane. I absolutely loved her performance… particularly her voice. Of all of the singers this evening, she had the most control over her instrument. The tone of her alto mezzo voice was soooo rich, and the way she could flip into her head voice was totally effortless. And the runs? She makes it sound so easy. Apparently, she has several tour dates lined up with Rag‘n’Bone Man this summer, and after hearing her sing, I think Rag’n’Bone absolutely made the right choice.
For this performance, she was only accompanied by an acoustic guitar. I, for one, would love to hear her voice in the midst of a full band. She opened her set with the song “Down Days”, and after hearing her studio recording post-performance, I longed to hear her voice counterpunch the horn of the section in the chorus. The same goes for the single she debuted at this performance “10 Percent”. I suppose you could dance to the acoustic version, but I think the pulsing basslines and drum tracks from the recording are what you really need to get some booties shaking. As a little treat for her fans, she had Jordan MacKampa join her onstage for their collaboration “Reassure Me”.
Needless to say, I’m a little disappointed that Charlotte didn’t extend her stay in Los Angeles. I have a feeling that it’s going to be a little while before I get the satisfaction of seeing her perform live backed by a full band. Patience is a virtue I guess.