Roots and Inspiration

One of the highlights of our upcoming season for me is Mavis Staples and Billy Bragg: The Hope, Love & Justice tour Nov. 5.

I mean really, yes I am mostly a hyper-emotional sucker who regularly tears up at the “Star Spangled Banner” but  I think it would be hard for any music or arts lover to not to get behind the ideas of hope, love and justice.

Looking at our whole lineup of roots music this year has me waxing philosophical about the power of music to inspire, and also waxing nostalgic about my experiences with performing arts and music in Los Angeles.

The first time I’d ever heard of Billy Bragg was also a big first for my Los Angeles music life.

It was sometime in late 2000-early 2001. I’d been living in Orange County for a short while (I know, I know, it was for a job) and had a friend in town who wanted to drive up to the Knitting Factory on Hollywood Blvd. The now-defunct club was hosting Billy Bragg and this was my first live-music experience in Los Angeles outside of a few nights with a friend’s band at Brennan’s in Marina Del Rey. (I have a soft spot for that place too.)

Anyway, being the Teamster’s daughter I am, that first night at the Knitting Factory (RIP) helped instigate an undying love for Billy Bragg, especially punctuated by the Mermaid Avenue albums, which subsequently inspired my unrelenting passion for Wilco. (Side note: Did you know Jeff Tweedy produced Mavis Staples’ forthcoming album You Are Not Alone?) Also, if you’ve never seen this movie, you should totally check it out.

Obviously, ten years later, I’ve had countless more inspiring live-music experiences all around this amazing city— including feeling the Hollywood Bowl practically levitate in an Underworld glow, nights under the stars at the Greek theater with everyone from the Mars Volta to Tori Amos,  countless evenings perched aloft the stage at the Troubador, where one evening many years ago, an Alexi Murdoch performance brought an image to my mind that resulted in my purchase of a sewing machine, which in turn resulted in such a wealth of projects to come out of my tiny apartment that it has often been dubbed “the sweat shop.”

In short… music inspires. I’ve always felt like seeing live music was such a powerful experience. I don’t care how big or small the venue is, or if you’re close enough to see the sweat on the artist’s face or so far away you need binoculars. To me, from that first thrum of sound, you’re part of it. You’re part of something that didn’t exist before and wouldn’t exist the same way if you weren’t there.

I had a few of those moments in Royce Hall last spring, most notably with Tinariwen, Baaba Maal and the Blind Boys of Alabama. I anticipate many more of those such moments this season, especially thanks to our roots lineup. I hope you’ll join us for one or more of those events.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear your comments about acts or venues in this town that have inspired YOU over the years.

Hit me back below!

5 thoughts on “Roots and Inspiration”

  1. I have been a huge music lover for most of my life, however, some of my most memorable music experiences have come from living here in Los Angeles. Some of the most notable experiences, are Underworld at the Hollywood Bowl, LCD soundsystem and Arcade Fire at the Hollywood Bowl and Roger Waters performing Dark Side of the Moon at Coachella 2008. These are all experiences where I sat in bewilderment, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that at that very moment I was at the coolest place in the universe and I may possibly never experience this again. There are also bands such as the Brian Jonestown Massacre that every time I see them, I wonder to myself, could this be the last time I see these musicians play together again? Could Joel die of a heroin overdose or could Anton end up in prison for throwing a bottle and killing an audience member.. I love these experiences for the very moment I am in it and the fact that it stays with me for a lifetime. This is what makes the whole thing so special to me.

  2. Inspiring venues/shows over the 33years of living in this great city include stops at the hollywood bowl dancing in the aisles to Gnarls Barkley and getting my intense angst out at White Zombie/Pantera at the Palladium at the age of 16. (was that too many at’s?) Thrashing my brains out there will always hold a special place in my heart. I miss the days of the mosh pit. I’m not even sure what I was so angry about.

    Most recently I was surprised by my girlfriend buying tickets “to a place far away” that required me driving an hour. That place was Costa Mesa. It was at the very intimate Detroit bar that we were treated to a special performance by The Middle East. They’re from Australia. Beautiful vocals that mesh so well together. We had intentions of catching them at Coachella this year but seeing as how their set time on Sunday was scheduled for noon…crust was still being removed from our eyes and dirt from our fingernails from the previous days activities at that time. If you’ve been to Coachella before you know what I mean.

    Before that I saw Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at the cathedral known as Royce Hall. The energy was definitely high there that night. Maybe it was the fact that the show was free to students, so it was pretty much 18-22 year olds freaking the fuck out. Enjoyable performance but I’ll take them at Coachella every time. They melted my face off there.

    There are so many more but I gotta go now. I’ll check back and add some more down the road. This summer’s gonna be packed with them.

  3. As a senior in high school I was turned onto Joni Mitchell’s Blue album and I haven’t been the same since. Since then the artists and shows that have inspired me include Glen Hansard at Coachella, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings at The Warfield, Iron and Wine at The Greek Theatre, Fiona Apple at The Santa Barbara Bowl, Ani DiFranco at Red Rocks, Bon Iver at The Fillmore and the list goes on and on.

    As much as it’s been about the music, the memories I shared with those who were with me seem to matter more and more as I get older and nostalgic. The remember whens…”remember when we went to Vegas to see the Grateful Dead and there was a lightning storm during Space…remember when we saw Underworld at The Hollywood Bowl, (yes Jessica I remember) and there was 8 of us and we drank two cases of wine under the LA stars…remember when Stevie Wonder came into that club, what was it called? and played an impromtu set.” The best and the worst times of my life all have a soundtrack and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

  4. You know? I caught Frank Black at The Mint last weekend and it was so cool….after having seen The Pixies do Debaser in November at the Palladium. Same guy, some of the same songs, and yet two utterly different and equally encompassing experiences. And “Rosey” I agree. Some of those moments are completely entwined with in who’s with you as you experience them. Glad you’ve been a part of them with me so often! It’s a beautiful thing.

  5. My first concert was eons ago… I turned 16 in 1967 and I owned a car… that made me a KING in San Bernardino. A buddy convinced me to drive him to the Sunset Strip. This was 1967… it was a FREAK ZONE! Longhairs chilling and grooving everywhere. I looked like Opie from the Andy Griffith Show, but nobody cared, it was a happening. I found myself outside the Whiskey a Go Go listening to ‘The Doors’ playing their set inside.

    I was addicted to concerts after that night. Berdoo had great venues and concerts all through the 60’s and 70’s. I saw ‘Steppenwolf’, ‘Savoy Brown’, ‘Elton John’, ‘Dave Mason’, and watched a riot erupt at a ‘Jimi Hendrix’ concert at the Swing Auditorium. It filled up and the doors were closed leaving hundreds of ticket holders outside… some enterprising soul had printed bogus tickets and gave them to his friends. That was the first time I experienced a ‘pepper fogger’.

    40+ years of music… and the best part is that I STILL get that chill when I discover a new crunchy groove.

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